The Hacker’s Guide to Finding a Job: 9 Tactics No One’s Using

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I write about entrepreneurship a lot on this blog, but not everyone want to start a business. So I thought it would be nice to add some updated insights on the other side of the employment spectrum. Enter today’s guest contributor, Scott Dinsmore of LiveYourLegend.


“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” -Albert Einstein

If you’re looking for a job, chances are you’re going about it all wrong.

Whenever someone approaches me looking for a job, the first thing I ask is what they’ve done so far. The general answer is “I’ve posted my resume on Monster, Career Builder and a few other job sites and sent some emails out to friends. But I haven’t heard anything.”

They haven’t heard anything because they haven’t done anything.

They don’t get it. Posting your resume on job sites is not job hunting!

That’s table stakes at best. Sure it’s the easiest and most passive thing to do but it also won’t get you anywhere. Do you really want to compete with thousands of other pieces of paper being sorted by arbitrary keywords to see what person is a ‘good fit’ anyway? I doubt it.

Last I checked, as many as 90% of jobs come from people you know, or people who know the people you know.

Relationships rule when it come to jobs.

With today’s tools and social networking, the resources have never been better for finding work that lights you on fire. Anyone with a Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter account has the tools to hack the traditional job search.
The problem is there are even more tools out there that make you feel like you’re looking for a job when you’re actually spinning your tires.

If you want to find work that matters you have to get creative and enlist those around you.
The good news is there’s always a market for energetic talent. There are people and companies who desperately need what you have to offer. I’m sure of it. You just have to increase the odds of getting in front of them. When looking for a job, that’s your only job.

So let’s get started.

1. Know what you want. No one can help you until you tell them what you’re looking for. Last week I got three emails from different folks that went something like this “I’m looking to change careers and am open to just about anything. I’d really appreciate it if you’d let me know if there’s something you might think would be a good fit”.

How can I possibly act on this? If you’re looking for everything, you’ll likely find nothing.

List out what you have to offer and where you want to work. Be as specific as possible. If you don’t know yet, this is the perfect time to do a little self discovery. Here’s a resource to get you started: Follow this Process and I Guarantee You’ll Do Work That Lights You On Fire

2. Generate your ideas list. Even if you have an idea of what you want, odds are you aren’t thinking of a lot of cool opportunities that just haven’t come to mind yet. This is where job sites and social networks start to become really useful.

Visit the top job boards in your industry. Start with big sites like Monster, Simply Hired or Career Builder, but also leverage niche sites for specific types of industries such as Dice or Startuply (here’s a good startup list). Read job titles, descriptions and companies that stand out. Start your list.

Now go though all your LinkedIn contacts and do the same. You’re looking for any interesting companies or titles. Also spend some time on Facebook and Twitter to see if anyone’s raving about a company or job they have. Take note.

The goal here is to create as comprehensive a list as possible that we can later use to see who can get you in the back door.

3. Enlist your support crew. Think of your top friends, contacts and colleagues who are most connected and willing make introductions. Who have you left a rockstar impression on in the past? List five or 10. You’ll be reaching out to anyone who might have a connection but these will be your go-to guys.

4. Find your way in. With your list of companies and job roles in hand, it’s time to find a way to make a real connection. LinkedIn is the best tool for doing this. There are all kinds of ways to search based on location, company, job role, etc. Find those connections. Specifically go through everyone of your support crew’s connections. Who knows someone? Make a list of connections.

5. Make it super easy for people to help. Odds are that between my clients, colleagues, blog following and social networks, I know someone who’d be a fit for just about anyone who asks for help. But thinking of sorting through all that on my own is way too much work. Everyone loves helping someone find a job. It feels amazing. But you have to do the heavy lifting for them. The odds of getting what you want are directly proportional to how easy it is for someone to give it to you. With that in mind…

6. Ask for introductions (the right way). Take your list of connections and start asking for help. Send personalized emails to each person in your network (a mass email will NOT suffice). Tell them what you’re looking for, what your skills/experience is and the specific person they’re connected to whom could help. Better yet do this over lunch or coffee. The more human the ask the better. Also give them a short template they could use to make the email introduction.

The goal is for them to be able to make a connection in the shortest time and with the least effort. Don’t just say “Hey Scott do you know someone at Apple?” when you could have done 10 minutes of work to get the answer and know the person’s name. If you make them work too hard, it likely won’t happen.

7. Start making connections. Meet with anyone who will meet with you. Never eat alone. Try to get at least two more introductions from each meeting. Refine your criteria and target least as you learn more. Let the connections lead your search.

You haven’t heard much back from folks? Be persistent. This stuff isn’t going to happen on it’s own. Don’t stop at one email or one phone call. You must be active. There is no waiting around. You can always be doing something to get you closer. Such as…

8. Use your talents to help someone. So you know finance, PR, web design or SEO. Offer to help those who need it. Maybe even for a reduced price or pro bono. It’ll keep you sharp and show a few others how good you are. Just like you wouldn’t be that excited to take someone out who hadn’t been on a date for five years, people with work are always more attractive than people without. Find a way to help.

9. Be a purple cow. If you’re going to compete with the hundreds or thousands of other folks looking for the same work, you have to stand out. At the least, create a place for people to see your work. You have to have an online presence. Maybe it’s a blog or portfolio or simply a more in-depth version of your resume with some wild headshots. Do something different.

A friend of mine recently started applying for high school teaching jobs. She just got her credentials and knew it was ridiculously competitive. So she went out and created a simple website for students and parents to download homework, connect, ask questions and see their progress. The site took a few hours to create and immediately she was on a different playing field. There were 90 experienced teachers applying for the job she wanted. Guess who got it? The one who showed some creativity.

Ever heard of Susan Hires a Boss? Susan was in need of work so she decided to turn things on their head and start a search for the perfect boss. Who does that? She put her criteria and details of her search up on the web. There was a full application process. Then something wild happened…she started getting offers. She ended up going with a boss who wasn’t even looking to hire someone. He couldn’t help himself.

How can you be different?

Be active, be clever, be hungry.

Sending resumes is passive. Email is passive. Posting on job boards is passive. They feel like work but they’re really just giving you excuses to sit on your ass. There is no downtime when looking for something new to light you on fire.

Your connections want to help. People want to hire you. You just have to make the decision easy on them. Do you know how hard it is for a company to sort though 100 resumes and try to figure out who to interview? No one wants to do that. Work your ass off so they don’t have to.

The front door of most companies is tighter than Fort Knox. Sure, a few may have found their way in over the past century but many more will die trying. There is a better way. There’s always a back door. And there will likely be someone to eagerly greet you when you find it.

It’s time to get creative.


Scott Dinsmore is the founder of LiveYourLegend, where he writes and helps people discover passion & purpose and do work they love. Check out his latest articles or Download his free Epic Work Toolkit here.

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33 responses

33 responses to “The Hacker’s Guide to Finding a Job: 9 Tactics No One’s Using”

  1. Good post, Scott and Jonathan. I haven’t given up on my entrepreneurial ideas, but sometimes it takes a job to finance that. Plus, if you’re on your own, you may not be able to get health insurance. I’m trying to find synergies between being employed and continuing to develop ideas … the principal one being positive cash flow. 🙂

    • I need to plug Twitter as a networking tool, as well. If you’re not already a Twitter user, you probably won’t be effective quickly. But, as someone who’s used it for several years (it’s how I first ran into Jonathan, in fact), it’s allowed me to make several connections internal to companies in which I’m interested. LinkedIn has similar possibilities, I think. I’d be cautious about going after people directly.

      • Very good point Richard! Twitter belongs on that list in a big way. That’s one of the best tools for connecting with the really big time and busy folks too. Provides a great place to start. I remember I once sent Tony Robbins a tweet and he responded like two minutes later! Who would have thought??

  2. Good stuff Scott. This is a very similar road map to the one I offer my friends/peers looking for a gig. I will also say that Charlie Hoehn’s “Free Work” approach works very well if used appropriately.

    In addition, if the going is a little slow I encourage new graduates to take a job and work their asses for 6-8 months while looking for the job. You can’t be too picky straight out of school with little experience in this economy.

    • Good point Ryan. Plus, you are always more attractive when you already have a job. Just be sure it’s somewhere in line with a strength or interest and then have some fun with it, even if you plan on it just being short term.

  3. Jeff Munn says:

    Great advice, Jonathan and Scott!

    I can think of three ways to find more fulfillment at work–do you own thing as an entrepreneur, figure out how to find a better traditional job, or find more fulfillment in the work that you already do.

    I think there’s a lot of people who just want to find better ways to be happy where they are. And learning to deal with the fear that accompanies change. Looking forward to a guest contributor on that topic, too!


    • And oftentimes finding more fulfillment at your current job is the quickest first step. Even something as simple as picking projects that further levergage your unique strengths and finding others to do the things that call on your weaknesses – this can make all the difference in an existing job.

  4. David Pederson says:

    Good advice and it certainly opens the door to unlease the right spirit, as long as the person has a circle of connections that match their geography. So here is the follow-up. How do people change countries or continents and apply this? In a teleworking world we should be able to be geographically agnostic but I don’t know if we have effective strategies to network for those times when we have to leave one place for another and lose our connections. Thoughts?

    • It’s a good question David. We could always explore our network from a geographical standpoint and start digging from there. There are also a lot of similar local online tools in other countries that can be leveraged…assuming you know the language that is ;). I will do some more digging here and see what I can come up with.

  5. Deb says:

    Hi and Happy Wednesday to both Jonathan and Scott !
    Such a great idea to give insight on getting a job as so many are looking.
    I am retired administrator and have done more than a few workshops on “Getting Hired as a Teacher”. The reference to the friend getting a teaching position hit home as it was exactly one of the methods I use to recommend.
    Just get CREATIVE!
    As a former Principal I can promise what all administrators want in a Teacher is to know they CARE about the STUDENTS!
    In order to get an Inteview with principals they need to go Door to Door.
    Start Knocking on the school doors which YOU will be ADVISED to NOT do, however, principals are in the buildings and YOU can make quite the Impression if you stop by to introduce yourself.
    Afterall, what do you have to loose?
    People in education as others want to FOCUS on Relationships and so I used to share that when you get an Interview make it Meaningful!
    Some of the ideas were taking in something specific that would make the Interview Committee remember YOU!
    1. Science Teacher create your Resume using the Elements Chart
    2. Math Teacher take in handmade Math Cards with your Name and Contact Information.
    Just get Noticed AND Remembered!
    Anyway, brought back memories. Thanks for sharing AND good luck to all those who are out there hitting the pavement…

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Hey Deb,

      Thanks for sharing this great insight from the inside of the teaching world.

  6. Srinivas Rao says:


    This post really resonated me with me. I’m about to begin a job search myself and given that I have my blog, a podcast, and a substantial network behind it, I plan to leverage those by creating an effective campaign. But the thing that really hit home was that submitting resumes to job boards is not job hunting. I went to business school and graduated about 2 years back. I have friends who are still to this day submitting resumes and scratching their heads as to why they’re not able to find something they like. I remember another girl in my graduating class telling me that she applied for every job on the internet. I thought that sounded like a complete waste of time. The other thing that’s really important about what you talk about here is that it can help you end up in a job that you actually want. Far too many people have a tendency to settle for whatever they can get because of the economy. But ultimately that kind of job will never allow you to reach your true potential because it’s not something that you wanted to do. Right now I’m trying to find a balance between making money off my own projects and the pursuit of a job. Either way the resources and networks that you mention above provide solid foundations for any path you pursue. Looking forward to checking out your blog.

    • So glad I could help. The 80/20 of job hunting is so important to get right. That was my main point here. Posting resumes online is not 80/20… Maybe a place to start at best, but don’t let it take the place of the important, live interactions.

  7. Sean Cook says:

    I helped last night with a job fair that Hiring for Hope, a great non-profit here in Georgia, had planned. As a volunteer “Career Angel,” I gave job seekers feedback on resumes and job search strategies. One job seeker was looking to change careers, and needed feedback on her resume. I asked what she was looking for, and she really didn’t have an answer.

    #1 on your list is so incredibly important, but some job-seekers, especially those unemployed or stuck for a while in a bad job, take a scattershot approach, and apply for anything and everything.

    I advocate for job-seekers to give themselves permission to seek their ideal job first, and from there, to identify those common threads that make certain jobs appealing. This leads to better discovery and better applications and interviews.

    I love your list. Thanks for sharing.

    • Giving yourself that permission is so important Sean! We can all find and do work that matters if we spend the time to actually sort out who we are and what’s meaningful to us. That takes time and it takes hard work but is there anything more worth the effort?! Great points.

  8. […] Fields has a wonderful guest post today called The Hacker’s Guide to Finding a Job: 9 Tactics No One’s Using written by Scott Dinsmore […]

  9. Anne Wayman says:

    This is all so very true. It seems we’re apt to get stuck repeating actions that might have worked once. Thinks for the nice kick in the a**

    I’d truly rather be a purple cow.


    Your site is awesome too Scott.

  10. […] this article: The Hacker’s Guide to Finding a Job: 9 Tactics No One’s Using This entry was posted in Work From Home by emysteryshopper. Bookmark the […]

  11. Roy Jacobsen says:

    So, which of these “job-hunting” tactics doesn’t apply to an entrepreneur or a freelancer looking for their next gig, their next client?


    That’s what I thought.

    Thanks Scott, and thank you Jonathan for reminding this freelancer of some of the things I need to be doing!

    • Great point Roy. These are not just for jobs at big companies. It’s how to get work regardless of the project or venue. Thanks for bringing that up.

  12. Couldn’t agree more. I mentor job-searchers and when they say “they’re the queen of,” I give the stat that upward of 80% of jobs are through networking. 80%!

    When speaking to college students, I tell them the good news… that means that for every day they spend searching online, they should spend 4 days partying. OK, networking, but they get the point.

  13. John Sherry says:

    Scott, this rocks! You approach it from a very clever and well thought through position and your steps will actually be giant leaps to securing a good job. I have to agree about connecting to your contacts as they all know hundreds of people you don’t and will happily open doors for you through introductions, advice, or pulling a few favours. People help people and that’s the first place to start!

  14. Dee Relyea says:

    Great post Scott!
    I’d also encourage job seekers to be sure to make their Linked In profiles 100% and crank up their contact numbers. Recruiters now actively search for candidates there and look for profiles containing keywords that match position descriptions. A suggestion I make to my job searching clients: run the job description through to see the top key words and then do the same with their Linked in profiles. Is there a match? If not, see if you can work some of the keywords into your profile. This maximizes recruiters finding YOU.
    Thanks for sharing!

  15. Ridlon says:

    Jonathan, you rock. Know that your focus is entrepreneurship but you’re still giving you the love to everybody. Thanks.

  16. Lori says:

    I’m sending this link to my daughter. It’s what I’ve been telling her – stand out in some way. Find your uniqueness and present it to your next employer.

    Great post, Jonathan.

  17. Jonathon,
    This is one of the best posts I’ve read on current, effective job search strategies! Everything you’ve written is what we teach in our workshops; I’m very excited to share this with my community!


  18. […] The Hacker’s Guide to Finding a Job: 9 Tactics No One’s Using—interesting tips to getting a job […]

  19. Allot of job have never reached the public because they are consumed by friend of friend as you mentioned. I think a good approach may be to send CVs to firms that you want to work with and just asking them if the have an open job for you. You may ask the right time that somebody needs you!

  20. Adrienne says:

    This is a great post! Relationships are key to finding work, not just for you but for others. What about making the job search a game? The blog No Shortage of Work just wrote about that – making a Farmville-like game out of finding jobs (

    I think with the right attitude, outlook, and dedication to getting everyone employed, something like this could work, especially if job hunting suddenly became fun.

  21. ALi says:

    Thanks Scott, i want to tell you about my case, over two years trying to get internship in USA & still, I have a bachelor degree in computer science & CCNA certified, and i know what i want , i really want to learn as much as i can about USA technology in Networks & USA marketing, always sending to companies and got some contacts but no internship yet. i felt the companies in US like here most of them they just want you to work hard no matter to learn new technology or to try to extend your skills, JUST Do your task and get your salary, Thats ALL.

    in Jan 2012 my CCNA certification will expire i got it self study, i never work of it here cause did not find company it worth to lost my job to work in. my current job is in technical support NOT in Networks.

    Note : I am in Jordan, Middle east.

  22. […] is exactly why I wrote The Hacker’s Guide to Finding a Job: 9 Tactics No One’s Using for Jonathan Fields a while back. If we want results, we have to focus our time in the right […]