I make a list of the type of company I want to work with (I want to be paid $X, they should use this technology, I want to solve this problem or work on this project) and then I backtrace it and figure out which companies match those criteria.
Then, I contact those companies. I set up meetings when I can. My goal is to learn:
* What sort of projects they work on
* What challenges they're facing (geez, our biggest client needs _IDEA Z_)
* What skills they look for in new hires / freelancers
* Other companies in the area / tech / market
Then, I do two things
If they mentioned a huuuuge problem / pain point they're facing, I send them a follow-up email talking about the problem they mentioned, what I can contribute to solving it, and suggesting a time for another meeting.
I follow up with any other companies / people they mentioned and set up a quick coffee meeting.
Periodically, I'll check in with my contact. Nothing spammy, just an update about something relevant to their industry / problem.
Rather than fight over the same jobs that everyone else sees on 37Signals / Reddit / GitHub / HN hiring / Craigslist / LinkedIn / Etc, I want to be at the top of mind with the companies I want to work with.
Every job I've had — salary or consulting - has come from someone inside of the company calling me up, telling me about a position they have, and asking me if I want to interview. This bypasses the slog through submitting a resume and fighting against 20+ other candidates for a position. This gets me the positions I want working on the problems I want to solve.
The list of questions is good, too. It shows that you care about both the system and the work. Too many only care about their little piece of the pie and make everyone else's lives harder.
"Then, I contact those companies. I set up meetings when I can"
How do you contact them, how do you pitch the idea of meeting with you?
I pitch the meeting as an informational interview to learn about the industry. I let them know I'm active / looking to enter the industry and I have a few questions for a 15-20 minute meeting.
I'll check LinkedIn / my personal network / company website to find the name and title of the person that I want to meet. It's generally the owner (smaller companies) or project director / department director.
If their email address is public, I'll send them a short (~5 sentence max) email. If it's not, I'll use LinkedIn / Rapporative / Spokeo / calling the company to dig out their email address.
I'll send a short email saying something like:
(I do marketing consulting, but this has worked for my buddy who is a Python Developer, and my ex-girlfriend who does front end design)
Do you have 15-20 minutes free this Friday for a short informational interview? I'm a Marketing Strategist in town and I'm curious about the skills you look for in marketers in your industry.
Would you be free to meet this Friday at 1:00pm? (If that time doesn't work, just let me know when a good time for you would be).
If I don't hear back from them in 1-2 days, I'd do a quick follow-up call.
"Hey, this is Kai. I sent you an email a few days ago about setting up an informational interview. I'm curious, would this Friday at 1:00pm work or would there be a better time?"
If the meeting is set up, I'd write down the top 10 questions I have about the industry and bring the notes + a notebook to the meeting with me.
My goal is to keep them talking. My goal is to learn what problems they're facing as a department / as an industry, what skills they look for in new employees / freelancers, and who is the best person to know to find about open positions.
You aren't asking for a job, you're asking a _person_ to talk. Not listen to a pitch. Not give you anything. Just talk about their experience and what they see going on at the company.
Kai's Rule #1: People love to talk. They love to talk about their jobs, their struggles, and their opinions on the company.
Encourage them to talk. They'll tell you where the gold is buried.
I've not actually gotten a job this way, but I have used it to talk to people outside of my field. When you're polite, and ask people who are good at what they do to talk about their work, people tend to be pretty happy to oblige!
Can you share what kind of feedback you got from those emails? What is your success ratio?
The second one is a phone call, not an email. I'd refer to it as being 'forceful' or 'insisting.' I'm interested in setting up a meeting and sometimes the person I want to meet with, sees the email, but is buried under 100 more important things to do and doesn't get a chance to respond back.
Giving a quick, direct phone call
> 'Hey, I'd love to meet, I'm Kai, I emailed a few days ago, would meeting for an informational interview this Friday for 20 minutes work for you? (yes/no)'
can be a great way to get a direct response and fast.
What's the worst case? They say 'Sorry, I can't meet.' I'd rather have that direct answer than wonder about unreturned email.
My success ratio is high enough that I'm happy with this method. I don't have detailed records of how it's performed, but I'd guess that somewhere between 10% and 25% of the emails and calls I make turn into meetings. I'm really happy with that math.
Feedback is either 'Hey, we'd love to meet, how about <time>' or 'Sorry, I can't meet.'
If they say they can't meet, I either ask them if they know of a similar company they can direct me to that I can meet with or ask if they have time for one quick question (generally I ask what skill they're looking for in applicants and candidates).
I'm moving to Honolulu in November and I'm excited to double down on using this method again.
I'm approaching this from a marketing perspective and effective follow-ups can make the difference between a lead becoming dead or turning into a prospect.
It also proves that I'm human and not an automated mass email. (We all hate those).
Otherwise, it's the cold email...
I use a combination of Google Maps, LinkedIn, Googling, Virtual Assistants, and my friends.
Let's say I want to work for software development companies in Eugene, Oregon. I'd go to Google Maps and search for those (and similar) keywords. I'd make a list of companies in a Google Doc.
I'd go to LinkedIn and search for the industry in my area and see what companies match the size / description.
I'd Google for the industry and the location I want to work in. (Sites like http://siliconshire.com/ are great for Eugene).
I'd talk to my 10 closest friends and tell them the exact type of company I want to work for ("Hey Adam, I'm looking for a freelance Internet Marketing role with small (5-10) person businesses. I'm looking to work on Search Engine Optimization, Content Creation, and Social Media. I like companies that are focused on selling products, like organic soaps. Do you know of anything like that?)
I'd use a Virtual Assistant (like Fancy Hands) to automate some of this research.
Then I'd go through the list of companies I generate, visit their websites, read their blogs, and see 'Is this a company I want to work for?'
If it is, I contact them. If it isn't, I'm the wiser for researching.