Breaking through to connect

Q. You state that it's always good to follow up. My problem is, I send my r & eacute;sum & eacute; via e-mail, because a lot of the companies will not even accept a r & eacute;sum & eacute; in person. Then it goes to r & eacute;sum & eacute; la-la land. I never hear anything back. Nothing. No calls, no letters saying I do not qualify, or anything! Am I just wasting my time?
A. It's frustrating not to make a connection with anyone. My advice is to reduce the number of jobs you respond to electronically and increase the number of employers you contact through a different method.
If the companies won't accept a r & eacute;sum & eacute; in person, try finding an individual in each company to talk with directly. For example, if one of your target companies is an insurance firm, start by asking your friends, neighbors, pastor or rabbi, etc.: "Do you know anyone who works at Jack's Insurance?" Eventually, someone will say yes. When that happens, ask if you can use your friend's name when calling this person. Even if the worker is in a totally different department than you want to be in, ask for a chance to meet or to talk on the phone for a few minutes.
Getting specific
When you talk with the worker, ask three or four very specific questions that you have prepared in advance. For example: Is the company growing, or planning to hire in any department as far as this person can tell? If so, who is the department manager in that area? Would your contact introduce you, or would she prefer that you contact the manager without mentioning her? Does your contact have any other information about the company that would be helpful to you, or any other advice?
The whole conversation should take less than 15 minutes. Don't let it drag out, or this person will dread talking to you again. Thank him or her profusely and use the information as best as you can. Repeat with every company on your list. This is an arduous process, but in the end it's much more rewarding than waiting for something to come back on your e-mail.
Q. I have been job-hunting for over a year now. Unbelievable! I'm getting first and second interviews but no job offers. In the meantime, I am taking interim jobs. My question for you is how to deal with companies that say, "No phone calls." I'm used to following up on job leads and selling myself, but nowadays it is hard to get a door to crack open or for someone to talk to you on the phone. I don't know how many "Don't call us, we'll call you" postcards and e-mails I've received.
Have you noticed how companies do not list their phone numbers in their ads these days? I've left messages on answering machines. It is rare to get a call back or even a receipt-of-r & eacute;sum & eacute; acknowledgment. How would you combat this scenario?
A. Tough times call for tough job-search methods. Your question is very similar to the previous one, and the solution is almost identical. If you have the name of the company, your next step is to connect with a person who works there. Follow the steps outlined in the answer above.
When you reach someone, remember that it doesn't matter what this person's job is because you just want to learn a few things about the company and to ask for advice on getting considered for the job you want. You also want the name and contact information for the person who heads the department you'd like to work for.
Direct approach
Once you have that name, send a letter of introduction and your r & eacute;sum & eacute; directly to him or her. You can note that you've already applied in the traditional way, that you're looking forward to future interviews that might include him or her and that you're ultimately looking forward to working with the company.
This person might not help you, but he or she might forward your materials to Human Resources and request that you be interviewed. In the meantime, stick with HR and try to get on the interview list, even stopping by briefly to introduce yourself.
These are time-consuming strategies, so you may want to cut back the number of jobs you target. It's better to fight hard and get into five or 10 interviews than to cast a broad net and not get any at all.
XAmy Lindgren, the owner of a career-consulting firm in St. Paul, Minn., can be reached at