Use word of mouth to score your next job

This is a guest post from Drew McLellan, CEO and Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.

Word of mouth sells products and services every day.

JobsIn fact, 67% of consumers say that word of mouth is the #1 influencer of their buying decisions. Why would it work any differently when someone is “buying” a new employee?

Here’s how you can amplify some word of mouth for your next job search.

I end up having coffee with many people looking for work. They might have been fired, downsized, or might be a college graduate just starting out. They’re looking for someone to run their resume by, someone who might be able to help them make connections, and often, just someone to listen. (I have some specific advice I give college kids but I’ll save that for another post.)

I try to offer them as much help as I can. One thing I always do is describe what I believe is the surefire way to find your next job. I’ve seen it work every time someone has tried it. But it requires some work and discipline. Which is why most people never bother with it.

And why many of them are still looking for work.

If you’re serious about finding the next job — follow these instructions and then watch what happens.

1. Make a list of 100 or so people (you will need email and phone numbers) that you believe would want you to succeed.

This might be family, friends, former co-workers, professional group colleagues, neighbors, and the people you know from the PTA, gym, church, or softball league.

In other words, think long and wide. Ideally, they should all either live where you want to work or be wired into the industry you want to be a part of. If you are looking for a job in your hometown of Chicago, your cousin in Houston isn’t as good a choice as your next door neighbor. Unless he’s connected. Then, keep him on the list.

2. Write an email that basically says:

I am looking for my next job and I am trying to build an army of people who will help me find that new job by making introductions, sharing their knowledge of companies and people, keeping their ear to the ground, etc.

If you’d be willing to be a part of my team, I promise I will not abuse your kindness and that I will pay it forward by helping others when they ask down the road. My plan to to send you one update email per week.

In this email, I will include any meetings, interviews, ads answered, and other activity done that week. I will also share what I have on my to do list for the following week. All I ask is that you read the email and if you know any of the people or companies and can put in a good word — you do.

Would you be willing to get this weekly email from me and help if you can?

3. Wait for replies and based on the yeahs or nays you get — build your mailing list.

Most people, if you choose wisely, will say yes and be genuinely glad to help.

Send them your updated resume and a detailed description of the type of job you are seeking. Be candid about your strengths and weaknesses. Help them help you.

4. On the following Friday morning, compose and send your first email.


  • Coffees/meetings held
  • Interviews
  • Phone contacts made
  • Ads answered/jobs applied for
  • Interviews set up for the following week
  • People you are trying to make contact with
  • Any specific things you need help with (review the resume, mock interview practice, etc.)

And then, send it on it’s way and let the army go to work.

If you are going to employ this tactic, you absolutely MUST send an email every week. Share the good weeks and the bad. This isn’t the place to whine, complain, or gossip. This is not your diary, where you can air all the emotions that come with a job search. This is a top line report of your efforts. Nothing more or less.

If you activate this job search army, you will be amazed at their reach and their willingness to help you. Be respectful of their time, be humble, and say thank you often to those who help.

Most important: Once you land that next job, remember your promise to pay it forward.

Note: I am not negating LinkedIn, Facebook, or any other social media tool. When you’re looking for a job — it’s all hands on deck. But there is something very powerful, affirming, and effective about mobilizing a team of people who truly can get you past the gatekeepers and onto a short list of candidates.


About Drew McLellan

Wall Street Journal calls Drew McLellan’s blog,, "one of the ten blogs every entrepreneur should read." His passion is helping clients discover their story so they can create authentic love affairs with their customers. He's also an author, national speaker, and has owned his own marketing agency in the Midwest since 1995.

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