Targeted Networking: How to Effectively Reach Out

November 13, 2009 at 8:34 am 22 comments

I recently posted an article here called “Looking for Networking in All the Wrong Places.” I wrote that many job-seekers waste their time networking with people who can’t really help them. My advice was to have a target list of companies likely to have jobs you are interested in based on your industry and job function, and to focus your networking activities on reaching the decision-makers in those companies. Many people have since contacted me asking for advice on how to actually reach out to those decision-makers – so below is a proven strategy on how to do just that.

[By the way … this blog article is actually the 3rd step in a 5-step networking process. To see all 5 steps, read “How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching.”]

The Two-Step Approach For Reaching Out To Your Targets

I’m assuming here that you’ve already developed your target company list, and that you’ve already identified specific people at those companies that you want to meet. I use a two-step approach. First, I send an intro email, and then a few days later I make a follow-up phone call. I will describe those steps in greater detail below … but first, consider what level of connection you have (if any) to the people you are approaching. Did someone give you their name, or did you find it online yourself – and if so, how? The absolute best level of connection is a personal referral. If you meet with someone who gives you a name in a target company and says “use my name” – then you’re golden! The higher up the food chain your referring contact is, the better your response is likely to be. The next best level of connection is a common group or association – for example, you both belong to the same LinkedIn industry-specific group or Professional Association, or you both went to the same college, etc. (By the way – joining LinkedIn Groups specific to your niche is a great way to find people on your target list!) The third level of connection is simply that you share a common industry. My two-step approach is essentially the same for all levels of connections … but the opening section would be modified according to which level of connection you are approaching.

Step One: The Intro Email

The intro email (or LinkedIn message) I send has three parts. First, the opener that describes how I know the person. Second, my short “Elevator Pitch” describing my background and career goals. And third, a request for help. The key is to be brief, complimentary, and non-aggressive. I am NOT asking for a job. Rather, I am asking for help and advice. Here’s an example of an actual email I’ve used:

    Subject Line: Reaching Out – a Referral from (Full Name of Contact)

    Hi (First Name):

    I had coffee yesterday with a mutual friend of ours: (Full Name of Contact). (First Name) spoke very highly of you, and gave me your name and contact info, and urged me to reach out you.

    I am an experienced Recruiter and B to B Account Manager. For the past 10 years I’ve had much success in the 3rd-party (independent agency) staffing world. My current focus is to use that experience to transition into an internal “Corporate Recruiter” role within a large stable company in the Cleveland-Akron area. This will allow me to concentrate on my passion for building and maintaining relationships with internal business partners, and to make more of a long-term impact within an organization. I am very interested in speaking and networking with anyone with experience in that area.

    The reason I’m contacting you is that I would like to talk with you and find out more about your corporate recruiting experiences. Your help, advice and expertise would be greatly appreciated. Would you be willing to spend a few minutes with me on the phone … or even better yet, informally meet with me face-to-face at your convenience?

    I’ll await your reply. Thanks.

    I sign it with my name, cell phone number, and a link to my LinkedIn profile.

Notice a few things about this email. It’s brief. It starts with a compliment. It clearly says who I am, and what I’m looking for career-wise. And it clearly says what I’d like from the person I’m contacting (help, advice, expertise, and a few minutes of their time on the phone or in-person – NOT a job!!!) I’ve had a terrific response from this email. More than half of the people I’ve sent it to have responded within a day or two, and agreed to at least talk on the phone. Many invited me to meet in person. The specific feedback I got was that my email was engaging and inviting. It didn’t put people off like so many of the other requests they receive from others asking for their time.

As I mentioned before, the first paragraph should be modified according to how I got their name. It might say: “We are both members of the ‘Cleveland & NEO Corporate Recruiting Group’ on LinkedIn. I reviewed your profile (very impressive!) and I believe that we have several areas of common interest. I hope you don’t mind my reaching out to you this way.” Or it might say: “While doing a search on LinkedIn for professionals our industry, I came across your profile (very impressive!) and I believe that we have several areas of common interest. I hope you don’t mind my reaching out to you this way.” Again, each level down is less likely to get a response … but you’d be surprised at how far a simple compliment about someone’s profile will take you!

Step Two: The Phone Call Follow-up

If I don’t get a response from the above email within three days, I pick up the phone and call that person (assuming I have a number for them.) More often than not, I’ll get their voice mail – and I leave a message! My message says that I am calling to follow-up on the email I sent … and then re-states almost word for word the content of my email. I ask for a call-back, and make sure to say my call-back number twice. I don’t call again after that. If the person doesn’t respond after the two-step approach, I assume they simply don’t want to talk to me and I feel it’s best to move on. I don’t want to be a pest.

Staying in Touch with your Targets

As you keep reaching out to and meeting with more and more decision-makers (or people who can refer you to those decision-makers) your network will grow larger and larger. And it will be made up of key people in your industry who all tend to know each other and are “well-connected.” Again, the idea is to be in the right place at the right time – and more importantly to be remembered by those key people when a new and often unpublished opportunity opens up somewhere. Staying in touch with this network through regular emails or phone calls is also a critical part of making this process work. I try to send an individual follow-up email to each of my target contacts at least once a month. (Mass emails to a large list of addresses is a big no-no … send each person an individual email, and add a personal comment to each one if possible.) Follow-up emails should include any updates on your job-seeking activities, a list of every significant meeting that you’ve had since your last email, and a reminder that you are still “in transition.” It’s especially important to let a contact know if you meet with someone they specifically referred you to – and thank them profusely for that referral. [For more on the importance of following-up, read “Following-Up: An Essential Key to Success.”] This entire process is a long-term strategy that can be very time-consuming, and it may not produce quick results (i.e. a job.) It will, however, position you well for long-term success in today’s highly competitive job market.

Entry filed under: Advice for Job Seekers. Tags: , , .

Why Job Hunting is a Consultative Sales Position The Art of Giving: the Key to Effective Networking

22 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Steve Greenlaw  |  November 13, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    This is one of the best written explanations of how to effectively reach out and network with professionals that I have seen!

    Thanks for posting this!

  • 2. Rob Simon  |  November 13, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Great tips. you may find this short video interesting as well…

  • 3. Karen Baker  |  November 13, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Thanks Michael. Great Stuff! Keep on sharing, really appreciate your voice of experience.

    Thanks for posting!

  • 4. Sam Diener  |  November 13, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Mike – this is a VERY good explanation. I like that you put your professional touch into it, and it almost says word for word what someone should say.

    FREE HINT: I would love to be able to add this to my delicious account so i could view it later. Consider adding some social networking things so others can market for you!


    Sam Diener
    Stuff for Success

    • 5. Michael Spiro  |  November 14, 2009 at 10:46 am

      Sam: Thanks for the great suggestion. I’ve added a button under each post, and on the right, so that people can share this blog with their various online social networks.

  • 6. Scott Hall  |  November 14, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Good Advice. I’m going to give it a try with a few companies and see how it works.

  • 7. Ryan McKay  |  November 16, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Excellent article Michael, and one that can easily cross over to a variety of other applications, from stategic partnerships to sales.

  • 8. Bob yanega  |  November 16, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Michael – EXCELLENT article! I couldn’t agree more, and it is advice I give job seekers except that you packaged it succinctly and specifically

  • 9. Mel Reed  |  November 27, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I would like your permission to quote the information in your article. I believe that there is an ‘honesty’ factor. Older employees are more honest and there fore potential whistle-blowers.

  • 10. Jesreartole  |  January 2, 2010 at 3:45 am

    Good blogpost, good looking weblog, added it to my favs!!

  • 11. Steve Cary  |  February 25, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Great blogpost on how to reach out effectively. People often ask: should I attach my resume to that intro email? I say no, because as Michael rightly points out, you are NOT asking for a job and don’t want there to be any confusion about it. If your contact subsequently asks for your resume to help them prepare for your networking meeting you have the chance to re-iterate that you are NOT asking them for a job which is the reason you did not send the resume to begin with. Then send it to them.

  • 12. kaukab usman  |  April 26, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Great article as always. When I see an article by you I have to read it. You have established a great brand for your yourself.

    Thanks for the great work.

  • 13. Don Bearden  |  March 16, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Great information and definitely flexible enought to tailor it to a slightly different need/audience. I have a question that might be best shared via private email. Would that be possible?

  • 15. Betty Milia  |  March 26, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Great advice. Thanks. Keep them coming!

  • 16. Damone Franklin (@Damooone)  |  April 3, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Extremely helpful…thanks!

  • 17. Crystal Rose Gomez  |  June 4, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Agreed, thank you! I Evernote Clipped this to keep it in my back pocket for reference! You by far out-beat any “networking” seminar I took in college or thereafter. I’m glad I was on the right track with proper networking etiquette, but you definitely lay out the techniques. Me gusta!

  • 18. John  |  August 11, 2014 at 3:39 am

    What to do when you follow all steps and reach out with sincere interest in helping the other, but are never replied back to by that person or when the time comes for you to express interest in a company or lead he/she connected you don’t hear back after you have given time and support?

    • 19. Michael Spiro  |  August 11, 2014 at 10:27 am

      After 2 or 3 attempts at reaching out, if you don’t get a response — I’d give up and move on. Some people just won’t ever help you no matter what you do or say — there’s not much you can do about that. The better the quality of your messages, and the more of them you send out … the better your response rate will be. Just keep plugging away.

      • 20. John  |  August 11, 2014 at 10:51 am

        Thanks Michael. I hear what you say, but the hurtful obstacles I have dealt with and also seen as unprofessional regarding some people and it unimaginable with those very people while nurturing a positive, mutual one with others really gets to me with affecting trust, questioning the credibility of “networking” and wonder of the karmic consequences for the former people no matter how good/generous I act.

        The former people I described above have involved those who don’t ever reply back after I reaching out with interest to build a relationship, ones who have encouraged me to send my resume when 1st meeting yet never reply back, a girl who encouraged me to contact her and collaborate with me after meeting her at a local exchange event and never returning my phone calls or emails, a girl I would usually get along with at a former workplace and highly favored and she unfortunately and unclearly never returning my texts or LinkedIn invitation after we worked with that organization illogically or unclearly or a lady from this nonprofit whom I had a constant, natural good connection with while connected on FB(Facebook) with nice, mutual touch when I would reach out once-in-a while, but totally unexpectedly without any warning or reason she blocking me on FB. Also, I am connected with a former male co-worker via LinkedIn and this has his email, but never heard back from him after sharing an article thinking of him.

        *Lately, on my mind is regarding how to best email a former supervisor I really liked and who said before I left this nonprofit that I can always use her as a reference and has replied back to my FB msgs in 2012 and 2013, but I have never heard back from her via FB since 2013 and when I have reached out and shared links with her and my positive recommendation of her LinkedIn is present. Wonder how to email her and what to do regarding such a nice lady who encountered me at the United Way at times and has usually been responsive to my emails with links I shared with her and has provided leads w/ a nice LinkedIn recommendation, but hasn’t replied to my last 2 emails and wondering if I should call her.

        Sadly, observing how such people above are responsive to others and not me has reason for me to take it to heart. Also, my messages are usually the best after reviewing them with career counselor and mentors. How dare can such a well-intentioned, gold-hearted person who reaches out with thought and does such to maintain the bond encounter such negative? Why does it have it to be like this when usually hearing “What comes around, goes around.” Don’t you think that the unfortunate scenarios of the people I have described are burning a bridge?

        I will stop for now, but I wanted to share the above and wish speakers, authors and such always addressed such in-depth networking dilemmas such as above and wish it wasn’t emphasized how smooth and beneficial ‘networking’ can be. Just wanted to share such as trying to smile and keep on.


  • 21. Mickael T  |  December 1, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    Dear Michael Spiro,

    Thank you for your valuable tips.

    Question: if I already spoke to a valuable contact once, do you still recommend attempting to meet that person face to face for a stronger impression?

    Best regards.

    • 22. Michael Spiro  |  December 1, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      Absolutely! If your phone conversation went well, try taking it to the next level and invite your contact out for a cup of coffee. Network connections are MUCH stronger after face-to-face meetings.


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Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for over 20 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Jefferson Wells, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, and Executive Recruiting positions with two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit social-services organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

Résumés & Cover Letters:
 The "T" Cover Letter - The
         Only Type Worth Sending

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours

 Beating the Résumé-
         Elimination Game: Where
         Do Recruiters' Eyes Go?

 The Truth About Lying on

 "Why Did You Leave Your
         Last Job?"

 How to Network: A
         Step-by-Step Guide for
         Job Searching

 Looking for Networking in
         All the Wrong Places

 Targeted Networking: How
         to Effectively Reach Out

 The Art of Giving: the Key to
         Effective Networking

 Face-to-Face Interviews:
         Secrets, Tricks and Tips

 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Skype Interview Tips ...
         Welcome to the Future!

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

 "So, Do You Have Any
         Questions?" Nailing the
         Interview Closer

 Cool InfoGraphic: "What
         You Wish You'd Known
         Before Your Job

Age Discrimination:
 Age Discrimination: Secret
         Conversations Revealed

 Age Discrimination:
         Exposing Inconvenient

 Are You "Overqualified?"
         Handling the Age Issue

 Baby Boomers to the
         Rescue! An Idea Whose
         Time Has Come ...

 Overcoming Job-Search
         Obstacles and
         Redefining Your Career
         After 50

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

 Contract/Consulting Jobs
         Explained ... Available in
         3 Different Flavors

►  What Recruiters Say
         vs. What Job-Seekers

►  The Dirty Truth About
         Misleading Unemployment

►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More

 "Help ... I Need a Job!" A
         9-Step Guide for Newly
         Minted Job-Seekers

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 Time Management: Recipe          for a Well-Balanced Job          Search
 Getting Un-Stuck from your

 The Double-Whammy of
         Rejection and Isolation

 "Unemployed Need Not
         Apply" - Working Around
         This Scary Message

 Using Social Media to
         Enhance Job-Searching

 Warning: That Rant You
         Posted Just Went Viral!

 The Golden Rule for
         Business: Never Burn

 The Power of a Positive

 Why Job Hunting is a
         Consultative Sales

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things
         for Job Seekers

 Top 10 Most Annoying
         Things for Job Seekers

 New Year's Resolutions for
         Unemployed Job-

Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Volume 5
 Comic Relief: Volume 6
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

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