Find a Job with Direct Research and Approach

Martin Yate By Martin Yate December 10, 2018
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Find a Job with Direct Research and Approach

Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.   

While I was driving the other day, I heard you being interviewed on the radio. You had just started to talk about "direct research" when the signal faded. I searched around but couldn't find an explanation of this idea. Could you fill me in on what I missed? I'm changing jobs, and I've read some of your books and would like to know what you meant.

What you heard me discussing was "direct research and approach," which I believe is the single most productive job-search tactic. It's based on simple logic: The fastest route between two points is a straight line. It happens when the job seeker bypasses resume databases and communicates directly with hiring managers. 

Most job searchers upload their resume into countless databases and wait endlessly for a response. However, their resumes are likely lost among the thousands of other resumes posted in the same databases. For a lucky few, this tactic can work, but there are more-productive approaches for the serious professional. 

The Fix

Job hunting is a lot like fishing: If you have one hook in the water, you can catch only one fish. The more hooks and varieties of bait you have, the greater your odds of success.

The approach is simple: Identify the job titles that are one, two and three levels above your target job. The men and women who hold these titles are the most likely to know about upcoming hiring needs, have the authority to hire you or are most likely to be involved in candidate selection.

Once you have identified one of these job titles at a specific company, find the name that goes with it. You can call the company and say you want to reach out to, for example, the director of HR about a professional matter, and then ask, "Can you give me his/her e-mail address, please?"

You also have plenty of other options. Let's start with LinkedIn:

  • Execute general searches for the company and each of your target job titles. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are 129 million working people in the U.S., and LinkedIn has 146 million U.S. members, so you may find there the name of the person who holds that title at your target company today or who held it in the past.

The past titleholder may know who is in that job today. If not, call the company and say you used to know the previous titleholder and wonder who holds that job now. Again, ask for the e-mail address.

  • Search your first-level connections for anyone who works or has worked at that company, and ask them who holds the title you seek. Ask your connections what their e-mail addresses used to be so you can find out the format of the company's e-mail addresses and substitute in your target's name.
  • Do a general search on LinkedIn for people who work or have worked at your target company. Identify which groups they belong to, join those groups and then reach out to connect directly.
  • Repeat all these steps with contacts in your professional associations.
  • Repeat on your other social media platforms.

Do this conscientiously and you'll find names that match target titles and their e-mail addresses, enabling you to call and send messages to each of the three target titleholders. This means―to invoke the fishing analogy―  you've cast another six hooks in the water, hooks that are not just thrown out there hoping a fish might swim by but placed temptingly in front of exactly the big fish you're after. 

Suggested Approaches

  1. Send an e-mail that succinctly identifies who you are and what you do and stating that you'd heard the company might be hiring. Do not mention that you have already submitted your resume to the company database. At the end of your message, note that your resume is attached in a PDF. (Don't attach a Word file; it can get corrupted.) Write, "Should you want to have it uploaded to the company resume database, I've also attached it in an ATS-friendly format." (Next week's column will show you how to maximize the chances that hiring managers will pay serious attention to your e-mail.) 
  2. Print out your resume and cover letter, both customized to the job description the target company uses. (If a job's worth applying for, it's worth customizing your resume.) Put them in a letter-size envelope, not folded, and send them to your target company in the mail.

I can hear you muttering, "Mail? Are you nuts? No one uses that anymore." And you're right―nobody gets mail anymore, but when they do, they take a break from the computer screen, stop work and open the letter. This is what is referred to as contrarian thinking—doing what others aren't. Try it and see just how well it works. You can learn more about this tactic in The Ultimate Job Search Guide, 32nd Edition (Adams Media, 2018).

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Packed with practical, honest, real-world guidance for successfully navigating common HR career challenges, Martin Yate's new book The HR Career Guide: Great Answers to Tough Career Questions is available at the SHRMStore. Order your copy today!

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