April 14, 2015

Talent Tip #51: Start Working Your Dream Job (Before You Get Hired)

By: Claire Kittle Dixon

masLast week two executives in the free-market movement sent me an article that initially had me highly suspicious. It was the sort of skepticism I reserve for Instagram and guys who dress like 1920s drifters.

Anyway, here’s the article: Recruiting Advice No One Tells You

To cut to the chase, this is the author’s suggestion: if you can’t get your foot in the door at your dream job, start “working” for the organization and send them your product.  He posits,  “By doing work you a) stand out, b) show you actually really want to work at the company, c) give the company a sample of what you can actually do.”

Say what? Work for an organization before you’ve even had an interview? Is this man clinically insane? And, for the love of Saint Peter, has he ever been in a hiring role? As one of the executives noted, “The general idea is certainly right. But I’m not sure I agree 100%, since the last thing I want is a bunch of undergrads sending me sub-par work.”

But then I started thinking more about his idea and changed my tune. He does make a good point. And his advice is especially pertinent for more junior candidates trying to break into a career. If your resume doesn’t yet illustrate your skills, perhaps it makes sense to find a way to show potential employers what you’re bringing to the table.

But here’s the kicker: if youre going to produce work for a group youre hoping to gain employment with, make sure its daggum good work!

And I’m not suggesting you start logging 40 hours a week for a prospective employer. In fact, even a small amount of work might pay big dividends.

For instance, the other executive commented that she would be “amazed” if a candidate’s job application included valuable ideas/insight about the role at hand. If you think about it, most job descriptions clearly articulate the employer’s need. Imagine how impressive an applicant would be if he/she took the time to begin addressing that need or at least foreshadowed how he/she would do so. Talk about making a candidate stand out! And it would only cost a candidate a few extra minutes of work.

If anyone has experienced this phenomenon (as a candidate or a hiring manager), I’d love to hear about it.  And if any male reading this dresses like a 1920s drifter and is not a member of Mumford & Sons, I’d love to hear from you as well.


Claire Kittle Dixon is the Executive Director of Talent Market.