Only about one-fifth of the job market is what we call “open.” That means that only about 20 percent of job openings are ever publicly known. The main avenue for informing the public about these openings is through want ads in the newspaper, trade magazines, and other publications as well as job posting ads on various Web sites. Employment agencies and executive-search firms are another source of open-market positions. The first kind of cover letter is the invited letter, which is generally a response to a want ad.
The invited cover letter enables you to speak to the requirements of the ad. You can offer the employer the requirements sought because you know the requirements sought; it’s all spelled out in the ad
The other fourth-fifths of the market is “closed,” meaning you can’t find out about the positions unless you dig. That digging most often takes the form of compiling a list of all the companies in your field that you might be interested in working for and contacting them to ask for an interview. Obviously, that means some job-seekers will send out a great many resumes, accompanied by the type of cover letter that we call the uninvited or cold-contact letter, sometimes blanketing a given field of companies with direct-mail packages. This job-search tool can be very effective, especially if you have a specific set of companies you wish to work for or are looking to work in a specific geographic location.
The uninvited cover letter enables you to take a proactive approach to job-hunting instead of the reactive approach, in which you merely answer ads. It can be a great tool for uncovering hidden jobs where supposedly no openings exist. Your letter can make such an impression that you’ll be remembered as soon as a vacancy opens up. You may also be able to create an opening for yourself by convincing the employer that the company needs someone with your talents. At the very least, you may obtain an interview in which the employer can refer you to others in the field who might have use for you.