By Scott Steinberg, Work Etiquette Columnist

Inc., December 6, 2018 —

Q: Is it ever a good idea to show up at an office unannounced to drop off your resume or seek an interview?

Dear Urban Ninja,

Unless you prefer pepper spray to cologne, the short answer is no. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with taking initiative and trying to sneak straight to the front of the job-hunting line. But with the power of Google and LinkedIn at your fingertips? There are far faster, more direct, and less embarrassing ways to vault ahead of the pack.

If you’ve identified a dream employer, try using online search tools to hunt for executives with decision-making power. Then, do some research to see (a) if they’ll be speaking at any conferences you might attend (b) they belong to any shared professional groups and (c) what their company email format is (hint: try visiting the organization’s investor relations or press page, where contact info is often publicly listed).

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If someone from your dream company will be attending events you can hit, great: You can attend the session they’re presenting, email them to ask about grabbing coffee, or inquire to see if they’ve got time to say hello (or strategically position yourself) during a networking break.

If you find executives who are members of an organization you’re considering signing up for or already belong to, brilliant: You can attend meetings and conferences they’ll be at to secure some face time, or—if you’re a fellow member—ask to meet up directly (or ask shared connections for an introduction).

And if the only practical way to reach these individuals is via online outreach? No biggie: You can drop them notes inquiring about various professional topics of conversation including, but not limited to:

  • Shared topics of interest, like noting that they wrote a fascinating article about blockchain technology or market globalization that sparked your interest
  • An informational interview, if you’re a young, prospective recruit, you might ask to learn more about the types of job tasks and responsibilities that their role or industry entails
  • Connections you might have in common, such as a mutual friend, colleague, business partner, or alma mater
  • Groups to which you both belong, such as organizations you’ve each worked with, and/or activities or events you’ve contributed to
  • Projects or publications you’ve created or been a part of that may pique their interest
  • Requests to get their expert commentary for a podcast, blog post, video series, or similar creative work that you’re building or contributing to
  • An offer to send copies of books, whitepapers, research reports, etc. that you’ve made on subjects of their interest

Just don’t ask these folks immediately about possible work or job opportunities. You can discuss those after you’ve introduced yourself, done something to create a positive impression, and/or made time to connect in-person (where you can showcase your wit, enthusiasm, and talent). In other words: Create a compelling excuse to be in touch. Don’t be afraid to reach out. And once you’ve had a chance to get to know each other and generate some goodwill with others (noting that every other Tom, Dick, and Harry will be reaching out to ask something from them)… then you might gently drop hints about your hiring status, or inquire regarding employment.

If they’re not hiring or can’t help, most people will be happy to point you to someone who can, and they will remember you more readily than hundreds of faceless rivals if another opportunity later comes up.

Sure, you could show up randomly at an office and hope to catch a company’s free-wheeling CEO or famed editor-in-chief while they’re stepping out the door. But a more tactical and targeted plan of attack is more prudent.

Scott Steinberg is the author of The Business Etiquette Bible.