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How to Start Working Before You’re Hired

If you’re looking for the toughest place in America to find a job, try Michigan.

The state, hammered by the collapsing auto industry, has suffered the highest unemployment rate in the U.S. for 14 straight months.

Make no mistake: Most job searches in Michigan are nasty, brutish, and long.

Yet, one suburban Detroit man was recently hired for a six-figure position in only 8 days.

Bill McCausland, from Novi, Mich., beat all odds by landing a job that was not advertised and paid a higher salary than his previous position.

“Since being laid off at the end of June 2009, I had been aggressively looking for a professional opportunity. But all of the tactics that I used before, with a lot of success, weren’t working for me,” says McCausland.

But something changed.

McCausland was hired for a management position that was created for him, a success he credits to the following “guerrilla” job search method: He started working before he was hired.

Pay attention. Because if this can work in Michigan -- in only eight days -- it can work anywhere.

It has three parts. Here they are …

  1. Research the employer.

    Learn all you can about the needs, problems, and opportunities of companies you want to work for. This will help you create a compelling message that appeals to an employer’s self-interest … while ordinary job seekers are simply asking for a job.

    McCausland reached out for this information to customers and competitors of his target employer. “I spoke with a competitor and asked them, ‘What is it about Company ABC that keeps you awake at night?’ That competitor told me a ton.”

  2. Research the job.

    Learn all you can about the work you would do if hired.

    Here are four ways to do it:

    • Ask people in your network of contacts on Linkedin and Facebook for information. Human intelligence is best.
    • Search online for resumes and profiles of people who work at your target employer.
    • If the job is advertised, analyze the required skills to cull out what you’ll be doing if hired.
    • Search Google and the employer’s web site for press releases announcing new employees. You’ll often find reasons why those people were hired -- precious information.
  3. Prove you can do the job, in the interview.

    The most effective way is to audition and perform the required skills. Examples:

    • a software developer could program an application showcasing their skills;
    • a sales professional could bring 25 customer leads or make cold calls;
    • an editor could proofread a document in the interview.

Another way to prove your skills is to offer testimonials from others. This is what McCausland did in his job-winning interview.

He created a two-page addendum to his resume, which he handed to the hiring manager in the interview. Both pages matched the look and feel of his business card and web site.

Page one, titled “Accolades,” was made up of quotes from recommendations posted on his Linkedin profile. The quotes were divided into three parts: customers, managers, and business partners.

Page two was titled “Skills Required For Success.” In researching the employer, McCausland found they needed help with project management, problem solving, and execution. So he let former managers prove his expertise. “I took quotes from past performance reviews that tied into the skills they were looking for in the position,” he said.

Putting this all together, here’s the timeline of what McCausland did:

He sums up his success this way: “I got a position where none was advertised and did not have to compete with others because I nailed the interview, thanks to researching and demonstrating that I was already on the job.”

If this can work in Michigan, for a six-figure executive, in 8 days, why not give this three-step method a try in your job search?

- Kevin Donlin

Kevin Donlin is contributing co-author of "Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0." Since 1996, he has provided job-search help to more than 20,000 people. For a free glimpse, visit Guerrilla Job Search System DVD.