help me "network" appropriately
March 3, 2009 6:15 PM   Subscribe

Outreach to friend in HR when applying for a job?

I’m interested in leaving my job of over nine years because of changes in the agency culture and my own burnout (the latter strongly influenced by the former). Today I spotted a new job posting at a nearby organization that sounds very appropriate for my level of experience.

“Linda,” the head of HR at this organization, is the former head of HR at my current agency, who was there about ten years and left approximately a year ago (and took her former assistant from our HR department with her shortly afterwards). I’ve always gotten along well with Linda; she’s been helpful to me in my own work, we were in an agency book group together for a while, and we are currently Facebook friends (at her request). I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that she struggled with the same agency-culture challenges that I’m facing now.

The job posting requests resumes to be sent to the supervisor of that position, not to HR, which I will do. However, is it kosher for me to let Linda know that I’m applying? Would it possibly do any good? Conversely, could it do any harm? (I’m thinking of employment law issues, conflict of interest, etc.) What’s considered appropriate? I'm not fond of "networking" so this is not necessarily comfortable for me.
posted by dlugoczaj to Work & Money (4 answers total)
HR lady here- apply through manager, do let her know. It should be fine, but tell her that you don't expect her to work any magic for you, you just wanted to let her know as a courtesy. If she's excited you're applying, she'll let the hiring manager know.
posted by pomegranate at 6:35 PM on March 3, 2009

As the head of HR at my company, I highly recommend calling your friend. It is perfectly reasonable and appropriate for you to talk to her about your desire to work at her company.

Could it help? Absolutely. Best case, your friend will talk to the hiring manager and give you a glowing recommendation. And possibly speed the paperwork through too.

Could it hurt? If the contract that you signed with your current employer has a no-compete clause, and the company you are applying to competes directly with your current company, you should weigh the risk that your company would take legal action against you if you took the job. Usually, though, companies won't try to enforce that unless you are a member of the executive staff and/or have a lot of knowledge of the company's business-critical and confidential intellectual property. I would assume your risk is very low, but you have to make your own determination on that. I recommend reading your agreement.

One other thing to consider is the impact on your current job if your supervisor knows you are looking. It sounds like you are applying directly to the other company, which of course is much better for keeping your search discreet than using job boards.

Hope this helps, and I hope you get the job. Good luck!
posted by thatguyonmf at 7:00 PM on March 3, 2009

Also, don't just call Linda to tell her that you're applying. Instead, think of it as a chance to learn more about the organization and the kind of work you would be doing. While she's obviously not in a position to be overtly negative, she can certainly give you more information about who they are and how they compare with your previous employer, information which will be helpful to you not only for interviews (always sounds good to be well informed) but also for you in deciding where you want to work. You're interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you.

I'd be direct with Linda, say that you saw the posting, was really intrigued for reasons X and Y and that you figured that since she works there now, you would ask her to tell you more about the organization and the position. Tell her that you're sending your resume to supervisor Z and you think you'd be a great fit there. This leaves the decision for what to do after talking to you entirely up to her: she can go about her business as if you never called, drop a quick note to the hiring supervisor, or strongly advocate on your behalf.

If she seems really positive and encourages you to apply, you could directly ask her for a recommendation to the hiring supervisor. Just tell her that your current employer doesn't know you're looking so you don't have any references from them right now. She'll understand (probably did the same thing herself last year).

Good luck and happy job hunting!
posted by zachlipton at 11:10 PM on March 3, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks all! I did touch base with Linda, she recommended me to the hiring manager and I had an interview the day after I sent the resume in! I DID get the job and will be starting in May!!! I'm very happy--and very lucky!
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:40 AM on April 19, 2009

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