Companies that haven’t publicly posted an open position can still have a need for specific kinds of talent. Their hiring managers and HR experts always have an eye out for candidates that fit current or future requirements; in fact, proactively-sourced candidates are one of the most common sources of hire, regardless of company size.

Given that fact, if you find a company you’re interested in working for, why take a wait-and-see approach? Here’s how to approach a hiring manager who doesn’t appear to be actively hiring, but may present you with an opportunity nonetheless. 

Referrals Are Nice, But Not Necessary

Although being referred to a hiring manager or internal recruiter is always ideal, don’t let a lack of connections hold you back. The best managers are always on the lookout for talented pros who can make a huge difference, explained Avery Blank, leadership strategist, principal and owner of Avery Blank Consulting. 

“Don’t think of this as a transaction,” Blank said. “You will be more successful if you think of each contact you make as an opportunity to learn and build relationships.”

You don’t need to find the perfect person to start a conversation, either. Rather, approach it as an ongoing dialogue; a hiring manager or recruiter will usually pass along your name to someone else. 

To get the ball rolling, search social media and trade publications to find the name of a potential hiring manager. Networking with your existing contacts can also yield results. Whether your reach the right contact or not, always thank each person you contact for their time and ask who else you should contact for more information.

That said, calling a hiring manager out of the blue or sending a copy of your résumé without being asked may come off as overly aggressive. Instead, do your research and reach out via email. 

Ask for Advice, Not a Job

Focus the opening paragraph of your email on the business or person you’re writing to, not the fact that you are looking to for a job, advised Danny Rubin, communication expert and founder of education firm Rubin. 

Asking for advice is a non-threatening way to establish a relationship and get the conversation started. To increase the odds of your email being read, consider a subject line such as: “Looking for advice.”

Best of all, the information you need to create a compelling, succinct email expressing interest in the manager and the company is “hiding in plain sight” on the company’s website.

“Read the company’s blog or press releases to find an accomplishment or award they are proud of,” Rubin noted. “Work that information into the opening lines of your email and explain that you would love to connect for 15 minutes to find out more about it.”

Provide context by explaining the reasons why the achievement drew your interest, or your comments could come off as disingenuous or spammy. After validating the company and manager, segue briefly into your background, what you're looking to do next, and why you're interested in the company and/or industry.

Create a Unique, Specific and Compelling Value Proposition

Before you reach out to a hiring manager, take the time to reflect on what you’re really looking for, what you bring to the table, and why this is a company where you can contribute and thrive.

Being thoughtful and intentional in expressing your goals and why you’re reaching out shows that you are serious about working for the company, not just fishing for a job. “Be your most authentic self,” Rubin said. 

Don’t use a lot of fluffy adjectives to describe your work accomplishments, projects or strengths. Simply explain that you are a software engineer in transition (for example) and why you are interested in advancing your career into A.I./ML. 

Don’t make the hiring manager feel like they’re reading a cover letter. Keep your message short, simple and transparent, since the recipients will form impressions of you with minimal information.

After all, your goal is to start a conversation with someone at your dream company. Build the relationships first and trust that the job opportunities will follow.

Follow Up

Give the hiring manager two business days to respond. If you don’t hear back, resend your email with an additional note stating: “Please let me know if you are interested and have time to discuss this week.”

If you still don’t get a response, try reaching out by phone. While you might feel uncomfortable following up, remember you have nothing to lose. And based on what the hiring data shows, approaching a company that doesn’t appear to be hiring can lead to good things.