I've recommended this process to several people, so am now posting it in an evergreen place. There is a whole book, but there are really just three steps: 1) Prioritize a list of companies, 2) contact employees at those companies, and then 3) recruit advocates for yourself. Here's the detailed process:

  1. First step: Prioritize a list of target companies. Make yourself a copy of this spreadsheet
  2. 40 minutes: In the first column make a list of companies you might want to work for. Do not make multiple lists - but these all together. Order doesn't matter right now. Use the 80/20 rule - move quickly through this, don't get distracted or go down rabbit holes on the internet, just go with your gut. Aim for at least 40 companies.
    • 10 mins: Dream companies you want to work for
    • 10 mins: Companies where an alumni of somewhere you've previous studied/worked current works (check LinkedIn or alumni directories you have access to)
    • 10 mins: Look through job listings on indeed.com
    • 10 mins: Think about trends that interest you and find companies that work in those areas (eg drones, construction, healthy foods, urbanization, whatever)
  3. In the second column, put a 'Y' is an alumni currently works there (check LinkedIn)
  4. In the third column, rate your pain tolerance for getting ignored by that company (5 = highest motivation, top company. 2 = least preferred. 1 for unknowns/limited info) (5 minutes)
  5. In the 4th column, rate each company's hiring on indeed.com for your role (3 = very relevant, 2 = somewhat relevant, 1 = not hiring) (15 minutes)
  6. Sort your list. Sort by Motivation, then Posting, then Alumni. This is the end of the Prioritization step. Next up is Contacting them.
  7. For your top 5 companies, choose the best 'starter contact'. Select by function, alumni, and relative age. All contacts are not created equal! You want to find "boosters", not curmudgeons or obligates. Boosters have time and interest to help you, may become mentors. Curmudgeons are self interested or won't respond at all. Obligates are motivated by guilt, send mixed signals, low ROI.
  8. Fill alumni gaps - in decreasing order of effectiveness (20 mins)
    • Most recent company alumni (LinkedIn)
    • Undergraduate alumni (LinkedIn)
    • Group connection (LinkedIn)
    • Fan mail (Google)
    • Do not use weak 2nd-degree LinkedIn connections, they are not effective.
  9. Write a 5-rule email. (20 mins)
    • Short (<100 words)
    • Connection goes first
    • No mention of jobs
    • Generalize interest
    • Write professionally
  10. 3B7 outreach tracking routine (business days) (10 mins)
    • Day 0: email first contact at top 5 companies
    • Day 3: email backup contact at top 5 dompanies
    • Day 7: send follow up emails
    • Day 10: send follow up emails to backup contacts
  11. Set reminders for yourself to follow up. Memory is faulty. Getting responses is a probabilities game, so don't skip the follow ups!
  12. Approach top 5 companies all at once, but only email one person at each company at a time
  13. Result you're hoping for is an information gathering meeting/phone call. This is the end of the Contact phase.
  14. Final step: recruit advocates for yourself by having 30 minute informational interviews with your contacts. Focus on likability, not selling. Don't sell. Goal is to get an internal referral. Do 15 minutes of research per company, take notes.
  15. First 5 minutes of informational interview: small talk. How's your day going? What projects are you working on right now? Tell me about your background/how long have you worked there?
  16. Next, use TIARA to have a productive conversation with whoever you're meeting with. See link below for additional info on informational interviews.
    • Trends: What's going on in your business/field right now?
    • Insights: What's surprising about your job? What have you learned? What traits make people successful?
    • Advice: What can I do to prepare myself for a career in this field? If I get hired, what should I do in my first 30 days? What do you wish you had known when you were in my position?
    • Resources: What resources should I look into next? What steps would you recommend for someone in my situation?
    • Assignments: What projects have you done that added the most value? Have any projects increased in popularity recently in your company? Have you had interns/new grads in the past + what did they work on?
  17. Ending the conversation: If no contact given at the target company, ask "Can I follow up?" Within 24 hours, send a thank you note. A week later, ask "What can I do next?" If contact given, "I'll update you." Follow up 2 weeks later, then check in monthly. See PDF for check in email examples. Check in emails have 3 components: recap of advice received, benefit of advice, request for further advice. Try to turn these people into mentors.
  18. Set reminders! Systematize your check ins.
  19. Result: Hopefully an internal referral to the job you want!

Detailed presentation on the process (Prezi)

Informational interviews (PDF)