One of the big questions you’ll ask yourself when applying to jobs in Toronto is whether you should reach out to the employer and “network” with some of the employees at the hiring organizations. Many people may have told you that it is necessary to reach out to employers prior to submitting your application, while other people may have anecdotal evidence that suggests that networking is unnecessary. So just how important is pre-application networking?
Unfortunately, there isn’t great data that quantifies the impact of networking. On balance, however, you should reach out to employers before applying. The reasons for this recommendation are discussed below.
Before delving into the merits of networking, it’s important to clarify that most Bay Street professionals are happy to talk with potential job applicants. Oftentimes, the people you reach out to did lots of networking themselves, and so they are happy to pass on the favour that was extended to them.
Reaching Out to Employers Improves Your Odds of Being Hired
Networking with employers can generate beneficial relationships, open doors, and improve your odds of being hired. Although there is no research specific to Bay Street, there is analogous research suggesting that a job seeker’s network has a significant impact on the number of job opportunities and the speed and quality of job offers.
Networking Can Improve Your Odds of Getting an Interview
When applying to jobs, you want to be in a “push-pull” scenario. This means that you are pushing for a job at an business and the business is pulling you in because it wants you. You are more likely to be hired if you can establish a push-pull relationship with a business.
Networking helps creating the “pull” aspect of the push-pull scenario. The hope is that by networking, you can create a good impression with the people with whom you speak and that, ultimately, these people try to pull you into their business.
Networking is still beneficial even if you aren’t being pulled into a business. This is because businesses like to see that you are interested in them. Just by talking to people at the hiring business, you’ve already shown more interest than most people submitting applications. You can convey this interest to the business by, for example, mentioning who you’ve spoken with in your cover letter.
Many business, law and accounting students state that networking helped them when they were job hunting on Bay Street. Oftentimes, people who report success with networking claim that the person with whom they were networking passed their name along to the employer’s hiring manager or recruiter, which improved their odds of being invited to an interview.
Networking Can Offset Weaknesses in Your Resume
If you only submit a written job application, then your prospective employer only knows you as you are described within the four corners of your application. But if you add networking to the mix, then the prospective employer can get to know you as a person.
This can be helpful if you have potential weaknesses on your resume, such as low grades, gaps between jobs/educational programs, or a lack of relevant work experience. By networking, you can put a face to your name and showcase your charisma, social skills, storytelling skills, and more. You can impress a prospective employer in a way that your resume might not.
To some extent, the flip-side is also true. If you have a stellar resume with great experiences and high grades, then the potential benefits of networking are diminished (though not eliminated). Chances are, an impressive resume will land you an interview notwithstanding your lack of networking.
Remember, You Are Gathering Information on Potential Employers
It can be easy to forget that as part of the recruitment process, you are evaluating potential employers. “Fit” goes both ways: a business has to see you as a good fit, but you also need to see yourself fitting in at the business.
You should try to speak with current employees at each of your top employers. For your very top employers, you might want to speak to multiple people prior to sending in your job application. You can learn a lot through these informal conversations and got a general sense of each business’s culture.
Not only does the employer have to be attracted to you, but you have to be attracted to the employer.
By discussing day-to-day life and workplace culture with current employees, you might discover that an employer culture conflicts with your preferred working style. In the alternative, you might find that an employer is much better than you expected, and subsequently re-evaluate how much you’d like to work there.
Put simply, networking can help you decide whether you actually like a specific business. Networking can help you assess “fit”, which goes both ways.
When is Networking a Bad Choice?
The above highlights the benefits of networking; however, networking can hurt your job prospects in certain scenarios.
Risk of Leaving a Bad First Impression
The main concern with networking is that you could give an employer a bad first impression. A bad first impression could result in a tossed job application.
There are a number of ways to make a bad first impression. The obvious ways of leaving a bad first impression are by being rude, disrespectful, uncouth, misogynistic, discriminatory, etc. These types of bad first impressions aren’t as rare as you might think.
A less obvious way of leaving a bad first impression is by not exhibiting great social skills by, for example:
- being unable to carry a conversation;
- failing to ask thoughtful questions during the conversation; and
- not appearing interested in the business or person with whom you’re speaking.
This isn’t to suggest that you need to be a “social butterfly” to network. Rather, the take away should be that networking only works if you can make a connection, which requires basic social skills.
Always remember that the people with whom you speak are doing you a favour. You need to respect and acknowledge the time they give you. Schedule your networking session in advance, keeping in mind that you need to accommodate their schedule. Approach your conversation with a plan of action and questions ready to go. Bring the conversation to a natural end after about 25 to 30 minutes, unless the other party suggests otherwise.
In weighing the risks of networking, you need to take into account your personal abilities. If you genuinely feel like you aren’t capable of making a good first impression, then networking might not help you. That said, at one point or another in the course of your employment recruit you will have to make a first impression. It may be better to make a first impression when networking informally rather than waiting until the formal recruitment process.
Potential Waste of Time
It takes a lot of time to network effectively. In some cases, your potential return on networking might not exceed the cost of networking. If, for example, networking means that your grades will suffer, then you might want to forego networking.
When considering whether networking is worth your time, ask yourself what you want to get out of networking. Is it to get a better feel for potential employers? If so, that might warrant the investment of a significant amount of time. Is it just to name drop a person in your cover letter? If so, then it might not be worth putting in must time to network.
Is it necessary to Reach Out to Bay Street Employers to Get Hired?
The short answer is no. It is not necessary that you reach out to businesses prior to sending them job applications. But, to rephrase the question, is it beneficial to reach out to businesses prior to sending them job applications? Yes.
Many people do little to no networking prior to getting hired. These students didn’t have phone calls with employers, never went on coffee chats, and didn’t bother touring workplaces. And yet they still landed jobs on Bay Street. This goes to show that networking isn’t necessary for getting a job on Bay Street. But this isn’t to say that you should outright dismiss the concept of networking. In many cases, networking will provide a valuable opportunity to learn more about potential employers. It can also help you make a good first impression with a business, and make up for potential weaknesses on your resume.
Whether you decide to network depends on your personal circumstances. There is no right answer.