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Direct approaches

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As part of their proactive approach to the job market, 50+ jobseekers need to make direct (speculative) approaches to companies.

Share your knowledge with the customer about proactive job search, and that sometimes this may be the only way to get into companies who are not currently advertising, or who use an agency to recruit.

You should emphasise the importance of research. Targeted job applications have a greater chance of success in today’s jobs market.

A more general approach where the customer contacts a wide range of companies in a particular sector or locality, with a letter that specifies the skills and experience the person is offering, is one possibility, but in a tight jobs market this is unlikely to get the attention it deserves. So recommending a more targeted approach, with a hook that will get the attention of the reader is far more likely to be successful.

That said, advise the customer that the response rate could be less than 10 per cent, but that the approach is still well worth taking.

And it is possible for your customers to turn direct approaches into contacts by this process.

The process

  • Research companies to approach. If seeking hourly-paid/contract work get your customer to use their local knowledge to visit companies to see if they have any work, or are likely to in the future. If they are white collar or professional, suggest they use the Kompass business directory (most large libraries have copies) or the web to seek out the companies that offer the service or sell the product in which they have experience. This takes time.
  • Your customer should then research the individual organisation, to find out who would be the best person to write to (ideally the person to whom they would report). Does the organisation have any problems, needs, challenges, or opportunities they could help with?
  • Your customer should write a letter to the person in the company that they have identified, along the lines of: “I notice that …… and this is an area in which I have specific experience. At XXX I …… I would value the chance to meet you and discuss this in more detail, if you feel it could be of help to you.” They should keep the letter quite brief, enclose a short CV if relevant. The CV should support the letter fully, and be tailored to meet the circumstances. See the Resources menu for an example of a letter using a direct approach.
  • Ideally the company phones your customer and fixes a meeting, but if not, then they must follow up the approach asking to speak to the person to whom they wrote. Then they must talk with whoever deals with the phone-call, because they are unlikely to get through to the senior person that they wrote to: “I wondered if my letter might have been passed on to someone else?” They should then try and develop the conversation from there, finding out if there is anyone else they might speak to, whether the situation might change etc.
  • They should get the name of the person they are speaking to: “Thank you, you’ve been most helpful, may I just ask who I have been speaking to?” because he or she is now a new contact they can use, and next time they can phone and use their name rather than write.

This case study illustrates how one jobseeker found work through using a targeted approach.

Case study 1: direct approaches

Donald (aged 52) had held senior marketing positions in the AA, and before that the RAC. He joined the job club shortly after being made redundant and initially attempted to get a job through agencies he had worked with successfully in the past. He also approached old colleagues and friends in looking for a job in his 'industry' and tried to get into previous competitors such as Direct Line and Green Flag. He drew up a good senior marketing CV and felt that he had much to offer as a Marketing specialist, and put himself forward for senior marketing roles in a variety of sectors. In the first six months, he obtained only three interviews, although he applied for over 100 jobs mainly advertised on the internet.

Initially he had rejected trying direct approaches, not believing that they worked, but after discussing using general and targeted approaches, he felt a carefully targeted approach was worth trying.

In an email, he wrote: "I started to use my contacts to a limited degree and also researched specific markets on the internet. As a result I sent 14 direct approach letters – all quite targeted, six very specific. Response was fantastic – five of the six companies contacted me. One was looking for people at a more junior level than I wanted to operate and one was very interested in my CV but was undergoing a re-organisation and needed to defer any action. I had meetings with the other three, and a second meeting with two of these to date. One is still live, and may result in a second meeting too.

Of these last two I have sent proposals for consultancy work to one and still await a response. The other has offered me a job which I have accepted."

He attributed his success to the extensive research that he had carried out on the internet, where he spent time identifying companies that had an extensive customer base to which they were selling a single product occasionally. He believed that he had the skills to sell other allied products or services to that customer base. Initially he sent a letter to a named person, normally the chief executive, but also followed up all his approaches on the phone, asking for a short meeting.

This case study shows how another jobseeker found a job after changing his CV and making speculative approaches to companies who were recruiting.

Case study 2: direct approaches (OWEN)

Pete had been unemployed for two years before joining the Older Workers Employment Network (OWEN) project. He has worked as a mill manager in a textile business and had taken a few casual jobs but really wanted something more permanent. He particularly liked the sound of Portable Appliance Testing (PAT).

At his first one-to-one session with an adviser Pete seemed pretty confident about his CV, but wondered why it wasn’t working for him as he simply wasn’t getting interviews.

The important thing was to get Pete’s CV sorted out so we invited him onto our in-house CV and interview technique workshop. This gave Pete the chance to focus on his CV and get some really good practical advice about how it could be improved on. It was still tailored to the textile industry, not surprising as he’d worked in that sector for such a long time, but it wasn’t working for him as the jobs he was after had no obvious link to job of a mill manager.

It’s really common with more mature job seekers that they have lots of really good experience and skills, but just can’t match them to the jobs they are applying for. For some this is about a lack of confidence....they just don’t think they have many skills, for others it is just a lack of ability to do what we advisers do all the time: tease out transferable skills and match them to suitable jobs. So on taking the advice of his adviser, Pete:

  • Changed his CV, adding in transferable skills that were relevant to the job he was applying for (and a lot of information was omitted from his original CV!).
  • Reduced the amount of information sent to potential employers after we emphasised the importance of knowing when enough is enough and to not bombard an employer with too much information about yourself.
  • Sent his CV to companies speculatively, rather than waiting to see job opportunities advertised. Pete knew the kind of company he really wanted to work for, so sent his CV to these types of companies only. We often recommend to mature jobseekers that they apply to smaller companies as it seems that there are often less barriers about their age, perhaps this is because some of the people doing the interviews are over 50 too.

We also funded Pete’s PAT and Safety Passport course, as these were key qualifications he was going to have if he was going to stand a chance of getting a job as a PAT.

Success! Pete was recruited to a new job with local company CLM, who carry out PAT testing for organisations in East Yorkshire. On gaining employment, Pete said: “A big thank you to the team at OWEN, I don’t think I would have got this job without your help and encouragement. You made my CV work for me and encouraged me to apply speculatively to companies who were recruiting - it was this tactic that finally paid off.”

This site is for help and information only. It is not meant as an authoritative guide. It is not meant as an authoritative statement of the law, and future changes in the law and other programmes and initiatives could make it less accurate at times. TAEN, the Department for Work and Pensions and the European Social Fund take no responsibility for your use of the information. You should always take professional advice on any specific legal or financial matter.