In the December 11, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader needs help finding the right hiring manager.
You have said that the key to a successful job search is to contact the person you would work for within an organization, and to show how you can help out. How can I find the hiring manager who has the problems I’ll be able to solve?
Your challenge as a job hunter is not to apply for lots of open jobs. It’s to carefully target the hiring manager that you can help the most. (Yep — that means you must avoid HR!)
Find the hiring manager who needs you
To find a manager who really needs you, it’s best to triangulate. That is, talk to people who know and work for managers who may be relevant to your job search. This includes less obvious contacts, like a company’s customers, vendors, consultants and business partners. They can lead you, or point you, to the hiring manager.
Another productive approach is to read business articles to learn what problems the entire industry is grappling with. Often, these articles will mention names of people who work for or know the company you’re interested in. Call those people. Explain that you are interested in their industry and the company.
These are the people who are well-positioned to introduce you to a manager who needs you. These peripheral people will also help you prepare for a knowledgeable discussion with the hiring manager.
Don’t ask for a job
Here’s the key: Do not ask for a job lead. That almost always triggers one reaction: “Go to our website and fill out the job application form!” That’s the last thing you want to do.
Instead, ask intelligent questions based on what you’ve read, like a peer would. Have a discussion.
- What advice would these folks give someone who wants to work in their business, and perhaps for their company?
- What kinds of help does the company need if it’s to improve its sales or operations?
These discussions will lead you to people who will bring you closer to a particular manager’s inner circle, then to the manager.
When you’re talking to people who work for the manager, you’re getting the information you really need (and a possible introduction).
Meet the right people
How can you do some of the key research, and how do you get ready to meet the people who can lead you to the manager?
The PDF book Fearless Job Hunting, Book 3: Get in The Door (way ahead of your competition includes a section titled, “Meet the right people”, pp. 1-2, that offers this suggestion:
Once I’ve picked the company I want to work for, I’d [like to] have five minutes apiece with: (1) a company engineer who wrote a letter to the editor of a technical publication; (2) the consultant who advises on the company’s finances; (3) the reporter who wrote a local newspaper story about the company.
These are the people who can help you navigate the organization by introducing you to a broad range of employees and managers who work there.
What to say
What should you say that feels natural and sounds friendly when you’re talking with a company insider? Try this:
The PDF book Fearless Job Hunting, Book 1: Jump-Start Your Job Search includes a “How to Say It” tip on p. 8 about how to approach a company insider:
Asking someone for a job lead or for a job interview is awkward. Asking to meet other people who do the work you’re interested in is a different story. It’s natural to express interest in other people’s work. Here’s how to say it:
“I work in [marketing or whatever]. I’m interested in learning more about your marketing department. I think it’s important to get to know people who are among the best in their field. Is there someone in your company’s [marketing] department that you think I should talk with?”
Address the manager’s challenges and problems
Of course, once you’ve spoken with people who lead you to the hiring manager, you must be ready to say something useful to that manager! You must inspire the manager to talk with you about a job:
Two sections of How Can I Change Careers? deal specifically with these issues. (This PDF book is not just for career changers; it’s for anyone who wants to get an edge on changing jobs.) A section about how to “Put a Free Sample in Your Resume”, pp. 23-24 helps you show the manager how you’ll bring profit to the bottom line:
You have to clearly understand what makes your work and abilities valuable to companies in your field. Don’t just think about your skills. Think about how you have used your skills to help an employer succeed and be more profitable. Make a list. But don’t put that on your resume; that’s just more historical stuff. Just because you helped your last employer is no proof that you can help me. You need to package the information in a way that says explicitly to a prospective employer: “This is what I can do for you.”
Before you can deliver this job-offer-eliciting gift, you need to understand an employer’s needs. That means understanding the problems and challenges his company faces. And that can take quite a bit of research. Do it. There are no shortcuts to delivering value.
Talk to insiders to meet hiring managers
When headhunters search for good job candidates, they first study the business by talking to people in it — especially the movers and shakers. The secret is to talk shop and to demonstrate that your focus is on the work. This is what makes company insiders open the door to the right candidates.
Just as naturally, such insider conversations about a company’s problems and challenges will lead you to people who know the right managers — the managers you can help.
Yep, this is a lot of work. But so is that great job you want. There’s no better way to show your initiative, or to get an edge on your competition, than to find and meet the right managers through people they know and trust.
How do you get to the right manager to discuss a job? Is it even possible? If you’re a hiring manager, what’s the best way for a job seeker to get your attention directly?