Your All-Important Last Question
“If I decide to talk with them, can I say I was speaking with you?”
You ask that question for two reasons:
(1) If your questions with the former employee result in positive answers, that employee’s name may help you later in securing a meeting with the hiring manager;
(2) the former employee may just phone his old boss and tell him about all the background due diligence you’re doing on the company.
That’s a great thing.
All it takes to get the ball rolling is to phone the contact and say:
Hi, my name is . I’m doing some research on XYZ Corporation and I know that you used to work there because [explain how you found the person’s name]. I’m thinking of applying for a job there. Can I ask you a couple of quick questions to see if it’s worth my time and effort? I know this is an unusual way to do a job-search . . . Now be quiet and let the person answer yes or no. In my experience, seven out of ten times they’ll say, “Sure, what do youwant to know?”
If they say “No,” ask: “Do you know anyone who I can talk to about the company because I’m really interested in finding out as much as I can before I approach them?”
Either you will get a referral with your second attempt, or the person may decide to answer your questions after all. Someone who had a good experience at the company will answer your questions without hesitation. If it was a bad experience, the person may tell you as well, but it’s unlikely. If you don’t get anywhere, move on to the next person on your list.
Expect results! With a few minor variations, this is exactly how headhunters network to find candidates.
Ask whatever you think is important for you to know before contacting the next person. You will be amazed by how much you will learn. Further you may be stunned by what people will disclose about former employers—if you just take the initiative to ask.
The competitive intelligence you gather is valuable. Now you can assess how your accomplishments fit with the employer’s needs. After doing three to four of these interviews, you’ll have the inside track. You will be able to assess which of your accomplishments might be of most interest to the employer.
When you approach the company, you will know far more than any other job-hunter before you’ve even had your first interview. You might be able to decide if it’s even worth working there. How powerful is that? That’s how a guerilla job-hunter networks.