What should you do when an employer says, "I'm sorry, we don't have any job openings?" Just give up? Cross them off your list? If you do, you are overlooking a large segment of the "hidden job market" that will remain hidden from you if you simply give up. By utilizing a common sales technique, the Puppy Dog Close, you can tap into this additional source of potential employment opportunities.
In brief, the Puppy Dog Close is a sales technique that is based (aptly) on a method that pet store salespeople use to sell puppy dogs. The idea is that while it may be difficult to get the customer to make a large commitment (buying the puppy), if we can break down the sale into smaller components with a "guaranteed/no risk" offer, the customer may be willing to make an initial commitment.
Hiring is a risk. Reduce my risk and I may be willing to respond favorably.
For example, the pet store salesperson tells you that you can take the puppy home with you and if you don't like it, just bring it back. So what happens? You take the puppy with you, you play with him and run around outside with him, he licks your nose in the morning and waits for you faithfully at the door at the end of the day. And the sale is made. Not by the salesperson, but by the puppy.
How does this apply to employment? Think about the commitment you are asking a company to make. Based solely on a phone call or brief meeting, can you reasonably expect them to create a new job opening for you where none currently exists? Obviously not. Yet these same managers, who technically do not have any job openings, still have work to get done. In fact, many companies have had to reduce their staff while completing the same amount of work. So the work is there, but they just cannot hire right now—that is, they cannot hire permanent employees. But these same managers can usually bring in "temps" (temporary workers) to help out when needed. Here is the key—those temp workers are often the first ones managers will look to when attempting to fill a permanent opening. Sometimes managers with no openings will go out of their way to create an opening for an outstanding temporary worker.
Working as a temp is no longer the domain of part-time secretaries. There are as many different types of temp positions out there as there are permanent—everything from office to factory to professional to management. While I worked at IBM, we often had professionals working for us as temps or contractors. And when the hiring window opened we did not begin to interview or start a full-scale candidate search to fill our open positions. We hired the temps who were already working for us, since they were known entities who had already proven themselves.
In application, the Puppy Dog Close merely requires you to get past the "no openings" response with the question, "Do you still have work that needs to be done?" By following this line of questioning, you can usually determine any potential "project needs" the company may have (which usually are not long enough to require permanent workers). Offer to work for them as a temp on these projects. Then, if hired as a temp, work like you have never worked before. Be the superstar in the department, always willing to give that extra effort managers look for in hiring new people. Keep your eyes open for other projects, in that department and others. Many such temporary assignments can turn into long-term commitments. Make it known that you would like to be considered if a permanent opportunity becomes available.
Have an active application on file with Manpower, Adecco, or another low-markup agency which can be suggested as a facilitator for payroll arrangements if needed (many companies are unwilling to add temps to their own payroll for benefits and tax reasons). Note, however, that most temp firms do not actively market your professional skills to companies—they are reactive, not proactive. You need to be the one who markets your skills and suggests the arrangement (this approach is rather novel and companies will need the prompting).
The Puppy Dog Close is an excellent technique to use when you hear the "no openings" response. Does it always work? No, but it does add a unique approach that others are not taking, putting you in a position with very little competition for opportunities that may come up. You must believe in yourself and your ability to benefit the company for which you work. Obviously, if you do a mediocre job, you will not be offered further work. But if you do your best to be an outstanding employee, you may find a job that is never advertised, never known to anyone outside of the company, and never known to be open until after you fill it. The Puppy Dog Close actually works better during periods of higher unemployment, since managers often have work that needs to be done but lack the ability to hire.
Try the Puppy Dog Close as an added tool in your job search. Minimally, you may find a temp job that gives you great experience and a valuable reference. On the other hand, it may provide you with a route into a company that might have otherwise ignored you. Remember, you do not need to be a salesperson to use this approach—the "puppy" (the quality of your work on the job) makes the sale in this win-win situation. Give it a try!