man on computer
Shutterstock

You’ve just hit “send” on an online application. And now all you can do is wait.

Or is it? What if you could increase the odds of being invited in for an interview—potentially by a large margin—by adding just one step to your overall job search process?

Hey, everyone! Good news. You can. And here’s that magical step: Find and endear yourself to the hiring manager at the company you just applied to work for.

Sound super scary? It does for a lot of people—so much so that they never even try to get to a key decision maker when taking a run at a new job; they just apply online and hope for the best.

Unfortunately, this is an incredibly unreliable way to capture the attention of the very person you most need to influence. Why? Because in applying via an online system, you all but guarantee that your resume and cover letter will first need to pass through at least two lines of review before they’re in the right hands.

Worse, one of those reviewers isn’t even a human; it’s computer scanning software (also known as an ATS or applicant tracking system). The kicker? That computer isn’t always so amazing at determining how amazing you really are.

Folks, here’s the deal. In the game of job search, the person who gets to the hiring manager sooner rather than later—and makes a great impression on them—is usually the winner. Few people jump for joy when it’s time to plow through a bunch of random resumes that came in online. Not even close.

So if you can somehow get on this person’s radar directly—and make them quickly see what an incredible, proactive, and closely matched candidate you are, you make their job easier and stack the cards in your favor.

The question then is: How do you find these incredibly important people? And, once you do, how do you get to them in a way that will positively impact your candidacy?
Here are three completely survivable tactics to strongly consider:


1. Do a People Search on LinkedIn

This is the most straightforward way to figure out who the right person is. Simply head over to LinkedIn and, in the search box, enter the company name and a couple of keywords that would likely describe the title of the person in charge of the department you’re attempting to join.

After you hit “search,” you’ll see some advanced search options on the top of the screen. Check the box next to “People” so that you’re only seeing people (and not companies or groups). And make sure you pick your target company under “Current Company” so that you’re only viewing people who are current employees.

Then take a little scroll through the list. See someone who looks like the obvious person? Well then, you’re in business. Decide how you’re going to approach and reach out directly.
Consider sending a request to connect with a note that says something like this:

Hi Sarah—I’m [YOUR NAME], a digital marketing strategist with a direct background within the beauty industry. I’ve had my eye on [COMPANY] forever, so when I saw that you were looking for a manager for your digital team, I applied right away. But I also wanted to introduce myself directly because I think my background matches up so closely with what you seem to be seeking.

It’s a short and sweet way to introduce yourself as a direct match. Hiring managers like direct matches.

But what do you do if you can’t find an obvious person using this technique? Try this as your second line of attack:


2. Enlist Someone Who Works There to Help You

Say you’re scrolling through that list on LinkedIn and you see a handful of people who could potentially be the hiring manager, but you’re unsure if you’ve got the right one. Rather than risk getting it wrong, see if you can find someone who appears to be in a peer-level role within the same (or a similar) department as the one you want.

Approach this person with something like this:

Hi Bill—You and I are both members of the Chicago Marketing Association group here on LinkedIn. I happened to notice you’re on the digital strategy team at [COMPANY]. I’ve had my eye on [COMPANY] forever and noticed there’s an opening for a marketing coordinator. Would you happen to know who the best person for me to contact would be, to get a bit more info about this role?

Chances are, they’ll give you the name. Better yet, they may make the introduction.


3. Pick Up the Phone and Call

It mystifies me how shy we’ve all become about picking up the gosh-darned phone and, gasp, communicating directly with people. You want a true shot at this job? Quit hiding behind the online application process and start dialing. Just be sure and do so carefully and strategically.

To determine who the hiring manager is, I’d suggest simply calling the company’s main number and asking the person who answers the phone for their help, especially if it’s a smaller organization where they’re likely to know what’s going on and who’s hiring.

Try something like:

I'm applying for the [title] role and want to make sure I'm accurate in the note I'm sending to the [your best guess for the title of the hiring manager or the head of the department]. Is this specific title accurate?

From there, you can either ask for that person's name, or head right over to LinkedIn or Google. You'll find the name that goes with that title pretty quickly.

Keep in mind though that this tactic might not work as well in a larger organization, where the person answering the phone may have no idea what’s happening on the team you’re applying to join or where a machine is picking up incoming calls rather than a human. In that case, see if you can find a number for the specific department or for an assistant on the team. Otherwise go back to technique number two and try to find someone close to the source.


Pull out the stops in trying to introduce yourself directly. If you can get to the right person and sell yourself directly to them, you’re in a much, much better position than if you sit around wringing your hands, praying your stuff makes it through the online system.

Someone in this competition is going to get directly to a decision maker. Shouldn’t that someone be you?