How to write a speculative application (with example)

Updated 13 April 2023

If there's an organisation you wish to work for, it may be possible to do so without waiting for them to advertise a vacancy. Speculative applications can be an effective way to highlight your skills to potential employers. Learning how to make this contact effectively can help you progress your career journey and secure rewarding employment. In this article, we explore what a speculative application is and how to write a speculative application, with the general template and an example.

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What is a speculative application?

A speculative application is an application you may make to an employer that does not relate to an advertised role. While the established vacancy advertisement and application approach may be the simplest, most direct route to gaining employment, there are other options. You may wish to contact an employer speculatively rather than wait for them to advertise.

This can be a good option if there is a specific organisation you wish to work for. Proactively contacting them may mean they consider you first when recruiting for future opportunities. This may help give you a competitive advantage. It can also be a route to interning with an organisation, again making them aware of you and your abilities. Some organisations may not advertise all available opportunities, and on-spec hiring is common in many industries, including charities, the media and environmental sectors.

Related: How to follow up on a job application (with example)

How to write a speculative application

Here are a few key steps on how to write a speculative application:

1. Identify suitable employers

Begin by considering the employers you wish to contact and identifying your career aims and goals. Think about what industry you want to work in, research relevant organisations, and consider exploring their organisational culture and purpose to find places that match your values. This helps give your application a better chance of success and ensures you contact employers where you may gain the best possible job satisfaction.

You might find companies you wish to contact through online research. If you're currently studying, your university's careers service can be an excellent resource, as can lecturers. Academic staff may also provide specific individuals you can contact within an organisation. Networking events and career fairs are also an effective way to discover potential employers.

Related: 14 of the best networking strategies and where to use them

2. Identify a potential role

Your application is more likely to succeed if you contact employers with a specific idea about what you can do for them and allow you to show your potential value. Again, consider the aims of your career journey when thinking about the specific job you may wish to have. You might also consider researching what other vacancies they're currently advertising for or past advertisements. This can help give you an idea of what roles they typically have available.

You may then wish to focus your application on asking them to consider you if similar roles become available. For example, look to research their future projects or their avenues for growth and expansion. In this way, your application can focus on how your skills can help them with future challenges and opportunities. This can include ways you could help in a potentially new role they haven't previously considered.

Related: 11 top job skills: Transferable skills for any industry

3. Tailor your CV

Potential employers are more likely to react positively to your speculative application if you tailor it to them specifically. With that in mind, take the time to customise your CV for each specific organisation you contact. Research the organisation, its mission, and its work to see what skills and competencies they value in employees and try to highlight these in your CV. Advertisements and job descriptions for previous vacancies can be an effective way to discover some of these details.

If possible, try to research testimonials from previous or current employees. If you know anyone who works at the company, a first-hand account from them can be extremely valuable. Testimonials like this can give you an insight into company culture and what sort of personalities fit well in the organisation. You can then tailor your CV to show the hiring manager that you have the sort of personal qualities they look for in effective employees, in addition to valuable professional competencies.

Related: The ultimate guide to CV basics (with example)

4. Write a cover letter

Along with a tailored CV, you can draft a customised covering letter for each organisation you contact. This is important as it outlines the intentions of your speculative application. Again, it's important to state precisely what outcome you're seeking, rather than just asking to work there. If, for example, you wish to intern and doing so would require the creation of a new position to accommodate your request, state specifically that you desire to intern rather than vaguely asking to join the organisation.

You may also look to address your application to specific individuals within the organisation, if you can, rather than to the recruiting team. Try to find a senior member of the hiring team to contact, as they may have the authority and autonomy to accept speculative applications. The company's organisational structure may be on its website. If not, use professional networking websites to find people who work there or ask any contacts you may have at the organisation the best person to send your application to.

Related: How to structure a cover letter (With example)

Speculative application cover letter format

The specifics of your cover letter may vary depending on your circumstances and the organisation you're contacting. There are a few common things to consider when writing a cover letter. At the top right of the letter, if you're sending a physical letter rather than an email, display your name, address and contact information. Below this and formatted to the left, write the name and address of the person you're contacting. From here, your cover letter may comprise the following sections:

  • Salutation: Open by addressing the person you're writing to by name. A common formal salutation you may wish to use is 'Dear'.

  • Introduction: Keep this brief and to the point. State your reason for writing and why you wish to work for this organisation.

  • Skills section: This is where you state to the employer why you can be a benefit to their organisation. Highlight a few key points from your CV, possibly in bullet-point form.

  • Invitation for contact: The speculative application is the opening of a discussion about your recruitment. You may want to invite the employer to contact you and, if so, tell them the most convenient way to do so.

  • Complimentary close: Finish with a complimentary close, followed by your full name. A common, versatile complimentary close is 'Yours sincerely'.

Related: What are letter salutations and how do you write one?

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Speculative application cover letter example

Here is an example of the content you may write in a speculative application cover letter:

Dear Julie,

I am writing to discuss the possibility of joining your organisation. Your recent advertisement for a project lead on your community engagement project interested me. I would like to ask that you consider me if any similar opportunities arise in the future. I have worked in the charity sector for five years, specialising in outreach projects, and have always taken a keen interest in the inspiring work of your organisation.

I feel I have a lot of attributes that may benefit your organisation. I have experience with resource management and understand that charitable organisations often face the challenge of deriving the greatest possible benefit from limited assets. People management is also a particular skill of mine, which can be valuable in coordinating and managing outreach teams and interacting with the community these teams look to serve.

I have also been fortunate enough to gain a great deal of experience with fundraising. I have established strong connections with several funding bodies and feel these contacts could help your organisation immensely. Also, the missions and goals of your organisation and its work align very much with my own values. Yours is a team I have wanted the opportunity to work with for a long time.

I have attached a full copy of my CV for your consideration and would welcome the opportunity to continue this discussion as soon as possible. I have listed my contact details at the top of this letter, so please contact me via email or phone at your earliest convenience. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Jim Sullivan

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