NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Q: How should I ask employers about job opportunities that aren’t advertised on their website or on job boards?

A: Just because a company isn’t advertising any open positions doesn’t mean they aren’t looking to hire. As MainStreet has reported before, many job openings are never posted to job boards or company websites. Instead, they are either filled based on recommendations within the company or the position is specially created with someone in mind.

For that reason, job hunters can’t afford to sit around and wait for the ideal job posting to go up. There’s no guarantee that opportunity will ever be posted and even if it is, you’ll have to compete with every other job seeker who sees it. The better option is to be more proactive and reach out to potential employers unprompted, but how you go about it depends on the company.

Heather Huhman, a career counselor and founder of the recruiting public relations firm Come Recommended, says that the secret to scoring a job at a small- or medium-sized business is to research what the company’s needs are and figure out how you are uniquely qualified to fill that need. This can work particularly well if the company has just expanded into a new area (for example, if a website has added a new section) or if the company has recently hired a manager who may need help in his/her new position.

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“Do your own analysis of what they are doing in your realm and what they could be doing better. They may not even know what their needs are,” Huhman says.

Once you’ve nailed this down, Huhman recommends using LinkedIn or the company’s website to track down the name and contact information of a manager in the department you’d like to work for, and then drafting an email to that person. The message should start with a brief summary of who you are and what your qualifications are for the job, and then dive into your analysis of what they could do better and how you can help them. Needless to say, the message should be polite and tactful, not so critical that it makes the manager offended.

This tactic may not work quite as well at a large business, according to Huhman, simply because bigger corporations tend to have a clearer sense of what they need. Instead, she recommends building a relationship with someone inside the company who can keep you in mind for future job opportunities. The best way to do this is by emailing a manager and asking for an informational interview about the business and the profession. That said, you need to approach it as a serious interview and come prepared with thoughtful questions that impress the manager. If you just start out the interview by asking for a job, you’ll make a bad impression.

What you should never do is simply call a manager you’ve never met out of the blue and ask about job opportunities. That’s not networking, it’s just annoying. Just think about how you would respond if someone did that to you.

Seth Fiegerman is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by e-mail at, or follow him on Twitter @sfiegerman.