The direct approach: phone and face-to-face

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Two women in an interview process. The direct approach: phone and face-to-faceA lot of jobs are advertised online, but plenty aren't. There may even be businesses in your local area looking for people to hire.

They won't always put an ad online or stick a "help wanted" sign in their window, though. Sometimes you have to make the first move yourself.

That might mean:

  • Walking into a business directly to ask to talk to the manager
  • making a few phone calls

Approaching businesses directly demonstrates three things employers value in their employees: 

  • initiative
  • enthusiasm
  • problem-solving skills 

If you're thinking of approaching businesses directly to ask for work, here's a step-by-step guide on how to go about it.

1. Make a list of businesses
2. Prepare your resume
3. Write a script
4. Dress up nice
5. Make contact
6. Stay in touch
7. Don't give up!

1. Make a list of businesses

Have a think about the businesses near you. "Near you" doesn't just mean "around the corner" (though that's a good place to start). Think about how far you'd be prepared to travel to work. Maybe you want to limit your search to within a couple of suburbs, or maybe you're willing to travel one town over for work.

It can sometimes help to take a walk or drive around your local shopping strip or shopping centre. You might spot a business you hadn't noticed before, or even a "help wanted" sign.

Note down the contact details of each business and make a list. Their contacts might be on their window or door, they might have business cards you can grab, or you might need to look them up online.

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2. Prepare your resume

Before you ask a business about available jobs you need to make sure your resume is up to date. Check out our How to write a resume page and our sample CVs page for some help putting your resume together. Once it's ready, print up as many copies as you'll need - one for each business you're planning on approaching.

Make sure your resume is tailored to each business. If you're going to be dropping in on a shoe shop, a mechanic and a fish and chip shop, revise your resume for each business to make sure you highlight the skills and experiences those businesses would be looking for.

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3. Write a script

It helps to write a short script that outlines what you want to say and how you plan to say it. Scripts can be useful both for face-to-face and phone approaches. When writing your script, think of things like:

  • How you'll introduce yourself
  • What exactly you're asking for
  • How you'll describe your previous work experience (if you have any)
  • What you'll say when you hand over your resume
  • How you'll finish things up
  • What kind of questions they might ask you

It helps to rehearse your script before you approach a business. Ask a friend or family member to listen to you as you go through your script, and ask if they have any suggestions.

You don't need to memorise your script. It's only meant to give you a general idea about how you'll to speak to the businesses you approach.

For some suggestions about what to put in your script, check out the sample scripts on our Cold calling - Tips for success page.

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4. Dress up nice

Asking for work in person is like mashing together an application and an interview. That means you need to make a good first impression. One way to do this is to dress the part. Check out our How to present yourself at a job interview video for tips on dressing to impress a potential employer.

Even if you're just going to do a ring-around instead of visiting the businesses in person, it's good to get dressed up before you call. Dressing professionally can help you focus on acting professionally when you call. For more tips on calling businesses, check out our Cold calling - Tips for success page.

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5. Make contact

Now that you're all dressed up and you've got your resume ready, it's time to visit (or call) the businesses on your list. Remember to be as polite as you can be when speaking to people at the businesses you visit or call.

If you ask to speak to the manager and they're not available, ask politely if there's a more convenient time to come back. You could also just leave your resume with the person you speak to and follow up with a phone call later (again - ask if there's a good time to call).

You might need to head out (or sit down to make the calls) more than once. There are only so many businesses you can visit (or call) in the time you have, so planning to contact a few businesses each time over a period of time might be a good idea.

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6. Stay in touch

Unless they offer you a job on the spot, leaving your resume at a business is only the beginning.

Keep track of which businesses accepted your resume and, if you don't hear from them in a week or two, consider visiting them again or giving them a call to ask if they've had a chance to look at your resume, or if any work has become available.

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7. Don't give up!

Approaching businesses directly to ask for work won't guarantee you a job, but it is a way to increase your chances of finding one. Like any new skill, it can be intimidating to try the direct approach at first, but it will get easier with practise.

If you don't find any work in your local neighbourhood, don't give up. You might just need to widen your search, or be persistent in following up the places you've already approached. The most important thing is to keep on trying.

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