Back in August, new graduate Alfred Ajani was struggling to find a job.
Having finished a sports marketing degree at Coventry University three months earlier, Ajani says he had submitted 300 job applications, but had yet to receive an offer he was interested in.
So en route to a job interview, he took 45 minutes to stand in Waterloo station during rush hour, holding a sign advertising his skills. The stunt netted him 12 job offers – including a marketing role at recruiter Asoria Group, which he started in September – and prompted a raft of copycats.
But earlier this week, he was back at Waterloo – only this time, he was holding a different sign, advertising vacancies at his new role. His new company is looking for 20 new consultants, and Ajani says he knew exactly where to go to find them.
After his experience, he is an advocate of the direct approach – but adds that just holding a sign isn’t enough to encourage employers. Here are his tips on getting the best response from passers-by.
1. Be bold
Ajani said his first time around, it was a slow start.
“No one spoke to me for about 10 minutes. People were looking at me like ‘what’s he doing? Does he not know to put his CV online?’. But in my head I was like, that hasn’t been working for me. I’m taking it old school.”
2. Know your market
“I knew Waterloo had workers from a host of organisations passing through it, so I thought it would provide good opportunities,” he says. Likewise, if you want a job in a certain sector or at a particular organisation, find somewhere its employees spend their time.
“If you’re a fashion graduate you wouldn’t necessarily stand at Bank station, where all the finance firms are. You’ve got to plan it and know your audience.”
3. Stay in control
Rather than giving out CVs, Ajani took people’s email addresses, meaning he stayed in control of the situation.
“I followed up straight away. I messaged everyone – I was on my phone until about 2am. I sent every my CV via email and they all got back to me pretty quickly, with feedback, and some advice and tips for me as well.”
4. Keep your message focused
Whether you’re trying to catch prospective employers’ eyes with a billboard, a sandwich board or just a piece of paper, his advice is to keep it brief.
“Commuters are in a rush so you have to grab their attention quickly. Your sign has to be readable at a glance. I put as much information on there – but as little information as well, so it was easy to read.”
5. Scrub up
As they’re hurrying past, employers will judge you at a glance – so just as you would with an interview, make sure you look your best.
“Definitely wear a suit,” says Ajani.
“Some guy tried it, I think it was in Brussels, and he wasn’t wearing a suit so didn’t get such a good response. So definitely get a fresh haircut, wear a suit and look your best on the day.”