How to Find and Connect With Small Companies

A majority of jobs at small companies are filled without ever having been advertised.

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Marty Nemko
Marty Nemko
Competition for jobs at large companies is fierce because of their prestige, well-equipped workplaces, better benefit packages, likelihood of staying in business and simply because many more people know about, for example, Apple computers than Ace Computers.

That competition for large-company jobs means that many job seekers are wise to add small firms to their prospect list. True, small firms' advertised jobs can often be found the standard way: Indeed.com, SimplyHired.com, etc. But a majority of jobs at small companies are filled without ever having been advertised. If you can connect with those small employers, you become an inside candidate for those jobs and for subsequently available ones. And you might even get a project or job created for you: Sometimes, small employers need work done but aren't quite ready to hire, yet if you walk in the door and seem great, they could be pushed over the edge.

But how do you find small companies likely to be in hiring mode? After all, most small companies want to stay small – they're one to five-person businesses. These strategies may help:

Online Sources

  • Most obvious, Google "fastest growing companies." Your search results will include lists of the national and regional up-and-comers as well as those growing quickly in a specific field, for example, high-tech or advertising.
  • There are 40 local editions of Business Times (www.bizjournals.com), each containing information on companies in growth mode, often including the names of contacts associated with that growth.
  • StartUpHire.com lists 37,000 jobs at startups. Sure, answer ads that are on-target but again, even if none are, companies that placed multiple ads might be in hiring mode and thus worth your trying to make a connection there.
  • LinkedIn and Quora.com have discussion groups in a wide range of fields. Interesting, growing companies are often mentioned.
  • Your local newspaper. Yes, the business section, but the rest of the paper – even the advertisements – can lead to you to growing businesses. The online version may be more robust.
  • Employers you've never heard of that have multiple job listings are likely to be in hiring mode. To find them, search the big job-ad sites: Indeed.com, SimplyHired.com and LinkUp.com using keywords and zip code to narrow your list. Also, search job sites specializing in your field. A wonderful portal to those is the Riley Guide (www.rileyguide.com/jobs.html).
  • CrunchBase.com lists newly funded high-tech companies, those that have the most money and those, from its 160,000-company master list, that are trending upward on Chartbeat, which, in real time, ranks pages by the number of visitors.
  • VentureLoop.com claims to be "the worldwide leader in job postings focused on venture-backed companies. Many job postings on VentureLoop cannot be found on any other job board."
  • ReferenceUSA.com: This database contains 24 million businesses in the United States, including a special section with 4 million new ones, where job openings are more likely and less competitive than in established companies.
  • Search your favorite shopping sites, such as Amazon, Etsy or eBay for a category of product you care about (for example, garden seeds). Does any company stand out for you?
  • Scan your college's and even high school's alumni directory.
  • Human Sources

    • Talk with officers at local organizations: Rotary Club, Kiwanis International, Lions Club, Chamber of Commerce, etc. Ask which local businesses are growing.
    • Drive around in areas near where you live: Look at the lobby directories in office buildings, walk into any businesses that intrigue and tell the receptionist your story. If you're open to working in a storefront or retailer, walk in to appealing businesses.
    • Ask your friends: Your real-life ones, and look at where your LinkedIn and Facebook "friends" are working or have worked.
    • To Get the Names of People There With the Power to Hire You

      • Search LinkedIn's company directory. You may well find someone in your network who works at that company.
      • Google a target employer along with words that might elicit the name of the person with the power to hire you, for example, "Vendome Widget," "vice president, marketing." If that doesn't generate contact info, Google as much of the following information on a potential lead as possible: name, title, organization, area code and the word "email."
      • Phone the company's main number and use its automated directory to find a likely candidate (For accounting, press 202, for marketing, 203, etc.). If he or she is the wrong person, ask if he or she has a company directory handy and say you're looking for, for example, the marketing manager for the Mid-Atlantic region.
      • Phone the organization's main number. Usually to get to the operator, you press zero. Say, "I'm sending a note to (insert name). What's the best way to send it to him or her?
      • Large organizations have a mail room. Call it. The person answering probably doesn't have gatekeeper responsibility so he or she will most likely give you the names and contact information of people with the power to hire you.
      • *Thanks to Carol Chatfield, career resource advisor at Stanford University, for her input into this article.

        The San Francisco Bay Guardian called Dr. Nemko "The Bay Area's Best Career Coach." His latest books are How to Do Life: What They Didn't Teach You in School and What's the Big Idea? 39 Disruptive Proposals for a Better America. He writes weekly for AOL.com as well as for USNews.com. More than 1,000 of his published writings are free on www.martynemko.com.