However, the one thing they learn very quickly is that they don’t yet have the quantity or quality of contacts necessary to leverage the world’s largest professional network. The best of them, however, don’t let that stop them from using LinkedIn to find an internship, or job.
All of which makes this question from recent graduate a very good one:
“I have been trying to find the best tactics to land my first marketing job. I have my heart set on a job at XYZ Company in Washington D.C. but I have no connections at the company or in the DC area. Do you have any advice?”
Here was my answer to this job seeker… and to you, now:
Step 1: Identify Your Target Companies and People
First, it is time to leverage LinkedIn and the power of networking. I just searched my network on your behalf, and I have 956 connections currently working at XYZ Company in the DC area. 109 of them are 1st or 2nd level connections, so once we’re linked, those 100+ people will be in your network as 2nd or 3rd level connections.
Do a LinkedIn search and identify two or three of those contacts; prioritize based on who seems most likely to have a conversation with you, informational interview style. I’d recommend Recruiters, HR people, hiring managers, and people who hold the same title that you desire. (If none of this first group of targeted contacts work out, we can identify additional contacts later.)
Step 2: Send Personalize Connection Requests
Send highly personalized connection requests through LinkedIn to those people. Be sure to point out any commonalities you share (alma mater, the same degree, perhaps a fraternity, sorority, club, hometown, etc.)
In the connection request, let them know that you’re very interesting in the organization and their mission, and would like to follow up directly to schedule an informational interview or a brief coffee meeting.
Step 3: Respond Quickly to Accepted Requests or Emails
Shortly after the networking contact responds, either by connecting without sending a response or by answering your LinkedIn communication, respond with more detail.
How would they prefer to chat? If local, what are there favorite coffee shops or diners? Set the meeting, and then begin to do even more research on the person, company and industry. Your focus: how will you help them, and the organization?
Step 4: Build the Relationship
Focusing again on commonalities, build the relationship. Ask good questions, making the first part of the conversation all about them.
When the time is right, demonstrate your passion for the industry, company, and the jobs they have open now that are of interest to you. Highlight how you match their requirements and can contribute in the role – and not just why you’re interested and how great a fit it is for you. If this person is not the decision-maker, they will need to go to bat for you; so make their job easier (and more effective) by giving them some concrete details to work with!
Step 5: Submit Your Applications
This is a simple step: Go to XYZ’s company website and apply online for any position(s) of interest. Then, let your new contact know what position(s) you’ve applied for. Be sure to send them a copy of your resume, links to your online profiles, etc.
Step 6: See What Happens Next
After all your effort to build a relationship, the worst case scenario is that your new contact will then consider your application and, if not a match at this time, at least they’ll have it on file and hopefully keep you in mind for future openings.
The best case scenario: based on your proactive work, the relationship you’ve built with a contact within the company, and the great first impression you created: you get the interview!
Step 7: Follow Up
Whichever the case, interview or not, you must follow-up. On LinkedIn, via email, or with a thank you note, make sure your new contact knows how grateful you are for their time, energy and mentorship. Maybe it didn’t all work out perfectly this time… but the next time they have a similar opening, they’ll remember you.
And know this: the proactive approach you have taken to become an employee referral is so much better than the apply-with-fingers-crossed-while-waiting-patiently-never-to-hear-back method used by most job seekers!
And no matter what, don’t give up! Get creative and keep reaching out:
- See if anyone you know is connected to someone who works there (or used to work there); LinkedIn is perfect for this type of sleuthing
- Join LinkedIn groups where employees of XYZ Company are members; join discussions where those contacts are active (Important: be assertive and enthusiastic while being careful not to come across as aggressive or stalkerish.)
- Comment on their LinkedIn Publisher posts; be sure to ask a question that will start a relevant conversation
And be sure to use all resources available, and not just LinkedIn:
- See if the company has a Twitter account and reach out there (I’ll bet you they’ll respond back that way and/or put you in touch with the right person)
- Show your interest and enthusiasm for the company by commenting on their Facebook posts; when the time is right, ask the best way to follow up about employment
Of course, if it doesn’t work out this time, use this same method to apply for other openings and/or other companies. As mom used to say, there are other fish in the sea.
And the next fish, er, company, might just be the perfect fit. Follow these seven steps consistently, and leverage the incredible power of LinkedIn, and I doubt you’ll be a job seeker much longer!
About the Author: Stacy Donovan Zapar is a 16-year recruiting veteran for Fortune 500 tech companies and CEO & Founder of Tenfold Social Training, a recruiter training company for talent acquisition and staffing teams around the world. In addition to in-house recruiter training, she is also currently working for Zappos as their Candidate Experience & Engagement Strategist, working on fun projects around social recruiting, talent communities, talent brand, candidate experience and more.
Stacy has been the Most Connected Woman on LinkedIn since 2008 and currently has more than 40,000 1st-level connections. She is a LinkedIn Publisher, a contributor to LinkedIn’s Talent Blog and speaks regularly at HR / Recruiting conferences globally. Connect with Stacy on Twitter!