During the job search, you’re going to be asking someone for help. Whether it’s for advice, a referral, or making an introduction to someone, you’re going to be asking at least one other person for a favor.
Sometimes, you’re asking a close friend and it’s easy to do (although I know this is not always the case), but other times, you’re reaching out to someone you don’t know very well or even a complete stranger and that can be stressful and awkward. Also, if you’re reaching out to a distant contact, there’s no guarantee you’ll get a response.
In these cases, you need to make it easy for people to help you.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re reaching out to people over email or a message for job search help.
Here’s a quick overview of the tips if video is not your thing.
1. Do your research
Don’t ask questions you can find answers to with a little effort. If your question can be answered by Googling, reading that person’s blog, or looking through their Linkedin profile, it’s not a good question to ask.
Also, if you’re reaching out to someone you don’t know, asking a generic question that has an answer widely available will contribute to making it less likely you’ll get a response.
2. Have a very specific ask
Stay away from generic questions like, “How did you work your way up to become the Director of Business Development?”
This type of question is hard to answer because it’s so broad and will take a lot of effort to put together a thoughtful answer. Rather, ask, “What’s one skill you actively worked on that helped you become the Director of Business Development?
Also, a question like, “Would you connect with with someone in Marketing?” is not specific enough. Again, do your research and find someone on LinkedIn in a marketing position at the company and ask, “I saw you were connected with Lisa Stevens on LinkedIn, would you be willing to connect me with her? If she’s not the right person to speak to, would you be willing to connect me with someone else in Marketing?”
3. Rule of 3, only ask 3 questions
No one wants to open an email or message with a wall of text, especially if it’s the first email from someone they don’t know. Resist the urge to ask every single question you have for this person in the first email.
Instead, ask up to 3 researched, specific questions. This makes it more likely for you to get a timely response and plus, a back and forth exchange can lead to a mutually beneficial relationship rather than a one time interaction.
4. Give time ranges when setting up logistics
If you’re requesting to grab coffee or chat on the phone, give multiple dates and time ranges of your availability.
Do not ask, “When are you free?” But ask, “I’m free Thursday between 3 pm and 6 pm or Friday between 1 pm and 3 pm. If none of these times work for you, what are some times that do?”
This way, they can chose a slot that works for them instead of going back and forth trying to figure out logistics, which as we all know, is the worst.
Use these tips the next time you’re reaching out for help!