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First of all, if my approach to this is a waste of time (mine or the client's) or unethical, let me know because that's more important to me.

I'm a programmer with management, product management, and agile coaching experience. Sometimes when I'm applying to technical jobs, I see a post from a company that could, in my opinion, greatly benefit from my skills. The problem is, these job postings are for lower level full-time positions, and I want to work as a consultant. I often apply anyway, hoping that I can reach someone that realizes I can provide more value than the position offered.

Some of the times, it's HR that replies. Usually they function as a candidate filter, reading a checklist of skills and salary for the ideal candidate. If I don't check all those boxes, I don't move on to the next stage. I feel like if I could somehow reach the person with the actual problem, I'd have a chance of explaining my value (and price) beyond HR's checklist.

What techniques can I use to get past HR and reach those with the actual problems I could help with?

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As you've correctly determined, you're speaking to the wrong people with the wrong priorities.

HR's problem is that they've been given a job that needs filling. Their task (as they see it) is to find suitable candidates for that job and to screen out all of the people who're unsuitable for that job. You fall very firmly into the latter category. By comparison, the manager's problem is that he or she has a set of (programming, etc) tasks that need to be completed and has determined that these tasks require a set of skills that aren't currently available to them. This is the person that you need to contact with your frame-challenge.

Having determine that applying for these roles via the usual channels is a fool's errand, what you need to do is spend a little time researching these companies and then communicate directly with the manager who's having the original problem. Suitable channels for investigation include linkedin, 'who's who' guides on the company's website, publicity posts about senior hires, etc. Indeed.com provide a nice guide to a few of the things you might like to try when you're in information-gathering mode.

  • Search social media.
  • Reach out to the company's employees.
  • Network with your professional contacts.
  • Find a trade publication.
  • Reach out to other senior managers.
  • etc.

Once you've got your target, an email (or better yet, a phone call if you're feeling brave) addressed to them personally to them will usually merit a response.

"Dear Mr/Mrs/Miss X, I gather you're looking for an internal web developer to design you a web store. It so happens that I provide web design services at a very reasonable rate which includes development and support. Perhaps you might consider hiring me on a consultancy basis? Here's my rate-card and a portfolio of my work".

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  • Thank you for the reply! I was in ambiguous: this isn't about me bypassing HR to apply to the same job post. It's "this job post has red flags that suggest an underlying issue that's more pertinent than filling the role—a problem the company probably doesn't even realize they have. I'd be the perfect person to solve that problem for them." continued below Apr 28 at 18:41
  • e.g., (humor me on this, I know it's subjective) they have multiple postings about manual QA and I can see on their programmer postings that automated tests aren't a consideration. I could teach the programmers how to write automated tests. Is this another fool's errand? If not, what would that email look like? Apr 28 at 18:41
  • @ConsultingNewb - That's an entirely different question, but in short if your scope is that wide, what you probably need to do is to invite the manager for a meeting to discuss their current platform and tools (over lunch is always a good hook). It's unlikely that they're unaware of the things you're suggesting, btw.
    – Valorum
    Apr 29 at 7:00
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    @ConsultingNewb In my experience, it never works to try to sell a solution to a problem that the prospect does not know that they have. Successful selling means finding a prospect who already knows they have a problem - one that you can solve. Marketing is letting people know that if they have X problem, you have a solution to it.
    – David R
    Apr 29 at 14:08
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    @ConsultingNewb The effective way to "cold call" is any way that works. Cold calling is some of the toughest selling there is, but it does work. People who do cold calling know that they have to call 100-200 potential clients to get one project. Another way is to start by mailing/emailing potential clients and doing a follow up call. That is less "cold" than just calling. The challenge is when we want a client contract NOW. Then, cold calling is the only way. Talk to someone at the "C" level and let them tell the manager to talk to you. Often, you want a smaller company.
    – David R
    May 3 at 20:59

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