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“It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.”
You’ve probably heard this more times than you can count.
“Imagine this scenario,” says Ryan Kahn, a career coach, founder of The Hired Group, and author of “Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad.” “You’re a hiring manager trying to fill a position. You have two piles of résumés on your desk. In one pile, you have a stack of 100 résumés from qualified candidates who applied online. In the other pile, you have five résumés from candidates who were personally referred by your colleagues. Which pile would you tackle first?”
Most hiring managers would likely start with candidates who’ve already been vetted … those who’ve come recommended, Kahn says. But if you have no connections, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed. There are still things you can do to help your résumé be seen.
Here are three suggestions:
Let’s say you’re applying for a job at XYZ company. You quickly think about whether you know anyone who works there: No aunts. No uncles. No friends. No cousins. No former classmates. No one.
This approach is just plain lazy. You may very well have a second degree connection that you’ve just yet to uncover. But a little bit of digging can easy get you the contact you might need.
First, check your LinkedIn. Maybe you’re connected with someone who currently works (or previously worked) at XYZ and you hadn’t even realized.
Next, spread the word. Perhaps your Uncle Joe’s neighbor is a hiring manager at XYZ.
You can also try contacting your alma mater. Maybe they can tell you which of your former professors or peers is employed by XYZ. Bam! You’ve suddenly got a connection (and something in common).
Find and make a new connection
If some digging gets you nowhere, you shouldn’t just give up.
Kahn suggests finding someone who works (or has worked) at the company and reaching out.
Connect with them on LinkedIn and send them a note introducing yourself and letting them know you’d like to hear more about their experience at XYZ company. You never want the connection to feel used. Don’t immediately ask for a favor, or for them to “put in a good word” for you.
“A rookie mistake is to ask for something in your initial email to someone you haven’t yet met. Be honest and upfront, but don’t start off by requesting a phone call or coffee meet up. Instead, think of how you can give or add value to their life before asking for something.”
You need to have some patience and put in the work. You’ll want to build a relationship with this person and get to know each other a bit. Once they get a better sense of who you are, they may be more willing to help you out.
If all else fails, don’t let your lack of an inside connection hold you back from applying.
It’s important to remember that knowing someone can help your résumé be seen, but it never guarantees an interview. So, while having a connection does help, it certainly isn’t everything.
If you’re really perfect for the job, apply the old fashioned way. Having a great résumé, relevant experience, and a positive attitude can be way more powerful than any connection.