There are three techniques commonly used by job seekers—with varying degrees of success—to uncover job leads. These techniques are described below, along with the pros and cons for each strategy.


The first, and most common, strategy used by job seekers to capture job leads is information gathered from intermediaries (or go-betweens—some thing between the job and the job seeker). The intermediaries may be things such as online job listings, job postings at businesses, or professional job finders such as counselors, placement specialists, or public and private employment agency personnel. It is interesting to note that only 10-15% of jobs are actually obtained using this method.

  • Pros of using intermediaries: this is the easiest way to find out about jobs being advertised by local businesses—you simply pick up the phone to check in with people helping you, read newspapers or job listing sites, or watch for postings at businesses you frequent (or have others who know you watch for postings).

  • Cons of using intermediaries: only posted jobs come to your attention and many of those jobs are less desirable, which is why they are advertised regularly—to keep large numbers of applicants available.

    Also, as you may have noticed, sometimes jobs that are advertised that sound tailor-made for you are, in fact, tailor-made for someone else—the employer has only advertised to meet the legal requirement to do so. In addition, by the time that the advertised job has come to your attention or to the attention of your counselor or other paid helper, it has also come to the attention of many other people who may have already submitted their applications.

    Finally, employers know that people responding to ads have put a minimum of effort into their job searches.

Cold Calls

The second strategy used by job seekers is referred to as making “cold calls.” This term, cold calls, is borrowed from sales jargon and refers to the sales person (or, in this case, the job seeker) calling on people who haven’t indicated that they want the product—the sales person tries to convince the prospective buyer that he or she needs the product.

In job seeking, the job seeker calls on prospective employers and tries to convince the employer that he or she needs the job seeker! Career counselors estimate that 30-45% of job seekers are successful using cold call strategies to uncover and secure good jobs.

  • Pros of making cold calls: you decide where you want to work and pursue the employer rather than the employer pursuing you.

    In addition, the employer sees that you have the initiative and drive to seek out the job you want. And because you have researched the company to find this position you are interested in, you come across in an interview and on paper as knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the organization.

    Finally, you can apply for a job that is not advertised to the masses, thereby limiting the competition for the job you want—this is applying for jobs in what is referred to as the “hidden job market.”

  • Cons of making cold calls: you do all the work!

    Since the job is not advertised, you have to research the company, determine what job you are best suited to, tailor your supporting evidence (application or resume and cover letter) to match what the company needs in a worker for that job, and then tell the employer in an interview how you and the job are “made for each other!”

    This technique requires a great deal of research and preparation time, as well as the gumption to face someone who hasn’t asked for you to tell him or her that you are needed.


The third technique used to uncover job leads is known as networking. This technique involves identifying the people in your personal and professional circles or network and letting them know that you are seeking work so that they can help you with your search.

It is important to recognize that your immediate contacts also have people in their networks, who in essence are also a part of your network—if you make it clear to your acquaintances, friends and family members that you need for them to share that you are on the labor market hunt with folks in their networks!

Professional career counselors report that 35-55% of job seekers capture their jobs by working with people that they know in this manner. This is the “it’s not what you know, but who you know” approach to job seeking!

  • Pros of networking: people who know you and appreciate what you have to offer are working with you to uncover job leads.

    Often the people helping you look can also put in a good word for you with prospective employers—helping you to sell yourself for any job that is available by vouching for your worth to a company. Employers like to hire individuals who are connected in some way to people they know or have working for them already because they are buying a known entity rather than risking time and money to train and retain an unknown entity.

    If you are known to someone in the employer’s network, someone else can “brag” about you to the employer, address any concerns the employer might have about hiring someone with a disability in a nonthreatening way, and that person can alert you to issues or concerns that you may need to address in an interview by providing “inside” information.

  • Cons of networking: you must work at connecting with people and positively maintaining the connections—that’s a responsibility that takes time and energy!

    You have to work at keeping all the folks in your network “in the know” about your job search efforts, without being a pest. You have to be polite and gracious all day everyday in an effort to expand your network—and be prepared to help others in the same ways that you are asking them to help you in the future.

Obviously these three techniques have different success rates and take different amounts of energy to implement. What’s a job seeker to do? Use all the techniques and you can increase your likelihood of finding good job leads and, ultimately, securing a job that you will enjoy and in which you can be productive. However, if you only use only the first strategy (intermediaries), it doesn’t mean you won’t be successful—it may take longer and may produce less impressive results, but you may be able to use a job secured through intermediaries to gain information about an industry (for future cold calls) or to meet people (for future networking).

If you would like to know more about these techniques and their effectiveness, consider reading What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles or other popular career exploration materials.