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How to succeed with speculative applications

Advertised vacancies only represent a portion of the jobs available and using only one application strategy can result in missed opportunities… speculative applications are a direct approach to getting in touch with an employer or organisation to find out if they have any opportunities, even if they aren’t currently advertising vacancies.

Kyla Atkinson, Careers Consultant, shares her top tips on how to prepare if you choose to apply speculatively:

1. Be proactive

Send your CV and cover letter directly to an employer or organisation along with an introductory email highlighting your skills and experience. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the most receptive to speculative applications, and they are commonly used in the charity, design, environmental and media sectors, but are not limited to these.

2. Do your research

Research companies you are interested in through their websites, social media pages, and articles on them in the wider press. Some companies offer the chance to engage in a live chat with their staff members, and this can be one way of finding out more about what they look for in candidates. Careers Fairs and employer events can be useful for making connections and finding out more about roles which you can then refer to in your application. Look out for upcoming events and information through the events tab on MyCareerHub.

3. Tailor your application

Think carefully about the reasons why you are attracted to the company; these will likely be different for everyone and can often be found in the ‘About Us’ section of their website. It could be the inclusive culture, innovative projects, international collaborations or their focus on sustainability. What sets them apart from other organisations like them? Further information can be found through their strategic plan which gives a sense of the organisation’s future goals. Understand your key strengths, skills, and qualities, and have clear examples that showcase these. Use our Careers Compass ‘Understand Yourself’ section to develop this further. It’s also important to look for connections between your personal values and those of the organisation so yourself and the employer can potentially see a good ‘team fit’.

4. Use LinkedIn

LinkedIn can be a useful tool to find staff in companies that you are interested in. Make sure you send your application to someone who has the ability to hire. Ensure that you personalise your message if you are sending a contact request. Keep this concise and give them a brief snapshot of what you are studying and anything that has particularly impressed you about the organisation; this could be their projects, values, staff training and many others. Get into the practice of following employers you are interested in so that you can be kept in the loop with any new vacancies or opportunities. Getting involved in discussions and forums can also be useful and is a good way of staying up-to-date with key trends in the sector to build your commercial/business awareness.

Watch our “Getting the most out of LinkedIn” video which provides tips on how to build an effective profile to stand out as an informed and interested candidate.

5. Reflect on your skills

Take time to reflect on the wide range of skills you have gathered from your degree, societies, part-time work, internships, hobbies and personal projects. Make sure not to discount unpaid experience; employers look at the whole picture when considering candidates. Get a sense of what skills and attitudes would be most valued by the company by researching their website carefully, paying attention to how they talk about themselves and their achievements.

6. Be flexible

Have an open mind-set about the possibilities that might arise as a result of contacting the company. The first one might not lead to an offer of work experience or a job opportunity, but you can still gain valuable knowledge through informational interviews, work shadowing, and expanding your professional network. If they do offer you an opportunity, consider if it’s right for you. On the other hand, don’t be discouraged if the company doesn’t have anything to offer currently. They might be hiring in the future and showing your interest is a clear sign of your enthusiasm and motivation; all desired qualities in future candidates.

7. Follow-up

Aim to make a follow up phone call within two weeks of sending your speculative application, to allow the employer time to have read it. In the phone call, refer to your application and express your interest in potential opportunities with the company. Keep an ongoing record of the organisations you have contacted for your own notes.

Read more Careers Service advice on making speculative applications here: Create your own opportunity.

The Careers Service is open throughout the summer and is here for you – on campus and online. Have a go at applying these top tips to your speculative application, and if you like, you can book an appointment with a Careers Consultant or come to our Information and Advice drop-in for a second opinion. You’ll find the links to access these here: Careers Service Quick Links






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