The best job search strategy is to develop a list of target companies (companies you would like to work for) and then find contacts inside those companies.
This sounds like a lot of work, but it will pay off. Stay with me.
Most job seekers only look at job boards and apply online. But, most companies prefer to hire someone who is referred or an internal candidate. Just imagine if you took the time to find a contact inside the company and they refer you.
There are too many people blasting their resumes at any job posting that looks remotely close. (But I’m sure you don’t do this, right?) To ensure your application doesn’t end up in a black hole you must do more than just submit your resume and cross your fingers. (The solution is at the end of this article.)
A target list forces you to identify companies who are likely to hire for a role you’re interested in (it may not be posted yet). Your goal is to reach out and build connections inside the company BEFORE there is a job opening. This is proactive, rather than reactive. And this doesn’t mean your job search will take longer.
If you want to learn how to find companies to add to your target list, this is my HOW TO create a target list post.
If you are hesitant or doubtful about why this works, just read this New York Times article that explains the power of employee referrals.
Referred candidates are twice as likely to land an interview as other applicants, according to a new study of one large company by three economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. For those who make it to the interview stage, the referred candidates had a 40 percent better chance of being hired than other applicants.
Ready to increase your odds? Here’s what you need to do.
List Companies and Contacts
Before you do anything, make a list of everyone you know inside your target companies. These are the people you want to network with first.
You need to be organized and if you don’t have this information on one list, you’re going to get lost.
There will be a lot of companies where you don’t know anyone. We’re going to fix that. But you have to know what you’ve got to work with.
Finding Names Within Target Companies
Reach Out To People You Know (All of them)
The best contacts are the ones that you have some connection with. These are either past colleagues, friends, family, neighbors. You have a direct relationship with these people and they are more likely to help you. In order to tap into your immediate network, you need to reach out to them and ask for the information you are missing.
One by one, (not in an email blast please) reach out to each individual you know well and ask them who they know that works in the target companies you have listed. No name is a bad name. In other words, it doesn’t matter what role the person holds. They work at the company and can provide insight. Your job is to follow up with every name given and request a short informational meeting to learn about the company (NEVER TO FIND A JOB!)
Never turn down a contact. It’s always best to have multiple contacts inside a company working on your behalf as an ally or informant!
How To Use LinkedIn
1. Find and Follow Your Target Companies
2. Look for the strongest/best connection (someone you know well, or is in the department/area you want to work in).
3. Get introduced to a 2nd-degree connection. If you don’t have any 1st-degree connections, you probably have 2nd-degree connections, (people who know company insiders).
This is what that looks like when you click on “see all employees…” I have lots of 2nd-degree connections. I can either choose someone in who has a similar job title to the one I am looking for or reach out to someone who is a strong connection who knows someone at Google (they’ll be more likely to introduce me). If you know multiple people who could introduce you, always pick the person you know best to ask for an introduction. And send them an email. Most people don’t check LinkedIn messages or ignore them.
4. Check Groups and Education. I share 4 groups with the Product Marketing Manager. This is one more way I could interact with the person. Visit the groups and look for active conversations the person may be participating in. I could get on his/her radar that way too!
When you share a group on LinkedIn, you can usually invite them to connect without sending an InMail (you would need a paid membership to send InMail.)
Your Alumni Network
You can reach out to your alumni office and ask to join their alumni network. These databases allow you to search for people. While the work information may not be as up to date as LinkedIn, the database will probably allow you to email the person you want to reach out to.
LinkedIn’s “See Alumni” function allows you to search for alumni by company, city, job title and more! I’ve described how to use it in The Easiest Way to Research and Find Alumni on LinkedIn
Here’s a screenshot of what you’ll see.
No Connections, No Problem- Meet Them
If you still come up empty-handed, there are some other workarounds.
Use Social Networks
Your mission is to find and follow people across social media platforms you use. Watch them, see what they are doing and share their good news (give to get!)
Be on the lookout for Career Pages on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook Group pages where companies share information about their careers. Once you have established some dialogue, ask if you can contact them offline either via phone, Skype, or email.
- Before you start following every profile, review each one and ask yourself why you would want to follow them and what you expect to learn from them.
- Human Resources and recruiters can make a good point of entry, but don’t stop there. Find people who head up the department or division you want to work in too! Remember, HR, Recruiters and Hiring Managers All Have Different Roles.
- You may want to add “employee” and/or “works at” in your search criteria to pare down the results if there are too many.
Search for People on Twitter
Go back to the person’s LinkedIn profile and look at the “Contact and Personal Info” part of their profile. They may lead you to a personal website, Twitter account or some other site you can connect with them
If you have a Twitter account, use the search bar at the top to search for the person you are interested in connecting with.
Or you can try searching just Twitter bio information by using FollowerWonk.
Search Facebook by Employer
You used to be able to search for people who worked at companies within Facebook. That is no longer possible.
But, you can use Google X-Ray search (outside of Facebook) to search for profiles.
If I wanted to search Facebook for people with Google and Project Manager in their profile information, this is what it would look like:
site:facebook.com/people + “Google” “Project Manager”
This is very basic Boolean. You can use much more specific terms to search the precise parts of the profile information. But I won’t be covering that here.
What If You Find a Job Posting?
There will be occasions when you find a great looking job posted somewhere. But, before you submit your resume,
Take the bull by the horns and find someone inside the company to share what they know or better yet, ask them if they will present you as a candidate for the job. These three posts will help with the details and logic.
Never Just Apply for a Job- Use the 2-Step Method
Find the Back Door for a Job Posting Using LinkedIn
Finding Inside Connections to Help with Your Job Search
It doesn’t matter if you are a college student, dissatisfied with your job, or unemployed. Anyone can reach out to people and ask for an informational meeting.
Ask people who do similar work for their advice. Learn more about how to ask for a meeting in Informational Interviews Are Networking.
Remember, the companies on your list do NOT need to have available jobs at this time. You want to think about what future opportunities you can be first in line for!
A more proactive approach is to find people to meet with BEFORE there is a job posting.
Good hiring managers will often meet with people even if they don’t have any current openings. They do this because they are always scouting for good talent. Will they be willing to meet with you? You have to give them a reason to!
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.