Speculative cover letters are used when applying to a company for a position that has not been advertised. This could be to enquire about work experience, or to gain a role with a company you particularly admire. However, without having a job description, they can be really tricky to write!
Unfortunately, the employer isn’t necessarily inclined to read your letter – you need to grab their attention and focus on how you will benefit them, not the other way around!
Here are my tips for conquering the speculative cover letter…
Know your audience
It's really important that you address your cover letter to the relevant person (or at least make a strong attempt to). If it’s not addressed, it will not look professional and will appear a half-hearted effort.
- Research who would be the best contact to address your letter to – LinkedIn (Director/Head of/Lead/Manager *industry specific* + company name e.g. Marketing Manager Walt Disney / Head of Human Resources Apple)
- Call HR of that company and ask who to address your cover letter to
Understand their business
Does this company actually use your skill set? Don’t waste your time by applying to companies that don’t need your expertise.
Similarly, understand their company culture and save yourself time by applying to companies that meet your personal goals.
- Research their company website / LinkedIn profile
- Where would you fit in the company?
- Who are their competitors?
- Have they been in the news / had recent campaigns?
This needs to be attention grabbing to encourage the employer to read on. Therefore, I’d recommend not immediately starting with your intentions to request work experience / a job.
Reel the employer in and once you have their attention, highlight your purpose for writing (I still recommend doing this early on).
- Positive feedback for an event they recently held
- Following up on networking you have done
- An interesting personal story / experience (that is relevant to their company)
- Your admiration of the company / employer (hard facts based on research)
Then indicate what kind of role you are looking for and why that company. Be careful not to close any doors by being too specific on the type of work – if you are seeking a placement year, say so – but if you’d be happy with a week/a day shadowing someone, say that you would like some valuable experience in *sector/role* for example.
A speculative letter will have less focus on what the company can do for you – the employer isn’t too concerned that they have ‘excellent training opportunities’ or ‘an inclusive company culture that will allow me to grow’.
You need to give them a reason to hire you alongside their other paid employees. How will you be a benefit to their company?
- You have the latest, up to date industry knowledge due to your studies
- You have proven success working in teams and will be an asset to theirs
- You have confidence working on systems / technology / methods they use
- You’re motivated and driven
- You have a niche skill set
- You’re adaptable and learn quickly
- You’ve won awards relevant to their industry
It’s vital that you back these statements up with proof. Consider the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result) when giving your examples – it’s important to demonstrate how this skill/achievement/experience will benefit them.
Include the research that you have done about the company to highlight why you are so interested in working for them specifically; but make sure you comment on why this is important to you – be careful not to just state facts that they already know!
- This can be really short (2-3 lines) where you summarise why you’re interested in them and how you’ll be an asset to their organisation (what you have already written).
- Remember to let them know when you’re available for a phone call / meeting and when you are free to work.
- Thank them – and let them know you look forward to meeting them soon!
Yours sincerely (if you have their name)
Yours faithfully (no name)
For some info on how to send speculative letters by email, see this page written by our Careers Advisers.
And for some useful feedback, book an appointment with an Applications Adviser