We often receive questions about unsolicited application and how to approach a future employer without being too forward in your approach and without risking rejection or no answer at all. In addition, we also receive queries on how to write the unsolicited applications in the various Nordic countries - and if there is a difference? The short answer is that the Nordic countries vary in how direct you should be.
We have also been asked several times if we have a template for a good unsolicited application. Unfortunately we don’t and there is no such thing as a perfect unsolicited application. An unsolicited application skips the “application queue” and make the employer aware of your existence. By skipping the queue, you will increase your chances for an interview and get the job. While there is no such thing as a perfect application, you can still be inspired by good examples of unsolicited applications.
Why are unsolicited applications so difficult?
Unsolicited applications usually involve some extra work:
- You need to frame (or initiate) a need in the employer, and then you need to be selected.
- It might appear chaotic and difficult to figure out where to start or which companies to prioritise.
- For some jobseekers, it might feel a bit intrusive and uncomfortable to contact a company directly without them having a advertised job.
Yet, unsolicited applications don’t have to be that complicated and they are not just for the self-confident “look at me” type of person. They can also be approached in a way that appear less ‘threatening’.
Pros and cons with unsolicited applications
There are several advantages with unsolicited applications. First, it shows that you are motivated to work for the company. Secondly, an advantage is that the company can save time and money on a recruitment process if the right candidate comes knocking on the door. In that way, it can be a win-win situation both for you as a jobseeker, and for the employer.
- You help create your future job and chose which competences you want to bring into play
- You are not in direct competition with other applicants
- You come across as a person that can take initiatives and is pro-active
- You can reach out to several organisations in a short time
A few factors to be aware of:
- You need to research the organisation’s potential needs
- You need to approach the organisation in the right moment and when they need to hire a candidate with your qualifications.
- If you don’t have a plan for the process, it can appear overwhelming.
A good starting point is to imagine that the application is a posted job. You should describe very precisely what you can offer and bring to the organisation. This can be something that they have previously requested in a similar posting. E.g. if you are a physiotherapist interested in working in Sweden, you can look at other job postings for physiotherapists in Sweden and include the requested competences in your unsolicited application.
It is important that you target your material and familiarise yourself with the concrete profile of the organisation and their future challenges. In that way it becomes easier for you to imagine what an interesting position in that organisation might look like.
Research is the road to success
The first step of the unsolicited application is to research the market with the purpose to get an overview of the different employers that are relevant for you. Try to obtain information about the industry, sector, customers, competition, strategy, finances, values, culture, and challenges that the organisation is facing. Old job postings are useful because they describe what type of tasks and assignments has been requested before. You can also see what competences and experiences that the company has previously emphasised. In addition to using the organisation’s website or LinkedIn, you can also contact the organisation to obtain this type of information. The relevant information depends on the position you are applying for. E.g. if you want to work with communication, it might be a good idea to study the organisation’s social media strategy or website. Besides, it is important to describe what you can contribute with based on your competences and experiences and what type of tasks you can solve.
When you find an organisation you wish to work for, try to find old job postings from the organisation. It can also be a competing organisation, who could likely looking for a similar profile as the organisation in question. One way to see what companies in various industries are requesting is to look at old job advertisements at e.g. jobindex.dk in Denmark, Platsbanken in Sweden or Finn.no in Norway.
The information you obtain in the initial phase can be used to “exhaust the industry”. If you spent time researching for an unsolicited application to a specific company, you can use this information to apply for other positions in similar companies and organisations. If you apply for a job as a physiotherapist in Mamö municipality, you can easily consider the options in the neighbouring municipalities and send them an unsolicited application. See also the section on Linkedin on how to see what others with a similar profile as yours are doing, or related companies.
Example on how to get an overview of the application process. It is often difficult to remember both which organisations, and when you have been contacting the various actors. A good advice is to make an overview in excel with the most essential information and exchanges. This enables you to track your progress and different agreements.
|Example 1||Example 2|
|Organisation||Halland County||Malmö Municipality|
|Contact person||Peter Petersen||Isa Isaksen|
|Type of application||Unsolicited||Posted job|
|Assignments||Strategic work with ill citizens||Work at the municipality clinic|
|What did I ask about?||Called to ask about work-life balance||Only sent application and CV|
|Reply to inquiry||
Help finding housing
|Follow up||No available positions, possibly in two months.||Application deadline exceeded, call and follow up.|
|Input||Peter recommended contacting Halmstad county for job openings||Malmö municipality has a job database on XXX|
How do I approach the organisation?
There are many ways to approach a company or organisation of interest. Our best advice is trying out several different methods. The first step is to contact the organisation in case you can’t find the answer to your question by looking on their website. The approach could be:
The short one:
“Hello, I am xxx. I have heard great things about your company, and I am interested in working for you. Can I send you my CV?”
This strategy is fast and efficient; however, you are missing out on the opportunity to get more information about the company for your application and CV. Besides, you are not in dialogue with the person that will receive your application. In short, you risk having your application ending up in the trash bin.
The targeted one
Call and request to speak with the person responsible for recruitments within your field of interest. When you reach that person, make sure the person has time to speak with you. If not, try to arrange a meeting on another time
Example of a call:
“Hello, this is xxx talking. I recently finished my thesis within xxx and is now looking for my first job. I am reaching out to you because I heard about your company through xxx, and I think it sounds interesting with xxx. Do you have a moment?”
Ask questions such as:
- What are the identified needs of the company/department right now?
- What do you focus on when hiring new co-workers?
- Are you interested in receiving an unsolicited application from me?
If the answer is “no” on the last question, ask whether there might be other areas within the organisation where your competences might be relevant.
By using this strategy, you get information that you can use to target your application. When speaking with the right person and showing your interest, you increase the chances that someone will read your application.
The network-based one
Find out if you have a person in your network who is familiar with company or has a connection. The easiest way is to search for the company on Linkedin. If you know someone who is working for (or used to work for) the company, you can get more useful information for your application. With the network-based approach you can also get information about the person you are trying to contact. Perhaps even better, someone in your network can put in a word for you before you contact your potential future boss.
The thorough one
With this approach, you try to establish a contact by sending your CV before you make the call. The email should be polite, to the point and motivated. E.g.
I am writing to you because I would like to contribute to the work of xxx (name of company) by xxx (overall assignment/role). I have experience with xxx (your relevant experience) with training/education in xxx (if relevant).
Therefore, I believe I can contribute with:
Knowledge in xxx
Insights in xxx
Relevant experience with xxx
(Possibly, you can add some extra information about your motivation, but keep it short)
Attached you find my CV. I am contacting you in three days to discuss future possibilities”.
An example of the follow-up call:
Hello, my name is XXX, I sent you an email with my CV. Did you get the opportunity to look at it?
Great, what are your thoughts, are there any openings or possibilities for my profile?
If no: Okey, should I call back on Thursday around 13h? (be specific)
If they are not interested: can you think of someone else, it might be interesting for me to talk with?
It is extremely difficult to write unsolicited applications, and you will experience many rejections. With that said, we have summarised these tips:
- Be curious
- Find 20-30 companies/organisations to contact
- Approach the unsolicited application in different ways: by email, calling, or meet up
- Be prepared to shift strategy if you don’t get the desired result
- Send your application in the evening, especially Sunday evening is good, otherwise there is a risk your email is getting drowned in other external or internal emails.
- If possible, find the right person to contact – preferably the manager of the department/division
Sending out unsolicited applications means receiving many rejections and doors shut. The rule of thumb is that you will receive 25 rejections for 1 yes. However, this one “yes” is enough for you to get your dream job.