Archive for July, 2011

Before You Apply for that Posted Position…

July 15, 2011

Earlier this month, a good friend of mine was laid off from his long held position.  Over the years, he received accolades, promotions, and salary increases.  Yet, the company, acquired two times over, was now subject to consolidation by its gargantuan parent company.

I give my friend a lot of credit.  He didn’t panic.  He didn’t become belligerent or jaded.  In short order, he picked himself up and started the journey to seek his career’s next chapter.  Naturally, he updated his resume and perused the job sites, just like anyone else in his predicament.  Without any coaching, he did two other things that all newly minted job seekers should do.  First, he let his network know of his status as well as the kinds of roles that would make sense for him moving forward.  Secondly, he researched companies and formed a target list.  This is where the story gets interesting.

One of the companies on his target list had a posting on the Careers section of their web site that would make for an ideal fit.  What would you do at this juncture?  Of course, you’d apply for the position.  Luckily, that’s not what my friend ended up doing.  Instead, he first reached out to several well-connected members of his network, including me, and asked if we had any additional insight into the company.

That was a good question to ask, but not the best.  He was about to submit his resume when I stopped him.  Before applying for the position and having his resume thrown into a virtual pile along with 50 or 100 other suitably qualified candidates, he went back to his trusted network and asked a simple yet critical question:  “Do you, or someone in your network, happen to know anyone at the company?”  For all he knew, one of us might know a recruiter that had an established relationship with the company.

If not, there are two viable alternatives.  There may be a recruiter who works with similar companies and may be able to prospect their way into the company.  But if the recruiter angle doesn’t pan out, how about contacting someone who actually works at the company and seeing if they’d be open to advocating for you?  As we all know, most companies have an internal employee referral program in place, providing a financial incentive for employees to recommend people for open positions.  Why not try to engage with an employee, since they’d have a vested interest in your getting hired?

This is precisely what we did.  We reached out and connected with a 6-year employee at the company who was more than happy to speak with my friend.  After their phone call, the employee was convinced that my friend could indeed make for a compelling candidate for the open position and he delivered my friend’s resume personally to the powers that be.  The very next day, my friend had a phone interview with the HR Manager, who, like our internal advocate, agreed that there may be a fit, and moved the process forward by delivering the resume to the hiring manager along with the recommendation to interview my friend.

Will my friend get the job?  Time will tell.  Regardless, we got him in the door, breaking through the resume “noise” and enabling him to stand out.  Needless to say, a recommendation by an internal employee in good standing will invariably carry significant weight.  Naturally, if you go with this tactic, you certainly run the risk of hooking up with an employee who is not well-regarded in the company.  In this case, the employee who engaged with us has been with the company for a while and during that time, has been promoted twice.

The point to all of this is that job seeking necessitates not only preparedness and research, but also resourcefulness and creativity.  There are many ways to initiate contact with a target company – informational meetings with executives or employees, trade shows, recruiters, social networking, and your own network.  Bear in mind this can only be accomplished well by maintaining a positive mental attitude, a common sense quality yet one that, during challenging personal or professional times, often melts away like an ice cube on a sidewalk in July.  The other point is you don’t have to break any rules or do anything outlandish to get your foot in the door.  It’s all about making the most of your network.  So before you apply for that posted position, consider your options and ask for advice.  You’re not alone.


Action items:

1.  Keep people in your network aware of your job-seeking status, along with what they should be looking for.  The more people who become aware of your goals, the more likely it is that your goals will come to fruition.

2.  Remain vigilant on preserving a positive mental attitude.  Every day, do something to keep the job-hunting momentum moving forward.

3.  On a regular basis, research companies and update your target list.  Whether or not these companies have posted a position that’s right for you, seek out ways to initiate contact, whether it be an informational interview, a lunch, or a member of your network helping to create an in.

4.  Applying for a position directly should be your last resort, not your first.