Consider this scenario: On Friday, a senior engineer position is announced internally at an organization. All employees who want to apply need to submit a resume detailing their qualifications by the close of business on Monday.
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Three people feel they are qualified. They hurry to update their resumes over the weekend – save for one, who doesn't have a resume. He has never written one. He'll have to learn how quickly.
By the end of Monday, when resumes are due, the vice president of engineering is shaking the hand of the new senior engineer, who is told to keep this promotion under his hat until the staff meeting on Friday.
The vice president wants to receive the resumes, just to make a good show of it. She winks at the new senior engineer as he leaves her office.
This sort of situation may seem tricky, but it is not new to the many professionals who have witnessed colleagues suddenly rise to coveted positions. In fact, it's one of the most common ways employers prefer to fill open positions.
Generally speaking, there are five ways companies like to make hires:
1. From Within the Company
The scenario described above is the most preferred way to fill a position. Ideally, companies like to have someone on hand who can fill a role quickly and with little fuss. Is it fair to the unemployed and other job seekers outside the company? No. But companies only have one thing in mind when making hires: finding a safe bet. Who could be safer than someone the company already has on the payroll?
Not only are hiring managers already familiar with the abilities – and inabilities – of existing employees, but promoting from within also builds goodwill in the company. An employer that promotes from within is a good employer. This makes hiring from within a win-win scenario.
2. Employee Referrals
Employers like hiring through referrals because employees tend to only refer people in whom they are confident. Employees don't want egg on their face if their referral doesn't work out. Even if a family member catches wind of the role, the employee won't refer them unless they believe that family member can really do the job. Yes, people will forsake their own flesh and blood to save their professional reputation.
According to Jobvite, 40 percent of all hires come from employee referrals. This is even more stunning when you consider that referrals only account for 7 percent of all applications. One wonders why employers are even wasting their time on, say, job boards.
3. Through the Hiring Manager's Immediate Network
If a hiring manager can't find an internal or referred candidate, their next move is typically to reach out to people they trust outside the company, including former colleagues, partners, vendors, and even people who've left the company for greener pastures (boomerang employees).
4. Through a Recruiter
If internal candidates, employee referrals, and external networks all fail, many hiring managers will then hire external recruiters. Recruiters can be pricey, so they aren't a first choice for most employers, but they're still palatable because of their industry knowledge and connections.
Either way, the employer is paying for a few candidates to be delivered. It's a risky proposition.
When employers get truly desperate, they advertise their positions. There are two major problems with advertising a position publicly: cost and quality of candidates.
In terms of cost, it's not actually the cost of the advertising itself that concerns employers. For most companies, the time spent reading resumes and interviewing unqualified job seekers is what really bothers them. Even with advanced ATSs on their side, employers still run into many unqualified candidates who wrongly make it to the interview stage.
What You Should Do About It
Given employers' preferred methods of hiring, your best bet is to become a referral by reaching out to people you know who work for companies you'd like to join. This is easier said than done, but doable nonetheless.
Begin by first creating a list of companies you'd like to work for; aim for 15. Most importantly, be sure to work out why you'd like to join these companies.
Next, identify people at each company who can be of assistance. LinkedIn is ideal for this, as most hiring authorities are on LinkedIn. Use the "companies" feature of LinkedIn to search for people. Work your way up by connecting to people on your level. Also, connect with people who used to work at the company; they can give you some insight.
When you find someone who works at a desired company, start by making a genuine connection with them. Then, later on in your conversation, when you've built a bond of trust, you can broach the topic of a referral. Try asking if the company offers an employee referral bonus. This would be a great incentive for your employee connection to refer you to a position, provided they have faith in your abilities and character. That's something you have to earn beforehand.
If you were an outstanding employee at your previous job, friends of your employer will come to you. I see this often with my best customers, who land jobs based on their personal branding. Former vendors, customers, partners, and colleagues reach out to them.
You can also attend industry groups where people who are currently employed are networking. Go to offer your expertise. Be prepared with personal business cards and a personal pitch. It's my opinion that the best people to be with when you need a new job are those who are already employed.
One of the best places to network is in your community. You never know when you might run into someone who knows someone who works at one of your target companies. Make sure people in your community know about your situation and that you've clearly explained what you're looking for.
When you least expect it, your lead will come to you. One of my former customers was approached by his neighbor, who took my customer's resume to the hiring manager of the company he worked for. Days later, my customer was interviewed for a position.
The bottom line is that you cannot rely on applying online and waiting to be brought in for an interview. You must become a referral.
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.