Can I ask a former co-worker about an available position?
January 2, 2014 7:58 PM   Subscribe

Is it appropriate to contact a former co-worker "off the record" about a position that is listed at their current company?

A person that used to work at my company is now "Head of Thing I Do" at another company that I'm familiar with. They have a job posted that may or may not fall within my skill set (the job posting is on LinkedIn and is very vague). I would like to contact this person to get a better feel for what the position entails and ask a few questions 'off the record' before committing to a full-on application through HR. This person is someone I worked with a small amount years back, but we see each other enough at industry events/conferences that they are familiar with me.

Is this a dumb idea? I know this person still has connections with folks at my company, as it's a fairly small world, but I would hope that they wouldn't run back to anyone at my company. My goal in this is to informally find out a little more about what they are looking for and plant the seed that I might be interested.

I'm not 100% committed to leaving my current job, so I want to make sure this doesn't blow up in my face.
posted by tryniti to Work & Money (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Unless there's some really weird interpersonal dynamic going on (like the person is married to your boss or some such) then it's perfectly reasonable to do this. In fact, you might even be doing Head of Thing I Do a favor if their company does recruiting bonuses and they can put you forward as a candidate.
posted by Andrhia at 8:04 PM on January 2, 2014 [8 favorites]

Unless your former co-worker is also a terrible gossip, I wouldn't hesitate to call and talk, or meet him or her for lunch.

This is similar to how I got my current job; my former co-worker knew my skills from six years before, and was ethical enough to recommend me but not do the interview himself. I got some good insight into the company which is what convinced me to apply formally.
posted by Kakkerlak at 8:05 PM on January 2, 2014

Never hurts to ask in situations like this. This is how the business world works. They shouldn't be running back to get you in trouble with your company. This is what networking is all about, and you should absolutely plant that seed. You don't even need to come out and say "I want that job." Just express interest in finding out what the position entails and if they think you'd be a good candidate then things will go from there.

Good luck.
posted by azpenguin at 8:05 PM on January 2, 2014

This is totally normal and how people get new jobs- totally fine to reach out and ask for more details about the position. You can also add a line like "please keep this email confidential as my current employers do not know that I am considering other options"
posted by emd3737 at 8:09 PM on January 2, 2014

Isn't this basically the dictionary definition of networking?

If you want to make sure they don't say anything about it to current coworkers, just mention that in your email to them.
posted by Sara C. at 8:09 PM on January 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

As long as you are sure you are on good terms with that former co-worker, it is an excellent idea to contact them ahead of time. This is called networking.

I'd contact them and see if they want to get together - preface it as a a bit of a social call, but also as a bit of a networking call. Ask them about the company first, make sure that the grass is greener from an HR specific perspective, then let them know that you are considering starting to look elsewhere - that you want to make sure that you know how marketable your skills are. Let them know that you saw the position, and that you think that it sounds like a good fit, but you were curious as to whether the position matched your qualifications, whether that person knows the hiring manager, etc. Lastly, assuming this has gone well up to this point, ask them for a recommendation.

TLDR: 1. Feel out to make sure your former co-worker likes the place. 2. Express a general interest in the job hunt process. 3. Ask them whether they are aware of the position. 4. Ask them if the position is a match for your skillset. 5. Ask them to help connect you with the hiring manager. 6. Ask them for a recommendation.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:11 PM on January 2, 2014

This is called networking. It is what people do and what relationships are for. Go for it.
posted by alms at 8:14 PM on January 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is how you get a job. It's also great for your former coworker because if you apply through them they will probably get a recruiting bonus!
posted by joan_holloway at 8:16 PM on January 2, 2014

This is pretty much how I got my current job and the one before it. Do it.
posted by bedhead at 8:39 PM on January 2, 2014

My friends and I do this all the time. Unless there's some weird thing between you like you hated each other or something, it's not a big deal at all.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:41 PM on January 2, 2014

Totally okay. If you're unsure about how they feel about you, you could use my standard, "I just thought I'd mention it, in case your company has a recruitment program to reward employees who draw in new hires." (At my last company, I made about $2500 in a couple of months by referring just 2 people.)
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:06 PM on January 2, 2014

You know how everyone always says that most important thing is "building your network"? This is what your network is for. Of course it's okay.
posted by Kololo at 10:40 PM on January 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would do some homework before contacting him. The LinkedIn ad is vague but check their website and other job sites for more detailed job descriptions.!
posted by headnsouth at 11:26 PM on January 2, 2014

Not only is this totally normal, but your former colleague might get a bonus if s/he recommends you and you're hired.
posted by gingerest at 12:05 AM on January 3, 2014

The only thing that might make it difficult for the person is if they signed a non-solicit from the company you currently work for now. Usually those expire after 1-2 years so if it has been more than 2 years you are probably fine on that front.

But yes, as others said above, this is totally normal and how many people get jobs.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:00 AM on January 3, 2014

This is totally normal. It's generally understood that these type of communications are not to be shared with your current employer. Go for it!
posted by ewiar at 12:29 PM on January 3, 2014

Another "go ahead" here. Keep it professional but do it. This is how people get those jobs you always wonder how they got.
posted by Miko at 6:21 AM on January 4, 2014

Nthing the "this is normal, do it."
posted by paultopia at 7:01 PM on January 5, 2014

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