How to Find a Job through the Back Door

how to find a job through the back doorWhen looking for a job, most candidates try to go through “the front door.” Those are the traditional job-hunting methods people use – blasting out resumes to hundreds of employers, applying “online” to hundreds more, or working with a job search firm.

But many are disappointed when these attempts fail. Logically, since you are playing the numbers game – applying to literally hundreds of employers in a short space of time – these attempts should get you plenty of job interviews and a fair share of job offers.

But somehow, they often don’t. How can it be?

It’s simply a matter of traffic and a soft job market. You’re far from the only job seeker who is using these methods. As a result, employers are getting hundreds of resumes and applications for every job that is posted. They use sophisticated computer filtering methods that substantially narrow the field of potential candidates. Your resume and applications are mostly being filtered out before they are even reviewed by human eyes. If you’re not a glove fit, you’re out.

The better way to get a job now is to forget about the front door, and take a good hard look at going through the “back door.” What is the back door of the job market? They are the places that most other job candidates are not going. You will improve your chances of getting a job considerably by going where the traffic is light.

There are different ways to do this, and which you choose will depend on your current employment status. One of the primary reasons why people avoid looking for a job through the back door is that it is more time-consuming and requires considerably more follow-up. If you’re unemployed, you’ll have the time to do this. If you already have a job, you’ll have to take it in measured steps.

Networking Your Way In

Unless you are very specifically qualified for a position, you’ll have difficulty getting a job interview, let alone an offer. Hiring is still largely an old-school process – you have to know someone who knows someone who is in a position to get you the interview, and provide the credibility needed for a job offer.

Networking is one of the best ways to do this. You may not develop close contacts from networking, particularly the online variety, but any contact is better than no contact when it comes to job hunting. If you can get to know people who are in a position to hire – or are close to those who are – you may succeed in getting the door-opening introduction that your resume and application simply cannot provide anymore.

Get to know as many people as you can who are either working in your current field, or the one that you hope to get into. You don’t always need to know people who do the hiring – it’s often enough if you get to know the people who know the people who do the hiring. The more contacts that you have, the more job opportunities you’ll have too.

How to Apply

If you do make direct contact with a potential employer, it might be best to avoid applying through the company website or through job boards. Instead, find out who the person is who does the hiring for the position you want, and make direct contact. You can do this by telephone, email, or by old-fashioned snail mail. The advantage to these contact methods is that most job candidates are not using them. Your call or correspondence will be far more likely to be read by the hiring manager.

In most of these situations, you will also be directed to apply through the company website. That’s okay – you will still have made the critical contact, and if the hiring manager is impressed by your credentials, you may have moved your application up to the top. The key is always to bypass human resources, and “the system,” to the greatest degree possible.

Temping Your Way into a Job

If you are unemployed and need a job, sometimes the best way to a permanent job is by accepting a temporary one. When you apply for a job with a company, your application is one in a stack of hundreds or even thousands of others. It’s hard to get noticed in a stack. But when you’re actually on-site, working for the company, you become a name and a face, and you have an opportunity to impress. Your chance of being offered a full-time position increases dramatically!

Using a Part-Time Job to Get a Full-Time Job

This is similar to temping – you come into the organization on a reduced basis which gives you the chance to demonstrate your worth to the company. This can be an especially big advantage in a bad economy. An organization that cannot afford to hire you on a full-time basis may be open to a part-time arrangement.

Once you are there, and they become accustomed to your production, you may succeed in creating a full-time slot for yourself. Sometimes the best way to get a job is to work yourself into one. Whether you do this by temping or by working part-time, it will provide you an opportunity that the best-looking resume cannot.

Offer to Work for Free

Once again this is a suggestion for a person who is unemployed and needs to get a foot in the door. It’s a pretty bold step – one that is so radical that a lot of employers may even turn their nose up at the opportunity. But if you’re confident in your ability to make a substantial contribution to an organization, this can also be one of the most effective ways to land regular employment.

It will be important at the outset to establish the fact that you will work for free only on a trial basis. It could be that your time with the company fizzles out without you ever getting a job offer or even a single dollar out of it. But if they are impressed with what they see, they may elevate you to a paid part-time position, or even a paid temporary position. Either arrangement could eventually lead to full-time employment.

Because of the sheer volume of competition, you should not be the least bit surprised that your efforts at mailing out resumes and applying for jobs online are not bearing fruit. And if they aren’t, you may need to start looking for a job through the back door.

Have you ever tried any of these job-hunting methods? Did they eventually lead you to a job? Leave a comment!

  1. Josh Richner

    Great suggestions here Kevin. Every single job that I have had (short of waiting tables for a summer) since I started working at 13 was gained through a personal reference. As a business owner, I know how much weight a personal reference from someone that I know and trust can carry.

    Employers want someone who will go the extra mile, the application process is your opportunity to show that you will!

  2. Victoria

    Great article! Temporary work through employment agencies have usually kept me afloat between jobs throughout the years. Some of these have turned into full-time employment or good referrals. I have also gotten several jobs by cold-calling small businesses, introducing myself to the owners and making inquiries about job openings. Of course, this is going back at least ten to fifteen years when the job market wasn’t quite as tight as it is now. Regardless, these are still great back door ways to get our foot the door. Thanks again.

  3. Barb Irwin

    My last two jobs came through letting everyone I knew know I needed a job. When I let them know, there were no openings. But in each case, within a month or two they needed someone full time with my skills and came to me. I didn’t go through the usual process, and they didn’t have to advertise. Plus they knew they were getting someone who would be reliable.

  4. Lourdes

    As I have noticed , job hunting these days are no longer done the way it was during my time, where I had to worry because I didn’t know someone to back me up to be hired. The so called “online jobs” today is becoming the favorite place to apply for a job.
    Application letters are sent directly to the person looking for our skills and, as of now , it doesn’t seem there is a need for a “whom you know” system. Proving our worth right there and then when we apply is our only concern and then we are hired!

  5. Joolie

    As you state,”sophisticated computer filtering methods … substantially narrow the field of potential candidates. Your resume and applications are mostly being filtered out before they are even reviewed by human eyes. If you’re not a glove fit, you’re out.”
    With this in mind apply only to the very few jobs for which you are truly a fit. Then re-word not only your cover letter, but also your resume to highlight the skills you posses and they are looking for, using their language as much as possible. It’s time-consuming to complete each application, but you won’t waste your time or theirs. Also, you’ll go into the interview confident you’re the right person for the job.

    This method has produced excellent results for me. In 2011 I applied for and interviewed for three positions. More than 200 applicants submitted résumés for the job I currently hold. I declined an offer from a second employer and, after the first interview, I let the third one know I wasn’t interested in the job.

    In 2012 my husband applied for, interviewed for, and was offered two jobs, one of which he turned down and the other he accepted.

    Neither of us work in specialized fields and we were competing with large pools of potential applicants yet we succeeded by being selective and specific.

    Very few hiring managers will appreciate the candidate who tries to get around the system and phones asking to speak to them. Unless you know someone who can provide an introduction, if the process is to apply via the internet, a phone call will be viewed as an unwarranted interruption by someone who must feel their résumé will not speak for itself. When I was in a position to hire I kept track of these people and counted against them thier inability to follow instructions.

  6. Kirsten

    Agree with Joolie that getting around HR is not always viewed positively. I have mostly worked for the government through one of their contractors and people who cannot follow the system set up are viewed with little more than contempt. Managers eye-roll at the person who thought they’d get special treatment by making a direct contact and these people generally don’t make it far. However, it doesn’t hurt to out in your online application FIRST and then contact the person in your network to ask for assistance getting to the next step. I helped the sister of my former mentor get her job this way.