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Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

PostPosted: Sun Aug 21, 2016 6:47 pm
by Dave Jensen
As you may have seen, we closed a thread that was hashing and rehashing the topic of early job-offer negotiation -- answering the question of "Present comp" to get in the door of the interviewing companies. As Nate correctly pointed out, that's not usually a Hiring Manager question, it's an H/R question. And that brings up a new subject that we should explore in this thread. That is, how do we get past gatekeepers? What is their role, who are they, and why are they a part of the process? It sound like a great topic for some future Tooling Up column, and I'll put that one on the list! But in the meanwhile, if the parties who were disagreeing so vehemently in the earlier thread (myself included) can agree to keep that particular element ("What is your present comp?") out of the discussion, it would be nice to hear what thoughts you have of how to get around gatekeepers.

To be honest, there are multiple types of gatekeepers and how you feel about them depends on what position you are in. If you are a hiring manager, there is no doubt that you can't do all of the work of hiring by yourself, so you may value the addition of an H/R person to the process. For the H/R person, you're in the same boat . . . you can't really accomplish all that you do during the day without the addition of a recruiter to the process. And both of those, the recruiter and the H/R person, are considered as "gatekeepers" by anyone trying to connect directly with the hiring manager.

Do you have a strategy that you use to get in touch with Hiring Managers other than good, old fashioned networking? What has worked for you? Another topic that should be included is how to NOT buzz these people off, because depending upon the organization, they have a role, and it could be a big one, in who gets selected at least for interviews. In some companies, the H/R representative has a big vote in who gets hired as well -- so, you can't just run willy-nilly over them without care or concern.

Dave

Re: Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

PostPosted: Sun Aug 21, 2016 9:17 pm
by Rich Lemert
The best situation is obviously when you can get the hiring manager's attention directly. When you can get him to say "bring this person in for an interview" you've completely eliminated the gatekeeper and turned him into an expediter.

If you must deal with a gatekeeper, try to identify the correct one to work with. If you can get to the hiring manager's administrative assistant, for example, you're way ahead of the game. This person usually has a pretty good insight into the unit, and probably knows many of the people working there (at least indirectly). He or she will be better able to "read between the lines" to see how your qualifications match up to what they're doing.

Regardless of who you contact, I suspect you need to change to tone of your approach. You don't want your contact to be about you ("I would like to work for your group"), you want it to be about them ("I understand you have this need/problem/pain, and here's how I can help"). The minute your contact sounds like a plain old job application is the minute you get referred to HR.

No matter who you deal with, treat the other party professionally and with respect. If you make someone mad, it's very easy for your documents to wind up in the "also-ran" stack without anyone being the wiser. I believe you can do this while keeping the conversation focused on the stuff that matters.

Re: Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 9:44 am
by PG
The best way I know to bypass gatekeepers in a situation were you have to submit yuor application and start your discussion with the gatekeepers is to ask questions. Questions should be relevant for the position and ideally sufficiently detailed (technically or about the position) for you to end up in a situation where the gatekeepers doesnt have sufficient informaion to provide answers. This means that questions will be forwarded to the hiring manager who usually will reply directly to you thereby establishing a direct link.

Re: Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 11:30 am
by Dave Jensen
PG wrote:The best way I know to bypass gatekeepers in a situation were you have to submit yuor application and start your discussion with the gatekeepers is to ask questions. Questions should be relevant for the position and ideally sufficiently detailed (technically or about the position) for you to end up in a situation where the gatekeepers doesnt have sufficient informaion to provide answers. This means that questions will be forwarded to the hiring manager who usually will reply directly to you thereby establishing a direct link.


That's really an interesting idea, PG. Nice comment, and I can see many cases where that would work!

Dave

Re: Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

PostPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 9:17 pm
by Dave Jensen
Rich Lemert wrote:The best situation is obviously when you can get the hiring manager's attention directly. When you can get him to say "bring this person in for an interview" you've completely eliminated the gatekeeper and turned him into an expediter.

If you must deal with a gatekeeper, try to identify the correct one to work with. If you can get to the hiring manager's administrative assistant, for example, you're way ahead of the game. This person usually has a pretty good insight into the unit, and probably knows many of the people working there (at least indirectly). He or she will be better able to "read between the lines" to see how your qualifications match up to what they're doing.

Regardless of who you contact, I suspect you need to change to tone of your approach. You don't want your contact to be about you ("I would like to work for your group"), you want it to be about them ("I understand you have this need/problem/pain, and here's how I can help"). The minute your contact sounds like a plain old job application is the minute you get referred to HR.

No matter who you deal with, treat the other party professionally and with respect. If you make someone mad, it's very easy for your documents to wind up in the "also-ran" stack without anyone being the wiser. I believe you can do this while keeping the conversation focused on the stuff that matters.


This is great advice Rich.

One other element that make help provide some "lubrication" to get an application moving, is to go directly FOR the gatekeeper. Let's say that there's a situation you'd like to go for, but for which you just can't get anywhere networking or where the hiring manager is still hidden and you can't reach that person. In that case, try writing a great cover letter directed to the name of the H/R person who is handling that recruitment. While H/R may not want to pass along the name of their hiring manager, they likely wouldn't object to your request to find out the name of the H/R person working on the blah-blah project. Get that person's name and write the cover letter to them, giving some reasons why you ought to be considered in the short list. And as written here many times, making sure that it's not a "me, me" letter, but a letter that talks about what and how you can help THEM. H/R people read so many cover letters during the day that are "dear sir or madam" or some other anonymous kind of note that something directed to them would be remarkably different.

Dave

Re: Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2016 2:53 am
by D.X.
Dave Jensen wrote:
PG wrote:The best way I know to bypass gatekeepers in a situation were you have to submit yuor application and start your discussion with the gatekeepers is to ask questions. Questions should be relevant for the position and ideally sufficiently detailed (technically or about the position) for you to end up in a situation where the gatekeepers doesnt have sufficient informaion to provide answers. This means that questions will be forwarded to the hiring manager who usually will reply directly to you thereby establishing a direct link.


That's really an interesting idea, PG. Nice comment, and I can see many cases where that would work!

Dave


Good Feedback in General but becareful not to be too techinical or too subject matter expert with questions directed to the H/R Person as I may be interpreted differently, i.e. you don't understand whom your talking to and can't adapt, or too academic, or too deep dive for the Level of candidate processing. There is a Balance to be struck.

In General the questions you ask may not be specifically relayed to the Hiring Manager rather the H/R staff may communicate that you had "good" quetions, top Level.

However, some questions you may wish to ask can be centered around the organization set up, i.e. you may which to know how your function or Job Interfaces with other functions - you may ask for top Level clarity. You may also ask about top Level processes that you may be involved in. Don't go deep with the question but it can be as simple as asking if there such a process in place. etc. Avoid the deep subject matter / functional Expertise questions that only a Hiring Manager or an expert in their Team can know. So it may be self-defeating to go too deep. You can certainly communicate that you have questions related to the Topic that you'd welcome an opporunity to address with the hiring Manager if invited to the next step.

In General, with an interivew process the first Point of contact will be the Human Resources staff in the gate-keeper role. Once you've entered the process, in the absense of a Network, there is no way around it, at least, not that I have found. And in my case i've even opted NOT to activate a super positive Network contact in the process. Rare it was the Hiring Manager making first contact outside of a Network-based contact, in my experience.

So that being said, Rich summed it up well, be personable. Remember its NOT the HR Staff Job to know the technical Details of the Job they're hiring for, they've been briefed very top Level on the Job descripting by the Hiring Manager, they know the Company culture, they know what to Screen for high Level (to get past the gate).They may ask a very targeted question that the hiring Manager is looking to gauge. They may not know the finer Details of your answer, but they DO know what to look for, and don't ever underestimate that. They've been doing the Job for a while, so with thier Expertise Level, they know what a good candidate sounds like vs. a less competitive candidate.

So - in that sense be ready to address the following questions, though they may not be asked, this is what they're getting to:

1. Can you do the Job?
2. Will you like the Job? (if not love)
3. Will I and others like working with you? (i.e. the windshield test, would others be willing to share a 2 hour car ride with you).

That's the Basics and all discussions around interviewing and tooling up , counteless books and seminars, and prep are around those Basic questions, those are the elements that will get you past the gate-keeper, and get you the Job.

As for the interivew itself, you'll get to the other gate-keepers, i.e. those "other" People who interview you when you're invited, but that's not in scope of this thread.

Good luck,

Dx

Re: Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2016 5:54 am
by Dustin Levy
D.X. wrote:
Good Feedback in General but becareful not to be too techinical or too subject matter expert with questions directed to the H/R Person as I may be interpreted differently, i.e. you don't understand whom your talking to and can't adapt, or too academic, or too deep dive for the Level of candidate processing. There is a Balance to be struck.

Dx


This is spot on. One of the common questions you'll get from HR is "What do you know about our company?". They'll want to see that you visited the company website, connected with a current or former employee, read an article about the company, etc., all of which shows that you're investing in the interview process and not wasting the gatekeepers time. Also a great opportunity to insert a non-technical question about the company, such as "What do you like most about working here?" which will help build a personal connection with the gatekeeper and demonstrate that you have some depth of personality.

Re: Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2016 12:08 pm
by Dick Woodward
Dustin is exactly right with his comments. It is especially important to show that you understand the company in depth and be able to demonstrate that understanding - perhaps with a question about something that shows that you have done your homework.

I was once conducting interviews for a position in my organization, and the candidate walked in, sat down and said "So, what does [your company] do? It was a very short interview...

Dick

Re: Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2016 3:01 pm
by Dave Walker
This thread's got great advice from every angle. Thanks everyone!

My $0.02 perspective:

Gatekeepers are a common problem in Sales as well (and isn't applying for a job just selling yourself?). In my experience, I strongly recommend Rich's approach: zero in on the hiring manager who can sign off on or advocate for your hiring.

To that end, making contact with a hiring manager's executive assistant can be very valuable, and I think they are generally overlooked by today's job-seeker. Besides getting access to the Hiring Manager, they can have a great perspective on the company culture, positions, even the technical details of projects at the company. They can open many doors. Unfortunately they are sometimes treated by others as a receptionist or glorified calendar -- do not be the person who does that. They can close many doors as well.

Re: Gatekeepers and Direct Approaches

PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2016 2:19 am
by D.X.
Dave Walker wrote:This thread's got great advice from every angle. Thanks everyone!

My $0.02 perspective:

Gatekeepers are a common problem in Sales as well (and isn't applying for a job just selling yourself?). In my experience, I strongly recommend Rich's approach: zero in on the hiring manager who can sign off on or advocate for your hiring.

To that end, making contact with a hiring manager's executive assistant can be very valuable, and I think they are generally overlooked by today's job-seeker. Besides getting access to the Hiring Manager, they can have a great perspective on the company culture, positions, even the technical details of projects at the company. They can open many doors. Unfortunately they are sometimes treated by others as a receptionist or glorified calendar -- do not be the person who does that. They can close many doors as well.


Hi Dave Walker,

I'm glad you made the linkage to Sales as a viable approach in Terms of getting access and advocacy of the decision maker. Targeting the excecutive Assistent is a good Approach in that Setting.

However, I DON'T endorse that Approach to the Job seeker. It can be ackward for the hiring Manager to learn that you're having off line or out of process discussions with thier Assistent, it can be perceived that you're going behind their back. The assistents are busy enough as it is, i.e. dealing with Sales reps hamming them up looking for calendar appointments (ha ha), clearly the hiring Manager is not interested in Hearing an candidate engaging with the Assistent off-line.

This is not to say the assstant is not part of the interview process, you may meet them when they invite you for a Face to Face Meeting, the assisstent may be the one who greets you, takes you to the interview room etc.,

In this case, i recommend you Keep the conversation "Personable" and high Level, i.e talk about the weather, your travel, maybe ask them how Long they've been in the Company, comment on the nice Offices, etc. You may even crack a well humored joke. You Goal is give that Person the view you are friendly, personable and that you respect them (i.e. you won't treat them bad if you're hired). In this case this Gate-Keeper would contibute to "i would want to work with you " question and surely the hiring Manager may ask the Assistent on your personality (at least the saavy ones will).

I would Limit Dialog here to a post-interview thank you and nice to meeti you email, but nothing more than that, at least to this Gate-keeper.

Good luck,

DX