Eight things you need to do to write an impressive speculative job application

Love an ‘in’ at your dream employer, but can’t see any job openings? Here are eight things you need to do to write an impressive speculative application.

Did you know that you can secure your dream job without ever picking up the phone to a recruitment agency, or scouring job boards? The power to do this lies in writing a speculative application: contacting an employer directly, not in response to an advertised vacancy.

What’s more, they can be particularly powerful when you’re looking to return to work and feel like a square peg heading for a round hole.

Speculative applications take some skill. You can’t bash them out with the generic scattergun approach of most job applications. To help, Andrew Fennell, founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV, guides you through how to write a top-notch speculative application.

1) Understand your ‘why’

Speculative applications require a proactive approach in a way that regular applications don’t. Therefore, you need to understand why you are doing this. It will form the basis of an enticing application.

Therefore, take some time to self-assess. Having this clarity will help you to only expend effort on speculative applications which have a good chance of success.

2) Do your research

Armed with this information, it’s time to do your homework. From all of the available information you can find, is there a realistic possibility that this company will be keen to find out more about you? 

In the process, try to identify who you should write to. A speculative application is always best if addressed to an individual by name. Hint: use LinkedIn.

Remember to be prepared for both speed and snail-pace. A speculative application may see a call for interview tomorrow, or, you may be put on a database for the future.

3) Address their needs with your skills

The basis of a speculative application shouldn’t simply be a list of your expertise and qualifications. Instead, once you’ve identified their needs, your application should focus on how you, specifically, can meet those needs. Ask yourself: how can I genuinely add value to this organisation? Use tangible examples of how you’ve done these things in the past.

You don’t want to come across as if you’re begging for work. You do want to sound as if you’ve got something that they can’t risk missing.

4) Be enthusiastic, personal and direct

A speculative application is far removed from a generic cover letter. Instead, you need to show genuine enthusiasm for the objectives of the business. The last thing you want to do is come across as if you’re spamming them. With speculative applications, take more time to write fewer letters.

Do pop in your CV, but consider it secondary to the main letter. However, take some time to tweak your CV, and make it speak volumes to this specific company.

5) Be brief

It’s going to be tough, but you need to keep things relatively brief. Aim for no more than 3-4 paragraphs. Front load it with what you’ve got to offer, to lure the reader in. Use short, snappy and active-language sentences.

6) Call to action

Never sign off a speculative application without a clear indication of what you’d like to happen next. State that you wish to hear from them, regarding any potential opportunity, and state how flexible you can be. Don’t forget to put in your contact details here.

7) Check it!

Speculative applications take considerable time and effort to craft. You don’t want to have wasted that. So, check your work and then check again. Get someone with impeccable English to check it again for you.

8) Follow it up

You’ve put effort in here, so don’t just send it off and forget about it. If you’ve not heard anything back after around 10 days, then pick up the phone, and see if you can pique some curiosity that way.

By only choosing to respond to job adverts, you limit your potential to find that perfect return-to-work job. You need to knock on the door of opportunity. A speculative application is the way to do that.

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Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV. He is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.

Photo by Brooke Cagle