Proactive Versus Reactive: The Difference Between Hired and Not

job-search-strategies-reactive-proactiveAmong the key differences between job seekers who get interviewed and hired, and those who don’t, is whether they’re proactive… or reactive.

A proactive job search puts the job seeker in charge, is much less passive, less discouraging, and, even, less competitive – often MUCH less competitive.

A reactive job search puts the job seeker in the position of only reacting to what they find posted on job boards. This type of strategy also puts job seekers at the mercy of whatever is posted and available where they are looking, and it puts them in the most competitive part of the job marketplace. All negatives.

Clearly you want to be proactive. So, how does a proactive job search work?

1. Focus the Job Search

  • Determine the target job and industry so that you can focus your search efforts and can customize and polish your resume, tailoring it specifically for those target jobs (not more than 2 or 3).
  • Select the preferred target employers – ask around: check the local chamber of commerce, look at the companies supporting the local PBS channels, scan the yellow pages in the local phone book, ask friends and colleagues, and keep researching.
  • Research the employers and visit the employer Websites regularly looking for postings there and news about new projects, products, services, and employees and officers.

2. Expand Network and Knowledge

  • Join, or at least attend, local business or professional organization meetings.
  • Volunteer to help in some way. Attend meetings as a way to learn and keep up-to-date with best practices, news, technology, people, growing businesses, and more
  • Volunteer for the local PBS fund raiser, where local movers-and-shakers tend to hang out, or for another favorite cause or charity.
  • Visit industry trade shows and local business expos to see what new businesses have appeared, what the latest news and trends are, and who seems to be doing new and/or interesting things.
  • Help a favorite candidate to win (or try to win) an election.
  • Collect information. Ask for information, NOT a job!And, the more information; the better! Talk with people to collect information on good employers in the location and industry or field. Look for trends, news, new people to meet, and new ideas to consider and discuss.
  • If you have attended a college or university, regardless of graduation status, the school’s career center may help alumni. Check the alumni directory for other alums who work for one of the preferred potential employers or in the preferred career field.
  • Look for a local job search support group where job seekers, lead by a career professional, review resumes, exchange leads on potential employers, share information on networking organizations, and more. Find them through the local places of worship, public library, or even city hall.

3. Leverage LinkedIn and Other Social Media

Truly! LinkedIn is where recruiters are looking for people now! Let them find you!

  • Be sure the LinkedIn Profile is 100% complete (including a photo + 3 LinkedIn recommendations) and public.
  • Add contacts to expand the reach of the network.
  • Use LinkedIn’s “advanced search” to find people working for the preferred potential employers and the target job/job function.
  • Join relevant and appropriate industry, professional, and location-focused Groups.Participating in the Group Discussions can be important personal reputation building. Also check each Group’s Job postings to find more employers and opportunities.Consider joining Job-Hunt’s Job-Hunt Help Group on LinkedIn, but do NOT limit your LinkedIn Group activities to the groups focused on job search.
  • Respond thoughtfully and thoroughly to the discussions posted in LinkedIn Groups, and carefully post a few well-considered discussions yourself, or ask the group professional questions.Hundreds of employers skip the cost of job boards and use Twitter to Tweet their latest hot job postings, and they also have company pages on Facebook where they recruit new employees.Note: Use the same “avatar” image, preferably a headshot, on all the social media so your friends will recognize you no matter where they find you.

4. Find New Potential Employers

  • Use the “job aggregator” sites, like Job-Hunt Sponsor Indeed (the largest source of job postings in the world), SimplyHired, and JustJobs which collect job postings from job boards as well as employers and associations in one gigantic database searchable by keywords (like job title) and location.
  • Check out, which is a website run by a non-profit organization of hundreds of employers. Also excellent sources of new employers.
  • Use Google to find new employers.

Be wary of getting caught in the search-online-and-apply mode, though. Use these sources to identify potential employers which can then be approached via a network contact.

5. Monitor Your Online Reputation

Ignore people who might tease you about “vanity Googling” – Google your name often to see what is attached to it in Google, because 80% of the time employers will Google you before they respond to your email or ask you in for an interview.

I have seen bad information about someone with the same name really mess up a job seeker’s job search, and it took the job seeker months to find out. They waited way too long before they finally Googled themselves to see what was going on.

Months were lost because of confusion around the job applicant’s name!

Set up a Google Alert to monitor your name so you know when trouble appears – someone with the same name is accused of molesting a child or robbing a bank. You need to know so you can respond!

Review the information in the Online Reputation Management post for more information and some strategies to deal with “digital dirt.”

Bottom Line

A proactive job search, largely disconnected from traditional job boards, is more effective and less competitive. If you are in a job search right now, try it for at least one week, and see what happens.





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About the Author: Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter and on Google+.


© Copyright, 2010, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved. Used with permission.



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