While having lunch recently in Bryant Park, mid-town Manhattan, I overheard two women discussing their career objectives. In the course of their conversation one of them was lamenting over not hearing back from Human Resources regarding a job for which she had interviewed. Her friend replied “did you think to call the hiring manager directly?” to which she replied “no, I assumed I was suppose to only speak with my Human Resources contact.” What struck me most about this conversation, as both a career coach and Human Resources professional, is how quickly job hunters come to the conclusion that they are not allowed to take certain actions which could otherwise have a positive effect on their job search.
In this woman’s situation her friend had the right idea – contact the hiring manager directly. The hiring manager in most organizations will have final say as to who gets hired, so why not go to the source where you can likewise have the most influence over that decision? After all, it is your job search and your career! However, approaching the hiring manager directly is not meant to bypass Human Resources in the hiring process. What really matters is how you approach these individuals, and most Human Resources professionals will respect your need to have a direct dialogue with the hiring department as long as you keep them in the loop.
But here’s the rub, how do you approach these two different people (or other people in the hiring process) so you maintain positive relationships all around? It really comes down to knowing what each person’s function is within the organization, and what types of information is important to them. Most Human Resources recruiters are fairly knowledgeable about the jobs they are filling, but will focus on whether the applicant has met all the requirements and qualifications of the position. Conversely, the hiring manager will focus on the key aspects in an applicant’s background that appear to best meet their needs, including how well this person will solve their department’s problems, fit in with other staff members, and not to mention reduce all the sleepless nights they have had to endure. The same goes for other people an applicant will often meet in the hiring process (hiring manager’s boss, potential co-workers and/or subordinates, and even the secretarial staff) who will have their own views on the role this position plays within their organization.
At The Five O’Clock Club we talk about the role of the “consultant” when preparing for, conducting, and following up to interviews in which you are actively engaging everyone you meet along the way. Different from the traditional approach to interviewing where most applicants take the approach of “I’ll answer their questions honestly and let the chips fall where they may,” you have an opportunity to shape the outcome of these events. Too much reliance on Human Resources (and headhunters if working with a search firm) reduces your chances of having a significant impact on the hiring decision. For example, what if there are some objections the hiring manager may have to your background, or he or she thinks you lack the skills, competencies or experience in certain areas but only because they never came up in the interview. Here’s your chance to turn it around and gain the visibility you need by going right to the source when dealing directly with the hiring manager.
Getting back to the two friends in the park, if the woman who interviewed for the position takes her friend’s advice, and follows up directly with the hiring manager, she may get the answers to the questions she was not getting from Human Resources. She may find out before it is too late that any objections they may have can be overcome, but now she may never know. Too bad they left before I could give them my business card – boy, could The Five O’Clock Club have helped her!