The career you always wanted is within reach, but only if you can get to the right people. That’s hard when all you can do is submit a job application that goes off into cyberspace. Tired of resume services making your application disappear into cyberspace and gatekeepers who never put you in touch with the right person?
You’ve got to do more than apply—you’ve got to connect, whether it is to alert the human resources director to your application or to the head of a department to introduce yourself and what you have to offer. How can you get their names and contact information when the company doesn’t share it on their website? Cyberstalk within reason, of course.
These tips can help you leverage the Internet so you show up front and center in front of the right person.
Use Alumni Associations
Marilyn V. Santiesteban , the assistant director of career services at The Bush School at Texas A&M, said to use the LinkedIn’s alumni feature. It can show you alumni by location, where they work, what they do, what they studied and more. Even if you didn’t go to their school, this can give you the names of people to connect with.
Santiesteban, a former gatekeeper for a CEO, knows all about how to—and how not to—get past people in her role. Sometimes you may want to find the HR person and give them a head’s up about your application, but you may be better off finding the department director and making a connection there. Whomever you contact, Santiesteban said to find commonalities and use those topics to connect on. Plus, be honest about what you want. (You don’t have to mention that you both enjoy volunteering, sometimes you can connect simply by requesting what you want.)
Whatever You Do, Use LinkedIn
While other social media platforms and Google searches can help, LinkedIn gives you specific information about people in certain roles. “Linked offers a ton of information—most people don’t mine it,” Santiesteban said. In my own career, finding the magazine editor who handles specific pitches is key. I have been able to nail down the names of magazine editors and then email them directly as a result of the information I found on LinkedIn. Because people constantly change roles, having updated information can make or break your career—so take advantage of it. Try searching for people based on titles or companies, then go into their contact information to snag an email address. (No email address? Follow the corporate email format by Googling other contacts online or combing the company’s website. For example, sometimes they’ll give you the hiring manager’s email address online, so I just use that format to guesstimate a person’s email address—it usually works!)
Find a Common Thread
Finding the name of a contact is half the battle; from there, you can use that information to make a connection. “You can use both LinkedIn and Facebook to gather information that will help you get the job,” Staci McIntosh, author of the One-Hour Handbook series. “We know from research that unconsciously, panels tend to hire people who look and sound like themselves. As a result, people who are similar to the panelists are more likely to be hired. Your goal is to find those similarities and weave them into your interview small-talk or examples.” But you don’t have to! Sometimes finding the right person to contact—then inquiring directly about what you need—is all it takes to alert them to your job application or inquire about other opportunities.
Share the Details—But Not Too Much
Once you get in touch with an individual, be cautious about sharing details on what you know about them from your online search. While it’s okay to browse a person’s Twitter feed to get a feel for what they like and weave those things into the conversation, you don’t want to come off as a true cyberstalker.
“II was on one interview where it was very clear the candidate had thoroughly researched each panelist’s Facebook page. It felt creepy when she shook each person’s hand and said, ‘Oh I know you. I love your dogs! I have two dogs just like that!’” McIntosh said. “She had a comment for every panelist. I applaud her initiative, but the way she implemented it failed.”
On the flip side, McIntosh has used the internet to find more information about someone interviewing her. When the interviewer had no social media presence, she Googled him and found an old newspaper clipping related to her hometown’s local baseball team. They had that connection, so she used it in conversation. “I found out later he was very impressed that I took the time to find out such an obscure fun fact,” she added.
Once you make personal contact and connect, that introduction may help your application from getting lost in a cyber sea. That may make all the difference in getting the gig you want—or taking your career to the next level.