'Informal enquiries' for job - not sure what they're thinking


I'm applying for RA positions as well as PhDs atm (I'm doing an MSc). I've found one that looks interesting and where I meet the minimum requirements and some of the 'desirable' ones, and it says 'informal enquiries are encouraged'.

To me, this seems like contacting a supervisor for a PhD before applying informally and probably a good idea to get in touch if it's 'encouraged' - but I'm not really sure what kind of thing to say! For a PhD I'd briefly outline my background and say what I'd like to work on, but here the job has specific duties and criteria outlined and the details seem clear.

It's part-time and I do have a couple of questions about how many days a week etc it works out at and when they'd want someone to start which I thought I could ask at this point - I'd like to know the answers esp as my MSc isn't finished yet (dissertation due Sept, not sure if it's usual/doable/advisable to just finish off the dissertation while starting a job if they want someone sooner.)

I was also thinking of doing a few lines about my background that are relevant to the job description - is this the kind of thing they're after? I want to be proactive but I'm finding it hard to know what 'enquiries' to make without it seeming a bit artificial, given the job details are given and I'm going to be outlining how I meet the criteria in my actual application. I've only done job apps for commercial jobs in a totally different area before so this 'informal enquiries encouraged before you apply' is a new one - normally I would just apply and see what they said about my application!

Can anyone tell me what they usually do when applying for this sort of job?


Hello Igorina,

I think it's a good idea to have an informal inquiry with a potential project/supervisor; at least you can see whether you like the supervisor in person!

In my opinion, you can ask them anything you believe is best for you (I would). Come with a mind setting where you want something that's best for you, not for them.

I don't think you have to worry about being artificial; it's after all "informal".


Thanks Dan! Good points there - I think I was just a bit confused with the whole 'PhD' style blending into a job app, as I am not used to 'informal enquiries' with a job app. To me it makes sense with a PhD (is this person doing the kind of work you want to do? do they like the sound of your proposed project? are you what they're looking for? etc) but less so with a job which has defined responsibilities and criteria - it's not as though I can ask to change those, and I can see what they want out of an applicant already.


This is very common inthe world of education. Even teachng assistant jobs in schools encourage 'informal enquiries'. It shows them you are a firm candidate. Jobs I have previously applied for where I have made an enquiry has usually led to a visit to the employer to have a look around and ask questions before you decide on applying. It's just another tool they can use to shortlist candidates. Good luck.


Thanks wowzers! It makes a lot of sense, just not something they do in the job sectors I'm used to so was a bit puzzled re what they were after.

Can I ask what kind of form your 'enquiry' took - did you drop them a brief email with an outline of relevant qualifications/any questions?


The education sector I'm in usually involves ringing up and them suggesting a 'tour' of the establishment with time for you to ask some questions. If they have provided a telephonoe number and a name it could suggest they expect an informal chat where, they may well invite you in. If it is an email addess then they probably want a brief outline of experience and your interest in the post, followed again by some questions from you that you have about expected duties/application timescale etc.


Thanks Wowzers, that's really helpful. I'll go and send them an email along those lines.