Networking with hiring managers is the single most important activity in an effective job search campaign. Getting in front of the hiring managers before there is an “official” opening increases your chances for success in obtaining interviews. Once there is an “official” opening, competition can be intense and talking more frequently with hiring managers will reduce the length of your search time.
Lee Hecht Harrison, a leading global career services firm, has conducted research for more than ten years on job search activities. The data indicates that a typical job seeker talks with twenty-five hiring managers before concluding an employment arrangement. The single best way to get through to a hiring manager is via a mutual acquaintance. Preliminary conversations with hiring managers tend to be more informal. This is especially so when there is no “official” opening. Nevertheless, treat all conversations with hiring managers as a form of interview. Evaluations of you are being made, however subtly. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind as you are networking with hiring managers:
1. Sell yourself appropriately to the hiring manager. Take a consultative approach. Elicit the needs of the hiring manager and then suggest how you might meet those needs. Keep in mind that your goal is to establish a long-term, trusting relationship. Such a relationship might be the key to future employment. This is not a “drive-by” situation.
2. Making the phone call to set the appointment. In general, your objective is to make the appointment and then get off the phone. A personal meeting is much more to your advantage, especially, if you have good interpersonal skills. Make it clear and explicit that you do not expect the hiring manager to have an appropriate current opening at the time of the meeting. Be prepared for the call. Make sure you are comfortable in articulating your opening and positioning statements. Make sure you have your resume and calendar available for easy reference. In terms of the agenda for the call, open the conversation by introducing yourself and explaining why you are calling. Provide a rationale for the meeting that suggests value to the hiring manager, not for you alone.
3. Conducting the meeting. Once the meeting time has been established, make sure you prepare yourself very well. Your conduct of the meeting should include four steps. Summarize your message. Use your positioning statement in a way that makes it clear how you could be an asset to the organization. Explore the needs of the hiring manager. You need to collect information about the manager’s organization. This is key to opening discussions and will allow greater efficacy in subsequent conversations. Prepare relevant questions in advance and ask them early in the meeting. Listen actively to the answers. Link your benefits to their needs. Mention whatever degrees, key competencies, and accomplishments that might meet the needs of the organization. This can be done successfully only after you have a better picture of the needs of the hiring manager for the organization. Leverage a next meeting. Build on the information you obtain to arrange for further contact. Offering additional information on a relevant topic, once you have had time to collect it, is one way to do this. Your goal, of course, is to remain in the thoughts of the hiring manager when an opening does, in fact, become available.
4. Send a follow-up letter. Write a follow up letter to the hiring manager highlighting one or two of the major points of mutual interest. This letter is more than a mere business courtesy; it is an opportunity to remind the hiring manager of some of your distinct assets. Find a rationale for being periodically back in touch with the hiring manager. Have something useful to offer in your subsequent outreaches.
Bottom line: Effective meetings with hiring managers are key to your job search success, and obtaining them frequently and conducting them effectively maximizes your chances for success.
Alan J. Pickman, Ph. D. is a psychologist in private practice with a specialization in assisting executives with all aspects of career search and management. He is also a senior consultant and executive coach with Lee Hecht Harrison, a premier global career services firm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 980-1650. This article was first published in 2005.