Speculative applications can be an effective way of increasing your chances of getting a job. Essentially, they involve crafting well written, tailored CVs and cover letters to an individual in an organisation who is in a position to hire you. The crucial element is that you are not replying to an advertised vacancy, but instead are writing on the off chance that one might be available. There’s a large element of randomness to this approach, but if you follow the five pieces of advice in this blog, you’ll increase the odds in your favour!
- Apply strategically
Do your research, some organisations (often smaller ones) will actively encourage speculative applications. Others will explicitly ask that you don’t and will say so on their website for example. Make sure you devote your resources to organisations that are either open to such approaches or at least not explicitly against them. This approach may be necessary where jobs are rarely advertised such as journalism, production, publishing and roles within small charities and NGOs.
- Get the name of an individual
You’ll need to make sure that your application gets to the right person. Who this is will depend on what you’re applying for, but often it will be the head of a department or service line. Track down the name of this individual and write directly to them – there’s no need to go via the HR department. Other sources of contacts could be LSE alumni working within the organisation you’re interested in, and LinkedIn is a good way of finding these. Timing can also be important. Ensure you have done your research on the recruitment cycle for the organisation you’re interested in and try to submit your application at the right time.
- Be clear on what you’re asking for
Is it an internship, or is it a job (if so in which area)? If this is your first experience within a sector you may even find it useful to ask for work shadowing experience. Make it easy for the individual reading your application to know exactly where they could make best use of you. If you’re too general and vague there’s a risk that they won’t know what would be most appropriate for you. Be as specific as you can in terms of your areas of interest, what you are looking for, and other logistical constraints such as when you are available from.
- Show you know what the organisation does and what you can offer them
Try to find something that ‘hooks’ the reader and shows that you understand their organisation and how you could help them. In your cover letter, try to match the tone of the organisation. For example, a digital start-up may appreciate a less formal approach than a law firm. You should have researched the organisation and sector thoroughly and demonstrate this knowledge in your application. Careful targeting is essential and much more likely to generate a positive response. For example, a quick online search will often reveal that the person you’re writing to has been in the news recently, published a paper, spoken at a conference – you can refer to this in your cover letter as a way of showing your interest.
- Politely follow up
Whilst you may get an immediate response, the chances are that you won’t. Wait two weeks and then very politely follow up asking if they’ve had time to look at your application. If you still don’t get a reply that might be the sign to move on to the next organisation. Don’t take it to heart – it’s absolutely normal. Try not to get too disheartened by this; it may be that the organisation is simply not hiring at that time and do not have the resource to reply to all speculative applications.
Finally, speculative applications work best when combined with other job search techniques such as applying to advertised jobs and networking – this will really increase your chances of success. If you’d like support with your speculative applications you can book a one-to-one appointment with one of our careers consultants. Good luck!