You’ve heard the reports. Employers today are leaning more heavily than ever on their own employees to help them find and recruit exceptional talent. Why? Because in many instances, it’s faster, cheaper and, at least in theory, more likely to result in a hire who excels in the job and aligns well with the culture of the hiring company.
This is promising and cool news for those among us who seem to know everyone and aren’t afraid to ask our people to serve as an “in” for a dream job. But what about those of us who don’t know many people? Who are moving to a new city, changing careers, or just, well, aren’t dazzling extroverts?
How do you get in that pool of people who, in all likelihood, will be considered first, instead of having to tromp your way in with the herd of others via an online application?
Strap on your gumption, folks, we’re about to get down with a little networking here. You want to be in the “in” club? Well, then, you’ve got show up for the game. You’ve got to find someone at that company you adore, and quickly (and non-offensively) endear yourself to him or her.
Here are six steps to cultivating your “in” at a company of interest.
Step 1: Race Over to the Search Box on LinkedIn
We have no better tool available to us to help us find people working for the very companies we’d like to join than LinkedIn. So, take advantage of it!
Key the company of interest’s name into the search box and, when the results come up, refine the search by checking the box that only shows you people currently working at that company.
If you have a 1st degree connection, you’re in business. Contact your person and ask for an introduction. (Here’s how.)
Step 2: Assuming You Don’t Have a 1st Degree Connection, Try For a 2nd
If you don’t have a 1st degree connection, that's OK: Your 2nd degree connections can be equally valuable. When you discover that you’ve got a 2nd degree connection to someone working at your dream company, simply contact you shared connection (your 1st degree connection), ask him how well he knows this person, and see if he’d be willing to introduce you. (And here’s how you do that!)
Step 3: If You Don’t Have a 2nd Degree Connection, Try for a Group Connection
This is a magical way to get in touch with people you’ve not yet met. If you have no 1st or 2nd degree connections, find someone working for the company of interest, preferably someone who appears to work in the same department (would-be peers are excellent choices for this approach). Now, scroll to the bottom of her profile and check out her Groups. If you are already both members of a Group, terrific. If not, join one of the same Groups she’s in.
Why? Because when you share a Group affiliation through LinkedIn, you can contact fellow members directly.
Step 4: Approach Like an Affable, Genuine, and Sane Person
You’ve got your in. Now, how do you approach? Like a human, that’s how. Like a human who is not ambushing another human.
When you have the 2nd degree connection, try something like this:
Hi Joel. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I’d really just love to ask a couple of quick questions about your experience working with XYZ Company.
When you have only the shared Group affiliation, consider something more like this:
Hi Sherri. You and I are both members of the Geek Austin Group here on LinkedIn. [Writer’s note: That’s a real thing.] I notice that you work for Yodle. I absolutely love Yodle—may I ask you two very quick questions about your experience working there?
In short—approach in a way that doesn’t make the person feel like you’re asking for the moon or any weirdly forward favors. You don’t know this person yet. You need to build rapport.
Step 5: Keep the Banter Going for a Bit
Your goal in this stage is to continue building rapport and help the person become familiar with you. It’s the chit-chat stage of this process. It doesn’t have to last forever, but a little back and forth about the company, what you both do, your shared interests, and so on will likely go a long way when it comes to having someone vouch for you.
Step 6: Go in for the “Ask”
After you’ve achieved a bit of banter, now (and only now) is the time to ask for the “in.” One way to go about this:
Thanks so much, Sherri. It’s been great talking with you. Hey, I noticed that Yodle is looking for a client services manager. Would you happen to know the person I should talk with to get some additional information on this position?
Assuming Sherri knows, you end this conversation and go right to that contact, letting her know you’ve just spoken with Sherri. And, voilà!
You have an “in.”
And that’s what you want to go for. Every single time.