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How to KYA (know your audience) When Applying to Jobs

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

Something interesting happened yesterday on LinkedIn. Another "divide and never conquer" situation. I know I know, the lunatics are rampant on this platform and it's nothing new... but this post in particular and the comments are worth dissecting in my opinion so we can stop confusing the everloving crap out of jobseekers.

Ok let's get right to it, here's the post that drove everyone and their mom wild yesterday:

Some people commented this is fine, while others (especially recruiters) said this is an UNFAIR hiring practice. 😵‍💫 You can read the full post and comments HERE.

So which is it?

Well, let's see why some people HATED this post...

"There is so much wrong with this it’s insane. Only thing you’re communicating is that you have unrealistic expectations and open yourself up to legal action. Wild times."

"Having a hidden mechanism because in some personal bias you think A translates to B in the job role... Umm. Probably not the smartest recruiting move"

"Wait. Are you bragging about being biased with recruiting? This seems like terrible recruiting. If you're not going to treat every qualified candidate equally, why would anyone want to work for you? And if you're not going to treat every applicant like a human being, you need to check yourself."

Was Dan really being biased by giving interview preference to applicants who messaged him? I don't know, I've never heard bias defined in that way, but let's check out discrimination, which is a direct result of bias (and was also mentioned in the comments).

EEOC hiring requirements: You cannot discriminate against or harass applicants, employees or former employees because of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information (including family medical history).

I'm not seeing anything about giving preference to applicants who reach out directly.

Moving on, let's see why some people liked this recruiting method.

"As an SDR who has occasionally coached others in and out of tech on how to get an SDR job, this is exactly what I tell them to do. Do the whole formal app, if you must, but then CALL the hiring manager. EMAIL them. It's not "pushy," it's not "invasive," or "rude," it's literally the job. Do research, reach out, follow up. That is literally the job. And sell the meeting."

"As an SDR looking for a role, we have to stand out. If I saw the post and was able to see 200 applicants applied, I wouldn't want to be lost in the crowd. I would run to the front of the crowd to be noticed. I constantly send a video message to the hiring manager, and begin to build the relationship with persistence, a voice, and a face...not just words on a paper."

"I always follow up after a app. I just figured it was the smart thing to do because it literally shows the manager I know how to do research."

So, most of the people who agreed with this style are in sales and biz dev themselves. Makes sense to me.

To further break this down let's look at the job Dan was hiring for:

Title: Business Development Representative

Preferred Experience: 1-3 years

Location: Remote

Base Salary: $40,000

On-Target Earnings (OTE): $80,000


  • Research prospects to identify opportunities

  • Target prospects with outbound sequences (phone, email, LinkedIn)

  • Sit in on 1+ pitch call per week to learn the business and prepare for advancement

  • Assist with inbound leads for five hours per week to learn that part of the process

  • Acquire knowledge in key areas (our business, our industry, sales)

  • Enter, edit, maintain, and add to data in our CRM

Ideal Candidates:

  • Curious

  • Motivated

  • Organized

  • Positive attitude

  • Attention to detail

  • Strong communication skills

  • Desire to succeed in tech sales

There aren't any hard requirements for this role... the experience is just preferred. Responsibilities are just your day to day duties. The ideal candidate has a bunch of soft skills. I would safely categorize this as an entry level role.

The hiring company is Designli. They have 12 employees on LinkedIn. Not one of them are in Human Resources or Talent. This is standard for such a small company.

Let's dig even deeper here. We've all seen THIS post that goes viral at least once a week:

"Hire for attitude and train for skill" has been around forever. You can find some variation of this quote all over the internet credited to tons of different leaders over the years. I don't think anyone knows who really started it, but it's not dying anytime soon.

Additionally, we've all seen the career advice "reach out to the job poster directly to help you stand out".

This commenter from Dan's post put my thoughts into words exactly:

This is where I'm going to come in with KYA (know your audience) and clear up the confusion FOR GOOD.

KYA is a marketing term. It essentially means before creating content or speaking to your audience, do your research on them. This applies to many areas, including the job search!

We already know Dan's company, Designli, has 12 employees (at least on LinkedIn).

0 of their employees are in HR.

Dan is directly hiring for this role without the assistance of a recruiter.

The job post has 0 hard skill requirements.

The job is entry level.

The job is in business development (sales).

THIS is EXACTLY the type of job you want to directly reach out to the hiring manager on!

Now let's talk about job posts where you would probably get no bites by reaching out:

If the job was posted by a recruiting agency or external recruiter.

If the job was posted by an internal recruiter.

If the job has no job poster listed (don't go scraping contact info - waste of time).

Notice I listed every type of recruiter as someone to not waste your time reaching out to. That's because recruiters are used on roles where the company knows what they're looking for. Recruiters, whether internal or not, actually know what they're doing and the profile they're hiring for. They're going to look at every resume and reach out to those that meet the requirements.

Dan, and people like Dan, do not know what they're doing and will absolutely not look at every resume. Dan took the easy way, understandably, and said, "I'm going to interview the people who reached out to me first".

So there you have it.

  • Dan is not a monster, he's just not an HR professional or recruiter.

  • Outreaching job posters requires KYA for success.

Hopefully now you all can understand when to, and when not to, reach out to a job poster!

Have any input on this? Feel free to leave comments or questions to start a discussion!

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