When you’re trying to get an interview at your dream company, having an insider’s help can make a big difference. Here’s how to work with your contacts to get a job, even if you don’t have many contacts yet.
How to reach out to a connection about a job opening in their company:
Almost any connection at your target company can potentially be a big help if they’re willing to talk with you and share their insights. If you show a genuine interest in their experiences at the company and conduct an effective networking conversation, you may be able to get answers to questions like these:
- How did you start here? Did you apply online without knowing anyone, or did it happen some other way? Is that typical of how people get hired here?
- Is there a certain search firm I should reach out to? Do they source people through LinkedIn or other social media?
- What do you like best about working here? What makes you stay?
- What is the company culture like?
- Are you familiar with X team, the one I’m interested in working with? What’s the team culture like?
- Who leads that team?
- What could I do to make myself a stronger candidate for a job on that team?
How do you get them to meet with you? My post about informational interviews includes advice and a sample email.
What to do next:
If you’ve built a good rapport with your contact, ask them if they would be willing to forward your resume to the hiring manager (the person you would be reporting to). This is even better than sending it yourself, because the hiring manager is more likely to open an email that comes from someone they already know.
If your contact isn’t comfortable with forwarding your resume. but has told you the hiring manager’s name, send it to the hiring manager directly. If you can get their phone number, make a followup call as well.
How to use contacts to get a job when there’s no opening:
Develop a list of 40-50 companies you’re interested in working for, and make contacts within those companies before there’s an opening. That way, you have time to build relationships so you’re the first person they think of when an opening occurs.
The biggest mistake you can make is to think “I don’t have any contacts, so this won’t work for me.” Start by talking to the people you know. Tell them what companies you’re interested in, and see if they have anything to tell you about any of them. Say “Who else do you think I should ask?” They may say, “Well, I don’t know anybody in those companies because I’m not in your industry, but my friend Raj is. I could introduce you to him.” Now you can go from there.
How to follow up:
Why throw away contacts that could be mutually beneficial by failing to keep in touch? Read my post on how to turn info interviews and networking meetings into relationships.
Using contacts to get a job is mainly a matter of being well prepared, assertive, friendly and patient. It can take a while, but just applying “cold” takes even longer. Without contacts, you’re one of the hundreds of faceless applicants. Stand out by reaching out.