Just recently, we sat with Todd, a down-to-earth but incredibly ambitious—and, as you’ll see—insanely meticulous professional who landed a great a position in the Pharmaceutical industry. Like many job seekers, Todd’s journey was intensive, extensive, and lasted 4 months. And, the tactics he used were not surprising to us…but they might be to you.

This just goes to show you that no matter what level you’re at in your career, the same rules apply—working smarter, not harder, is the name of the game.

Here are the steps Todd took that we felt were especially worth noting. Get ready to take notes, because his actions were extremely effective and best of all, highly replicable.

Be Over-the-Top Prepared

“Get very specific about the role and the company you want and then hone in on that and focus, focus, focus.”

Todd showed up to each interview with a full on presentation of his work history and career accomplishments. He broke down what he did on his day-to-day and didn’t assume that his hiring manager would know every detail of his responsibilities.

For each interview, he had prepared three problems he could solve for the hiring manager, and had pertinent conversations that addressed the concerns of the company. By the end of each interview, Todd explained to us that he was leading these conversations because his audience was enthralled.

This demonstration of uncommon preparation was impressive and effective.

Lesson 1: Be uncommonly, perhaps even outrageously, prepared and YOU will stand out.

Don’t Assume a Long Search is a Bad Search

“The ups and downs of the search are real, and the downs will be uncomfortable at times. Consistency is key; keep a steady hum of momentum and do the work every single day.”


Todd’s search lasted for nearly 4 months, clocked 165 hours, 46 total interviews (some of which were at the same company), and involved hundreds of interactions. Even though he got far along with some of these companies, several of them ended up not being a good fit. Instead of letting this discourage him, Todd used these opportunities to help him clarify the story he wanted to tell potential employers.

Lesson 2: You can take advantage of the process of interviewing and having conversations by practicing how you speak about yourself and what you can offer, as well as refine your vision on what you actually want.

As you can see, the interviews took several months to land but his hard work paid off and 85% of them culminated around 3 months later. *This lead to a fortuitous negotiation situation that we’ll discuss later on in the post.*

46 total interviews
39 (85%) in the last 30 days
Lots of contacts made prior to the bolus of interviews in January
End of year may not be the best time to be looking for interviews

Lesson 3: Don’t assume that just because it’s taking a while for people to interview you that you’ll never get there. It takes time for everyone!

Use Your Network – Not Online Applications – to Land Interviews

“Don’t ‘use’ people one time to find your job. Build real relationships!”
– Todd

One thing Todd absolutely did NOT do was apply online. He knew that right off the bat, he wanted to have a relationship with the people involved in hiring. So, he connected with his network and had conversations about what he was looking for.

Another important piece to this is that Todd focused his efforts on people he knew directly, or had some type of connection to him (whether through his alumni network, the Air Force, etc.) who could introduce him to someone he wanted to talk to. Only roughly 7% of his communication efforts were with “cold” contacts (people who did not know him and did not know anyone in his network). He knew from experience that having relationships with people already was key to having them in his corner when it came to reaching out to people who could help him.

Because he was in the Air Force, Todd had a robust alumni network of people he could call upon to help him land his position.

Outreach Efforts:

Response Rate

“Almost everyone I contacted responded. 93% response rate!”

“I only contacted 9 people without a connection of any kind. It’s the power of the network.”

…Because Todd largely knew the people he contacted, the response rate was great. But even the “cold” category was 78% responsive…which is excellent! Case in point: never underestimate your network. There’s more opportunity for you there than you could ever imagine. People want to help.


Not everyone has a huge network…or at least, they don’t think they do. If this is something you struggle with, please check out Smart Job Search, because this is exactly the problem we tackle!

Lesson 4: connect with your network, connect with your network, connect with your network…

Case in point: a direct contact was exactly how Todd landed his dream job…

Keep the Process Going & You *WILL* Reap the Benefits

“Timing to get multiple offers isn’t easy but incredibly valuable.” – Todd

The short answer to how Todd landed his multiple 6-figure position with a highly-sought after company was exactly how we teach our students: through a connection. You need to win the referral game not the who applies to the most online job postings game.

Here’s a play by play of how it all went down:

  • Todd saw the position listed on Indeed.com (we’ll call the company “Corporation X”).
  • Todd did NOT apply on Indeed. Instead, he went straight to Linkedin.
  • He saw that a former direct report was currently working for Corporation X and decided to reach out. He reached out to said contact, and through him, he nabbed a “referral link” which he plugged into the company’s website alongside his application.
  • This referral linked pushed his resume to the top of the pile.
  • Corporation X contacts Todd and he discovers that none of the previous candidates interviewed had panned out. They put him through an expedited interview process.
  • By this time, Todd had a few other offers, which made him seem all the more attractive as a candidate, and gave him leverage and bargaining power.
  • In addition to landing the position and negotiating for the upper end of his desired salary, he also scored a 10% sign on bonus.
  • Todd finally lands his dream job.


At Smart Job Search we advocate that people *never* apply online, but use the job posting as a lead, find a company insider ideally in your network, and help them cut to the front of the line.

Lesson 5: Todd said “Timing to get multiple offers isn’t easy but incredibly valuable. I negotiated strongly because I had multiple offers/opportunities.”

Keep Your Network Going & It Will Serve You…Now And Well Into The Future

“Because of the network I built up before this process, plus the meaningful connections I solidified *during* this process, I will never start from a blank slate with my network.” – Todd

Todd was deliberate in how he connected with people, making sure that he always offered to help them with anything they needed, and having meaningful conversations that actually lead places. Because of that, he will always have a network to draw from for the rest of his career. In the meantime, he will continue to help his network when they come to HIM for assistance. Just because he’s happily employed now does not mean that the process stops…it just means that the shoe is on the other foot and he’s able to give back to the network that’s helped him.

Remember this: even though Todd is at an advanced stage in his career, every step he took is accessible to anyone looking for a job. Why? Because everyone has connections. Whether you’ve been employed for a while and you have a work history to draw from, or you’re a recent grad with connections from school, you’re never alone in this process, and your hands are never tied. You’ve got this!!!