By Hallie Crawford

U.S. News, September 18, 2018 —

Make your job search easier by reaching out to people in your network who may have insight.

Your network connections can make or break your job search. Statistics show that about 70 percent of jobs are found through word of mouth or networking. LinkedIn and other social networking sites have not changed this hidden job market; they’ve simply enhanced your ability to network and expanded your reach.

Despite these statistics, job seekers still have a tendency to discount their network connections and go for the quick “reward” of pressing a button and applying online. The truth is that networking provides a greater rate of return in your job search. And if you have made thoughtful ties on LinkedIn and at networking or association meetings, even those connections you don’t know as well will likely be glad to help you in some way.

Here are a few ways you can leverage your connections to help you search for jobs more effectively.

Even people you don’t know very well can serve as useful connections during a job search. (iStockPhoto)

Leverage connections when researching a company.

If you are interested in a position at a new organization, we all know you should research its culture and mission to determine if its values match up with yours and if it would be a good fit for your skills and professional goals. When completing your research, determine which of your first and second network connections might be able to help you. Do any work at that organization or at a similar company? Do any provide materials, software or consulting for companies like the one you are interested in working for?

Choose two or three connections who may be able to help you learn more about the organization. Think outside of the box; even people who don’t work at the company may have insight to offer.

Leverage external ties to find internal connections.

Don’t interview for a job without trying to get the inside story. Research your contacts to see if any of them are connected to someone who works at that organization.

If so, and if you have a solid relationship with the person, reach out immediately and ask if he or she is willing to introduce you so that you can learn more about what it’s like to work there, identify questions to ask and discern ways to put your best foot forward. Make it clear that you won’t ask that connection to secure the job for you, but that you would like to prepare for the interview and get a feel for the culture of the company.

Even if your networking connection is somewhat weak, take the initiative to contact them anyway. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Send a message on LinkedIn or via email. Here’s a template:

“Dear Susan, I am in the midst of a job search and I am interested in X position with Y company. I would be very interested in learning more about its culture before submitting my resume/going on a job interview. Have you had any experience with this organization? Or do you perhaps know anyone who could share what it’s like to work there? Thanks in advance for any information you may be able to provide. I look forward to hearing from you.”

Leverage connections to conduct informational interviews.

Informational interviews are a great way to learn more about a certain industry or job. These conversations with someone who works in the profession, organization or role can provide you with inside information, giving you a leg up during your job search.

You can secure an informational interview through your network. While it’s better to conduct them in person or via the phone, you can also conduct them via email if necessary.

Even though the conversation is not a formal job interview, treat it as such. Be professional and offer to provide your resume along with your business card. You never know if the company is looking to hire someone and the position has just not been listed yet.

Keep in mind that when requesting information from network connections, you should be considerate of their time and always thank them for whatever information they provide. Since networking should be a two-way street, do your best to be available to help your connections as needed. This will enhance your networking relationships and promote professional growth.