The average online job posting will receive up to 250 applications. As you can imagine no one is actually reading all 250 resumes. Instead each resume will be reviewed by an applicant tracking system (ATS). A recruiter will review the resumes, which passed the ATS review, then the recruiter sends the (perceived) most viable candidates to the hiring manager.
That means your resume goes through two levels of screening before it gets to the person, who will actually make a decision to interview you or not. There’s a better way. The most effective way to skip the queue is to get a job referral.
Loose connections are very useful in the referral process. In a sense they’re more important than close connections.
However, not all job referrals are created equal. The most effective job referrals reflect someone sending your resume directly to the hiring manager. This allows you to skip the ATS and the recruiter. The hiring manager can simply tell the recruiter to add you to the interview group. You may be asked to apply online for administrative purposes, but if you’re pre-selected by the hiring manager you avoid being assessed by the ATS. If the hiring manager wants to interview you, the rest of the hiring gatekeepers are there to support.
Not All Referrals Are Created Equal
Many companies have job referral programs—and even referral incentive programs—which allow employees to refer friends and acquaintances for open job postings. These programs are very useful as employee referrals account for 40% of all hires. A referral via these programs can effectively get you past the ATS. You’re still likely subject to a recruiter review before getting to the hiring manager.
Employee referrals are most effective, when you have interest in a role and have a friend, family member, or acquaintance, who works at the company. They don’t need to be in cybersecurity or know anyone on the cybersecurity team. Your referrer just needs to be able to submit your information in the corporate employee referral system. This can be quite helpful as most of your contacts likely don’t work in cybersecurity—especially, if you’re a career changer—and thus may not personally know the cybersecurity hiring manager.
Referrals Direct to the Hiring Manager
Getting a referral directly to the hiring manager may be more challenging to orchestrate, but there are two distant positives. First, a referral directly to a hiring manager does not require strong relationships. Second, it does not require your referrer work for the company, which is hiring. Let’s unpack this a bit.
However, not all job referrals are created equal. The most effective job referrals reflect someone sending your resume directly to the hiring manager.
The misconception that hiring manager referrals are about good friends referring each other to other good friends is understandable. However, let’s consider the hiring manager’s perspective. Her main interest is to find the best person for the job and is happy to accept any help in identifying quality candidates. A referral doesn’t require her to be very close with the referrer, only that she knows and respects the referrer. It doesn’t require the referrer to be very close with the referred candidate either. After all, the referrer will provide some context about that relationship. It could be anything from “this is my cousin” to “this is a good friend I’ve known for 10 years” to “this is a smart person I met at an event”. The referrer doesn’t even need to work at the same company from the hiring manager, because they’re simply emailing the candidate’s resume to her.
The referrer can even be a non-cybersecurity professional. Why? Because the hiring manager is going to make her own decisions based on the candidate’s resume. But the fact that she receives that resume from someone she knows and respects generally means she’s going to read it. That allows the candidate to jump the queue and improve their chances of getting an interview.
It used to be hard to identify who in your network—if anyone—knew a hiring manager for an open cybersecurity position. LinkedIn has democratized so much of the recruitment process in this regard. If someone in your network likes or shares a LinkedIn post of someone promoting an open position, you know there’s a connection. Separately, if you’re able to identify the hiring manager for an open position, you can check their LinkedIn profile to see if you share any contacts.
The Power of Acquaintances
Loose connections are very useful in the referral process. In a sense they’re more important than close connections. You can have many more loose connections than close connections, which provides exposure to a wider number of potential opportunities. It is therefore important to foster those professional acquaintance relationships.
LinkedIn is a game-changing tool for that. If you’re new to LinkedIn or just underutilizing it, check out CIO Magazine’s The How-To Guide for LinkedIn. It can help you improve your engagement on the professional platform, which is a key resource for your job search.