There was a time not too long ago when job seekers routinely sent out their job search documents to unknown recipients. More times than not job announcements instructed job seekers to send their resumes and cover letters to blind addresses – Post Office boxes or routing numbers in care of the newspaper that ran the recruitment ad – or fax numbers, all with no real indication of the name of the hiring company.  Blind recruitment ads are still common today; job seekers now send their documents to blind email addresses. But it has become more necessary than ever for the motivated job prospector to dig out as much information as possible when they are looking for a job.  Identifying the right person to send your resumes and cover letters can mean the difference between getting an interview and wasting your time.
Job search is a bit like mining for precious metals, gems or stones.  Prospectors have an inkling of where to stake their claim, either through geologic reports or other research, before they start to break ground.  Similarly, a job seeker must have an idea of where and whom to send their documents in order have the best opportunity for job search success.
Whereas in days gone by the job seeker would use old newspaper clipping and magazine articles, either in hard copy or stored on microfilm, to research companies of interest, today through the internet and social networking, information about prospective employers is much closer at hand.
These days, almost every employer, and many small firms too, have a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook and/or other social networking site, in addition to their own corporate web pages. You might even find YouTube videos featuring department managers or corporate executives.  And although what you see on a company’s social networking pages shouldn’t contradict what’s on their own website, it may very well provide supplemental information and insight about senior and general staff.  Dig for a few names, then research them on those networking sites, and any blogs or trade groups/associations’ sites affiliated with their industry.  And don’t forget to search the company’s annual report, where you will learn more about their financial stability, years in business, key initiatives, products or services, etc.
Don’t forget to read the company’s blog.  It likely has contributions from senior management as well as regular staff that reveals projects that are being pursued, conveys some of the personalities and interests of potential coworkers, indicate the type of environment that surrounds them, facilities, in-house events, charitable endeavors, etc.
Prospecting for employment also means mining other areas that weigh on an individual’s wants and needs from an employer, such as its size, location, accessibility, benefits, professional development, reimbursement programs for transportation or education expenses.  For some perspective on those considerations, check out my post: What Do You Need? What Do You Want?
Now that you have some names of people at your targeted companies, the inevitable question is:  Should you contact them directly?
Yes and No!
If you want to schedule an informational interview, yes, make contact.  But if the people you’ve unearthed aren’t directly related to a position you’re qualified to fill, don’t waste their time or yours.  You can’t really expect a complete stranger will forward your resume to the HR department or hiring manager.  Also understand that when you make contact with a complete stranger, even on a professional basis, your motives might be questioned.
But certainly there’s no harm in trying to establish a professional networking relationship, especially when your interests of employment with their company are not foremost on your agenda (even though it really is, you just can’t show it right away!).  Try to find out where the movers and shakers for these companies hang out.  Is there someplace nearby where they congregate for after work libation and sustenance?  Keep it social and investigative at the earliest stages.  You can ask about openings known to them soon enough.  You are more likely to get an assist in getting your foot in the door with their employer after you’ve established a relationship.
In our gotta-have-it-now information age, your research may produce a lot of names and details you’ll need to sift through before you find the nugget of a contact you’ll need for directly uncovering openings or submitting your resume and cover letters.  But the overall process of mining for leads takes almost as much effort as it ever has. You’ve got to be thorough, and you’ve got to dig deep.  Don’t assume you’ll find the right HR director, or department manager with only a cursory search!  Get out there and do some real prospecting for your next job.
For more tips about mining for job search gold, please search this blog and visit: