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The Most Effective Job Search Method: Warm Contacts

Salespeople who call on potential customers via phone or by dropping in without an appointment call this technique making cold contacts. In the job search context, cold contacts are job leads obtained from contacting people you don't know, employers in particular. In contrast, I use the term warm contacts to describe leads for job openings that come from people you already know. These warm contacts include friends, relatives, and acquaintances, and they are usually much more effective at getting you job leads and interviews than cold contacts are.

Making Warm Contacts

Job leads obtained from friends and relatives account for about one-third of all job leads. More recent studies that asked job seekers for lead sources other than friends or relatives found other groups such as "business associates" and "acquaintances" provided leads as well. All personal referrals together probably account for about 40 percent of the ways that people find jobs. That makes using personal contacts the most important job search technique of all.

Leads developed from direct contacts with employers are also very important. About 30 percent of all job seekers find their jobs using this method. Together, these two techniquesleads from people you know and direct contacts with employersaccount for about 75 percent of all job leads. If you practice a little, getting leads from your warm contacts may be the only job search technique you need.

Identifying Hundreds of Warm Contacts with Three Steps

The people who know you are the same ones who are most likely to help youif only they knew what to do. Yet few job seekers seem willing to ask for meaningful help from the people they know in developing job leads. If job seekers ask their friends, relatives, and acquaintances for help at all it is of the vague, "Tell me if you hear of anything" variety. Although this crude approach does work often enough, people you knowyour warm contactscan and will be much more helpful if you learn to ask them to help you in more specific ways.

Knowing that leads provided by warm contacts are the most effective source of jobs for most people, it makes sense to systematically develop these contacts. Yet few job seekers go about developing their warm contacts in an organized way. With just a few simple techniques, you might be amazed at how many people you knowor can get to know.

Step 1: List Contact Groups of the People You Know

You know far more people than you may at first realize, and many of them will help you uncover job leads that cannot be found in any other way. To determine just how many people you do know, begin by listing the types or categories of people you know:




Former employers

Former coworkers

School friends

Alumni lists

Members of my political partyin and out of elected positions

Members of my church

Members of social, fraternal, or other clubs

Present or former teachers

People at my children's sports games/events


People in my athletic club

People I play sports with

Members of a professional organization I belong to (or could join)

People who sell me things or provide me with professional services (insurance, hair salon, mechanic, shop clerks)

People I play cards with

Step 2: Create Warm Contact Lists

Although most people agree that "you have to know someone to get a job," most job seekers often tell me they "don't know anyone." One of those assumptions is true; namely, that people very often do get jobs through someone they know. But job seekers are mistaken if they think they don't know people.

If I asked you to take the first group on your list (for example, "Friends,") and write a list that includes everyone you are friendly with or who is even somewhat friendly to you, how many people would you guess that would be? 10? 25? 200? Next, estimate how many people are in each of the other groups and note your estimate next to each entry on your list.

When you are finished, don't be surprised if the number of people you know is larger than you anticipated. It's not at all unusual for someone to get hundreds of potential contact people this way. Some groups, such as people who belong to your religious group or who went to the same school, can be enormous. They don't all know about job openings, of course, but they are a place to start. Remember, each contact on your list is a source of potential job leads.

For each of the contact groups you listed previously, use a sheet of paper to make a separate list. Begin with friends and write as many friends' names on that list as you can think of. Then do the same thing for relatives. When you have completed these two lists, you should have a significant number of names of people who know you. In fact, these lists may be the only ones you need. You can save the other lists to do later in your job search.

Step 3: Use Your Warm Contacts to Develop an Expanding Network of Contacts

Armed with your lists of friends and relatives, you have the beginning of a larger list of people who, in turn, can refer you to others. Of course, some of the people on your lists will be more helpful than others. Keep in mind though that these people are the ones who will be most likely to want to help you. Many job seekers do not follow through with their warm contacts and do not get the job leads from these important contacts that they could.

Tip: Some contact groups are ideal for making out-of-town contacts. For example, although you most likely do not personally know everyone who graduated from your school, an alumni list can help you locate past graduates who live all over the country. If you have a specific location you want to move to, you can contact alumni who live in that area and ask them to help you to locate job leads there; many will be willing to help you.

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