This is the sixth time you’ve hit the Apply button today. The silence is deafening. Every time you apply to a job you find on Monster or Kijiji, you’re greeted with nothing. Time is running out, and the thought of it is tying your stomach up in knots.

Last June, I remember catching up with a friend. When I asked her what she was up to, she grimaced that she was working at the local grocery chain. I felt her pain: she didn’t enjoy what she was doing, yet she was forced to spend so much time on it.

There is another option. Instead of trying to shotgun your résumé to the thousands of job listings out there, you can choose to apply for unlisted job postings (which actually make up the majority of available job opportunities).

(Side note: In case you’re curious about my experience before we riff about this, head on over to my LinkedIn profile to get an idea.)

Breaking it Down

This may surprise you, but according to CNN, around only 20% of jobs are advertised on those big job board sites. That means the majority of jobs remain unlisted. Instead, companies rely on current employee referrals or headhunters in order to skip the floods of unqualified candidates.
It’s not that companies don’t want to hire anyone. Imagine the recruiter at her desk in her office, absolutely overwhelmed with resumes and inbox flooded with boring, standardized, cold e-mails. She knows that almost every department would love an energetic and ideal young employee who’s hungry and willing to deliver.

At the same time, she needs to be careful. A hiring mistake can be costly to the company’s bottom line or culture. Each hire gone wrong also reflects poorly on her. How can you set yourself apart from the other applicants? How can you get her attention?

Be Remarkable

You need to do something to show her that you’ve got the chops, the passion, and the work ethic to succeed in the company. One way to do this is to build something relevant to the job. What exactly does that mean?

For example, if you wanted to get a marketing job with a company, create and execute a content marketing strategy for Tumblr, start a Facebook contest, or set up a Google Adwords campaign that is dedicated to driving traffic to the company’s social media page. Track your performance using each service’s built-in tools, or set up Google Analytics.

Then, e-mail someone within the company’s department and explain what you’ve built. Attach screenshots of what you’ve already done. (If their e-mail address isn’t on the website, try figuring out the company’s e-mail name scheme, i.e. [email protected].) If you’re going to get in touch, you may as well contact the head of the company or department. If she is curious enough to forward your e-mail to someone else, that someone else will trust the CEO’s or director’s credibility and will be much more likely to get back to you. (By the way, HackCollege already has some great advice on crafting a cold e-mail.)

An additional way to get someone’s attention is through a mutual connection. Simply log into LinkedIn, and see if you have any shared connections with anyone in that company you want to work with. If you do, e-mail that person and ask if they’d consider making an introduction. An introduction is strong because the other person is vouching for you and lending their credibility to your cause.
After you’ve attached evidence of the thing you’ve built, the rest of the e-mail will be dedicated to answering these questions: What can I offer you? How can I help the company make money? How can I contribute to the company’s success?
Don’t get paralyzed by this; three or four sentences will be more than enough. Hover your mouse over the Send button and fire away.

Your Foot’s in the Door

While this may not lead to a job offer tomorrow, it could lead to a series of e-mails, a phone interview, or a new friendship. All these things always lead to more opportunities, which will eventually lead to something you’re interested in. You’ve now got a foolproof method of getting your foot in the door.

It’s my greatest hope that you use this method to find a job that you will be proud of. Best of luck!

Image credit: streamishmc

This guest post was written by Herbert Lui. Herbert is the author of Brick by Brick, a guide for establishing credibility as a student. You can follow him on Twitter.