I was never one of the braver job seekers I knew. So, when a friend would mention he or she sent an unsolicited resume to a company, it usually made me cringe. For a long time, I assumed there was absolutely no benefit to taking such a leap of faith.
“Why would you do that?” I’d often ask. “You applied for a job that doesn’t exist!” However, when I was a recruiter, I started seeing this in a different light. Why? Because even though the candidates weren’t applying for a specific job, their applications were usually pretty impressive. Just having the initiative alone to send it along reveals a lot about a person.
While there are a few things you should consider before you start sending your resume off willy-nilly, it’s not actually as risky (or worthless) of a proposition as you might think.
Here are three things that’ll probably actually happen when you do this:
1. You’ll Catch Hiring Managers Off-Guard—But Not Necessarily in a Bad Way
Hiring managers are pretty good at adapting to frequent change, but receiving a cold call from a job seeker is a great way to get them off their game, at least for a second. On the few occasions I had an unexpected email in my inbox (or an even rarer, an envelope addressed to me), it always made me take pause. And that wasn’t always a bad thing.
It’s no secret that since recruiting is a tough job, hiring managers are always rooting for candidates to be awesome. It’s not as if they’re sitting around laughing at resumes all day, reveling in the fact that they’re the Decision Maker. So, when an unsolicited resume came across my desk, I’d always say one thing to myself: “This person is braver than I’ve ever been about applying for a job. And at the very least, I know he or she really wants to work here.” And considering that applicants usually don’t have a lot of time to grab a hiring manager’s attention , this is usually a good thing.
2. It Will Sit on The Backburner—But Not for Long
Like it or not, there’s one thing about the application process that is still very real: The resume black hole .
Even when you send an application for a job that’s currently posted, some companies are still working on their communication. In other words, no matter how good your materials look sometimes, there are just some places that’ll take weeks to get back to you. And when you send an unsolicited resume, keep in mind that recruiters have a number of open, listed roles they’re currently working on. And those roles take priority, even when your stuff is great. The sooner they can get those jobs filled with awesome people, the sooner they can get around to reviewing anything else they’ve got waiting for them.
So, when you do send your materials to a company, be prepared to wait a little while for a response. It’s nothing personal—just an unfortunate result of the busy schedules of recruiters everywhere. Feel free to follow up after a few weeks, but don’t get too bent out of shape if you don’t hear back for a long time. (Or in some cases, ever.)
3. It Eventually Could Be Taken Very, Very Seriously
Sending an unsolicited resume that’s completely unfocused and is accompanied by an email that says nothing more than, “I am looking for a job” won’t get you very far. But, if you’ve taken the time to understand what the company does, what their challenges are, and how you might fit in (even if there’s not a role for you right now), hiring managers will put you right into their candidate pipeline. Yes, this requires writing an email that reads more like a cover letter. And yes, this requires finding the right person to send this information to. And no, the general inquiry inbox is not the right place.
If they’re working on a role that hasn’t been posted, but is about to be, you might even hear from them about scheduling an informational interview . So, even though you’ve sent an unsolicited application for a job that doesn’t exist, you will become a part of the interview process.
In some cases, recruiters will actually want to meet with you for a role they’ve been working on because they see something in you. In other circumstances, you might be considered for freelance work. And in others, you’ll simply make a good impression on a hiring manager. But, as long as you’re thoughtful about your application, there is usually no harm in taking a risk.
Sending a resume for a position that isn’t open (or even in existence) sounds intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re gearing up to take the leap, just make sure that you’ve taken the time to research the company’s current challenges, and then made it clear why you’d be the perfect person to tackle them. When you take those two simple steps—just like you would if you were applying for a job that’s actually posted—most recruiters won’t mind receiving your resume. In fact, they might even be excited to see such an awesome person taking such an active interest in their company.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.More from this Author