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How to find jobs

Speculative enquiries

Looking for vacancies that are not on display is a bold move, but one that will certainly make you stand out to employers if done correctly. With canny research and careful contact with the right people, you may be able to land yourself a job which is not available to other graduates.

Quality, not quantity

Success will come from launching a few well-researched enquiries, rather than lots of stabs in the dark. By checking each business thoroughly before you make first contact, you will be more likely to find jobs that you are suited for, and companies that actually need you.

Research the industry as a whole, as well as individual businesses. Is the field growing? Try and focus your application on the sections of the business that look like they will need more staff in the future. A good place to start for this research would be the Prospects Industry Briefing page

First contact: Who to talk to

When making contact, there are two paths you can take.  You can either approach the Human Resources department (as you would a typical vacancy), or you can try and identify your potential manager.

HR will have a wide knowledge of all positions at the company, but it could be difficult to build a personal relationship, and rejection could be swift. It is also likely that HR will only be able to deal with positions that are openly advertised, but not up-coming opportunities.

Approaching a manager is a little riskier, as often their team (and consequent need for staff) will be smaller than the company-wide reach of HR. But if you have done your research and present yourself in the right way, you could build up a successful personal relationship, which will count very favourably towards your application. LinkedIn is a useful tool for finding the right person to talk to in the company. See our page on social networking for more information.

What to say

With this type of approach, it is best not to aim for a job from the off unless the company explicitly states that they welcome speculative enquiries. Instead:

  • Ask for an informational interview to help you learn more about the company
  • Enquire about work experience or internship opportunities

Both of these suggestions require less commitment on the part of the company, and demonstrate a genuine willingness on your part to learn more about the industry or company.

Initial contact should be via telephone. Use a phone call to identify who is most appropriate to speak to and ideally, try and speak to them in person. If this is not possible, get their direct contact details and follow up in writing. Making an initial phone call also enables you to get a feel for the likelihood of them considering your request. When writing, make sure you take the time to fine-tune your tone and in turn allow the employer time to mull over your proposal. Address the letter to a specific individual, and maintain a personal tone. All the more reason to keep your pool of applications small but deep.

What next

If you are successful, and are invited to apply for a vacancy, then check out our pages on interviews and responding to job offers.

Be prepared to follow up. Even if you have a very positive initial conversation with someone at the organisation and are invited to send in a CV, it is unlikely that they will respond to you; they are probably busy with lots of other things to think about. If you have not heard from them within a couple of weeks, try telephoning them again. Be polite and professional; remind them who you are and of your earlier interaction and simply ask if they received your CV, what they thought of it, and so on.

If you are not immediately successful, then do not despair! Although you may not have a job to show for it, you have now made a personal and lasting impression on an employer. Do not be afraid to stay in touch with them, to ensure that they keep you 'on the radar'. When regular vacancies open up, your name will stand out and your CV will be on file. Beyond that, you will have built up a working knowledge of the company and its employees, putting you far ahead of other graduates.

Checklist 

  • Fully research the company - and define what you have to offer - before contacting them
  • Try and initially speak to the relevant person via telephone
  • Visit us before sending off the letter, so we can help you polish it
  • Attach your CV (double-checked by us) with up-to-date information and contact details
  • Be ready to explain why you are applying to a company without any (advertised) vacancies, rather than one of their hiring competitors
  • If you are initially seeking an internship, suggest appropriate dates. Similarly, dates for a face-to-face meeting encourage the potential for further contact, or even job interviews
  • Be proactive and prepared to follow up