How I Got A Job With No Applications or Interviews: A Step-by-Step Guide

Jobs are difficult to get. You know that. I know that. But that doesn’t mean companies aren’t hiring. As long as there are businesses, jobs will always exist.

Many blame the job economy for not having a job. That’s like a student blaming the professor for his bad grades.

There’s always someone else to blame. In reality, you have more control than you think.

Heyo! I’m creating a resource to make the job hunt easier. Want first dibs?

From my own experiences and research, the most popular approach is the shotgun method: blast out hundreds of resumes and applications in hopes that someone… anyone hires you.

Unfortunately, there are various flaws in that approach:

  1. You don’t really want most of those jobs.
  2. You don’t care about all of those companies.
  3. You’re just another resume in the pile.
  4. You don’t stand out.
  5. Chances are, no one’s going to hire you.

A few get lucky. But those few often end up at companies they hate, doing something they don’t want to do.

Sound familiar?

I have friends who are stuck in their job search. After speaking to a few of them individually, I quickly realized that I had a different approach–an approach that has had a 100% success rate for me.

I’m going to walk you through the exact steps that allowed me to skip the entire application process and land a job at a great company. This method can be applied to nearly any field.

No applications involved doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, it’s more work on your end.  It’s easier to upload your resume and click submit hundreds of times.

You’re welcome to continue submitting resumes. But for those who want to try something new, I’d like to present a more targeted approach to the job search that focuses on quality than quantity.

With that being said, this is a thorough explanation of what I did that lead to my current job. Don’t spend your time reading this post if you’re:

  • not open to admitting that your current approach isn’t working
  • not open to trying something new
  • not willing to do real work
  • not planning on getting a job you want anytime soon

This isn’t for lazy people.

But I know you’re not lazy. You’re hardworking and driven and you deserve that awesome job. You can do this.

However, if you’d rather complain about the job market or how submitting resumes does work, please do so elsewhere.

For the rest of you, read on.

Before we begin, I’d like to clarify that my initial intention in this process was not to get a job. I genuinely wanted to connect, learn and get advice, but I realized that I created an opportunity and took it. Don’t expect good results if you go into this process expecting a job. Employers can tell right off the bat if you’re trying to game them. Instead, focus on the idea of meeting professionals and learning from them. Knowledge and relationships are extremely valuable.
Let’s begin.

Shop Around Until Someone Catches Your Eye

With a targeted approach, you’ll be doing plenty of work to get in touch with someone at the company. It’s important to approach companies you have an interest in. Don’t get excited just because they’re hiring.

I recently began to use Twitter more and, as an experiment, did a search for startup jobs in the Los Angeles area.

After browsing around, I ended up on the Single Grain Twitter profile. I researched the company on LinkedIn and found Eric. His profile stood out for three reasons: (a) a professional profile photo, (b) he had a freaken check mark next to his name (it looks super legit), and (c) take a look at his skills:

To a digital marketer like myself who’s looking to learn, I saw a goldmine of knowledge. I’ve learned that the people around you determine your success and I saw that I could learn a lot from Eric.

A quick look through Eric’s LinkedIn profile took me to his two companies, Single Grain and Growth Everywhere both of which he is CEO.

To learn more, I visited the websites of both companies and downloaded any free material they provided. I read months worth of blog posts to become acquainted with their work.

The problem was I didn’t know how I could provide value to his company (keep this in mind).

Formulate Your Ask and Get in Touch

Then I took my first leap. I contacted Eric using the contact form on the Growth Everywhere website:

The key points of my email:

  1. Explain how I found him so I don’t come off as a spammer.
  2. Demonstrate that I’ve read material from his company and learned from it.
  3. Specify how much of his time I’d like, suggest a place to meet and provide times I’m available.

The goal was to make it easy to say yes. All Eric had to do was let me know what time worked best for him.

I sent the email and walked away from my computer. Eric sent back a response in less than an hour.

The meeting was in our calendars.

Why would I ask for a coffee meeting? Why not just look at the websites and see if they’re hiring?

A coffee meet is an opportunity to connect with highly experienced professionals and to learn. It’s not a means to get a job. I was in a position where I needed a mentor, someone with more knowledge and experience that I could learn from.

Many of my friends have realized that getting a job is largely based not on what you know but who you know. They also emphasize the difficulty of making meaningful and valuable connections. A coffee meeting will help with that. As long as you don’t screw it up by asking for a job.

Many refer to this as an informational interview, which is easily, but wrongly considered part of “the game” of getting a job. It’s important to genuinely want to learn from the person you reach out to. Professionals can tell right away if you try to kiss ass to get a job. Even the slightest hint of it will disqualify you from receiving advice. This is why I prefer to think of it as a meeting over coffee instead. It’s a conversation, not an interview.

Do Your Research to Avoid Stupid Questions

Here’s where the first stage of work comes in.

I went to the Single Grain and Growth Everywhere websites and subscribed to their newsletters. I had already read the blog posts but I read more. I wanted to know everything about these companies, how they started, what they value and what they do.

I visited Eric’s LinkedIn page again and looked at previous companies he had worked at. I wanted to know as much about him as possible before we met up.

Why all the research? Contrary to what people say, there are stupid questions and the point of doing research is to avoid asking those stupid questions.

What’s a stupid question?

  • What do you do? (It’s all over the internet.)
  • What does your company do? (Seriously?)
  • How can I get a job? (You just met this person and you haven’t done anything for them, why would you ask for a job?)

I wanted to ask specific questions that I believed he would be best fit to answer.

In the end, I had about 15 questions prepared. I didn’t plan on asking all the questions, but it’s better to be over prepared. Here are a few questions I had:

  • You have a lot of experience in marketing. How did you end up in this field of work?
  • Could you walk me through your typical work day?
  • What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing with your company right now?
  • My understanding of digital marketing is holistic. I have a broad understand of the different avenues of marketing, but I haven’t figured out what channels to specialize in. What advice would you have for that?
  • Would you have any advice for me for breaking into a digital marketing agency or a startup team?

You may notice that my questions are tailored for Eric and his experiences. For question ideas, do a search for informational interview questions.

Eric and I met and we had a good chat. I had my notebook handy with questions and took notes as he spoke. The biggest thing he emphasized was to “stay hungry and always be looking to learn.”

Note: There’s no doubt I was nervous to meet someone I considered successful and knowledgeable. I arrived to the meeting an hour early so I could settle down. My biggest tip is to stay curious about the person in front of you. Don’t just ask about their job. Ask about their knowledge and experiences.

The Crazy Crucial Follow Up That You CANNOT Forget

This is the next big leap–and surprisingly where many people fall off the process.

Imagine you ask a girl (or guy) out to a date and she says yes. You both have a great time, but neither of you text each other afterward. You can’t expect to see each other again without following up. That’s why you follow up.

The follow up is crucial to solidify the connection and continue the relationship. Don’t forget to follow up–EVER.

It’s similar to how you meet a friend’s friend at a party and decide to add your new friend on Facebook. That’s a form of following up.

I didn’t send Eric a friend request, but I did send an email the next day.

I threw in the idea of working with him–but I didn’t focus on the work part. I wanted to be a part of his team and to learn from him.

Eric asked if I’ve ever done marketing reports or audits and wanted to see some internet marketing I’ve done.

Nope I hadn’t done any reports or audits. My previous jobs didn’t require me to. And I wasn’t sure how to demonstrate the internet marketing I’ve done.

However, I’ve learned the briefcase technique from Ramit Sethi and I’ve been taught that top performers will go the extra mile to stick out and make things happen in their favor. Although it seemed like my lack of experience was a handicap, I knew there was something I could do about it.

I had to apply the briefcase technique, but I didn’t think there was anything in my briefcase yet. Better yet, I didn’t even have a briefcase.

I had to fix that.

Heyo! I’m creating a resource to make the job hunt easier. Want first dibs?

Time to Buff Up My Briefcase

This is the point where more than half of all job searchers will give up on this approach because it’s too much work. This is better for us because we’re willing to go the extra mile.

This is the most important part of this process because you have an opportunity to demonstrate your capabilities and your value.

I could’ve said, “I guess I’m not qualified,” thrown my hands up and leave it at that.

No thanks.

You’ll often find yourself looking at job listings that you feel tremendously under-qualified for and decide not to apply. Join the club.

However, there’s always a way to look better to hiring managers–do work for them as if you’re already working for the company.

Although I hadn’t done any marketing audits or reports at previous jobs, I recalled that the latest newsletter from Eric was on how to do a quick SEO audit (I wouldn’t have known this if I didn’t do my research beforehand).

I followed along with the video and presented Eric with an SEO audit for his company, Single Grain.

If you don’t know what SEO is, don’t sweat it. I’m going to provide examples of how you can apply this idea in other situations.

I sent over the report and Eric responded within an hour with feedback. After reviewing the feedback, I improved the report and sent it over again.

Again, Eric sent me more feedback to improve the audit.

I could’ve thought “This is way too much work. For nothing.” I could’ve stopped right there. Instead, I realized this guy is really pushing me. He isn’t settling for work that’s just okay. This is helping me. I have to prove myself.

I found the two articles he referred me to. One was an inbound marketing audit of Buffer. The other was a comprehensive technical SEO audit for a sports website. One look at these articles and the first thought you might have is “These articles are really long.”

I read through the reports. Then I read through them again. The third time, I followed along and performed each technical audit for Single Grain.

The original audit I had sent to Eric was only three pages long.

After buckling down for at least 15 more hours, the result was an information-dense 15-page technical SEO audit full of actionable steps that Eric’s team could take to improve Single Grain’s SEO.

I sent it over.

Two pages from the audit.

You don’t have to be in marketing to understand that I essentially did about 20 hours of free work for Eric and produced a real product for him that would help his company.

Within an hour, Eric responded to my with the following email:

Awesome. At this point it was about to be the holiday season. I took a break.

I must reiterate that the point of this section is to show that instead of leaving it at “I don’t have experience,” you can choose to create your experience.

You don’t have to be in marketing to produce tangible work. Don’t think too much about the work aspect. You can demonstrate your value by getting certifications or taking courses or internships. These things vary in the time it take to obtain them, but all of these things will fill in your skill and experience gap, and give future employers something to look at it. It’ll be worth it.

In my case, I created a report. I wanted to show you the back-and-forth that might occur. It’s not a one time thing. Eric essentially told me he was testing me.

Finalize the Offer

The day after Christmas, I got an email from Eric.

YASS.

We chatted on the phone and he presented an offer. I was excited. But I had to interview with two more people on the team, Matt and Josh. Another meeting was scheduled via email.

Remember how I did my research on Eric before our meeting? I did my research on Matt and Josh as well. Although I was the one that was going to be interviewed, it was yet another opportunity for me to learn and get advice from people who are more experienced than me.

Three days after the meeting with Matt and Josh, I got on a call with Eric and he offered me job at Single Grain.

As shown by the dates of the emails in this post, this process took a month and a half.

This process isn’t a one-time thing like submitting resumes. As stated, it’s a process. It’s about developing a dialogue. You build a relationship and find people to learn from.

This is the exact opposite from the shotgun method that most people choose to take.

Other Factors to Consider

If you don’t have a source of income and you need a job ASAP, do not rely only on this approach. I suggest a hybrid of the two approaches. Use the shotgun method to get a job as soon as you can to have a source of income but also have a few companies which you are laser targeting by applying this process.

Although I didn’t take the shotgun approach, I was in touch with two other companies during this process with Single Grain. I had a very similar approach to the other companies. I kept my options open.

Does that mean I was doing more work than what you just read about? Yes. And it was worth it.

Although I can’t give you exact steps for your situation, you can apply similar steps in your job search.

There are two large hurdles throughout this process:

  1. Patience: Those who don’t have patience will go back to submitting resumes because it feels productive. It feels like they’re applying to a lot of companies–and they are–but they’re just adding to the pile of resumes.
  2. Hard work: Those who don’t see the necessity of going the extra mile to stand out will give up quickly.

Now It’s Your Turn

If you’ve read this far, I hope these tactics will help you in your job search. Know that you may have to add your own twist to it to fit your situation.

Remember, don’t focus on getting a job. Focus on meeting professionals, getting advice and learning from those who are more experienced. Through this approach, opportunities are created–not jobs. Through these opportunities, you can show how much value you can add to their company.

At that point, you may not even have to ask for a job. (:

Do you still want to send out a few hundred more resumes to companies you don’t care about?

Or would you rather get a job you truly want?

Leave a comment and let me know how it goes! Feel free to leave questions.

Was that helpful? There are a lot more ways to get your dream job. I’m creating a resource to make that process easier. Want first dibs?

Header image was created by Jake Gavino.

Comments 44

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  1. Very well put together and easy to digest information that definitely provides a unique and effective approach compared to the standard job hunting routines. This self-help article stands out so much more with the practical advice and specific examples you’ve provided. Definitely looking forward to more from you. Good luck.

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  2. Great job building out this website! I’m sure it’ll help and inspire tons. Excited to be in the loop with all your insightful content! :)

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  3. David! First off (and once again): congratulations! Single Grain is lucky to have you on-board.
    Thank you for being so open and generous with your experience. I admire the tenacity that you’ve displayed in this article (and that I was fortunate enough to have first-handedly experienced while working with you). I know this article -and all the other posts on this website- will be provide invaluable insights to so many others besides myself. I’ll be sharing this because I think so many people need to read this.
    (-:

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      Thanks so much Alvin! I’m sure we’re going to end up working on something together again. :D You’re gonna do great at Lyft. I know it!

  4. Love your hustle :)

    “You’ll often find yourself looking at job listings that you feel tremendously under-qualified for and decide not to apply. Join the club.” My favorite line from this post. Good job bro!

  5. Hey David! Thanks for sharing this story with me. I am actually in the same boat you were at the beginning of this article. This article has definitely given me inspiration and a new idea on how to find jobs. Congratulations on your hard-earned job and thanks for this great read!

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  6. David you are a beast!

    Let me know if you ever need a second opinion on a marketing campaign or Local SEO Strategy.

    I would also add to your post placing yourself at events and projects where you are in the room with other connectors.

    Also, I didn’t know you were looking for a job ;)

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  7. David,

    Great post! Very insightful. A dear friend of mine is in a similar job transition position and this is very useful for her to read about how to think outside the box a bit as well. Thanks for the share and best of luck!

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      Thank you Nithin! I’ve heard many great things about you and admire your work. I’m glad I’m able to help your friend!

  8. Hi David,

    Congrats on the new job! Are you familiar with Ramit Sethi’s writing? He talks a lot about what you covered here (focused approach vs shotgun method, research, reaching out, and especially offering to provide free work!). I think it’s really cool to see that this approach worked for you and that you recommend it as well. Great read (:

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      Hey Andy! Thank you! Yes I’ve been an avid follower of Ramit’s work for years so I’ve learned a lot from him (as you can see). I’ve referenced him a few times in this piece. (:

      1. Whoops, how embarrassing! I can’t believe I didn’t catch his name when reading this haha. I’ve always wanted to try out the briefcase technique, but I haven’t had a chance yet c:

  9. Glad to see how well you’ve been doing since the last time we talked haha Definitely a motivational read to those who are willing to put in the work!

    I actually have a few questions that I want to ask too, not specifically about this article but more about how you’ve built your website! I will hit you up some time soon if you have the time!!

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  10. I combine the two approaches. As an undergrad I use the shotgun approach in scholarships and more, but for internships I use the shotgun for internships I have mild interest in and a laser beam tactic on the ones I like. One day after much work and networking and time (about 6 months) I received a call from NASA about a possible internship there. However, I had already made plans for the summer and had to move. I didn’t find out the job but I was already on NASA’s radar with the shotgun approach it was time to improve myself and what I can offer. I took steps to beef up my experience and involvement in the organization that had a foot in the door at NASA. One year later, NASA sends me a possible internship that I would never dream of and before I even started that internship, which they have given to me since, got me a $3000 scholarship even though it was filled out completely incorrect. Another Engineering firm was willing to ignore mistakes on a formal application to GIVE me money. It is crazy how long the process takes but it was worth it, every bloody second.

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      Thanks so much for sharing your strategy Ronald! You make a good point of applying the shotgun method for scholarships. A friend of mine ended up making money out of college because of all the scholarships she applied for and got.

      NASA’s obviously a huge deal. Congratulations!

  11. Thanks for sharing, David. There’s certainly no reason for the spray-and-pray tactic in the Information Age. It just wastes everyone’s time.

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  12. I love this article, but there is something bugging me about one step in your process. Why would Eric agree to join you in a coffee meeting when he has seemingly every reason not to do so? You were an inferior with little to offer him. In Eric’s shoes I would think he has nothing to learn or gain from meeting with you and would want to spend his time with someone more successful than you or him.

    Please reply, as this is keeping me from wanting to send cold emails to strangers in hopes of landing jobs.

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      Exactly. That’s why I mentioned “The problem was I didn’t know how I could provide value to his company.” I knew he probably wouldn’t learn anything new from me. That’s why it was so important to demonstrate that I did my due diligence to show that I want to learn. If he didn’t respond, I would’ve followed up at least twice and almost pester him to show how determined I was. It’s about persistence.

      I’ve learned that successful people are open to talking to those that work hard. Many people are looking to pass on their knowledge and give back. You just need to approach them without coming off as a moocher.

      You can make excuses for not sending cold emails, or you can just send them and see what happens. Worse that happens is you get a no. Sending a well crafted email is difficult. The work that comes after is more difficult. What matters is getting past that first step.

      P.S. “Inferior” is a strong word. I prefer “less experienced.”

  13. Hi David! I’ve read this over and over, and it is an absolutely wonderful, realistic and empowering guide for job seekers/hunters. I am meeting with the Executive Director of the nonprofit that I work at, and I am ready to go in with the mindset of learning, rather than seeking a promotion or an opening. Thank you so much for sharing. :)

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  14. Hey David,
    Congrats! Quick question, if you are looking for jobs in a different country and don’t have the chance to do in-person coffees, how would you adapt your process? thanks!

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    2. That would be my question, too. Thanks! Also, if I’m not available for several months but want to try this process, how do you recommend “keeping in touch” without becoming annoying?

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        I think sending a simple email every few months would be fine. As long as the email has a specific goal. Don’t send an email asking “how’s it going?” Instead ask something specific like “I saw you just launched x, what was your biggest challenge?” Or if you follow them on Twitter and saw they went to an event, instead of asking “How was the event?” you can ask “I saw you went to x, what was your favorite part?”

  15. Interesting advice, but in my experience doing “free work” for a company does not guarantee they will hire you. If they can get your services for free, why would they pay you? I spent three months doing volunteer research for a couple of nonprofits while I was in between jobs. They loved my work but did not offer me a job. Too bad because I would have loved to work for that organization, which is why I was volunteering for them. During another interview, I was asked about some fundraising ideas. The interviewer loved my ideas and wrote them down, but offered the job to someone else. I learned from now on to not dish out my services for free.

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      Hi Emily, thanks for sharing your experience. It’s unfortunate it worked out that.

      I specifically don’t use the phrase “volunteer work.” That’s because when you say “volunteer work,” the company recognizes and expects that you’ll do work for them without payment. It’s an agreement between the both of you.

      On the other hand, “free work” is something they don’t expect. There’s no agreement of “if you volunteer for us, we’ll hire you.” You simply do it, and it’s a part of standing out to the company because you essentially already do the job and work for them when you weren’t expected to do it. That makes you stand out. That shows you’re already thinking like an awesome employee.

      As for providing fundraising ideas, I would take the position that you gave them good ideas and that’s value. If you saw that they implemented the idea, I’d recommend reaching out and saying “Hey, I’m glad that idea I proposed worked. Here are some more ideas:” In this case, again you’d do free work, but it’s not an interview, it’s not an expectation of you. And you even take the rejection in a positive way and continue providing value because you care about the company, not because you want a job.

      I hope that makes sense. Let me know if it isn’t.

      Non-profits are also a special case because they’re often tight on funds.

  16. Man this article is very interesting. I actually did this for my graphic design intern. At first he was my professor at my recent college I once attended, then he became my mentor that I could ask for advice, and when I was looking to learn graphic design (was into web design at the time), he offered me a spot at his studio. In the end, it didn’t work out because I just sucked ass at graphic design (and I’ve been working on it every since), but the point is the approached outlined in this article is definitely true. To get that intern, he also did the same thing to me that eric did to you — he got me to do some design work to see what I could do.

    The more I write about this and think about this, I also remember a similar experience a former classmate went through. He was looking to attend a college out in Chicago, and the company he applied for had him do the same thing. In the end, it wasn’t entirely his skill level that got the job. It was the ambition he demonstrated to his potential boss that got him the job. He competed against 20-30 applicants I think, then it came down to 1 guy versus him, and he was the unanimous choice.

  17. Dude just had an even bigger revelation… at my web design intern (was required when I was in high school), my mentor offered to open up a job at her office space. At the time, it was just a side job for me while I was in college, but this moment is pretty much the same as above. You really can use this approach for any type of job; even if it’s just to get a job on the side and not one in your field yet.

    Another time was when I was at a “friend’s friend’s” house. My friend was talking about how he was applying for job all around time, and his friend’s mom talked about working at McDonalds and how she could introduce him to the manager. He didn’t ask her for the job at all, all he did was ask for advice, and it turned into a job opportunity for him instead. Same situation right?! It has to be!

    It’s amazing how I’ve experienced this trick you talked about, and I have never really considered if I ever tried it in my past. Lol

  18. I am really glad to see a blog which is helping a tons of people in getting their drean jobs with no experience. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful blog with us.

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