Use your network for informational interviews
As you start exploring, networking can provide real-world information about the inner workings of an organization or the day-to-day duties of a certain role. The most accessible way to network is to lean into people you already know. Comb through your contacts on LinkedIn® and see if anyone works at an organization or in an industry you’re interested in. Then request an informal, informational interview at a time and place of their convenience.
Have a list of questions prepared to make the most of the conversation. Make your questions specific to the person; in other words, don’t squander the moment asking where the office is located or what the benefits are if you can easily find that information online.
Always follow up with a genuine note of thanks and, if necessary, a list of follow-up questions to get even more information.
Read employee reviews, corporate communications, and social media
With few exceptions, you can find online reviews on sites like Glassdoor®. These reviews can reveal the “inside scoop” about the culture, management, and quality of life. They can reveal a boots-on-the ground perspective that can often be glossed over with more official communications like press releases or a company blog. This information can help you gauge if you would be a good fit for an organization, and vice versa.
As with any online review, take employee reviews with a grain of salt. The people that write reviews may tend to have the strongest opinions, whether positive or negative. An organization’s blog or press releases, on the other hand, may shed light on values and future initiatives.
Likewise, social media accounts often offer a day-to-day glimpse inside an organization's walls. Think about the kinds of topics the organization is posting about: How do they celebrate big wins? Are they enthusiastic about welcoming new hires? How do employees talk about each other? These insights—as well as the general tone of the posts (formal? irreverent? authentic?)—can help paint a more realistic picture.
What if you don’t find any matching job postings?
Knowing where you want to work can be an advantage over time, but it can be frustrating in the short-term if there are no openings when you happen to be in the market. With a little work and luck, you may be able to work your way in.
- Find the appropriate contacts within the organization. The best connections are the ones you already have. Tap your existing network, or search LinkedIn® to identify someone who can introduce you to a hiring manager. And if you know the person’s name, you can make an educated guess about their email address by finding the organization’s email format from press contacts. Is your dream employer a medium- or large-sized organization? If so, they probably have recruiters on staff. You may be able to find them simply by searching for the name and the word “recruiter.”
- Make a tactful introduction. Once you have a few names, send requests to connect through the site. Recruiters at big firms may be drowning in these kinds of requests so yours may get lost. Take the next step by reaching out to people in the organization who seem to do the same or similar kinds of work as you. If they accept your request, try talking to them. Don’t ask for a job or a referral but ask about their career development and try to build a rapport. They may be willing to look at your resume and recommend skills to develop to increase your chances or even let you know if they hear of an opening. However, if you already have an established relationship with your contact, you can ask for tips to get noticed or even ask them to advocate for you.
- Be diligent, but diplomatic. Prepare for multiple contacts. Make sure you communicate when you’ll follow up again and be faithful to that time frame. Space out each contact by several weeks so that you’re not overwhelming the contact. If you can, use timely news items as a reason to connect. A major product launch or significant executive hire can be a great rationale for reaching out with congratulations.
Proactively reaching out can be effective when done tactfully. But don’t expect your initial efforts to yield an interview right away—this is a long-haul approach that may require multiple attempts over time.
Another way in could be to reconsider the role you’re applying for. You may be qualified for a position that isn’t quite what you hoped but it could help you get your foot in the door. Once you’re on the inside, you’ll have better insight into how you can work your way up to your dream job.