“I’ve been searching for a job for six months and I know I need to know someone to get hired. So I am contacting you because I want a job at your company. Can you introduce me to people over there?”
Many job seekers realize that there is an advantage to being introduced to a workplace by someone inside or trusted by that workplace. It is true that when an inside person recommends you for a job, your chances of actually getting hired are much better. How much better? Employee referrals are the top source of internal hiring: almost 60% compared to about 40% for external sources for hiring. Of the internal sources for hiring, 61% are employee referred and 26% come through the company website. Those applicants coming through the company website may be alerted by an inside contact that there is a job posting. Once that applicant comes through the company website portal, an insider can often do a lot to shepherd the resume to the person in charge of hiring.
But what many job seekers do not understand well is that the way you get that introduction and the way that person talks about you to people in the workplace makes a tremendous difference. Contacting someone you do not know and asking for an introduction from them does not help you. It can actually work against you.
When you contact a person who is not a good friend of yours and ask them to introduce you, you are putting them on the spot. How can they say good things about you if they really do not know you?
A good endorsement consists of six elements. The person:
- has met you in person
- likes you
- knows your work
- knows your work ethic or knows you from another context like a sports activity or association where you have made a positive impression
- knows someone inside the workplace you are hoping to interview with
- is willing to vouch for you
Even if you cannot get all six elements, aim for the following: the person has gotten to know you, likes you, knows someone inside the workplace, and is willing to endorse you. With these, you can often get an insider advantage. An endorsement is crucial. But the person introducing you to the workplace needs to have some basis for saying good things about you. Accosting people via LinkedIn is not the way to get that support.
These days LinkedIn is being used as a springboard for this kind of assaultive networking. And it’s not just LinkedIn. One of my friends mentioned that she was contacted by a young woman job seeker who she knew only distantly because she was a friend of a friend. This job seeker was having a terrible time finding a job in the industry. She said:
“I can’t get a job and I have been looking for six months. I see your workplace has a job posting. Could you put in a good word for me?”
My friend told me that she felt offended and “used” by that request. How could she endorse someone she really does not know? How can she tell her workplace to take a close look at someone who might turn out to be a bad hire? My friend felt that this request unfairly put her on the spot. She told the job seeker she would do what she could to help, but then she did nothing because she had no idea how to vouch for someone she did not know.
How could this job seeker have done it differently and earned an endorsement?
The answer has to do with the way you create a good relationship and the way trust is developed. Good networking is all about relationship building, and good relationships are built in person. Not only do you want to meet in person, but you want to be likable when you meet in person. The way to do this might be to set something up with the insider such as a breakfast, lunch, dinner, or coffee. Sometimes you can start by interacting with the person in a setting like an association meeting or an event in which you have a mutual interest. There can be a certain amount of plotting or engineering to meet with someone who could be helpful, but if you are a genuine friend when you meet with them, and you ask for the other person to advise you and brainstorm with you rather than asking them for a job, the person will be far more likely to support your candidacy for a position at their workplace.
True friendship is the goal, whether or not you get a job. And to that end you want to give people gifts that help them have better lives. You can give them gifts of information, like a link to an article of interest, or gifts of support, like help and connection with other people, or possibly small tangible gifts like a book or tickets to a show. These are all part of being a good friend to someone else. And they should come from an authentic interest in the other person that goes beyond you getting a job.
When I asked my friend what the job seeker could have done differently to earn her endorsement, my friend said, “She could have volunteered to help our nonprofit with a program we are going to have which would have actually given her the chance to meet many of the people on the hiring team. That would be a way to show she really cares about our mission. Or she could have asked me to join her for lunch or coffee. If I had the chance to get to know her, I might have put in a good word for her.”
So networkers take note. There is a right way and a wrong way to connect with people inside the workplace you are trying to approach. Utilize rapid relationship and trust building which I talk about in my book, Job Quest: How to Become the Insider Who Gets Hired, to improve your chances of getting those all important endorsements.