Approaching a company without an established personal connection?

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 - Article, career management, career transition, CV Writing

Hannah asks: I would like to work for an employer where I presently don’t have an advertised position, and in which I have no personal connection. What is the best way to approach the company?

In answer:

The first thing is to only pick out companies which you are wholly passionate about. Don’t go using this or any other direct approach in a mass-multiple manner – it will be seen as spam-like and desperate, and you will be rejected.

Secondly, you need to widen the net from one company. This approach system works best for up to 10 companies, so accepting the often high reject ratio’s of direct approaches, you should choose a minimum of three companies.

The key issue for any job search, let alone a direct one, is research. I cannot stress this enough, because understanding of the company and the way in which it operates, and hence needs skills will pay dividends late in your success ratio. I also cannot stress this enough, because as a recruiter it is pretty obvious that most candidates are just photocopying job applications and expecting results. OK, sure that will work, but only on a metric of 1 in 100 applications. Good and thorough research takes around an hour online at maximum to be able to pick up on the key issues in any company, and improve that ratio to one in three or better.

Once you have done your research, you will have an idea of company structure, market, future focus, and key differentiators. What you are now going to do is to use that research to: write to the best person (structure); with a why them agenda (passion/market); about how your skills (future focus); will help them deliver (differentiator/passion). I hope you now understand why the research bit is so essential – better than spending an hour at a photocopier.

Now you have your target person, you need to find a way of getting to them. A few years ago, you could just write a great Cover Letter – and that still has many advantages; but now Social Networking allows you to test your research and gain an advantage if you can find an insider.

Using online social networks, you should find people who work in that organisation; who already does the job you think you would like, or re close to your targeted person – I would start with LinkedIn. Send that person an eMail asking for specific advice; not a job:


  • Be up front in your first sentence about who you are and why you are writing. (ie: I’m a student at…interested in entry level PR work. Could you help me with a couple of questions?)
  • Then say why you selected that person and be specific. (I found your profile in LinkedIn and the work you doing at … really interests me .. something that I am considering doing.) 

Then ask specific questions. (ie How did you land your first PR job right out of college? What key things do you look for in an entry-level person? Who should I speak with about intern programs?) Make your questions about things you really want to know. 

Sometimes people worry about “bothering” someone but what you are doing is exploring a possible business transaction which trades your time, skills and talent for their money. The idea is to show respect for the person and their time and still get best possible advice there is…from someone really doing the job.

Lets say that doesn’t work, or you find the contacts you make either are incapable of making an introduction or are negative on the companies hiring prospects: but you still want to work there, as it is one of at least three companies you are truly passionate about working for. You need to write a job pack, consisting of:


  • Cover Letter – with a call to action
  • CV
  • One academic or relevant job-orientated reference – the only time a reference should be included with a job application. Make sure they are pre-briefed
  • A 2page case study: I often suggest taking an existing problem the company has – either a situation or a product for instance (and you will know it’s a problem, because you will have done your research). Use: situation, problem, assessment, strategic options, tactical choices, plan – as the format of that case study: keep it high level

Bind this with a clear cover (ie – showing the Cover Letter), and a card-back, and send it postal service recorded delivery. If you are into media or the arts, you can clearly jazz it up a bit with some evidence of your creative ability (not too much), but if the normal guideline is black and white and simple.

If you have done the research, then you should at least get a phone call – probably from someone in HR, so be prepared. Then its up to you and their standard applicant vetting system.

Direct approaches are highly effective, and rather than using online system to spam every HR team with your CV, make good research and hence great jobs highly possible, if you do your research and focus your resulting approach.

Good Luck!

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One Response to “Approaching a company without an established personal connection?”

  1. Angelo Says:

    I am amazed with it. It is a good thing for my research. Thanks – Angelo

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