Opportunity knocked on the doors of two clients this week, and they didn’t realize it. Luckily, they contacted me to ask what they should do.  I said “Answer the door!”

Situation 1:

Joe (not his real name) got an email from a woman who says this:

My name is Jane Doe and I work for Giant Company in New York.  I have received your resume as a referral from our CEO.  We have reviewed your resume and would like to bring you in for a courtesy interview for possible future opportunities in our program management department at Giant Company.  Please provide me with your availability for the next few weeks and I will schedule you in at your earliest convenience. Also, could you please apply to the “Giant Company Courtesy Interviews” position on our careers site @ website.  Please let me know when this is completed so I can forward you an employment application as well.  If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me at the information below.

Joe wants to know what he should do. He thinks this may be a big waste of time and is inclined to blow it off. But before doing that, he asks my advice. What do I think?

I told him this is absolutely NOT a waste of time. This is a door opening, an expression of interest, a chance for him to make a great impression and put himself in a great position to be considered for open positions. And he maintains a good relationship with the CEO, who referred him. That’s key – the CEO took the next step to get him into the HR system, so it’s important to respect that and take the next step of applying and setting up the courtesy interview.

It’s unusual for companies to do courtesy interviews with people they think are unqualified and could never be of value to the company – especially in this labor market.  The fact that the CEO referred him means he is being taken seriously as a potential candidate.  As a former CEO, I can tell you that I had ways to put someone off who wasn’t qualified, without expending company resources on a courtesy interview.

Is there a position open? Maybe, maybe not. But you never know what will happen when you take the next step. Could be a job, could be simply keeping faith with the CEO. It’s uncertain, and that’s the fun of it: you get to see what happens.  I know this for certain, though: if you don’t take that next step, you won’t get a job there.

Situation 2

Jay (not his real name) is adding connections on LinkedIn, and extended invitations to a number of people he doesn’t know but who are connected to 10 or more of his current 1st degree connections.  Many are saying yes, which is great for Jay’s future networking.

One of these new connections sent a note suggesting that they set up a time to talk.  It so happens that this person is currently heading up a function that is precisely the skill set my client has (project management).

Now, Jay did send him a note back – which is great. However, he hadn’t heard back.  When I saw his note, I understood why.

Jay had simply said “yes, let’s talk. Let me know when you’re available.”

What’s the problem with this? Well, it’s pretty passive. It’s like he put his eye to the keyhole, even opened the door, but didn’t remove the chain.  He was timid, not assertive. When you’re in a job search, people look at every interaction as an indicator of how you will be at work. So this connection sees that Jay is waiting for him to make the move. That may be a big turnoff. It certainly isn’t project manager behavior, in my opinion.

I suggested that Jay send another email suggesting 2 to 3 possible times for a phone conversation, as a way to show that he is interested, persistent, and able to take charge.  If I were hiring a project manager, I’d want to see that. And even if the connection has been too busy to respond, a second e-mail from Jay will be a reminder.  And busy people usually find it easier to schedule something when presented with some options, instead of having to initiate the entire meeting.

Jay will let me know what happens.