An effective contact strategy takes research, initiative, and accuracy all important ingredients of a successful job search. Research is required to assemble your contact list. Initiative is required to place calls and visit every single person on that list. Accuracy is required because you will need to confirm the spelling and pronunciation of each person’s name as well as his or her title.

There are two components to an effective contact strategy: assembling your contact list, and working that list. In each call, your goal is to get the name of an “action person,” someone who can see you and then offer you a job. Unless you are looking for a job in human resources, the action person usually is not someone in personnel.

Calling contacts for job leads and interviews makes most people quake in their boots. A “warm call” to a friend, acquaintance, or referral can terrify those who feel humiliated asking people they know for help finding work. A “cold call” to a stranger is difficult for those who would rather deal with people they know. Although these fears are normal, you need to overcome them to find a job. Unless you make calls steadily, you will never get to interview. The more potential employers you can contact, the better your chances of winning a new job. Conducted carefully, your contact strategy will advertise your availability without costing you friends.

Almost everyone you encounter during your job hunt can be a resource for getting you the right job: family, friends, former colleagues, individuals employed in your area of interest or related areas, even human resource managers. Start assembling a list of contacts as soon as you begin your job search. Ask friends and family to give you names and phone numbers of people they know who can help you, along with suggestions on how to approach those individuals. Your goal is to find out who does the hiring in the area where you want to work and schedule interviews with those people.

Do not limit your efforts to the handful of people you know best. You need to see everybody you know. Include fellow members of professional group; old schoolmates; neighbors; and people you know from charities, church, and community groups on your list.

As you collect names, aim for the top. You should always try to see the highest-ranking person you can who makes the hiring decisions for your job function. Ask for the name of the manager or executive in charge of the department where you want to work.

Be honest about your abilities. Do not attempt to create contacts for a job for which you are not qualified. If your are an accountant who aspires to be chief financial officer but lacks the proper background, you will waste your time and your contact’s and risk alienating someone who may have another real position for you. At the same time, you should take care not to underestimate your capabilities. More people sell themselves short than overestimate. Deal from your areas of strengths, where your are experienced and competent. These issues should have been clarified as you complete a self-assessment process. Decide whom to contact based on those considerations.

By assembling your list of sources before you pick up the phone to arrange your first job interview, you will be able to cover more ground in less time, maximize the use of your job search time, and shave four to six weeks from the process. Anything that cuts down on job search time gives you an edge in today’s highly competitive employment market.

As you assemble names from various sources, some may be up-to-date and some may not. Approximately 25 percent of corporate executives change titles or position over the course of a year. If you know your source is current and a name you have is the person you should be contacting, there is no need for additional checking. However, if the source from which you obtained the name appears to be several months old, or if there is any doubt about that person being the one you should contact, call the company’s switchboard first to verify. If the name you have is not the correct person, find out who it is.

More Ways to Generate Leads

  • Create your own personal job fair. By creating a social event such as a cookout and inviting people you do not usually see and who you know hold managerial positions, you can develop leads and opportunities. You learn about jobs by talking to people. In a relaxed social atmosphere, you can meet the most important job search requirement, making yourself liked, and gain valuable rapport with prospective employers.
  • Pursue leads through your working spouse. The benefits of a working spouse in providing job leads through professional and social contacts have been well documented. If your spouse has a job where couples are invited to social events, you should avail yourself to these opportunities. New vistas may open up as a result.
  • Accept plenty of invitations. Go to as many weddings, dinners, and parties as you can. These get-togethers offer you a marvelous chance to set up appointments later in the week where you can really sit down and talk.
  • Check your local chamber of commerce . Here, files of contacts in a wide range of industries exist. Industry directories and service clubs also are good sources. These will necessitate cold calls, of course.
  • Check the business section of your newspaper. The newspaper carries announcements of plant expansions, management changes, sales campaigns, product introductions, and other facts that can suggest where to inquire about jobs in your area of expertise. These, too, will be cold calls.

When you call a contact, do everything in your power to arrange a meeting in person. A phone call is far less effective. when you are face to face, the individual is more compelled to do something positive, rather than put you off or ask you to send a resume.