How to contact a hiring manager you want to work for

How to contact a hiring manager

Should you directly contact an employer you want to work for? Yes. But there’s a right way and wrong way to do that. Here’s how to contact a hiring manager.

I recently saw a Facebook post asking the hivemind what they thought about reaching out directly to a hiring manager at a company with an active job posting that they were interested in.

Most comments said “Don’t.” Some said that they were hiring managers and they found such things “offputting.” Others said they would just refer the person back to the “proper channels.” Almost nobody said, “Go ahead. Do it.”

These responses made me furious. The hiring process is so broken and this is a big part of the problem. I jumped in to say that the best leaders in all sectors are warm and open to communication, and that any manager worth their salt would be pleased with the person’s initiative. I also said that if a manager is put off by someone reaching out to say they want to work with them, the job seeker probably dodged a bullet. I did, however, add the caveat that the job seeker should have been networking before they needed a job, not now. As a friend of mine recently pointed out: you don’t plant a tree when you’re hungry. You plant it long before, so it’s ready when you need to eat.

I understand that times are tough and not everyone can afford to dodge bullets. But, seriously, if you’re a manager who is “put off” by people reaching out to say they are eager to work for you, I wonder why on earth you are a manager.

That being said, I was talking with a conversation with a hiring manager friend who pointed out that there’s a way to contact a hiring manager and a way not to contact a hiring manager. So, I thought I’d share some of our conversation, and just some common sense, with you. Because I’m just a really good person. Here you go.

How to contact a hiring manager:

Find the right person – don’t reach out to the VP of marketing to ask about a product development role. This happens – someone will email someone in one department regarding a job in a completely other department and ask if they can tell then anything about the role or company. This approach will just be confusing and make you look incompetent. A job posting isn’t an invitation for everyone to start making inroads into the company. Find the direct hiring manager for that role and contact them. If you can’t figure out exactly who that is, find the closest person you can and ask them if they please be so kind as to tell you who to contact.

Make your pitch and get out – Get to the point. Don’t give your entire career history. Say you’re interested in the job opening and the company. It helps if you can say something insightful or complimentary about the manager or the company. Like, that you are impressed with their marketing campaigns, admire the company’s innovation, or have heard great things about the work culture. This shows that you’ve done some research and are genuinely interested. State, in a few words, why you’re interested and qualified. I mean a very few words. Like, 25. If they want to read your resume and cover letter, they’ll ask for it or look for it in their pile.

Don’t ask for anything that requires effort – While some people are very open with their time and willing to meet with anyone, most others would be irritated and confused by someone message them with some random ask that would take time and effort on their part. Like, “Would you tell me about the role and company culture and maybe how I can make a good impression?” Read the job description. That stuff is probably in there. If it’s not, find it elsewhere. And don’t make assumptions or follow some template you found online by a personal branding “expert” claiming to get results. Closing your message with “When is a good time to set up a call?” is unlikely to beget your desired result. The person probably doesn’t want to have a call with you, but if you absolutely must ask, for some reason (I can’t think what that reason might be, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist), say something like “Can you please spare a few minutes?” Be respectful and humble.  

If you have contacted a manager in a respectful manner, and have effectively communicated that you are a good potential hire, the manager may look for your name in the incoming applications, ask HR to flag it for them, or even respond and open up a dialogue with you. If they don’t, don’t take it personally or let it get to you. There could be many reasons. Maybe they’re overwhelmed, maybe they never saw your message, and even if they did, maybe it got lost and they forgot about it.

Or maybe they’re one of those people who is “put off” by people reaching out to them. If that’s the case, you probably didn’t want to work for them anyway.

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