Ask the Headhunter: How to make a personal connection with an employer even if the job listing forbids it
In this special Making Sen$e 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: You always advocate bypassing the personnel department and approaching the manager of the department that you would be working for. Many job postings now specifically rule out making any approach to anyone working in the firm. What action would you recommend in cases like this?
Nick Corcodilos: Maybe it's because I came of age during a time of social activism, but I always question authority. You should do the same when job hunting, because the system behind recruiting and hiring is an unreasonable obstacle that hurts you.
If job postings warn you not to call anyone, consider who wrote the posting. It's almost always a personnel clerk — not the hiring manager. So how do you know what that manager wants?
I've never encountered a manager who would hang up on a good job candidate who called to discuss a job in a knowledgeable and respectful way. So it's really up to you: Is it worth it to you to take a calculated risk?
Maybe you don't want to rile anyone who will be involved in the hiring process, and it's possible that a manager doesn't want to be called by applicants for fear of getting 50 calls a day. Nonetheless, it's still to your advantage to bypass personnel and get to the manager.
You can do that without contacting the manager yourself. Go through someone who knows the manager. Someone who will open the door.
This is not the first time I've suggested that personal contacts are a crucial part of winning a job. (See "How can shy people make job contacts?") No matter what the rules are and no matter how tight a grip the HR department has on the hiring process, a manager is not going to ignore a good recommendation from a trusted colleague.
The colleague may be an employee, another manager, a respected vendor, a customer or anyone the manager and the company do business with. Those are the people you must get to know. They can always get you in the door ahead of your competition — no matter what the job posting says.
I can see you cringing. How am I going to do that?
I didn't say it was easy. But neither is the job you want. So do the hard work now. The person who gets the job will likely be the person recommended by someone the manager knows.
I strongly suggest you sit down where it's quiet and think this through. The best way to figure it out is by yourself — it's a business challenge, and you're good at your business, right? At least try. How can you find and talk with people connected to this company, people who can introduce you to someone who can introduce you to the manager?
Okay, here's a cheat sheet: "Getting in the door." But do yourself a favor. Before you read that article, try to figure it out. Your own method might be more potent, because it's customized to you.
My advice is to find better ways to get to the manager than the blind channel that was set up by HR. In almost every case, the candidate who can talk with the manager in advance has the edge.
Dear Readers: Do you follow all the rules when you apply for jobs? How do you go around the system? What works?
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," "Keep Your Salary Under Wraps," "How Can I Change Careers?" and "Fearless Job Hunting."
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