When a job posting opens up, you can bet that dozens -- if not hundreds -- of people a lot like you are going to be clamoring for the position. Instead of waiting for your target company to open up a position, then, it never hurts to let the hiring managers know you're available. In a good scenario, the employer will keep your information on file for the next open position -- or, better yet, will already have a need for someone with your qualifications, even though no job has been advertised.
Where to Get Information
When you write a cover letter, you have the advantage of tailoring your text specifically to the job and to the information provided in the job posting. With an inquiry letter, on the other hand, you have to get more creative to find out what the employer is looking for in employees. Use your social network, including LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as any older job postings or job descriptions posted on the company's website to find out where the company's employees come from, where they studied and values the company holds. The company's mission statement, for example, might reveal that it's innovative and seeks new ideas. Its social media feeds might reveal that it values employees who volunteer their time outside the company.
The Basic Structure of the Letter
Armed with some knowledge of what the company likes to see in its employees, start writing. Introduce yourself in the first line, name the field or position you want and mention how you found out about the company. If you have any personal or professional connections, mention them right off the bat. For example, you might say something like "your company vice president, Jim X, suggested I contact you. We were lab partners in college." In the second paragraph, outline any skills, education or experience that makes you a great fit for the company. You can even start the paragraph by saying "I feel I am a good fit for the company because . . .. "
Don't Leave It Open-Ended
Before signing the letter, encourage the employer to take the next step or make an effort to initiate an in-person meeting. It's best not to leave the ball in the employer's court, reminds Katharine Hansen of Quintessential Careers. If you're going to be in the area, name a specific date on which you'd be available to come visit with the employer. You could also say you'll be calling to follow up on a certain date. It's also perfectly acceptable to request a formal job interview, suggests Hansen. Naturally, you'll have to include your email address and phone numbers at the top or bottom of the letter.
General Do's and Don'ts
As with all job-related correspondence, read it over carefully to ensure there are no typos or misspellings. If you've addressed a specific person within a company, check and double-check that you got her name and title right. Don't make the letter a long tome that describes your entire career, but instead, keep it short and to the point. And of course, include a copy of your resume with the inquiry letter; you want to give the employer even more opportunity to see why you're someone worth considering for the next open position.