Haley Baird Riemer
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Finding the perfect job is a complicated journey. When you're in the thick of the job market, opportunities may seem scarce and incredibly competitive. So many things need to come together for jobs to work out, especially timing. You may have figured out what you want to do, and where you want to do it. 

But even though you've found the perfect company for you, they don't have any job openings available. How do you know if they're hiring? And even if there are open positions online, you may be in a field so saturated that even if you send in an application as soon as a job posting is published, you'll be too late. 

So what more can you do? Is it possible to get ahead of a job posting? Thankfully, there are ways around the conventional job application process; in fact, most people get their jobs through personal connections, rather than through mass applications. Statistics show that 80 percent of job openings are not posted online. 

Your first step is to send in an inquiry letter, asking about available jobs and outlining your interest in potential positions. And although these letters don't guarantee you'll be offered a job immediately, they can lead to many professional advantages. 

Here's how to write one.

What is an inquiry letter?

Otherwise known as a letter of interest or prospective letter, the inquiry letter is an invaluable tool for any job seeker. Basically, it allows you to use your personal connections skillfully and exercise initiative, often to the result of a new job, or at the very least a good impression.  An inquiry letter is exactly what it sounds like: a letter you send to employers inquiring about job positions that may not be advertised on their job board (yet), or simply about job opportunities available when employers are not actively recruiting.

There are a couple of different versions of such a letter. Maybe you have a personal connection to someone at the company. This is the best-case scenario, as you can make your letter more personalized. Plus, people are more likely to respond to people they know and have a relationship with. Perhaps you don't know anyone at the company, but you have been following their work for years and have been dying to work with them. Regardless of your circumstance, you can draft an inquiry letter that works best for you depending on who you're reaching out to. 

Why should you send an inquiry letter?

Some of the most common reasons to send an inquiry letter are to try and get ahead of the hiring process by anticipating jobs before they're posted, or to reach out to a company that doesn't regularly post their openings online. Online job sites are not infallible, and the regularity with which they're updated is questionable. Sending a letter of inquiry can ease some of the uncertainty and general dread felt about sending out an application into the digital void. 

Inquiry letters are a good way of getting yourself on the radar of employers, recruiters and companies that you want to work for. There may be a job that has yet to be announced that you're perfect for.  Even if there is no job for you at the time, an inquiry letter could open the door for an informational interview or a new connection with someone at the company. Worst case scenario, your inquiry letter will expand your professional network as well as provide you with helpful advice and familiarity with the current job market in your field.

Examples of inquiry letters

How you draft and direct your letter will depend on your situation. Each letter of inquiry has a specific context and thus will contain different details. However, most inquiry letters follow specific formats that you can adapt to your particular situation. Some common information to include is your background, the kind of job you're seeking, your relevant experience and education, and your location.

Since inquiry letters are, by definition, less formal and more personal than a job application you'll want to craft each one you send a little differently. Here are some examples of different instances and angles you can use to your advantage. 

As a recent graduate:

As a recent college graduate, entering the job market feels daunting. There are many positions with unrealistic requirements and qualifications that are open to recent graduates yet highly competitive. However, being a recent graduate can be used to your advantage. While internships and fellowships are very hard to get at larger companies with well-known programs, you can use an inquiry letter to get in with a company who might not have a formal internship program or is not as prominent. 

The best way to make the most of letters of inquiry is to focus your energy on companies you're passionate about that perhaps don't have internships advertised on their sites and offer yourself as a recent graduate looking to gain any kind of experience in the workforce. Detail your education and experience, as well as the relevant work you've done while in school or in other internships that could come in handy at their company. Try something like this:

Hello, 

My name is Haley, and I recently graduated from  X University and moved to New York City. As a gender and sexuality studies and communications double-major, I'm currently seeking an entry-level media position in a feminist or activist space that allows me to put my superb writing, organization and media skills to use. 

I'm looking for any opportunity to expand my skills and learn more about feminist media, and the work your company is doing is exactly the work I want to be a part of. If there are any open entry-level positions on your team in media or content management, I would love to apply for all roles I may be fit for. 

I look forward to connecting soon, and I hope we can stay in touch in the future if any positions become available. Thank you so much for your time. 

Best,

To someone you've worked with:

The stats are clear: the key to landing coveted job positions is making connections at the company. Networking pays off. So does keeping up with former classmates and coworkers who are in your field and doing things similar to what you want to do. If someone you have worked with before is now working for a company you would love to work for, you should consider reaching out about job opportunities. Whether or not the job you want is posted online, your contact can provide insight on the hiring process at the company and even submit a referral on your behalf.  Letters of inquiry to former colleagues or any professional connection you've made in college or through all jobs are very common, and odds are the people you'll be directing your letter to have sent some themselves as well.

Use this template to send a letter of inquiry to a former colleague. Modify accordingly, of course, to your particular relationship to the person.

Hi Name!

How are you? Congrats on your new position at Fairygodboss! I was so excited to see you continuing in content management in a leadership role there. 

I wanted to reach out because I've been looking for a writing position in woman-focused media. I love the work Fairygodboss is doing on that front, and I was wondering if there are any openings that you know of there that I might be fit for? I didn't see any online, but I thought you might have an inside scoop. 

I'm attaching my resume here for reference. Let me know if you hear anything; any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much!

Best, 

When you're writing your dream company

Being personally invested in a company can give you an advantage when writing a letter of inquiry. Chances are, you know a lot about the company and the work they do, and though passion isn't everything, it does take you a long way when it comes to being good at a job. Having a job you want to do makes you dedicated to the work, so when you're writing to a company that would mean having a job like that, use it. Even if there aren't any available roles, getting on the radar of the company and making a contact in the office would be huge for future prospects there. 

Hi, 

I'm an early-career journalist and graduate of Pratt University. I'm interested in writing cutting-edge news media and uncovering unique and innovative stories that haven't been told before. Since I can remember, Vice has been my publication of choice when it comes to staying up-to-date with what's going on in the world. It's my greatest personal and professional goal to join your team and bring my investigative, reporting and writing skills to your team. 

Though I did not see any open positions on your website, I was wondering if there were any roles available that fit my qualifications that I could apply for. If so, I would love to submit my resume. If not, I hope you'll keep me in mind in the future as positions open up. 

Thank you for all the work you do. I look forward to being in touch.

Best, 

Applying for jobs can become a monotonous, frustrating feat. It is easy and normal to become disillusioned by ignored job applications, missed deadlines, and unanswered e-mails. Often, you find that even though you're doing everything you can on your end, you're getting nowhere. However, there are some instances in which taking a different approach to landing a job might make all the difference. It is helpful to be aware of other paths, including letters of inquiry. Sometimes getting out of the habitual steps you're taking can change your perspective and open doors you didn't realize were there before. Keep inquiry letters in mind when you come across new job ideas or remember old connections that had slipped your mind. They can bring you closer to getting that job you've always wanted, or the one you haven't even realized exists yet.

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