The #1 Mistake When Applying for a Job Online

Want to feel wildly popular and adored?  Place a job posting on Craig’s List. Within minutes, your inbox will be flooded with fawning emails vying for your attention.  By the time you find the link to take down your ad on Craigslist, 75 more responses will be waiting for you.

Without a connection to the hiring manager, this is your resume

Don’t get lost in a digital haystack
Now imagine how many responses would come in if that job posting were national, from a large company, and up for several weeks.  There would  literally be thousands.   That’s why it’s a complete waste of time it is to apply to any job posting. Unless– you first establish that you have a contact within the company.  If you just blindly submit your resume, there’s a good chance HR won’t see it and there’s almost no chance it will get in front of the hiring manager, the only person who matters.

Make sure you have an inside company contact FIRST before you apply
Look, it’s hard enough to get a job even when you have an insider advocating that you would be the ideal candidate.  With your precious time, you should only focus on places where you have a company insider who will shepherd your resume over to the hiring manager.  Ideally, in person.    Which leads us to:

How to find a company contact

  1. Apply to the companies you or your close friends have connections with.  This by far is your best bet.  Meet, in person if possible, with each friend individually. Then go over all the companies they’ve worked at or have good contacts with.
  2. Use (job board aggregater) to find all the relevant jobs at your contacts’ companies. You’ll see all the job listings.  Don’t see any good matches? Set your settings so it emails you the instant those companies post new openings.
  3. Use LinkedIn jobs. Some companies ONLY list on LinkedIn and LinkedIn will spell out exactly how close you are connected to the hiring manager and anyone that works at the companies you are interested in.  (Go to, sign in, then in the upper right corner in the search box toggle to “jobs”.)
  4. Check LinkedIn for connections. Find a job post for the perfect job but don’t know anyone?  Check LinkedIn for to see if you or your connections have connections (known in LinkedIn as 2nd level).  If you have 2nd level connections, nicely get your 1st connection to make an introduction.  Don’t ambush the 2nd level connection.
  5. Use LinkedIn Group connections.  These can work two ways.  One, you see someone in your group works at the company you’re applying to.  Reach out to them.  Two, you see who is most likely the hiring manager.  She belongs to a group you could be a member of.  Join the group.  By being part of a group you can directly email that person.

How well does this work?  My personal example for this week:  I needed to contact someone at an uber-hot media company.  I saw a friend of mine had  a LinkedIn connection.  I called him up (yes– old school talking on the phone). Turns out, he’s been buddies with the CEO for 20 years.  And now I’m meeting with the CEO next week.

Mojo Moves

  • Commit to your Accountablity Wingman that you will not waste another 30 minutes crafting a cover letter unless you first have established you have a company insider to deliver your resume.
  • Make it easy for your friends to refer you. Write out a short bullet list of why you are such a good match for the job. Then, email it to your friend so they have bulk of the intro for the hiring manager already written.
  • Most importantly:  Make sure you circle back to your friends and connections to let them know what happened and thank them.

Photo courtesy of Squidoo

Got other suggestions for getting access to the hiring manager? Tell us in the comments.

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  • RM

    Mojo 40 Maven – this is an excellent blog. Really succinct and targeted. Easy to follow. And effective. I’ve used Indeed but never thought to have it screen on companies (only job descriptions). And although I used LinkedIn extensively, I didn’t think about LinkedIn Groups. It really is all about relationships and connections…

    • Susan Kim

      It really is all about relationships and connections. RM, that gives me another opportunity to stress that LinkedIn is great for setting up connections but it is crucial to step away from the computer and meet in person (or at least talk on the phone) to develop deeper relationships.

  • unemployed

    Well this is certainly true. I have replied to these posts for jobs and many false leads follow — complete waste of time — Time to try your process… I will let you know…

    • Susan Kim

      Glad you put this in writing. That helps prevent you from falling back into the habit of applying to jobs with no connections. Let us know how it goes and hopefully you’ll be able to change your posting name soon.

  • Larry

    This is great advice. We don’t need a huge and complicated program to find a better job; we simply need to follow your 5 + 3 instructions.

    Thank you for your practical approach.

  • Ursula

    Hi Susan,
    This is so true. My boyfriend’s been having hudge problems finding a job, despite education and many years of experience. If you don’t have connections, you won’t get far. If this is not true then how come there are CEOs who lead companies to bankrupcy and get another highly paid employment?!

  • Ursula

    Hi Susan,
    This is so true. My boyfriend’s been having hudge problems finding a job, despite education and many years of experience. If you don’t have connections, you won’t get far. If this is not true then how come there are CEOs who lead companies to bankrupcy and get another highly paid jobs?!

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