The first tip that most job seekers receive is simple: If you know someone at a company you want to work for, ask for an introduction. And it’s something that I took to heart early in my career. The prospect of sending application after application to an ATS quickly became exhausting, so I thought to myself, “Hey, I’ll send emails to everyone I know at all of the companies I’ve noticed are hiring.”
But over time, I also realized that I had asked the same handful of people for a lot of introductions to their connections. While that instantly made me feel bad, it also encouraged me look back at our exchanges and see where I went right—and where I went wrong. It wasn’t hard to spot trends. So I turned those observations into advice that’ll help you better deal with that well-meaning person who keeps asking you to send a “quick” intro email.
Ask What Kind of Role He or She Has in Mind
I’ve been told that I can be a little too generous about making introductions for people. At first, I said, “No way. I’ll do it whenever I can because I know how tough the job search can be.” And for a little while, none of my connections seemed to mind very much. But then a pretty problem reared its head—contact after contact would reply and say, “This is great, but what role is your person interested in?” And when I’d go back to that person to ask, he or she would reply, “Oh, I’d be up for anything.”
This doesn’t put you in a particularly good position to follow up on the introduction request, let alone make any recommendation for that person. So, while it’s commendable that you want to help, don’t be afraid to push back and ask for a little more intel about the job(s) he or she is interested in before reaching out.
Set Up a Coffee Meeting
Disclaimer: As someone who is married and has two jobs, I totally understand that coffee meetings with everyone who asks you for an introduction to a contact aren’t feasible. The funny thing is that they’re typically just as unrealistic for those people who aimlessly ask you to connect them to the hiring managers in your life.
So, if someone keeps sending you requests for intros, take a page out of my book and ask that person if he or she would be open to meeting for coffee to discuss their career goals and desired trajectory. One of two things will happen. He or she might accept gladly, which will force that person to think a little more critically about what he or she wants. Or, the person will be so shocked by the response that he or she will back away from the request.
Be Honest About Why You’re Not Going to Do It
A few months ago, I did something I thought I’d never do: I told a friend of a friend that I didn’t believe that making an introduction for a particular job would be a good idea. I tried to be as honest as possible. For starters, the cover letter I read was totally generic, even though I had sent over a particular opening at my company.
Additionally, all of the materials I received were tough to open on my laptop. So rather than digging around for solutions to this technical issue (which should’ve been resolved long before I received this email), I decided a little dose of honesty was best and sent back the following:
Dear Friend of a Friend,
Thanks so much for sending over your resume and cover letter. I took a close look, and based on the requirements of the role, I don’t think it would be a good fit. However, I’m always on the lookout for jobs that might be interesting to people I know, so I’m on the case and will let you know if anything comes up!
I felt guilty at first, but it also reminded me of all the requests that I’ve sent to people I considered friends that went completely unanswered. Even if you have to deliver a bit of bad news, that’s a much better experience for that person than radio silence—especially if he or she can learn from it.
If you’re reading this because you’re at a loss for how to deal with someone who keeps asking for introductions, you should be commended for making an effort to find a nice way to respond. I, for one, wasn’t always good about it. In fact, I’m sure I could give you a fairly lengthy list of names to reach out to if you want to hear some early stories of how I was, um, not very nice at all.
Even if you fall into that category right now, don’t worry—it’s totally understandable if you’re getting tired of sending out these email for someone who’s not meeting you halfway. And ultimately, you’ll help them even more by approaching the conversation with a little bit of patience, and if necessary, a good dose of truth.
Photo of annoyed person courtesy of PhotoAlto/Getty Images.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.More from this Author