Alternative Job Hunting Strategies: Speculative applications
In the coming weeks we will publish blogs giving advice on alternative job-hunting strategies, therefore subscribe to our blog to make sure you don't miss out. This week we are looking at speculative applications.
This blog is updated from two excellent blogs written by our colleagues Rebecca Wray and Amy Herbert.
As you may know many graduate roles are never advertised, or alternatively, only advertised on an organisation’s own website or social media to avoid getting a lot of applications. A speculative approach may be the only way to find out about opportunities that you wouldn’t normally see. Being speculative refers to a questioning curiosity, so rather than waiting for a vacancy, you’re actively using your curiosity to find a company and ask them for a position. A speculative application is usually an email where you attach a tailored CV and put the cover letter in the main body of the email.
How to find employers
There are several ways to find employers you would like to contact. In general, you should focus on the small to medium sized companies as many big companies won’t accept speculative applications. You can find contacts and organisations through networking, for example with alumni, or perhaps you meet employers at conferences, trade shows or other events. You can also do an online search through MyFuture Organisations or use FAME database. Through talking to people and researching online, you will hopefully find a contact name to send a speculative application to, as having a specific contact and contact email address improves your chances of getting a response. This resource gives you further ideas relevant to researching employers.
Writing your cover letter
Attach or not attach
For your cover letter, resolve to write no more than half an A4 page and reduce clicks. Clicks rely on the motivation of the reader so keep it easy and have your “cover letter” in the body of the email. This is particularly applicable to speculative applications because you’re giving the employer something extra to do. All you need to attach is your CV.
However, if speculative applications are normal for your field/sector, like in architecture, then write a full length A4 cover letter and attach it to the email. If you’re not sure, liaise with employers or alumni in your sector.
Address it to someone
As mentioned earlier, research who is the best person to write to. You could use LinkedIn, Companies House, or even use Bath Connection to ask a Bath alumnus who might already work there. You could CC in a couple of people but not too many or it might look like spam. If more than 3, consider sending separate emails. If you don’t have a name, which is very common, then ‘dear sir/madam’ is perfectly acceptable.
Put them before you
We recommend putting motivation first. Make them feel special like their company is the only one you’re contacting. Put some research into it. Scour their website and social media, check out GlassDoor, use library databases to make sure you’re up to date with them in the news. The idea is to show you know their company and this will give your application that personal touch. For more inspiration, this resource on My Future suggests ideas you could include here.
Show them that taking you on will be mutually beneficial. Have a small paragraph on your skills and link it to the organisation. Say why you think your skills will be useful to them. Even better, say how your skills have helped other companies or projects. Having the skills is one thing but being good at what you do is another.
They’re not expecting you so make your purpose known. Give them a timescale but if you’re flexible, tell them that as well. The idea is to be open but not too general. Make sure they know you’re looking for a graduate role or internship, your areas of interest, and when you’re available to start.
Call to action
Outline the next steps. Make it something concrete like scheduling a conversation. A small but specific call to action can go a long way in increasing their motivation to respond.
- Check out our Application, CV and cover letter guide for extra tips and examples of what your speculative email might look like!
- Check our this Warwick University blog on speculative applications.
- If you need further support regarding alternative job hunting strategies, have a look at our Search for work guide and/or book a 1:1 appointment with one of our advisers via MyFuture.
- You can find all our get started guides here.