I am sure, at least once in your career, that you’ve come across companies that piqued your interest. Perhaps you’ve been hearing about a certain company over and over again? What about an organization working on a project you’d love to join?

Here’s the good news: there are a few simple steps, described below, that will enable you to position yourself as an interesting candidate for them, regardless of your current title or whether they’re even looking for such a candidate at the moment.

Any company with a proper hiring and marketing strategy will be thinking about how to develop long-term relationships with potential candidates and future hires. If you’ve reached out to an HR representative, but haven’t received a response, this doesn’t mean that the game is over. It’s common for HR to be overwhelmed with applicants, and there’s simply not enough time in the day to get back to everyone.

Luckily, you have LinkedIn in addition to other social media platforms. These can help you to find the right contact within the relevant department at your company of choice. Alternatively, you can try to find personnel information on a company’s website. You’re not as dependent on HR as you might think. You can contact a hiring manager or someone that seems as though they might be your potential team lead. You can even try the owner/founder, though it may take a while for them to get back to you. In the event your first point of contact isn’t able to help, you can always ask them to connect you with someone who can.

Before contacting anyone, make sure your profiles on LinkedIn and your other networks are both professional and current. Bear in mind that now companies evaluate your entire online presence. For tips on how to ensure you’re coming across as a reliable professional, have a look at my article, Present Yourself Online Well .

In any case, here’s what you need to do:

Decide whether to update your LinkedIn status

There is no need to state you are actively looking for a job, even if you are open to new opportunities, and especially if you are currently employed. Recruiters will often contact anyone they encounter who fits the needs of their clients, and so you don’t have to worry about seeming “invisible” to them just because you haven’t updated your status to reflect that you’re open to new opportunities. That said, it can help to declare that you are looking for something new, if only to raise your visibility with hiring managers.

Work on your online presentation and personal branding

In addition to describing your soft and hard skills, mention your beliefs and personal philosophies. Talk about your career goals and your vision for what your life might look like - this will send a clear message to your target companies if your ideas align with theirs. Here, generic is better than specific, as it’ll help you to cast a wider net while still avoiding companies that aren’t a good match.

Do your research ...

- on the company. I assume that if you’re ready to reach out to a company you like, you’re already quite familiar with them. Just in case, it never hurts to consult an organization’s website, social profiles, blog, and events listings to learn more about its vision, mission and culture.

- on the hiring manager. There are a few reasons why companies won’t typically name a hiring manager in job descriptions. They don’t want the hiring manager to get bombarded by external recruiters, nor do they want said recruiters to attempt any poaching. Many companies also prefer for an applicant’s first contact to be with HR. You should still try and identify a potential team leader via the company’s website or LinkedIn, based on their title, team name, accomplishments or recommendations.

- on other open vacancies. Review other open roles at your target company, even ones unrelated to your field of expertise, to gain a fuller understanding of their processes, teams, and technology. Be on the lookout for anything notable that you can mention while reaching out.

- on their events. Search for past, current and future events and review the comments on Facebook, Meet.up, Twitter or any other relevant social media platforms or event space websites. This will give you an idea of how the company is perceived within a wider community, and how it engages with people. You may encounter some key figures who could be worth contacting when making your pitch.

- within your network. Reach out to friends, colleagues, and other individuals in your network who have experience with your target employer. They may be able to provide you with useful insights not only into the company, but also its interview process, personnel, management style, and more.

Educate yourself

After you’ve done your research, you may come to realize that you haven’t progressed far enough in your career to meet the requirements of the open role that you want. This is fine, and by no means should you give up now. Contact the people you’ve identified and ask them for some advice. They could help you with appropriate links, relevant expertise, or perhaps even invite you to key events. You might be able to meet them and pick their brains about how you can make yourself a more attractive candidate in the near future. Armed with these insights, you’ll be better prepared to set a plan for your priorities over the next three, six months, or more.

This can lead you to some conclusions about your current job as well, as you’ll be able to assess whether your career path is leading you where you want be.

Get it done

If you feel you’ve done enough—updated your online profiles, performed your research, educated yourself—here’s what to do next:

- When the company is advertising the role you want: Respect their chosen method of communication and utilize the provided contact form, contact person, or application portal mentioned at the end of job description. Though it’s considerate to submit your application as requested, many other people are doing the same thing, and you might not get a response. Remember, as we discussed above, it’s not the end of the line if HR doesn’t get back to you.

- When the company is hiring: If they’re hiring, but not for a role matching your skills, don’t be discouraged. Reach out regardless and request that their HR department inform you when they have a role for which you would be suitable. Feel free to request feedback at this stage on your soft and hard skills.

- When the company is not hiring: If you can’t find any mention of open roles, consider reaching out to someone there who has the job you want. Ask about the company’s current situation: who the team leader is, how the future is looking for the department, and when they think a role might open up. *

* Remember: many companies have a referral program (reward for their employees for recommending candidate who will get hired) in place and is in their own interest to be responsive to such requests.
  • Have you experienced similar situations in the past?
  • I’d be glad to learn from you.
  • For more detailed personal advice, please feel free to contact me.