Insider's Tip for Getting a Philanthropy Job

I have gotten lots of questions from people about how to get a job in philanthropy. I wish there was a secret that I could share but it is really about who you know and how you are able to showcase your skills and talents. I just read a great article from ask the headhunter about why insiders get hired and more importantly, how to make yourself an insider. Hope its helpful!

Why Insiders Get Hired -- And You Don't

By James Frye

Today it's easy for job hunters to use the Internet to track down managers by name and to submit resumes to them directly. But this trick isn't so clever. Managers see names they don't recognize and ignore their e-mail as spam. Given a choice, managers still tend to hire candidates referred to them by people they know and trust. They can still distinguish applicants who have an inside referral from those who do not. Using the Internet to be clever isn't nearly as effective as using it to be smart -- to actually meet those trusted insiders that managers turn to when they want to fill a job.

Don't waste your job-hunting time sending your resume "blind" into a company. Don't try to be clever by sending it to a "name" if that name doesn't know you. If you want to get hired, first get referred by someone the manager trusts.

My applicant filter
When I've been in management positions, I've preferred to interview and hire people through my trusted network of friends and professional contacts. If I get unsolicited e-mail that cannot cite the path the person took to get my name, it's almost guaranteed to end up in the trash. You may think that's foolish on my part. After all, you're a great employee -- right? -- and I should be happy to have you!

The reality is that in the same week I get an e-mail from a stranger, I'm probably going to get a couple of e-mails from a FOAF (friend-of-a-friend). These are all known entities to me. I know how the person got my name. I know that if the friend gave out my contact info, the friend also did at least a nominal screening, since my friends don't just dish leads for fun. I know that I can follow up with my friend to get information on the applicant (although many times, a friend has contacted me first to ask permission or even to promote the candidate).

The simple fact that the candidate has passed these barriers has eliminated many questions. The candidates I talk to have been filtered. This saves me time and increases my chances of hiring a great worker.

Meanwhile, the unsolicited candidate is a huge unknown. The candidate thinks pulling stuff off my company's website exhibits research; I probably recognize it as a minimal cut-and-paste effort since a dozen others have tried this already. I know that no truly inside information is being exhibited in the letter. I suspect that I'm merely just another name on a massive mailing list, and I'll react the same way I do with all my junk mail -- I'll use it to feed the recycling bin.

You may call it reckless and stupid since I may be turning down a good candidate. I call it using my time well, since I know I have other options that have higher odds of payoff.

Become a real insider
Since my first job, I've built up a network of business contacts. The likelihood of a random applicant getting an interview decreased as my network got bigger. I have always hired (when in a hiring role) through personal referrals. Pulling a couple of sound bites off a web page and thinking it is research is not going to work better than getting referred to me by someone I know and trust.

If you are surfing the web for contact names so you can get to the manager, don't just send a resume to a name you found. Instead, use the phone to get hold of those managers and ask for an informational interview. Or, find people who know the manager. Talk to them first. Help them vet you, so they'll want to refer you to their friend the manager. (Even big cities seem to have a small-town feel to them once you start making connections.) Ask everyone you know if they know a person at the company you have targeted. If they don't, ask them if they know someone who might.

Give your contacts some credible reasons to see you as an insider, which will improve your odds of having someone pay attention to your application. Send it blind, and you'll be waiting a while.