August 13, 2010
Reaching a hiring manager: Flattery is the key when you have to do a "cold call"
Yesterday I spoke at the Washington State Bar Association's monthly Job Seeker Group. An attorney came up to me and asked how he should approach hiring managers when he finds an opening on a company's website.
Approaching a cold lead without an introduction is extremely challenging and can be intimidating. More importantly, approaching a cold lead incorrectly can cost you an opportunity and, in extreme cases, put you on a company's "do not hire" list.
The attorney I spoke with mentioned that he would reach out to partners of the legal firm (a.k.a "hiring managers") and say, "I noticed this opening on your website" and would attach his cover letter and resume. To date, this approach hasn't resulted in getting interviews.
Many job seekers are disappointed when employers do not respond to their application. They somehow think they're among a handful of candidates that are being considered for the opening. If you've read my previous posts, you'll remember that employers are inundated with resumes. So if you're going to stand out by reaching out to decision-makers directly, what's the answer?
Flattery! One of our basic needs as human beings is to feel significant. Most of us get this need met by being recognized by external sources. One thing I'll tell you from experience is that hiring managers don't get acknowledged enough for their hard work and accomplishments. You can establish a relationship with almost anyone by genuinely recognizing and communicating with them about how significant they are.
The keyword is "genuine." People will smell fake flattery from miles away. Others make a mistake by flattering the hiring manager and then quickly changing the conversation to talk about their real agenda. It goes something like this: "Oh my gosh, you are amazing having accomplished such and such," and then they proceed by saying, "By the way, I wanted to talk about what I'm looking for and how you might be able to help me."
You can get a meeting with almost anyone by calling an individual and saying something along the lines of: "I was searching LinkedIn for experts in Project Management and your name came up," or "I've been to several networking events lately and your name keeps coming up." Continue by asking for something small and insert a flattery statement: "I would love to sit down with you for 15 minutes and learn how you accomplished such and such," or, "You're such an inspiration and model for my career. I would love to pick your brain for 15 minutes and learn more about how you did..."
Notice in the examples above that the entire conversation is about the decision maker. You, the candidate, are never mentioned. Hiring managers respond very well to this approach because it feels comfortable, it feels good and it's safe (it's only 15 minutes). If you do a bad job in the first few minutes, they'll tell you, "Hey, I only had a few minutes and I would love to chat, but I'm working on a project right now and have to get back to work." If the first 15 minutes go well, sometimes the meeting can last 30 minutes or longer. In one, instance my client turned a 15-minute meeting into two hours and later into a job offer.
In a future post, I'll give you strategies on how to maximize these meetings so you can turn them into great opportunities and strong sustainable contacts for months and years to come.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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