Debra Feldman

Find Contacts to Network Into Your Target Employers

How to manage connections actively for success in today’s job market.

June 16, 2011
by Debra Feldman

It’s an employer’s or the buyer’s market. There are a wealth of qualified and eager candidates for every job opening. Internet job boards first changed the face of recruiting increasing access to listings. Then, the explosion of social networking dramatically impacted the recruiting, landscape and hiring process by spreading news among connections and creating still another venue for position announcements. Both of these innovations made it easier for employers to more readily source talent and increased candidates’ ability to learn more about individual companies and to interact directly with decision makers. This is one of the main reasons employers no longer rely as heavily on external recruiters and why networking is the preferred, most effective job search method for senior level positions. Four out of five (80%) of openings are filled via referrals, and not through classified ads, job fairs, campus recruiting, online job boards or external recruiters.

Passive, active and future job seekers must manage their connnections actively because contacts are a very reliable source of new job leads. In the 21st century of personal branding, you must establish and maintain the right contacts that will put you on the inside track to plum, unadvertised jobs. In this most competitive job market, being among the first to discuss a potential opportunity with the appropriate hiring manager is a strong advantage. If you come highly recommended, this further improves your positioning relative to others who are interested in the same job.

Get On and Stay On Decision-Makers’ Radars

The top candidate does not have to be actively in the job market, but they must be on hiring authorities’ radar. After communicating capabilites, specifying distinguishing talents and demonstrating trustworthiness, genuine interest has to be conveyed regularly.

Establishing good relationships with appropriate inside contacts is the best way to shorten your job search, smoothen the transition and have a competitive advantage over other candidates. However, all contacts are not equal; get connected with the decision maker or with individuals who can recommend you to the hiring authority, not with HR. (Unless this is an HR job, HR does not have budgetary authority and cannot actually hire you.)

Your principal networking goal should be to make a positive impression on the appropriate hiring decision-maker at each of your target companies. Focus on developing trusting relationships with individuals who can sponsor you at each of your target employers.

Network Purposefully!

Effective networking that produces leads requires finding and engaging employees at target companies and demonstrating your abilities repeatedly with measurable results and showing how you produce increased profits, decreased costs or improved processing. Do not mistake this longterm relationship building for isolated, and often ineffective, networking transactions like just exchanging a few words, a request for help, sending a resume, or being connected on a social networking site.

To promote credibility, you have to be likable, trustworthy and demonstrate the necessary technical strengths and soft skills. Contacts must appreciate your potential value to their organization and regard you as an expert in your field. To benefit from insider connections, cultivate meaningful relationships through mutually beneficial exchanges. Look for ways to help them before you need help, clearly communicate your potential value contribution by your actions, and stay in touch regularly so that you will always be at the top of their minds.

Your goal should be to connect with the appropriate hiring decision maker who has budgetary authority or with someone who will refer you to that person. What is the ideal timing? Before the employer visualizes their perfect candidate and before you are ready for — or need — a new job.

Where to Find Employer Contact Names

So where do you begin? Here are seven steps that can help ease you up that ladder:

  1. Search the company website or LinkedIn for the names of employees who hold positions that interest you. Look for:

    1. Individuals with the job title you are targeting,
    2. Individuals who manage your target position and
    3. Individuals, with job titles, who know people in the first two categories.

    Do not focus on human resources staff unless you are seeking an HR position.

  2. Search contact names on networks such as ZoomInfo, Jigsaw, Spoke, Quora, Twitter, Facebook, Plaxo and MySpace.
  3. Search for contact names through your college or graduate school alumni database. This connection is always a valuable one and you may discover that you have shared experiences and common friends who can build a long-term relationship from a simple referral.
  4. “Like” the target company fan page on Facebook and befriend the manager.
  5. Like the fan page of company employees on Facebook and monitor for signs of new opportunities or shared interests that can spark a conversation.
  6. Follow the target company’s official Twitter account, company employees and business partners.
  7. Browse for blogs (Search Google or Technorati) using the target company name to find mentions of employees. Comment on their articles to promote a dialogue.


Social media resources are readily accessible online for today’s job seekers. If you do not use the tools that are available to everyone, it is likely that your competitors will position themselves as more attractive. Waiting for the recruiter to call is no longer an effective way to find a new job. Neither is applying online or sending a résumé without attempting to obtain a personal introduction.

Too many good candidates are leveraging contacts to improve their searches. Those who make a personal connection have an edge. You must proactively put your hat in the ring by making the right inside contacts. Get introduced. Get on the decision-maker’s radar. Connect with a company employee now if you want to find a new challenge.

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Debra Feldman is the JobWhiz(TM), a nationally-recognized expert who designs and personally implements swift, strategic and customized senior level executive job search campaigns, banishing barriers that prevent immediate success. Her gift for Networking Purposefully(TM) and expediting stalled job searches connects candidates directly to decision makers, not HR. Learn more about her groundbreaking techniques that compress job searches from months into weeks leveraging online visibility and maximizing traditional techniques.

(C) Copyright, 2011, Debra Feldman. All rights reserved. Used with permission.