Getting past the company gatekeeper can be the most frustrating, confounding part of a job search. You make personal contacts inside an organization, you call and send emails, and nevertheless can’t get past a wall of silence.
It’s the tough truth for job seekers: even if you play all of your best cards, chances are you will be stopped at the gate at least half of the time. But it’s essential to keep plugging– and if someone the organization knows and trusts recommends you, it can help you get your foot in the door for that first interview. What can you do to get ahead of the competition?
Tap your friends and family, and use LinkedIn. On LinkedIn, type the company name into the search field, click the “search people for” note in the pull-down menu and you will instantly see your connections to the company. Your goal is to find a contact who can pluck your résumé out of the gatekeeper’s hands and put it on the top of the pile. On the company’s website, check out the investor relations page and the company news links to find the names of potential contacts. This may help you make a direct connection to a highly-placed person in the company where you are applying. Additionally, if you can use your schools’ alumni networks, do; though fellow alumni won’t necessarily recommend you for a position, there’s a good chance they will be willing to have a phone conversation or a coffee– which is your chance to win them over to your side.
Exceed Your Comfort Zone
We rely on text and email, but when you’re applying for a job, assume that the listed contact is getting hundreds of emails from eager job seekers. You will stand out if you pick up the phone, even if you feel awkward doing so. If you encounter a receptionist, be warm and friendly, but not over-familiar; ask when a good time to call back might be, and enquire if he or she can leave a note for you. Consider what you’re comfortable doing and then take one step beyond that. If you’re not working with a career counselor, it can be helpful to recruit a friend who is willing to be your informal coach and cheer you on.
Know When to Give Up
If the contact doesn’t respond after your first call or email, you can assume your note or message could have gotten lost in the shuffle. Wait five days before trying again, and write a fresh email rather than forwarding an old one. Then if the contact doesn’t return that call or email, wait another five days and give it a final try. If they still don’t respond, it’s time to move on.