Monday, April 1, 2013

The Gatekeepers, Part I

The gatekeepers to whom I am referring, who perform the administrative support and human resource functions, have an important role. From your perspective as an applicant, they are an unavoidable part of the process, the first couple of levels through which most must navigate. They regulate, confirm or deny access, which is why they are called gatekeepers. Applying simple black and white logic, they are an obstacle between you and your goal of making contact with any hiring manager and decision maker. Who knows -- a gate keeper might just surprise you and be very helpful -- or stop you dead in your tracks. I will be explaining how to avoid the latter. I’ve no ax to grind with the gatekeepers but my stated goal is to help you, the job seeker, period. 

More about Gatekeepers
First-line gatekeepers are most commonly those with whom you’d have initial contact when you call or visit a company; they include receptionists and personal admin support staff. In the case of receptionists and personal administrators/assistants, one of their functions is to protect the people they support, deflecting and preventing unwanted, unsolicited and unscheduled distractions, such as marketers, sales persons and people like you. It does not make them your enemy and, frankly, on occasion they might actually help you, depending on your demeanor and your approach, but more about that later. 

You know, many people dismiss or disregard admin staff, but taking these people for granted is a mistake and shortsighted. Often administrators work harder than many others in a company and many managers would absolutely fall on their faces if they didn’t have someone organizing and coordinating their day, and any accomplished manager will tell you good administrative help is hard to find. Reasonable managers recognize their value and will guard and protect their administrative help jealously. Often, when a director level or higher manager accepts a new job at a new company, they often take their personal assistant or what used to be called a secretary (now a politically incorrect term) with them. So as this demonstrates, admin staff treated with dignity will be very loyal to their employer and they’re not going to simply let you walk in and bother their boss.  

Human Resources
Although they are not the very first people with whom you speak, HR is the next level or layer of defenses arrayed against outsiders. Human resources is where admin staff will direct people inquiring about a job. Even if you’re able to identify and contact a hiring manager’s office they’ll most likely refer you to HR. Regardless of whether they are nice and helpful people or dry and humorless bureaucrats, they perform an important function and it’s best to avoid alienating them. At the same time, I don’t care how nice they seem, they are not your friend. When you consider the sheer numbers of applicants they deal with on a daily and weekly basis, don’t take it personally if they seem a little dry. They are not the customer care or CRM department, they are human resources, human capital or whatever trendy department title they may use, and they’re more likely to look for reasons to rule you out rather than to rule you in, or add your resume to the file of many, many other resumes.

Now for your task
Next, we’re going to talk about ways you can effectively apply directly with a company, first by phone and then, we’ll see. This blog will not self-destruct, but your mission, should you choose to accept it, is really quite simple; I want you to get a name. It’s not as easy as it sounds but it is neither as tough as some may think. Remember, I said we’re going to start small, step by step. A name is the key, because with a name you can get additional information and enhance your chances of gaining access. 

(Part II will be posted on Thursday) 

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