The process of seeking new job opportunities can be time-consuming and even a bit disheartening, especially if you’ve been at it for a while. Once you find the job opening of your dreams, though, you may have to wait for an offer to come your way or move the process forward yourself by asking the prospective employer for a job.
Since asking for a job can be an intimidating experience for many people, we’ve put together this play-by-play guide on when, where, and how to ask for a job. Whether you’re new to the job market or are looking for a new career trajectory, you can follow the steps outlined below to increase your chances of landing a coveted position.
When should you ask for a job?
Finding the right time and place to ask for a job is key. You’ll want to put yourself in situations where it’s easy to interact with hiring managers, human resources (HR) personnel, recruiters, and others who can make hiring decisions or recommend you to someone who has the authority to make you an offer.
The idea is to be proactive in your approach to landing a job. For instance, you can:
Approach businesses you know are hiringTake advantage of opportunities at job fairsWork the room at networking eventsExpand the scope of informational interviews
When a business advertises that they’re hiring
The lowest-lying job-hunting fruit is, of course, the company or business that’s publicly advertising to fill open positions. The trick is to find those companies and find the right contact to approach for a job.
Start by making a list of companies and organizations you’d like to work with. Go to each company’s website and find their career or jobs page. It might take some searching — these pages can be listed in fine print in the footer of the home page or you might find them under the “About Us” menu — but you should eventually find where the company lists its open positions.
You can also search for particular companies on online job boards like Indeed or ZipRecruiter or a social media site like LinkedIn’s jobs pages to see what positions they’re advertising.
Job fairs can offer loads of opportunities for job hunters who know how to distinguish themselves from the rank-and-file attendees. One of the benefits of attending job fairs is that you can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. With the possibility of several attractive employers congregated under one roof, you can meet with several potential employers in just a day.
Companies that devote the time and resources to sending recruiters to job fairs are often ready to hire people on the spot or at least set up real-time interviews at the fairs. To make the most of your time at the job fair, do advanced research on the companies that will be there and be prepared to show off your knowledge. Be sure to dress professionally and bring plenty of copies of your resume to share with potential employers.
Look for networking events where people in your field will be in attendance. Opportunities to network present themselves at conferences, trade shows, seminars, round tables, lunch-and-learns, and professional association meetings, to name just a few. If there’s an opportunity to mingle with people who can help you in your job search — this can even include an informal meeting, like a happy hour where people in your field tend to congregate — take it.
Networking events offer the opportunity to mix business with social interactions. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with a possible employer or ask for job and career advice from the people you meet. While outright asking a potential employer to hire you may not be appropriate, you can certainly offer to exchange business cards and ask if you can contact them to set up an informational interview or talk about career matters informally over coffee.
Often, hiring managers are all too happy to engage with prospective employees at networking events. In fact, one of the primary reasons they might be attending the event could be to connect with promising new talent.
The informational interview is one of the best ways to get your foot in the door with a specific company or in a particular field. It provides a way to connect with a person who’s in a position to help you move forward in your career while learning more about what opportunities might exist.
The purpose of an informational interview is to pick the brain of a person who’s in the know about what it takes to succeed in a certain job or career. The questions you’ll typically ask in an informational interview surround topics like what type of experience and/or education is needed to be considered for a certain position and how to get started in the industry (especially if you’re just out of school, changing careers, or new to the area). You can also ask for insight into whether the industry is poised for expansion and whether there are current openings that might align with your skills.
Think of an informational interview as a kind of “soft selling” opportunity where you can also promote your background and skills, offering tidbits about your own qualifications and goals during the course of the conversation. It takes a bit of finesse to pull off this subtle type of self-promotion, so you might want to practice with a friend if you’re new to one-on-one networking.
You won’t be asking for a job during an informational interview but, hopefully, you’ll walk away with a solid new connection and some insight into any existing or future job openings.
After a successful job interview
Believe it or not, sometimes the best way to secure a job is at the end of a successful interview. Often, the person you’re interviewing with will end an interview with something like, “Thank you for your time. We’ll be in touch,” or, “We’ll get back to you soon with the next steps.”
Your instinct might be to thank them for their time, go home, and send back a polite “thanks for the interview” note. Instead, why not just ask for the job then and there? It certainly can’t hurt, especially when you know that the interview went extremely well. Try saying something like, “I’m now more certain than ever that I can bring value to your organization and the position. If you agree, is there anything preventing you from extending me an offer?” Even if you don’t get a job offer right away, you’ve let the recruiting or hiring manager know how enthusiastically you want to join their company, and that’s always a feather in your cap.
Ways to ask for a job
When it comes to actually putting in your application for a job, there are three basic ways to go:
You can apply onlineYou can reach out via emailYou can apply in person
Today, the majority of companies post job listings on their website or an online job board. If you see a posting that’s a good fit, go ahead and apply online. It’s the fastest and easiest way to connect your credentials to the open position.
However, your approach doesn’t have to stop there. You can always follow up your online application with a note to the HR or hiring manager. If you don’t have the name of the recruiter, try searching the company’s website or LinkedIn profile to find an appropriate contact. Then, drop them a quick note via email to introduce yourself and let them know you’ve applied for the position.
Ask for your application to be considered and even see if they’d be willing to discuss the open position with you on the phone or answer some questions via email. It can’t hurt to try to distinguish yourself from the slew of online applications and resumes most companies receive in response to public online ads.
However, be sure to note if the job posting prohibits phone calls or emails. If that’s the case, don’t violate this edict. Instead, look for a personal contact at the company who might be able to introduce you to a hiring manager or, at the very least, put in a good word for you.
Write an email
Even if there aren’t any active job listings for the position you’re seeking, you can still reach out to a prospective employer via email.
Do an internet search for companies you’d like to pursue opportunities with. Then, search the website of each company to learn everything you can about their hiring process and company culture. Browse the list of owners, partners, managers, and supervisors to find the appropriate person to connect with about a potential job. If you know someone at the company, see if they can help you locate and reach out to the right person for a job.
Before writing your email, do some research on the person to find out about their career path, professional experiences, and where they were educated. You’re looking for a way to connect on a more personal level. If you find that you both attended the same undergraduate program but at different times, for example, this is something you can bring up in your email.
Begin your email with a brief introduction. Tell them who you are, why you’re writing to them, and the role you’re interested in. Follow up with the reasons you’d be a good fit for the position, including your education, relevant skill set, and professional experience. If you have certain credentials relevant to the job — such as licenses or certifications — be sure to mention them. Keep the email short. There’s no need to reiterate everything that’s set forth in the resume you’ll be attaching. Instead, focus on highlighting the most important hard and soft skills you bring to the table.
Mention that you’ve attached your resume (and then, of course, attach it), thank them for taking the time to read your email, and then ask them for an interview either in person or by phone. Sometimes, these types of “cold call” emails will get forwarded to HR. If your goal is to connect with the person you’re writing to, consider asking them for an in-person or over-the-phone informational interview.
Your email should be clear, concise, and professional. Make sure the subject line aligns with your email’s purpose. For instance, your subject line could read, “Request for Informational Interview From Recent State University Graduate Jane Doe.”
Be sure to create a signature line for your email that has all of your contact information, including your name, email address, and phone number.
Sometimes, the best way to apply for a job is in person. This is often the case for the hospitality industry, retail sales jobs, and other positions that are public-facing, seasonal, or advertised with a storefront sign or online with a directive to apply in person during certain hours.
You want to make a good impression from the minute you walk through the door. Plan what you’ll say in advance. Introduce yourself, inquire about any available positions, and ask for a job application.
Show up armed with all of the information you need to fill out a typical job application. This can include a list of references who have already agreed to support your job search and the names and addresses of former employers and the schools you’ve attended.
Dress appropriately. Even though you might think you’re just popping in to pick up a job application, you never know if the person you’re interacting with is your potential future boss. Know enough about the job and its qualifications to interview on the spot if requested.
Change your career and your life
Pursuing a new job can be exciting, especially if you approach the process with the attitude that opportunities come to those who ask for them. Whether you’re looking for your dream job or a way to increase your income, it’s always a good idea to know how to ask for the job you want. To explore other skills to help in your job search, check out our free career resources.
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