The majority of jobs are never advertised. Surprising but true. The ‘hidden’ job market is reputed to be anything from 50-80% of the total number of opportunities available. But how can you find out about these jobs roles and make successful applications? Caitlin Allen, an associate director at award-winning culture and entertainment PR agency Riot Communications describes how she adopted this job seeking strategy in the PR sector.
If you think you’ve found your dream company or employer, why wait until they have a vacancy?
A speculative approach (i.e. getting in touch with a potential employer unprompted, when they’re not actively recruiting) can be incredibly powerful. It demonstrates passion, enthusiasm and bravery, and shows the potential employer that you’re a proactive self-starter who will bring that energy and approach to your work – if you’re successful in landing the job.
Many employers like receiving speculative applications, as having some possible candidates in mind for interview when a vacancy comes up can help save time in the recruitment process. Recruitment is frequently cited by managers across a whole range of industries and professions as being one of the most challenging parts of their job, so they’re often on the look-out for promising-looking people in order to be one step ahead when a vacancy does arise.
It’s surprising how infrequently people make speculative approaches – especially when they are often so successful. Three of our current team at Riot Communications (myself included) approached the agency off their own bat. There’s no doubt that it gives you a head-start against anyone else who is considering applying for the next vacancy that comes up.
In my case, I had read about Riot in our trade magazine, PR Week. They sounded like exactly the sort of agency I wanted to work for, so I did lots of research – thoroughly reading their website, checking out their social media and researching their clients. Once I’d decided it was definitely the place I wanted to be, I emailed the co-founders of the agency with my CV and asked whether they would be free to meet for a coffee. In my email, I explained what really appealed to me about Riot – but also what I thought I could bring to the agency.
As someone who has made a successful speculative approach, here are my top tips for going after the job of your dreams:
- Fully tailor your email approach to the organisation. For a speculative approach to land, it has to be convincing. You need to demonstrate your passion and enthusiasm, and how strongly you feel about wanting to work for the company. A vague or non-specific email that could have been sent to any number of organisations won’t cut the mustard.
- Approach it as if you were responding to a job ad. You need to take it as seriously as if you were applying for an existing vacancy.
- Sell yourself, your skills and your experience. A big part of a speculative approach is convincing the company that you’ve done your research, you understand what they do and it’s something you feel very passionately about. BUT, as soon as you present yourself as a potential employee you’ll start being evaluated, so you need to communicate your skills, experience and what you feel you would bring to the company.
- Attach a CV. This should also be tailored to the company you’re approaching. It shows that your pitch is considered and thoroughly thought-through; you’ve taken the time to rewrite your CV – you’re not just firing off a load of emails in the hope that something will hit the mark. Remember to make clear why your experience would help you in this role and only include things that are relevant.
- If the role might involve copy-writing of any kind, seize the opportunity presented by your covering letter/email. It’s a chance to prove that you can write compellingly and with flair. Avoid repetition and triple check your grammar. Read the email aloud before sending it, to check it flows well and is engaging and interesting for the reader.
- Be reasonable and respectful. It’s a good idea to suggest a coffee meeting, over which you can talk more about your experience and why you think you’d be the perfect fit for the company, but try not to come across too forcefully. Don’t demand a meeting as, if they’re not recruiting, it might not be a priority for the company at that moment. It’s polite to explain that you can see they’re not currently recruiting, but that you’re getting in touch because you’d like to be front of mind the next time that they are.
- Don’t assume the HR department/recruitment lead is the best way in. Do your research on current employees and, if you find someone with whom you have a shared interest/passion/specialism, why not reach out to them? It might be more impactful as they’re less used to being approached about jobs and they could become your champion within the organisation when your application is being discussed.