How to Apply When There is No Open Vacancy

Many people I’ve met think that you shouldn’t apply to a company that doesn’t advertise a vacancy suitable for your profile. However, sending your CV to the firm is often the best (if not only) way to let them know you exist! Very specialist companies or small firms don’t have funds (or manpower) to advertise their vacancies widely. An application sent directly indicates that the candidate behind it knows about the firm and his motivation to join it is high, so in many cases this is the ideal person to talk to when an employment need arises.


When you decide to apply to a company not currently advertising any vacancy you want to do it right. Here’s my checklist:

 Find a proper contact

Establish who is the most appropriate person to contact. This could be an HR person, but in many cases it can be company owner or even office manager. How do you find out who the relevant person is to send your CV to? Check the firm’s website. In many cases it clearly indicates how to apply if you are interested in working for the company. Browse past openings that you manage to find on the web – they can contain details of the person responsible for recruitment. On LinkedIn, try to find profiles of HR employees at the firm you are interested in and choose the most senior one. Alternatively, call the firm directly and ask. You don’t have to be afraid – they’ll either tell you or not, and after all, you can always put down the receiver if it becomes awkward and they’ll never know it was you! I’d love to give you a single universal guide to such a call, but each company is organized differently. The best bet is to ask to speak with the HR department, and if it turns out they don’t have one, simply ask the receptionist who she/he would advise sending your CV to. Don’t be shy and don’t lie. Be honest about your purpose. The receptionist is there to help you reach the right person and can give valuable advice.

Be short and concise

Once you have the name of the person in charge of processing applications, prepare your message. Nowadays, it’s common to email your CV However, there might be different custom in your part of the world. Let me know in the comments!

When sending your application by email, always give a few introductory sentences in your message. Last week I received a CV from a guy I didn’t know and had had no previous contact with. The email said: Dear Agnieszka, Please find my CV attached. Kind regards, John Smith. Now… I wondered what he expected me to do. And what he was interested in. Being added to our database? Being considered for one of the assignments, and if so, which one?

The chances are that the person receiving your message is dealing with numerous things during her working day. You want to make life a bit easier for her by clearly stating your purpose. With the example above, I would have much preferred to receive message like :

“Dear Agnieszka,

My name is John Smith and I am an experienced engineer with 10 year track record in designing and implementing manufacturing supply chain solutions.

As I am highly interested in exploring employment opportunities with your firm, I have taken the liberty of sending you my CV.

Should you require any additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly on 01234 567 890.

Kind regards,

John Smith”

You are welcome to copy and paste relevant parts of this example. Of course, you can write something different, but remember to keep it short and clear. Let them know why your profile might be of interest to them in the opening paragraph. Don’t make them figure it out themselves as they might not have the time to do so and will therefore not take an interest in your CV!

Don’t be afraid of being precise

I know it can be nerve-wracking to name exactly the position your are most interested in. Nerve-wracking because they might not consider you for any other role – effectively typecasting you. When I started to look for my first job many moons ago, a family friend and CEO of a big pharmaceutical company gave me some advice that proved well worth bearing in mind: “Always be specific, firms hate generalists”. He meant to approach potential employers with a clear idea of the position or role that I would like to be doing. This gives an impression of you being a candidate with vision, determination, ability to make decisions, commitment – all the good stuff that firms like in the prospective employees. And if they like somebody – more often than people imagine – they will start to consider the candidate in a wider perspective. There might not be a vacancy for the role you mentioned in your cover letter, but there may be a slightly different one where your skills are still a good match. And if they like you, they’ll give you a call.

What happens to your application

Ok, so companies do one of two things: they either file CVs or they delete them. Which one depends on 4 factors:

  1. how many general applications they get
  2. how big the HR department is (if there is one at all)
  3. how difficult it is to find suitable employees for their key positions
  4. what their hiring policy is

There are multiple combinations of these factors possible, so your CV can be either carefully filed or deleted straight away. There is also a third, more desirable option – it will be actioned quickly as you are just the person they’re looking for. It is difficult to know upfront what the approach of the firm is that you want to apply to. Take the risk and send your resume out, hoping for the best. After a week give them a follow-up call.. Introduce yourself and ask if they received your CV. The answer will most likely indicate what has happened to it.

If the company stores resumes in its database, they might still make use of it in a few months’ time. For this reason, applying direct works best as part of a long-term job search plan. However, if you are a niche specialist or have a few companies you’re particularly interested in, give it a go.

Have any of you ever sent your CV to a company that wasn’t advertising any vacancies? What was the outcome?

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