Did you know that only a small percentage of jobs are actually advertised?

Needle in a haystack

Why? Many companies recruit from existing staff. Others find people through word of mouth or networking sites like LinkedIn.

As a job hunter, it's frustrating to know there are opportunities out there that you can't see. But one way to tap into this hidden job market is making speculative approaches to companies you’d like to work for.

This just means contacting a company about opportunities, even if they haven’t advertised vacancies. Impress them enough and they could create a role for you. At the very least, you’ll strike up relationships with people who can keep you in mind for current and future opportunities.

Here are some pointers to make your approach a targeted hit, not a shot in the dark.

Research the company

Don’t send the same generic cover letter to multiple companies. Research each business thoroughly. In your letter demonstrate your knowledge and explain why you would love to work for them.

Contact the right person

‘Create your own contacts by using networking sites like LinkedIn’ Owen Davies, Careers Adviser

If you know which area of the business you'd like to work in, try to track down someone senior in that department. Search for company employees on sites like LinkedIn and Twitter or just call the company and ask to speak to the appropriate person. Go further than just speaking to the HR department – they will only deal with current vacancies. Make sure you talk to key employees who may have influence.

Make an impact

With an advertised vacancy you just need to tick the right boxes; with a speculative approach you need to wow the person. Put some personality into your cover letter. Be passionate about what skills and strengths you can offer the company and point out any areas of the business where you can fill a gap.

Be concise

Since the company is not officially recruiting, they’re under no obligation to read your letter. Keep it short and to the point  one page for your cover letter, no longer than two pages for your attached CV.

Keep your options open

Discuss roles you think you would be suited to, but let them know you’re open to other possibilities. If you’re willing to do work experience or an internship, say so.

Vary your approach

Don’t just put speculative cover letters and CVs through the post – email, phone and try to contact the right people via social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter. For more information, read Job hunting with social media.

Follow up

In your cover letter let them know you will follow up with a phone call in a week’s time. If they don’t have any openings in their department, ask them to forward your details to anyone else in the company who might be interested.

What next?

Ready to find an opportunity? Make sure your CV is up to scratch using My CV.