Don’t Just Apply: Network Your Way into Your Next Cleared Job

Posted by Ashley Jones
don't just apply

Depending on the position, employers may receive more applications for their openings than they can thoroughly review, making it easy for yours to get lost in the shuffle.

“If the idea is just to apply to as much stuff as possible and see what hits, it’s going to take you a while,” says Bryan Acton, Military & Veterans Program Leader at Peraton.

To stand out from the crowd and increase your chances of landing your desired position, it’s crucial to take a proactive approach to networking with companies of interest. This involves not only connecting with recruiters but also reaching out to peers within those organizations. Let’s explore some ways you can move your cleared job search forward by networking with both recruiters and other professionals in your field.

Reach Out to Recruiters

Networking with recruiters is a tried-and-true strategy that many cleared job seekers are familiar with, yet surprisingly, it’s a step that often gets overlooked and underutilized. Some job seekers are afraid of being intrusive, while others would rather bypass recruiters altogether to reach the hiring manager directly.

Despite sometimes being perceived as gatekeepers to hiring managers, recruiters play a pivotal role in the hiring process. In fact, trying to go straight to the hiring manager can backfire, as recruiters possess valuable insights and can advocate on your behalf.

Consider these ways to establish a rapport with recruiters and increase your chances of securing an interview:

1. Attend Cleared Job Fairs

Cleared Job Fairs provide an excellent opportunity to connect directly with recruiters from companies of interest. Everyone attending is there with the same goal—to network. So you don’t need to worry about feeling like you’re bothering recruiters when you network at hiring events. The representatives from each company are eager to engage with you!

Interacting with recruiters at Cleared Job Fairs can leave a lasting impression and set you apart from other applicants. Moreover, these events serve as a platform to uncover opportunities you may not have been aware of previously. “Sometimes what you see posted is just a glimpse into what’s possible,” explains Kirsten Renner, VP of People Operations at Cydecor. Recruiters may have insights into upcoming opportunities within their organization that haven’t been posted yet.

On the other side of the table, recruiters can quickly learn about what you have to offer too – maybe even something important that you left off your resume. Unlike submitting your application to an applicant tracking system (ATS), speaking with a recruiter face-to-face allows you to personally convey your qualifications and experiences and answer any unknowns. The ability to have a two-way conversation and gain some feedback is invaluable.

2. Connect Online

Aside from attending Cleared Job Fairs or other in-person networking events, you can also reach out directly to recruiters via email or social media. If you’ve previously met (good job for getting their contact info), remind them of your interaction to jog their memory. If you haven’t had prior contact, that’s perfectly fine too—simply introduce yourself concisely and professionally, and make it clear what you want from them.

Once you’ve applied, “take a minute to reach out,” urges Kirsten Renner. “Maybe get on LinkedIn, get on social, get on a place where you’re comfortable, and do some networking on your own. “

“Please don’t just say, ‘Can we set up a time to talk?'” advises Kirsten Renner. “No, we cannot, because I don’t know what you want.” Nor should you send your resume and ask if they have a job for you. You need to do your homework and make it as easy for them to help you as possible.

Kirsten Renner suggests, “Send a message and say, ‘Hey, Kathleen. I noticed you posted XYZ. I went ahead and applied for it. Let me know if there’s anything else you need from me.'”

Showing your proactive approach and willingness to engage increases the likelihood of recruiters taking notice of you and considering you for relevant opportunities.

3. Follow Up Strategically

After attending job fairs or submitting an application, be sure to follow up with recruiters to keep yourself top of mind. Send a brief thank-you email expressing your appreciation for their time and reiterating your interest.

If you haven’t heard back within a reasonable timeframe, don’t be afraid to send a polite follow-up message to inquire about the status of your application and offer any additional information they may need.

There are a number of reasons why things may not have progressed yet. “Maybe you’re not going to work out for that position,” says Kirsten Renner. “Maybe it just got put on hold and you didn’t realize it. Something could have occurred internally.”

“Maybe you should have heard back by now, so send them a reminder,” advises Kirsten Renner. “They never want to forget you and leave you hanging. They do not want to ghost you, I promise. But it does happen, right? So bug me and send me a reminder.”

For more insights on how to get in touch with employers, check out our Security Cleared Jobs: Who’s Hiring and How podcast. We ask each employer how you can reach them at the end of every episode. You can also hear more from Kirsten Renner in her episode here.

Network With Peers

While connecting with recruiters is a useful strategy, don’t overlook the value of building relationships with non-talent acquisition professionals who work within the organizations you’re interested in. In fact, it might be easier to get ahold of someone who is not involved in recruiting.

“We can’t contact everyone—but we would love to,” admits Bryan Acton. “Most people in talent acquisition would love to have the time to call all 3,000 people a week and say, ‘Hey, you applied, but you’re missing this or that…’ We’d love to be able to give that kind of feedback, but it’s just not possible.”

“We’re going through a ton of candidates all the time,” explains Bryan Acton. “So don’t just talk to recruiters and hiring managers. Reach out to your peer network.”

Consider networking with potential peers at employers of interest to gather intel and obtain referrals:

1. Engage with Professionals in Your Field

“Instead of applying and waiting, network,” suggests Bryan Acton. “Use the platforms that are out there to locate and engage people who are in the roles you want at the companies you want to work at.”

“If you’re a software engineer and you want to be a software engineer at Peraton, reach out to other software engineers here,” recommends Bryan Acton. Platforms like LinkedIn allow you to identify and engage with professionals in your field in this way.

“Imagine how many candidates I’m already dealing with daily as a recruiter,” states Bryan Acton. “I can only put in so much time versus that software engineer, where you might be the only person to hit them up this year.” While it’s not in that person’s job description to help you get a job, they may have more time to interact with you because they have fewer people reaching out to them regularly.

2. Seek Employee Referrals

Engaging with peers offers the unique opportunity to secure employee referrals, which can significantly boost your chances of landing an interview. As Bryan Acton emphasizes, “Engage your peers and get an employee referral. That’s something I can’t give you as a recruiter.”

“People like to tell their stories,” adds Bryan Acton. “They like to help out and give somebody that leg up.” Engaging with peers allows you to tap into their experiences and insights, gaining valuable knowledge about the company culture, job responsibilities, and career paths.

Plus, employees are often incentivized to refer qualified candidates, and their endorsement carries weight in the hiring process. By establishing meaningful connections with peers, you may uncover potential referral opportunities that wouldn’t be available through traditional application methods.

3. Persistence Pays Off

As with any networking endeavor, persistence is key. “It might take a couple of people, but somebody will respond,” Bryan Acton shares. While your initial outreach efforts may not always yield immediate results, don’t be discouraged. Keep reaching out to peers within your network, and be patient in your pursuit. Remember, networking is a long-term investment in your career growth, and each connection you make brings you one step closer to your goals.

By reaching out to recruiters and peers alike, you can gain valuable insights, make meaningful connections, and ultimately position yourself as a standout candidate. While networking may feel daunting at times, the benefits far outweigh any initial discomfort. So don’t just apply—take the initiative to network and forge connections that could lead to your next cleared career opportunity.


  • Ashley Jones

    Ashley Jones is ClearedJobs.Net's blog Editor and a cleared job search expert, dedicated to helping security-cleared job seekers and employers navigate job search and recruitment challenges. With in-depth experience assisting cleared job seekers and transitioning military personnel at in-person and virtual Cleared Job Fairs and military base hiring events, Ashley has a deep understanding of the unique needs of the cleared community. She is also the Editor of ClearedJobs.Net's job search podcast, Security Cleared Jobs: Who's Hiring & How.

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This entry was posted on Monday, April 01, 2024 3:02 pm

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