Job applications: 5 reasons to contact the hiring manager directly

May 25, 2022

7 mins

Job applications: 5 reasons to contact the hiring manager directly
Aurélie Cerffond

Journaliste @Welcome to the jungle

Picture the scene: you’re half-heartedly scrolling through yet another page of job listings like it’s your Instagram feed when, out of the blue, you see it … an ad for your dream job. The next logical step is to submit your résumé and cover letter. Or is it? Before you click on that link or send that email, stop and think for a moment. Chances are, a lot of other job seekers will have had the same idea. The recruiter’s inbox could be full to the brim with applications, and your stellar credentials might not be enough to get your material seen by the right people. Time to think outside the (in)box. Have you thought about getting in touch with your prospective future manager instead?

Ok, we know. You’re bound to come into contact with HR at some point in the recruitment process. That said, contacting your future manager might just give you the edge you need to stand out from the crowd. At least that’s what professional coach and blog author Matthieu Degenève thinks, and he gives a full list of reasons to test out this more direct approach.

Stand out from the crowd: contact the hiring manager directly

1. Get yourself noticed by the right people

If a company has its own recruitment department, then managers won’t be expected to do their own hiring. If your application lands directly in their inbox, though, then the element of surprise is on your side. They’re more likely to read your email, if only out of curiosity. Now you’ve got their attention, the battle is already half-won.

“It won’t surprise anyone to learn that HR departments are inundated with job applications. The same person might be managing applications for tens of different roles in any given period, and they’ll only have a certain amount of time to sift through them,” explains Degenève. “A manager, on the other hand, will only see applications for positions in their own department, so they won’t have to handle quite so many.” Does this mean they’ll have more time to look at your application? Not necessarily: “The manager won’t have much more time available – much of their time is taken up with the other elements of their job – but a direct contact might spark their interest.” In any case, it doesn’t hurt to try! At worst, busy execs may ignore your message. But if not, you’ve opened a valuable communication channel for direct discussions with your prospective boss!

2. The manager is at the heart of the hiring process

Who’ll be working closely with the new recruit? Who’ll be responsible for their performance? Who might have to share office space with them? We’ll give you a clue: it’s not the recruiter! A manager has a lot to gain by hiring someone they want to work with, and much more to lose if the new hire isn’t a good fit.

Choosing the right person for the job is key to making sure that future projects will succeed, and it’s important that they fit in well with the existing team. Hiring the wrong person can have disastrous effects on a department’s budget, deadlines, and more. Put bluntly, the manager has more skin in the game: “A good or bad hiring decision will have little to no effect on the HR team, but the manager will have to work alongside the new recruit on a daily basis.” Hiring you could have a dramatic impact on a manager’s day-to-day life, so you can bet your bottom dollar they’re going to take a close look at your profile and materials.

3. The manager knows the field

Your future manager probably works in the same field and has a similar skill set to you. Heck, they may even have been promoted from the position you hope to fill! This shared background makes all the difference in terms of the quality of communications. “Applicants frequently complain that HR doesn’t speak their language,” notes Degenève. “During the recruitemnt process, HR personnel do not have the expertise to talk to candidates about technical subjects – for example, discussing resistance calculations in a building plan with a civil engineer.” On these grounds alone, there’s a lot to be gained by getting in touch with a manager first, although Degenève notes that it’s not all black and white: “Over time, certain experienced HR operatives gain an in-depth understanding of roles in their company, to the point where they do speak the same language as the candidates. It’s important to avoid over-generalizing.”

Talking to someone who understands and can fully appreciate your expertise and sector-specific technical skills creates valuable opportunities to establish a relationship. You’ll be able to spot shared interests, meaning that you’ll be in a better position to carry on the conversation. A great way to start building a relationship!

4. Your future manager knows what they want in a new hire

HR departments analyze applications based on a predefined scoring system, but a manager will have slightly different criteria in mind, some of which might not appear in the job description. “HR is bound to take fewer risks in terms of candidate evaluations because they’re supposed to select applicants who correspond to a written wish-list,” explains Degenève. “While the manager obviously shares the same requirements, he or she will also look beyond their list, paying attention to other, less tangible details.” The manager will know what the new hire will be doing on a daily basis, and will know what his or her department needs most. They’ll also know what transferable skills will be most valuable in their specific context.

Because of this situational awareness, managers will be able to spot stand-out candidates who might otherwise have slipped through the cracks: “A manager might adjust their selection criteria as they go, or make changes to their hierarchy of needs, so they could end up hiring a candidate who would have been rejected by a recruiter,” says Degenève. For example, recruiters might eliminate applicants who don’t speak a specific foreign language, if that’s part of the job description, but other criteria may be more important to the job.

Obviously, the first step towards proving your potential to a future manager is to get in touch with them, which may be easier said than done … but more on that later.

5. Get an insider view of the recruitment process

HR departments aren’t usually at liberty to discuss ongoing recruitment processes, but managers tend to have more flexibility in terms of keeping applicants in the loop. “You have a far better chance of finding out whether you’re a strong candidate and/or getting helpful feedback on your performance from a manager than from HR. While managers are subject to the same legal obligations as HR, they may be more willing to share certain details. They don’t have the same closed-door approach,” explains our expert. This difference in attitudes to hiring isn’t surprising: it’s just one more reason why contacting your future manager increases your chances of getting the information you so desperately need.

Getting in touch with your future manager: where there’s a will, there’s a way

Ok, great. Contacting the hiring manager sounds like a good idea. But how do you do that? In the vast majority of cases, you’re not going to find their details in the job listing – that would be too easy. This is where our trusty friend the Internet comes in.

The LinkedIn profile of the company is a good place to start your sleuthing since you’ll be able to see who works there. A company’s own corporate website is another great resource since they often include management profiles or lists of names. Once you’ve found the name of your future manager, it’s time to move on to the next step.

You now have two main options:

  • Send an email. Even if you haven’t found an email address for the manager you want to contact, you can use your powers of deduction to work it out. Start with a generic email address for the company in question, say, and sub in various forms of the person’s name until you find one that works. Think johnsmith, jsmith, john.smith, smithj … you get the idea. Still no luck? Try changing the end of the domain name (.com, .org, .biz…).

  • Get in touch via LinkedIn or another social network, if you can find a professional profile for the hiring manager. Don’t even think about contacting them through their private Facebook page, though. That just makes you look like a stalker, which really isn’t the aim of the game.

Nearly there, but don’t fall at the last hurdle…

A word of warning: if you choose to contact a hiring manager directly, you need to be careful to avoid ruffling feathers in the HR department. You want to get yourself noticed, but not for your sneaky tactics and total disrespect for protocol. Even if the manager thinks you could be a good fit, recruiters still have the power to eliminate you from the recruitment process. According to Degenève, transparency is the key to success.

“When you’re applying for a position, it’s a good idea to let the HR department know that you’ve already been in touch with a manager at the company, so they don’t think you’ve been sneaking around behind their backs. You’ll also need to follow the company’s hiring protocols – or your application might not be processed.” Certificates or diplomas may need to be verified, official applications may need to be submitted via a specific platform, and professional references may need to be provided. “Be sure to show that you respect the recruiters’ work and understand their position, and avoid overstepping by keeping the HR department in the loop. Scoring points with HR might increase your chances of making it through the initial selection process, and if you’re hired, you’ll already have established a feeling of goodwill with some of your new colleagues!” In short, your mother was right: be polite and respectful, and you’ll go far!

Finally, it’s important to remember that different fields, cultures, and companies have their own ways of doing things. Some businesses won’t deviate from their tried-and-true, protocol-based recruitment process. Others are more flexible. Smaller companies or start-ups may take a more relaxed approach to hiring: it’s not unusual for managers to share their own job postings on LinkedIn, which is practically (if not literally) an invitation to contact them directly. Reaching out to former or current employees at your target company can be a great way to find out whether a direct approach would be welcomed, or if they’ll just think you’re opportunistic and annoying.

When all is said and done, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, no “miracle pill” that will land you the job of your dreams – but getting in touch with your prospective manager can be a great way to show proof of initiative and demonstrate your creativity. At the end of the day, by contacting a manager, you’re simply opening a line of communication with the person who has the final say over who gets hired. Sure, they might just forward your message to HR, but at least they’ve already seen your name – and that might just be the thing that tips the balance in your favor.

Translated by Catherine Prady

Photo: Welcome to the Jungle

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