How do you apply to a company, instead of a specific job?
June 4, 2021 11:38 AM   Subscribe

There are a handful of companies I'd be very interested in working for. The don't often list job openings, and I could probably qualify for a variety of positions at some of them. How do I write a resume and cover letter that says "I want to work for you, in whatever capacity you need me"?

I'm specifically looking at small-ish bicycle manufacturers that specialize in recumbents, cargo bikes, and other unusual/uncommon human powered vehicles. It's my area of expertise - I know a lot about the field, I've designed and built a variety of bikes, and I am a very capable bicycle mechanic. I believe I'm well qualified for a variety of roles - I could write an excellent resume and cover letter for customer service or assembly, and a good one for admin or R&D.

In the past, I've always applied for specific job postings that have a list of desired skills and qualifications. In this case, though, I want to say "Look, I know you'll be hiring people at some point, and when you do I would be a great candidate for any of several things you're likely to need." (Bonus challenge: Many of these would involve an international relocation, so I really need to sell the idea that I'm a fantastic candidate, better than whoever they can find locally.) I'm sure there are other people doing this in small industry sectors. How is it done?
posted by sibilatorix to Work & Money (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have done this before, with a personal and heartfelt cover letter and generalized CV. With one company, I sent a FedEx to the head of HR. I don’t remember where I read it, but there was a CEO who said he gets hundreds of emails and dozens of mail envelopes every day, but only a few FedEx envelopes. As a result, he opened those himself and left the others to his administrative help.

If you’re going to take your shot, I guess your best chance of succeeding would be getting straight to the decision-maker so they can see your unique talents and sincere interest.
posted by AgentRocket at 11:43 AM on June 4

This seems like a situation where you might benefit from setting up informational interviews with people at the companies you're interested in. I've had some luck just reaching out to people on LinkedIn who had backgrounds that I found interesting and asking for a 20-30 minute slot to learn more about opportunities with their organizations or in their fields. Not sure what the equivalent is for bike manufacturers, but maybe if you can identify some contacts through your network or through LinkedIn or similar and reach out you could set up some conversations. Having a conversation with an actual person would grow your network and give you actual people to reach out to in the case that you see something that interests you - or for them to reach out to you if something comes up on their side.
posted by knownfossils at 11:43 AM on June 4 [6 favorites]

Seconding knownfossils. This is exactly how I got my current job. I was volunteering, and when I had a list of companies I was interested in, I asked a bunch of people at the nonprofit (well, and other people I knew as well) if they knew anyone at any of the companies I was interested in. I hadn't even looked at open positions. I just looked for introductions to get more information about the organization, what their job was, etc. It happened that someone knew the CTO of my current employer. I met her, she liked me and told me they had an opening, and I applied and got it. It was totally a 6-degrees-of-separation numbers game.

Obviously you aren't hearing about all the places I tried to get in and didn't, but that was my overall job hunting strategy.
posted by Gorgik at 1:20 PM on June 4

We hired an amazing designer in ~2006 who just … rang the doorbell. It was so surprising and memorable, similar to the Fedex advice above. If you suspect the company gets a lot of cold calls like this then it might not work.
posted by migurski at 1:30 PM on June 4

If you're local to any similar companies, it might be worthwhile to actually meet the people who work there in a non-work setting, especially now that a lot of people are out actually Doing Things again. Most of these companies work closely with the cycling communities around them and going out and doing Bike To Work Day volunteering or trail maintenance with them is a great way to just learn about the people. (They'll all say on their Instagram or other socials where they'll be next if they do this kind of thing.)

I worked in the bike industry (in sales and then small manufacturing) for almost 15 years and it's very tight. Meeting just a few people can get you an "in" at several different places. Just a "hey if you hear of anything, I'd love to be considered." Be aware that if you're trying to relocate, that will be on you. These jobs don't pay much, you'll get paid in gear and favors. I did enjoy it, but when it came down to trying to have a life outside of bikes (and not being poor and having health insurance), I had to leave in order to start loving bikes again.

YMMV but feel free to memail if you want to chat.
posted by komlord at 2:38 PM on June 4

I’ve done this before. It’s definitely easier if you’re open to many different roles and you’re not at a stage in your career where you need to be “director of such and such” or else it’s a big step down.

When I graduated college, I literally sent a cover letter with my general skills and interests and then a paragraph that showed I bothered to learn something about the company along with my CV. I sent this to nearly 100 companies, so it was like a couple days work. I ended up having my pick of several jobs and took the best one.

Now I am on the hiring end of things and when we need someone, it goes through this whole process with HR and then some weeks later it’s posted to Indeed. Some weeks after that, I’m interviewing people who may or may not be actually interested in our specific company (usually not) and making a decision. If I received a cold call resume from someone who was specifically interested in the work we are doing, I’d hang on to it, or even do an informational interview. And if I was even thinking about hiring and happened to receive such a letter, that person would be in like Flynn and I’d bypass the whole HR/recruitment rigamorale. If you send out enough of these to enough companies, I guarantee you’ll hit on someone who’s about to do some hiring.

Maybe someone else can weigh in, but as I recall I addressed my letters to the HR managers of each company and then they got passed along to the relevant project managers and directors.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:22 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]

The comments above all really boil down to networking, which is absolutely the way to proceed.
The bit that is going to be tricky is “international relocation”. I have applied and got a job in another country based on remote interviews, but it was quite tricky - employers want to have confidence you are great, and that is easier to have if you meet them.
In my case, I had a working visa that didn’t require the employer to do any paperwork, which was a big help, and I was applying for a pretty narrow role I was well experienced in, and it was a tight labor market. It would have been hard to land a vague “i can do everything” role as that requires the employer to think about what you might do.

Where I work now we hire people with varying work permits and it is always a huge benefit to have working rights sorted, because employer sponsorship for working visas is very unreliable.

In my case, I also had a reference from a CEO at a related company. If you have relevant work experience I would work very hard to arrange some people known to your anticipated employers who can vouch for you.
Having this will solve the “fantastic candidate” side of things, you will be able to show you are a great catch, and worth the hassle and delays of hiring a person internationally.

If I have misread your question, and you are early in your career and don’t have lots of relevant work experience, and connections to people respected in the industry, I strongly recommend you start by getting that credibility. Nobody is ever going to hire internationally for anything but a top candidate.
posted by bystander at 3:45 AM on June 5

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