Do Employers Know You Exist?

This week, two clients let me know they had secured jobs, one in the legal field, the other in fashion. After I congratulated them, I asked about the process they had used to secure their initial interviews.

What they told me was interesting and useful for other job seekers. Basically, instead of doing what many people do when looking for a job (i.e. taking a ‘shotgun’ approach by sending out a bunch of resumes to unspecified individuals or  general HR email addresses in response to ‘cattle call’ job postings), they both engaged in direct employer outreach.

Simply stated, direct employer outreach involves contacting potential employers who may not be currently seeking employees for employees for a particular job, but who seem to a job seeker like they would be a good fit for that individual. In addition, both clients accompanied their direct employer outreach with a robust networking strategy.

This approach really paid off for both clients, so I’m going to walk through how they used direct employer outreach strategy to land their new jobs, because it could work for you, too!

1. Make a List of Criteria

Prior to reaching out to potential employers, both clients identified a list of criteria they were looking for in an employer. Here are a few questions they asked themselves (their ‘criteria) when determining whether a company would be a good fit for them:

  • What skills do I want to use and develop, and does the company have positions that utilize these skills?
  • Is the company doing work in my field of interest or expertise?
  • Do I share the company’s beliefs/values/ethics?
  • Would working for the company involve a commute for me, and how do I feel about that?
  • Is the size of company right for me (i.e. would I prefer a large, corporate environment, for example, or perhaps a small, family-owned employer)?
You can add more criteria of your own.

2. Make a List of Companies

Using a variety of resources (a few are listed at the end of this post) and based on the criteria they established, my two clients also created a spreadsheet of all of the companies where they wanted to work. One client was very focused, and her list only included organizations in New York in a specific field (corporate law). The other client’s list was more complicated, and his spreadsheet contained several tabs because he was interested three cities as well as three different industries and occupations (check out the Occupational Outlook Handbook for a comprehensive list of hundreds of occupations).

3. Make Contact

Next, after completing their target employer spreadsheets, they looked at each company’s website to see if it had a “Career” or “Employment” page where they could submit their cover letter and resume. If they couldn’t send their resume via the company’s website, the two job seekers called the companies and asked, “Who should I send my cover letter and resume to?”

If the employer responded with, “We’re not hiring now,” the candidates replied saying they would like to have their documents on file. This was a particularly smart move on their part, because you’d be surprised by how many employers do save and refer back to your application materials!

4. Send Cover Letters

In addition, as they were compiling their lists, they sent compelling cover letters highlighting:

  • Their knowledge of the company
  • What skills they have offer (their brand)
  • Their connection to the city (if from out of town)
  • Their flexibility and availability to interview.

Both received emails requesting additional information! In addition, one was invited to interview in person, and the other interviewed over the phone. Along with their employer outreach tasks listed above, both kept their interviewing skills sharp by conducting informational interviews to continue preparing for interviews with potential employers who responded to their inquiries.

Bottom Line

Don’t just wait for employers to post jobs. That’s the most passive, inefficient and ineffective way to look for work. Submitting your application inquiries and materials directly to companies that seem like a good fit for you, and demonstrating how you would be an ideal fit for them now, or in the future, not only shows them you want to work for them, it shows initiative and proactivity – qualities that employers are always looking for.

Employer Research Resources:


Vic has a passion for working with students and professionals who are preparing to establish careers on a global stage. He has extensive experience in leadership, career and organizational development in both the public and private sectors. Currently, he is a career counselor and adjunct associate professor for the University of Minnesota Law School, where he provides career path, job search strategy, and life-work balance counseling for law students, alumni, and foreign-trained attorneys. He is also principal of Cygnus 360, a career development consultancy that helps career counselors, career services offices, and clients with their career needs which include creating their brands using social networking tools and other technology. Vic is currently serving on the board for the National Association for Legal Career Professionals (NALP). He is a former board member for the Minnesota Career Development Association (MCDA), past president of the Minnesota Legal Career Professionals City Group, and former director of learning for the Minnesota Organization Development Network.  You can follow Vic at Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

Related posts:

  1. Get a Job That Doesn’t Exist (Yet)
  2. Are Employers Taking Advantage of the Difficult Job Market?
  3. Personal Branding Advice from the World’s Most Attractive Employer: Google

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