Human Resources is the gatekeeper. Their job is to take in large numbers of resumes, and screen most of them out.
The person you really want to reach is the hiring manager – the person who will be your boss once you’re hired.
Let’s say you want to apply to a posted position at XYZ Media. Go ahead and apply to HR as directed, but also send your resume and cover letter to the hiring manager – and maybe even make a follow-up phone call, unless the ad specifically forbids it.
The tricky part is that the posting doesn’t list this person’s name. How can you find him or her? Here are some clever strategies.
- See if they list their executives on their website. Many companies do. You may want to call (see below) to verify that the information is up to date.
- Simply call the company and ask the receptionist, in a polite but matter-of-fact tone, “Can you please tell me the name of the person in charge of ________?” (Fill in the blank with the department you would be working in.) A more stealthy tactic employed by some job seekers is to “accidentally” call the wrong department, apologize, ask for the correct number and go from there.
- In LinkedIn, do an Advanced Search. Type in the hiring manager’s likely title, the name of the company, and any other information you know.
- See if you have any LinkedIn connections who might know the manager’s name.
- Do a Google search. (I know, this isn’t a very “clever” strategy, but you never know!)
- Search online business directories such as Standard & Poor’s (“S&P”) or Manta. The information in such directories is often somewhat out of date, so once you find the information try to verify it elsewhere. (But see “What if you’re not sure?” below.)
- Set up a Google Alert for the job you want and see what you can find on the Internet using a keyword string such as: Marketing Manager position available XYZ Inc. The job may be circulating on social media. If you find it, see if you can connect with the person who posted it. They may be able to tell you who the hiring manager is.
- In LinkedIn, try to get new connections (as opposed to the existing connections mentioned in item #4 above) at your target company who have positions related to the one you’re interested in. They may be able to tell you who the manager is. Warning: When inviting strangers to connect with you, you run the risk of someone clicking “I don’t know this person,” which could get you restricted from LinkedIn. To be safe, only invite people to whom you can get an introduction, or those with whom you share a LinkedIn Group that you can refer to in your invitation message. (Join one of their Groups if necessary.) Many or most recipients may ignore your invitation, but all it takes is one person deciding to be helpful.
What if you’re not sure?
In the end, if you have a name but you’re not sure it’s the right person, go ahead and send your letter and resume to that person. If you’re wrong, there’s a good chance your resume will be forwarded to the right person.
What if you find the name but nobody wants to give you their email address? And what can you do to ensure the hiring manager actually reads the resume rather than just forwarding it to Human Resources? Read the followup post for tips!
Finally, a word about overall job search strategy:
The ideas above can help you with the reactive aspect of your job search (responding to posted openings). For most job seekers it’s more important to do proactive search, by identifying target companies and networking around and within them before a job even opens up. If you do that, you may already know the hiring manager when an opening occurs – and in fact, she or he might call you!