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Should you key in on a specific company during your job search, or focus on a particular role or position within your industry? Many career experts, including career design specialist Mark Miller, advocate choosing where you want to work first and then networking your way in.
“Target the company and quit chasing the job,” Miller writes in his blog on Career Pivot. “When a position opens up or is created, you want the hiring manager to think of you! You want them to already know who you are, your skills and values.”
While that advice sounds logical enough, it can be challenging to know where to begin. Consider these tips to make your targeted job search more effective:
Use Social Media—Strategically
When it comes to use of social media sites to get on the radar screen of a particular company, it’s important to be savvy. Doing the wrong thing when networking online to generate corporate contacts can quickly backfire, causing your target company to avoid you rather than court you.
Some career experts recommend steering clear of certain sites when it comes to corporate networking, unless you use very specific (and limited) tactics for connecting. “I’ve always advised job seekers to avoid Facebook for professional networking since this is generally a much more personal networking site,” says Eric Bowitz, senior resume expert at Resume Genius. “The best you could do is interact through official company pages or groups.”
Recruiter Tracey Russell of Naviga Business Services suggests that job seekers be careful which social networks they choose and how frequently they contact representatives of specific companies through these networks, stating that some are “inappropriate” for this type of interaction unless it’s done very strategically.
Russell agrees with Bowitz that Facebook is intended to be a more personal social network rather than a professional one, and does not recommend using it to connect with recruiters when targeting specific companies. If job seekers do use Facebook to connect with a recruiter or hiring manager, she advises sending a personalized message instead of a friend request. “Most recruiters will not accept friend requests from people they don’t know, but are much more likely to respond to a well-written and personal message,” says Russell.
However, you should check and see if your target company as a business page on Facebook. If they do then “like” their page and check back periodically. It’s a great way to keep up with what’s going on which will give you something to talk about when you do get an interview. There’s also the possibility of making a connection.
Tweet Only with Purpose
Like Facebook, Twitter gets mixed results from career experts in terms of its use as a targeting tool to connect with specific companies. However, there are a few common strategies to try to make contact with company recruiters or hiring managers at your target organizations.
Tiffany C. Wright, founder of The Resourceful CEO, suggests determining if the corporate contact you’ve identified on Twitter maintains a blog or regularly contributes to one. If so, you can read that person’s blog and bio, then comment on the blog on Twitter using the person’s @Twitter handle. “This shows that you did your homework and paid attention,” says Wright. “Request a brief talk with her about her company and what she does, as it relates to something she wrote about.”
Russell similarly recommends “following” the hiring manager, recruiter, or other company contact you’ve identified on Twitter and retweeting any relevant or interesting articles they’ve posted. “This way, when the hiring manager is sorting through piles of resumes, your name will be familiar and give the hiring manager a reason to take a second look at your resume,” says Russell. She adds that she does not recommend direct messaging—or trying to send your resume in a direct message—to the hiring manager through Twitter even if they are following you back.
It’s easy to find companies and recruiters on Twitter by doing a search for them. Many companies have Twitter accounts specifically for recruiting where you can find jobs and connect with recruiters.
Link In with Companies
When it comes to targeting companies, LinkedIn is the strong preference among the social media players for many career experts. “By far your best way of networking into a company will be with LinkedIn,” says Bowitz. His recommendation for this technique—particularly when you lack immediate personal connections at specific companies—is to pay for LinkedIn’s premium service.
While the free version of LinkedIn is great for connecting with your existing network online, the premium versions allow you to see much more information, including full names, of people in your network’s network, or your extended network.
Russell notes that LinkedIn’s “more professional atmosphere” facilitates its use as an appropriate tool for contacting specific companies. She recommends starting by checking your current LinkedIn contacts to find common connections at your target company. “If possible, get that person to introduce you to someone at the company,” says Russell. “At worst, reference the person if they are okay with it. Also, use the same tactics as with Twitter and ‘like’ or share relevant content they post.”
Wright advises going one step further: after locating people at your target company, she suggests determining what you have in common with them. “Is one of the employees an alumna of your college?” asks Wright. “Is someone a member of a LinkedIn group you’re in or one you’d like to join? Is one involved with a nonprofit that you’re involved with or have any other similar interests? Use that similarity as your point of entry, just as you would if you met someone at a networking or business event.”
Meet and Greet
Speaking of meeting people in a live venue, it’s still certainly possible to pursue more traditional ways to make corporate connections in person. Career coach Jacqueline Twille, author of Navigating the Career Jungle: A Guide for Young Professionals, suggests getting creative about finding these connections. She recommends seeking community volunteer opportunities sponsored by your target company—or even attending happy hours at restaurants near the office of the company—to expand your chances of rubbing elbows with their employees.
“Community volunteer opportunities give you the perfect opportunity to spend an extended amount of time side by side by many members of a company,” says Twille. “You will be able to gain insight into the culture of the people that you could work with.”
Regardless of whether your connections come from the real world or the virual one, remember the value of referrals. Wright recommends stressing to any contacts you make with employees of your target company that you want to know more about the firm—and ask “Who else do you recommend I talk to?”
“If the employee likes your questions and the exchange between the two of you, the person may refer you to a hiring manager,” says Wright. “If not, you may still get referred to someone else who may be in a better position to directly assist you.” Wright adds that even if you must talk to several people at the company before you get a referral to a hiring manager, this persistence arms you with information few other potential candidates will have. Even more importantly, it better positions you for an as-yet unannounced new position.
Always remember that giving, whether that means sharing an article of interest or retweeting someone’s post, before you get, meaning asking for help, is the secret ingredient to building relationships.