Not every job vacancy is advertised; it is thought that around 70% of job vacancies are not advertised. Every day these hidden vacancies are being filled by people who have taken the initiative and applied directly to the company they want to work for, using a speculative application, hoping that they have a suitable vacancy. To be successful in this approach you must have a clear plan.

How do I write an effective speculative application?

When making a speculative application to a company there are a number of things to remember that will make your application stand out.

In this blog post we will share our insights into making a successful speculative application, focussing on the speculative cover letter.

Advice on CVs can be found on our blog post “How do I write a great CV?”

What is a speculative application?

A speculative application involves proactively approaching a company to seek out opportunities that are not currently advertised.

A speculative application should consist of a cover letter and CV. The speculative cover letter should be formatted the same way as a traditional cover letter; professional letter format and up to 2 pages in length.

You will still need to tailor your speculative cover letter for the company and position you are applying for. As you are not applying for an advertised position, which has a job description to help you, your speculative application will require more research and preparation.

Before you apply

Before you send your speculative cover letter to companies there are a few things you need to decide upon:

  • What company do you want to apply to?
  • What type of work do you want? Work experience / internship / placement or a permanent graduate role?
  • What type of role do you want?

Once you have answered these questions you will need to undertake some research to help you tailor your application:

  • What does the company do? Who are their competitors?
  • Why do you want to work for them? What interests you about them?
  • What skills do you need for the role you want?
  • Why should they employ you? – Make sure you understand what you have to offer

When you feel confident you can answer these questions you are ready to begin composing your speculative cover letter.

Getting started – Who should you send your application to?

It is important to research the company and find out who deals with their recruitment to make sure that you address your application to the right person. This is particularly important, if you address your letter ‘to whom it may concern’ there is a very good chance that your letter won’t reach the right person and may even get lost in the process – meaning that all of your hard work was for nothing. You can find out who to address your speculative cover letter to through a number of methods; researching the company through their web pages or by using LinkedIn. You could even telephone the company to ask for the name of the person who deals with their recruitment.

Speculative Cover Letter Content

1.     The beginning

You should open your speculative cover letter with an introduction of who you are, what role you want and why you want it.

Be specific about the role that you want. This is both helpful to you and the employer. Don’t fall into the trap of simply stating that you would like to apply to work for them and would welcome the opportunity to discuss how your skills, qualifications and experience would be of benefit.

By doing this you are asking the employer to assess your suitability for a role that could be anything from a Cleaner to their Finance Director. How do they know?

By being specific the employer will have a good idea of the level of work you are capable of. If they think you are a good candidate but don’t currently have the role you are looking for, they might have something else suitable to offer you or perhaps keep you on file for future roles that come up.

Being specific will also enable you to tailor your speculative cover letter to the role, meaning you can demonstrate to the employer that you have the specific skills required.

2.     The middle

In this section you should cover why you are suitable for the role you are applying for. You need to  demonstrate here that you have all of the necessary skills to do the job you are enquiring about.

This is where you research comes in – As you have been specific about the job you want, you are now able to tailor your application to the skills required for that position.

You can research different job roles and the skills required by using the Insight Guides on our webpage or by looking at the job profiles on the Prospects website. Alternatively you could search various job boards and use the job descriptions for similar roles to help you tailor your application.

The middle section should also demonstrate why you want to work for them?

Tell them why – Why are you applying to this particular company? What is it that they do which interests you? Your application should show that you have done your research and you are not just sending the same letter out to lots of companies in the hope that someone will pick it up. Tailoring your application for each company can really make the difference with your application.

3.     The end

As with any good application you should give your speculative cover letter a closing statement. Thank them for their time considering your application and that you look forward to hearing from them shortly.

If you want to be tenacious you could close your letter with a statement to say that you will be in touch in a weeks’ time to discuss your application.

To follow up your application, call the company and ask for the person you sent your speculative application to by name. Introduce yourself and ask if they received your application. You should then enquire as to whether it’s a convenient time to discuss their thoughts on your application. Following this method will give your call structure, purpose and meaning, helping you to break the ice and have a positive conversation.

* Remember – if you say you will follow up, make sure that you do. Put a note in your diary so you know who to contact and when.

– Written by Tanya Rose, Applications Adviser