“We don't have any openings right now” can look like a dead end to many PR applicants. If you hear these words, activate your network. Reach out to friends, family, colleagues, and that neighbor you had three years ago for anyone who can get you a name, phone number, or e-mail address of someone inside the company. If the name you get is not in the right department, or is not a recruiter, keep digging. You need to get to the right person so that your candidacy won't go through a game of telephone when the right role opens up.
Treat an exploratory as you would any interview. Research the company, take a look at recent work, and use your resources to gather all the information you can. Vault.com or Glassdoor.com are great resources for you to use when needing information found beyond the company's website.
Bring a resume tailored to what you find. Brand agency? Highlight the work you have done on a product launch. Political shop? List your volunteer work on the 2008 local campaigns.
Once in the interview, have prepared a list of questions that not only show you understand the company's business, but also shares your own experiences. An example could be “I see Agency XX has done a lot of work in the automotive industry. As I worked for CarCompany for 3 years and launched five new lines, I am interested in what your strategy was around launching the new line and what types of programs you created?”
The goal for any exploratory is to incite the hiring manager to action – to find you a role if there is one, or create one if none is available. At the very least, you want your name to be at the top of their list to call when they have a spot on their team.
Rachel Wallins is partner and director of global HR at Ketchum.