You’ve finally hit the job search jackpot — your dream job has been posted, you know someone who works at the same company and you have the hiring manager’s direct contact information. It’s a job hunter’s dream come true.
But what’s next? Now that you have their contact information, what do you actually do with it?
It’s so much pressure. (Under pressure — that burns a building down. Um ba ba be…)
It’s easy to sit back and randomly send applications for positions into the online ether. We’re so used to the lack of personalization that comes with online application robots. When you have the name and details of the actual, honest-to-goodness person who has power and influence over your next job, it’s scary.
Here’s how to approach it:
1. Do Your Research on the Person
Not only is doing research on the person’s name a good procrastination method; it’s critical to your direct application. The easiest way to research all about them is to look the person up on LinkedIn.
When you’re looking at their profile, make note of:
- How long they’ve been at the company.
- What their previous experience is: where they’ve worked, what their titles are, what they’ve done.
- If you have any contacts in common (in addition to the one who scored you their contact info). Look for first and second connections to see if there could be another common interest you share.
- Their organization affiliations and education section. Knowing the things people participate in outside of work or where they attended college is a huge connection point for conversation
Essentially, you want to find out some general ideas about what makes the person tick, see if you have any crossover information and commonalities, and understand their background.
2. Draft the Email Carefully
I loathe cover letters; I think they’re one of the necessary evils in the world. But in this case, your email “cover letter” is important. Write the draft offline in a Word application so there’s no chance of sending it prematurely or of it getting lost in your draft folder.
The email needs to contain the following elements:
- Write a personal introduction. You have their name — use it. For example, “Hi Mr. Smith;” or “Dear Ms. Sally Sue.”
- In your first sentence, tell the hiring manager who connected you. You want to be sure they know this is a referral, not just another random email. Give the reader an immediate reason to read the email instead of deleting it or putting it in the “no” pile. For example, “Randy Jones provided me with your contact information to directly apply for X position” or “Randy Jones referred me to apply for X position. I’m excited to submit my application for review.”
- Give a clear and succinct email version of your cover letter that shows your experience and fit for the position. Leave absolutely no question that you’re not only qualified for the job, but an almost perfect fit. Keep the email short — three paragraphs is a good guideline. You want to be sure to share your best stuff, your most important key accomplishments and/or things that will “wow” the hiring manager.
- Attach your resume. Do not, under any circumstances, forget to attach your resume. Since it’s a direct email, the PDF version is preferred, but a Word document will work as well.
- Be sure to provide your contact information in the email. Close with the ask and make it very easy for the hiring manager to get in touch with you: “I look forward to hearing from you to discuss the position further. You can reach me at 867-5309 or via email at ____________.”
3. Follow Up
Pressing “send” on that email was probably one of the most intense emails things you’ve done a while. Thank goodness that’s done… Now onto the personal touch: following up.
I always advocate following up for all of the jobs you apply to. But when you have a direct contact name, there is no excuse not to follow up. You have their email and perhaps their phone number, so use it!
Follow-up mistakes to avoid:
- Calling too soon. Remember that people have different systems and timing when it comes to reviewing emails and applications. It’s extremely annoying when someone sends an email, then calls to follow up an hour later. Rule of thumb: three days is a good amount of time to follow up for a direct apply/referral.
- Using the same method of application to follow up, again and again, when you don’t get a response. If you sent an email to apply and received no response, it’s time to try another medium (phone, for example). If you don’t have their phone number, send a note via snail mail (don’t gasp; people still send mail). If your first method doesn’t work, try a different one to follow up.
- Keeping them on the phone too long. If you’re able to reach them via phone, make sure you keep the conversation simple and short: “Hi Sally, this is Tom Bob, a referral from Randy Jones. I just wanted to be sure you received my application and see if you needed any additional materials.” That’s it. You just want to be sure your name and resume is at the top of their pile. Don’t keep them too long from their busy day.
4. Now What?
Sometimes, even with a direct referral, the hiring manager or recruiter just doesn’t get back to you. It’s frustrating and rude, but it’s also life. This is the part where many people simply give up. They let the hiring manager go about their business without doing everything possible.
Thought that initial email was scary? This is the step that separates the go-getters from the passive candidates.
Don’t forget that you have an inside man! The person who referred you has something to gain in this, as well. Since many companies provide employee referral fees for delivering candidates, they want you to work out.
Leverage your inside man. Be sure to follow up with that person at just about every stage of the application: “Hi Randy, thanks again for the contact information. I just sent an email application to Sally. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.”
If you don’t hear back from the hiring manager after two weeks, reach out to your guy/gal: “Hi Randy, I wanted to be sure to keep you in the loop with the application. I applied a few weeks ago and reached out to confirm my info was received and haven’t heard anything back yet. Do you have any advice or guidance you can provide here? Please let me know what you think I should to do move forward.”
If you’re even gutsier, you can do a direct ask: “Randy, will you please reach out to the hiring manager and let me know what the status is for the position?” Be sure you remain calm and kind if you go this route — it’s easy to offend someone here and make it seem like they’re working for you. I’d only use this route if you are very close with the person referring you.
Overall, having the hiring manager’s direct contact information does give you a step up from the competition. You have the opportunity for a real live person to review your candidacy instead of a robot. It’s what you do with that knowledge that will truly set you apart — especially when it comes to showing your interest and your strong candidacy. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
While a direct apply or referral will increase your odds, remember you’re most likely not the only person with the information. You may not have to beat out 300 candidates, but you could still have to rise to the top of 15 candidates. Be sure, more than ever before, that you put your best foot forward.
How can you find your “inside man” (or woman)?
Melissa Anzman is a former human resources leader and founder of LaunchYourself.co, where she helps people fall in love with their jobs and understand how Human Resources works. She is the author of two books, How to Land a Job: Secrets from an HR Insider and Stop Hating Your Job: How to Be Happy at Work Without Quitting, and can be found at @MellyMelAnz.