what does it mean when an employer says they’re “always looking for talented candidates”?

A reader writes:

As I am looking for work, there are some firms I come across that advertise under their career section that say they are “always” looking for talented candidates, but they do not say one way or another if they have any open positions. Sometimes they just have an email and phone number for career inquiries and nothing more. Are they really interested in hearing from anyone who contacts them? What is the best way to go about contacting places that advertise like this in the first place? Should I call the number listed, or send an email with a summary of my qualifications and state my interest in their firm?

Do you know of anyone who has gotten a job this way?

Yes, people get jobs this way.

Here’s the thing about “we’re always looking for talented people” though:  They’re looking for the best of the best. If an average candidate submits their resume in response to this kind of notice, it’s not likely to go anywhere.  “We’re always looking for talented people” means “we might not have openings right now, but if you’re utterly fantastic, we don’t want to miss out on you and might find a way to bring you on … if you’re fantastic in the particular ways that we need.”

When I’ve received resumes submitted in response to this type of statement, my responses have been any of the following:
* “Wow, this person looks great and has exactly the skills we need. Let’s talk to them!”
* “This person could be a great replacement for Jane if she ends up  leaving this summer. I’m going to file this away until then.”
* “This person is really impressive, and if I needed to hire an XYZ, I’d be all over this person. But I don’t.”
* “Hmmm, I didn’t think I needed to hire an XYZ, but this person makes a compelling case for it. Maybe it’s worth talking.”
* “No.”

Generally speaking though, you’ve got to be really compelling in a case like this — great resume and awesome cover letter. If you’re a perfectly solid candidate but not particularly stand-out, you’re probably going in the “no” pile.

If you decide to apply this way, do not call. Send in a resume and a cover letter explaining your interest in working with them and what you have to offer. You don’t want to call because — well, for the same reasons you never want to cold-call: You’ll be interrupting the person at a time that it might not be convenient, they won’t know anything about you because they haven’t seen your materials yet, and there’s just no reason not to use email for this unless your goal is to make a really pushy sales pitch, which it isn’t and never should be.

Good luck!

{ 16 comments… read them below }

  1. A Current College Student

    Do you know of anyone who has gotten a job this way?

    Yes. My dad got his current job that way (with a company that hadn’t hired anyone in his field before!) He had a good recommendation from one of his former coworkers who’d recently taken a job with that company, so that probably helped.

    1. anon for this

      I also got a job at a company that was looking for highly qualified applicants, but again, they received my resume from a personal friend of one of the owners of the company. So I think it’s quite possible that the networking connection was actually the key to the job. While I’m proud of my resume, I’m not sure that my resume would have been as visible to the company if it had just been sent via email.

  2. Clinton W

    Another good example of this is, the company that I currently work at is a Govt contractor. So if we win a proposal, we need to have employees ready to put in those seats, so the first thing that we do is go to the recruiter and ask then if they have any resumes of people that have offered them for previous jobs or simply sent them in and they looked interesting enough to hold on to. If they do, we call those candidates before starting a full search.

  3. Cara Carroll

    AAM is exactly correct. I enjoy talking to candidates anytime! I may not have a open position at that exact moment, however that doesn’t mean I might not have one a week from then or a month from then. If someone sticks out in my mind and makes a good impression, chances are when I do have a position to fill I will think of them.

  4. OP

    OP here. Thanks for answering this, AAM! I have always wondered what this actually means. Thanks for translating!

    1. OP

      One more thing. Would it be appropriate to follow up with a phone call a couple weeks later? Or just wait for them to make the next move?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Once you apply, you’d treat it like any other job application situation, meaning that the ball is in their court and following up by phone would be annoying.

  5. Anonymous

    My company does this, and it is how I got my job. There is an open posting, and every week the new resumes/cover letters that come in get screened (apparently upwards of 10 a day). If an applicant is not fully qualified on all fronts (or there are any grammatical errors in the cover letter…or worse, there is no cover letter!), the application gets tossed; if he is, the resume goes in a folder that gets reviewed whenever there is a hiring need. Importantly, timing is key–you could hear something a month after submitting, 8 months after submitting, or never. That last part can be a dash frustrating for job seekers, of course.

  6. Anonymous

    A few times in previous jobs this meant we have a hard-to-fill position and the current person is a jackass. We can’t just let them go without shutting down the business but would fire them in a heartbeat if the ideal candidate came along.

  7. M

    My husband ended up working for a company he had applied to speculatively. However he didn’t actually hear from them following his direct application. A couple of months after he applied, there was a vacancy posted on the net via an agency, which cut a long story short he applied and they recruited him for. If the company had only paid proper attention to his direct application they could have saved themselves the agency fee.

  8. Wilton Businessman

    It means that even if there isn’t a position and you think you would be a good match, send in a resume. I once had two great candidates for the same position that I opened up another job just so I wouldn’t have to make a choice and let one of them go.

  9. krzystoff

    this sounds rather fishy to me — I would immediately associate a business like that with one of either coal mining, seasonal farm-hands, or brothels, none of which suggest professional, focused management who value their staff.
    I avoid this and other similar casual offers, on the strength that they will inevitably treat you with the same flippant approach they take to recruiting the best people for specific roles in their business.

  10. Anonymous

    This actually just happened to me! Recent college grad (Just 1 month ago!) I was applying to all these job listings when I found a company that didn’t have any listed entry level positions. I send a blind resume and cover letter detailing my interests and actually got a response back in 3 days. The next week after phone and in-person interviews, I was hired! I was told as well that although the process for me was quick they had actually interviewed a lot of people before me, got discouraged and took down the posting, before I applied.

    So I say send it. You may be just what they are looking for.

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