Asking for an introduction to your hiring manager is a great (and highly recommended) way to get a foot in the door. However, early on in my career, I used to think that once I got an introduction, the rest would take care of itself. "I'll charm everyone else this contact introduces me to," I thought, "And they'll have no choice but to make up an incredible opportunity and offer me an absurd amount of money to accept."
However, there was a huge problem with this type of thinking--it was wrong. Exchanging emails with someone at your dream company's great, but it's just that, exchanging emails. If you want to turn this back-and-forth into an interview (and then into an offer), you have to do a little work.
Because, as I learned, even the connections with the best intentions are busy and simply were not going to follow up with me out of the goodness of their hearts. So, to help you make the most out of any intro you receive, here are three tips that put the control back in your hands.
1. Reach Out With a Specific Job in Mind
When I graduated from college, I would've told you that if you had any available opportunities at a baseball card company, I'd be open to discussing it. And in full transparency, I made the mistake of following up on an introduction to a company I was interested in by saying, "This is so exciting, and I can't wait to hear more about what positions you're hiring for!"
What I quickly learned is that the quickest way to waste an introduction is asking that person to send over any openings he or she stumbles upon. Unless that person works in HR, he or she probably doesn't know all the openings (or would use the same "hiring" link that you would find on the company's homepage).
The solution to this is twofold. First, don't reach out for an introduction until you've identified a job you're interested in. And once you get that intro and are (hopefully) asked to send over your materials, send over a tailored version of your resume and cover letter. Doing these two things makes it clear that you're interested in a specific job-;and that you're willing to do the work to get an interview.
2. Do as Much of the Work in Advance as Possible
Even beyond your resume and cover letter, it's up to you to determine what materials the application requires all candidates to submit. Just because you're getting your foot in the door doesn't mean you're excused from following the rules.
Why is all of this important? This person likely doesn't know you well enough to vouch for you sans all required materials. And even if you've been introduced to the nicest person on the planet, you're essentially asking a complete stranger to go out of his or her way to do something for you. Make it easy for your new connection to say, "Hey, that's great. Thanks for sending these over. I'll forward all these materials along right now while it's fresh on my mind."
3. If Your New Contact Asks to Meet in Person, Say Yes
During a job search a few years ago, I was invited up to one of my contact's offices. At first, I said, "Wait, what? That sounds so awkward. I don't want to look like a charity case in front of all the smart people you work with. Plus, I don't really have time for small talk with someone who's not even in the department I want to work in." But after doing some soul searching (and having one of my roommates yell at me for even considering saying no), I went. And while it didn't lead to a job, I learned a lot that day.
There are lots of reasons this person might want to meet you face-to-face, and they can range from an excuse to get out of the office to genuinely being interested in networking. But, to go back to the point I made earlier about this new contact vouching for you, that's essentially what you're asking him or her to do. You want to give him a reason to endorse you in the message he sends along to the hiring manger. You want it to read something like this: "Just met Rich for the first time over coffee, and he seems truly enthusiastic about SEO." Otherwise, if you just exchange an email or two, it might look like this, "My friend intro'd me to this guy last week, don't really know him at all. His materials are attached."
Which person would you be more excited to bring in to interview?
Getting introduced to someone at a company you're interested in is a great opportunity to get a leg up on the competition. However, don't think your work's done and now you just need to wait for an offer. While maximizing the opportunity might take a little extra work from you, it won't feel like a herculean effort when you start turning those intro emails into actual interviews.