Ten million job applications resulted in 100,000 hires.

That’s 1 percent.

Worse: Only 15 percent of these 100,000 people applied through a job board; the rest got their job via networking or by being found on LinkedIn. That means applying resulted in hiring only about 0.1 percent of the time. I was at a recruiting conference this past week where this information was presented, discussed, and validated.

That’s why companies need to minimize their use of job boards to find candidates for critical positions. More important, for the jobs posted it’s better to replace the laundry list of must-have requirements with a  summary of the importance of the job and what the person hired will learn, do and become. This marketing technique will attract more of the more qualified.

The one tenth of one percent stat suggests job seekers must also rethink their entire approach for getting a different or better job.

Coincidently, on my Lyft ride back to the airport, the driver — a PhD in foreign languages — was lamenting about her inability to find another full-time teaching position. She told me she applies to 15-20 postings a day in search of a job. I told her it was a waste of her time. I went on to tell her unless she were a perfect on all of the “must-haves,” was fully employed and had limited turnover, she would not get an interview. And even if she got an interview, she would be competing with 15-20 other people for the same job.

To improve her odds I suggested she implement a 20-20-60 job hunting plan. While it was OK to spend 20 percent of her time finding jobs where she was a perfect fit, another 20 percent of her efforts needs to be focused on improving her resume and LinkedIn profile in order to be found by a recruiter or hiring manager looking for someone with her background. Branded.me might help on this part, too. However, the other 60 percent is where she needed to become very creative.


For the balance of the ride we came up with the following ideas for the other 60 percent:

1. Find some alternative jobs that could use her foreign language skills.

Online training programs headed the list, followed by translation services.  Those needing such services included attorneys, patent offices, companies involved in developing learning management systems, and any international company that required materials to be prepared in multiple languages. It took only a few minutes to prepare this list.

I then asked her if she went to any job boards that posted jobs that were written exclusively in Spanish and Italian. Of course she said no but she instantly knew this could be another source of job leads.

If we had another 10 minutes we could’ve developed a longer list and developed some specific companies to target, but we had to move on since the airport was almost in sight. I suggested she scour the job boards for these types of jobs but she shouldn’t apply directly. Instead she should use one of the following backdoor techniques to get an interview.

Use the backdoor to get the interview.

Announcement: Getting to the top of the candidate list is more important than getting the interview.

The reason is obvious: Recruiters stop looking at candidates once they find a few good ones and applying directly is the least best way to get to the top of the list. Being referred by a trusted common acquaintance is the best way. You don’t even need to be fully qualified in this case. Demonstrating your competency via a mini-project or a temp-to-perm or intern job is the next best way to get to the top of the list.

These backdoor techniques are very effective. Since we were just arriving at the airport, I gave her a short example of this approach. I told her about an MBA student in Italy who wanted a marketing position at one of the big European telecom companies but he wasn’t having any luck getting interviews. I suggested he first prepare a competitive analysis of each company’s primary product line with some recommendations for increasing market share. Then he should send a short summary and video to the head of product marketing at each company asking for a short meeting to present his conclusions. He called me a month later thanking me. The technique yielded two interviews. If the project was any good I’m sure he got at least one job offer.

Getting a job is too important to leave to chance. This post will turn the odds in your favor. Here’s the longer version that will keep them there.