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How to Ask for a Job

Tell them why you're the most qualified person for the job they haven't created yet

How to Ask for a Job
Photo courtesy of Brooke Cagle

Are you allowed to just ask someone for a job? It depends. You can’t come out of the blue and just ask for a job, but there are ways you can professionally let a company know that you want to work there.

How not to ask for a job

Maybe you know a recruiter or HR representative at a company you really want to work for. The easiest way to leave a bad taste in their mouth is by shooting them an email that says Hey, can I have a job? At best, your email will be ignored; at worst, it will be passed around the department for a laugh. You don’t want a bad reputation before you have the opportunity to make a name for yourself.

This advice also applies to in-person networking situations. Unless you are 100 percent sure you can effectively convey the phrase Hi, can have a job? as the joke that it is, do not risk it. In fact, just avoid saying it all together.

It’s important to remember that hiring managers need time to vet your qualifications and to get to know you. Judy Howe, owner of digital product design and innovation company Punchcut, says if someone asked her for a job outright, she’d likely pass the request on to HR: “Honestly, depending on the context I would probably just send them through our standard process. I’m super busy, so I don’t want to sign myself up for more personally and would trust our review and interview process to determine if they were qualified.”

However, she adds, she would appreciate the person’s nerve. “If they did make it across my desk again, I would remember their proactivity and interest and it would reflect well on them, as long as they approached it in the right way,” she says. Let’s talk about what that right way might be.

How to ask for a job

So if you aren’t allowed to say the question aloud, how are you supposed to ask for a job? Well, you aren’t. But there are definitely ways for you to let a company know you are interested in bringing your skills and talents to their organization, most of which involve relationship-building.

Make connections

Start by making connections at the organization you’re interested in. If you don’t know anyone at the company personally, try doing some light, professional internet research. Howe recommends following your dream companies on social media and attending their events in order to show your engagement and get more face time. “You want to be where they are,” she says.

You can also peruse LinkedIn and reach out to new connections with whom you have something in common. Did you work at the same company in the past or go to the same college? Maybe you’re members of the same professional organization or belonged to the same sorority. Howe says if those links don’t exist, you can easily find common ground by joining online “Women in Tech” or “Women in Media” groups. Regardless of the connection you make, reaching out should be friendly but direct.

Hi Rebecca,

I see that we’re both alumni of Iowa State. Go Cyclones! I just wanted to reach out and say hello. I really admire the work your firm does, so feel free to message me anytime to chat about the graphic design industry or why the Hawkeyes suck. Let’s talk soon!

If you are able to meet some contacts in person, possibly at an industry or networking event, go up and introduce yourself. Instead of outright asking for a job or prying to see if there are any job openings, drop a couple of hints that you are familiar with the work their company does.

Hi, you work for Chronicle Books, right? Everything I buy from you guys has the most beautiful covers. Please pass along my kudos to your design team. Here is my phone number and email if you ever want to talk shop.

Or mention that you’re looking.

I saw Corinne Yang present on your D&I initiatives at the annual conference last month and was so excited to hear about the work your department is doing with blinded applications. If you all are ever in need of a research director, please let me know. But if not, I’d still love to talk shop with you sometime. Would you be willing to grab coffee with me sometime?

Read more:How to Network without Feeling Gross

Express interest

While you shouldn’t expect to be handed a job, don’t be afraid to let your contact know you’re interested in the company.

Melinda Hubbard, a leadership coach and an assistant professor at Ball State University, says: “We especially as women need to make clear our intentions. We can skirt issues, and people don’t hear us or don’t understand. When I coach people, I tell them,‘You don’t want to be rude, but it is absolutely appropriate to say,‘I am very interested in this job. I want to come work for you, and I think I would be an asset to your organization.’’ Men do that. We need to do that, too.”

Try writing a letter of interest, the professional version of Hey, can I have a job? Sometimes called letters of inquiry, letters of interest are a way to let an employer know that you are interested in being a part of their team, even if you don’t see any job openings that fit your experience or goals. As you write your letter, be sure to include your area of expertise, why you are impressed with the company, a classy name-drop, any connections you have at their company, and a PDF of your resume.

Hubbard says it’s crucial that your lead up to asking for a job, whether in the beginning of your letter or in person, tout the assets you bring to the team. “You have to have sold your qualifications,” she says. “So, you say,‘I know you’re looking for someone who is highly detailed, who can bring people together, and has public relations experience, and I know that I have all of these things.’ Make the case, and then you have to ask for the job.”

For more tips about writing a letter of interest check out our guide: How to Write a Letter of Interest That Gets You Noticed

Informational interviews

Another way to express your interest in a company, or just to gain more information, is to ask for an informational interview. An informational interview is an opportunity for you to grab a coffee with someone at your dream company and ask them all about the work they do. For advice on asking strangers—or at least casual acquaintances—to have a chat, check out our tips: How to Ask for an Informational Interview & Get One

Once you snag the informational interview, be sure to prepare. We can help you come up with the questions that will give some insight on what the company is actually like once you’re inside: 48 Actually Useful Informational Interview Questions

Read more:How Long Will It Take to Get a Job? Here’s What the Data Says

About our sources

Melinda Hubbard is a leadership coach and an assistant professor in the management and HR division at Ball State University. She holds a doctorate in business administration from Temple University, with research focusing on women’s lack of representation in CEO positions. Prior to founding her consulting company, The HUB, Hubbard spent nearly 20 years in corporate America.

Judy Howe is owner of Punchcut, a user interface design company based in San Francisco. Howe has over 20 years of experience in professional services consulting. She holds a bachelor’s degree from University of Michigan and an MBA from University of California-Berkeley.

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