The recruiting environment has changed over the past few years. Notably low unemployment in the technology sector has translated into lots of open positions, and technology professionals with the right mix of skills and experience have added leverage when applying for jobs (and negotiating for compensation). If you see an open job, should you reach out to the hiring manager before applying?
While many technology professionals are landing new roles simply by applying through normal channels, contacting a hiring manager about an open position remains an excellent way to stand out from a crowd of applicants. But connecting with someone you’ve never met can prove tricky. You need to figure out an ideal message to a hiring manager, hope they accept your connection request, and even be ready to quickly provide additional information beyond a typical resume, cover letter and other application materials.
Do you need an introduction or referral in order to snag a hiring manager’s personal attention during your job search? Not necessarily. Even if you don’t have a connection at the company, direct outreach is still your best bet. Here are some tips for contacting a hiring manager directly about an open position.
Do Your Prep Work Before Messaging a Hiring Manager
If possible, try to comment on a hiring manager’s post on a professional networking site; follow them or the company. If you can figure out a way to interact virtually before sending that initial email, you’ll have a better chance of getting their attention.
“Initial outreach is 50 percent more effective if your name is familiar to the hiring manager or you’ve had some sort of interaction with them before, even if its limited,” noted career coach Adam Broda. If you don’t know the hiring manager’s name, but have their email address, use a reverse search to find out more about them.
Finding common ground can make your initial email more effective. “Even if you both attended the same conference or belong to the same groups on LinkedIn, it’s worth mentioning,” advised career coach and resume writer Chelsea Wiltse.
“Just don’t get creepy,” warned Andrew Jackson, president of BravoTECH. Stick to professional networking sites and topics. Don’t comment on someone’s hobbies and interests outside of the workplace or try to connect with them on Facebook.
Draft Out Your Message Beforehand
You need to understand the company’s culture and mission, the role you’re applying for, and as much as you can about the hiring manager to compose an effective outreach email. Your message should also cover the following things:
- What are the hiring manager’s pain points?
- How can your skills help their company?
- What makes you valuable or a “purple unicorn”?
You need to be able to answer those questions before you start writing, Wiltse said.
Hiring managers are inundated with emails and messages, so be brief. For instance, when candidates email Jackson about open positions, he looks for alignment with the company’s culture as well as intelligence and humility. Start by introducing yourself and explaining why you are reaching out—and why you are qualified for the position. The first paragraph should be a variation of your personal branding statement, tailored toward the role and company, Broda said.
Overall, you may want your message to align with the following structure:
- Introduction: A brief overview of your intent (i.e., why you’re messaging).
- Your hook: Provide a short summary of relevant skills and experience that make you a great fit for the role.
- Your call to action: Restate what you want and why you’re qualified.
This structure can apply whether you’re reaching out to express your job interest via email or another channel (such as LinkedIn message). If you’re approaching a hiring manager or recruiter on LinkedIn, make sure to keep your subject line succinct and direct, and edit the message itself to be as efficient as possible—messaging apps and services aren’t the ideal channel for lengthy essays.
Message to Hiring Manager Example
You’re well aware that you need to tailor your resume and application materials to specific jobs. There’s a similar rule governing messages to hiring managers: you must customize every line to reflect how your skills and experience align perfectly with the goals of the position on offer. Here’s an example of a message to a hiring manager that takes the above structure into account.
Let’s start with the intro, which jumps right to the point:
“I am interested in joining your rapidly growing EdTech company that is committed to playing a crucial role in the educational experience, as an application development specialist. I have over eight years’ experience as a passionate, results-oriented front-end web developer and a proven history of delivering technology that improves the K-12 education experience and learning outcomes.”
That’s followed by the “hook” that drills (quickly) into relevant skills and experience:
“As a member of a highly functioning Agile Scrum team, I have been responsible for building 5 moderate to highly complex student facing applications using AngularJS, HTML, Java and Web Services as well as other current web technologies. Two apps were used to augment distance learning, foster collaboration with teachers, and were successful in elevating student reading scores by 15 percent. I also have strong problem-solving skills and the ability to troubleshoot and resolve performance issues in existing or new code across multiple environments.”
After that, it’s time for your conclusion and call to action; if you’ve met the hiring manager before or have a common connection, this is a good place to mention it:
“My colleagues count on me to analyze user requirements, convert them into logical steps for coding and deliver features and functionality that are transformational. I believe that my skillset and expertise make me an exceptional application development specialist and valuable asset to your organization.
“I have attached a résumé, project summary and certifications for your consideration. I would love to talk to you in more detail regarding this amazing opportunity. I look forward to hearing back from you or a member of your team (include this if you email the IT director or CIO) and will follow-up next week to gauge your interest.”
That example was particularly lengthy, and you should try to optimize your word count as much as possible, especially if you’re communicating via a platform such as LinkedIn. Always make sure to begin your message with an appropriate salutation, and include the best way to contact you (email, phone number, and so on).
Strategize How to Follow Up on Your Message to Hiring Manager
If you don’t hear back, and you’re sure your email was received and opened, it may be best to move on. Regardless, you should only follow up once. Further follow-ups will likely not advance your résumé and may hurt your chances for future opportunities.
While you shouldn’t expect an immediate 100 percent return on this strategy, emailing the hiring manger at companies you want to work for has consistently proven to be a better use of your time than filling out random job applications. At the very least, the hiring manager may agree to have virtual coffee, connect online or refer you to a colleague who’s hiring.