Ask the Headhunter: How can I find hidden jobs?

Photo by Matthew Staver/Bloomberg.

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

Question: There are a few companies I'd like to work for to which I have submitted my resume. Recently I went to an industry-related meeting and I met a hiring manager at one of these companies. He wants me to interview with him and I explained that I had already submitted my resume for a job with his group three months ago. He said he had never seen it. It seems that even if you're qualified, HR can't read and forward your resume to the right manager. How do you identify who the appropriate managers are inside a large company?

Nick Corcodilos: Oh, I love your question! It comes with a built-in answer and it's staring you in the face. Better yet, it's an answer that summarizes so much of what we talk about here on Ask The Headhunter.

Why are you confused about identifying the right managers? When you go to industry or professional meetings, conferences or training programs, the managers are right in front of you. That's where you'll meet people who want to work with you. That's how you'll cut through the HR red tape. It's how to make the personal contacts that render the HR channel — and job boards and automated applicant tracking systems — unnecessary.

Managers read resumes that HR gives them. But they prefer to interview and hire people they've already met in a professional context. (See "Is 'whom you know' the wrong way to get hired?") To avoid HR and its inability to judge candidates, you must go meet managers where they hang out.

Your challenge, while you're standing there in front of the right manager, is to schedule a meeting. Ask for it. Ask what day the manager would like to interview you. Get the manager's phone number and email address. Follow up to confirm the meeting. Include your resume so you're sure the manager has it. Notice that HR is not involved. (The manager can bring in HR if necessary. It's not for you to worry about.)

Focus all your efforts on going to places where good managers are, and meet them. Let them recruit you. That's where real "career power" lies.

Of course, you could also suggest an impromptu interview right then and there, after the meeting you're both attending.

It's so refreshing to meet a manager at a professional function who can actually schedule an interview with you. Why would you ever want to send out another resume with the hope that the right manager will ever see it? Instead, focus all your efforts on going to places where good managers are, and meet them. Let them recruit you. That's where real "career power" lies.

People wonder where so-called "hidden jobs" are hidden. In fact, they're not hidden at all. They're just invisible until you actively go look for them by talking with insiders who would love to help a company fill them, if only they knew enough about you to refer you. In "Fearless Job Hunting, Book 3: Get in The Door (way ahead of your competition)," I offer this suggestion about how to make more such contacts:

Jobs come from people who know you. Look for articles written by (or about) people who work at your target company. ([Many] articles usually include a brief bio about the author.) E-mail or call. Ask about the article they wrote and about their company. Get some recommendations about who else you might talk with, either at that company, or in another.

Here's the big secret: Don't ask for a job lead. Instead, talk shop! Talk about ideas in the article, about your work, and about the work the insider does. While your competition is busy e-mailing resumes, you're developing a relationship with someone who does the work you want to do, who can actually help you. Suddenly, an insider knows you because you took time to get in touch to talk shop. It's in such conversations that hidden jobs surface.

To explore other ways to make productive contacts like this, see "Meet the right people."

Dear Readers: Some complain to me that this "personal contacts" approach to managers is unfair, awkward and impossible for some people to use. I say it's a matter of practice and being willing to do the work required to introduce yourself to an employer in a credible, honest way. Have you ever gotten interviews through such face-to-face contacts? What kinds of industry or professional meetings can you attend to advance your career?

Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth "how to" PDF books are available on his website: "How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you," "How Can I Change Careers?", "Keep Your Salary Under Wraps" and "Fearless Job Hunting."

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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