A Proactive Job Search Strategy

There are two kinds of job searches, proactive and reactive. Most people use reactive job search strategies, which means they look for job openings and then apply to ones that interest them. So, when you send your resume to recruiters and respond to job board postings, you are really at the mercy of what comes up. 

In a proactive job search, you pick the companies and the jobs you are seeking, aiming for the next step in building your career. This way, you get the job that you chose and worked to get versus just hoping a good job comes your way through the recruiters and job boards.

Before you do any job searching, make sure you have a really great brand – resume, online and verbal- since contacts and employers will use these to see if they wish to speak with you.

Proactive Job Search Strategies

There are four key steps in the proactive job search and these are:

  1. Identify which companies interest you
  2. Research the companies
  3. Leverage your network
  4. Reach out to hiring managers

Identify Which Companies Interest You

There are a number of ways you can identify companies. Start by making a list of 30-60 companies that you think you would love to work for. Talk to your friends and colleagues and see who they recommend based on your profile of an ideal company you would just love to work for.

Note that LinkedIn has a very strong company search feature that can help. Go to LinkedIn, hit the menu button the the search bar, select Companies, and then search.

You can also use the Advanced Search options by clicking Advanced next to the search bar.

If you find a company that might interest you, click on their profile, and see if it is one that interests you. If you like them, remember to click on the Follow button so company updates and messages are sent to you.

Research The Companies

The next step in the proactive job search is to learn more about the organization and determine if it is a place you really want to join. There are a number of ways to do this.

The first thing to do is to visit the company web site and go to the About Us section. You can review the company history, products, and services and make sure you check out the News and Press Release section to see the latest newsworthy events.

Make sure you look at their blog, if they have one, as it gives you a good idea of their areas of expertise and corporate culture. Also check them out on Twitter and remember to follow them.

There are a number of excellent web tools and I highly recommend and as they provide anonymous reviews of thousands of companies, salaries being paid, reviews of the corporate culture and evaluations of top executives. Sometimes they will even show you questions that are asked in an interview. Finally, don’t forget to search both Google for the company name, as you never know what will show up.

Leverage Your Network

Go back to LinkedIn’s Company Search capability and enter the name of the company that interests you. Note that when the listing comes up, it will tell you how many people in your network are employed there. This is a good place to start and you can reach out to these people for assistance.

Tip:  People respond much better when they are asked for advice versus being asked to help you get a job.

A good communication might be “I am looking at XYZ as a potential employer and was wondering if you could tell me about the corporate culture there?” You can also send this type of message to your extended network.

Reach Out To Hiring Managers

Now that you have identified companies that interest you, it is time to identify people who work there. Again, your network and LinkedIn are great sources here.

Start by identifying the hiring manager and staff in the area you wish to join. Look for people who would be your peers and their managers.

Now see what LinkedIn Groups they’ve joined. This is important because if you join the same group, you can now communicate with them for free without updating your LinkedIn account.

Look to see if they have participated in any group discussions. This is a GREAT way to enter the conversation and start showcasing your expertise. And remember to keep your comments upbeat, positive, and professional.

Do the same for Twitter. Select the contact button under their profile and see if they have a Twitter handle. Follow them and see what kinds of tweets they have put out. Again, a terrific way to join the conversation.

Now look to see if you have people in your LinkedIn contacts that can provide an introduction to them. Ask what they know about the company and do they recommend it as a potential employer? Ask them what they think is the best way to get introduced.

Note that you did not ask them to introduce you, but rather you asked them for advice on how to get introduced.

Finally, reach out to the hiring manager. Make sure you have a good 30-second elevator pitch that briefly describes your background and value proposition. And remember that people hire people they like so try to build rapport.

A proactive job search takes discipline so set weekly goals for yourself. The benefit is you will end up in a job that you chose instead of one you got through happenstance.


Adapted from an original post by Don Goodman on