Updated June, 2021
Job seekers and advancement-minded professionals can’t afford to sit around waiting for opportunities to find you. Taking a proactive, targeted approach is far more effective. That means you should find the company you want to work for and make your pitch. But, what if your target company isn’t hiring? Is it still worth your time to “apply” when there are no open positions?
The simple answer to this question is, YES. Whether or not an official job opening exists, it definitely makes sense to initiate a conversation when you find an organization you’d like to work for. The following strategies will help you do so successfully.
Why apply when there are no open positions?
First, let’s explore why you should still apply when the company isn’t hiring. Did you know that career experts estimate that approximately 70 to 80% of job openings are never publicly advertised? Just because it looks like the company isn’t hiring, doesn’t mean there aren’t still opportunities. Positions may be coming available soon, and in some cases, positions may actually be created for the right candidate. Even without such good fortune, it still pays to make yourself known to the organization. That way, when the right position comes along, you’ll be top of mind. Second of all, companies are often more flexible than you may think and if you can make the right pitch, they may be willing to create a role just for you.
How to Apply When a Company Isn’t Hiring
Research the company
Before you attempt to pitch yourself for a role when there are no open positions, you have to do your research. As any good salesperson will tell you, it’s essential to first understand your prospect’s problems and identify what they really need to solve them. Only then can you position yourself as the one who can deliver those solutions.
If you think you’ve found a company you’d like to target, start by learning everything you can about them. Read their website, press releases, LinkedIn profile, and more. Look for articles available online. Talk to people who have worked for them or with them in the past. Basically, you’re playing the role of detective. You want to understand where the company has been and where it’s going. More specifically, you want to identify what it will need with regards to your expertise to be successful in the future. What essential skills and talents do you offer to support the company’s goals and fill any potential gaps?
Remember, you’re pitching yourself proactively—so you need to predict what the company needs and provide an answer for a problem they might not currently have (or know they have), but are likely to have in the future.
Introduce yourself via email
Once you have a deep understanding of the company, reach out to appropriate individuals via email. Who these people are will vary and, again, research is required (LinkedIn is an excellent resource for this). You may want to connect with a manager that oversees the department you’re interested in, or perhaps it makes more sense to start with an internal recruiter or Human Resources professional.
The goal of this email is to introduce yourself, demonstrate your interest in the company, and position yourself as the ideal candidate, even for a role that currently has no open positions. For example, your email may look something like this:
My name is Mary Smith, PMP. I’m reaching out to introduce myself and express my interest in ABC Company. I was so excited to follow the recent development and launch of the 123 product. As an experienced Project Manager in the technology industry, I was inspired to see how a project of this magnitude was delivered so quickly and has exceeded market expectations. Congratulations to you and your team for the impressive work.
I look forward to future iterations of the 123 product and continuing to watch as it is further refined. I can only expect that its current success will put increasing demands on the team.
I realize that, currently, your company isn’t hiring Project Managers. Regardless, I wanted to get on your radar, should opportunities become available in the future…
From here, you can share a bit of your background, how your skills apply to the organizational goals, and perhaps even direct the reader to your LinkedIn profile, personal website, professional portfolio or attached resume. You can also suggest a phone call or meeting for coffee, as a way to further get to know one another.
However, a few words of caution as you approach this task:
- Don’t be overly presumptuous. While your research has given you some great background information, there is likely a lot you don’t know (and can’t know as an outsider). You want to show that you are well-informed and believe you can be a valuable addition to the team based on what you know, but you don’t want to come off as overconfident.
- Don’t offer free work. Some career experts will suggest that you offer to “volunteer” or provide pro-bono services as a way of demonstrating your interest and skills. However, this is (1) not sustainable for you and (2) not generally respected or accepted in the corporate world. Your past portfolio of work and professional references are enough to demonstrate your abilities.
Connect via LinkedIn
Once you’ve sent your email introduction, be sure to connect with these people on LinkedIn as well. This will help ensure you can remain in contact even if the conversation doesn’t progress any further at the moment. Remember that you want to stay top of mind so that, when a position becomes available, you’re the first person they think of. Make it a habit to regularly touch base and be a generous contributor to their network. The more positive interactions they have with you, the more memorable you’ll be.
Just because a company isn’t hiring or they have no open positions in your field of expertise, doesn’t mean you can’t begin the process of “networking in.” You never know what might be secretly available or what might come up in the near future for the right person. If you make strong connections now, you might land a job there without ever going through a formal application process for an officially “open” position.