Job Search Secrets: Finding the Decision Maker

by Melany Hallam

A friend of mine has a very direct way of finding work—and it doesn’t include sending out résumés. In fact, he’s never written a résumé in his life.

How can this be?

Well, this is how it works. My friend (let’s call him “Barney”) is a tradesperson. When he was first breaking into the job market, he would start by figuring out where the work was. Then he would walk on to the job site (sometimes borrowing a hard hat and strolling nonchalantly through security), find the person in charge and ask for a job directly. Barney would describe his relevant experience and tell the manager how he could be of use on this particular job site. It helped that Barney is very personable and has an instinct for the best way to approach people. But there’s a lesson to be learned here that could be applied to any type of job search. And that lesson is about finding the decision maker.

“Finding the decision maker” is actually a term used by sales people when working on closing a deal. But it seems just as relevant to a person who is looking for work—someone who is selling his or her services to an employer as it were.

Here are some ways of finding the hiring decision maker in a company and making a connection that can result in a job:

Do your homework—you don’t need to reach a large number of decision makers; you just need to develop relationships with a few important or influential people. Choose a small number of companies that are the best fit with your employment goals and learn everything you can about the people in charge and the challenges the companies may be facing. How can you help them?

  1. Get past the gatekeeper—this might be an administrative assistant or receptionist responsible for keeping the decision makers schedule, screening calls, etc. Being friendly and respectful with the gatekeeper may prompt them to help you by providing information and suggestions on how to speak with the big boss directly.
  2. Network your way in—if you know someone who already works for your dream company, ask them for information and advice. If not, try apps such as LinkedIn to contact someone who works for the company and ask them for an informational interview. You can get all kinds of tips and even personal referrals to decision makers through this process. You could also try joining groups in your target industry on LinkedIn, and use the custom invitation function in the app to send personal messages to potential employers. Invite them to a local event they may be interested in or an interesting webinar. Make sure you’re offering them something useful, not just asking for a job.
  3. Phone the decision maker’s office—try approaching them in various ways. You could phone the department you’re interested in and try saying something like, “I’m a little lost, and hoping you can help me find the right person to talk to.” Most people will want to be helpful. Another strategy is to call later in the day. Higher level managers are often in meetings most of the day and are in the office catching up on work later in the afternoon.
  4. Leave a persuasive message—using your research on the company, leave a voicemail for the decision maker briefly describing how you can help them resolve an issue they may be facing. Make sure you repeat your phone number clearly and tell them when you’ll be calling back. And then follow up when you say you will.
  5. Follow up—email and/or mail an introduction letter, résumé and proposal referencing your previous voicemail. You can even try dropping information off at the decision makers’ office—you might just be there to meet the right person at the right time. Just don’t turn into a stalker!
  6. Build ongoing trust—become a resource for the decision maker at your target company. Forward important or new industry information or share insights with them from time to time. It’s all about building a trusting and mutually beneficial relationship. Then when a job opening does come up, you’ll be the first person they think of to fill the position.


The days of casually walking onto a job site or into an office and asking for a job may be long gone, but Barney’s strategy of targeting the person in charge is still effective. Opportunities are out there; you just need to be aware of them. And one of the best ways to do this is through your connections with decision makers.


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