What makes unsolicited cover letters different from "classic" ones is that you don't have a current job posting to base your writing off of. That means that you might not know exactly what needs the business has. Of course, you can always try to guess what kinds of needs a business has and send off your cover letter that way. However, the chance of your letter ever being read is quite low.
That's why we've gathered some great advice to help you write an unsolicited cover letter that someone will actually read.
1. Research the business
You need to know what kind of company you're applying to and what assumptions it operates under — that is, a basic business understanding of the company.
- What kind of company is it, and what affects the way the company works?
- Who are the employees, and what do they do? Is there maybe someone you already know that you can contact?
- What departments or divisions might be relevant to you?
- Who should you contact?
Use Google, the business's website, and LinkedIn profiles for your research. Or, ask around in your network.
Read more about business understanding
2. Contact the manager, director, or other person responsible for hiring (e.g., department manager) by email
Initially, the purpose of contacting this person is to visit the business. A visit will give you the opportunity to see the business from the inside out and better understand what you can bring to the table.
Sample email to business
I'm writing to you because I'd like to learn more about your business. I'm curious what kinds of trends [e.g., GDPR, digitalisation] you're focused on at this time, and what challenges [e.g., marketing] and tasks you need to address within [an area in which you can contribute with your skills].
In light of that, I would love to visit your business and discuss your goals and challenges over a cup of coffee. I'm interested in gaining new knowledge and networking, and I would be happy to share my ideas on how I can help you solve the challenges you face within [area X].
I have experience with [briefly name three things you can work with, such as developing target group analyses to discover customers' or users' needs; creating digital user solutions; and planning, running, and evaluating events and courses].
If I haven't heard from you sooner, I'll call next week to ask if you would be interested in a half-hour visit in the near future.
[Your full name]
3. Following up over the phone
Prepare by having an idea of what you would like to say. This can be especially helpful if you feel nervous. Introduce yourself and refer to the email you sent. Explain your motivation for contacting this company in particular, and mention what you would like to get out of your visit (networking, knowledge). Remember to thank them for their time, whether you arrange a meeting or not. If nobody answers or returns your call, even after calling at another time or leaving a message, move on to a different company to avoid wasting your time.
4. Visiting the business
Arrive on time and be prepared — in terms of both your outfit and the questions you want to ask. Repeat what you want to gain from the meeting, and ask about the business. You can ask questions like these:
- What challenges are you facing?
- What direction are you headed in?
- What do you do especially well?
- What do you find difficult? / What do you spend a lot of time on?
Think about how you can fit into the answers you get. Write down the most important points. Not only does this send a positive signal that you're interested in remembering what you hear; it also gives you the opportunity to use those points in further discussions.
Prepare a short introduction of yourself, what you're capable of, and what you have to offer. You can also bring a copy of your CV to leave with them at the end. When the meeting is over, ask if you can connect with your contact on LinkedIn, and if you can follow up on your discussion by email or phone.
Also be aware of how the person you speak with reacts to you and to what you say. That can give you a hint as to what they do and don't find interesting. It can also show if there's something you should leave out, rephrase, or remember the next time you visit a business.
When your discussion is over, ask if there's anybody they think it would be good for you to talk to. It may be someone within that company, or elsewhere within the industry.
5. Following up on the meeting
Send a follow-up email after the meeting, thanking them for their time and summarising the things you discussed.
6. Keep in touch with your contact, even if there are no opportunities right away
There might not be any available positions right now. But in a month or two, things may be different. If you have the opportunity to send a short email or LinkedIn message to follow up on your conversation, do it. You can thank them again for your conversation and tell them what it prompted you to think about, or what it led you to do (e.g., contact someone they recommended).
When you land a job, thank the person again (if they aren't the person directly offering you the job). Briefly mention where you were hired and what you're doing, and let them know that (e.g.) the conversation you had helped you get hired for the position, thanks to the knowledge you gained. That way, you can maintain the network you've built.
Writing cover letters, going to interviews, and job hunting in general all take practice. If you're nervous about how the other person will react, don't contact the company of your dreams right away — practise with others first. That will help you feel more secure and know what works for you.
Get more inspiration from the Academic's Guide to Jobs at Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (PDF).