Speculative applications

It pays to take a chance and contact organisations that you are interested in working for, even if they are not officially advertising vacancies. It shows you have initiative and can impress potential employers, as well as putting you ahead of the competition by finding vacancies before they reach the open market. The general approach is based on networking.

Before you get started

  • Create a target list of potential employers most likely to need your skills and experience, ideal organisations are ones that have previously advertised the type of role you would like to secure or have related projects and clients
  • Be clear about the type of role you are looking for and why – be specific in your approach and outline what you hope to gain from a post with that organisation
  • Find the correct contacts for recruitment; a blue-chip may have a recruitment team that you need to go through whereas with a small and medium size employer (SME) it might be straight to the directors
  • Have your CV ready, and ideally checked by a Careers Consultant

Why should I use a speculative approach?

  • Approximately 50% of vacancies are never formally advertised
  • With market changes, only a small percentage of graduates work for traditional graduate recruiters. This way you access many other vacancies
  • Reaching your career goal may take several steps (including voluntary work, unpaid work experience or a lower level job to gain relevant experience)
  • Finding vacancies before they are advertised puts you ahead of the competition and impresses employers. It's essential in very competitive sectors such as media, advertising and environmental work

What is a speculative approach?

Enquiries by letter and CV or email

  • Find out the name of the manager of the department you wish to join - then direct your CV and letter of enquiry to that named person
  • Make the letter concise, but mention any specific experience you have that matches up with the type of company/function you are enquiring about
  • Target potential employers most likely to need your skills and experience
  • Be clear about what you are applying for and why (what you hope to gain from a post with that firm) - be specific in your approach
  • Identify key points in your letter and refer to your CV for factual evidence on relevant achievements and experience
  • A CV is a selling tool and should highlight your academic achievements, interests and work experience and should illustrate your personal skills and qualities
  • Ideally, follow up the personalised letter you send with a phone call within 2-3 weeks

Enquiries by telephone

  • Find out who deals with recruitment and ask to speak to them
  • State the nature of your enquiry clearly.  Are you asking about any current post they may have coming up which may suit you?  Are you asking if it would be possible to workshadow an employee of the firm?  Are you asking if you could gain some (maybe unpaid) work experience with the firm?
  • Think about what you want to say in advance and be clear and direct
  • Be prepared to talk about yourself and to sell what you have to offer
  • Sound positive, enthusiastic and polite. Offer evidence and examples from your CV

Enquiries in person with a CV

  • Direct 'cold calling' - going on foot from one workplace to another, asking about employment. It requires a a great deal of persistence, resilience and self-confidence in the face of potential rejection. However, you may succeed in getting jobs within the retail sector this way and in sales orientated environments where it is part of the job to be able to sell and persuade
  • If the person you need to speak to is not available, make an appointment
  • If this is not possible ask for their name and whether to phone or write or email
  • You may find Informational Interviewing useful for tips - this is obtaining information about an occupation or industry by talking to relevant employees

Who should I contact?

  • Employers who may have relevant vacancies - and who really interest you.  Think about why you want to work for them and convey your enthusiasm and suitability
  • Organisations with related opportunities (eg voluntary work or projects)
  • You may also find the information in the Researching Employers section useful

How can I find out more?

Use directories in the Placement and Careers Centre (PCC) library and online:

  • Our website contains information careers on 20 specific career options 
  • Prospects directory: provides basic contact details for many large companies
  • TARGETjobs GET directory provides basic contact details of many companies
  • Kelly’s business directory: provides details on UK companies and product information
  • Kompass: provides financial and product information for companies
  • Small and medium size employers (SMEs) are offering more jobs. They are less likely to advertise and more likely to take up speculative applications. Try Yellow Pages or Thomson Local directories. PCC staff can also give you some leads in this often-neglected area 
  • Talk to family and friends. Lots of job opportunities come to light this way
  • PCC can help you make approaches to employers by offering advice on approach techniques and strategies

Page last updated: Monday 29 September 2014