One of the common myths of employment advice is the idea that candidates possess the ability and the resources to directly reach out hiring managers.
This has been common advice for thirty years, mixed, remastered, and delivered to an audience of jobseekers thinking that recruiters detract from the employment experience instead of adding to it. The basic theory is that recruiters horde information that rightfully belongs to candidates. If the candidate can learn the names of the hiring managers, they can connect directly, avoiding all the messiness of being screened by a recruiter. This applies both to third party firms and internal recruiters. We are all seen as obstacles to the magic healing power of a manager/candidate connection.
It would be awesome, if only it were true.
Hiring managers are often expected to be involved in the recruiting process. I've heard some pundits go as far as to say that they are required to be involved 100% of the time, as hiring is the most important thing they do. Managers might disagreee. While hiring remains an important part of their job, no manager will ever be as effective as a full-time recruiter.
1) Managers are not paid to hire.
Their performance is not based on hires. In fact, the incentive for hiring is a better performing team, which can only be judged after the hire has taken place and the candidate has started to contribute to the team. Delayed gratification with no direct financial incentive means managers don't have hiring as their number one concern, until it's their number one concern.
2) Managers don't hire 40 hours a week.
Recruiters spend at least 40 hours a week looking for and interviewing people. A manager only interviews in fits and starts. This means recruiters are practicing their craft, while managers dabble in it.
3) Managers only get a finished product.
Most managers don't have to go through raw resumes, which means they already have a skewed vision of what is available in the marketplace. Even if a recruiter is bad, they still screen out the most ridiculous resumes and filter the bad phone screens. Talk to a manager in a small company or the owner of a small business and you'll understand this better. They've seen the whole market, not the sanitized version.
But let's not pick on managers. Let's talk about candidates/jobseekers, and why they can't compete with recruiters.
1) Recruiters hire salespeople.
That's right. 10 years ago, the starting salary for a staffing salesperson was $40-60,000, plus commission. That's one person beating the bushes looking for companies that need to hire, but can't do it on their own. There is nothing comparable on the candidate side. No jobseeker is hiring a salesperson to look for new opportunities. This means that while a candidate can mimic some aspect of the selling process, they're operating at a huge disadvantage because there are hundreds of salespeople in the market, and they're better at making cold calls and evaluating companies.
2) Candidates have a very small chance of getting hired by the manager they call.
It all comes down to math. If a candidate can get in front of a hiring manager, they have to count on luck. The hiring manager has to have a job, the candidate has to be a fit, the manager has to be open to speaking at the time they call, and the candidate has to be good enough for the manager to guide through HR.
That's a lot of possibilities, that when multiplied together, equal a very low return. It's not enough to find a manager who will talk to you. You have to find one that could hire you, would hire you, and can hire you. You have to find a manager who wants to deal with salary negotiation, wants to check your background, and who doesn't see a need to compare you with others.
3) You're probably breaking the law, and or corporate policy.
The Human Resources department exists in part to protect the company. A manager that allows candidates to join the process without going through an internal or external process is a legal liability. The problems are many. From sexual harassment to discrimination to a failure to document the recruiting process, managers have a set of rules they are required to follow, and candidates just don't know what those are. I don't like it anymore than the rest of you, but I'm aware of it. Recruiters shield companies from liability, which is one reason they're used.
So what do you do?
One, is to recognize that there are always exceptions. Some people get lucky. What tends to happen is a candidate builds up a network of people (or gets lucky) and hears about jobs through the grapevine. This gives them a leg up in the process, which means the best way to get in front of a manager directly is to have someone refer you. That's a long-term process, and has a lot more to do with coincidence than planning, but it's good career advice in general.
The second thing to do is learn the system before you need it. Job searches can be very stressful when you have to find work. Add in an almost complete lack of knowledge of how the system works, and you have a recipe for complaints without solutions. Forget what should happen, or what is supposed to happen. Educate yourself on what does happen, and when the time comes, you'll be prepared.