How to approach a company for a job?

Let’s just imagine you are looking for a job. It’s the beginning of 2013, you are being made redundant, want a change of scenery or a better salary and are ready to move on. You live within 40-50 minutes from London by train and are quite frankly fed up with the commute. It may be a thousand other reasons why you ended up on the job market – and nobody enjoys being on a market trying to sell themselves!

It was early days of my recent job hunt when I realised it was no good applying for jobs that said ‘125 applications received so far’. Some online boards would reveal this information, some wouldn’t. Either way, if I came across the same job advertisement on multiple job sites, it’s highly likely it attracted loads of hopeful candidates. Not that I don’t think I could be good enough, no! But realistically the employer might have liked the application No. 34 and by the time they will hopefully get to mine the candidate No.  34 will already be hired.

I don’t appreciate the fact that the recruiters seem to adapt the role of someone between a gatekeeper and God. You may never know why the recruiter never called you back after you’ve sent your CV – the company might have never even had a chance to know about your existence because the recruiter had a quick glance/skim over the document and (even though they might not even be that interested in your industry!) decided you are no good.

A couple of weeks into my job hunt a good friend who’s been a recruitment consultant for over a decade told me that in the current market too many people are looking for a job and it is the employer’s market with loads of choice. By that point I’ve had enough of sending emails into what felt an empty space and decided to look for a job that wasn’t advertised by recruitment agencies. Perhaps not even advertised by the employer; now that’s a challenge!

Now that I’m settling in at my new job with a company that hasn’t even advertised it, I’d like to share some tips here. And maybe that career move is just around the corner for you too!

Please note:
this will not include tips and hints on how to write/improve your CV, sorry!

1.    Find companies that you know could apply your skills/employ you

Use directories, Linkedin, Facebook, local business circles and associations sites, even Twitter (people search) to find companies that operate in/around preferred area. Use Google. Even event listing sites such as Eventbrite will produce some amazing search results – a company might be having a new office warming party and is inviting all clients, past, present and future (I know you are not a client, but it gives you a chance to go and say hello). Whatever search you are conducting always note down names that crop up in articles, on social media profiles etc. – they might not be the decision makers in terms of employment but they might direct you the right way. Open a spreadsheet file and enter as many companies as you can – at least their website URL and (if any) a name of the person that was associated with them (i.e. Twitter account holder).

2.    Careers page, Work for Us page

If their website has one – great. If it doesn’t, don’t worry, it doesn’t mean they are not hiring. If they have a careers page but the vacancies listed there do not apply to your skills, note down their contact details anyway (there might be a specific email address that they want all CVs to be sent to). Run a few Google searches using these search strings:

inurl:careers.html manchester project manager
inurl:jobs manchester project manager
inurl:workforus manchester project manager

(replace Manchester with the location of your interest, replace project manager with whatever role you are looking for)

3.    No agencies thank you!

Another tip is to search for jobs that are advertised online but the company hiring expressed the wish NOT to go through a recruitment agency. To find those use these Google search strings:

“project manager”+”Manchester”+”no agencies thank you”
“project manager”+”Manchester”+”no agencies please”

(replace Manchester with the location of your interest, replace project manager with whatever role you are looking for)

Send your CV to several companies you want to work for even when they are not advertising a job, as then you might get lucky and get your CV on the desk before they got around to advertising the position and therefore saving the company the hassle and cost of advertising a role.

4.    Avoid going from Brighton to London via Edinburgh!

It wouldn’t make sense, would it? Imagine you found a job listing on one of the job sites and would like to know if you could find out which company is hiring (recruiters won’t tell you that!), so that you could go directly to the company. Do a simple Google search – it may not work every time, but it did a couple of times for me – select a fraction of the job description text, somewhere in the list of requirements, and paste it in Google search window, adding double quotes at the beginning and the end of the text. See example:

“This role calls for extensive internal and external interaction so it’s vital you are a clear and confident communicator (and able to effectively deal with people at all levels) as well as being a great team player and just as effective working independently.”

The results may return loads of other occurrences of this exact text – they might be other job boards, etc. – but you may also land on the Careers page of the actual employer who posted exactly the same job description as all recruiters are using. You can then contact them directly, hopefully skipping one major hurdle. Also, sometimes you will notice that that job has been listed a few months before, and is now re-surfacing again – wouldn’t that make you wonder why? Does this indicate of a massive staff turnover?

5.    Use social media

Many companies now have official ‘pages’ on Linkedin, where among other things they also list career opportunities. It’s great as in some cases you are told who listed the job or who to contact. Twitter might turn up interesting results as well (#hiring, #career).

I have used Facebook pages to look at the photos that company has uploaded, as some members of the team were tagged. This gives you names of individuals working for the company that you can lookup further, using a simple search. You’d want to do this if you would like to know who is who within the company (cross-check those names with Linkedin) and who’d be interviewing you (or picking up the phone when you finally pluck up the courage to call them!).

This exercise will also give you great insights into the daily life of the company – things like what do their offices look like? Do they spend any time together after the office hours, i.e. team building events, outings etc.?

6.    Keep at least some control over your job hunting

The feeling of shooting bullets into an open sky and not knowing if they hit anything is the worst part of job hunting. You submit your CV and then the waiting game begins. Cut down the anxiety of ‘Will they call me? Why aren’t they calling me?’ by turning the tables around a bit.

Let’s say you have no other choice but to apply for a job that is clearly advertised by a recruiter rather than a company. Before automatically clicking ‘Apply now’ and using the preset covering letter, phone the recruiter. Think of a general question you’d like to ask them that will get them talking. For example, if the job advertisement simply states the county (i.e. Hampshire) ask them if they could be a bit more specific and give you the name of the city/town/village. They haven’t seen your CV yet which they will want to do, so ask for their direct email address and send it then. Naturally, your ‘covering letter’ will be much more personalised as you will be following up on your phone conversation, and the recruiter will have a real person’s voice attached to your name in their head.

7. Aim high!

You know the company you’d like to approach. Call them and ask who you should send your CV to. If in doubt aim high though and go for the director. It’s a good idea to speak to them before sending your CV, and then again after to check if they’ve received it (and show you are keen).  Also, if you don’t have an English name like me it is important you speak to them as they won’t necessary expect your English to be as good as it is.

For very small companies, you have no choice but to go to the director. Once a company reaches 15 people they’ll at least have an Office Manager who can be a doorway to the boss, or may have recruiting responsibility themselves. If there is nothing on their website about recruitment, I’d call with a view to introducing yourself and asking if you can send in your CV. It takes more guts but it’s too easy to ignore an email if you’re busy. If they say no but seem friendly, you have an opportunity to ask if they can recommend any other companies as good as them (!) and have any contacts.

8.    Any more tips?

If I left a good tip out (simply because I didn’t need to resort to using it haha!), please leave a comment. And of course, if and when any of the above works for you, please come back here and let me know. Good luck!

1 Response

13 March, 2013, 11:19 am, Luke said:

Thanks, there are some interesting ideas. I agree with point 6 and have often called a recruitment agency to check on any progress and they suddenly had more opportunities for me. Its amazing how much more you stick in peoples minds with a simple phone call

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