If you’re a job seeker, you probably already know that you need insider access to the position you’re after: a key contact at the company, the direct email address of the hiring manager, or the real scoop on what will make your application stand out among the thousands of others.
But you also know that’s easier said than done. If you don’t have friends and family who can help you get a foot in the door, how do you get this elusive access?
Well, by stalking. Yep, I said it—stalking. And not in some weird “I’ve loved you forever and one day you’ll be mine” fashion. What I mean is this: You need to go out and find contacts (and potential contacts) in your network who could help you out, and you need to be clever and resourceful about how you get to them.
Fortunately, there’s a brilliant (and legal) place to do this: LinkedIn. The site not only offers a rundown of job postings and organizes your contacts, but also contains all kinds of useful features for non-creepy information gathering. All it takes is some originality, flair, and a few investigative skills. Here’s how to get started:
1. Hunt Down the Insiders
Before you simply apply for that job posting online and call it a day, hop over to LinkedIn and do a quick search (using the “People” dropdown menu) on the company’s name. See if there’s anyone in your extended network who works for the company (or better yet, who could be the hiring manager, head of staffing or HR, or other person of influence). If so? Good. Strike up a conversation with her, immediately.
Don’t ambush her with your resume on first contact. That’s novice (and annoying). Instead, compliment her by sending a memorable note about why you love her company, and ask her if she’d be willing to answer a few quick questions about her job (and have those questions ready for when she says yes). The idea is to create rapport with a person before you say, “Oh hey, I noticed your company is hiring a Marketing Specialist. Would you happen to know the person within your company who could answer a few questions about that position?”
And assuming she does give you a hiring manager’s name, you can then go to that person and say “Susan suggested I contact you about the Marketing position.” Voilà. You’ve gone from being a nobody coming in through a blind mailbox to a referral from an internal source. And that is a very, very good thing.
2. Follow People Around
Never send an HR person or hiring manager a generic “I want to link to you” request or an Inmail on first contact. (I get them often—and I delete them.) Instead, when you find someone who could be a vital contact at a company for which you wish to work, make her think you’re already connected—by using groups.
Open her profile, scroll down, and review the groups to which she belongs. If you’re not already a co-member of one of these groups, join one. Once you’re both in the same group, you can email that person directly, even if you’re not actually linked. (Bonus: That person has no way of telling when you’ve joined the group, so your secret that you’ve joined two minutes ago, just to stalk her, is safe with us.)
Then, send a message to the effect of: “Hi there. We’re both members of the Dictionary Lovers group on LinkedIn. I saw that you’re an editor, and I’d love to hear more about how you got started in your career.”
There’s power in this “we’re in this club together” thing. It’s an instant camaraderie that doesn’t make the receiver feel like they’re being ambushed by a cold-call job seeker.
And again, don’t send your resume or suggest that you want a job on the first contact—the goal here is to start a conversation.
3. Spy on Your Interviewer
Everyone loves to talk about themselves. Recognize this, and use LinkedIn to your advantage before an interview or in advance of meeting someone new in person.
Study the profiles of anyone with whom you’re going to meet. Jot down notes and questions that are specific to her personal background. Then, develop some good talking points and questions about a person before you go in to an interview. You can compliment her (“Congratulations on your recent ‘Top 50 to Watch’ award!”), make it clear you’ve done your homework (“So, I understand the last product launch came out of your department”), and build rapport (“You went to Michigan State? So did I!”).
Follow up your LinkedIn trolling with Google searching, reading the person’s company bio, and anything else that can get you some inside scoop. Unearthing a few key facts ahead of time—especially ones that connect you in some way— is only going to help you.
So, go ahead, stalk people (when are you ever going to get that permission again?). It’s the first step to getting you the access you need—and hopefully, the job too. Plus, let’s be honest: it’s really, really fun.