How To Be an International Career Hacker

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This is a guest post by Michael Park. Michael runs Career Hack and also launched Brazil Career Blueprint.

Dear Michael,

Thank you for your interest in Deloitte China. We regret to inform you that, despite your impressive credentials, we have chosen a different candidate for the Associate Consultant position listed in Shanghai. We will keep you on record and let you know if we are in need of your services.

Best Regards,
Deloitte China

Deloitte… are you breaking up with me? Who is this other candidate? Deloitte, how could you just dump me like this?

You know what, it’s FINE, Deloitte. I was never REALLY into you in the first place. I always thought your friend Accenture was cuter anyway. I wasn’t going to tell you this, but I interviewed with BCG behind your back – TWICE.

All right, but seriously now – does this HR rejection email look familiar to you? It sure does to me. I’ve gotten this rejection email in four languages in six countries as I went about my own international career launch. After banging my head against the wall for months about how to charm these people and their cryptic methods of choosing candidates, I decided to do the next best thing: entirely sidestep HR and engineer myself a back door into companies I liked.

I formulated a systematic method for hacking into companies and producing interview offers and job offers for myself and my clients, which has been incredibly effective across the board – particularly for emerging market careers, in which organizations are less “flat.”

This blueprint will apply to you if you’re one of the following:

  • You seek gainful employment abroad but have no clue where to begin.
  • You have been emailing addresses like “careers@consultingcompany” and never hearing back.
  • You are are looking for quick results. You also understand that, occasionally, it’s worth investing a small sum of cash to save yourself immense amounts time and energy.

Phase 1: Join Linkedin

If you haven’t already, you need to join LinkedIn and upgrade your profile to a “Business Plus” account.

“But why pay for LinkedIn? I need money for Hulu Plus and Heineken!”

Would you pay 5 dollars to treat a Managing Director to a lunch at Wendy’s if it meant that you could source an interview and potential offer? Yes, you probably would. By upgrading to this account, your search abilities are enhanced and you can send unsolicited messages, called “inmails”, to decision makers within your target companies. By sending carefully crafted messages to decision makers within your target companies, you are essentially taking a calculated gamble on securing interview offers.

After you’ve received an offer, you can cancel your paid subscription. However, you have to make sure that you are using the monthly subscription and not annual.

Phase 2: The Profile

You need to make your profile as compelling as possible to the decision makers you will contact. These are some things you should do immediately upon creating a profile:

  • Add a picture of yourself in formal business attire.
  • Add all of your academic information with your major and relevant coursework.
  • Add each of your previous work experiences, your responsibilities, and how you added value to the company for each of these placements.

Now that you’ve got a profile, you need street cred. Search for former colleagues, managers, professors, or basically anyone who could give you a solid reference regarding your competence in the workplace and level of integrity and professionalism. Add these people as connections and then request a recommendation.

For example, if you worked at Google, first add as a connection your manager at the time. Then, under the “profile” tab, click “recommendations”, then “request recommendations.” You’ll be brought to a form that will allow you to request a reference from a specific manager, colleague, professor, or person of authority from a previous organization with which you were involved. Having these references will make it clear that you’ve added value in your past work placements.

Phase 3: Finding your Target Managers

In this phase, you are going to find a handful of people with hiring power who are going to help you hack into the interview process. Primarily, you should choose your target city abroad. For this example, let’s use Shanghai. You should first compile a list of 10 companies in Shanghai for whom you’d like to work. You are then going to use LinkedIn’s search feature to find decision makers you will contact. These “Target Managers” will generally have titles like “Managing Director”, “Senior Project Manager” or something similar.

Ideally, you want to find someone with whom you have something in common. The best commonality is actually knowing someone in common who can introduce you. If not, a common nationality, university, or native language is usually a solid foundation.

Phase 4: The Pitch

At this point you need to create a template of a message that you will use for each target manager. You can use this as a general framework:

“Hello Mr. Flynn,

My name is Dan Lang and I am a recent graduate of NYU. I have previously worked at the American Embassy in Beijing as an intern. I am interested in pursuing a career with (Target Company) in Shanghai.

I am interested in opportunities with (Target Company) because (list 1-3 strong reasons). I also feel like I would be a good fit because (list 1-3 strong reasons).

Is it possible we can set up an interview?

Best Regards,

Dan”

Use this template to create a custom inmail for each of your target managers and send them out, one by one. By the end of this, you should have set up several interviews with your target companies by getting internally referred by a manager, thereby hacking past human resources gatekeepers.

Conclusion

By now you ideally have set up 3-5 interviews in your target city abroad. If you are unfamiliar with your target city, make sure you know how to get to each of these offices – I made this fatal mistake in Paris and it cost me an offer. I was heading to the RER station from a Parisian suburb into the metropolitan area when the workers of Paris conveniently decided to strike. I was unprepared to deal with the fallout of this situation, which ended up being my downfall. Traffic patterns in the city will vary depending on the time of the day, so make sure that you take a pre-emptive trip and map out your route.

This goes without saying, but dress formally in business attire – that means a suit and tie for the gentlemen….no matter how sweltering hot it is in Beijing, Saigon, or Sao Paulo.

Set all these interviews up during the same week so that you can gauge the various offers you will receive against the others. Happy Hunting!

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13 Comments

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  • Reply

    Socialkenny

    4 months ago

    Good article Michael.

    So funny that you’d mentioned receiving the ‘dreaded’ rejection letter from HR dept.Just 2 weeks ago I got that letter after applying for a bartender gig at a 5 star hotel.During 2011 I received that letter about 10 times lmao.The other irony is that I made an account with linkedin just 4 weeks ago.It’s up and running just the way you’d advised.Although unemployed,I mainly signed up for increasing my blog’s popularity by posting articles.But I never looked at it from the standpoint you’d laid out.I’m gonna try it.

    • Reply

      Michael Park

      4 months ago

      Hey SocialKenny,

      Thanks! Good luck with this. I’m unsure if you’re going to be using it for increasing your blog’s popularity or to find jobs from this point on – both are highly effective. Business development and striking up partnerships/JVs are two other great areas in which linkedin is highly useful. My particular area of expertise is more about hacking into careers/interviews than striking up business deals – at least at this particular point. Great insights…..

      -Mike

  • Reply

    David

    4 months ago

    One problem I see is that you can only contact a certain number of people per month using InMail, even when you pay:

    eg 15 Euro a month allows you only 3 InMails a month; 53 Euro a month package allows 25.

    So doesn’t this just make it more targeted cold calling, in a way..? I definitely like LinkedIn but like all mediums there’s no certainty.

    Do you know how likely someone will read your email when you send an InMail?

    • Reply

      Michael Park

      4 months ago

      Great question David.

      No matter what strategy you are using, you are going to be taking a gamble. You will never get a 100% response rate with linkedin. Ultimately, it is all about how many layers of bureaucracy and gatekeepers you have to break through in order to reach the people who can, in one stroke of a pen, decide that you are hired.

      If a guy’s strategy is solely to send his CV to “careers@companycom” then he’s gambling/investing with his level of time and energy by actually grinding all of those applications out. Moreover, he is essentially just a faceless piece of paper to these organizations, and the first person who is likely going to see his CV is not someone who has a position of actual revenue-generation within the company, such as a managing director, but some HR person. Or worse yet – there is actual CV-filtering SOFTWARE that screens your CV for a certain amount of keywords and numbers, and if you don’t make the cut, you’re OUT.

      Let me tell you, it’s pretty brutal to be eliminated from the running by a machine. If you’ve been sending out CVs the traditional way, you’ve probably been eliminated by a computer at some point.

      Cold Calling is also a gamble in some ways – it’s very bold and somewhat intrusive, so the responses tend to be a bit polarized and very strong – sometimes you will just get hung up on and sometimes the person will be thrilled with your initiative and will ask you when you can set up an interview. I’ve been on both ends of that spectrum, with every possible result in between, and my clients have as well.

      Linkedin is a great medium between all of these. It’s not as intrusive and high-risk as a cold call, yet it’s much more intimate than sending your CV/Coverletter in to some standard application form. Landing a job is a zero-sum game; there are many applicants and only one position available. How can a guy set himself apart from the competition? When it comes time to hire and make a decision, who is the decision-maker going to remember? The soulless PDF or the guy whose profile, picture, references, and personal message he saw? Add on top of that a customized pitch and a long string of back-and-forth inmail conversation, and you’ll render most of your competition irrelevant.

      People want to hire people they know or people that were internally referred. If you get in touch with a managing director in Shanghai/Beijing/Bangkok and he likes your pitch, then forwards your information internally within the company, suddenly you are competing within an entirely different pool of applicants than the rest of the faceless, soulless, PDF applications out there. Now you’re a serious contender – an actual human being.

      It’s like being a star basketball player being recruited to college. Does it matter that there are 10,000 brilliant Asian kids with 4.0 GPAs also applying? No. You bring an entirely different value proposition to the table and you have a powerful “node” inside of the organization (recruiter/coach) who is vouching for you.

      Same thing with the job application process. Ultimately, you have to be good enough to NOT GET REJECTED. Then it becomes an issue of who within the company is vouching for you. How are you going to rapidly create that bond with someone inside the organization who can hack you in?

      To answer your question – I would say that I get responses from about 60-70% of the linkedin inmails I send out and about half of those are positive responses – whether it’s to immediately set me up with an interview or to ask me some further questions about why I’m interested in their company specifically. The best answer/reply you can receive is logistical – “Thanks for getting in touch, David, when can you come in?”

      Hope that helps out….

      http://www.emergingmarketcareers.com/consultations/

  • Reply

    Michael Park

    4 months ago

    David -

    Another way of answering your question is to compare the job app process to picking up girls. Which situation is better for you if you like a girl (let’s call her Becky):

    1. You walk up, unwarranted, and say “Hi, I’m David.”

    2. Her friend brings you over and says “Becky, meet David. I met him at the alum fundraiser event at the embassy in April and he’s a great guy.”

    It’s very similar. It usually doesn’t matter if the managing director who vouches for you has known you for 3 days or 3 years – once your information is being passed around internally, you’ve got an immense advantage over your competition.

  • Reply

    David

    4 months ago

    Hi Michael

    Thanks for your comments. I might trial LinkedIn (paid version) for 2-3 months and see how it goes. One new client would pretty much pay for the advertising, and in Prague hardly anyone is doing this (despite LinkedIn being very popular).

    I’d be interested to read any follow up articles on this.

    Have a great day!

    David

  • Reply

    David

    4 months ago

    I also just found this note on LinkedIn:

    “A contact method so effective it comes with a response guarantee. If you don’t get a response in 7 days, we’ll give you another InMail to send.”

    This is more persuasive, though I wonder how they can monitor if we get a response or not…

  • Reply

    Michael Park

    4 months ago

    Regarding whether they are monitoring it – I can confirm that, because I usually don’t hear back from about 30% of my inmails, they refill my ability to send more. No worries.

  • Reply

    Zac

    4 months ago

    Lost in the title of How to be an International Career Hacker is a really great guide for using Linkedin to get yourself a job anywhere, including here in the states. Awesome information here.

  • Reply

    guy valery

    4 months ago

    want to be an international hacker.im so desperate please

  • Reply

    Michael Park

    4 months ago

    Thanks Zac! It’s true, these strategies will also work in the US.

    • Reply

      Zac

      4 months ago

      NP Michael. Thanks for taking the time to put this together for us.

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