WorkWise: 'Champions' in your job search

January 2, 2014 

Photo: Michael Barenboym (left), president of Baren-Boym Co. Inc. in Bedford, Mass., advocates participating in online discussions and groups to gain allies while job hunting. He’s working here with Alan Sliski (right), director of engineering. Credit: Ekaterina Venediktova

The black hole encountered by online job seekers is now common to more proactive applicants. This trend toward employer unresponsiveness won’t likely diminish soon and is particularly unnerving for people who are job hunting highly selectively.

You can’t assume, as some would say, that not hearing about your application indicates lack of interest, if only because the employer might have forwarded your information in the company for other positions. How should you revamp your job-hunting strategy to increase your chances of being able to follow through on your application? Get allies.

New Hope, Pa.’s Jonah Harris, senior vice president of software and systems architecture at MeetMe.com, a leading social network, suggests mirroring vendors who look for an internal “champion” to support their product or service. “Extremely selective job seekers should seek out and network with current employees who can help them through the process, put them in contact with the decision-makers and give them a good internal referral,” he explains.

He says that the process is much easier today than it used to be, because you can find the champion you need “at events large and small ... from large conferences to local meet-ups. They’re great places to make that initial contact.”

Michael Barenboym would concur. “I receive about ten (lackluster) resumes and cover letters per month,” comments the president of Baren-Boym Co. Inc., a medical device design and development business in Bedford, Mass. “Most of them don’t pique my interest.” He maintains that “communication through various professional groups online increases your chance of getting hired.”

Industry allies are essential. “There are no useless connections in the industry,” he says. “One leads to another. When a person recommends you, you become more valuable. You have more credentials. You can also get connected in a volunteer group.” In addition, he favors being active in online discussions and groups to draw more allies for your job search.

Do a test drive as a champion yourself. You can be an industry ally at the same time, indicates Laurie Berenson, president of Sterling Career Concepts LLC in Franklin Lakes, N.J. “Always be connecting,” she coaches clients. “For example, if a person needs help identifying a hiring manager and you can do that through your own connections, make an introduction on his or her behalf.” Make connecting for others a habit and you’ll find people will be helping you connect.

Let company referral programs impact your job search, too, particularly if you’re looking at major organizations, such as General Mills, Raytheon and Bristol-Myers Squibb, suggests Eric Melniczek, a career adviser at High Point University in High Point, N.C., and a former executive recruiter. He reports that larger organizations tend to have the budgets to pay employees for referrals. These programs merit consideration, because internal referrals garner more attention from interviewers. Besides, money can motivate existing employees to help you track your application.

How will you find them? “On LinkedIn search ‘employee referral program’ in the keyword advanced search and ‘employee referral’ in the title advanced search,” Melniczek says, “because hiring managers market this program (internally).” See if any companies on your select list have the programs.

Do you know a person there other than a recruiter who could complete a form and take it to the hiring manager? If not, he advocates identifying a person on the outside with a good contact inside who could do it.

“At the end of the informational interview,” he adds, “(mention) that you’ve researched companies with employee referral programs.” Ask if the company has one and, if it does, leave knowing how it works.

If you didn’t find a job last year, you might have failed to nurture one or more champions for your search. Don’t just resolve to turn over a new leaf. Do it.

Mildred L. Culp of WorkWise® welcomes your questions at culp@workwise.net.

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