Home Work Job Search 10 Guerrilla Job Search Tactics That Work

In my opinion, there are two things most job seekers do wrong: they are too general and they are too boring.

I frequently write about the #1 problem of entry-level candidates: lack of focus. If you want to get hired today, you have to be a perfect fit, and it’s OK to adjust your marketing materials (resume and/or cover letter) to show that.

Why do I feel most candidates are boring?

Most job seekers do what everyone else is doing: they conduct their job search solely online. Just like everyone else.

As I said in a post last week, 80% of job seekers are applying to 20% of open jobs. Career experts claim that only 20% of open positions are posted online. So if you want to get a job faster, become part of the 20% that is seeking 80% of the jobs (which aren’t posted online). Make sense?

So, step 1 is to take your job search offline!

But how?!

Get Guerilla

What does “guerrilla” mean in terms of a job search?  It means get creative and do things differently!  Engage your audience and surprise them.  Here are ten guerrilla marketing tactics you can use in your job search.

1. Pick up the phone. Isn’t it lame that I have to include this tip in a list of “creative and unique” networking tactics?!  The truth is, I bet only 1% of people actually pick up the phone to introduce themselves, ask for a coffee meeting or start a conversation.  You aren’t cold calling for an interview or a job, you are simply starting a conversation.  Don’t over think it!

If you decide to pick up the phone, let the person know who referred you to them or how you know them.  Did you meet at a networking event?  Did you get his or her business card at the Cubs game?  Did you look her up in your sorority alumna directory?

Chances are they won’t answer or be interested in talking to you the first time you call.  Follow up again via email. Still no answer?  Make one last attempt by emailing them a week or two later.  It’s VERY normal to contact busy people a few times before getting a response. In many cases, they’ll thank you for your continued follow up!

2.  Stop job hunting and start company hunting. The beauty of a guerrilla-style job search is that your efforts will be very targeted.  You’ve researched industries, companies and even people.  You know what you want and who you want to talk to.  This is not a reactive job search where you apply to 50 jobs online and sit by your phone and wait.  Find companies you like, then look into their competitors and their vendors.  Target companies, not jobs.

3. Send a coffee mug. I first heard about this idea on an awesome podcast series called “Secrets of the Job Hunt” and have since run into this idea many times.  Sending a coffee mug helped former job seeker Janet FritzHuspen land a job within two weeks.

  • If you find out about an open position you’d like to apply for, send a coffee mug along with your resume and cover letter in a box via FedEx/UPS ground so you can track the package.
  • In your letter, state that you’d like to set up a time to discuss how you can contribute and add value to ABC Company as their (title of position you are inquiring about).
  • When the package arrives, give the person a call about 20 minutes later and say “you just got my package” and go from there.

This tactic will not work every time, but word on the street is that it works almost every time.  This tactic is better suited for more creative industries and positions rather than for a legal or banking positions.

4. Send an article. In this tactic you are simply sending interesting articles about the company, industry, or competition.  You can put a sticky note on the printed article that says, “I thought you might be interested in this.”  Also, make sure to include a note that lets the hiring manager know you like their company, what you are interested in and how you could contribute to their firm.  Set up free Google alerts to stay on top of the newly published articles of interest.

5. Get in touch with ex-employers. Most people only look at the future when conducting a job search.  Therefore, you should look behind you.  Hopefully you left your previous positions on good terms and can send a short email saying hello and letting them know you are on the market.  That’s it.  All you have to do is let them know you are available.  They have tons of clients and contacts, and perhaps they even need you back.

6. Take advantage of temp jobs. Let’s say you were offered a temp position at a company you like.  A lot of people would pass up this opportunity.  A smarter thing to do is to accept the temp position and start networking with those within the company.  Since you are already working on site, it’s easy to send an email and grab coffee or lunch with those in your building.  It’s likely that you will be offered a formal interview now that they know who you are.

7. Start work at the interview. Rather than being like every other candidate, consider getting a head start on getting hired.  If you’re applying to a marketing position, bring a fresh marketing campaign idea into the interview.  If you are going into sales, come in with a list of leads.  If you are interviewing for an editing position, bring in a copy of one of the publication’s articles with your edits.  If you haven’t been granted an interview yet, you could also use this approach by proposing an improvement or new idea and sending it to someone within the company.  This is a very proactive approach which shows the employer that you are a hard worker who takes this position very seriously.  You are also adding value to the company before you even start, which is something most wouldn’t bother doing.

8. Consider using a “guerrilla resume.”Authors David Perry and Kevin Donlin of “Guerilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0”  recommend using a resume that includes endorsements of your work in the left hand column (these quotes can be pulled from your LinkedIn recommendations) and up to 5 logos of well-known companies or clients you have worked with.  Although most traditional HR folks would disagree with this approach, they feel color and visual appeal will help you land a job faster.  Perry and Donlin’s website also offers a free informational CDwith tons of guerilla job hunting tips.

9. Use Twitter. I’ve personally seen the effects what Twitter can do for one’s professional life.  So why not use it to help you find a job? The catch here is, you don’t use Twitter to find a job.  You use it to build relationships. Authors Susan Britton Whitcomb, Chandlee Bryan and Deb Dibrecommend thinking of Twitter like a cocktail party that you use to achieve your job search goals.  They also suggest strategically using lists and hashtags.  For more great tips, check out their new book “Twitter Job Search Guide.

10. Get smart and get out there.

  • Read your local paper and don’t hesitate to contact those featured in the articles.
  • Read popular business books.  Doing so will provide you with tons of conversation and examples for an interview or when meeting new people.
  • Volunteer doing something you love.  You never know who you will meet.
  • Start a simple business while you are unemployed, you may be hired on full-time by one of your clients.
  • Take a class at your local college, get more training, or obtain a certificate in something that will add value to you as a candidate.

Will you go Guerrilla?

  • Do you agree with using a non-traditional job search and networking approach?
  • What guerrilla job search tactics have you used?  Did they work?
  • What are other examples of guerrilla job search tactics?
  • Which one of these tactics would you be most likely and least likely to utilize?

42 replies to this post
  1. Hi Ms. Career Girl! I like the post today and have an additional thought to go with #7 above. I work in B-2-B sales and we are always trying to help our prospective clients see the impact that working with us would have on their business. The same thing applies for interviewers.

    It is one thing to discuss the functions of a job and the tasks associated with it… it’s another to show how your abilities will help accomplish those tasks and free up time for the rest of the team/department/company to focus on more important and strategic initiatives.

    Rather than saying something like, “oh I can handle that because I’ve done it in my last job”, try something like “From what I understand you are looking for someone to handle (insert task), which I’ve handled before by doing (insert solution). Is that the type of solution you are looking for, and how would it impact/help the rest of the team?” This shows you are listening, qualifies you, and also helps course-correct if you are off on your assumptions of what they are looking for.

    Just a thought. The more engaged you can make the interviewer and the more you can help them see how hiring you will make their life easier the better luck you will have.

    • Hey OB- Great point! I really like that. Changing the wording a little bit can make all of the difference. I agree- listening, qualifying yourself and proving you can add-value are crucial.

      Let’s set up a breakfast/coffee soon!


  2. Nicole, nice article.
    Truisms everyone.
    Should we do a podcast for your readers? Let me know.
    David Perry
    Author, Guerrilla marketing for Job Hunters 2.0
    613-236-6995 x114

  3. […] are some more blogs I found that you might enjoy:Aircraft Mechanic Jobs | Aviation Job Search10 Guerrilla Job Search TacticsSpooky Guerrilla Job Search Trick | Job Search Strategies | Guerrilla Marketing For Job Hunters […]

  4. I agree with a lot of these, and I have even considered using them (prior to reading this post)! I’m interested in getting into the travel industry — tough I know, but it is my passion. I’ve considered visiting several local agencies and just introducing myself and pronouncing my interest. Who knows what could come of it, and if nothing does, no harm gained!

  5. This is fabulous advice for the majority. I actually recently applied for a position where I just laid out about 5 of my ideas right in the cover letter (I didn’t go into detail, but if they want them, honestly they can have them, I have tons of ideas!). Everyone who proof-read my cover letter told me not to do that because they wouldn’t interview me and they would just steal my ideas. Oh well that is a chance I’m willing to take because I doubt in my podunk town anyone had the sense to do something like that.

    I once got offered a job (they actually created a position just for me) by taking CPR and First Aid classes at the local YMCA.

    I do want to mention though for those of us who do still live in podunk towns, some employers will not like these tactics. Just do your research on the company first and you can probably figure out how open to innovation they are.

  6. Hey Nicole!

    I LOVE this article! Especially while going through what I like to call the “job search lull” right now (sending in tons of cover letters/resumes and having them disappear into the dark resume-sucking black hole) I feel like its time to start being more creative in my job search!

    I really like the coffee mug idea, but because I am just a poor college student, I’m thinking this might be a little pricey for my job search budget. Do you have any other *less expensive* ideas similar to this tactic to get your name and resume noticed by the right person?

    This list also got me thinking of other ways to use guerilla tactics to stand out from the crowd, in particular first round interviews conducted on campus at my school. For example, I have an interview on campus with a company I am really interested in next week. There are a bunch of us interviewing back-to-back and I really want to stand out! I know the name of my interviewer and did a little online “stalking” and found out a little about this person. Do you think it would be creepy/not professional for a first round interview to bring in an article of interest or something else along those lines?


  7. Dear Ms. Career Girl,
    I notice that you said while searching for jobs, one should target certain companies, industries and people that he/she would like to work for. However, some speakers who have come to present to various classes at my school, West Virginia University, they say to apply anywhere. I realize that this is not ideal because then you could end up having a job, which is the hardest thing to do in the first place; however, you could end up in one that you really do not enjoy whatsoever. What do you think is better? Landing a job that you are not so interested in or narrowing down your options and possibly making your job search somewhat unattainable?

    • Hi Katie,

      Every person giving career advice will likely tell you something different. I see applying to just any job as shooting fish in a barrel: you’re likely to hit one at some point but you don’t really know what you’re getting. Plus, I feel if you’re applying to jobs in bulk, the recruiters can probably tell due to the lack of knowledge of their company, along with a lack of personalization in your Cover Letter and Resume.

      I definitely agree that 1st jobs are NOT perfect jobs and that having a job is definitely better than no job!

      The reason I suggest looking up interesting companies as Step 1 is so that in Step 2 you can meet people within those companies who excite you and inspire you. You can use LinkedIn, Twitter or Blogs to connect and then (Step 3) try to meet up in person or on the phone if possible.

      Many positions are not posted online so after meeting people within these companies you may discover something just opened up. Or, if their company doesn’t have openings your contacts will likely know people within their industry that share the same values or work at similar companies who they can refer you to. Make sense?

      So again, having a job is better than no job. I say a hybrid of what you’ve been told and what I’m suggesting is probably ideal for a 1st time job search. My recommendation may be more useful for planting long term seeds that may grow after you have a year or two of experience and are ready for the next step up in your career. But in those cases those who start early will “win the race.”

      Hope that helps!


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