Three Guerrilla Tactics for Your Job Hunt

Guerilla Job Hunter

This guy does not use Craigslist.

When contending with a superior force, the worst possible strategy is to face your enemy head-on. Unfortunately, this is what most people do on the job hunt. They scan the listings on and Craigslist, shoot off resumes and sit and hope. If you do this, know that hundreds if not thousands of applicants are doing the exact same thing as you. Responding to job postings through online forms is only really effective if your profile matches a job spec by 80% or more. Any resume that doesn’t will be deleted and sent to the void.

Although some people get lucky with the head-on approach, it’s much more effective to use guerrilla tactics, to make quick strikes and snipes, to target presidents and line-managers rather than the HR foot soldiers on the front lines, and to gather as much intelligence as you can to know when to make the right move.

If you have a generalist resume like mine, adopting guerrilla tactics for your job hunt becomes a necessity.

Here are some guerrilla tactics helped me get a job at a Seattle startup in just one week:

Guerrilla Tactic #1: Determine your most valuable targets

Look online for a list of companies in an industry that you’re interested in. Google makes finding this kind of information pretty easy. For me, it didn’t take long before I found a list of the top 100 tech startups in Seattle. When contacting people at these companies, an Excel file can be very handy to keep track of your activity.

Something like this should do nicely:

Company Name Contact Name Contact Email Contact Phone Notes
Spaceley’s Sprockets George N/A We’ll schedule a meeting later
Shinra Electric Power Company Sephiroth (HR Guy?) N/A Got response. Meeting at Starbucks in front of Jenova Park. 9/15 3:00PM. I’m supposed to come unarmed.
Tyrell Corporation J.F. 555-555-5678 Got automated response…I think. Can’t be sure if the person I talked to was a robot or not.

If you don’t have Excel, Google Docs has a spreadsheet program that works just as well and has the added advantage of being accessible online.

Guerrilla Tactic #2: Avoid Frontal Assaults

When you send an introductory email, try not to send it to HR if you can help it. It’s best to send your email to a president or the head of the department you want to work for. Gunning for HR  would be silly and futile. They’re ready for you, and won’t hesitate to shoot you down.

If you’re applying to a startup with less than 25 employees, you can send an email to and chances are your email will be read by someone in charge. Most bigger companies have naming conventions for emails, so if a few email addresses have the format, it’s a good bet that the president’s (let’s say his name is Mike Mcgillicuddy)  email will be It’s worth a try.

Don’t bother sending a cover letter because it won’t be read. Just make sure you put everything you want to say in the body of your email.  Your email, just like any sales pitch,  should make a potential employer understand exactly what you offer them and how you can affect their bottom line.

This was the email I used:

Subject line: Ahoy! [No reason to be stiff and formal. The subject line is sometimes the only thing read.]

Hey [First name. Else just say ‘Hey guys’ if you’re sending to],

I’m looking to get a job with a great startup company in Seattle. So, naturally, when I came across your site I thought I’d send you an email. [People are busy. Get to the point]

I’m young, cheap, and have a lot of useful skills (business development, web development) that would be useful for a web startup. Also, I’m a fast learner and a self starter. Just seven months ago I had the idea for and I didn’t know HTML. I taught myself everything from HTML to CSS to Ruby to Javascript. I still have a lot to learn, but give me a year and you won’t be able to tell the difference between me and one of your star performers.

[This part above is the ‘sales pitch’. I gave a link to what I felt was one of the best examples of my work. Also, I stressed the potential future value I’d offer them and their company.]

I’d love to meet sometime to see if there is something we could do together. If not, perhaps you know of some other companies that might be looking for someone like me.

[Don’t ask for an interview. Just ask to meet. It’s lot easier to have an informal cup of coffee with a hiring manager or CEO than to schedule a formal interview.]

(Resume is attached)



Kenji Crosland
T: 360.390.8828
Contact: LinkedinTwitter

Lastest Blog Post Four Reasons why Cold-Calling is more Effective than Social Media

[Finally, I used an email signature that had links to my website, LinkedIn and Twitter Account as well as a link my latest blog post. The signature is a great way to take advantage of showing a different side of yourself than the bullet points in your resume might. As for formatting your signature, I recommend WiseStamp, an excellent email app that makes your signatures (and you by association) look professional and web savvy.]

Guerilla Tactic #3: Always Gather Intelligence

A good intelligence gatherer knows to look beyond the obvious.  They don’t search the job boards because that’s old news. That would be like a spy getting all their info from yesterday’s newspaper. Instead of looking for companies that have announced that they’re hiring, look for companies that have just received funding or have reported better than expected earnings results. If you introduce yourself to a company president or manager right after the cash starts flowing in, they’ll be much more open-minded to creating a role for you. When a company’s gravy train starts rolling in, hijack it.

One good way to gather intelligence is to do a follow-up call to a company after you send an email. The great thing about the follow-up call is that you already have an excuse for calling (did you get that email I sent you?).  After you get the hiring manager or president on the line don’t just ask to meet, download them for as much information as you can.

Here are some general guidelines (also good for networking events):

1. Give the president your elevator pitch (doesn’t have to be much different from the email). Just make sure you have it written down and in front of you.

2. Ask to meet for coffee, NOT an interview.

3. If they refuse coffee, start downloading the person on the other line for information. Some possible questions include:

  • I understand that you’re not hiring now. Might you be hiring someone like me in the future? When would that be? (mark your calendar for a follow-up call!)
  • What kind of skills/experience would I need to work for your company? What would be the best way to get that kind of experience?
  • What would be the best position in (The industry you’re applying to) for someone like me? Do you know of another company that might be hiring that kind of person?
  • Are there any good networking events that you recommend I go to?

When you make follow up calls, you’ll probably get more nos than yeses, so your main goal should be to ask as many questions as you can so that your leads don’t run dry.

Remember,  even if a hiring manager isn’t interested in you as an employee, they’re often very happy to give you valuable information free of charge. Take advantage of that. Gather intelligence first and analyze it later. When you’re on the job hunt don’t focus on just getting a job. Widen your perspective a bit; focus on getting the information that leads to a job. Not only will the search be much easier, but you’ll probably also get much a better job.

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  • Good points, Kenji! My niece in Seattle sent me a link to your post on Facebook after she got it from another FB friend. I loved the beginning and it echoed what I have been coaching job seekers on for the past few years. When the job boards came out, they were the new shiny new thing so many of the job seekers abandoned paper newspapers in favor of Career Builder or Job Center or Monster. Now there are so many job boards out there that it is confusing about where to look but many still think that is where to go.

    I loved your #3 point so much that it is part of my post today, Stalking the elusive new career or position. I’m leading my readers back to your post because I think you have lots of thought-provoking ideas and you say them well.

    I’m also always drawn to fellow Headway users! Write on!

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  • Kenji

    Hi Julie,

    Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Most of the ideas came from my experience as a head hunter, so I can’t exactly take credit for coming up with them. I just thought it would be a good idea for other job seekers to know about them.

    Actually I think your niece may have seen my post. We were classmates at Chimacum High.

    And I agree, Headway Rocks!

  • One of the better pieces of advice I’ve read. I’m so sick or reading advice, and seeing ads, to perfect the ole’ resume. What a waste of time. “Ahoy”. love it. I’m going to try it.

  • Kenji

    Welcome! The subject line did seem to get people’s attention 🙂

  • Great post! I may have to quote you in an upcoming show. (Smile)

  • Charlie Highfield

    Nice post, Kenji!

    Charlie H
    Your Worth Salary Calculator