Education Career Services

April 23, 2010

Informational Interview: Beyond the Receptionist

The person with the power in many companies is the receptionist (aka gatekeeper). This individual often protects the executive or hiring manager from unwanted interruptions and possesses an expertise at screening calls. They control whether or not you will get through to your desired contact in a company where you are seeking employment.  

You have to get past the gatekeeper to reach the hiring executives.

If the gatekeeper will not connect you with your target, go the passive approach and begin your networking with him or her. Don’t try flattery or kissing-up; these people are professionals and will see through your con artist act.  One of the purposes of making this initial contact is to gain information about the company, opportunities, expectations, etc.

During your initial contact, do NOT let them know you are not looking for a job. Worthy of a repeat, this is an informational meeting in which you are looking for unadvertised or future opportunities, which are not found within HR (thus, the reason you do not want to be sent to a vacuum of voice messages within the HR department.

Ask the receptionist questions you’d raise with the executive you are trying to contact.  Keep these to inquiries about the company and/or department as opposed to asking about the person you want to pursue.  Your purpose is to learn as much as possible about any available, unadvertised positions within the corporation and learn about the culture of the workplace. Asking for personal information about your target contact is unprofessional and serves no purpose.  It will also get you cut off and put on the do-not-call list.

After networking with the gatekeeper, ask who else they think you should talk with in the company.  Many times, the gatekeeper may be impressed enough to put you through to the contact rather than pass you on to someone else.  Occasionally, they will give you another connection in the company, at which point, you will take advantage of this as a “lateral pass”.  Use the gatekeeper’s name when introducing yourself to the next contact (e.g., “Ms. Brown in Mr. Black’s office told me to contact Mr. Green”).

Always be polite and show respect.  You never know who the gatekeeper really is and how much influence they have with the powers that be.

Ultimately, do not become discouraged as statistics indicate it will take 100 calls to receive 3 positive leads. Through hard work, perseverance, and diligence, success is sure to follow.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Owner, Author, Publisher
Career Services International, www.careersi.com
Education Career Services, www.educationcs.com
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/dannyhuffman

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