If you are a job seeker, it pays to look for more than one route to land your job. If you’re lucky and if you’re a perfect match, applying online directly may be the only thing you ever need to do. On the other hand, if you’re stretching to a new role that’s slightly beyond your current experience, you might need a little bit of help to get around Applicant Tracking Systems and disinterested recruiters. Knowing someone on the inside sometimes pays.
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The operative word being “sometimes.” You may know someone in your network that is connected to the job poster, but even so, networking is not a sure-shot way of getting to the interview – especially if it’s not done right.
Here’s how you should connect with your network when you’re looking for a job.
1. Approach With Tact
In general, people like to help, but give them a reason to want to help you. If you reach out to your network out of the blue asking for a favor, then you’re not really going to hear back – unless you’re on very friendly terms with your source.
If you know the person only as an acquaintance, set up a meeting for a casual catch-up. During the meeting, you could bring up that you are looking for opportunities and want to solicit advice. People are more willing to give advice than to make referrals in the first meeting. This will give you an opportunity to follow up with them later. When there’s an opportunity, they’ll think of you.
2. Make It Easy for Them
Don’t send mass emails with generic requests. Emails saying that you are on the market looking for jobs are generally ignored or trashed. If you must connect with your contacts virtually, make the interaction more meaningful and personal. Let them know what exactly you are interested in and how they can help you.
Make it as easy as possible to help you. Share details of the position, the link to the job description, the contact person in their connections who is hiring, and all such relevant detail. Also briefly share your qualifications so your contact can see the fit.
Your contact does not have to be in the same field as you, but she needs to know how you are qualified to fill the job.
3. Connect in 2-D and 3-D
There are many recruiters who are LIONs or LinkedIn Open Networkers. It is easy to connect with such professionals as they intend to expand their network and they welcome connection requests. However, not all such connections lead to interviews.
In your initial connection request, let them know why you are sending an invite to connect. Tell them that you think you would be a good job fit, and would appreciate an informational interview if it fits their schedule.
Connect how your qualifications to their requirements, if possible. Think of this like a cover letter in the connection request box. They may not read it, but in the event they do, you want to utilize that opportunity to your benefit.
4. Get Contacts from Everywhere
Job fairs, job search groups, your friends who may know someone, or your uncle who has a neighbor in the industry are all very valid connections in your network. Tap into as many forums as possible for maximum results.
5. Don’t Give Them a Reason Not to Refer You
If you are a serial job seeker and don’t stick to a company for more than for a few months then referring you for a job may not be in their best interest. It will reflect badly on their ability to gauge capability and organizational fit. If you have flags in your resume, explain the reason behind them when you express your interest. Don’t leave obvious questions unanswered.
6. Wait Before You Follow Up
If there is no reply to your request to connect or a prolonged period of silence after your meeting or get together, don’t be in a hurry to follow up. Believe it or not, people have different priorities and finding you a job or making a referral may not be on top of their list. Have some patience and gently remind them after a reasonable amount of time.
Tell Us What You Think
How did you go about networking while job searching? Do you have any suggestions or experiences to share? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.