Applying For a Job Through a College Classmate
December 6, 2013 7:14 AM   Subscribe

A college classmate who I didn't know well/at all is a recruiter at a company with an open position I'd like to apply for. What's the best way to approach this?

The ol' class letter showed up yesterday, and I learned that a college classmate of mine is now a recruiter at a company I'd be interested in working for. I popped on their website, and they have a position that looks quite attractive. Based on the skills and experience mentioned in the posting, I believe I would be a very good candidate for this position even without the classmate as a connection.

But I know the value of networking, and want to figure out the best way to approach applying for this job. Particularly because after viewing the classmate's LinkedIn profile, it became clear that they may well be the lead recruiter for this position (they are listed as a technical recruiter, it's a technical position, and it's not a big company.) Moreover, this company offers a pretty hefty referral bonus, so I believe the classmate would have incentive to support me over similar, non-referred candidates.

The only thing that gives me pause is that I don't believe I actually know this person as more than a passing acquaintance. Their name didn't ring a bell, and looking at their picture on LinkedIn triggered only the faintest of memories. While this wouldn't be particularly unexpected if we went to a larger college, our class size was only ~350, and in general, it's the kind of place where the "everyone knows everyone" trope exists, even though (clearly) it's not true.

I've got a resume and a formal cover letter ready, and have considered a few options:

1. Send the resume and cover letter to the classmate through LinkedIn with a message acknowledging that we were classmates and expressing interest in the position. Nothing exaggerating the depth of our relationship, simply a few lines along the lines of "Hello Recruiter, Anonymous of AnonymousU Class of Aught Aught here. Got the class letter and noticed you were working for Anonytech..."

2. Send only the LinkedIn message noted above and hold off on resume/cover letter until I get a response (or, if I don't get one, apply through their website X days later.)

3. Apply through the company's website and list the classmate in an appropriate box (if one exists.) Optional: Send the classmate a note after doing this.

Appreciate your thoughts!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
From your description you don't have a connection to this person. Feel free to send a message via LinkedIn but don't be surprised if you don't get much in the way of a response. Find another way into the company.
posted by dfriedman at 7:22 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Go with #2. It lets him take the initiative of reaching back to you while warning him that you're interested and may be applying anyway, so he might as well farm the bonus.
posted by Etrigan at 7:24 AM on December 6, 2013

I'd go with option 1. The classmate wouldn't have told the college to drop her name in the letter unless she were actively looking to garner interest from alumni. You get a contact at a job you want, classmate gets a good, select candidate pool, everybody wins.
posted by phunniemee at 7:24 AM on December 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

#2, but add a sentence about why you think you'd be a good fit for the role, essentially making the message an abbreviated version of your cover letter. When I've hired, I seldom looked at resumes/cover letters I received outside of the online portal (we had very specific rules about treating each candidate the same) and you'll need to apply online anyway. (Plus, I'm not sure you can add attachments via LI message, if you're not connected.)
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:34 AM on December 6, 2013

You don't know this person, so you can't namedrop. But you can still engage her for help.

4. Apply through the normal channel, then drop the classmate a note to let her to let her know you exist, you applied, and you would love any insight she might have.
posted by mochapickle at 7:37 AM on December 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

I would contact the classmate and express interest in the position, asking for any advice on how best to apply. Internally referred applicants sometimes have a different /better route through the bureaucracy and the classmate may want to put you through as an internal referral versus just another person on the Internet.

Years ago I got cold emailed by somebody with the same sort of passing connection. I talked to him on the phone and answered his questions about the job, and then submitted his resume through the employee referral system. He ultimately got hired and I got a $1500 referral bonus. If your contact works in recruiting he probably won't have a financial interest like that, but people still like to help people they are connected to, even if the connection is somewhat tenuous.
posted by COD at 7:44 AM on December 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Is it possible you had a mutual acquaintance who is still in touch with the person?
posted by lakeroon at 7:50 AM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

To expand on what lakeroon said: see if this person has anyone in common in your Linkedin network, then ask that person for an introduction to the recruiter.
posted by scruss at 8:03 AM on December 6, 2013

The more I'm thinking about this the more I'm realizing that option 1 is definitely the way to go. I do some recruiting as part of my job. There is no, no, no way I'd put my name anywhere, let my college or high school print a blurb about me, saying that I was specifically a recruiter specifically for a specific company unless my goal was to use that as a tool to find candidates.

Your classmate is networking. I'm 99% sure this is intentional. Go ahead and contact her and say you saw the bit about her in the alumni mag and was planning to apply to the company anyway.
posted by phunniemee at 8:12 AM on December 6, 2013

Networking is something you do before you have a need, so what you're doing is not networking. I disagree that a mention of the recruiter in an alumni newsletter means she welcomes strangers stepping outside the set HR procedures -- it is also likely that she is sharing an accomplishment with other friends (I bet they also list who's gotten married, but those aren't wedding invitations).

Your option #2 seems the best compromise.
posted by Houstonian at 8:21 AM on December 6, 2013

As a grad of a small liberal arts school, I'd lean towards option 1. We all have that feeling like we should know everyone in our class, but this happens to me all the time and I have a very hard time believing that isn't the case for every one of us. There's something about knowing that someone is one of us. This may be different at other small schools, but around here, that means a lot.

I might also add some "I've always wanted to work for X and checked it out."
posted by advicepig at 9:07 AM on December 6, 2013

If you actually know this person, even tangentially, I would email in a personal (yet still professional) tone with something like "Hi Katie, I don't know if you remember me from [Dr. Hendricks' Geology 204 course/Model UN/whatever], but I just wanted to reach out about the [position] at [company]..."

YMMV if you know her as a friend of a friend from ragers or other activities that wouldn't be apropos to mention in a professional capacity. ("I don't know if you remember me from sharing needles behind the Music School...")

If this is someone you're aware of as a fellow alum but do not actually know, I would say that you saw her name in the alumni magazine, go Banana Slugs, you're also a member of the class of 2008, or something to that effect.

I agree with your approach #2. Mention that your interest in the position but I'm not sure I'd send a resume right away.
posted by Sara C. at 10:43 AM on December 6, 2013

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