As we get started networking into target companies, you are going to run into some people who are nearly impossible to reach via LinkedIn. Their LinkedIn profile is almost empty. They may have worked for small companies and have very few connections. They don’t belong to any groups and give you almost no insight into their history. To reach these people, you are going to have to do some serious use of Google. In the end, they will probably not accept your invitation to connect via LinkedIn. Either they do not use LinkedIn much or they may even have an email address attached to their profile that they do not use any more.
Rather than use up too much time working on reaching these impossible people, go after the low hanging fruit. Reach out to the recruiters.
The easiest path into a company is through the recruiters. They need to know as many people as possible. They make a living out of being able to find great candidates. The more people they know, the better the chances that they will find the right match for the job before anyone else can. Like sales people, they want a lot of connections on LinkedIn. They will almost always accept an invitation to connect with you on LinkedIn. Once you are connected to them, you will be a second degree connection to a bunch of people in that company…and it is easier to connect to second degree connections.
Another useful thing about being connected to recruiters is that they tend to change job frequently. Some change as often as every 6 months. A few stay with the same company for multiple years, but most switch companies often. That recruiter that left Dell to go to work at Bazaarvoice in Austin may seem like a lost opportunity (unless you want to work for Bazaarvoice) but in 9 months they may be working for a company you want to network into.
I would suggest that you go to the “People” search field in the upper right hand corner of LinkedIn and select the “Advanced” option just to the right of the window where you input your search criteria. Most people are afraid to click on anything marked “Advanced”, thinking that they are not smart enough to use the Advanced features. In your mind, substitute the word “Helpful” for “Advanced” and go for it. These are helpful features that you should learn to use.
Once you get to the “Helpful” screen, you will see fields for title and company. Fill in “recruiter” for the job and the name of the company you are interested in and just give it a shot. You will need to scroll past recruiters who no longer work for your target company, but you might want to network with a recruiter at HP or Samsung.
One more suggestion. When you find that recruiter you can connect with (you worked with them before or they belong to the same LinkedIn group as you belong to), do not send them the standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” message. That would be like asking a woman on a date by saying, “I’m not doing anything tonight. Wanna go do something?” That will work with someone who knows you or someone with no standards but it is not an effective way to establish a new relationship with a stranger. Say something along the lines of “I am very interested in careers at Dell. I would like to connect with you on LinkedIn.” It is not prose but it is better than the standard message…and it works well enough.
Good Luck and Godspeed!