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The Best Way to Make Contacts within Your Target Companies

by THEA kelley | May 14, 2020

Let’s say there’s a company you’d like to work for. You know that advice and referrals from company insiders can greatly boost your likelihood of being hired, but you don’t know anybody there. How do you make contacts within your target companies?

I’m going to summarize a very efficient method described in the 2020 edition of my favorite job search book (other than my own, of course): The 2-Hour Job Search by Steve Dalton. The author, a senior career consultant at Duke University, has created a great system for finding the right people to talk to so you can gain insights and referrals. These tips are just one small part of this efficient and effective system.

Who’s the best person to talk to?

According to Dalton, the best new contacts to have in your target company are those who possess the following traits—listed in order of importance:

#1: Their position is functionally relevant to the one you are seeking. They may not be in the same department, but they have a good idea what you’d be doing and with whom.

#2: They’re fellow alumni, or maybe members of some other group you belong to, such as a LinkedIn Group.

#3: They hold a position one to two levels above where you would start.

#4: They’ve already been promoted within the company.

#5: They have a unique name.

Dalton gives the “why” for all of this in the book. For now, I’ll just assure you there are good reasons for all of it!

How do you efficiently find contacts who have as many of these traits as possible?

Go to LinkedIn and follow these instructions:

  1. Click into the Search field.
  2. Click “People.”
  3. Click All Filters.
  4. Enter a job title keyword like “engineer” or “finance” into the Title field and click Apply. That will find functionally relevant people.
  5. If you find many, narrow down the list by adding the schools you’ve attended to the Schools field. Click Apply again. (If you haven’t attended higher education in recent history, read the book for alternatives to this step.)
  6. If you still have many, prioritize them further by identifying which ones are one to two levels above the position where you would start.
  7. If you need a final tiebreaker, pick uniquely named people, since it will be easier to guess their email address if you need to.

You’re looking to end up with two people to contact, for now. (Later you can try a couple more people if these don’t get you in the door.)

Now that you’ve found the right people, how do you get them to talk to you?

Send them a very brief email mentioning your connection to them and asking for advice. For example:

“Hi Lisa, I’m a fellow alumna of UC Berkeley’s molecular and cell biology program. May I chat with you for a few minutes about your experience at Genentech? I’m trying to learn more about research organizations in California and your insights would be very much appreciated.”

Dalton calls this a 6-Point Email–it’s another excellent part of the 2HJS system. In the book he explains it, as well as the steps that follow. Since he has found the average response rate to be about 10-20% during the COVID-19 crisis, he advises approaching two people a day until you’ve contacted about six (at different companies) and handling any responses before sending out another batch of requests. Lather, rinse, repeat until hired.

And that’s how to find contacts within your target companies and get them to talk to you. Now, what will you say to them? Dalton has suggestions on this, too. Or read The 20-Minute Networking Meeting by Ballinger and Perez. All together, this is the approach to job search that gets people jobs faster and with less pain!

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