Whether you're a recent graduate or a student that won't be looking for a full-time job until next year, it's crucial to be proactive when you're looking for a job.
By the time you see a role being advertised online, there's a good chance that the recruitment process is already in full swing as current employees are given the opportunity to either apply for it or refer a friend.
With this in mind, you should try to reach out to employers as early as possible in your job search. Here's our guide on how to do it.
1. Target the right people
Once you've decided which company you'd like to work in, you need to identify the role that you think you'd be best suited for. For example, if you want to pursue a career in sales, you should focus your outreach on decision-makers in the sales or business development teams who have may have an influence on the hiring process. At smaller companies or startups, this might just be the founder or employees at the executive level. At a larger business, they would typically be managers or directors.
Prior to applying, use LinkedIn to identify and reach out to people at the company and ask them if they would be willing to share insights and advice on the hiring process, what the day-to-day of the role involves and anything else you're curious about. You could say something along the lines of:
Hi [their name],
My name is [your name] and I’m a recent [your course] graduate from [your university].
I have recently started looking for a job and would love to learn more about what it's like to work in the [their industry] given the experience you have working at [their company].
If it suits, it would be great to have a quick call to ask you some questions about the hiring process and what the day-to-day of being a [job title] is like at [their company].
Please let me know if you’re free over the next week or two to discuss. I’d really appreciate the opportunity!
If you don't hear back from them straight away, don't let that discourage you. You can either politely follow-up a second time or just try someone else who is in the same position at the company. More often than not, someone will be willing to lend a helping hand.
2. Make the conversation count
Once you've successfully booked a call, it's imperative that you do more research on the person you've reached out to as well as the company. If someone is willing to offer up their time to help you out, you should respect their time by coming to that meeting as prepared as possible.
Not only will this allow you to get information that would be hard to find elsewhere, you may even improve your chances of getting a warm introduction or referral if you make a good impression, which can often be the difference between success and failure in a competitive hiring process.
I would suggest having at least five questions prepared covering what their role entails, the company culture, the learning and development resources offered, their remote working policy, opportunities for growth within the company and then anything else you're curious about.
If the conversation goes well, the person might be ready and willing to refer you to the hiring manager for the role. If that's not forthcoming, you should finish by asking if there are any other team members they would recommend talking to before you apply for the job.
3. Connect with the hiring manager
Ideally, you'll only need one conversation with someone at the company but it may take several before you're introduced to the hiring manager. Your first message to them offers a great opportunity to introduce yourself, tell them why you're interested in joining their team and ask for a meeting. Some elements you should definitely include are:
- If you are emailing them without an introduction, introduce yourself and explain how you got their contact information.
- Briefly explain your relevant skills and experience. Most importantly, connect this to how you would add value to their team.
- Outline what you'd like to discuss with them.
- Provide a link to your LinkedIn, personal website or portfolio, so they can learn more about your background or view some of your previous work
4. Follow up
If you send an email and you don't hear back, don't panic! Hiring managers are busy people and sometimes emails can be missed or they haven't got around to responding yet.
Give it a week or so and then send a short follow-up politely asking whether they would be available for a call. If you still don't get a response, I would give it another week to before sending a second follow-up. If you still haven't heard back, don't take it personally.
As one last Hail Mary, I would connect with the hiring manager on LinkedIn to see if that gets you a response. Once you send three follow-ups between both LinkedIn and email, I would suggest resuming your job search and looking for alternative opportunities.
5.Seize the opportunity
If you're able to secure a meeting with the hiring manager, you need to take full advantage of it. While it isn't a formal job interview, you should treat it as such so preparation is absolutely crucial. Make sure you come with questions about the company's priorities and objectives and how their team contributes to them.
Then, discuss your skills and experience and how you could provide value. Remember to tailor this part of the conversation to their response to the questions you've asked bout the company’s priorities. As an applicant, it’s your job to connect your skills and accomplishments to the company's needs. So it's important you demonstrate how you would make their jobs easier or how your skills could help contribute to their team's success.
If they're hiring at that moment in time, don't be afraid to ask if they would be happy to put you forward for the role. If there aren't currently any open roles or if you're a student who isn't available to start work until you graduate, thank them for their time and make sure you pick the conversation up when the timing is a little bit better.
Investing time in connecting with recruiters and hiring managers is crucial when you're trying to grow your network early in your career. If you're not currently in full-time work, I would suggest setting aside a block of time every week to start this process.
People are busy and more often than not, you won't hear back — and it’s nothing personal.While they may not have a role available at the time or if you're not exactly what they're looking for, that might not necessarily be the case in the future.