Reaching out to HR people after applying online — best practices?
March 5, 2013 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Two months ago, I applied online for a position at a US-based software developer and have not heard back from them beyond an automatic receipt confirmation. The job, along with related vacancies, is still published on their site. Would it be acceptable to contact the company's HR manager via e-mail or LinkedIn to express my continued interest in the position? Snowflake details inside.

While they may just not be that into me, the position does fit my profile incredibly well and I believe my application was pretty solid, so I am reasonably sure my resume has not gone straight to the bin. Besides, I have reasons to believe that the project they are likely hiring for has not yet reached the stage where they would need someone like me, so for now I am working under the assumption that they have not yet started the recruiting process in earnest.

However, I cannot help wondering if there is anything else I could do to push my resume up to the top of the pile, and one thing I am mulling over is reaching out to the company's HR manager to (re)state my interest in the position.

There are two additional reasons I feel this may be a good idea: first, the specific job posting I applied to vanished from the site for a couple weeks, only to reappear later, and I would like to make extra-sure that my application —which preceded the disappearance— is still on file somewhere (and resubmit it if it is not); second, I now have an extra item to add to my CV. I could not disclose it at the time of my application due to confidentiality agreements, but now I am finally free to talk about it and it is highly relevant to the job offer, enough to make me a more attractive candidate.

However, I am not terribly good at navigating HR waters (especially in the US) and I am not sure how contacting them would be perceived. Would it be taken as a proof of my interest in the position, or is it more likely to be considered spamming? I know it is good policy to get in touch with HR with a thank-you note after a job interview, but my application is nowhere near that stage yet.

If this is a good idea, how would you recommend I do the reaching out exactly? I found their recruitment manager via LinkedIn, but they are a third degree connection. Should I aim to get an introduction through common connections, despite the two degrees of separation? Or would paying for a premium account and contacting them directly via InMail be a better option? Assuming I can find the e-mail address of the HR manager online (I have found one, but the source might not be reliable), would e-mail be the preferred channel? Or am I overthinking things terribly and should just sit tight and wait for their recruitment process to actually start?

Thanks in advance, Hive Mind!
posted by doctorpiorno to Work & Money (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, do that. Go ahead and contact them.

I wouldn't, however, hold out much hope. If you're applying online you have to apply to many hundreds of jobs, and most of the time your application will be thrown away.

In my experience, the best result you'll get from this is that the HR manager will respond, they will be able to pull your resume out of the recycle bin, they'll say "well well, how interesting", promise to get back to you, and throw your resume right back into the recycle bin.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't try it. It won't hurt.

Where I think you are going wrong is in applying for something like this and then waiting to hear back, as if they are going to be taking your application anywhere near as seriously as you do. They won't.
posted by tel3path at 7:58 AM on March 5, 2013

It's possible they thought that there were no applicants suitable for the job, which is why it was reposted. That said, I'm not really sure what good it would do to reach out to HR, since their chief job at this stage is to filter out as much as possible, and this includes you.

You might want to try to figure out who the hiring manager is, and phone him or her up to get some more background on the job. HR managers, after all, are nominally working for their internal clients, the hiring managers, but the "want" expressed by the hiring manager can get transmorgified by the HR department, as they add fluff to the job description to ensure there will be a "good cultural fit" etc etc.

You may just want to give up on this job, since the silence on your application and the length the job has been up there could point to other problems with the organization - incompetent HR, perhaps the hiring manager left, lack of funding.

However, networking to find "hidden jobs" is worth it, because you can somewhat bypass the HR process and its gatekeepers, and most jobs are "hidden" anyway.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:00 AM on March 5, 2013

At a big company the initial screening is probably somewhat automated. If their software doesn't spit out your resume as a potential match, nobody may see it. I would just apply again, being very careful to use every single buzzword in the job ad in the summary section at the top of your resume.

Also, do you know anybody anywhere in the company? An internal referral will usually insure that somebody actually looks at your resume.
posted by COD at 8:39 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

I follow up online job submissions with a snail mail letter, usually 1-2 months after I have applied online. Online systems are not perfect, and more than once this technique has resulted in an email response from HR saying that they did not have my resume/application on file and would I please send it directly to them.
posted by unlaced at 10:16 AM on March 5, 2013

You don't want to contact HR - in big companies, HR and recruiting are two separate groups. As a non-employee, only the second group cares about your application. The first group is concerned about keeping existing employees happy / in line.

Preferably, you would want to contact the actual hiring manager (the person who needs and can pay for an employee). This person is able and willing to push the other groups around to get you hired, and is the only person with whom your interests are aligned.

You also want to choose the communication path that separates you out the most from other candidates - in this case, it would be LinkedIn, and specifically to the hiring manager, or even an employee in that same group. Applying online via their web site puts you in the same huge stack as a thousand other qualified and unqualified candidates, and that is where companies use automated tools to separate the wheat from the chaff.

If you can write a good, succinct cover letter or just something beyond "please hire me", and you can get an actual person to glance at your resume, your chances of getting an interview go up hugely.

Also in big companies, it is possible that the job postings they have online are completely obsolete / divorced from reality. Those positions may already be filled or be under a hiring freeze, or only be available internally / through referrals. You shouldn't try to interpret positions being removed / added as a clear indicator of what's really going on.
posted by meowzilla at 11:28 AM on March 5, 2013

If I found myself contacted by people I have no prior connection with, who fail to follow the process and thus fill up my inbox wasting my time with requests that have nothing to do with me I'd be irritated. I'd then proceed to minimise the impact by creating a mail filter filtering all external emails regarding this posting into trash. Followed by manually deleting any that slip through the filter. There's no way, that I would spend time looking up the right person to forward this if you must do this please be sure to identify the correct person and spare the rest of us.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:38 PM on March 5, 2013

At a minimum, you should revise your resume with your new information, make sure it contains every single buzzword from the job posting (ie "event coordinator" instead of "party planner" if that's what's in the ad) and resubmit your resume following the listed procedure for the new job posting, with NO mention that you had already submitted it for the first posting.

Anything beyond that, I leave to the advice of folks with more expertise.
posted by CathyG at 1:51 PM on March 5, 2013

Former HR guy here. Yes, contact them. The recruiting "system" we used was notoriously crappy and candidates who thought their applications were submitted didn't end up in the system.

Just be clear (reference the specific job, your name and how best to contact you) - I can't tell you how many times "Jeff" would call about "the job" with no other information and expect me to know what he was talking about.
posted by Twicketface at 2:33 PM on March 5, 2013

I applied for a job online recently through an organization's own job board. I followed up with a phone call to the HR department the next week to "make sure you received my resume." Surprisingly, they *hadn't* received it and asked me to send it to them personally via email.

I have no idea what will come of the application, but if I hadn't called, I would never have known there was a technical glitch that kept me from being interviewed.
posted by tacodave at 3:05 PM on March 5, 2013

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