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How to Contact Employers to Find Unadvertised Jobs

Many job openings are filled without ever being advertised. To access this hidden job market, don’t wait for just the right job posting—make the first move.


Try cold calling, emailing, writing a letter, or writing a proposal. Find employers that may have jobs that interest you, and contact them directly. Let them know what skills and experience you have to offer.

You cold call an employer to try to get a job interview. It is not the same thing as informational interviewing. This time, your objective is to convince employers that they should hire you.

Identify potential employers

If you don’t know who to contact as potential employers, here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Tell the people in your network. The Importance of Networking describes what a network is and why it's so important.
  • Research companies to find ones that may be a good fit.
    • Search online for employers in your community.
    • Browse employer websites.
  • Look for companies that have advertised jobs. You might not be a good fit for the posted job, but you might be able to bring value in a different position.
  • Network online and check out the websites of professional and industry organizations in your field.

Look for organizations of all sizes, not just large or well-known ones.  When you contact a small business, it may be easier to get through to the person who can hire you. In fact, it may be the owner who answers the phone.

Once you know the companies you are interested in working for, contact them whether they have a current job posted or not.

Prepare your pitch—what you are going to say

You will probably have only a few minutes with a potential employer, so you need to make the most of it. That means being ready to say who you are and what you have to offer. You will need to capture the employer’s attention and leave them with a positive impression.

Prepare and polish a pitch for each employer. When writing your pitch, make sure to:

  • Keep it under 60 seconds. Read your pitch aloud and use a stopwatch to see how long it takes you to say everything.
  • Be clear, confident, and natural. Avoid sounding too formal or rehearsed.
  • Tailor it to the person or organization you’re contacting.

Your pitch should also include:

  • Your name
  • Who referred you, if someone did
  • 1 or 2 highlights from your background—for example, your education and work history
  • The type of position you’re looking for
  • A brief statement about the company that tells the employer you’ve done your research—for example, “With all the new contracts your company has lined up, I thought you might be looking for someone with my kind of construction experience.”

For in-person or phone contacts, practise your pitch with a friend. End your pitch by asking for a job interview.

For email contacts or if you write a letter:

  • Use your pitch as the opening paragraph.
  • In the next paragraph, show the employer what you can do for the company. Before you write the email or letter, research the company so you’re able to identify the current potential need and match it to your specific skills and background.
  • Explain why it would benefit you and the employer to meet.
  • Ask for an interview in your closing paragraph, and give a date and time you will call to see if an interview is possible.
  • Keep it short and attach your resumé.
  • If you’re sending an email, create a subject line that’s intriguing and will ensure your message is not mistaken for junk mail.

Consider writing a specific proposal

You may decide to write a proposal if you hear about a specific challenge an employer is struggling with—one that you are qualified to handle.

Your proposal could take the form of a concise letter that includes the following information:

  • Background information such as a reference to previous discussions with the employer
  • A short description of the challenge the employer faces and the best outcome
  • Some brief suggestions for how you would handle the situation
  • The skills and experience you bring to the challenge
  • When you could begin and complete the project
  • The fees and expenses you would charge
  • When you’ll contact the employer to follow up

Don’t provide all the details of how you would solve the challenge. The employer could take your ideas and ask an employee or someone else to do them.

Choose your method of making cold calls

You can make a cold call in person, over the phone, by email, or by regular mail. Consider the pros and cons for each of these methods.

In person


    • Most effective if you are looking for unskilled, semi-skilled, or sales-related work
    • Impresses employers who are looking for outgoing people
    • Can create a good first impression of your appearance and manner


    • Requires lots of self-confidence
    • Is time-consuming
    • May cost money for transportation
    • Employers may prefer to meet by appointment only
    • May be difficult to get past the receptionist

By phone


    • Lets you contact many employers in a short time
    • Is harder to ignore than an email or letter
    • Can be effective for most types of work


    • Requires good phone skills
    • May be difficult to reach the right person if the receptionist screens cold calls or there is an automated phone system
    • You have less than a minute to convince an employer to talk to you

By email


    • Works well for resumés that show credentials, skills, or work experience that are directly related to the job
    • Is faster than by regular mail
    • No mail or long-distance call costs


    • Must be well-written
    • Requires you to check your email often
    • Might get ignored
    • May end up in the employer’s junk email folder

By mail


    • Works well for resumés that show credentials, skills, or work experience that are directly related to the job
    • Employer may be impressed that you took the extra time to send a letter


    • Has a low response rate
    • Is not as effective if lots of people are looking for work in your field
    • Is time-consuming
    • Must be well written
    • Costs money for supplies and postage

When you are deciding which contact method or methods to use, think about:

  • Your personality and communication skills. Do you usually make a good first impression when you meet people? Contact employers in person. Do you get compliments on your “phone voice”? Give employers a call. If you know you can write an excellent business letter or email, contact employers in writing.
  • Your qualifications. Which method will best showcase what you have to offer?
  • The type of work you want. How do most employers hire people for the type of work you want? For example, do they use employment agencies or campus placement offices to fill some positions, but not others?
  • Your work history. If your work history has gaps in it that are hard to explain briefly or in a positive way, contact employers in person or by phone. On the other hand, if your qualifications look better on paper, a well-written cover letter and resumé or email may get you the best results.
  • Your situation. If you live far from these potential jobs, you may have to rely on your phone or writing skills.

Identify who you will contact

No matter which contact method you use, you need to address a specific person:

  • In person. Call before you go and ask the full name of the person who does the hiring for the type of work you want. Find out when this person may be available or whether you can make an appointment. When you walk in, ask for the person by name.
  • By phone. Ask for the name of the person who does the hiring. Either ask to talk to that person or call back another day and ask for the person by name.
  • By email or mail. Address your messages to specific people (not “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To whom it may concern”). You may find names and addresses on the company website or through networking.

Keep names and contact information in one place. Make notes about when you contacted people and how they responded.

Make contact with potential employers

The more experience you have contacting employers, the easier it gets. Being prepared with your pitch will help you feel more comfortable.

Make sure you have an updated resumé. Have it by the phone when you call. Send it as an attachment with an email. Enclose a copy with a letter. Leave it with employers you meet, even if you are told there are no openings. Politely ask when you can check again.

Follow up

Use your list of names and contact information to follow up each cold call.

  • Follow up about 2 weeks later.
  • If you sent or left a resumé, ask if they have any questions about it. If they don’t have your resumé, ask if you can send it.
  • Ask for an interview. The worst thing that could happen is that the employer says no. The best thing? You get that interview.

When doing cold calls, act professional and be gently persistent. You never know when you will connect with an employer who’s hoping to hire someone with your qualifications and experience.

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