How Much Time Should Be Spent on Opportunities Where You Can’t Identify a Networking Contact?

Applying to C-suite positions online with no networking feels like an exercise in futility. How much time, if any, should be spent on opportunities where you can’t identify a networking contact?

Ann-Z-newI detect more than a small amount of despair in your query. Fret not weary job seeker! For I can tell you after recruiting for a quarter of a century, we have successfully placed hundreds if not thousands of candidates that were competing against applicants that had an “inside scoop.”

The reality is, while having a prior connection may well get you a better shot at obtaining the interview, once your foot is in the door, all things are more or less equal.

By implementing seven easy to do things on a regular basis, you can increase your chances of landing an interview without any pre-existing relationships.

1) Finding out about the opening in the first place. Create a list of your targeted companies, and sign up for job opening alerts on their website. Follow key players within the company, including Human Resources and internal recruiters on social media, particularly LinkedIn. Often times they will post job openings . Review ExecuNet on a consistent basis for any new job openings that peak your interest. Consider setting up Google Alerts as well for the types of roles you want to hear about.

2) Reach out to a recruiter that specializes in the industry. Smart executives understand the value in having relationships with good recruiters that specialize within their niche market. They invest the time in cultivating professional relationships by following them on LinkedIn, liking and commenting on their posts. They offer suggestions for potential candidates when they see job openings. When they hear of an opportunity that they want to pursue, it just takes a phone call to see if she already has a relationship with the company.

3) Create a resume that will grab their attention. I have written extensively about this topic, feel free to check out an infographic that we recently created for ExecuNet that offers specific suggestions on this very important subject.

4) Pay attention to keywords! These days so many things are automated, and recruiting is no different. The vast majority of large companies invest in technology that announces at the top of every application what percentage of a match a candidate is. This is solely determined by how many of the key words that are mentioned in the job requirements are also included in the resume. So be cognizant of the words and phrases used in the job ad, and be sure to include that exact verbiage in your resume, when applicable. Obviously don’t lie, but if you have the experience and skills they are looking for, using the same verbiage in your resume is smart.

5) Customize your Objective on the top of your resume! Take one minute to tweak your Objective to have it reflect the position you are pursuing. It’s weird when we get an application for a role in what is clearly described as a start-up and the resume’s objective states the person is looking to join a large, stable company that is financially secure.

6) Change the subject line when you apply to an online ad. When we post an ad, we all get literally hundreds of responses per day, all with the same subject line. Tweak the subject line so that your application will stand out from the others. Say something like “Your search for a VP of Sales is Over!” Depending on your personality and the type of role, be as creative as you want, while maintaining professionalism. Even something like “John Smith, highly qualified CFO candidate for your consideration” will do the trick.

7) Do your homework on who you will be meeting with. While it is certainly nice to get the skinny on the personality of the hiring manager as well as insights into corporate culture, there are still ways to get that information. Check out this recent post on ways to determine culture fit.

If you have not built any relationships with recruiters within the industry, or if the ones that you do know don’t have any contacts within the company you want to gain access to, there are still ways a good recruiter can help. Even if she is not currently working with them, oftentimes an experienced recruiter will invest the time in marketing strong candidates into companies within their area of focus. And while it is always beneficial to build those relationships before you actually need them, nothing prevents you from reaching out to a recruiter regarding an opportunity that you are aware of, asking her to make an introduction.

Approaching a new company with a strong candidate is the best way for recruiters to gain new clients, and if they are skilled at marketing high-level candidates, we can oftentimes get you presented to the C-level on a silver platter as opposed to being one of the thousands of applicants that apply via HR portals. It is important to note here that if you do choose to ask a recruiter for help getting an interview, you need to do that before making any kind of contact with the hiring manager or the company. Once you have applied directly to a role, we are not able to get in the middle. And by being rewarded by a placement fee if someone that we present to the company gets hired, we are strongly motivated to help you land the job. In the grand scheme of things, having a highly motivated experienced headhunter promoting your candidacy is much more valuable than any other type of pre-existing connection.

Ask Ann,

Have a question you’d like a recruiter to answer? Write to me at

Ann Zaslow-Rethaber

Ann Zaslow-Rethaber

A recruiter since 1996, Ann Zaslow-Rethaber is the president of International Search Consultants, a global executive recruiting firm launched in 1999.

ISC has become one of the country’s most reputable search firms, earning more recommendations on Linked In than any other 3rd party recruiting agency in the entire country. With a team of 15 talented recruiters, utilizing the very best high- tech tools available, ISC can produce highly qualified candidates for companies with hi-volume recruiting needs.

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