With unprecedented levels of unemployment these days, job hunting has gotten much more difficult. There are more candidates for fewer jobs, and that puts the onus of standing out squarely on the shoulders of the job hunter. Even though we know networking is the best way to find a job, many of us still use online sources like LinkedIn and Indeed for leads. Setting up alerts and having the relevant jobs sent to your inbox is a good start, but the question remains, how do you stand out when there are so many candidates for so few jobs?

Many job hunters complain that answering a classified ad is like dropping your resume into a black hole. Quite often, candidates never receive a response when they answer an online post, which is discouraging, to say the least. We respond to posts and…nothing. But what if I told you that after answering the classified ad, your application is not complete? There is an extra step job hunters can take to give themselves a boost, and this strategy utilizes the power of networking, even after you’ve answered the post.

Let’s say you have applied for a position at ABC Company. The next step is to conduct a LinkedIn search for ABC Company. LinkedIn will ask if you want to see users that have worked for the company. Your answer is “yes.” Suddenly, you will be met with pages of current and former employees of ABC Company. Now it’s time to switch hats from black hole classified responses to networking.

Using the LinkedIn platform, reach out to as many people at ABC Company as possible and simply ask to connect. While not everyone will, some recipients of your invitation will do so. If possible, connect with the department head of the area you would be working in or the talent acquisition person for the company. Actually, any connection from ABC Company will help.

OK, so you’re now connected with an employee of the company you just applied to. Thank them for connecting and tell them that you’re very interested in working for their company—you just applied for a position you saw online. Ask your new connection if they would be willing to spare a moment for a short phone call to learn more about the company. They may not, but you might be surprised how well this works because you are not trying to sell them anything, an all too prevalent practice on social media platforms.

Ask them why they joined the firm, what challenges they face, what technology they use and, in general, see if you can get inside knowledge that could help you on an interview. As you do this, you are turning your new connection into an ally by being smart, curious and asking good questions. Hopefully, with a bit of encouragement, your new connection may be persuaded to walk your resume into the hiring manager. This is your goal: an introduction beyond the black hole application.

After completing this process, you have answered the post and gone through the proper channels. But you have added a critical component, enlisting an employee to champion your candidacy. You have exited the black hole and greatly increased your chances of getting an interview. This is not something you need to do some of the time. It’s a habit you need to get into all the time.

Happy Hunting!