Finding a new job can be a very stressful situation. There are all the questions, getting time off from your current role, references etc. However sometimes the hardest thing to do is even get to that first interview. Anyone who has ever applied for jobs they have wanted knows the feeling of setting up a profile, tediously filling out page after page of information (often its information available in the resume you have already uploaded), submitting your application, feeling really good about your chances just to never hear anything back from the company. Sometimes you won’t even get the rejection letter. You will have just invested a bunch of time to never hear anything.
Now there are many reasons why something like this can happen. Perhaps they hired somebody internally. I used to work for a company where about 40% of their hires where internal but many of the roles were posted for compliance reasons. So many applicants applied just to end up not being considered for the role. The other thing that might happen is you might just apply too late. If a role has been open for a month and you apply, its highly likely they have gone through the first round of interviews are proceeding to onsite interviews at which point looking through the new applicants becomes a relatively low priority. Another thing that can happen is a role is posted and the company decides not to fill the role for business reasons and for whatever reasons the position is left out there for a while, again, this means the likelihood of you hearing from the company would be pretty low.
So now you are probably thinking, ok Ben, that sounds terrible, how can we avoid this? That’s a great question and one I will spend the rest of the post explaining. Most people think that the single most important factor is being absolutely qualified for the role. While important, that’s not it. In fact, imagine you are only one of fifteen qualified people who have applied. They might not even call you just because they are interested in the other candidates. Other people think that its applying right away, as soon as the post opens. Again, this is very important but it’s not the most important thing. Being at the very top of the list doesn’t mean the recruiter will look at your resume, compare it with your contemporaries who have also applied and not just happen to favor what they feel those other candidates will bring to the table.
While both of those are certainly good things to have going for you, in my opinion they are not the one single factor that is most likely to guarantee you initial entrance into the hiring process. That one thing is being a referral. I cannot tell you how many times I have had someone drop off a resume at my desk or send me an email saying, hey Ben, this person is a referral from (Insert important title here), we would like you to interview them for (insert job they may or may not be qualified for). In my six years of recruiting I have seen that person get the job so many times and they are almost guaranteed to at least get an interview. So the big takeaway there is if you know someone who works for the company you want to interview with you absolutely should be reaching out to them to try and get an interview. The higher up in the company the person is, typically, the higher the likelihood is that you get that interview and maybe the job.
Now some of you are saying right now, well Ben, I don’t know anyone at ABC Company and I still want to work there, what do I do? Another great question. While yes, it’s ideal that your best friend is the VP of Marketing, many times you aren’t close with anyone who works at said company, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t still attempt to go after the referral route. Hopefully you have a LinkedIn account and have been relatively active on it. If you have perhaps you know someone who works at ABC Company and if you don’t know them, maybe it’s someone in your network and you can still approach them about the role. Let me explain not only how you can find them but then also approach them if you only happen to know them via LinkedIn. (PS. This works better if you have a strong LinkedIn profile since they will probably go to your page after you message them and it obviously benefits you to have a solid looking LinkedIn profile. If you need help optimizing your LinkedIn profile, check out this link, Service Offerings and look specifically at LinkedIn Optimization). So first things first go sign in to LinkedIn and go to the top of the page where it has the search bar. Next to the search bar is the “Advanced” button, click on that and it will bring up the menu below
See where it said company, type in the name of the current company, fix the location to be your targeted location and search. It will bring up a list of people who work at the company. In addition to that it will put all your first connections first and your second connections second etc. Now, best case scenario is you do actually happen to know someone who works at the company. Problem solved! Give them a call and prepare for that interview. If not it’s not the end of the world. Look at your first connections, any one of these people might be your path into the company.
What you want to do is take at their LinkedIn profile. What do you have in common? Did you go to the same school, perhaps share a past company or be in a LinkedIn group together? Find what you have in common and craft a nice message and send it to them. For example “hey Bill, you and I happened to be connected on here and I happened to notice we actually both attended Ball State University, small world! I wanted to reach out to you because I noticed your company is looking to hire (insert dream job) and after looking at the job description I am pretty convinced I would be an excellent fit. I wanted to reach out to you to ask if you knew where your company is in the hiring process, I would love to get a chance to interview. Any help would be appreciated. All the best! Ben”. It doesn’t have to be exactly that obviously but something to that effect that demonstrates common ground, your interest and belief that you would excel in the role and a not so subtle but polite hint that you would be interested in some help. At this point their response will tell you everything you need to know about their willingness to help. If they aren’t, perhaps try another one of your connections.
For a lot of people this approach might be a little too forward but I say why not. What is LinkedIn for if you can’t use it to network and progress your career? Also what’s the worst that can happen, they remove you as a connection? If they aren’t willing to help you get noticed for a job you are qualified for at their company how useful of a connection were they in the first place. Not only does it not hurt in my opinion but it is also the fastest way to guarantee an onsite interview. In life it often pays to be aggressive. Remember fortune favors the bold. If you want that job, go make it happen!