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3-Step Job Outreach to Land Interviews

Unlock the real hidden job market with this straightforward approach and examples

A Better Way To Do Outreach

Are you tired of sending out countless job applications and outreach messages, but hearing nothing back? It can feel like your resumes are disappearing into a black hole. Trust me, I've been there.

But there is a better way. I’ll tell you my 3-Step Outreach System that has helped candidates go from being ghosted to landing interviews at top companies like Google, Meta, and fast-growing startups in just a few weeks.

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I've spent the past decade working as a hiring manager, senior product director, and career coach. And during that time, I've refined this outreach system and seen it work wonders for countless job seekers.

In this article, I'm going to break down each step of the system and show you exactly how to use it to unlock the hidden job market and land more interviews.

Step 1: Find the Right People to Contact

The first step is to focus your outreach efforts on three types of people:

  1. Insiders: These are people currently working at your target companies who can give you the inside scoop and champion you to the decision-makers. Think recruiters, hiring managers, and potential peers.

  2. Champions: These are the people who have seen your work in action and would be glad to sing your praises. They could be former managers, colleagues, or even vendors.

  3. Connectors: These are the social butterflies of your industry - the people who know everyone and can open doors with a single email. They might be former colleagues, well-respected thought leaders, or even past clients.

Side note: At more senior levels, you can find a lot of success with executive recruiting agencies and venture capital firm talent partners who connect you directly with companies looking for top talent. The leaders I coach get lots of traction here and I have personally received multiple public and startup VP, CPO, Sr. Director and Head of Product offers through executive recruiters and VC contacts. They also pay off long-term once they know you can pass loops as they’ll go to bat for you. Reply or comment if you want to learn more about these channels.

Now, you might be thinking - "Colin, this sounds great, but I don't have any of those people in my network."

  1. They don't need to be in your network for you to reach out.

  2. You're just not looking in the right places.

An engineer I was coaching targeted a Product Manager role at Shopify. A quick LinkedIn search showed that her former coworker had a cousin who was a Senior PM there. And a Shopify Data Scientist went to her college.

Bam! Two insiders.

Here's a step-by-step guide to finding the right people on LinkedIn:

  1. Go to LinkedIn and click on the search bar at the top of the page.

  2. Click on the "People" tab to search for individuals.

  3. Use the filters on the right-hand side to narrow down your search:

    1. For Insiders, filter by "Current Company" and select your target companies.

    2. For Champions, filter by "Past Company" and select your previous employers.

    3. For Connectors, try searching for relevant keywords in the "Posts" tab, like "recruiting", "venture capital", or your industry. Look for people who are actively posting and engaging on these topics.

4. You can also use the "All Filters" button to get even more specific. Some helpful filters include:

"Connections":

  • Choose "1st" or "2nd" to find people who are directly connected to you or connected through a mutual friend. For Insiders, also try looking at "3rd+" connections at your target companies.

  • "Location": Look for people in your city or region.

  • "School": Find alumni from your alma mater who might be more willing to help a fellow grad. This can also surface Insiders at your target companies.

Then, do your research on each VIP.

Closely review their LinkedIn profile for:

  • Common connections, interests, or hobbies

  • Posts or articles they've written to understand their perspective

  • Clues about current projects or initiatives they're working on

  • Recent job changes or promotions that could open up new opportunities

Check their other social profiles, website, or blog for:

  • Insights into their personality, communication style, and values

  • Additional context about their professional journey and accomplishments

  • Specific challenges or goals they've shared that you could potentially help with

Look for creative ways to engage and add value, like:

  • Sharing their content with a thoughtful comment

  • Asking a question about a recent post or project of theirs

  • Offering a relevant resource, article, or introduction that could help them

Make a list of your top 10-20 prospects for each category (Insiders, Champions, and Connectors). The more people you can reach out to, the better your chances of landing an interview.

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Step 2: Write Messages That Actually Get Replies

Now that you have a list of people to contact, it's time to start reaching out.

Example 1: Connecting with an Insider at your target company

Here's the thing: as a hiring manager, I got dozens of outreach messages like this in my email and LinkedIn inbox.

Actual InMail with name/photo changed

Nik’s message could get some responses, but it’s clear he could have sent this to 100 other people. I also have dozens of others in my inbox that look the same and have no reason to click on Nik’s over all of the others

For good roles in competitive markets you need to do more to even get your note read.

So here I’ll give the 5-step outreach framework that I have seen land many interviews…

Let’s look at a different outreach that could have got him an interview.

Here is a short LinkedIn connection request version:

Hi Colin - With 4 yrs launching 50+ experiments at Amazon and a passion for podcasts, I think I’m a great fit for Patreon’s Senior Growth Product Manager role. Happy to chat or you can forward my note to a recruiter if you think I’m a fit.

And here is a longer email version or a 2nd LinkedIn message after they accept:

If you sent me these…

  1. You got me to open the note with a relevant and impressive Hook

  2. You quickly showed me you did Research on me and the role so this isn’t some canned template - Mentioning my social posts, blogs, or our shared backgrounds can also work.

  3. You showed Credibility with achievements specifically ****relevant to this role - Mentioning mutual connections is another way to build credibility.

  4. You added Value with the customer feedback you put together - Sharing and engaging with my content would also work here or create a mini work sample or presentation to go the extra mile.

  5. You made an Easy Ask that I could do in 15 seconds, but also let me opt into a call

There are many ways to craft an Irresistible Outreach message, but candidates consistently find that including these 5 elements will get them the most replies and interviews.

Example 2: Reaching out to a Connector

Most people's outreach for referrals goes something like: "I'm looking for a job, here's my resume, please let me know if you have any leads."

Instead, try something like this:

Hi Ariel,

I shared your post on experimentation and left a comment. It reminded me of a project I led at my last startup where we had to fix a similar measurement problem. I'd love to share more about my approach and also get your advice on making my next career move.

Would you be opposed to a quick call?

Let's break this one down:

  1. First, they warm up the contact by engaging with their post so it's not just another faceless candidate.

  2. Then they offer value on a relevant topic with their own story, or even doing some quick and scrappy research online for them.

  3. They make a clear ask for a call to add value, while being transparent that they also want advice on their job search.

Example 3: Asking a recruiter (Insider) to intro you to the Hiring Manager or someone on the team

Recruiters get inbound messages all the time when they post jobs. One unique way to stand out is by asking them to connect you with someone internally. This works because:

  1. They don’t have to spend time on a call with you

  2. You are vetting your own fit for the role - doing their job for them

Hi Sabrina, Before taking up your time, I want to see if I would be a great fit for the Sr. Product Manager role with my 4 years of SaaS experience. Do you know anyone on the team I could chat with to understand the position? I saw Gabriella Stewart was a Group PM, but wasn’t sure he was the right contact. I have a good feeling I could succeed in the role, but want to learn more about the product team culture.

Thanks!

Mark

  1. Hook: Immediately states the purpose of the message (the Senior Product Manager role) and captures attention with relevant experience (4 years in SaaS product) and passion for the company mission.

  2. Relevance: Demonstrates they care about making sure they are the right fit and signaled that they already did research.

  3. Easy Ask: Politely requests an introduction to a team member for an informational chat, showing respect for the recruiter's time.

  4. Value-add: Mentions they already thought of someone to make their life easier, but also showing they are taking initiative and respect the team’s time.

  5. Gratitude: Expresses appreciation for the recruiter's time and consideration.

  6. Clear and concise: The message is short and to the point, making it easy for the busy recruiter to read and respond to.

Recap: All Irresistible Outreach Messages have 3 key components:

  1. Personalized and specific

  2. Lead with value

  3. Clear ask

Step 3: Use "Outreach Multipliers" to Turn One Connection Into Many

So you send out the outreach and the team loves you but they still pick someone else. Well what if you could turn that loss into multiple gains?

A candidate I was coaching told me he had a great call with a hiring manager. They told him he was a great candidate, but they already filled the role.

He spent a lot of time getting to that point and selling himself to the manager. So, instead of clocking it as another No Hire, he asked the hiring manager if they knew anyone else hiring even outside of their company.

They did and they were happy to introduce him to two other leaders.

Seeing that this worked, every time he missed out on a role but did well in interviews I told him to ask the hiring manager and leaders he clicked with for more connections.

As soon as you have impressed someone, they can turn into your Champion.

So ask your new Champion:

  1. If they know anyone else hiring in their company

  2. If they know anyone hiring outside their company

  3. If they know anyone who is well connected

For great candidates, it's funny how magically a new role will suddenly appear.

But you can take this even further…

As you start getting interviews and building relationships, keep your Champions updated on your progress.

Send them a quick note letting them know when you move to the next round or get an offer. Not only does this give them positive feedback that their effort paid off, but it also reminds them that

  • you're still actively searching

  • you’re being validated by other companies

They might just think of a new opportunity that's opened up or make another valuable introduction. The Outreach Multiplier turns a one-time connection into an ongoing source of referrals and support.

The #1 Mistake to Avoid

But there's one fatal mistake that I have seen hold back candidates even after they learn this system:

They underestimated the amount of outreach needed.

Networking outreach is like any marketing or sales funnel.

Only 1 in 10 outreach messages at first - or 1 out of 3 when you get good at this - will get a serious reply.

And a fraction of those will turn into interviews and offers. That means you need to be sending 100s of outreach messages to ensure you're getting to offers. Especially in this market.

Many of my coaching candidates are getting amazing final round interview results, but still losing out on offers because there are 3-4 great candidates for every role.

They regret not having more opportunities in the pipeline when this happens and have to start again.

If you’re working full time, a good rule of thumb is reaching out to 5-10 per week. If you’re searching full time, there’s nor reason why you can’t do 30-40 solid outreaches per week.

Putting It All Together

To recap, the secret to effective networking outreach is:

  1. Focusing your efforts on Insiders, Champions, and Connectors who can open doors

  2. Writing personalized, relevant messages that lead with value and make a clear ask

  3. Using "Outreach Multipliers" to turn one-off interactions into ongoing relationships and referral sources

    Plus: Doing enough outreach to keep your pipeline full

It's not about tricking anyone or pretending you don't want a job. It's about initiating a mutually beneficial conversation that can organically lead to opportunities down the line.

By following this 3-step outreach system, you can bypass the traditional application process and get your foot in the door at your dream companies. It might take some time and effort, but trust me - it's worth it.

So what are you waiting for? Start building your outreach list and crafting those messages! And if you found this article helpful, please share it with your friends and colleagues who might also be struggling with their job search.

Remember, every career move starts with a single message. Make yours count.

Happy hunting!

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