So you’re ready for a new job and you’re scouring job boards, recruitment sites and LinkedIn for opportunities. But here’s the catch – you’re missing out on a huge piece of the job market.
Applying directly to companies and networking are two of the best ways to tap into the ‘hidden job market’ – the vast number of jobs that go unadvertised. Managers often prefer to hire through referrals because it saves money in recruitment costs and hiring a recommended candidate can give managers confidence that the person is a good fit for the role and organisation.
Candidates who network with employers before a role comes up can also often be first in line for a new position. Contacting an employer directly ensures you stand out, rather than being just another name in a sea of applicants. It also demonstrates your genuine interest in the company and your initiative, both incredibly attractive qualities to an employer.
So how do you go about approaching an employer?
As you are essentially cold calling, with a speculative application it’s important to get the tone just right. Here are the steps for making an approach:
Follow company news
Read industry and local business news feeds, follow companies on social media, set up email alerts in order to find out who is expanding, has increased profit or secured new clients and therefore may be in need of more staff, so you can target your applications accordingly.
Use your network
Don’t be shy about asking around – you never know who might have a friend/aunt/neighbour working at a company of interest to you. If you can get an introduction to the company from someone who can vouch for you, all the better. Also, try seeking out employees of companies you’re interested in on social media for an insider view of the company – this will help with your research. Compliment work they may have published or mention a project they have been involved in to reach out and make contact. Determine who is responsible for hiring at the company and try to connect with them on LinkedIn. The human resource department is a good place to start.
Do your research
You want your cover letter to show you have a full understanding of the company, their clients, work, and ethos, to demonstrate you can be a perfect fit for both culture and the work involved. Even if they don’t have any immediate openings their interest will still be sparked for the future. Because you don’t have a job specification to go by, working out exactly what it is they look for in a potential employee may take a little bit more time and cunning. Try to find some person specifications – if they don’t have any current openings, look for previous vacancies that may have not yet been taken down.
Open your application with a strong statement – don’t skirt around the issue, introduce yourself and tell them why you are writing to them. Avoid vague phrases such as ‘just wondering if there are any openings coming up’ and ‘please keep me in mind for future’. Word your application so it has a call to action – ask if and when they may have any openings, and if they would be interested in meeting with you. You should also be specific about what role you are looking for and why you are targeting them in particular. Explain why you believe you are the right fit for them at this moment in time.
Think about your delivery method
As you do not have the instructions of a job advert to go by, you have to use a little initiative. Of course, email is usually the first choice, however a postal application may be more likely to be opened and read. If you can’t find an individual contact or email for HR or department you hope to be employed in, it’s worth calling to ask. If you’re feeling particularly confident, you could choose to make the delivery in person – again, thorough research of the company will enable you to gauge how open their office is to visitors and drop-ins.
Kayleigh Ziolo is a freelance journalist and writer based in Ireland.