These days, simply applying via a job site and hoping for the best is like trying to get a date by slipping your phone number in with the junk mail.
Assuming you don’t already personally know someone who works at your target company, how do you get your resume past the front door and into the hands of a live human being who actually cares?
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First, go ahead and submit your resume through whatever front door email address or job site is recommended—you need to get into the official HR system.
Often these sites will have a staff page under the About Us or Contact Us section. Look for someone in the division you want to join and/or a human resources manager. If they list email addresses, consider yourself lucky. Write a pleasant email as modeled below.
If you only find names, continue to the next step. If you can’t even find a name, try typing “Human Resources Manager, X Company” into a search engine. Sometimes you’ll find a hiring announcement for the contact or a conference he attended.
Type that person’s name into Facebook or LinkedIn and see if he pops up among your existing connections. If you’re lucky enough to already have mutual colleagues or friends, ask your friend to virtually introduce you.
LinkedIn is your best bet as it shows you how professionally related you are to other members, even if that connection involves several Kevin Bacon–like degrees of separation.
If someone at the company you’re targeting is a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend, LinkedIn will show you…and it’s a start.
If you can’t find the person on those sites, just try Googling his name.
Some may find this kind of search-and-discover method annoying, so be gentle. Others may actually be impressed.
Vicki Salemi, a HR veteran and author of Big Career in the Big City: Land a Job and Get a Life in New York, says, “If you’re gunning for a job in media, what better way to show your future employer your savvy researching skills than getting on their radar screen with a little hard work and ingenuity?”
Here’s a sample note to send to this virtual job-search-guardian-angel. Remember: You’re just asking for help in the form of a referral; you’re not asking this person to personally consider you or review your resume.
I see we both know (friend’s name). I hope you don’t mind my boldness, but I noticed an opening at (your company) for which I consider myself a perfect match, given my skills and experience. Can you help me get my resume into the hands of the right person? I can be reached at (email address). Thanks so much for your help!
(If you have no mutual friends, just write the same note without the first line.)
In Good Company
If you only have the name of the company, search Facebook and filter your results by “People.” Only people who work there will bother listing it as an affiliated “network.”
If the company has a Facebook “group page” or “fan page,” become a fan or member and look at the page’s administrators or other fans for people who might list the company in their network—a sure sign of a human employee.
Roberta Chinsky Matuson, a job search mentor and the CEO of Matuson Consulting, recommends using Facebook even more broadly, but to be careful.
“Remind your friends on Facebook that you are looking to make connections,” she says. “However, if your job search is confidential, you are best off sending personal messages to limit the likelihood that your current employer will find out about your search.”
Also, make sure your own Facebook page has nothing offensive on it, or at least adjust your privacy settings to put your best public face forward. Don’t allow prospective employers or colleagues to see anything on your Facebook page that you wouldn’t want known during an interview.
Of course, there’s no guarantee your new “friend” won’t just refer you to that stuffed inbox anyway, but most of the folks I’ve contacted this way are happy to help as long as you limit their hassle.
In other words, don’t ask them for more information, to vouch for you or to consider the resume themselves. You just want their help to get your resume “into the right hands.”
If you see a job posted on Twitter, “contact [the page administrator] and ask who the hiring manager is; it works 25 percent of the time,” says Adriana Llames, a career coach and author of Career Sudoku: 9 Ways to Win the Job Search Game.
Salemi agrees Twitter is a valuable tool for job-seekers. “Most recruiters are on Twitter right now, so it’s important to start developing an online relationship with them so they know who you are,” she says.
“Retweet their posts, send them friendly little tweets—nothing as blatant as “hire me” but instead, tweet an article and let them know it may be of interest to them.”
With patience, tenacity, luck and a friendly writing style, you could soon be sending your resume to a real, live human being instead of an email address.
When it comes to professional networking, keep your friends close and your “friends” closer, and soon those other job hopefuls could be eating your virtual dust.
Ready to take your resume and job hunt to the next level? Check out Mediabistro’s Career Services, where our career experts transform your resume, cover letter and social profiles into a professional package employers can’t resist.