How to Get Your Foot in the Door at a Company That Isn't Hiring
We all have companies that make it to our “wish list” of sorts. They’re the employers with the mission statements so profound they bring tears to our eyes, with Instagram accounts so beautiful they’re worthy of every minute of stalking, and with company cultures that seem to scream: “Hey, you! You belong here.”
All of your fantasies are consumed by thoughts of finally landing a gig at that one amazing company. There’s only one problem: They aren’t hiring—at least not for a position you could fulfill.
Even if nothing comes of your message initially, you’ll have a direct and personalized way to reach out to a real person.
Do you feel like I just snapped my fingers in front of your face while you were daydreaming? I can’t blame you. Setting your sights on an employer that seems perfect for you is the stuff of dreams. But, realizing that you won’t be walking through those doors and seeing your name on their “Meet the Team” page anytime soon—well, that can seem like a straight up nightmare.
But, not so fas! You don’t necessarily need to wait for the perfect opportunity to be posted in order to wiggle your foot into the door at your dream company. There are a few things you can do to start forming connections and making a name for yourself right now—even if they aren’t currently hiring someone with your skillset.
1. Schedule Informational Interviews
Informational interviews are an effective tactic for forging any sort of professional relationship. (You shouldn’t be surprised to see it at the top of the list.)
If you have your sights set on eventually working for a particular company, there’s no time like the present to start getting to know a few of the key decision makers or people who work in your desired department. Plus, talking with people who work there currently is a great way to get a view of the inside and form some connections within the office.
Do some research using LinkedIn and the company’s website to find one relevant person you’d like to sit down for coffee with. Limit yourself to just one contact for now—believe me, news of a blanket message you sent to the entire sales department will spread like wildfire (and will likely result in zero responses for you).
Once you have your sights set on a certain person, send a friendly email or LinkedIn message to see if he or she would be willing to meet. Don’t stress yourself out about your message. It can be as simple as:
My name is [Your Name], and I currently work at [Company] as a [Position]. I enjoy what I do now, but my long-term career goals involve moving into [Industry or Position] with a company much like [Dream Company].
If you’re willing, I’d love to sit down and talk with you about your role at [Dream Company]. Do you have some time next week when I could buy you a coffee?
Meeting someone in person always makes much more of an impact than corresponding via email. So, make connections now and you’ll be the first to know when new opportunities open up—and, even better, you’ll already have made a memorable first impression.
Make connections now and you'll be one of the first to know when new opportunities open up.
2. Provide Value Up Front
Alright, buying coffee is a nice touch. But, is it enough to make someone think, "Wow, I absolutely have to keep in touch with this person!"? Not quite. Sorry, the $3 you spent on that complimentary cappuccino doesn't hold that much of an impact.
This is why a smarter strategy involves offering value up front—whether it's during your get-together or via email (which is helpful if you don't get a response to your request to sit down). Perhaps it's an insight from your point of view that would be harder for them to see from the inside. Share that idea (in a non-condescending way, of course). Or, maybe you just read an article about an awesome marketing strategy that you think they could successfully implement. Tell them about it!
Remember, you can't do all of the taking here—you need to be prepared to give as well. So, demonstrate what value you bring to the table, and the impression you make will be that much more positive (and memorable!).
3. Create Something
Here's the thing about getting hired: You know they'd love to have you on the team, if only you had a chance to show them what you were capable of. So, well, why don't you do just that?
Just because you haven't been given an offer letter and a stack of newly printed business cards just yet doesn't mean you can't go the extra mile to impress a dream company of yours. And, the very best way to do this is by completing something concrete that accurately demonstrates your skills.
If you're a content marketer, perhaps you could write a post that they may share on their blog. If you're a designer, you could create an awesome infographic or image for their social media accounts. If you're a photographer, take some high quality photos as one of their company events and then pass them along for their use. If numbers are more your thing, maybe you'll design a spreadsheet complete with formulas that would save them a ton of time.
Yes, this can be somewhat difficult to pull off when you don't know the ins and outs of the company and its processes. But, going beyond just telling them about your skills is sure to make a memorable impression and up your chances of actually landing a job.
4. Interact on Social Media
Many companies maintain an incredibly active presence on various social media outlets today, meaning it’s become an increasingly effective way to interact with prospective employers.
I’ve landed some freelance work from companies who stumbled upon my profile after I liked or retweeted something they posted. So, trust me when I tell you that time spent on social media isn’t always wasted.
This is a strategy you can use yourself to start to develop name recognition with the company you’ve set your sights on. Retweet a few of their posts every now and then or leave a friendly comment when they announce something positive on Facebook.
Yes, it seems like a miniscule amount of interaction. But, it really can make a big impact for you.
5. Use LinkedIn
I’ve sung the praises of LinkedIn more than I can even count—and for good reason. It’s a powerful tool to have during times when you’re desperately trying to get your foot in the door.
Let’s say you have dreams of working in the marketing department at Company XYZ. Using LinkedIn, you find Company XYZ’s page and begin surfing through their listed employees. While doing so, you find the profile of the marketing director.
What now? Should you simply peruse the information she has listed and then move on? Absolutely not—you should send a connection request with a brief, personalized message like:
My name is [Your Name] and I’m a [Position] at [Company]. I really admire the work you and the team are doing at [Dream Company] and would love to stay in touch with you.
Looking forward to staying connected!
Even if nothing comes of your message initially, you’ll have a direct and personalized way to reach out to a real person if and when a fitting opportunity is posted at the company.
6. Get Involved
Getting your foot in the door is all about making connections—and that's not something you'll be able to do while camped out on your couch.
Heading out and getting involved in volunteer opportunities, industry associations, and community groups is always a great move for your career, and that's especially true when you're aiming to get an in with a company you admire.
Want to be extra sneaky about it? Check out the LinkedIn profile of the contact you're most eager to connect with. Many professionals list associations and volunteer groups they're affiliated with. Find one that seems like the best fit for you, keep an eye on their upcoming events, and get out there! You never know who you'll meet.
7. Send Friendly Notes
Remember, your goal is to form relationships with a few key people that work at your dream company—not fire off canned message after canned message in an attempt to get an immediate response that says, “Where have you been all our lives?! Of course we’ll hire you!”
This means you need to be prepared to keep that relationship warm, even after the initial connection. And, this tactic is one of my favorite ways to do this.
You need to be prepared to keep relationships warm, even after the initial connection.
Every now and then, send a friendly and complimentary message to one of your contacts at the company. Perhaps it’s some kind words about a recent product or promotion they launched, or a genuine compliment on the website redesign. Or, maybe it’s an article you found fascinating that you think that person would be interested to read as well.
Regardless of the specifics, find some polite, no-pressure ways to stay in touch, and you’ll keep yourself top of mind in a way that isn’t overly pushy or obnoxious.
Here’s the thing that’s important for you to remember: Getting your foot in the door with your dream company isn’t necessarily something that’s going to happen overnight. You can’t just submit a resume—even if there are no open positions listed—and assume they’ll find the perfect place for you.
More often than not, getting an “in” will involve an investment in your time and energy (not to mention some patience) in order to form the right relationships and make a name for yourself. But, as always, anything worth having is worth working for. And, if you’re ultimately willing to put that work in, you’re bound to see the payoff sooner or later.