How to Game a Job Search

Steve Dalton believes that he has the solution to the plight of the online job seeker.

Before a packed audience on February 20th at Columbia University’s Casa Italiana, Dalton spoke about his two-hour job search strategy, a means of sidestepping the snarl of applying for – and competing for – job opportunities listed online.

“It’s not necessarily going to be fun or fast or particularly efficient,” he said of the two-hour job search method, “but it is going to be better than the alternative.”

He took the audience through the three major steps of this strategy: prioritizing targets, contacting relevant employees, and finding advocates.

Dalton said, “Hiring managers are not incentivized to find a perfect candidate slowly, they’re incentivized to find a good enough candidate quickly.” That means hiring internally or, if necessary, relying on internal referrals: “They’re going to ask people they know and trust, ‘Who do you like for this position?’ What I’m going to show you today is how to get internal referrals systematically.”

He introduced the audience to a data-driven approach. He advised the audience to create what he called a LAMP list, an Excel spreadsheet that denotes:

  • L - a list of desirable employers
  • A - whether relevant alumni work at the given companies
  • M - how motivated the job seeker is to get hired at each company
  • P - whether any of the companies have posted job opportunities

By creating a LAMP list, a job seeker can organize his or her ideal career opportunities and prioritize his or her target employers. For prospective employees from abroad, the methodology can also help determine which companies might be more likely to sponsor an international employee’s H-1B visa. For everyone looking to secure a new role, this strategy clarifies which organizations merit the applicant’s time and energy – and which ones might not be worth the time investment.

Dalton details this process – which involves advanced search techniques on LinkedIn and Indeed – in his book The 2-Hour Job Search.

“Be a bachelor of your own job search,” Dalton mused, referencing the popular televised dating competition. “Don’t be one of many bachelorettes.”

Dalton also offered advice for reaching out to contacts at one’s prospective employers. He said that job seekers should refrain from asking these contacts for a job. “Keep your interest in a job implicit,” he had said in The Huffington Post. Instead, the prospective employee should seek mentorship and advice. Key questions might include, “How did you take the next step in your career?” or “What resources do you recommend?”

The idea is to prevent the conversation from becoming transactional and instead keep it convivial. That way, the contact will ultimately feel more comfortable recommending the candidate internally.

The event offered students a pathway for their ensuing job searches. While several students posed specific questions about advanced search methods on LinkedIn, best practices for interactions with job contacts, and seeking opportunities at smaller, less-established companies, other Columbians quietly headed for the post-event reception, content to have created their game plans for advancing their job searches.