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How to Intelligently Ask for a Job Within Your Network

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For many applicants, finding a job means submitting a resume to every job advertisement they see. This means online job boards, job fairs, and asking friends and family to pass along suitable opportunities.

While sometimes these job-hunting approaches work, often they're not effective. A better strategy for a job search is to turn to your professional network. But many professionals are hesitant to do this... either because they're afraid of how such a request will be received or because they don't know how to ask someone for a job.

If you're in this position in your job hunt, don't be afraid to turn to your professional network. After all, we can all use a little help sometimes. Your contacts likely know and understand this.

Ask for help in your job search
Don't be afraid to ask for help in your job search. (Image Source)

In this tutorial, we'll explore how to use your network in your job search. You'll discover how to ask for informational interviews. You'll also learn how to how to ask if a job position is available. 

What About Social Media?

Posting on Facebook and LinkedIn to let your family and network know about your job search is commonplace now, but is it effective? It might work for some people, but the lack of comments on such posts suggest it’s not always the case: 

Social media posting on job search
Post of an entry-level applicant looking for a job in a Facebook group

And here's another one:

Job search on social media
Post from work at home applicant looking for work

This doesn’t mean asking your network for a job is a waste of time. You just have to be selective about who you ask, and how you frame the request. Networking, after all, is a give and take process. You’re supposed to do your research and talk to the right people to collect information, which will eventually lead to job opportunities. You can’t just ask for a job and expect to get one.

1. Get to Know the Right People

Your first step in using your network to find jobs is to get to know the right people.

The right people include recruiters, hiring managers, and anyone hiring in your ideal role. Focus your networking efforts on people at a higher level than you to avoid coming off as a threat to other employees in your job grade. For instance, if you’re looking for a professional or mid-level position, look for managers, directors, or startup CEOs. 

You should also seek informational interviews with professionals, who can give you honest and specific advice even if they don’t have the power to hire you. It won’t be a waste of time to meet with an experienced professional in your field or a retired contact that’s still well connected to industry decision-makers. They might not refer you to an available job, but they can show you the ins-and-outs of the job and introduce you to people who make hiring decisions.

2. Consider an Informational Interview

Many applicants dismiss informational interviews as a waste of time because it’s not an actual job interview. Why waste time interviewing for a non-existent job when there are hundreds of jobs waiting to be filled?

The truth is that not all vacancies posted on job boards and recruitment agencies are for available jobs. Sometimes the employer already filled the vacancy, but the people who posted it didn’t bother to update the ad. Or, in the worst case scenario, the advertised position doesn’t exist. The company or recruitment agency just wants to see what’s out there. You can even get interviewed for a job that doesn’t exist yet, like what happened to one of the readers at Ask a Manager. Look at the comments from other readers, and you’ll realize this isn’t an isolated case. So yes, in some cases sending your resume to advertised jobs could be just as much of a gamble as going to an informational interview.

About 70% to 80% of jobs aren’t advertised or published anywhere. How do you think companies fill these vacancies? They rely on word of mouth and referrals. One way to be one of those lucky referred candidates is by expanding your network. Doing lots of informational interviews will increase your odds of coming across an opportunity, while establishing yourself as an eager and savvy professional. There might be no vacancy at the time of your interview, but the people you’ve talked to will email you as soon as they hear of an opportunity.

3. Set Up Informational Interviews

Now that you know the benefits of informational interviews, it’s time you learn how to set one up. Do your initial approach via email or over the phone. Each method has its own pros and cons, so just go with whichever is less awkward for you.

Of course, it would be better if you knew the people you want to interview. But don’t let your lack of contacts stop you. Just explain how you found their name and contact information, so you’re not mistaken for a creepy stalker.

You can find a customizable template for requesting informational interviews and other helpful information in these tutorials:

You’ll also see good questions to ask during the interview in these tutorials, so don’t forget to check them out.

What if you don’t know the person you want to interview, but someone in your network does? This situation requires a three-step approach. The first step is to request an introduction from your colleague, and make it as easy as possible for them to accept your request. 

1. Email Your Contact

Here's a sample template you could use to email your contact:

Subject: Introducing me to (the person you want to interview)

"Hi (Contact’s Name),

I noticed that you’re connected to (the person you want to interview) on (social network). As you may know, I’m currently in the market for a (job title) position, so I’d love to chat with them to get some insight about their (work or target company).

Would you please make an introduction? To make this easy for you, I can send you a short introductory email, so all you have to do is copy it.

Thanks,

Your Name"

2. When Your Contact Agrees

In the next step, you need to respond if your contact agrees to introduce you. Here’s a sample of an email you could send: 

Subject: RE: Introducing me to (the person you want to interview)

"Hi (Contact’s Name),

Thanks for agreeing to introduce me. Below is an email that you can forward or edit as needed. Thanks again.

---- 

Subject: (Person you want to interview) meet (Your Name)

(Person you want to interview), please meet my (your relationship + name), who is (your current or previous job title) at (employer’s name). (Your name) is an excellent (skill) and they are curious about your work and the opportunities at (the person you want to interview’s employer). Would you mind giving them 15 minutes of your time to talk on the phone or maybe grab some coffee?"

3. Your Move

People are more likely to respond when someone makes an introduction.

From here the final step is just a matter of arranging the schedule and method of the interview. Since you’re the one asking a favor, you should make an effort to adjust to the other party’s schedule and location preferences.

4. Ask Your Network to Refer You to a Job

In some cases, you already know there’s a job opening so you just need an “in,” someone who can submit your resume directly to the hiring manager, so it’s not lost in a sea of applicants. The two strategies below will work in this situation.

1. If You Had an Informational Interview or You Know the Person Well

Use this template if you found a job opening at the company where your contact from a previous informational interview works, or you know the person well enough that you’re confident they'll refer you:

"Hi (Contact Name),

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me last (date). I had a great time learning about your career as a (Contact’s Job Title) and the skills needed to succeed in your field. I researched the role further and found an opening for (your target job) at (Contact’s Employer).

Would you be comfortable sending my application to the hiring manager? It’s hard to stand out because of the competition, but I know a referral from you would increase my chances.

To make this easier for you, I can send you the resume I updated after our talk, plus a brief introduction that you can quickly forward to the HR manager, (HR Manager’s Name if you have it).

Of course, I can also send my resume directly if you’re not comfortable sending it. I appreciate any help you can give. Thanks!

Regards,

(Your Name)"

If your contact agrees, all you've got to do is send an updated resume with a brief cover letter and introduction, similar to the template on step two for informational interviews with a middle-person contact. 

2. Your Contact is Connected to a Decision Maker 

Here’s an outreach email you can send a family member, friend, or colleague who’s connected to a hiring manager or decision maker in a company that’s currently hiring: 

"Subject: Possible referral for the (Vacant Position) at (Company Name)

Hi (Contact Name),

How are you? It’s been a while since (describe your last meeting). As you probably know, I’m currently in the market for opportunities in (industry or job type). I discovered a vacancy for (job title with a link to URL if available) at (Company Name).

I checked LinkedIn and saw that you’re connected to (Hiring Manager or Decision-maker’s name), who is (target’s job title) at that company. Would you mind passing my resume along? Your referral could make a huge difference in my standing as an applicant.

If you agree, I will send you my updated resume plus a brief introduction that you can easily forward to the hiring manager. Of course, if there’s anything else you need, please let me know.

Thank you for your help.

Regards,

(Your Name)"

5. Subtle Approaches to Find Out Whether a Job Exists

1. A Friend Works With an Interesting New Venture

You’re at a party or networking event, and you bump into an old friend who’s now part of an exciting new project or company. You want to be a part of their team.

Get your friend to talk about the products or services they’re developing. People are often excited to talk about exciting stuff they’re doing, so use this to your advantage. Eventually, your friend will have given you enough information that you can use to give him a genuine compliment. Say something like,

“I’m fascinated with what you’re doing in the field of (field of expertise) at (Company Name). I’d love to work on something like that.”

If your friend knows about your professional background, they may tell you about the job openings the company has. You can just ask more questions about the skills they’re looking for and where they've got challenges if your friend doesn’t respond with a list of job openings right away. Get their work contact details, so you can keep in touch and learn more about available positions.

Use the information you get to customize the follow-up email template below:

“Hi (Name),

It was great to see you last night at (event name or venue). I enjoyed hearing about your work at (Company Name), and I have a couple of ideas to help you and your team (problem or skill you specialize in).

Would you have time for a quick chat so we can discuss this further?”

Treat your conversation as an informational interview if your friend can’t make hiring decisions. Of course, if he can, you should treat this discussion as your first job interview. But instead of answering job interview questions, you’ll be pitching your services to a potential employer.

2. Offer Trial Work

Research the company or person you want to work with before offering to work with them for free. Find out the following information online or through an informational interview:

  • Whether they've got the budget to hire you
  • The skills or work experience they need
  • If there are problem departments or teams that you can help with

Once you've got the information, set up an informational interview with the HR manager to discuss how you can help. You don’t have to ask for a job directly, but you've got to make your intention clear. Say something like:

“I’m looking to develop my experience in (line of work), so I’d love to talk to you about how I can help you with (the short-term project you want to work on based on your research) for free.”

Doing free work builds your reputation and expertise. Plus, several professionals in different fields can attest how doing pro bono work often leads to fantastic job opportunities.

Wrapping It Up: It's Okay to Ask for Help

You’ll notice that all the tactics in this article require you to ask for someone’s help, even the subtle strategies. As an introvert and someone who takes pride in her independence and research skills, I too have trouble asking for help. You might feel embarrassed to ask for help as well, but like me and countless others, you've got to get out of your comfort zone if you want to succeed in your career. Contrary to popular belief, no one will think you’re incompetent for seeking help.

There’s nothing wrong with asking for help with your job search, especially if you know how to ask someone for a job properly and you know how to return the favor.  

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