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VOL. 35 | NO. 39 | Friday, September 30, 2011

Use connections, networking to bypass HR gauntlet

By Virginia Roberson

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Cathy Shannon, job searching since last November, worries she doesn’t have a chance of standing out in the “mob” of resumes. She says the gap in her employment from 10 years as a stay-at-home mom means companies won’t give her a second look, even though she has extensive experience as a marketing director and as a customer service manager.

“Your resume is like an opponent to the HR person, who is overrun and tired from all the work volume,” she says. “You’re just more work volume to HR.”

Because many human resources departments are overwhelmed with candidates, applying for a job or sending out a resume simply won’t cut it, says Lacy Nelson, owner of Now2PlanB and career coach for Lee Hecht Harrison.

“It really is who you know,” Nelson says. She offers these tips for frustrated job seekers like Shannon:

Make a connection. Try to make a connection with the person who is likely to be your supervisor. If the position is in marketing, go to LinkedIn and find the director of marketing or locate someone who works in that department and introduce yourself. Nelson says statistics show more than 75 percent of jobs are found through networking, while only about 10 percent are found by applying for postings online.

“But that doesn’t mean you can’t connect online,” she says. “You can make the connection on Linkedin and follow up to get your foot in the door.”

Start networking. The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce website features an “Employment Resource Guide” with the ABCs of job searching, including how to create resumes, how to interview and how to get started networking.

“The Chamber has an extensive list of career transition groups in Middle Tennessee,” Nelson says. “Before you join a networking group, target your desired position, evaluate your strengths and have a communications strategy prepared. It’s awkward for other people when you tell them, ‘I’ll do anything.’ If you just tell them you’re looking for a job, they don’t know what to do with you.”

Break through the HR gatekeeper. “Human resources doesn’t want to be out of the loop,” Nelson says. “But HR doesn’t always know every detail of every job. The supervisor does!”

Nelson advises following each specific company’s “protocol” for applying for a position online. Then try to connect with someone in the department where you want to work, preferably a supervisor.

“You don’t have to know the CEO or the HR person to get your foot in the door,” she adds. “It can be anyone who works at the company, or someone who knows someone who works at the company.

“But once you’ve made a connection, you might want to consider copying HR in your communications. They don’t like it if they think you’re trying to go around them!”

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