For someone who currently makes a career out of giving people job search advice, I’ve made some pretty dumb mistakes. Take, for instance, the time I was convinced I’d found the perfect position for me and was so desperate to get it that I called the office multiple times and sent countless emails. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised that I never heard back—but at the time, I was crushed.
Why shouldn’t I have been surprised? I didn’t have a great reason for reaching out (and I only waited a day or two before I started “checking in” on my status). While my “I want this job so bad and you should know” approach was not justified, there are actually a few times you should reach out before even applying.
1. You’ve Met Before
I’m sure you’ve lost count of how many times you’ve seen job descriptions that reprimand applicants for even considering following up on their submission via phone or email. “I get it,” you say to your computer. “I swear on the lease to my apartment that I will not, in any circumstance, reach out after applying.”
But when it comes to hiring managers you’ve met before, the rules tend to be a little different. If someone’s handed you a business card, or even casually mentioned that you should drop them a line, that’s a good indication that you have the green light to reach out.
2.You’ve Applied Before
When I was a recruiter, we rejected a lot of perfectly good candidates for reasons that were completely out of our control. Some checked all of our boxes, but then we came across someone who just knocked it even further out of the park.
Others were simply so awesome that we knew we couldn’t afford them (and we told them so). I used to think that we’d never hear from those great applicants again, but I learned a funny thing—when they did reach out about future roles, I often jumped for joy.
So in the event you see another opening at their company that looks interesting, don’t be afraid to reach out before you apply. Many people will be happy to at least revisit your previous application.
In the worst-case scenario, they’ll let you know it’s not a fit right now. But you might find that some will respond with, “It’s great to hear from you. We’d love to chat with you about this one!”
3. You’ve Gotten an Internal Reference
Unless you have the least supportive friends on the planet, I’m willing to bet that at least one of them has suggested you apply for an opening at their company when you’re job searching.
And that suggestion usually leads you to ask two questions: What is this job? And do you think I’m really a good fit for the gig?
If you find yourself in this situation, it’s perfectly acceptable for you to ask your friend to connect you to the hiring manager. And if and when he or she does that, you can go ahead and send this email:
Hi [Hiring Manager’s Name],
My friend, [Your Friend’s Name], suggested that I apply for the open role on your team. I’m excited about the possibility of joining the company and would love to learn more about the job before I throw my hat in the ring.
Please let me know if this would be possible.
See, as I said, there are situations in which it is 100% acceptable to reach out to the hiring manager. The key is knowing when you should—and when you should just sit back and wait.