‘Speculate to accumulate’ – how to make speculative applications

Although it’s impossible to quantify how many of the estimated 50-80% unadvertised jobs are at ‘graduate level’ there is no doubt that you should tap into this market if you want to increase your chance of job search success. Don’t artificially restrict your horizons by focussing on the graduate portals, fairs or company websites alone. There are a wealth of opportunities out there and a good speculative application can help you unlock the door to this seemingly hidden job market.

When to send a speculative application

  • If you want to work for a small, medium-sized enterprise (SME), a speculative application may uncover unadvertised vacancies with an employer who will not have the same recruitment budget and resources as a high-profile, larger recruiter – a speculative approach to the latter is likely to be met with a referral to the company’s website.
  • If you want to work in specific industries, for example: international development, publishing, the media and advertising, an innovative approach to job seeking will be a prerequisite rather than an additional strategy to adopt. Demand exceeds supply in these highly popular sectors and employers do not need to advertise.

How to write a speculative application

A speculative application does require a higher level of research, resilience, creativity and determination than a more conventional approach but the potential rewards can make this strategy well worth the effort. We’ve collated our top tips to help you turn that application from a “no thanks” to a “definitely maybe”!


Perhaps THE most important step in the whole process. You’ve got to have a really thorough understanding of the company and be able to show how you would fit in and add value.

Why not use Google alerts to increase your awareness and understanding of the relevant business sector? You need to find out who are their competitors, what do they sell/produce, what are their strengths and what are the current challenges facing the industry or sector. If you find your levels of motivation and interest are high whilst undertaking this research it suggests a level of congruence – and a potentially good ‘match’.

Find the ‘hook’

Focus on the company’s needs and what you can do for them. Find a niche. Are they are looking to diversify their online presence, or break into new markets?  Perhaps you have the relevant skills to help them develop their web profile, or maybe you’ve had an internship abroad and can use that knowledge to good effect to bringing products to market outside the UK.

A partner at Maxwell Alves Solicitors, Daniel Cheung, assesses speculative CVs and cover letters in 20-30 seconds:

The key is identifying a need of the firm and emphasising that need in both the CV and cover letter. For example, we recently required a litigation paralegal that was available immediately and who had litigation experience. The better candidates highlighted that they had litigation experience in the first few sentences of their cover letter and CV.

Daniel emphasised the need for candidates to refer to the specific relevance of their research to the business:

Some candidates moved up a level by investigating what type of litigation we were doing by analysing our website. When we see that the individual has taken that much time to analyse our firm’s work and profile, it makes it harder for us to refuse that candidate. Instead, that individual has shown commitment and more likely than not, we will invite him/her in for an interview.

Sell yourself

What have you got to offer – why would an employer want to meet you? Employers are not benevolent folk and they won’t give you a job simply because you “really want it” and are “very motivated”. You need to show and tell. Every business wants to make or save money, so how would your skills, experience and qualifications (potentially) help to achieve this goal?

Target your application

If you can, try to find a named contact – if you simply use a generic “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To whom it may concern” you’ve immediately lost the chance to make a personal connection. Rich Hill from Atass, a statistical research consultancy, attests to the importance of targeted applications and notes that an application addressed to a named contact is much more likely to be received favourably – and actioned – as it emphasises the applicant’s level of interest in the business.

It’s worth the risk!

A speculative approach can be frustrating and time consuming and your applications may be ignored; on the other hand, if your applications have been targeted and carefully planned, they may lead to an exciting and rewarding career and possibly one you might otherwise have overlooked.

What’s stopping you?



One thought on “‘Speculate to accumulate’ – how to make speculative applications

  1. Pingback: ‘Speculate to accumulate’ – how to make speculative applications | Bournemouth University Careers & Employability Service Blog

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