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How to Approach a Company That's Not Actively Hiring

A group of business people shaking hands at a meeting.

Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column. 

I'm happy in my HRIS job, but there are three or four exceptional companies I would be interested in joining. Loading my resume into their databases could work, but then again it might not. Are there other ways I can make contact without being unprofessional or causing offense?

There are two approaches you can use in job searches: marketing and sales. Marketing is positioning yourself in places where your target employers will be more likely to see you, such as in the company's resume database. This is a good start, but it doesn't guarantee that you will be discovered or that an interview will ensue.

The sales part of a job search focuses on entering into conversations with potential employers as often as you can. Finding and talking to the people with the authority to hire you is the logical way to go, and in your situation it's a must.

Making contact like this is scary for most people. Yet at a time of immense talent shortage, most HRIS managers are on the lookout for talent; therefore, it's unlikely they would take offense at hearing from an experienced HRIS professional.

How to Identify and Target the Right People

First, you need to identify the titles—senior vice president of HR, HRIS manager, HR director—that have the authority to hire you. Typically, these job titles are one to three levels above your target job.

You can then cross-reference your social media contacts in a couple of ways to find out the names of the people who hold those titles. Conduct LinkedIn searches using the target company name and the title you want to reach; you may well find the names of the people you need. If that doesn't work, repeat the search using just the target company name to find people who work or have worked at that company. Connecting with these people can often result in valuable information about those high-value titles most likely to be involved in the selection process.

Once you have names to go with the titles, you need contact information. First, call the company and ask for the people's e-mail addresses. If that doesn't work, check your social media contacts for people who are currently working at that company or who worked there previously. By looking at their company e-mail addresses, see if you can figure out the company's e-mail address protocol—for example,, or Then apply that protocol to the names of the people you're trying to contact, and you most likely have their e-mail addresses.

If this doesn't work, try, an enormous database of sales leads. You pay for a month's membership (about $80) and are likely to be able to find titles, names and contact information for a good percentage of the people you are trying to reach at these companies.

Go Fishing

You have already uploaded your resume into the database, which gives you one baited hook in the water and one chance of catching a fish. But you can increase your odds tenfold.

To do this, write an e-mail about what you do and why you are interested in the company. Then attach your job-targeted resume and send the e-mail to each of the three people you've identified as being most likely to be able to hire you. Do not mention that you have already uploaded your resume to the database. Now you have four baited hooks in the water.

The rarity of receiving traditional mail makes this next approach unusually effective. People rarely get traditional mail at work these days, and when they do, they take notice. So turn your cover e-mail into a cover letter, print it and your resume out on nice paper, and put it in a big envelope so the resume doesn't get folded; I guarantee it will get opened. You can create a sense of urgency by sending it Priority Mail—and now you have seven baited hooks in the water.

I shared this tactic with a client last year, and the following week he sent an e-mail that cracked me up: "Martin, I sent out five overnight mail resumes last week, and I'm disappointed because I've only had calls on three of them," followed by a smiley face.

Finally, further increase your chances of landing an interview by picking up the phone and calling each of those contacts.

Initiating conversations with the right people, instead of just uploading your resume and crossing your fingers, can boost your odds of receiving job offers at your target companies.


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