Applying to companies with no openings?
March 24, 2010 12:04 PM   Subscribe

What is the protocol for applying to companies that don't have any job openings listed?

Long time listener, first time caller. I'm a recent graduate who seems to be getting one interview for every 15 or 20 positions that I apply to. Hey, not too shabby in this economy. But it's tough looking for open positions online (I use RSS feeds, Google alerts, etc) and I feel like I could really cover more ground by simply applying to companies that I really like, but don't even advertise open positions. But is this a waste of time? I'm only curious because I spend a great deal of time crafting each individual cover letter and resume to the specific job requirements, and want to be putting my energy in the right places.

I see numerous companies that might not have any openings listed, but instead say something like "We're always looking for smart, talented people! Send your resume to!" Sometimes, it might just even say on their contact page something as minimal as "For careers:"

What is the protocol for this? How do I introduce myself in my cover letter when there is no specific position to apply for? I fear that stating a desired position could sound too specific and rule me out while stating that "I am interested in any future entry-level positions" sounds too vague.

Any thoughts? Should I stick to actual job postings only? Are these emails even legit, or just a "wastebasket email" so that job-searchers stop bugging everyone else at the company? Are they really always looking for smart talented people? Would love to hear the experience of people who actually worked in HR or have been hiring managers themselves, or people who have had positive/negative experiences with this. Thanks so much.
posted by windbox to Work & Money (9 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Look for the list of actual managers and send an email directly to the one who you would work for. it has worked for me in the past.
posted by GuyZero at 12:12 PM on March 24, 2010

At my workplace we rarely advertise externally for positions. In fact, people who work with job searchers will tell you that only one in ten or two in ten available jobs are advertised. It's definitely worth your while to send your resume and cover letter to the HR department, or a specific manager, at a company you'd be interested in working for. Say that you would be interested in being considered for "any positions coming available" in your area of interest. Yes, a cold call letter is going to sound a bit vague, but if they are suggesting that they are "always looking" then they will be used to this. And when positions come up, they will go to this pile of resumes. BTW, I did send resume once to an organization that was not advertising, and I did get an interview because they thought I had interesting experience. They had no position available, and said so up front, but it was a very interesting meeting and good networking for both of us. You have nothing whatsoever to lose by doing this.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:24 PM on March 24, 2010

On the range of how likely you are to be considered for a job.

- Someone in the inside knowing you & knowing that you're looking: Very high.
- A friend of someone on the inside knows you & recommends you: Very high.

- You send your resume when they aren't looking: Pretty low.
- You send your resume when they put out an ad: depends on the competition.

Work your network - in person or virtual - and let people know you're looking and what you can do.
posted by MesoFilter at 12:50 PM on March 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

My company doesn't advertise externally very often, but they do take in applications all the time and actually hold on to resumes for months, passing them along to the various departments who are headhunting. Slow process, which sucks, but that's how I got hired. I've been involved in a few recruiting events lately and the HR girls told me a few tidbits I'd like to pass along:

With new grads, they like to see your transcript of marks. For us, as an example, if your average is above 75%, you go into the "first up" pile. If no, then you go into the secondary pile, to be looked at if no one in the "first up" pile is applicable to the position they're filling. But they look at the resume too - if you have great experience relating to the work and industry you're applying for, and your average isn't apalling then you get put into the "first up" pile too.

Getting your name out there within the company you're applying to is very useful. A student came up to us at one of our booths, and said he'd already submitted a resume not too long ago. He chatted with us a bit, and had a business card (just his personal info) to give our HR girl. She said to me that since he's made himself known like that, and she remembered seeing his resume, she'd go back and find it, and make sure it got seen by the right people.
posted by lizbunny at 12:56 PM on March 24, 2010

I got my current job by noticing a competitor that was doing something really cool, and emailing the President of the company. 2 meetings later I had a new job and a raise. It all depends on what you can bring to the table. Do some research, have a specific reason why you think you can help the company, and go for it. It can't hurt.
posted by COD at 12:58 PM on March 24, 2010

Echoing what COD said above. Figure out why you think they should hire you and pitch yourself. Also referring to something you read about the company, a product that you used and loved, something that makes you stand out. So many cover letters are just boilerplate from a book or a website these days that anything that shows thought and personality will stand out. From what you've written above, I think you will do well with this method.

I will tell you that nowhere I have ever worked cared about your GPA, even if you were just out of school, they cared about what you had done. I think it depends on the industry, of course.

If you do a web search for * you will undoubtedly find people who work at the company. From there, you can figure out the email address syntax and then target your email to the person who wrote the article, the developer who spoke at the conference, etc.

posted by micawber at 1:07 PM on March 24, 2010 [5 favorites]

I got two job offers from sending out my cover letter and resume to small-mid sized companies that didn't have "formal" application routes i.e. cold calling. I took up one of those job offers and am still in the position.

What people have said above about directly sending your cover letter and resume to managers is true. You might want to do a quick Google search on "cold call cover letters" or "cold call application" or something along those lines. The search literally brings up hundred of cover letter examples about how to write these types of cover letters.

From my experience, however, merely sending out hundreds of cover letters and resumes is not effective. Know the job you want to do, know what your skills are,and know how to present them in the most effective light. The best companies are the small-mid sized companies that are expanding rapidly. These companies are more likely to be employing people, but because they don't always have a dedicated HR department (or, in my case, the companies I got job offers from didn't even have a HR person), they are less likely to recruit openly as they would get flooded with hundreds of applications and they don't have the resources to cope with this.

As a data point, I applied to about 20 companies who put out ads for jobs but received a grand total of ZERO job offers (though I did got plenty of interviews). I cold-called at ~40 companies, was ignored by most of them, interviewed at two companies, and received job offers from by the same two companies.
posted by moiraine at 1:39 PM on March 24, 2010

I've never had a job where the position was posted beforehand - it's always been networking and light pestering. If you're a good fit, it's never a bad thing to send either a resume with a casual covering letter stating your intentions, or to call and, again, casually discuss your intentions, desired position and desired career path. At the end of the day it shows initiative to be proactive about such things, and if you can do it while being friendly and professional at once, it doesn't hurt at all.
posted by jimmythefish at 4:10 PM on March 24, 2010

My experience as a hiring manager:

Nth-ing "do your research and write with a specific reason why you'd be good for THAT company." All the companies I've worked at really mean it when they say "we're always looking for good people" and will hire the right person for an un-advertised position, or even create a position for the right person who had something specific to offer.

Also join LinkedIn and search for people at that company. You may be surprised to find someone you know. Or a 2nd or 3rd level connection between someone you know and someone you want to meet. I find it perfectly acceptable for a stranger to contact me on LinkedIn, explain why you'd love to learn more about my company, and ask if I'll meet you for coffee. I'll usually say yes (though the free date might be some weeks out.)

If they agree to coffee: you buy, and ask questions that will help you decide if you and the company are a good fit. Do not ask for a job, or for advice about getting a job in the company; you are there to learn more about the company beyond the research you've already done. (They've already done you one favor by taking the time to meet with you, don't ask for another one at this time.)

Keep notes, and be sure to return a favor as soon as you are able. Something as simple as a link to an article you think they'd find helpful, based on your conversation over coffee. They'll be impressed that you remembered an interest of theirs.

Another way to connect with companies is to go to a trade show in the industry you're interested in, and visit the exhibitor's booths. You may find one within day-trip distance and an "exhibits only" pass is usually free. If they're not busy with prospects, the booth staff will be happy to talk to you about their company. Get cards and follow up with a short thanks and/or useful link.

My exprience as a job seeker:

Actually all my jobs were the result of answering an ad. In the newspaper no less. (Yeah, that was the 80s and 90s but I can tell you for a fact that companies DO still advertise for open positions.)

Since going into business for myself all my new jobs (i.e. clients) have been the result of personal networking like the above.

And the one thing I finally learned that made job-hunting and interviewing less stressful and actually kind of fun is to think of it as a two-way deal. Yes, they're evaluating you to see if you're good enough for them. But you're also evaluating them to see if they are the right place for you. It becomes less "please take me" and more "are we right for each other." Much more fun.
posted by evilmomlady at 6:16 AM on March 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

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