How to find a job where they aren’t

How to find a job that doesn’t exist…
(at least, it isn’t visible yet!)

Before we get started, I’d like to ask you a few questions, the first of which being: if you apply for a job being advertised in a newspaper or job service or agency, will you be the only person being interviewed at that time?

“Well, DUH, Mr. B. ,” I hear you saying.

OK, here’s another one. If you call a company when they are not advertising for anyone, what is the most likely answer you will receive if you ask them if they are hiring? Like, “Hi, I’m looking for a job. Are you hiring?”

I am still receiving those looks, you know…

Question three: How will a company respond to this question? “I’m interested in working for your company. What kinds of jobs are open right now? I’ll do anything!”

I certainly hope you are very good at doing everything, in that case. Including cleaning bathrooms.

Four: “Hello, I’ve heard you are in the [fill in the blank] business. Is that true? If so, I’d like to work for your company!” Will this go over very large?

Five: Do employers only hire people who are qualified for a certain position? Or, do they hire people whom they like? Or both?

I know, that was a bunch of questions thrown in there.

Six: Will an employer create a job that formerly did not exist – just for you – if they like you?

Lastly, Seven: Can you get hired because you have figured out how you could be useful to the employer in ways that they themselves hadn’t thought of yet?

Now I’ve got your brain a’bubblin’!

Truth is, although everybody has ideas how to create a resume, how to dress for an interview, how to send a thank you note or write a cover letter, nobody ever tells you that you do not have to do any of that stuff, and you can still land a better job than those who do all those right things.

This takes more work in some ways than just preparing for a job interview for some advertised job, but it can lead to good paying, soul-satisfying employment much faster than any other method there is. And here is the secret.

Preparation and Moxie

First, let me warn you, I will be telling you that you will have to make so-called “cold calls” to companies whom you wish to work for. That said, how do you know what companies you would like to work for?


I know that sounds a bit too much like homework, but it is essential homework. It would be very wise of you to know more about the company you are considering working with than they even know about themselves.

Before you allow them to consider you, you consider them! Ask yourself: Would you consider hiring these people to be your employer? Do you feel strongly enough that they’d be a good fit for you to spend some of your valuable time to interview them?

Now, of course, companies do not mail out resumes to prospective employees … exactly. But they do provide information about themselves, and it is up to you to unearth this information. It is up to you to find answers to the following questions before you pick up the phone to call them.

1. Do their employees like working for them? Is there a high turnover rate? If so, why? (Beware of sour grapes as well as ‘company man’ answers.) Ask the employees themselves. And the receptionists. The receptionists are your best friend.

2. What does the company really do? It isn’t enough to know so-and-so is a printing company, for instance. Who are some of their major clients? What are their specialties, if any? How many employees work for them? Are they the only branch, or are there other branches elsewhere? Might they be looking at moving some operations overseas? Might they be looking at moving you overseas? (… at least, look into their policies and practices regarding relocating employees.)

3. What successes have they had that they might be proud of? Have they invested largely in new equipment or facilities lately? Have they recently landed a big contract?

4. Who would you actually be working under as your supervisor? Who does that person report to? Who makes the actual decisions for hiring people in the particular department(s) you are interested in? You want to talk to these people!

5. What kinds of plans do they have for the future? Do your detective work to discover where this company plans to go in its future endeavors.

6. This may seem silly, but not to them. When was this company founded and by whom? Has it changed hands through buyouts or mergers? Has it gone public, and if so, when did it do so? What are its stock prices currently? Would you consider them a good investment? Would a broker?

7. Who has won awards within this company, and for what? Be able to name names alongside their accomplishments. Bring notes to the interview with such information.

8. Do they have benefits? What are those benefits, and how does one qualify? Are there company ‘perks’ that, although largely unofficial, are enjoyed by many of the employees there? (like a golf club membership, an annual trip to Disneyland for the whole staff, reduced rates for flights or hotels, generous vacation time, etc.) Are there probation periods one has to pass before benefits kick in?

9. What hours of operation do they have, and how do their shifts run? Two or three shifts? Can you start off in a day shift, or do all new employees have to take the 2nd and 3rd shifts? Do they have four-day workweeks (usually four 10-hour days and three days off) or three-day workweeks like they have in Europe (usually three 12-hour days and four days off)? Are people expected to work overtime – nearly all the time??? (Overtime pay gets old after a whole summer of lost weekends, believe me!)

You may be wondering by now, “Where the heck am I supposed to find all the answers to these questions???” And although many of the questions asked above seem understandable, some may seem to have nothing to do with you anyway. Why would you need to know about any of their recent successes?

Okay, for the first question: we have three sources – the public library, employees of the company (the most important of these being receptionists and secretaries!), and the company’s Human Resources Dept. (PS – NEVER, EVER leave a resume with the Human Resources Dept., even if they ask you to. Simply tell them that you are not seeking a job there right now, but are merely doing research. Custom build a resume for the employer/dept. manager you’ll be interviewing with after the interview, if need be, and send it directly to that person.)

As to why you would need to know any or all of this information, it is to arm you to the teeth with information about their company so you can totally blow their minds that their company actually interested you that much that you would perform so much research about them!

It also will help you verify any assumptions you may have made about what it may really be like to work for that company and what kind of work you can expect to be available from them, or perhaps point out any other assumptions you’ve made or missing spots that you need to clear up.

Another question: Would you rather find out that a particular establishment could absolutely never offer you work that you could enjoy or be happy doing after working for some ill-fitting company for months or years before you finally concede to the hard truth that working there is doing nothing for you and will do nothing for you (except perhaps contribute towards stress-related illness!) or would you prefer discovering this fact before taking a job with them?

And one more: Is it very likely that the very first employer who says, “We’ll hire you!” can really be ‘The One’ and offer you a job experience that enriches you, allows you to grow, and gives you happiness? Most people just take a job and are happy they got one, without ever looking into themselves to question whether that job is actually good for them.

Happiness? Enrichment? Personal growth?

Believe it or not, I am talking about a real world here, not an impossible fantasy. But attaining this kind of pleasant work experience will require your asking the right questions, of yourself as well as of the potential employer. Here’s the toughest question in the whole world: What do you really want? Give me as many details as you can. Good! Now you are ready to call some potential employers and ask them for an exploratory interview.

The Exploratory Interview – Setting one up

Hello, my name is Terry Britton, and I am
a student—- a recent graduate—- changing careers

and wanted to setup some time with
Company Owner—- Dept. Manager—- Area Supervisor

for an exploratory interview. I’ve researched your company, and it looks like a very good place to work! I’d like to see better what’s needed of an prospective new employee to work at a company such as yours, especially in the xyz department. I assure you I will take only ten minutes of their time.

“One moment, and I’ll connect you.”

Thank you!

“Hello, Dick Grayson here.”

Hello, my name is Terry Britton, and I am
a student—- a recent graduate—- changing careers

…interested in establishing a career in [graphic arts] and would like to setup some time with you for an exploratory interview. I’ve researched your company, and it looks like a very good place to work, but I’d like to learn better what I’d need to know in preparation to work at a company such as yours. Could we possibly get together some afternoon or morning? I promise you I will take up only ten minutes your time, but I’m certain it would be worthwhile, and besides, I would like to meet you. If you can schedule some time where you could arrange a quick company tour as well, that would be all the better!

“Sure I can, but let me have Stu Kirkwood meet with you first for that tour, as he is the plant manager. I’ll happily join you afterwards.”

Question: Does the scenario this script portrays sound like it could actually happen? Well, what kind of employer wouldn’t give you ten minutes of their time to help you out? Not any kind you would ever wish to work for!

The Exploratory Interview Itself

In the interview, offer a review of what you know already and ask questions based upon what you have researched about the company. Ask about that reward they received. Ask about items on the person’s desk or on display in their office or elsewhere. Ask them what they consider to be the most valuable features of a prospective employee to work for their kind of company. Get them talking! You should do little talking except to ask questions, and to show your familiarity with what the company actually does along with other things about the company.

That “ten minutes” will turn into a one hour interview without your even trying. Owners, managers, and even supervisors really love to talk about their company and their successes, if they are happy that they work there. If they do not show such enthusiasm, read that as a definite sign. Sure, you may only be hearing some ‘sour grapes’ or gripes, but you may be picking up on the fact that this person is not happy working there themselves! Perhaps ask why. Dig as deep as you can without being prying. But always, stay alert for cues such as these!

One added perk to using the exploratory interview technique is that the employer will likely be more honest with you than they likely would be in a job interview or starting up a new hire. In those cases, they are under pressure to put on the company’s best look. So, you may experience less ‘snow-jobbing’ in the exploratory interview than you’d see in a normal ‘job interview.’



“Well, thank you for your time! I’ve really enjoyed talking with you, and if I find you advertising for a position, I will certainly apply!”

“Actually, when could you start working for us? We could use you right now!”

Question: Does this scenario sound at all possible? Oh, I see you’re finally catching on! Yes indeed, it is not only possible, but, in my experience, happens often. After all, you have just shown this prospective employer that you have many of the best qualities an employer always prefers to see in their employees! Genuine interest, organizational skill, the ability to do research and learn on your own, self motivation, good people skills, good character, willingness to work and to do the best that you can (a work ethic), and prior knowledge of the workings of the company, shortening the time it might take to train you for that environment. And I’ll bet that if you think about it some more from an employer’s point of view, you probably can add many other positive traits you had just demonstrated to this list.

Of course, a company cannot always simply place you right away. So, followup is now the next very important step. Like sending a letter thanking the person for giving you their time, mentioning some specific things about the conversation that you found particularly interesting or learned from. Then, watch for ads from this company (the only reason you should ever bother with reading the classifieds, in my humble opinion). Occasionally call their human resources dept. Drop by to see the owner/ manager/ supervisor themselves to bring them up-to-date with your job search, and feel free to ask them for any company referrals they could think of during that repeat visit. (“I was just driving by and thought I’d drop in and see if you had a second to see me again!”) Two weeks after the interview, send another thank you letter that brings them up to date with your progress, and drop names of other owners/ managers/ supervisors you have talked to and the names of the companies they work for. You already have made a very good impression – one that will stick in their minds, setting you apart from other prospective applicants. Now, you must keep that impression shiny and fresh in their memories. And it certainly will not hurt to contact them with the news that someone else has made a job offer to you, and what they are offering to pay you, along with other perks and benefits. They will appreciate the update and feel like they’d been a real help for you, but they also may ask you to come by to discuss a future at their company instead!

But none of these things are as likely to happen if you look for a ‘job’ in the usual ways people tell you. Believe me, the advice in this article is not common knowledge. But now you know about this approach, so I hope you will try it out, even if in conjunction with traditional job-search methods. Your life is more in your hands than you had ever imagined.

I sincerely hope you take-on your own happiness, personal-growth, and life in general with the spirit embraced in this article. You may not always succeed, but that is the price of success! One has to learn to accept failures and convert them into something useful.

Personally, I’d rather look back at several months of failures trying to find a really, really good job, working with great people in a positive and healthy environment, with excellent benefits and vacation times, than to look back at several years working at jobs that never were a good fit in the first place, but those happened to be the first employers who said, “Can you start Monday?” Answer that question from now on with, “I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to think that over (or discuss that with my spouse, etc. ) during the weekend and get back to you. Is that alright?”

Last word: Always quibble pay rates. If asked how much you’d like to be paid, ask them how much they think you are worth! Also, always ask what kind of career track is possible for you if you do accept the job they are offering. (That is, can it lead to promotions you would enjoy, or is it a dead-end job, or worse, a promotion that would only lead to a heart attack!) It is perfectly alright for you to make them answer your questions, and it actually shows them that you are serious about wanting to do a good job for them. Be serious about whether you would hire them to be your employer – more serious than they are about hiring you! Be brave! Say “NO THANK YOU!” if there are negative signs. Above all, very, very, very seldom accept the first job offer made to you. Treat those first ones as practice!

Enjoy Great Success!

Terry Leigh Britton

* * *
“Adventure is worthwhile.” Aesop
* * *
“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”
Henry David Thoreau
* * *
“No legacy is so rich as honesty.” William Shakespeare
* * *
“Chance favors the prepared mind.” Louis Pasteur
* * *
I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.
Thomas Jefferson
* * *
Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’. – Yoda
* * *

Terry Leigh Britton is a retired Graphic Arts and Imaging Technology college professor, and this article was originally written by him for his students. One of those students encouraged him to make it public, and so here it is. See more of his articles at http://terrybritton.com


Originally Posted: 2005/9/17 15:52 Updated: 2005/9/17 15:52
This is excellent advice, indeed!

Another thing to consider is that networking is one of the very best ways to find a job. If you’re looking for a job, let everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, know you are looking. Heck, even if Grandma is retired, a friend’s grandson could be hiring and she’d tell you about it. Job leads can come from the most unexpected places!

Be mindful and seize every opportunity you have to following every lead.


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