As a job hunter today you can expect to encounter many frustrations during the job search. Perhaps one of the more frustrating situations concerns the question of why you never get any kind of response from a company or hiring manager you have so diligently pursued using a number of key contact methods in a well-designed, well-thought-out “touch” plan, e.g., follow-up emails, direct mail, voice mail messages, etc.
There could of course be any number of reasons why you received no response. Maybe you just weren’t on the “top 100” things the hiring manager had to do on any given day. Maybe your information was of no further interest to the hiring manager and it was simply discarded. But maybe—just maybe!—the hiring manager did have some further interest in you and merely set aside your information, to follow up on later, and simply hasn’t gotten around to it yet. If you have any reason to suppose that this last reason is perhaps why you have received no response, and if you genuinely want to continue to pursue a position with a particular hiring manager or company, then maybe you should seriously consider beginning to brand yourself as “The Rag Man.”
The what? you are probably saying! With due apologies to the women reading this blog, and with no intention whatsoever of being perceived as chauvinistic or sexist, let me explain who “The Rag Man” was (and still is!).
Back in the Wild West of the 1800s, pioneers got most of their news from a person everyone referred to simply as “The Rag Man.” Because it was so painful for the family when someone in the family died, it was The Rag Man’s job to come by and clean out the deceased’s personal effects—clothing, jewelry, whatever—and take them away. The Rag Man then traveled from town to town, village to village, either in a horse-drawn cart or using a push-cart. At each stop along the way, upon his arrival, he would shout, “Rags for sale, rags for sale. Come and get your rags!”
People flocked to greet The Rag Man at every stop, but it wasn’t because they were just interested in the “rags” he was selling. Rather, the people actually were eager to hear the latest “news”—any “stories”—that The Rag Man may have learned or picked up along his route.
The contemporary equivalent of The Rag Man is the professional to whom others in his/her official or unofficial network consistently and regularly turn to learn what’s going on in a particular industry or in specific companies within that industry, etc. The term which probably best fits today’s “Rag Man” (who obviously could also be referred to as “Rag Woman”) is “center of influence.”
Regardless of which term is used, the job hunter who brands himself/herself as someone who is—if not the expert—an expert in any given field or professional specialty can have considerable impact on and wield significant influence with prospective employers. Indeed, the job hunter who is branded as a “center of influence” can capitalize on this perception to “re-touch” hiring managers or companies when no response has been received from initial efforts.
Suppose, for example, that you run across an interesting article either about a particular company you are pursuing or the industry in which it operates. You could email that article to the hiring manager with appropriate comments. (Since a lot of companies today will not open emails with attachments because of the threat of computer viruses, you would be better advised to “paste” the text of the article within the body of your email.) That will show the hiring manager, among other things, that you are actively engaged in and dedicated to keeping up with important, ongoing developments within the company/industry. Or, if you write a blog, and the content is appropriate and relevant, make sure the hiring manager you are actively pursuing has easy access to it. The point is, make sure you institute consistent, meaningful and relevant contact—“re-touches”—with any hiring manager you want to pursue.
(As an aside, research shows that it takes, on average, at least SEVEN “touches” before you will be able to break through the “clutter” and “noise” surrounding most people, including hiring managers, of course, and get their attention. So don’t give up after a couple of contacts! With today’s harried, frazzled, overworked hiring managers, it’s quite likely to take far more than seven “touches,” too!)
If you feel you are qualified and able, you might also want to consider setting up and conducting appropriate professional seminars. These seminars don’t have to be spectacular, costly productions either. They can perhaps be set up and coordinated with existing local professional or civic organizations, thereby being essentially free to both you and the participants. Certainly you will want to join—and become and stay actively engaged in—appropriate LinkeIn groups. And, if you have the talent, write and submit professional articles to professional publications or online forums. (These communication outlets, while most do not offer compensation to contributors, are constantly seeking fresh, informative material from people branded as “experts” in the field.)
Obviously, the opportunities to be branded (perceived) as an “expert” who is totally engaged in your profession are limited only by your imagination, degree of commitment and willingness to explore them. One thing is certain, though, a hiring manager will quite likely view you as somewhat more than just an “average” candidate if you do become engaged in such activities, if you do indeed brand yourself as The Rag Man (or Woman). You will be viewed as someone who thinks strategically about his or her profession, about the relevant industry, someone who is action-oriented, not just another candidate who is “looking for a job.”
Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.