3 Tips for Finding (and Getting) a Small Company Job

For whatever reason, most people prefer to acquire their job search advice from store bought career guides.  If this wasn’t the case, books like What Color is Your Parachute?, Internet Your Way to a New Job and Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters wouldn’t be flying off the shelves right now.  But these factory-produced manuscripts all have one thing in common: they cater to people who are looking for jobs at LARGE companies.  Those of you who are not interested in being part of the Fortune 500 have been forced to fend for yourselves . . . until today!

As I scan through the stacks of marked up resumes in the drawer to my left, I estimate that over the last five years I have interviewed at least 90 people, for positions ranging from Administrative Assistant to Director/VP.  14 of these people were eventually hired, and 13 of them still work with me today.  As a self-taught Human Resources amateur, my instincts tell me this is a pretty good track record.  With this in mind, what I would like to do today is use my experience behind the interview desk to help those of you who are now sitting in front of it.

Below are three easy to follow strategies for finding—and getting—a job at a small company.  Will these tips work for you?  Maybe.  But whether or not they do, if you have an opportunity to actually try them in a real-life situation, please reply to this post and tell us what happened.

Tip #1: Talk to Your Friends Who Work at Small Companies. When people are looking for a new job, they almost always contact their friends at large companies first.  The theory, of course, is that larger companies by sheer numbers have more ‘opportunities’ available.  But the reality is, while most of the Fortune 1000 are laying off people in previously unheard of numbers (check out LayoffBlog.com and LayoffTracker for more information) many of their smaller and more conservatively-run counterparts are either holding steady or growing.  And even if your friend’s small company is not ready to hire full-timers just yet, smaller firms are significant users of contractors and temporary employees.  Working as a part-timer until the economy turns around might not be your dream situation, but a reasonable contract rate like $25 an hour—even for half-time—is more than you will make collecting unemployment in most states.

Tip #2: ’Expand’ the Items on Your Resume. If you want to successfully enter the small company world using a large company resume, keep one thing in mind: small company hiring managers are NOT looking for specialists.  Catching the eye of a small company hiring manager requires a resume that makes you look flexible, adaptable, and able to handle a wide variety of job functions.  If you’ve spent the last five years at a large company stuck in the same role, do your best to break that role down into as many smaller parts as you can on your resume.  Also, be sure to highlight small company ‘hot button’ experiences in your background like managing multiple priorities, dealing with two or more bosses, participating in special projects, managing teams and vendors, and measuring results.

Tip #3: Don’t Give Corporate Answers in the Interview. When you do end up getting to the interview stage at a small company, PLEASE take this one piece of advice: tell it like it is.  Consciously fight against your years of training in politics and neutralism (remember . . . you have a backbone) and choose a side when the interviewer challenges you on a specific issue or presses you during a line of questioning.  Also, avoid dropping big company buzzwords like “value proposition,” “thought leader,” “touch points” and “leverage”—especially if you’re interviewing for a management spot.  Small companies are keenly aware of the difference between managers who just manage, and managers who actually DO things.  Bringing the interview down to a real-world kind of level will help prove that you can, and are willing to, roll up your sleeves and get some real work done.

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