In the October 2, 2012 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter asks how to avoid HR and take a different route to “get in the door” at a target company:
I have tried a couple of times with different companies to avoid the human resources (HR) department, without success. The first company I called, I asked for the investor relation (IR) department, because I wanted to ask about some statements that were in the annual report. I had to leave a message. I didn’t receive a call back, so I then left a message for the public relations (PR) department. (No one answers their phones!)
A few weeks later, someone from IR called back. I asked my question, and they responded by asking me why I was asking. I told them I was looking for a job, and when I said that, I was told to go to the HR department, even though the question was a technical question about their products. No one from PR ever called back.
I realized that I had not exactly followed your directions, since you suggest asking for the Sales department. Today I tried calling another company in the same industry as the first. When I requested the Sales department, I was asked why. I mentioned that I wanted information about a couple products of theirs. They asked who I was, and I said I was a job seeker who wanted as much information as possible before the interview. Without another word, I was switched to the HR department, and listened to a recording telling me I should go to the website to apply.
How do I avoid the HR department? I would rather not be dishonest when asked why I am calling. Any help you could give would be appreciated.
I frequently go to IR or PR to get info about companies. I’ve never been ignored. Investor Relations in particular always responds quickly. I guess I wonder what’s up at the company where you’re not getting calls back.
These alternate doors into a company that we’ve discussed before require some finesse. If you immediately disclose that you’re looking for a job, you’ll be dumped into HR, as you’ve learned.
Let’s discuss this method in a bit more detail. When you call the company’s main number, ask for the Sales department like this:
How to Say It
“I’d like to speak to someone who handles Colorado region sales please. I’m calling about your widget product line.”
If you specify your region and mention the product, they’re more likely to put you through to the right sales rep. If they “beat you up” with questions, just press right back:
How to Say It
“My name is John Smith and I’d like to talk with someone in Sales about your widget products.”
If they press you about where you work, tell the truth:
How to Say It
“Look, if I were a customer, I’d ask for the sales rep assigned to me. I’m not presently a customer and I’m not ready to disclose my company. Can you please put me through to Sales? Or just give me the CEO’s office.”
When you get a sales rep, inquire about the product and request up-to-date product details. This is key. It’s information you’d need to prepare for an interview. Once that’s done, ask for advice and insight about the company as a place to work, as we’ve discussed many times before. (How Can I Change Careers? includes the section, “A Good Network Is a Circle of Friends,” and covers this at length.)
But don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Until you’re talking one-on-one with the sales rep, do not disclose that you’re job hunting. Anyone else who answers the phone is going to do a mental calculation and try to route you to the “appropriate” department — not to the person you really want to talk with.
Of course, IR and PR are equally useful departments to talk with. Request appropriate information and web links from either office, then pause and ask for advice and insight about the company as a place to work. You may find yourself talking with an employee who is impressed at your approach, and who refers you to a manager in the department where you want to work. Of course, none of this is easy or quick. If it were, everyone would be doing it. You must prepare something to say in advance, to engage the person you talk to. Focus on their work, and on what they do before you start talking about yourself.
Someone’s going to read this and suggest that calling other departments in a company to research a job opportunity is a ruse — and that of course the IR or PR department is going to be upset that you are calling them rather than HR. All I can do is shake my head. Dedicated job hunting requires research and information gathering. All HR requires is your resume. Which approach do you think gives you an edge?
So in this case, the receptionist routed you to HR, which played you a recording that instructed you to apply on the website. That’s the corporate image IR and PR want to cultivate?
Is it any wonder I tell you to talk with anyone and everyone in the company — except HR?
How do you get in the door? Whom do you talk and what do you talk about? Is HR even necessary at this critical point in your job search?