For many applicants, finding a job means submitting a resume
to every job advertisement they see.
This means online job boards, job fairs,
and asking friends and family to pass along suitable opportunities.
While sometimes these job-hunting approaches work, often they’re not effective. A better strategy for a job search is to turn to your professional network. But many professionals are hesitant to do this… either because they’re afraid of how such a request will be received or because they don’t know how to ask someone for a job.
If you’re in this position in your job hunt, don’t be afraid to turn to your professional network. After all, we can all use a little help sometimes. Your contacts likely know and understand this.
In this tutorial, we’ll explore how to use your network in your job search. You’ll discover how to ask for informational interviews. You’ll also learn how to how to ask if a job position is available.
What About Social Media?
Posting on Facebook and LinkedIn to let your family and
network know about your job search is commonplace now, but is it effective? It might work for some people, but the lack of comments on such posts
suggest it’s not always the case:
And here’s another one:
This doesn’t mean
asking your network for a job is a waste of time. You just have to be selective about who you ask, and how you frame the
request. Networking, after all, is a give and take process. You’re supposed to
do your research and talk to the right people to collect information, which
will eventually lead to job opportunities. You can’t just ask for a job and
expect to get one.
1. Get to Know the Right People
Your first step in using your network to find jobs is to get to know the right people.
The right people include recruiters, hiring managers, and
anyone hiring in your ideal role. Focus your networking efforts on people at a
higher level than you to avoid coming off as a threat to other employees in
your job grade. For instance, if you’re looking for a professional or mid-level
position, look for managers, directors, or startup CEOs.
You should also seek informational interviews with
professionals, who can give you honest and specific advice even if they don’t
have the power to hire you. It won’t be a waste of time to meet with an experienced
professional in your field or a retired
contact that’s still well connected to industry decision-makers. They might not
refer you to an available job, but they can show you the ins-and-outs of the job and introduce you to people who make hiring
2. Consider an Informational Interview
Many applicants dismiss informational interviews as a waste
of time because it’s not an actual job interview. Why waste time interviewing
for a non-existent job when there are hundreds of jobs waiting to be filled?
The truth is that not all vacancies posted on job boards and recruitment agencies are for
available jobs. Sometimes the employer already filled the vacancy, but the people who posted it didn’t bother to
update the ad. Or, in the worst case scenario, the advertised position doesn’t exist. The
company or recruitment agency just wants to see what’s out there. You can even
get interviewed for a job that doesn’t
exist yet, like what happened to one of the readers at Ask a Manager. Look at the comments from other readers,
and you’ll realize this isn’t an isolated case. So yes, in some cases sending
your resume to advertised jobs could be just as much of a gamble as going to an
About 70% to 80% of jobs aren’t advertised or published anywhere. How do you think companies fill
these vacancies? They rely on word of mouth and referrals. One way to be one of
those lucky referred candidates is by expanding your network. Doing lots of
informational interviews will increase your odds of coming across an opportunity, while establishing yourself as an
eager and savvy professional. There might be no vacancy at the time of your
interview, but the people you’ve talked to will email you as soon as they hear
of an opportunity.
3. Set Up Informational Interviews
Now that you know the benefits of informational interviews,
it’s time you learn how to set one up. Do
your initial approach via email or over
the phone. Each method has its own pros
and cons, so just go with whichever is less awkward for you.
Of course, it would be better if you knew the people you want
to interview. But don’t let your lack of contacts stop you. Just explain how
you found their name and contact information, so you’re not mistaken for a creepy stalker.
You can find a customizable template for requesting
informational interviews and other helpful information in these tutorials:
- CareersHow to Find a Great Job and Get Hired (In the Next 30 Days)
- CareersUncover Your Ideal Job With Informational Interviews
You’ll also see good questions to ask during the interview in
these tutorials, so don’t forget to check them out.
What if you don’t know the person you want to interview, but
someone in your network does? This situation requires a three-step approach. The
first step is to request an introduction from your colleague, and make it as easy as possible for them to accept your
1. Email Your Contact
Here’s a sample template you could use to email your contact:
me to (the person you want to interview)
“Hi (Contact’s Name),
I noticed that you’re
connected to (the person you want to interview)
on (social network). As you may know, I’m
currently in the market for a (job title) position, so I’d love to chat with
them to get some insight about their (work or target company).
Would you please make an introduction? To make this
easy for you, I can send you a short introductory email, so all you have to do is copy it.
2. When Your Contact Agrees
In the next step, you need to respond if your contact agrees to introduce you. Here’s a sample of an email you could send:
Subject: RE: Introducing me to (the person you want
“Hi (Contact’s Name),
Thanks for agreeing to introduce me. Below is an email
that you can forward or edit as needed. Thanks again.
Subject: (Person you want to interview) meet (Your
(Person you want to interview),
please meet my (your relationship + name), who is (your current or previous job
title) at (employer’s name). (Your name) is an
excellent (skill) and they are curious about your work and the opportunities
at (the person you want to interview’s employer). Would you mind giving
them 15 minutes of your time to talk on the phone or maybe grab some coffee?”
3. Your Move
People are more likely to respond when someone makes an
From here the final step is just a matter of arranging the schedule and
method of the interview. Since you’re the one asking a favor, you should make
an effort to adjust to the other party’s schedule and location preferences.
4. Ask Your Network to Refer You to
In some cases, you already know there’s a job opening so you
just need an “in,” someone who can
submit your resume directly to the hiring manager,
so it’s not lost in a sea of applicants. The two strategies below will work in
1. If You Had an Informational Interview
or You Know the Person Well
Use this template if you found a job opening at the company
where your contact from a previous informational interview works, or you know
the person well enough that you’re confident they’ll refer you:
“Hi (Contact Name),
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me last
(date). I had a great time learning about your career as a (Contact’s Job
Title) and the skills needed to succeed in your field. I researched the role
further and found an opening for (your target job) at (Contact’s Employer).
Would you be comfortable sending my application to the hiring manager? It’s hard to stand out because of the competition, but I know a
referral from you would increase my chances.
To make this easier for you, I can send you the resume
I updated after our talk, plus a brief introduction that you can quickly forward to the HR manager, (HR
Manager’s Name if you have it).
Of course, I can also send my resume directly if you’re
not comfortable sending it. I appreciate
any help you can give. Thanks!
If your contact agrees, all you’ve got to do is send an
updated resume with a brief cover letter and introduction, similar to the
template on step two for informational interviews with a middle-person contact.
- ResumesHow to Make Your Resume Stand Out as the Best
- CareersHow to Write a Cover Letter – The Ultimate Guide
- Resumes20 Cover Letter Examples
- CareersHow to Make Your Resume the Perfect Length (+To the Point)
2. Your Contact is Connected to a
Here’s an outreach email you can send a family member,
friend, or colleague who’s connected to a hiring manager or decision maker in a
company that’s currently hiring:
“Subject: Possible referral for the (Vacant Position) at
Hi (Contact Name),
How are you? It’s been a while since (describe your
last meeting). As you probably know, I’m currently in the market for
opportunities in (industry or job type). I discovered a vacancy for (job title
with a link to URL if available) at
I checked LinkedIn and saw that you’re connected to (Hiring Manager or
Decision-maker’s name), who is (target’s job title) at that company. Would you
mind passing my resume along? Your referral could make a huge difference in my
standing as an applicant.
If you agree, I will send you my updated resume plus a
brief introduction that you can easily
forward to the hiring manager. Of course, if there’s anything else you need,
please let me know.
Thank you for your help.
5. Subtle Approaches to Find Out Whether a Job Exists
1. A Friend Works With an Interesting New Venture
You’re at a party or
networking event, and you bump into an
old friend who’s now part of an exciting new project or company. You want to be
a part of their team.
Get your friend to talk about the products or services they’re developing. People are often excited to
talk about exciting stuff they’re doing, so use this to your advantage.
Eventually, your friend will have given you enough information that you can use
to give him a genuine compliment. Say something like,
“I’m fascinated with what you’re doing in the field of
(field of expertise) at (Company Name). I’d love to work on something like
If your friend knows about your professional background,
they may tell you about the job openings the company has. You can just ask more questions
about the skills they’re looking for and where they’ve got challenges if your friend doesn’t
respond with a list of job openings right
away. Get their work contact details, so you can keep in touch and learn more
about available positions.
Use the information you get to customize the follow-up email
It was great to see you last night at (event name or
venue). I enjoyed hearing about your work at (Company Name), and I have a
couple of ideas to help you and your team (problem or skill you specialize in).
Would you have time for a quick chat so we can discuss
Treat your conversation as an informational interview if
your friend can’t make hiring decisions. Of course, if he can, you should treat
this discussion as your first job
interview. But instead of answering job interview questions, you’ll be pitching
your services to a potential employer.
2. Offer Trial Work
Research the company or person you want to work with before
offering to work with them for free. Find out the following information online
or through an informational interview:
- Whether they’ve got the budget to hire you
- The skills or work experience they need
- If there are problem departments or teams that you can help with
Once you’ve got the information, set up an informational
interview with the HR manager to discuss how you can help. You don’t have to
ask for a job directly, but you’ve got to make your intention clear. Say
“I’m looking to develop my experience in (line of work), so I’d love to talk to you about how I
can help you with (the short-term project
you want to work on based on your research) for free.”
Doing free work builds your reputation and expertise. Plus,
in different fields can attest how doing pro bono work often leads to fantastic job opportunities.
Wrapping It Up: It’s Okay to Ask for Help
You’ll notice that all the tactics in this article require
you to ask for someone’s help, even the subtle strategies. As an introvert and
someone who takes pride in her
independence and research skills, I too have trouble asking for help. You
might feel embarrassed to ask for help as well, but like me and countless others,
you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone if you want to succeed in your career.
Contrary to popular belief, no one will think you’re incompetent for seeking help.
There’s nothing wrong with
asking for help with your job search, especially if you know how to ask someone for a job properly and you know how to return the favor.