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 a job 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 application to a medium or large company, 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. In fact, a lot of times it rather sucks at it.
Folks, here’s the deal. In the game of job search, the person who gets to the hiring manager first—and makes a great impression with him or her—is usually the winner. Few people jump for joy when it’s time to plow through a bunch of random resumes that came in among a giant clump of online applicants. Not even close.
So, if you can somehow get on this person’s radar directly—and make him or her quickly see what an incredible, likable, and closely matched candidate you are, you make his or her 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 to 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 this out. Simply head over to LinkedIn and, in the search box, enter in the company name and a couple of key words 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 left column of the screen. Check the box “People” so that you’re only seeing people (and not companies or groups). Also check “Current Company” so that you’re only viewing people who are current employees.
And 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 a conversation that goes 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.”
Short, sweet, and introduces 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—may I ask you a couple of very quick questions about your experience there?”
Assuming Bill says yes, ask your quick questions and then, after he responds, try and keep a bit of casual conversation going. Once you’ve built up a bit of rapport, thank him profusely for his time and end the conversation with:
“Real quick. I noticed that [COMPANY] is looking 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, he’ll give you the name. Better yet, he may make the introduction.
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3. Pick Up the Phone and Call
It mystifies me how gun-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 anonymous online application process and dial the freaking phone.
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 schmoozing it up with the person who answers the phone. Gaining an ally with the gatekeeper could get you everywhere.
The conversation might go like this:
“Hi there. I am one of the candidates for the digital marketing manager role that’s open at [COMPANY]. I’ve misplaced the notepad I had with all of the hiring manager’s contact information on it. I’m so embarrassed. Can you help me out with this?”
You get the drift. Act like you’re somehow already in conversation with this person, yet have lost her contact info. Now, use care with the wording. Note that, in the above, if the gatekeeper were to go to this person and tell her about the conversation, she probably wouldn’t bat an eye because (assuming you already applied online) you are a candidate, and you very well could have her email address without her awareness.
My point: Don’t get caught in a big, fat lie as you attempt to get a name because it could totally backfire on you.
But do pull out the stops in trying to introduce yourself directly. If you can get to the right person and sell yourself directly to him or her, you’re in a much, much better position than if you sit around wringing your hands, paying to God your stuff makes it through the blind mailbox.
Someone in this competition is going to get directly to a decision maker.
Shouldn’t that someone be you?
Photo of man on computer courtesy of Shutterstock .
TopicsJob Search , Syndication , Finding a Job , Interviewing for a Job , Hiring Managers , Networking
Jenny Foss is a career strategist, recruiter, and the voice of the popular career blog JobJenny.com. Based in Portland, OR, Jenny is the author of the Ridiculously Awesome Resume Kit and the Ridiculously Awesome Career Pivot Kit. Also check out the recently-launched Weekend Resume Makeover Course, find Jenny on Twitter @JobJenny, and book one-on-one coaching sessions with her on The Muse's Coach Connect.More from this Author