cold contacting employees at the place where you’ve applied for a job

A reader writes:

My question is about contacting staff at the organization where one has applied for a job. In this case, I’m actually the ask-ee not the ask-er and it’s happened a few times: someone will cold contact me on LinkedIn or email, indicating that they’re interested in / have applied for an open role at my organization and would like to talk with me about the role / my role / my perspective on the organization / whatever it may be. Generally it’s before they’ve been contacted for an interview, or not – shortly after applying.

I’m generally turned off by this and feel like it’s a sneaky way to get an interview and circumvent the hiring process! Am I being overly critical? Is this common, accepted, or advised practice?

One distinction is that I work for a very small organization so while this person would not be reporting directly to me (and the job description does make that clear), it is very likely that I’d play some role on the hiring team and decision-making process. I think they are making the assumption that we’d be peers and therefore this is okay to do, but they really have no way of knowing the inner workings of our organization or how our two roles would be connected, or not. I can see this practice being more legit if a) you have some connection to the person you’re reaching out to so you’re doing it under the guise of a pre-existing relationship, or b) you’ve applied for a job at a large company and are reaching out to someone in an entirely different department / team, so it is legitimately about their experience at the organization versus getting a bonus interview or trying to make a good impression. What do you think?

Yep, it’s absolutely an attempt to circumvent the hiring process. People who do this assume that they’ll either sneak their way into an interview or you’ll be so impressed with them that you’ll put in a good word for them with the hiring manager.

Interestingly, almost no one does this after they’re in the interview process — which is a time when it would make more sense to talk to people there about their perspective on the organization. People do it almost exclusively before they’ve been invited to interview, and that’s because they think it will increase their chances of getting said interview.

Personally, I think its fairly rude: Instead of following the hiring process laid out by the employer, they’re asking you — someone who may or may not be involved in the hiring process or have any real insight into the role — to take time out of your schedule to help them increase their chances of getting an interview.

And it’s not that candidates shouldn’t have a chance to ask genuine questions of people who work at the place they’re applying. Of course they should! But at this point, they haven’t even been asked to interview, and they might not be. So they’re asking you to spend time talking with them about a position that they might be rejected for tomorrow, in the hopes that they’ll gain an advantage over other candidates.

Now, you asked if it’s common, accepted, or advised. In my experience, it’s not uncommon — it’s a thing that some candidates will try. And I suspect it’s advised by the same people who advise calling to follow up on your resume or trying to use gimmicks to “stand out” — neither of which is very effective. Is it accepted? Well, it’s a thing some people do and they don’t generally get rejected for it. And some people aren’t that annoyed by it (especially people who don’t do a lot of hiring and/or aren’t on the receiving end of a lot of these requests). But a lot of people do find it annoying, pushy, and transparent.

You don’t have to accept these requests though! It’s fine to respond with something like, “Because we’ve had a high volume of interest in the role, we’ve found the best way to explore a potential match is to start with the application process laid out on our website.” Or even just, “My schedule means I can’t set up a call outside of our regular hiring process, but if you’ve applied via the website, the person managing the search should be in touch soon.”

(One exception to this: If the person looks like an especially strong candidate who you’d like to try to recruit, it makes sense to get on the phone with them. But that won’t be most of the people using this tactic.)

{ 205 comments… read them below }

  1. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

    I really want to send this response to my university’s career center, who actively told us that it was a good idea to seek out employees’ email addresses and reach out asking to chat about the role. The one time I tried it in an act of desperation, I got a “how did you get my work email?” and never did it again.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      Why do university career centers seem to give out the absolute worst advice of any outlet? It’s a consistently terrible resource for actual career advice according to basically everyone I’ve ever talked to about it (and a large number of letters to Alison).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think it’s because they’re often staffed by people without any substantial experience hiring. They’re often staffed by people just a few years out of school. So the only way they can give advice is by repeating whatever job search advice they find online — much of which is very bad. They’re not drawing on their own experience hiring. (That said, I’ve been told there are some good ones out there, so they’re not all terrible. But a lot are.)

        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          That’s probably true, but also I think it’s because they ARE drawing from their own experience in hiring…for academia rather than corporate. Academia is very “helping students and faculty succeed!” or “we are all colleagues across the world regardless of who our employer is.” So hiring is based on bolstering prestige, or creating strategic alliances, or building philanthrope, or chasing research grant money, or recruitment statistics like work-study opportunities, etc., rather than fulfilling a profit-driven business need. I know I was a bit astounded at first that my university regularly posts faculty and staff jobs for other institutions — corporate HR does not do that.

            1. FairPayFullBenefits*

              Really? That’s so interesting to hear – most of the career center staff at my schools were probably in their 40s+ and career counseling had been their entire careers. And yet they still gave all the terrible advice you talk about here (including “When you apply to a job, contact random employees there on LinkedIn).

          1. Elizabethll*

            I work at a university and I can tell you that we do NOT want people randomly calling or emailing us to talk about roles they’re not finalists for. I think Alison’s explanation is a lot more likely.

        2. Anon4this*

          Mine notably told me, quite earnestly: “It’s very important to employers that you use Times New Roman on your resume.”

          1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

            While that’s oddly specific, good advice would probably be “use a common, legible typeface and not something gimmicky to show your unique ‘personality'” I can’t imagine any hiring manager wants to read a resume in Comic Sans.

              1. Working Mom Having It All*

                Eeehhh, a sans-serif font is kind of an edgy choice for a resume, if we’re going to get really hardcore about it. Sans-serif fonts are typically made to be read on screens. While some very tech-forward HR departments and hiring managers might be paperless and reading most resumes on a tablet or something, typically people are going to print out your resume.

                I might use Computer Modern for a resume I was sending to a tech company, where I’d assume that there’s a younger and less stodgy ethos at play and nobody is going to be like THIS IS NOT A RESUME FONT WTH AM I EVEN LOOKING AT HERE, and where yeah, strong chance folks are reviewing resumes digitally and not by printing out a stack of them.

                I would probably stick to something more traditional for a more corporate/non-tech field, though. The more traditional the better if we’re talking finance, law, etc.

                For the record, my resume is in Proxima Nova, which is also a sans serif font, and I got a specific comment in my last hiring process that it was a very unusual font and a unique resume layout. It’s… the first resume template option in Google Docs. I work in the entertainment industry. Buttoned up corporate folks are sheltered.

                1. Lobsterp0t*

                  Whoaaaa. That’s wild. I’m going to switch back to my old format, I think. I have a similarly simple but sleek looking CV based on a template and it hasn’t gotten the same response my less sleek and also simple one got that wasn’t even based on a template

                  So interesting.

                  Of course, most jobs in the UK non profit sector use forms and not CVs!

                2. DuskPunkZebra*

                  As a typographer, this isn’t universally true. There are screen and print typefaces, but there are serif and sans serif faces in both categories. (Times New Roman is a screen face, in fact, and it irritates me to no end when people insist on using it for print.) The differences are usually in line weight and stroke contrast, and the light strokes or connections will usually be thicker on screen faces as they are likely to be more blown-out by the white or light-colored backgrounds on a backlit screen. Print faces with very light strokes become more difficult to read on screens due to the backlighting.

                  The difference is usually age when it comes to whether serifs increase readability, since reading is about shape recognition. Older readers are more accustomed to serifs in typed material, where Millennials and younger have much more early exposure to sans serif faces, and so are more comfortable with reading sans serif text both on screens and paper. (Individuals vary, but this is the trend.)

                  The type of face used should probably skew towards the average age expected to be hiring in the industry, something easily and comfortable to read on both screens and paper, slightly larger than you’d use in most applications (this is really one of the rare cases 12pt type really should be body text, because eye strain makes small text harder to read), and that has a “voice” befitting the industry norms in tone.

                  If you want to be REALLY safe, Google dyslexia-friendly typefaces and pick one that feels like it fits the tone you should strike. These faces are easier for most everyone to read because each letter form is distinct and often weighted to the bottom, and the easier it is to identify the letter forms and the shapes of the words, the easier reading is.

                3. The same anon from before*

                  Oh, it absolutely was a serif font. There are sans-serif fonts in the Computer Modern family, but the default LaTeX font is serif.

          2. PB*

            This is funny, because my father told me “Do not use Times New Roman on your resume. It’s a newspaper font.” He preferred Garamond.

          3. tiffbunny*

            Like much of the awful advice given to jobseekers in 2019, that was briefly true *in certain areas* a very long time ago.

      2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        Having worked in a regular business environment and now at a university, I can say that academia in general is a whole different planet. They don’t run like the corporate world does, so their advice might work for an academic environment — where looking up an email address in the university directory and contacting someone out of the blue to have a sort of collaborative/mentoring/teaching chat about something might actually be encouraged — but absolutely won’t play in the corporate world.

        Or, I wonder if it’s a bit of the mindset that there MUST be a shortcut or magical formula or…secret coded knock… for getting a job that only a select few are in on; that the masses are just fools for applying the way the directions state. Sort of like: “If you use discount code SKIPTHELINE at application, you can go straight to JOB without passing Interview.”

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          There used to be, pre-Internet, books on how to access “the hidden job market” where, supposedly, “90% of the jobs are!” The gimmick was that most jobs worth having never made it to the classifieds, they were filled by word of mouth, or, in some cases, a hiring manager might be so wowed that he’d create a job just for you! Gumption, bootstraps, etc.

          It’s in the same category as well-meaning parents telling their kids to just go to likely employers and apply in person.

          The thing is, that DID used to work in many cases but it’s as dead as disco and Betamax now, thanks to the Internet. Employers can advertise for free on their own website, or else on Craigslist or Indeed for a nominal fee. No more paying through the nose to advertise in the paper or trade publications and then hoping you get a few decent applicants; under those circumstances,finding someone with Gumption who cold-called or faxed their resume, and happened to be a good fit, was a boon.

          It doesn’t work that way anymore. Employers really do want people to apply through conventional channels (the website, HR, etc.). While I wish a thousand poxes on screening software that has no flexibility, gimmicks and gumption are not the way around it.

          1. Meet Me in Montauk*

            Yes on the parents advising their kids thing! I work in HR for a large company and we get a lot of speculative CVs through the post from young people/grads who are mainly told by their parents this will make them stand out from the applicant pool, their cover letters often say they are willing to do ‘any role’ to show their enthusiasm. These are first or second jobbers looking for entry level positions.

            The biggest issue is we have dozens of vacancies at any one time so all applications must be tracked with our online system, which tracks interview stages/offers etc. We just don’t have staff capacity to manually go through each vacancy and assign these speculative applicants to which roles they might be suited to based on their CV, and even if we did, we’d then have to manually enter their details onto the system which would take forever. It would also be unfair to people who have taken the time to apply properly through the correct channels and suggests a lack of inexperience/understanding about the process of recruitment at large companies.

            So normally if we have time, we’ll fire off a one line e-mail to them asking them to apply for any vacancies they’re interested online.

            Perhaps this method worked a few decades ago, or for smaller firms, but in our case we aren’t bowled over by the initiative shown by sending us these applications – it just creates more admin and means the sender is wasting their own time as well. I wish a lot of these parents understood how the job market has changed in 2019 and not push their kids into sending out hoards of these by post.

          2. Emily K*

            That myth is annoyingly hard to refute because there’s no hard data on it, and if someone really believes it they’ll just dismiss your experience as atypical if you point out that, for instance, you’ve never worked for a company that didn’t post jobs widely, and your current company has created 200 new positions in the last 5 years and the only ones that weren’t posted publicly were promote-in-place rewards for employees who were doing their job at a higher enough level to be recognized for it, or to be rewarded with the opportunity to focus more narrowly on a particular aspect of their job and have some of their less desirable or more rote work reassigned to a more junior staffer – so they’re jobs that wouldn’t exist without that specific employee anyway and also correspond to a position being eliminated (the person’s pre-promotion position), so it’s not like being great at networking would have helped you get that person’s promotion position instead of them.

      3. Noah*

        I just want to mention that I never got any bad advice from my university or grad school career services. (At least not blatantly obvious, nobody should ever consider doing this kind of bad.)

        I doubt the data shows career services are actually particularly bad about this. We see tons of bad advice from friends, parents, employers, coworkers, and recruiters here (and elsewhere). It’s just more shocking when a career services office does it, it’s more shocking so you remember it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But that’s the point — their whole mission is to help you find employment, so it’s egregious when they give out terrible advice. Which they frequently do, if my mail is any guide. You might have been lucky in yours; many people aren’t.

          1. tiffbunny*

            Seconding this. I work directly in Workforce Management in the EU now, but worked in HR stateside before that, and can confirm in my professional experiences that academic Career depts. on both sides of the pond are generally out of touch with what employers are looking for and often give advice *in direct opposition to the actual industry standards!*

            It’s like whomever is teaching these uni Job Training courses hasn’t actually changed jobs since 1953 and developed the original course curriculum on a typewriter.

      4. KoiFeeder*

        I think when I mentioned in an open thread a particularly bad email my college career center sent out, the conclusion was that it was a neural network masquerading as a career center.

      5. TheGreatK8*

        I do want to point out that certain prestigious entry level jobs, namely investment banking, big name consulting, and sometimes Big 4, essentially require this kind of cold-emailing and “informational interviewing” to get a foot in the door. Many career centers are so aligned to these fields that they give this blanket advice or students assume this advice for the “prestigious” applies across the board.

        Caveat: these emails generally try for a tenuous connection; ie alumni, friend of a friend of Dad’s friend, roommate’s HS friend’s older brother, etc.

    2. Holly*

      I want to second this – except this is often I got a lot from my law school career counselors. I actually had some nice discussions with people, but all in all it didn’t help my job search. Which, to be fair, is actually what the outcome should be.

    3. PlainJane*

      I was about to reply that “informational interviewing” as a strategy was definitely suggested, and I always thought it seemed too weird for words–“Oh, yes, I’m totally just asking questions, no ulterior motive here!” I couldn’t bring myself to do that, or to do the other “networking” things suggested, like just casually bringing things up at social occasions about work. Or, you know, “casually bringing things up” :wink-wink:

      What they’re trying to do is create a systematic way to employ the tricks of the well-connected. “Why yes, I was just talking to young Thurston on the golf course, he has big ideas, just like his dad! You know old Thirsty O’sorich, don’t you? I think you went to school Back East with him. Anyway, junior asked me great questions. Hey, Muffy, darling, do you mind if he comes in to shadow me next week? You’ll just love him!” Only the thing is, that only works when you’re actually connected, and the person you’re connected with has actual sway to make a call like this. And instead of trying to simulate it, maybe we should, I don’t know… discourage it so that there’s a more level field?

      1. Emily K*

        The other thing about informational interviews is that they seem like a relic of a less frenetically-paced world. Even if I don’t think someone’s angling for a job or has some other ulterior motive, I tend to balk at just the imposition on my time when, to be blunt, there’s nothing in it for me. I am so overwhelmed all the time, I always have a backlog on my to-do list of stuff I’ve had to set aside due to competing demands, it’s honestly all I can do to keep myself in good standing at work, keep my family fed and cared for, keep my finances organized, and keep my house from falling into disrepair. If I have any time left over after that, all I have energy to do is watch TV or read a book for an hour before I pass out from sheer exhaustion.

        I know not everyone is quite so overburdened/busy, so I try not to judge the asker too harshly especially if they’re young and inexperienced, but I also know I’m far from the only one with very little free time, and my first reaction to someone asking me to give up an hour or more of my time (which is basically what any in-person request requires due to travel time and task-switching inefficiencies) without offering me any compensation or incentive is half to wonder where they get the gall.

        I’m much more willing to answer questions in a written format that I can set aside and come back to as needed to fit into small gaps that occur naturally in my workday on my own timetable. But meeting up is like, something I don’t even have time to do with my friends as much as I want, let alone an unfamiliar, directionless youngster who’s looking to me for direction.

      2. Working Mom Having It All*

        The thing is, this sort of thing totally works a few years into your career, when you do know people who have real adult jobs, and you have a few years of work under your belt yourself, etc. I got my current job through a friend, via exactly the sorts of networking tactics people tell college kids to use. I was looking to pivot to a different part of the industry, this friend happened to be doing what I wanted to do, and it turned out there was an opening at her company that needed to be filled. Those types of things feel very natural and not like playacting after a few years in your career.

        But, yeah, if you’re just some rando and you don’t actually have a connection to someone who does that job, and you have no qualifications for any position they might be trying to fill, the whole thing is just a hollow charade.

        1. PlainJane*

          Those types of things feel very natural and not like playacting after a few years in your career.

          The thing is, they still feel unfair to me, like more is based on social connections than qualifications (though I’m sure you’re actually qualified and they wouldn’t have hired you otherwise, the sense is that other qualified people who didn’t have a friend there would be at a disadvantage).

    4. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

      The career center for my graduate business school (!) gave out this same horrible advice.

      1. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

        I also went to a fancy professional grad school (like a business school but not exactly) based in a Big City, and got advice as bad as from my undergrad career center. Now that I’ve been in the professional world for a few years, I want to write an anonymous note to this school saying that can’t justify charging such high tuition for what is essentially shitty professional development.

  2. Foreign Octopus*

    I actually had to advise a student (ESL teacher here) who had come to me for interview practice that calling after you’ve applied to show interest is a bad idea because of these very reasons.

  3. Theory of Eeveelution*

    This worked for me once! I wanted a job at a museum, so I sent a Linkedin message to a couple people there introducing myself. A week later I had an interview. I don’t know, people say don’t do this or that, but sometimes this or that works.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Maybe. Or maybe you would have gotten an interview anyway and it was unconnected. Or maybe by doing that you screened for a place that doesn’t assess candidates on merit, which is rarely a good thing once you’re working there. It doesn’t change the advice!

      1. Harley*

        I think this perspective is rather rigid. It is definitely possible to make genuine and helpful connections through cold contact outside of the “hiring process” (and land a job). Some of the best people who I’ve ever worked with have either been hired this way (and killed it!) Or haven’t batted an eye at this during their own hiring.

        I have found that people who are more open, curious, flexible, and good with people are more likely to be receptive to the approach.

        1. min*

          If you are hiring for a position with dozens (or more!) applicants, not wanting them to try to circumvent the process by contacting you separately does not mean you are not good with people or that you are inflexible. It just means you don’t have time to deal with people who want to sneak in the back door.

        2. tiffbunny*

          100% this. My team hire approximately 400-500 people a year and got about 30k applications this year alone. Not wasting time on applicants who can’t or won’t respect our process has nothing to do with whether or not we’re “open, curious, flexible, and good with people” – behaviors that can be charming or feasible for a small business often don’t have a place at a corporation that operates on a much larger scale.

    2. Antilles*

      I mean, that’s awesome that it worked out.
      But in my experience as a hiring manager (and what I’ve heard from others), you’re absolutely the exception that proves the rule: Most other cases it would either (a) not help you at all or (b) straight up irritate the hiring manager and actively hurt you.

      1. Artemesia*

        I know a lawyer who hired an associate for his small firm who gumptioned his way in the lawyer liked the ‘cut of his jib’ and yes, ‘his gumption’ — so sometimes bad ideas yield fruit. But these days more likely to turn off prospective employers.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          People still fall for cold-calling sales as well, so that’s why it still happens.

          Something for everyone to keep in mind about this kind of gumption stuff.

          Just like when the scammers who are calling from “Microsoft about the virus on your computer” start asking for your credit card number so they can fix it for you.

          Scams and myths are out there still because of the whole “One in ten thousand? Imma take those odds and run with them!” Look at everyone who plays the nation wide lotteries just because it may be their big day!

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I have known a few people over the years who certainly wouldn’t disregard someone and may bite at this kind of thing. “They seem so interested! They really want to work here!” and they hire the person.

      It’s usually a small local spot that doesn’t attract a ton of interest in their jobs. Did they pay you well or was it an entry level kind of gig? It can often depend on the business, their size, their scope and their draw for employees.

      I used to hire anyone who walked in the door and asked for a job at one place [it was a laborious job, we were always hiring and we just needed people who showed up and slung boards around all day]. So yeah if you sent me a message, I’d say “Come on by, fill out the application!” and then “Hired! Can you start tomorrow?”

      1. Door Guy*

        My last job hired everyone who both showed up to the interview and passed their background/driving/drug screens.

        My current job it really depends. Several times we’ve had multiple rounds of interviews, other times people were hired on the spot (pending drug and driving record screens). Some of it was that they were the only person to answer the phone/call us back when we were trying to set up interviews! When I needed a new tech, I had a stack of resumes/applications and only 2 people actually responded, and 1 of them had just gotten a different job.

        We also had the applicant who called every day wanting an update before we had even set up interviews. He got an interview with our VP because we had just lost 2 employees and we needed to start filling them asap. After confirming his interview, and calling the next day to confirm his interview…he was a no show to his actual interview.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Oh yeah…that last dude. Been there, done it.

          I’ve also had people beg or show uncanny eagerness for jobs. Get the jobs because ef it, it’s always a low skill kind of job that you just need to try out and see if you can handle it.

          They either no-show or quit within a day or two. Then my favorites are the ones who vanish and appear like a ghost looking for their check a few weeks later. Which is reason 3283497 why I love direct deposit and that it’s rare to issue checks anymore. [Funny a lot of the people who do pull this stunt conveniently don’t have checking accounts though, that’s my last two failed attempts to hire someone who at least could show up to an interview.]

      2. Working Mom Having It All*

        I feel like if the job itself is not in particularly high demand, this probably wouldn’t ding an applicant. “We got 3 qualified applicants, and one of those applicants, whose resume we liked already, happened to contact someone outside of the hiring process. We will of course still choose to at least interview that applicant just like we were already going to do” is very different from someone who is one of a pool of 200 applicants and who cold-emailed someone in hopes of standing out. Either it won’t work, or they will stand out in a negative way.

    4. wittyrepartee*

      I’m pretty sure this is how I got an interview as well. However, I wrote into the “ask a question of the [city] department of [department]” and asked if there was anyone who was willing to speak to me about which of the many positions they were hiring for were appropriate for my background.

      I ended up getting put in touch with someone fairly high up, and apparently she put in a good word? Or something?

      1. wittyrepartee*

        Further note: I’d applied to other positions in the department of [department] before, and a lot of times hadn’t heard anything, sometimes they were listed as “pending” half a year later. I figured it wasn’t likely to hurt me and that I’d be polite by just writing to the email for questions. I did have some actual questions because the job listings were a bit confusing and rather than filling out 5 applications I thought it would be a better idea to just talk with someone and see which ones were appropriate or inappropriate given my education level.

    5. Just J.*

      I think what Theory of Eeveelution did may be different than what OP is experiencing. Sending an introductory note and asking if there are position open is one thing. I mean, once you have a network, this is networking. (And OP alluded to this note “a” of her letter.) Asking about open positions is a yes / no, 30 second, point you to our HR, type of answer. Asking for 30 seconds of my time is not too bad. Asking for more than that, I will probably ignore your email. Emailing to ask if you have a half hour for a “talk” is a flat no. Alison’s advice definitely applies.

    6. Anon Librarian*

      As with everything, tone, context, and the audience make a difference. I think there are ways to do this and times when it would be ok. But it’s usually going to be seen for what it usually is – a manipulative attempt to get around the rules and make a good impression while actually taking up someone’s time. I wouldn’t want to work with most people who would do this kind of thing. Obviously, your situation was different!

  4. Daisy*

    Are there any exceptions to this? For what it’s worth, I’ve been advised by a great number of people (not university career centers, but people in lots of different levels of work in this field) that I should do this. I’m a recent graduate in a very networking-heavy city and it feels super awkward and off to reach out to people I dont know. But on the other hand, I’ve been told that this is the only way to get your resume noticed in this field.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Are they telling you to do it as a genuine informational interview, when you haven’t already applied? If so, that’s fine. If you’re doing it after applying as a way to get more attention to your candidacy, it’s annoying. At least in most fields.

        1. Joielle*

          Yeah, that’s way different. Informational interviews are great when you reach out to someone BEFORE any jobs are posted. You can ask about their background, how they ended up where they are, what they like and dislike about the field and the organization. I got my first real post-law-school job that way. But after you’ve applied for a job, it gets weird – it feels like you don’t care about the person’s experience, you just want to get your foot in the door and are using the person as a stepping stone. The timing is what makes the difference!

          1. Antilles*

            That said, don’t try to turn it into a “here’s why I’m great” session, because I can assure you that it’s blatantly transparent within the first 90 seconds…and the other side of the table is going to mentally cross you off.

            1. Anna*

              This. I work in a program that is geared toward training and employability. Part of my job is to walk through why a student should do an informational interview. Some of the material is really good. Informational interviews are to learn about the field, the person’s career in that field, and how they got where they are. The really bad part of the material is the article students are supposed to read about informational interviews that quotes BS statistics that say 1 in 200 job applications result in an offer (and some say 1 in 1500 gasp!) while 1 in 12 informational interviews results in an offer. I always tell students that’s questionable, but I’m probably going to stop using that article. Informational interviews are supposed to be about deciding if the field or company is a good fit by talking to someone with more experience in one or both, not to butter up someone so you can bypass the hiring process.

            2. Joielle*

              Oh, yeah, that’s so true. For me, it was kind of an unusual niche job, and I set up a meeting through my school alum network to ask about the realities of what it was like to work there. I was honestly trying to figure out if I’d be happy in that type of job – it has some weird hours and occasional work-life balance issues, which are (theoretically) balanced out with other perks. It was really helpful to hear an insider’s perspective, and then when a job happened to open up a few months later, I reached out to my contact there and he put in a good word. But yeah, you can always tell when someone is “networking” with you because they think you can get them a job. It’s rude.

            3. Emily K*

              Yes, and savvy networkers know that nothing will give someone a better impression of you than if you let them talk about themselves the whole time! If you talk about yourself they’ll think you’re wasting your time and self-promoting. If you show interest in hearing about their individual career path, or ask questions that emphasize you value their insights or unique perspective, they will be so flattered they’ll remember you as “that lovely grad student who was so eager to learn [about my favorite subject, me]!”

              It’s just how our brains are wired. No matter who you are or what else you like, we generally like ourselves and we like people who reward our egos with attention :)

          2. Jimming*

            Yes, and information should be the goal, not a job lead as some people misunderstand the concept. The information can be so helpful to guide their job search. Personally I had one informational interview that helped me know what company/roles I didn’t want to pursue.

    2. Olive Hornby*

      I’m in a very small and very networking-heavy field–the kind of field where many if not most jobs above entry-level are never posted anywhere before they are filled, and where there’s a lot of gossip about who’s meeting with whom, who’s unhappy in their current role and might be looking to move, etc. In fields like this, I think there can be some value in reaching out to someone at a company to learn more about the role and figure out if you want to make a serious play for it. But 1) I always have an introduction from someone in my network — I never cold email and 2) I only do it when officially applying might have negative consequences, either because the move would be internal (and applying officially would require informing higher-ups) or because I think there’s a good chance it would get back to my boss, and I want to make sure I’m interested enough to live with that possibility.

      1. OP*

        Hi, OP here, totally agree – I’d be a lot happier to talk with someone, potentially even a cold outreach if they made their case well, when they’re considering applying (especially for more senior roles where the process carries a bit more weigh) – as this makes me feel like they’re genuinely seeking my advice in confidence, rather than hoping to impress me so I pass their name on!

    3. Working Mom Having It All*

      If you don’t know them… then it’s not networking.

      Networking is leveraging your personal network (it’s right there in the name) to find work. I networked my way into my last two jobs, in exactly the way that people tell students to network. Except I actually knew those people and was an attractive candidate for actual openings in the company. In one case, it was someone I knew socially, but we already worked in the same field and had other connections in common. In the second case, it was a former coworker who knew my work well.

      Reaching out cold to a complete stranger, where you have no idea if a job actually exists or not, if they are part of the hiring process, if the contact is welcome, etc. is not networking. Doing this when the person would have no reason to vouch for you and you have nothing to offer is also not networking.

      On the other hand, I would agree that informational interviews are fine. Especially because those can both establish that connection to someone you could then network with and also help the person determine if you they could vouch for you and if you would be an attractive candidate. Sometimes they don’t come to anything, but there’s no problem with trying.

  5. Antilles*

    I can see this practice being more legit if a) you have some connection to the person you’re reaching out to so you’re doing it under the guise of a pre-existing relationship, or b) you’ve applied for a job at a large company and are reaching out to someone in an entirely different department / team, so it is legitimately about their experience at the organization versus getting a bonus interview or trying to make a good impression.
    (A) is definitely different. If you actually know the person, it’s networking and is totally fine. On a practical level, it may or may not have value (especially in larger organizations), but there’s no issue with it. Networking with someone you already know is completely different from a cold-call out of nowhere.
    As for (B), if it’s a cold-call, it’s back in the “yeah, don’t reach out to people you don’t know”. But it’s also kind of useless, because in a large company, “how does this individual branch / department work?” is usually much more relevant than the overall large-scale corporate.

    1. ursula*

      Yeah, I’m happy to help a friendly acquaintance learn more about the job (and low-key assess a potential coworker!). But I bristle at any attempt by strangers to not follow the damn instructions on the job posting, or to try to use me as a stepping stone. It’s insulting and obnoxious.

  6. Jerk Store*

    I feel like a dead giveaway is that none these messages include any specific questions or points the candidate wants to discuss, like, “Is this role going to be located out of the Springfield or Shelbyville office, the job posting doesn’t say?” or “I’m looking for something with a more Research focus, do you know how Research-concentrated this role is?”

    Not that the LW has to respond to more specific queries, but it would at least give the asker a little more credibility than a vague “I’d like to talk about the role”

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I agree, if someone has a straight out question, I’ll be more inclined to respond.

      It reminds me of a dating app [here’s that comparison again!], if someone shoots you “Hey cutie, how u doing?” do you feel that much pressure to respond as you do when they say “I see you’re a fan of underwater basket weaving, I took a course in that! Where do you get your reeds?”

      So if you hit me up all “It doesn’t mention holiday pay in the post, do you offer paid holidays?” then I’m going to respond with “We do, we have X amount of paid holidays, they’re These Days Right Here.” or whatever actual question they have, instead of just a basic “hi gurl, coffee?”

  7. Manon*

    I just want to throw in that often this is something people do on the advice of career advising offices, family, and the internet writ large, without an intention to sneaky or nefarious purposes. So, so many people have told me that I should call/message/email/send a carrier pigeon to the hiring manager after sending in an application so that “they remember you” and you’ll “stand out.”

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I did overhear a conversation like that at Thanksgiving, with an older relative making that recommendation to a newly graduated job seeker. I interrupted to say that you might stand out and be remembered for this technique, but it probably won’t be in a good way.

      I work in government, and even when I was the manager in charge of hiring, I had very little say in which applicants would be referred for an interview. All applications went to my city’s HR department where they would be screened for the necessary requirements and I would be given the list of people I was allowed to interview. So people cold calling or dropping by the office in their best suit weren’t any more likely to get an interview. And when one of the drop-bys did show up at an interview, I didn’t remember him as the classy guy in the nice suit. I remembered him as the guy who broke my concentration for no good reason when I was working on an important project. He probably went away from that experience thinking that showing up in my office in his nice suit with a copy of his resume to talk to me about himself is why he got the interview. He was incorrect.

      1. Joielle*

        Yeah, I feel like people get an interview after pulling a stunt like that and they think it worked and that’s the reason they got the interview – when it’s actually like, no, buddy, you got the interview DESPITE that irritating tactic.

      2. Zombeyonce*

        It’s no wonder the older generations are always giving this advice. 30 years ago, companies didn’t use automated recruitment applications and mandate online applications; taking in a resume or application to companies was the main way people applied to jobs. The problem is that most retired people (or people that have worked for the same company for decades) haven’t experienced this shift, much less realized it’s almost universal across jobs and sectors.

        Thank you for steering that job seeker to the correct information about contacting employers!

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          It’s one of my two standard pieces of career advice.

          1. Apply for jobs by following the directions laid out in the job posting


          2. Hardly anybody cares where you went to college as long as you meet the requirements for the job.

        2. AndersonDarling*

          I saw a job ad recently that asked for applicants to fax their resume. I wondered if the fax number sent the resumes back to 1975.

          1. CL Cox*

            I could see using that as a way to check if applicants will follow directions and/or because they get so many emails in the course of regular business, they wanted a way to keep the resumes separate and easy to sort.

        3. Door Guy*

          About 10 years ago my family hit hard times and ended up moving back in with my parents. My wife got a job almost immediately (she had JUST finished her CNA certifications) but I couldn’t get so much as a “Thanks, but no thanks” email, much less an interview.

          My dad almost immediately started riding my backside about going out and looking for a job. He didn’t seem to understand that I WAS looking for jobs. I was filling out numerous applications and sending out my resume every day, while also trying to be a parent to my then-toddler. Except that since I wasn’t beating the pavement and collecting paper applications or hand delivering my resume, he didn’t think I was looking. Not only did the few places I did go in person to ask for an application (because I was already out and about) tell me to go to their website, but they lived out in the country so it was an actual trek to go to town.

          Thankfully I did eventually get a job and we moved out shortly thereafter, but the whole cycle started again when my sister graduated college and moved back home (after having lived in student housing) and started looking for a job herself.

          1. ScarletNumber*

            These sound like the parents who wonder why you can’t pay for college with your summer job and working at the college library during the year.

        4. GreyjoyGardens*

          The so-called “hidden job market” WAS a thing for people starting out in the 70’s and 80’s, before the Internet and Craiglist and company websites changed the game. Unfortunately, well-meaning older relatives still buy into this.

          1. Anna*

            Most of the places I partner with do still talk about the hidden job market, but they use it to mean more networking.

          2. Milton’s Red Swingline*

            Oh, it still is a thing in places. Say you are a small mom&pop outfit with maybe a couple employees. You need someone, but don’t have the money to pay an agency and if you put the advert out, you get DDOSsed with applications you have no time to weed through. Heck, even big companies get into this trouble in recession, imagine a small company wanting a receptionist and getting 500 applications? They still do put notices up in the window in these parts, though I would want to go back to the day when you went to the exchange, got a card off the wall and showed up the next morning to work.

      3. nonymous*

        I work at the federal level and we do the pre-posting chats to prepare qualified applicants and HR appropriately.

        For example if there is a new grad who is a good match for a PhD level position we want to know when they will graduate because we need to specify “PhD by start date XYZ” instead of the default, which is PhD by application date. Otherwise they won’t make the list.

        We had one situation where HR rejected an application b/c the person didn’t have post-grad experience (her experience with XYZ technique was during grad school). But she would have qualified if she had picked the next-lower GS and negotiated the pay bump to happen after a six month period (instead of the standard 1 year wait).

        1. CL Cox*

          Pretty sure it’s frowned upon to tailor your posting to favor one candidate over others for any government jobs.

    2. Anna*

      I took students to a workshop on interviewing offered by our state employment department. I decided to sit in so I could hear what students were hearing. The facilitator told students to write physical thank you notes. I tried very hard to not jump in all over that, but I did gently mention, “send an email thank you.” Facilitator: You could do that, but if you send a handwritten note, I’ll bet nobody else is doing that and you’ll really stand out. Me: Internal screaming and plans to deprogram my students. If that weren’t bad enough, the actual information packets they handed out included the advise to work for free for a couple of days to demonstrate how you could pick up the job really quickly. Me, to my students: Never do that. For one, it’s illegal, and for two, you deserve to be paid for your work.

      1. ScarletNumber*

        > work for free for a couple of days to demonstrate how you could pick up the job really quickly

        Not that he is giving this as advice per se, but Jay Leno talked about doing this when he was younger. The job would be something like washing cars at a dealership.

          1. Anna*

            And comes from the Gumption School of Getting a Job. To be fair to Jay Leno, when he was doing things like washing cars for free at a dealership, it was the 1960s? A much different time period from today. That advice today is outdated and, like we both said, illegal.

            Plus being paid for your work is a human right. Enough with this “do it for free” BS.

      2. AnotherLibrarian*

        It might sound bananas, but I worked at a place that really cared about handwritten physical thank you notes. Like was obsessed by the. It was SO weird. Otherwise, totally lovely normal place to work.

  8. TootsNYC*

    It’s interesting to think about using the “reach out” later in the process, when you think you have a shot at it, and you can have some specific questions about the company in general.

    But I would never cold-contact anyone, not even after an interview or an offer. It’s just weird.

      1. Joielle*

        Yeah – if I had questions later in the process, I’d probably ask the hiring manager if they could put me in touch with someone who would be my peer. That’s whose insights I’d want anyways.

    1. Kes*

      I feel like there’s probably two reasons for that:
      1. It’s a tactic people are using to try and get a chance when they feel they might just get screened out and connecting with an actual person might give them a better shot, whereas later they know they are in the process and have a chance and have talked to actual people
      2. Once you’re in the process people may worry that reaching out outside the process might be seen negatively (like you’re trying to circumvent the process) and have a negative impact on their candidature, when they feel they have a good chance – vs doing it earlier when they’re just trying to get a chance and think it will “show initiative” and be seen as a positive (of course, as stated, in point of fact when you’ve applied you are in the process and going around it can be seen as a negative – but I’m just trying to say what I think the applicants are thinking when they do this)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I agree with both of these (that this is people’s reasoning). #2 is especially interesting because why do they realize it would seem like circumventing the process if they did it once they’re in the interview process, but not realize it looks like that earlier on too? (Maybe it’s just how conventions have grown around these things, who knows.)

        1. GooseTracks*

          I think people don’t see it as trying to circumvent the process if they do it before being contacted for an interview, because at that stage you’re not really “in process” yet. Your resume is in a stack and you’re trying to get it pulled out and moved to the top. This is the exact same thing you’re hoping for when you contact someone you DO know pre-interview stage and ask them to flag your application. And no one bats an eye at that type of networking. (Not advocating for cold-messaging at all, just saying that I don’t find it dishonest or manipulative; but it is useless, at best.)

        2. TootsNYC*

          I think that candidates who do this think it’s so much harder to get past the interview hurdle. That it’s more arbitrary and unfair. And you have absolutely no control, no influence. (strong candidates don’t do this, because they think they DO have influence, via their experience, resume, and cover letter) And so to take any step you can is reasonable and will be viewed with sympathy (and it is–I’m very put off by people who do this, but I would never pass that on to the hiring folks, because I know it comes from that insecurity and also from bad advice)

          Whereas once you’re inside the process, you get some control back.

        3. Kes*

          I think from the applicant’s perspective applying can just feel like you’re sending your resume out into the void, and so it isn’t until they’ve heard back from the employer and know they are engaged as well that it really feels to the applicant that they are in the process with that employer.
          Also I think it’s conventions as well, that gumption/initiative is a way to get noticed, but once they are paying attention you better behave and follow their process. In a way I think it’s the same thing as other sales contexts where people use cold calling or weird gimmicks sometimes to try and get initial attention, vs after that when you’re trying to conform to whatever they want.

          1. Lexi Lynn*

            And, it’s the way LinkedIn pretends the world works (send an email to a 3rd degree connection, it’s fun!) so I could see someone thinking this is appropriate if they don’t have the kind of common sense to think it through. There are lots of people who still don’t realize that they are the product

            1. Joielle*

              Yes! I hate how Linkedin tries to make it seem like you have a connection with all these people. A third degree connection could be like… my coworker’s niece’s college friend. How is that helpful for networking.

      2. GreyjoyGardens*

        While I dislike gimmicks, I can’t say I blame people who think that they might get unfairly screened out, despite meeting the requirements. Age (if automated applications require graduation dates or endless documentation of everything from elementary school on), a name that isn’t the “right” ethnicity, etc. It makes people want to beg interviewers, “please please just give me a chance, I meeet the requirements but keep getting screened out.” That’s less gumption than desperation, and I feel for them.

  9. DAMitsDevon*

    Someone who went to the same grad school as me (but graduated a few years later so we didn’t overlap) recently did this. It’s awkward, because my boss does want me to go over the applications we’ve gotten for the position with him, and I already know he’s passed on her (and while I have some influence during the hiring process, I don’t have a lot, so I don’t really have the authority to give applicants updates on my own, especially through my personal LinkedIn account). I guess maybe HR hasn’t sent the email out yet, but her message is kind of just sitting in my LinkedIn inbox. =/

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I’d just continue to ignore it. It’s a cold email so you don’t have to respond. and also people legit don’t necessarily keep a close eye on their linked inbox. I sure don’t.

      1. Cobol*

        This! If even expand it a little. You never have to respond to somebody you don’t know just because they contacted you.

  10. Beast from the East*

    I have a friend of mine who is an IT recruiter (I’m not in IT) and she has told me to do this very thing. I thought it was weird but figured that she is a recruiter and should know what she’s talking about. YIKES!!

  11. Roscoe*

    This has happened to me a few times. I personally didn’t care and I was happy to talk to them. Mainly because I know how much job hunting sucks, and I would love to know about a company before going through the time to apply (especially with some of these ridiculous systems that take an hour), and I would hope someone would be willing to take a few minutes for me if I asked. However, if it was happening often, I’d probably just ignore it after a while.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      If it was before the person applied and they were specifically asking about the job parameters and if it made sense for them to apply, I’d probably respond to that. But just a general “I just applied for a job at your company and I want to talk to somebody who works there” probably won’t get a response from me.

  12. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    At least when it’s through LinkedIn it’s somewhat less off putting and feels less invasive only because it’s for networking and business. But when they start farming email addresses or worse, the ones who show up at a business and stalk down their employees to “chat” as they go to get coffee across the street [that letter/comment{?} still gives me hives thinking about it, it gets so obscene usually pretty weak candidates will go to try to work for a Big-Shiny-Company they’ve idealized over the years for whatever reasons.

    I would just ignore them most of all, since engaging with them tends to bring people to a “Oh I got a live one!” stage, whereas ignoring them is more like “ah they don’t use Linkedin much I guess.”

    It’s the new “just call them up!” and “just show up!” lower-key gumption when this starts happening.

    Yes, sometimes it may work out for the person, so that’s why they’re not against it but they’re probably casting out so many nets and are bound to get hired somewhere, somehow that the actual ratio to when it works to when it fails miserably isn’t available for real stats on the whimsical kind of mindset that people tend to be in when they take this route.

    1. sacados*

      Agreed. If I got a cold-contact thing like this via LinkedIn, I might very well choose to ignore it/turn them down, but I wouldn’t be creeped out or offended by the contact itself the way I would be if someone had clearly hunted down my email address.

  13. diner lobster*

    Ugh. As someone who regrets having done something like this in the past (“informational interview request” meaning “I want the job I applied for, and I think this is how to get it”)…how to recover? Working in the same industry, have I permanently sullied my name with those orgs?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      As long as you weren’t pushy or egregious, most people forget after a short period of time that this happened. So I wouldn’t think of it as a career ruining move unless you went way over the top and sent like 390 messages all pestering the person/people, they moved on after the internal sigh and automatic delete or casual “Can’t help you, bye.” or “hey use the jobs@ email” response.

      The people who stand out in my mind have to do something that wastes my GD patience. Otherwise my brain doens’t have the bandwidth to keep a perma blacklist over everyone who made me groan a bit

    2. alienor*

      I’m involved in hiring, and to me it depends on how aggressive the approach was. If someone contacts me once and accepts it when I redirect them to the regular hiring process, I figure they’re just not very experienced and/or got some bad job-seeking advice, and I won’t hold it against them. If they keep trying and become a pain in the neck, that’s when I’ll start thinking that I’m pretty sure I don’t want to work with this person ever.

      That said, people move on all the time, so if you reached out to someone at a particular organization a while back, odds that they’re still there or that they remember it happening are slim anyway. I just interviewed someone earlier this week and wondered why they looked vaguely familiar, and it wasn’t until they mentioned they’d interviewed with me for the same position a few years ago that it clicked!

    3. TootsNYC*

      just ignore it.

      I think the vast majority of us have some sympathy for someone who’s done this. We understand the insecurity and the pressure of job-hunting. And of naivete and inexperience.

      And we probably know you’re getting advised to do this by people who just haven’t thought about it.

      I would bet anybody you did it to, doesn’t even remember your name.

  14. That Girl From Quinn's House*

    Be really careful in answering anyone who cold-contacts you. I’ve had some really negative interactions with job applicants getting angry and threatening to call my boss/get me fired/whatever, for really basic feedback, ex: I’m sorry, our London branch requires applicants to be 18, but our Hogsmeade branch will hire 16 and 17 year olds if you are still interested; We don’t actually have a llama barn at our Arlen location, I’ve CC’d Fergus, the Barn Director at our McMaynerberry location on this email to pass on your resume. Best of Luck!

    If someone is A Problem Candidate, they can cause a lot of trouble down the line by twisting your words, so it’s best to be veeeryyy careful in this situation.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is a good reminder.

      As someone in HR who have dealt with the unhinged overreactions of some former candidates, it does happen.

      Once you have it happen to you, you’ll understand why HR tends to be so attached to being vague and at an arms length during the hiring process. Stray too far off the beaten track and yikes, you may get your ankles bit by the snakes out in the grass.

  15. IAmAPatientGirl*

    I have someone sending messages to me on LinkedIn about a current job opening at my company, too. And while the job title is the same as my current job title, i can’t really offer much insight into the role even if I did want to respond. I responded politely letting them know that I was on maternity leave, and also letting them know that there were some changes to the department since I was on leave that were substantial enough that I wouldn’t be a useful resource.

    ( I am in training, but the training team was recently split so that the on-the-floor trainers are folded into our quality team and I will be a part of the leadership development team as part of HR. The position she’s interested in is on the quality team, but my position is entirely HR focused, despite the job title)

    Unfortunately this person sent several messages after the initial decline.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Ugh. I had a similar situation where someone saw “analyst” in my title and send me a message about another analyst job. The company had 3,000 employees and I never even heard of the hiring department. Plus, I had already put in my notice and was leaving the company. I would not have been a good resource.

  16. (Former) HR Expat*

    Ugh. Just ugh. Those of us in HR get these requests all the time. It’s so blatantly transparent that it’s almost funny. I get a lot of LinkedIn messages telling me that they’ve applied for the role and would * love * to speak with me regarding the role, can they set up a time for a phone call? And then in the next sentence ask if I can put them in touch with the hiring manager. I work in a pretty large organization and most of the time I’m not recruiting for whatever job they want to “discuss.”

    Job seekers- please don’t do this. While I know we all hear stories of it working, 99% of the time it is really annoying and puts me off you as a candidate.

  17. Sharon12*

    Oh, I do this all the time too – and I recommend you do the same! It’s been an effective way to put my resume/LinkedIn profile in front of the right eyes, and I’ve landed plenty of interviews as a result. Many times, strangers have been more than willing to help me – because I’m a qualified candidate. If I weren’t even remotely qualified, I wouldn’t cold email. By sending a thoughtful letter on why I’m qualified and can offer, it also shows that I’m serious about the opportunity.

    Secondly, I’m happy to connect *qualified* candidates as well. My team prefers to hire referrals, so if a job seeker reaches out to me, they have a better chance of getting their application seen. If they schedule time to chat with me, I can get a better sense of whether they have enough experience for the role. Sometimes, I get bombarded with solicitations, but I’ll weed through them to the ones that I think might be a fit.

    As the adage goes, “it’s about about what you know; it’s about who you know.” Why send your resume off into the ether to patiently wait for the HR Gods to bestow you with a screener? Why not market yourself directly to the consumer?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Since you’re applying to jobs that you are qualified for, you probably would have gotten an interview regardless.

      I don’t do this and I get plenty of interviews too and I get a high rate of job offers too. Because I’m a highly qualified person who applies to jobs that are on track with what I do.

      The advice not to do this is more of a cautionary tale and about risk management for the common folks, a lot of times just starting out in the workforce. Since most people aren’t actually as qualified as they think they are or aren’t qualified at all and relying simply on someone saying “I like this kid, this kid has moxie!”

      So it’s pretty reckless to just shout out “try this, everyone do this!” when you’re talking to a wide cast of characters and not a focused group who may very well benefit from it.

    2. Junior Assistant Peon*

      If you’re in a specialized field and contacting a small list of relevant companies, this can work really well (and has for me). If you’re a recent grad trying to get an entry-level job in a cubicle farm, don’t do it.

    3. Scion*

      How do you know that this has helped you? If you’re a well qualified candidate, you’re probably going to get an interview anyway.

    4. Joielle*

      Heh. Maybe you have an in-demand skill set or a niche specialty, or maybe this is done in your field – but if you did this for a job I was hiring for, your resume would almost certainly go in the trash. Someone who’s willing to be that irritating before they even have the job will not be any easier to deal with if you hire them. Perhaps this works for you (or perhaps you’re getting interviews despite it), but it’s certainly not universal advice.

    5. Zombeyonce*

      But how do you know you’re contacting someone that can actually help you get the job? I work for a large company and I can imagine plenty of people thinking I could tell them about a job or recommend them because I’m in that department or have the same job title as the posted position, but that’s rarely (if ever) true. I would just be annoyed and would likely complain about them to the people that might actually be hiring for the role. But there’s no way for external candidates to know who’s hiring for the role and contact those people in particular. I hope people reading your advice take it with a grain of salt, because it can turn out pretty negatively for them.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Also, if I *could* have some influence over who gets interviewed, I’m not going to squander it for a stranger.

        It’s true that if you’re really qualified, and especially if the position is hard to fill, I might look over your resume and make a decision on my own about whether to pass it on.

        But that’s all predicated on whether you guessed right about whether I am at all connected to the department or field you’re applying for.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Also, if I *could* have some influence over who gets interviewed, I’m not going to squander it for a stranger.

          Yes, this is what starts giving me anxiety reading the original comment. I did a bit of a gasp, pearl gasp to myself thinking of putting my name on someone I don’t even know.

          I can see passing along resumes to the right place, forward them to HR or what have you. But yeah, to actually say you refer the person who you are only aware of by a cold call and resume, I’m not hanging my reputation in the wind like that! Sure most may be really cool and great workers…but that one bad one can leave you looking really bad in someone’s eyes that you do not want to look bad in down the road.

        2. Sharon12*

          For the record, I work in the tech industry so things tend to work differently there. Without a referral or directly reaching out to a recruiter, there is NO way you’d get an interview with Google or Facebook. None.

          So I don’t consider myself “squandering” my social capital for a stranger. Not everyone has a strong professional network, especially people from underrepresented groups in the tech industry. If I see someone that I think I can be a strong fit for my team, I’ll pass their details along with the note that I haven’t personally worked with them but they seem promising and interested.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            Or recruiters directly reaching out to you. I have given Google recruiters a ‘soft no’, it does not take. I said “I’m looking somewhere else” and they replied with “I’m sure you mean you’re *not* looking somewhere else – call us when you are!”

            1. Sharon12*

              So we agree – a candidate needs a relationship with a Google recruiter or employee in order to get an interview. If a recruiter doesn’t reach out to you first on LinkedIn, you, the candidate, need to put yourself on their radar.

          2. Scion*

            That is just not true. I know many people who have gotten interviews at Google and other Silicon Valley types without any prior relationship to the company. And not just people right out of school either.

            Just think of it this way. Google hires thousands (the number I’ve seen is 7000+) people per year, which means they must interview an 20,000 people minimum (probably many times more). There’s *no way* that all those tens of thousands of people have a connection to someone at the company.

            Also, you never answered the main question people have about your post. How can you know whether or not it was the cold email that got you the interview, and that you wouldn’t have been called for an interview without it?

  18. CM*

    This just happened to me. I ignored the LinkedIn requests, and responded to emails with a note saying I wasn’t talking to individual applicants about the position, but would be happy to talk to them if they were selected for an interview. I felt like it would be unfair to let some people have an “in” while others just applied with the info on the website.

    I did respond to one person. He attached his resume and asked specifically if his qualifications were appropriate for the role — he said he couldn’t tell from the job description what level the role was. He had very high-level positions in the past and I told him we were looking for a junior person who would be doing routine work. That seemed like a valid question and he ended up not applying.

  19. Allison*

    I get these all the time, probably because I’m on the talent acquisition team and there’s a little more of an expectation that I’ll engage with interested candidates and help push them along in the process. Like I’m gonna chat with them, even though my role is research-based and I’m not in training to be a recruiter, and through that chat I’ll conclude they’re the perfect candidate and should absolutely go straight to the interview phase! The reality is, sometimes that person who “just wants to know more about the role” has already applied and been rejected, and they’re probably hoping I’ll advocate for them to get a second chance. Sometimes they didn’t apply yet, and when I encourage them to do so, they don’t, and it becomes fairly clear they didn’t want to bother with the application form and wanted me to help them skip that step (even if someone is found and contacted on LinkedIn for a role, they’re still asked to officially apply before their in-person interview). I have no say over who gets an interview, if the recruiter says they’re not qualified, I generally accept that judgment, my job is to find candidates for the roles that aren’t getting qualified applicants.

    Someone mentioned upthread that a dead giveway that someone who “just wants to chat” because they “have a few questions” is really just looking to get around the official process, is if they don’t actually ask any specific questions. I can’t disclose salary (the recruiters can, over the phone during the initial screen, and yeah this sucks but it’s not something I have any say over) but I can get more info on the role’s focus, how many days one could realistically work from home, how much travel would be needed, etc., but those are still questions one could save for the phone screen with the actual recruiter who already knows these things, that they’re asking me before even applying generally smells like an attempt to get their foot in the door for the job, and it makes me wonder why they’re so worried about being overlooked.

  20. Jo*

    As someone who works for an employment agency… DO NOT DO THIS. If people we’re taking on contact us repeatedly or try to get information out of someone who isn’t their primary contact, we blacklist them for not being able to follow instructions. If they went behind our backs and contacted the workplace without our say so, that would be … well we don’t have anything worse than a blacklist but they’d be on it.

    I know my parents would say ‘call them, badger them, they’ll admire your drive!’ but it does not work like that any more. Sit still, be quiet and wait.

  21. Canadian in tech*

    Yes, I’ve had people do it and it’s really annoying. It’s fine if you have some sort of connection (even if it’s s a shared alma mater or a contact in common) and truly want to learn more about the role/company, but I have had completely random people ask for a leg up in the interview process, and I don’t handle hiring and don’t know how/why I should recommend a total stranger to HR for no particular reason other than “I’m very interested in this position”. What if they end up being terrible? In my experience these messages come from people who don’t appear to be a good fit for the position and know their resume will be phased out. I’m sorry, I know recruiting can be rough, but these messages always confuse and mildly annoy me.

    1. Allison*

      I just had a thought, which is that a lot of companies (especially tech companies competing for talent) have referral bonuses, and people contacting random employees might be hoping that someone’s desire to get that bonus will motivate them to help the interested candidate somehow get around the ATS and in front of the hiring manager ASAP, despite them maybe not having all the necessary qualifications.

      1. Canadian in tech*

        We do get referral bonuses, but it’s not enough of an incentive and I feel like my credibility will be shot if I refer random people. I’m not even sure I would be entitled to one if HR asks me how I know this person and I say it’s a stranger who sent me two lines on LinkedIn.

  22. Auto Generated Anon*

    I work in local government for a small city (65,000) in California. Once a position is posted we aren’t allowed to answer questions about it. Doing so would provide an unfair advantage to applicants. If I respond at all I refer them to the job posting or HR. (Sorry HR!)

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I can’t speak for your HR of course but I would say you don’t need to apologize as [another] HR person. This is exactly what a lot of places would want you to do, it’s our jobs to deal with people who are straying outside the lines not yours but it’s nice to have someone round up those stragglers when they see them or they end up in the wrong spot.

      I get things forwarded to me all the time from employees from wayward job seekers, so I can help them out [aka direct them to the job listing that says how to apply]. I appreciate it, it’s just the kind of thing we do around here so it’s not weighing on anyone’s mind that they just deleted someone’s attempt to find a job and puts the weight on my back, which I’m paid to carry.

  23. glitterdome*

    We get these every once in a while where I work. FWIW, I work for a local government, directly under the elected officials, and occasionally one of them will get an email and resume wanting “to come talk about a job opening”. One, I’m the one who reads ALL the emails they get, and two, those emails get the same response from me which is basically that their email and resume have been sent to HR for processing and to contact HR at following number. My bosses hire a total of three people in the entire organization and they have a strict policy of not getting involved in other hiring decisions.

  24. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I still feel awful, because I accidentally came across as doing it one time last year. I passed the HR and tech phone screens and was invited for an in-person interview. They gave me the name of one of the dev leads doing the interview and it was someone I’d worked with at my first US job in the 90s! I’d lost track of him since. Got overly excited, and sent him a LinkedIn invite, which he never accepted. He also ended up not being able to make it to the interview, so we never saw each other in person. I spent the better part of last year beating myself up and wondering what the heck I had done at my first job that was so awful that Dave had to decline my LinkedIn invite. Then a year later, I finally looked at my profile and realized that I did not have that job, or the one after it, listed on my LinkedIn, and combined with the fact that I changed my last name, I was pretty much unrecognizable to anyone from that old job. Dave, if you are reading this, I was not cold-calling you; it was the perfect storm of miscommunication. (Also, I didn’t get the job, but probably for the better, because their Glassdoor reviews were horrendous.)

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Oh goodness, I’m sorry you’re beating yourself up over this!

      LinkedIn and Facebook is so weird that you can even accidentally send invites/requests without really meaning to. It’s kind of like when you’re lurking and accidentally hit the like button and you’re panicking since they probably have push notifications and now they’re sketched out, right? No. I’m sure Dave really just did a “Hm, who is this? Not sure, so nope.” and moved on. Especially since it sounds like you just sent the invite and didn’t send a message.

      I sent an old colleague, who is actually a former reference for me a friend request. He didn’t ignore it thankfully but he did message me all “Who dis?” and I responded with “It’s me, Becky! The ghost of Our Old Firm past.” “I thought so, just checking!” and accepted =) Most people don’t care /that/ much, unless you’re badgering or being totally creepy.

  25. I'd Rather Not Say*

    Once someone came in to our organization to discuss volunteer opportunities. A short time later, they applied for an opening for a paid position, that hadn’t been posted at the time of the initial contact. Unknown to us, they knew the person who was leaving, so had “inside knowledge of a coming opening. When they didn’t get the job, they made a big fuss to HR alleging a bunch of stuff that just wasn’t true, (they didn’t meet the minimum criteria for the open position, anyway). For that reason, our HR would rather we not talk to people about jobs, outside the official hiring process.

  26. Joielle*

    I sometimes see people defending this practice by calling it “networking” – but networking takes place ahead of time, when there’s no job on the table and it’s a more reciprocal exchange. First you network with someone, then you see a job posted at their organization, THEN you reach out to that person, who you already know.

  27. Mindy St Claire*

    In my previous role in a different City department, a woman did this when we were hiring for the same job title as mine and I politely told her that it wasn’t ethical for me to talk to her outside the hiring process (we have strict rules for hiring in our government). Then, when I was later promoted to a different department, she did it again! She clearly did not remember me or what I said to her before. This was a major red flag that I brought up to the other members of the hiring team because to me it means she has done this gumption thing so many times that she can’t even keep track…

    (Also, to clarify, she did not pass the screening questions either time, so could not have been granted an interview. The questions follow the job posting. So if the posting says “Have X Years experience in Y” then the screening question will ask “How many years of experience do you have in Y” and if they don’t answer X or above, they can’t get moved through).

  28. Hiring Manager*

    I get this so much, trying to circumvent the process- but for actual jobs I’m hiring for. One LinkedIn request to “network about the X role”. One request through a colleague for an “informational interview about the job category” that I didn’t even connect with the specific role until at the end of the “informational” interview the candidate asked if she was a good fit for the role. I have never had a truly strong candidate do this, however.

  29. ragazza*

    To be fair, I think people do this because online job applications are such a black hole. It can be dispiriting to be qualified, take time to write a good cover letter, and then . . . crickets. I’m not saying cold emailing isn’t annoying or that it’s a good way to network, but if more employers were more responsive in their hiring practices–even just to say “no,” or “not right now, but we’ll keep you on file,” or “we’ve got more qualified candidates, but thank you,” it would go a long way.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I agree, it’s hard for people to accept that there’s no active role they can take once they submit their application. And it’s awful to just sit and wait and not know. I think that’s probably at least part of the motivation behind some of these “gumption” techniques. But it’s still important for people in the know to tell job seekers that yes, we know this is stressful and you wish you could be doing something right now, but there’s not anything to do because the process is the process.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The thing is that you have to just accept the black hole exists. You toss your hat on in that ring and then you walk away until someone picks it up and waves you back in.

      It’s not fair, it’s never fair because a business has much more power than any single individual out there. The same goes for any large group of anything verses one person riding the waves. It’s about accepting the playing field and doing your best to navigate it to stand out among the rest.

      So instead of crickets, you are taking a huge risk of making yourself look bad and getting on the wrong person’s bad side. And tanking yourself even further.

      It’s kind of like when you are in a hole and you think that digging out is your best option when you should be looking for ways to climb out.

      I have a lot of sympathy why people do things that they do and can absolutely see the “why” they do it but it doesn’t change much in the long run.

      HR is the place where these sins lie as well. Not the desks of someone working in some tucked away department, most likely tucked away into an area that has nothing at all to do with the hiring process. Pretty likely has been there long enough that they forgot the interviewing process even.

      TL;DR You should never start acting poorly in response to other people’s frustrating behaviors.

    3. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

      Yeah. I had a recruiter I met through a family member tell me to cold-email other recruiters because I have an ethnic name, and she said they tend to get automatic rejections because the system either assumes they don’t speak English or are not US citizens.

  30. PersephoneUnderground*

    I think if you’re in their network, this is common and not weird. We’re told to reach out to connections at orgs we’re interested in, and I’m sure Alison has advised that, not just career centers. If the application is simple or could be time sensitive some might apply first, then reach out, instead of delaying the application until they’ve talked to their contacts.

    If you don’t know them at all, even through another LinkedIn connection for instance, then it’s a lot more like a cold call, and I agree with Alison that it’s odd/borderline rude.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Right, if they’re already in your network / you have a preexisting connection to them, it’s a whole different thing. It’s cold-contacting that’s the issue.

    2. PersephoneUnderground*

      To clarify, it’s not unheard of to (1) see a posting, then (2) apply to the position right away and now be specifically interested in the company more, (3) check if you know anyone at that company where you just applied to get more info, and yes maybe a referral or recommendation if they know your work well. Ideally 3 should come before 2, but when you’re on the site and putting in applications you’re often going to want to apply right away. So it’s all about the details.

  31. Hiring Mgr*

    I think the distinction Alison makes is crucial. I think it’s fine for candidates considering an offer, or in the final stages of the process to do this–in fact I’d encourage it and have done it myself. But it makes little sense for someone just applying for the reasons stated

  32. dogtanian*

    In my job hunting experience it’s quite common for job adverts to encourage informal approaches before applications close, with a named contact listed. My current employer does this when we advertise. It may be cultural or field specific: I’m in the UK and I’m looking at large charities, non profits and government-linked organisations.

    A very different situation of course – the contact is actively welcomed (indeed, adding a bit of job hunting anxiety that it’s an expected part of the screening process) and not cold calling. But I wonder if it goes some way to explaining why people are recommending it to the people OP talks about, and some of the commenters mention.

    1. Betty*

      Also UK, I have also seen this. I have contacted the person once or twice, but only with specific questions (e.g. you mention wanting X and Y for this role – is it more weighted towards X, which I have more experience in? or Would I be working mostly on-site or telecommuting?) I would feel incredibly weird just ringing them up and asking them to reiterate the job description.

    2. londonedit*

      I’ve seen it too, but it’s very much an ‘If you would like to have an informal conversation about this role, please contact Jane Smith’ – there’s a listed contact name and they’re inviting people to get in touch if they have any informal questions before they apply.

      It definitely wouldn’t be the done thing in the UK to go on LinkedIn, dig out an email address and email someone you’ve never met before and who wasn’t listed as a contact on the job advert, saying ‘Hey, I’m applying to work at your company, can you help me’.

  33. Half Knope, Half Ludgate*

    I have been unemployed and actively looking for a job for a while. I went to a (fairly well respected in my area) recruiter for advice and he told me that the ONLY way to get a job in this market was to do exactly what this letter is describing. Not just that it was a viable option, but that it was literally my only hope of getting a job. It sounded really sketchy, to be honest, but since I hadn’t had any luck doing things my way, I figured I might as well try. I mean, this guy was an expert right?

    I tried it once, with a very large media company. I got a response that basically said “what is wrong with you that you think this is ok?”. Not as aggressive, but just truly confused. I was so embarrassed and I immediately wrote back apologizing, explaining where I got this advice from and how sorry I was that I even tried it. She was understanding but did say that I should never, ever do it again.
    I reached out to the recruiter and told him what happened. His only response? “You just happened to catch the only person who doesn’t understand that this is how business works. Anyone else would have been flattered by your message.”
    I’ve lost pretty much all faith in recruiters after this conversation…

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s hard because we want to think that someone who is a “professional” knows a thing or two about their “product”, right? Recruiters should know how to get jobs, they deal with them for a living! Sadly, it’s seriously so untrue. It’s one of those things where some are great, I know we have a few around here and they can also let you know that not everyone is created equal let alone can be a respected “expert” by any means.

      You cannot trust any one person to be the know-all and this is why second opinions or third or forth or 3125 if you read all the comments on a blog like this is so very important. Then sadly you’re left to weigh all the options and opinions and choose your path. It’s a choose-your-own adventure, sometimes you take that turn someone told you to and end up on a dead end, other times there’s a bear down there and the other time it’s the job offer you were hoping for.

      There’s no magic words, there’s no magic potion. You tried it and you learned, that’s vital. But please don’t not trust any recruiters at all, one doens’t represent all. But do always remember that you gotta trust that gut, sometimes someone is sold on something so hard that they won’t ever change their mind like that guy.

      I’ve had a bad experience with a car salesman for my first car ever. It gave me some anxiety, I thought I had that age old “used cars salesman are shady, it’s real!” thought pass my mind. But then the next time, I was cautious and took what I had learned at keep me from falling for the old trick I had before. It never happened again, I haven’t had an issue before, finance departments have been a hard upgrade sell but they took the first no, let’s move along as “no let’s move along”. So again, don’t let one or multiple bad experiences taint your view on everyone.

      Some doctors are quacks. Some lawyers shouldn’t ever have been allowed to practice at all. Some accountants will get you huge penalties [hard side eye and growl]. But yeah, stay cautious but don’t write any one large set of people off =)

      1. Half Knope, Half Ludgate*

        I didn’t mention this in my original message, but this actually isn’t the first (nor the last) bad interaction I have had with recruiters. I am not normally in the habit of discounting entire groups of people based on a few poor interactions, but I am also not one to continue to bash my head against a door hoping this time it will open. If the situation arose in the future where I was approached (properly, not in a spam LinkedIn way) I would be cautiously open-minded. But I can’t imagine a situation where I would initiate a relationship when they have never been worth my time.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          That’s fair! I don’t blame you at all in that sense. Once bitten, twice shy!

          I’ve had this happen with temp agencies and people who have tried and failed with them miserably as well.

          It kind of reminds me of the anxiety that’s caused when I have to call someplace with a phone center given the outlandish amounts of bad experience I’ve had that that kind of turnstyle customer service. Or if you ever have to go into a cellphone store *sobs*

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I’ve also heard those lines from “VIP” headhunters…the only possible way to get a job is to know someone who knows someone. Therefore, you should spend all our time schmoozing at events, taking VIPs out to lunch, and buying presents for CEOs so that they remember you and tell HR to hire you for any job you want.
      Frankly, I don’t want to work at companies that hire based only on who you know. I worked for a company that started hiring based on who owed who a favor. The whole company became corrupted in a year.

      1. Half Knope, Half Ludgate*

        Same! I worked for a company where I was one of the only people that had been hired from a job posting. The first day when I was meeting co-workers, after asking my name their next question was always “Who recommended you to the job?” because every other staff member was a know someone/nepotism hire. The president loved to brag about this, he said it made the company “family-oriented”. But in reality, he used that as an excuse to act like the world’s most dysfunctional family ever. I left after a few years, but my old coworkers tell me it is worse than ever.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*


          We do prefer a recommendation because we have a solid crew who won’t just tack their name onto any Joey Tribbiani out there. Sadly we really don’t get that many, so we’re not actually full up of recommended individuals. But we don’t ever want to act like that’s a huge thing to brag about or be all about.

          We’re the “family” who is always welcoming though, not the weird closed off one. “Come in, eat eat! We have food! Do you like ponies? We have a pony!!!!!!”

          However, we’re also the family that will disown your butt if you can’t behave nicely! We not so recently fired someone we all loved personally but was just too over the top at that rate to keep us all happy and productive, we let him drag it out a bit longer than other places may have but we give everyone some pretty wide margins to be themselves and not have to “fake it” around us. A couple naturally quiet and lowkey grumps among us, no problem if you’re just not into it and want your space. We’re not unruly puppies climbing all over each other or something, lol. So yeah if you have a couple weird outbursts or roll in late a few times, it’s one of those you get more than a couple warnings sorts of things. But if you were egregious [screaming, it turned into screaming] and then byeeeeee no screaming, no aggression, no touchy ever etc.

          Those people are the ones that make me tell my boss to never ever use the “we’re like family” analogy to strangers!

    3. Allison*

      I’m guessing it’s because you’re in an industry with lots of job seekers, and not a lot of job openings, so the companies with these openings get a lot of well-qualified applicants, and actually getting an interview might require some luck, or some strategy to get noticed by the people screening the resumes. In a perfect world, it could help to reach out to someone who has some influence over the hiring process, or knows someone who does, the problem arises when lots of people start doing this, and enough people have been sneaky about it that people at that company, especially in HR, can’t field every request to chat about the position casually “just to see if they should apply,” and people are tired of getting these requests – that’s when it can count against you to reach out.

  34. CanuckCat*

    I had to sit a classmate down once and explain why in the industry we were studying to be in, showing up at the offices of the place you were hoping to intern – especially without an appointment – was seriously not a thing, and you come across looking out of touch, rather than gumption-y and awesome.

  35. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    It’s all in the delivery and in the timing … and whether you’ve earned the right to ask a favor.

    I recommend trying various strategies to connect with individuals on LinkedIn, including chatting folks up who are at your target companies. However, in real life we don’t walk up to people who we believe to have certain affiliations and stick out our hand and say “hey, you’re wearing a shirt from X business. I want to work there, please take my resume to HR.” Because we don’t know if that shirt is out of date, or if that person is well-regarded, or has time or interest in helping you out, or has any reason to believe that you are well-regarded and worth spending their social capital with HR or a manager on your behalf.

    So we can gently start a conversation. And if they say something back, you can respond with a question. And if they like what you ask, and what you’ve presented, they have the opportunity to offer. (Like when you sidle up to someone you know and tell them that piece of cake looks delicious and you don’t just start eating it but you drop hints so they’ll offer to let you have a bite.)

    Then, if the person thinks you’re worth it, let them offer to help. Or not. They aren’t obligated to do anything for a stranger who’s coming out of the blue.

  36. Utilitarian Worker*

    This post makes me cringe! I’ve followed the “reach out for info after you apply” advice during a particularly long job search. I didn’t get a job from doing it and pretty much blocked all memory – until this post! Will never do it again.

  37. Denise*

    Honestly, I’ve had a fair bit of success cold calling or cold emailing or whatever you want to call it. I ended up in my current career because when I first was starting out and was still a student, I cold called a VP at the bank I was interested in, whose number I found by happenstance on a semi-public PowerPoint presentation through Google, who also happened to be an alumni of the school I was attending. I ended up with interviews in 3 different departments. At the time, they didn’t openly advertise their internships, so you had to know someone.

    When I was trying to get into a more niche finance-oriented role, I cold emailed a director at a firm who had HR reach out to me. The recruiter seemed annoyed and wanted to know how I knew the director, but I didn’t get the impression that he was annoyed (and he would have been the ultimate hiring manager). Didn’t get the job, but I don’t think I would have even been contacted at all had the director not sent my information to the recruiter.

    Very recently, I wanted to get in with a very large bank and really believed their ATS was a black hole, as I had tried a couple of times to apply and got no bite whatsoever. Finally I went on Linkedin and contacted both the director of the department and the relevant HR persons, one of whom offered to forward my resume to the department. I ended up with an interview even though hundreds of other candidates also applied, and previously I hadn’t gotten one bit of interest from them. Ultimately, I landed elsewhere, where I went through the conventional online process.

    So I’ve had success both ways–both in reaching out and in submitting resumes and cover letters online. I think that the more niche the job is, the more particular the mission, the higher the career level, the more likely someone will be willing to have a conversation or appreciate someone distinguishing themselves from others just looking for a job.

    **I’d draw attention to the last line of Allison’s reply: “(One exception to this: If the person looks like an especially strong candidate who you’d like to try to recruit, it makes sense to get on the phone with them. But that won’t be most of the people using this tactic.)”**

    That’s the key. You have to be offering something that is worthwhile. At the end of the day, if you’re not an especially strong candidate for a role, then why apply anyway? The candidate has to do enough due diligence to know that they are bringing something valuable to the employer, even if much of it is sincere interest and commitment to the mission of the organization.

  38. Once an academic, always an academic*

    What about if you’re contacting the HR person to figure out where in the job search process they are? I’ve applied to a bunch (a BUNCH) of places and usually that ones that I really want are academic/government/public jobs with a long process. I even had one that had a 7 month gap between the due date for the application and hearing back from them to set up an interview. 7!!!

    Plus, I need to get out of my current situation so the long processes are creating a lot of anxiety.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      What will you do with the info once you get it? Because that’s the thing — it probably shouldn’t change anything about what you’re doing (with some narrow exceptions, like if you have an offer and want to find out how close to offer stage another place is).

      1. Betty*

        I don’t think it’s unreasonable to politely contact the most relevant person once and ask when you might expect to hear back from the company about the next step if they haven’t said. POLITELY. RELEVANT. ONCE.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If you’ve had an interview, sure, if it will actually change anything you’re doing or if it’s been silence long after when you would have expected to hear. But if you’ve just applied and haven’t heard anything … there’s no answer they can give that should change anything you’re doing.

          1. Once an academic, always an academic*

            It’s anxiety. Almost all of it is anxiety. Plus the odd bits of suggestions from people saying that more contact is better that I’m giving more credence – I’m working with a therapist to address this but anxiety will do what it wants to do. (I’m going on a year and a half of job searching now. A couple times I was a finalist but never picked).

            But if there is an offer forthcoming, that would be a good time to inquire about other organizations’ timelines? And if I am a strong candidate in those other positions, what’s the likelihood that they would speed along the process (especially in a higher ed setting)?

  39. OP*

    Hi all, OP here and feeling very vindicated by all of your comments as there was actually a discussion and difference of opinion about this in my office! The person who’s actually leading hiring for this role wasn’t as annoyed me and thought it showed creativity and interest – but also pointed out another angle I hadn’t thought of, that this could be a risk to the applicant. She explained that she trusts our colleague’s opinions so if one of us said something like “looks great on paper but don’t bother with Candidate X” she’d probably take our word for it and not consider them as she would other candidates – so the reacher-outer could actually be circumventing the hiring process to their detriment. Interesting take.

    As others have said – I’m much more open to it if the ask comes before they apply or after they’re interviewing – as both of these points in time lead me to believe they really do want to think hard about their fit with the organization and to get to know potential colleagues, ask candid questions, etc. So it’s just the specific timing, post-application pre-interview, that seems really off.

    1. RG2*

      This may be weird, but I’m so glad you posted this comment. I was convinced I’d written this email in my sleep or something. You’re not alone!

  40. Asenath*

    In my rather different situation – ie, not corporate – it’s quite normal for people looking for internal transfers to chat with the current holder of the job, the possible supervisor, someone in the same section, anyone really who can provide information. This is normally done before applying, in an attempt to find out if there’s someone in the section who’s seen as a shoe-in to get the job, or to find out more details about the duties. I’ve been asked about both my own job (during a period of cutbacks and bumping; I wasn’t planning on leaving), and new ones that were said to be opening up in my section. It’s never done by external candidates, either because we have very few in my job category, or because they don’t know who to contact, or (if they think of looking at the public website for that information), they don’t think it’s a good plan.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      It makes a lot of sense to do this as an internal candidate. If I got an email or a phone call from Harry in the beekeeping department about the opening in my workgroup, that’s not a cold call from a stranger. Even if I don’t know him very well, there’s still a preexisting connection there that I wouldn’t have with a random guy on LinkedIn.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ll warmly talk for a long time with someone internally about a job, we’re all about “promoting from within”. You’ve already passed the tests that you’re a fit for the company and you’re probably pretty aware of what we do, since you want to move somewhere else within the company. Not that they know exactly what the department does though, so asking and feeling it out is a perk of “from within”. A perk I’m not always going to be comfortable or cool with talking to a stranger behind a computer asking questions.

  41. Laura*

    The thing is, so many companies rely on referrals, I see this as a way to gain that advantage that so many other people have. If you combine a high-referral culture without allowing for cold outreach, you generally also have a very homogenous employee group.

    I think the best way to go about this is to get a warm intro, but otherwise, I’d really consider who is reaching out and what barriers they might be looking to overcome in their outreach.

    1. OP*

      This is a really good point that I hadn’t thought of – definitely worth thinking about who’s reaching out rather than writing these off en masse. In my recent cases the person has fit the typical applicant profile really well so haven’t been people that made me think, “hmm interesting – great candidate who might not usually come to us” – and instead have struck me as more just super-networker types, a bit more junior, who very likely as others have said had been told to do something like this by someone trying to give advice!

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      But I really want so much more data on the referral processes places use.

      Do people really refer people that they know through a LinkedIn cold-chat? Do people put their reputation out there for strangers that may look good on paper, may present great on a chat feature but who knows a darn thing about their actual work product or work ethic?!

      I know we have a couple comments in here that say they have put their blind faith in strangers before but AAM is such a small pool in comparison to the world of business that i can’t wrap my mind around this at all without numbers. Dang numbers…

      It also really reeks of what kind of jobs they are. There are jobs that an interview really can’t even figure out if they are going to be any good at or stick with and then there are jobs, I’m not throwing things at the wall to see if they stick to.

      1. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

        I’ve had grad school alumni do this for me, even if they didn’t know me otherwise. They offered – I didn’t ask! It was quite generous of them. When I was still a student, I was setting up a bunch of informational interviews with alumni in a bunch of places to get a sense of what types of skills they were looking for and where I was applicable. I was 100% upfront with my intentions. Like ‘hey guys…I’m super new to job hunting and trying to see where I should target my job search, and do you have any job hunting advice for me?’

        I will say, though, the referrals didn’t lead to much. I think referrals only carry weight when the person genuinely likes/liked working with you. Fortunately, I’m getting more of this now that a lot of my coworkers are moving onto other places, and some are willing to refer me to roles in their new companies.

      2. AudreyParker*

        Not the data you’re looking for, but not only do I see/hear this advice *all the time* — find someone on LI to refer you — I have also been blaming my thus-far abysmal job search on not being able to bring myself to do it (partly because it just felt off and I’d probably be annoyed if I was the recipient, but I’m also shy about networking in general). I’m reading all of the comments in this thread just shaking my head… I guess I’m glad I’m a wimp about networking and can now stop spending time looking people up on LI when I apply, but it’s also just making me so much more confused as to what I’m supposed to be doing at this point :( It’s pretty staggering the amount of conflicting information now out there that is apparently wasting a lot of people’s time.

    3. Scion*

      But that’s the whole point of referrals. They’re only helpful if the referrer actually knows something about the candidate. “I worked with someone at my last job and I think that their XYZ skills would be a perfect fit for your opening” is helpful; “Here’s a resume that a random stranger on the internet emailed me” is not.

      Getting forwarded a random resume is exactly what the standard hiring process is.

  42. Betty*

    I think it would be really nice if you could point this out to the askers:

    “Personally, I think its fairly rude: Instead of following the hiring process laid out by the employer, they’re asking you — someone who may or may not be involved in the hiring process or have any real insight into the role — to take time out of your schedule to help them increase their chances of getting an interview.”


    “The best way to explore a potential match with our company is to follow the application procedure outlined on our website. We have arranged this process so that potential hires have the opportunity to ask questions in their interview with the people most engaged with and most knowledgeable about the role. It wouldn’t be possible for me to clear space in my schedule for someone who has not yet met the hiring manager. However, if you get an interview or an offer and would like to talk to someone about their perspective on the organisation and what it is like to work here, I am sure whoever is managing your interview process will be able to arrange an informal chat with whoever is most relevant.”

    Then CC the hiring manager/HR in your reply.

  43. Massmatt*

    Interesting thread, when I was laid off years ago the outsourcing company definitely pushed networking to get jobs. Not cold calling, but absolutely trying to get to someone in the target company who can hopefully bridge you to the person hiring. The theory was that most applications get screened out, you can hopefully bypass this step and have a better chance of getting an interview. The advice seemed sound, maybe especially because they gave really good advice on resumes and cover letters.

  44. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

    I’ve actually been tempted to do this for jobs I was in the interviewing process for, because I genuinely wanted to ask questions about the job/company I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking in an interview setting. However, I’ve never done it because I don’t want to annoy people.

    When I was in graduate school, we were legit advised by the career office to reach out to people for “informational interviews” as a way to potentially get our resume referred directly to the hiring manager. This actually worked somewhat with actualy alumni, but I felt disingenuous asking people for informational interviews when that wasn’t the entire intention.

    That being said, would folks on here still recommend reaching out to people for informational interviews to genuinely ask informal questions about a company/org they are considering to work in? Should it be done before sending in the initial application?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Not before you’re about to apply. If you’re changing fields or moving to a new town, sure. But not right ahead of applying — that will look disingenuous and like you wasted their time.

  45. BigFoot*

    A different perspective here from someone who didn’t want to apply this advice as a job hunter, but did with some positive results. I was recently transitioning into a new career with lots of difficulty in the SF Bay Area. I was put in contact with a recruiter friend and they gave me the advice to reach out to hiring managers on linkedin with a short message (that I had applied to their open position and would love to chat if they wanted to learn more about me) after applying.

    2 potentially important caveats:

    1) I only did this for hiring managers that said “We’re hiring!” in their headline. I was already squeamish about cold-contacting people so this helped me feel like they were inviting people to contact them about it. (They weren’t, I know.)

    2) The field I’m in is relatively new. With the exception of recent college grads, most people who’ve been in the field for a while had to create the job for themselves or transitioned from a completely different career. There’s a lot of advice to be heavy-handed when networking because your resume could count you out of the process with automated resume scanning systems and recruiters, but hiring managers would understand your potential better.

    Anyways, I actually got 3 interviews out of it (1 even led to an on-site)! I was more surprised by the positive outcomes than I was by all the people who ignored me or told me (kindly) to stop trying to circumvent the hiring process.

    That interview didn’t turn into a job, but I wanted to weigh in that I agree its a really annoying tactic, but if the industry is right and you’ve tried everything else, it may end up working.

  46. CL Cox*

    I just had an applicant cold call my place of work and ask for my boss by title, not name (which tells me right off the bat that they don’t know her and she has not recommended they apply). Our application process is very structured, so I told them they needed to call HR if they had any questions, that we could not answer them at our location. I ended up telling them twice more that they needed to call HR, my boss wasn’t going to talk to them about it and had no information for them. They ended the conversation with, “OK, so I’m to call back next week?” After I dug my face out of my palm, I passed their name on to my boss, the assistant boss in charge of that department and the position’s supervisor. They will not be moving forward in the process – we don’t need someone who will not listen to directions in the job.

    1. MeanieNini*

      As our HR Director and first line talent acquisition person, I have recently been getting a lot of people who asking about interviews. Half the time, I don’t know that they don’t already have an interview as I can’t possibly remember all of them. Then on the phone, they will ask when they can schedule an interview. I’ll tell them we will be reviewing candidates, then they will ask for my email address and say that they don’t feel comfortable using Indeed or LinkedIn or other job boards to apply for the job. Even after explaining the process, they will push back. This has happened multiple times over the last several months for several different types of positions. I can only guess that somewhere there is advice floating around telling people not to apply online but to call and get through to someone who will accept your resume and give you their work email. It is seriously annoying and I have rejected the candidates who did eventually apply through the proper channels. Not because they called, but because they demanded my email address and got upset that I wouldn’t let them send their resume to me directly.

      1. CL*

        Yeah, I’m not sure if they think they’re being proactive or what, but when someone explains the process to you once (and it’s the same as what’s on the website, which literally outlines the process and lets you see where you are on the timeline), you seriously run the risk of eliminating yourself if you continue to push.

  47. NYCBanker*

    I think this is super industry specific, I was talking to HR about hiring decisions for the new class of summer associates at my firm and she said if they hadn’t networked with people at the firm there was no way they were getting hired. Taking networking calls was a normal and expected part of the job and when we were hiring people would ask us to end along the names of people who had contacted

  48. 3rd space academic*

    That’s absolutely not true in my experience. The setting in the UK may be different but I regularly come in contact with career counsellors at multiple universities and the majority are in their 30s and up. The counsellors in my careers centre all have professional grad qualifications in advice and guidance, regularly connect with experts in industry, the third sector and the public sector and at least two that I know of research and publish on aspects of career advice (for example, how we can support students seeking jobs abroad)

    I realise by the nature of this blog that we will hear bad stories more than good but the constant dismissal of an entire profession is getting old.

    1. FairPayFullBenefits*

      I mentioned this above, but my career centers were also staffed by qualified and experienced professionals who had made it their career – but they still gave all the terrible advice Alison always mentions (and I made a fool of myself more than once because of it).

  49. Terrysg*

    Where I work (government, but not US govt.), all applications state that “Canvassing will disqualify.” so this kind of reaching out is not acceptable.

  50. Carolyn*

    My husband got his last job by contacting a (not very close) contact at a company. After a quick conversation, he applied through regular means as asked, and was almost instantly rejected. His contact walked a copy of his resume to the hiring manager, who then pushed him through the screen. The same human being who rejected his resume then did his background check and onboarding paperwork. He couldn’t even tell my husband why he rejected him, there was no flaw in his resume or omission he could point to, all he said was that he clearly had made a poor choice.

    I am not going to apologize for suggesting anyone else do the same – people get screened out for all sorts of reasons, fair and unfair.

  51. kible*

    This is definitely a thing still recommended to do by certain career coaches, as i heard it multiple times during webinars i went to from a career coach resource. Person applies for a job, and then you’re supposed to “network” on LinkedIn by connecting with people from that company, and then send them messages via the mail or in the network request saying how you’re interested etc etc.

    I never did it cause it felt too creepy or gumption-y

  52. SuperDuperWren*

    So I had this advice pop up in my life just last week. I work in ecology at a state conservation department. I ran into one of the higher ups at a meeting and started chatting with him about the future of the department and possible roles that would be opening up soon, and he took interest in my career path and gave me a bunch of advice. He kept saying to reach out to the hiring manager and introduce yourself and ask some questions before applying (and to do so again after you’ve had an interview). He phrased it as “it’s basically a free interview! Really sets you apart from the others!” I remember Allison scoffing at this advice in the past, so I asked my boss later what her reaction would be if a candidate took this advice… and my boss agreed with the higher up. As a hiring manager, she sees it as a positive when a candidate reaches out with questions before applying, and happily conducts phone screens before ever receiving an resume.
    I generally trust Allison’s advice over the advice of my higher ups, but should I maybe consider taking their advice while applying for other roles in our organization?

Comments are closed.