August 29, 2011
Chances are, you're talking to the wrong people
How many times have you counted on contacts at a prospective employer only to find out they're useless when you really need them? Have you ever tried to get information on a company's hiring process or interview questions, for example, or asked someone to pass along your resume to the hiring manager, but gotten nowhere?
All too often, job seekers' contacts aren't influential enough or high enough on the food chain to help them. Even if you have contacts in HR or know third-party recruiters, they typically follow companies' strict hiring guidelines and can't (or won't) help you.
At large organizations, contacts at the staff or middle-management level tend to not make introductions. When they do, employers don't take them seriously. As many companies reward employees for them, referrals are viewed more as a means of acquiring a bonus rather than recommending the best talent.
So what should you do? If you've been reading my column for a while, you're probably guessing that I'd recommend leveraging your influential contacts -- and you'd be right. Not only are these valuable contacts key decision makers, they also give you, the candidate, an awesome halo effect.
The term "halo effect" means that your credibility is significantly boosted simply because of the reputation of the person recommending you. An introduction by an influential leader or well-connected executive could determine how seriously the company will view your application.
You should strive to build contacts at the executive or senior management level of your target organizations. Knowing a lower-level employee at Amazon or Starbucks, for instance, isn't sufficient for getting a job with either of those companies.
Use tools such as LinkedIn to research people at the director level and above who might prove useful to you. Read "How to make the right contacts" and "How to make the right contacts, part 2" for tips on how to develop a relationship with these people if you don't already have contacts who can introduce you to them.
What's important isn't necessarily having a contact at your target organization. It's having the right contact -- one who can bend the hiring rules and give you that halo.
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.
- career profile (155)
- cool jobs (53)
- education and training (57)
- entry level (66)
- etiquette (97)
- events (70)
- featured (329)
- finding your passion (89)
- health care (70)
- interviewing (78)
- job fairs (54)
- management (73)
- market trends (89)
- networking (261)
- resumes (94)
- salary (80)
- social media (79)
- technology (103)
- unemployment (53)
- work/life balance (86)