How to Find Your Target Contact

Before you can expect to locate your target contact, you will need to have a target title to focus on. This can be an industry-accepted title (such as "Controller" or "Accounting Manager" for accounting positions), or you can simply ask for the head of that particular department. For example, if you are an Accounting major seeking a position in corporate accounting, you could either ask for the name of the Accounting Manager or ask, "Who is the manager of your Accounting Department?"

Once you have established the target title, you need to find out the specific name and exact title of your target contact at your target company. You can use LinkedIn to help identify potential target contacts, although this will usually only provide you with a name and title, no emails or phone numbers. If you have already received this information either via your research or through a contact referral, you are ready to go on to the next step.

Your starting point for researching the name of this contact should always be at the Career Center on campus. If the desired information is not available there and your other research sources also fail your needs, you will need to make direct contact with the company.

The Mailing List Update Technique

An excellent way to establish both the name and title of the Hiring Manager is the Mailing List Update Technique. Simply call the company's main phone number (press "0" if you get an automated attendant) and say:

"Hi, I am updating my mailing list. Are you still at 123 North Main Street? And your zip code is still 54321? And what is the name of the manager of your _____ department? Could you please spell it? And what is her title? And does she have a direct extension? Thank you for your time."

If the person asks, "Who is calling?" just give your name and nothing else. If the operator asks, "What is this in reference to?" or "What is this information for?" you should respond, "I am updating my mailing list for sending correspondence to this person and I would like to make sure the name and spelling are correct."

About 50 percent of the time this simple approach will get you all the basic information you need. But you will also find some professional screeners out there who will make their best effort to keep you from "stealing the company secrets." So if the Mailing List Update Technique doesn't work for you, read on.

More Ways to Find Out Who Your Target Contact Is

If you can't get the information you need directly through the main phone number, try the following additional methods:

  1. When dialing the company, ask to be put through to the department, then ask the first person who answers. Department workers usually do not screen as heavily and may be more willing to provide the information.
  2. Ask for the Human Resources Department. But watch out! They are usually quite good at screening and may try to intercept you if they sense you are seeking employment. If so, give a polite "thank you" and try another method.
  3. If you hit an automated-front-end-no-human-voice-hit-a-button system, usually you will have an option such as "0" to get to the operator. If not, feel free to wander through the system until you are able to reach a human voice, possibly someone in Customer Service. "Oh, I'm sorry, I was trying to get through to the main number and got lost in your telephone system. Can you please tell me the name of the manager of the _____ department?" You get the idea. Keep trying until you find a responsive human. There is bound to be at least one in every company.

If you have gotten this far and still don't have the basic information you are seeking, don't worry. There are still at least ten more ways to get through.