June 12, 2014, by Beth Dawson

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Speculative Applications

You may be well-practised at filling in online application forms and sending off your CV and covering letter to apply for vacancies, but what if there’s a company you’re keen to work for and they’re not advertising positions?

With a speculative application you send your CV and covering letter to an employer to enquire about opportunities, not necessarily vacancies, that they can offer. As you’ll need to approach speculative applications differently than applying for a vacancy, we’ve compiled our top seven things that you need to know before you start drafting that covering letter. 

1. More companies accept them than you might think

Small to medium-sized enterprises will be likely to consider speculative applications as they tend to hire as-and-when they need staff, have a flexible recruitment process and will be keen to save the costs of advertising opportunities. In contrast, some larger companies may only accept applications when they’re advertising a vacancy, as they receive hundreds of applications and may have strict applications procedures.

Some places you can find companies that will be likely to consider speculative applications include:

  • Local newspapers, television and radio – these sources are particularly useful for identifying expanding companies that are opening new offices, taking on staff and launching new projects.
  • LinkedIn – both local and larger businesses use this online networking platform, through which you can connect with people who currently work for them.
  • Your contacts – even if you don’t think you have industry connections, don’t disregard the opportunities that your family or friends may know about.
  • Chambers of Commerce Business Directory – can be used to find businesses in your area. For example, search for companies by industry in the members directory of the East Midlands Chamber.

2. It’s a balancing act

When writing your covering letter for a speculative application it’s important to say what you’d like, but not to be so specific about this that you end up reducing your options. Try to explain what kind of roles and opportunities you’re interested in. Perhaps you’re looking to gain an insight into a particular sector, or are looking for a period of work experience or shadowing?

If you’re too specific, such as stating that you want ‘a permanent graduate role as a data analyst’, an employer may interpret that you’re not interested in other opportunities they can offer. Also, don’t expect a job offer when you first make contact. Your route into a company could start with a chat about someone’s role, or a day’s work experience that may lead to a longer period of work experience or a temporary role which may eventually lead to a full-time position.

3. You’ll need to know as much about the company as regular applications

‘Employers complain about graduates adopting a ‘spray and pray’ approach, taking little effort to research a role or target their application. Many said that graduates had cut and pasted earlier applications, and failed to change the name of the company to which they were applying’ (Nicola Woolcock, Education Correspondent, The Times)

Make sure you research the company you’re applying to and whether they offer opportunities that interest you. Check their website, staff list, LinkedIn profile or give them a call. Tailoring your speculative application isn’t a five minute task. If you’re just going to change the company name on each letter you’re unlikely to hear anything, as companies know when they’ve been sent a standard letter and it’ll go straight in the bin.

4. Sending a general application won’t impress

Be sure to address your letter to a named person, such as the business’ HR Manager, if the details aren’t easily available on their website or on LinkedIn, give the company a ring to check who you should send your letter to. Also, finishing your letter off with ‘yours sincerely’ will give it a polite and professional tone.

If someone who works at the company or has good links with them, has recommended that you get in touch, if may be worth referring to this in your letter. However, you’ll need to check with the person to ensure they’re happy with what you’ve said, it’s the same as asking someone to be your reference on your CV.

5. Not hearing from an employer doesn’t mean rejection

Not everyone will have something that they can offer you at the time you contact them and will be unlikely to respond if they don’t feel they can help you. Although they may keep your letter for future reference if opportunities do arise.

To find further tips to help make your speculative applications stand out, see our covering letter and CV pages. If you want to talk through your application with a member of our team, you can book an appointment through My Career.

Posted in Applying For JobsGraduate VacanciesWork experience