In the March 5, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader wastes time begging HR.

Question

Can I re-apply for a job if there are vacancies still open after my application has been turned down?

HRNick’s Reply

Of course you can. But why would you want to? Fool me once, fool me twice — you’ve already learned this company chews up applications and spits them out without even talking to the applicant.

Think about this: The hiring manager probably doesn’t even know you applied! The manager probably has never seen your resume! A personnel clerk with no expertise in the work you do (or in the open job) put a big X on your application.

But there’s a smart alternative: Go around Human Resources (HR). Go around the job application form.

Go around the system

The conventional advice on this problem is that if HR has already rejected you, you shouldn’t waste your time. But that’s like the boy who shows up to a girl’s house to ask her on a date — and the gardener shoos him away, so he gives up.

Personnel jockeys don’t control the jobs, so don’t let their officious posturing convince you that they do. They control the applications — but don’t go that route! Don’t take no for an answer until you hear it straight from the hiring manager.

Go around HR

Get in the door without an application, and without facing the “job application meat grinder software.” Here are the basic steps for going around the system — though they are not for the meek.

1. Throw out your resume.

The average time a manager spends reading a resume is six seconds. It’s not a good way to get in the door. (See Tear your resume in half.) Don’t use a resume.

2. Don’t apply for jobs. Find problems to solve.

You have millions of competitors applying for millions of jobs, so stop competing with them. Don’t submit job applications. Instead, read the business and industry press. Find a handful of companies that have specific, well-publicized problems. Decide how you can help solve those problems. (If you can’t figure that out, then that company or job is not for you.)

3. Find the managers.

HR will tell you you’re not allowed to contact hiring managers directly. That’s the best reason to contact the managers directly! But don’t ask the managers for a job. Talk shop. Explain that you’ve learned about their problem. (See How to get to the hiring manager.)

4. Offer a solution.

Whether in person, by phone or e-mail (in that order of preference) briefly explain to the manager how you can help solve the problem. Outline your solution in 3-5 steps. Don’t give all the details — but your summary had better be good.

5. Ask for a 20-minute meeting, not a job interview.

“If you’ll spend 20 minutes with me, I’ll show you why I’d be a profitable hire. If I can’t prove it to you in those 20 minutes, I will leave.”

That’s no easy task. But if you can’t show in 20 minutes why you’re worth hiring, then you have no business in that meeting. Of course, you will have to present a more detailed “proof” if the manager is impressed.

Everything else is a waste of time, designed to make busy work for HR that looks like productivity. You can and should apply for a job you believe — and can prove — you can do. But don’t waste your time applying on a form to the HR department.

For more about this approach to landing the job you want, please see Skip The Resume: Triangulate to get in the door.

If you want another shot at another job at this company, of course you can try again! But don’t waste your time with the gate keeper. Go talk to the real decision maker!

Now get to work, because doing what I suggest is hard work — as hard as that great job you want. So do the work to prove you can do the job.

I’d like to hear from those who are willing to invest the time and effort to try what I’ve suggested. Any takers? How do you go around HR?

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32 Comments
  1. It’s desirable yet 99.9% impossible to do so.

  2. It will only work if you can find out the communications channels in the organization. HR is good at controlling who gets to talk to whom. Some firms don’t release their phone numbers. I worked for a firm where it is just a bunch of personal cell phone numbers that is tightly held. I don’t even know who their recruiters are. Just a new co-worker shows up one day.

    • The job I received with the highest salary increase came from the recommendation of someone I used to date. Fortunately my wife was supportive and we are happily married to each other to this day!

  3. “It’s desirable yet 99.9% impossible to do so.”:

    Thats great news! Shotgunning your resume to HR has a 0.0001% success rate, so this path is 1000x more effective!

    You can’t find the contact info on the web, or by emailing people (with exceptions) – you need to have both the info and the role the person plays in the organization.

    The contacts you make are at professional meetings, conferences, networking events, non-work events.

    One of your best resources are salespeople. You might think they don’t want to talk to you unless you are buying, but they get networking, and understand that good people in their organisation means more sales. You can flat out ask them for who the hiring managers are and 90% of the time they will tell you in 30 seconds.

    Read some of Nick’s “How to Say it” resources.

    Bad Approach: Hello Ms Manager – do you have any job openings at Acme Clothes Hangers?

    ATR Approach – What problems do you face in the modern Clothes Hanger Business? Can I think about them for a week, then give you a call with my ideas? (

    • “You can’t find the contact info on the web”

      Very often you can – simply finding their LinkedIn profiles. At least in my business, the oil industry, although it is of course easier the smaller the company. Then read up and contact the manager directly.

      LinkedIn is 90% a mix of inspiration, “I am soooo excited!!!”, self-help, management book bollocks – but the remaining 10% is a useful gateway to contacts and what goes on in the industry.

  4. Hiring manager has two candidates: One says, “It’s 99.9% impossible to do.” The other says, “It’s 0.1% possible, and I’m going to figure it out.”

    Which one gets the job (if the hiring manager is smart, that is).

    ********

    It just seems strange to me whenever anyone naysays posts on AtH. Nick acknowledged that finding the actual hiring manager and demonstrating your value is much more difficult than the usual way people look for work. That is a feature, not a bug. The jobs that are most rewarding are not the ones posted on Monster.

    Actually, it seems strange to me whenever anyone naysays ideas to help people achieve more. “Not everyone can do that!” is treated as a valid counter-argument by some people. That’s true, but everyone can do *something* to improve their lives. Rather than focusing on the things that don’t work for you, why not go looking for the things that do?

    Learning 999 ways not to do something is still learning.

    • That’s a great point. When I was hiring I wanted problem solvers, not people who followed the herd. Not that finding a hiring manager was 99.9% impossible at any place I ever worked. Finding hiring managers or senior technical people who could get you to a hiring manager was easier than finding someone in HR. Assuming you were qualified for the job, that is.

      • @Scott: You’re right! It’s usually easier to find someone who can lead you to the hiring manager than to get in touch with HR!

    • So true! If everyone can do it – why should they hire you? Go for the jobs which not everyone can do.

      When I got my current job, I called the company directly. They…we…had a policy to not forward calls, because otherwise the boss would not have time to do his job, but I got the email address, wrote an email explaining why I was da man, with a special knowledge they could use. One phone call, interviews, offer – the whole thing took a week.

      • @Karsten: “If everyone can do it – why should they hire you? Go for the jobs which not everyone can do.”

        If I had to make a list of 10 most important ideas on Ask The Headhunter, that would be one of them. Most of the time people apply for jobs that loads of others can do. All that does is ensure more competition! It can pay off handsomely to carefully target a job where you can hands-down prove you’d be the best, or a job that will attract few candidates because NOT everyone can do it.

  5. I just applied for a position. The employer left the hiring manager’s name on the job opening. I lookup the manager on LinkedIn. It turns out the manager left 2 weeks ago. Now, the employer has two positions to fill.

    When the manager has left, you’re stuck with the application process.

    One thing I am seeing this week is more job openings where visa applicants will not be consider now or at any time in the future.

    • Or you can go up one level … who knows, with the right approach (i.e., Ask the Headhunter) you might be considered for that newly-opened management position.

    • Hiring manager has departed yet his employees are still there.

      They can be found using linkedin to make contact with which is a 50/50 shot but better than 0%.

  6. Eddie — “It will only work if you can find out the communications channels in the organization.”

    Assuming that’s true (and I would argue it’s not) then the job seeker has a choice: give up, or, identify those channels. If you decide to go for it, then the question becomes, How do you find those channels?

    And the answer to that is through networking and informational interviewing. By networking, I don’t mean going to networking meetings and exchanging business cards or spending all your time at job fairs. And by informational interviewing I don’t mean approaching people, asking if they know of any jobs, and asking if they will pass along your resume.

    To discover what true networking is, and what effective informational interviewing looks like and how it works, spend a good day or two on this site, reading the articles and referenced materials (and seriously consider investing in Nick’s booklets), and if you think there might be something to all this, read the following books in the order shown: 1) What Color is Your Parachute?; 2) Cracking the Hidden Job Market; 3) Smart Networking (Lynch) (and The 2-Hour Job Search for the icing on the cake); 4) The 20-Minute Networking Meeting – Professional Edition.

    In today’s broken and dysfunctional hiring / getting hired world there are two basic paths open to us: find advertised jobs and send in an application, or, network and informational interview (starting, again, by spending quality time on this site).

    We are free to choose which path we will walk down … but … choices have consequences :)

    • This actually happened to me a few years ago. I had applied for a job and didn’t get it, but in the process met the local manager who I would be working for. A few months later I found out the position was open again. I contacted the local the manager, told him I was still interested, and was hired within a week.

      • @James: I can’t tell you how many times a client hired a candidate from some source other than me. That is, another candidate. But I monitored the new hire, watched him or her bail after a week or two — and I was there with my best candidate, ready to fill the job. I’ve filled lots of jobs that way.

        Don’t squander all the work you’ve done already — it takes little work to monitor for a “fall off” and to re-introduce yourself at just the right time!

  7. One tiny quibble to another great column. A resume is still useful for the hiring manager to put into the system. But it comes after the contact is made and after the hiring manager has committed to pushing the candidate, not before. So don’t tear it up, just don’t think it will get you anywhere if you spam it all over the place.

  8. More than once I’ve had great conversations with the hiring manager, whether on the phone or in person (as happened this fall). Then I get told to apply through the ATS, and never hear from them again. And in a few instances over my career when this happens I’ve had a strong enough relationship with the potential hiring manager that I’ve approached them to ask what happened, and it’s usually some form of “I really wanted to talk with you but HR overruled me.” Which shows who “wears the pants” in a company.

    • Dontcha wonder what the board of directors would say if it knew it was spending beaucoup bucks to recruit, while people managers wanted to interview were flushed down the drain?

    • @David Hunt PE: I get this all the time! I have a great meeting/chat with the hiring manager, and then nothing, because HR runs that dog and pony show. Then I’ll see the same job posted again in a couple of months, with the bosses crying about the talent shortage and skills gap, but no one is willing to tell the truth: that the emperor has no clothes, or that HR has commandeered hiring, and won’t let people through, even when the manager wants to move forward.

      This tells me that the manager has zero power in that company, if he has to kowtow to HR when he’s found someone he wants to interview or hire! I used to try to meet HR’s demands, but now just walk away.

      • There’s another problem.

        Those who DO tell the truth get called “angry” or “unmanageable” or “troublemakers”… and in a couple of instances I’ve been told, in other words but the meaning was crystal clear, regarding my speaking out about the treatment of candidates and employees: “Nice job search you have. Be a shame if something… happened to it.”

        I had one recruiter tell me some years ago, point blank, that he suspected that I’ve been blackballed given how hard it was for me to land an interview let alone an offer. I know for a fact that one person, very highly-placed in the plastics industry, presented me to a couple of companies to be told immediately, as in on the phone immediately, that my candidacy would not be accepted. These were said by VPs of HR that the person knew personally, in large multi-national companies.

        Fame at last! :D

        • I, too, have wondered about blackballing.

          • That recruiter told me of a person who, as he was shown the door, was told – paraphrased to protect the recruiter – that the person would not be able to do even menial jobs within an hour of the place.

            That ended up being no idle threat. The person in question, despite being well-qualified in the field, had to relocate partway across the country.

            That same recruiter told me that many HR functions they’ve attended are nothing but “clucking hen” parties where HR people exchange names of people to never touch. Nothing written down, of course, but the damage is done.

            Short story: Many years ago I got let go – fired – by a company over what I think were suspicious circumstances. Let the details go… I got an interview with a company literally down the street. I interviewed well, seemed to have a good rapport with the people I met, answered their technical questions COLD and demonstrated I was above and beyond what they needed.

            Never heard from them. I suspect they called the former employer, HR people in an area being thick as thieves, and got the “coughing code” saying to not hire me.

    • @David: Remember when HR were the first to be canned when the budget needed fixing. Now they have been elevated to the Kings and Queens of the Universe. How the @#$% did THAT happen? Can’t make sense of it.

  9. @David Hunt: Maybe it’s time for hiring managers, supervisors, directors (anybody who’s in position of having somebody report to them–excluding HR of course) to start forming unions the sole purpose of which is to regain control of the hiring process. “Mr. President/CEO, here are our demands regarding the hiring process, from beginning to end. If they’re not met, we all go on strike.”

    It’s time for a little old HR-busting.

  10. Sadly in some companies the so-called hiring manager , your future boss, can be over-ruled by HR. This happened to me. I was on contract and worked six months. At the end of the contract I found another gig, but a few days into that new gig my previous boss (Director Level Exec) invited me back to apply for a permanent position similar to the contract work I had been doing. HR thwarted his efforts to bring me on board, ruling that I was not a good corporate culture fit (TOO OLD !). Idiots.

  11. Nick hi,

    I discovered your ATH website two weeks ago and have been reading every post and public comment since.

    The job situation in the UK has broken down into complete jibbering anarchy because of HR goonery and I have passed the word on to many friends and colleagues to check in here with extreme urgency.

    In terms of job experience and academic achievement I should be effortlessly swimming through a clear blue ocean today by way of career progression – instead I find myself lodged in completely uncharted swamp sludge because of this satanic tryst between HR and the datamining cowboys with their imbecile black magic algorithms.

    Sincere thanks for flagging this up and clarifying the solitary way around the roadblocks – you have literally saved very many people’s sanity.

    Total respect to Nick and all contributors on here.

  12. These comments have just validated, from first-hand experience(s) (David Hunt, others), something I’ve been collecting evidence on for ~20± years.

    Blacklisting is illegal.

    It is a crime.

    It is a felony.

    Blacklisting is a felony at both the federal and many state levels. It is punishable by both imprisonment and fines.

    After ~3.5 decades in IT and business, as both an hands-on technologist and high-level manager, as well as a legal scholar, I am still overwhelmingly amazed at how completely and utterly stupid, and ignorant of the laws of their profession, most recruiters are.

    Yes, spite can and WILL land you in prison. So, go ahead and “ding” that ATS record, blacklist, and keep that mental(ly retarded) DO NOT HIRE list in your f**ked up head, as well as pass that information on at HR “get-togethers” and carry that spite to other jobs. However, don’t be surprised if a Sheriff or US Marshal shows up on your doorstep with an arrest warrant someday. Make no mistake, there are MANY spineless scared idiot recruiters that will turn state’s evidence and name names to protect their own pathetic hide under plea bargains. Take it from one who is finally in the process of obtaining justice after being the target, for years, of heinous horrific recruiters and the companies who support or ignore their malfeasance/criminality.

    Criminal remedies = prison.
    Civil remedies = skid row for the recruiters after I’m done with them.

    I’m sure most recruiters never knew being a recruiter could land one in prison, nor did anyone dream, as a kid playing in the sandbox, of someday becoming an imprisoned recruiter and felon.

    Spite is a two way street.

    Now they’re messing with a son-of-a-bitch.

  13. “Throw out your resume.”
    “The average time a manager spends reading a resume is six seconds. It’s not a good way to get in the door.”

    Good point.

    Though, here is a different tact on the resume. My resume is exceedingly long (purposefully) with details on projects and engineering challenges that are interesting to the folk in my field and directly relevant towards the assessment of my abilities. It even includes a portfolio section, which, in my field is unheard of. Gasp! Structuring the first page, perhaps tuned to the position, is the key.

    Why?

    If the hiring manager is truly interested in building a strong cohesive team, that manager will have read it or at least have a strong indication of “who I am”. If that hiring manager would consider hiring me, as a person, as a potential employee to provide value, they will have read into the details prior to scheduling an in-person interview. At this point, I have already sold my capabilities. They have already sold themselves to me, as well.

    On the other-hand, I’ve had hiring managers complain and state loudly that they have little time and refuse to spend the up-front work to understand my background. They would rather, during an in-person interview, have the candidate repeat what has already be provided. Verbally.

    Why would someone want to work under management that does not have the time to understand who they are hiring? Why would they rather have a candidate expend the time, energy, and money to interview at their site without first expending some effort on their part? Such discourse simply forecasts your place within an organization. It tells you that you are either part of a long-term plan or simply the widget.

    Further, for such “opportunities” at firms where the hiring manager glossed over the resume, there was only a trivial fit to my background with no apparent opportunity for growth when questioned.

    The long resume has served to filter “them”, the tire kickers, out of my queue. I have no problem bucking the conventional wisdom in this way. I feel that I’ve dodged plenty of bullets doing this. Perhaps, I’ve missed a couple of desirable opportunities. But, in the end, I’m fine with it.

    • @Jay: My compliments on your strategic use of a long resume. My advice to anyone that asks how long a resume should be is “long enough that it includes everything the employer needs to make a decision to hire you.” For some, that’s a page. I’ve seen resumes 20+ pages long whose every page was justified. But I love your use of a long resume to test the employer.

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