How To Write a Speculative Cover Letter for an Unlisted Job
Updated 1 March 2023
A speculative cover letter is just like a traditional cover letter, but it accompanies your CV in an unsolicited inquiry about employment. This prospective employment letter can help you get an interview for a job before it's made public, and it could encourage an employer to create a special position just for you. If you want to work for a specific company, writing this kind of letter can help you get the attention of a hiring manager.
In this article, we explain how to write a speculative cover letter and provide a checklist of what to include to maximise your chances of getting a response.
What is a speculative cover letter?
A speculative cover letter is a lot like a typical cover letter that accompanies your job application, except that it's not a response to a posted job opening. Rather, it's a speculative document that highlights your skills and the benefits that you can bring to a prospective employer. You may send this in anticipation of a job opening or to show an employer how your interest and skills could benefit their organisation.
While it's best to customise your response to a job advert, with a speculative cover letter, you can infer the likely needs and qualities that the employer would desire from a new hire. This task requires research and some speculating as you consider what the employer may be seeking. While this lack of clarity may make it difficult to predict the outcome of your inquiry, the proactive interest you're showing in the company can make your candidacy attractive.
Related: How to Write a Cover Letter
How to write a speculative cover letter
Creating an effective speculative cover letter is similar to writing one in response to a listed job opening. The biggest difference is that you may have to guess what are the likely qualities your potential employer may be seeking. The biggest difference between a speculative covering letter and a traditional one is the amount of research you conduct before you write one. With a typical cover letter, the job posting details most of the information about the position and what the employer is seeking.
With a speculative cover letter, you may determine the requirements by inferring them from social media, press releases, corporate communications and other job listings from the company and the industry. To help you, considering following these steps:
1. Find out what the company may want in their next hire
Start your research by looking over how the company describes themselves and their work. If you're writing a speculative cover letter, you may already be familiar with the company. Try to figure out more by thoroughly reading the company site and social media to understand the mission and vision and how the company goes about communicating its goals and discussing its work.
It may be helpful to understand what the day-to-day activities and concerns of the company are. Also, considering learning how the company communicates about the work, including which tone, level of formality and specific word choice it uses in these communications. By learning to sound like you're already a member of the organisation, you're increasing the chances that your reader may hire you.
2. Confirm your research with an additional source
Try to confirm your guesses about the organisational culture and the likely needs of your prospective employer with an additional resource. Consider contacting current or former employees via social networks to ask a few questions about the prospective employer. Ask specific questions about the key values and typical needs in terms of talent, skills and personality traits of those who succeed in the team you're hoping to join.
Former and current employees may provide useful information about the application process and work culture within your target company. A productive conversation with a former or current employee can help you confirm your understanding of what the employer is looking for in a new hire. A new connection could also result in a recommendation from someone familiar with the hiring manager.
3. Try to start a relationship
Since you're writing your speculative cover letter to find out whether a job may be available or can become available in the future, avoid being overtly direct with your request. If you're asking the prospective employer to decide immediately whether to hire you outright, the employer may not have a current opening available. Instead of asking for a job, consider using the letter to build a relationship with your prospective employer. Try to show understanding and sympathy for their circumstances if they're unable to take you on.
If you're particularly passionate about the idea of working with the company, you have the option to suggest part-time work, an internship or volunteer involvement with the company. Even if there's not a planned vacancy soon, you may be the first in line when a position or a need comes up. Working with a prospective employer informally may also give you the chance to demonstrate your skills and attitude in practice, making you the easy choice for the next job opening.
What's included in a speculative cover letter?
As with any business communication, your speculative cover letter can follow a business correspondence standard. Also, try to make sure it's grammatically correct and error-free. Include your prospective employer's name, address and the specific person to whom you're directing the letter if you know them. Include your contact information as well. In the body of the letter, you may include the following:
A relatable hook
One advantage of an unsolicited prospective employment letter is that the hiring manager may receive your letter individually. This can increase the chances of a hiring manager noticing your letter. Even if the company has a continuous recruiting process, by targeting the hiring manager for a specific team rather than the general HR staff, you may get more attention than a standard cover letter would. You can use this attention to express your enthusiasm and create a great first impression by showing that you're actively following the news about the company and the team.
Related: How To Start a Professional Letter
A description of your interest in working with the company
While your opening can show your enthusiasm and interest in working with the company, you may also make it clear early in your letter that you're looking for a job. This is also a good opportunity to mention if you're willing to take a part-time job, internship or volunteer position. Your reader may be busy, so making this statement a separate paragraph that clearly and concisely outlines what you're looking for could make it easier for them to see and remember it in detail.
Your skills and demonstrated successes
In the next paragraph, you may present your skills along with some examples from your previous work or schooling that showcase your ability to apply these skills. Try to use your previous professional or personal project successes as concrete examples of your skills. Instead of simply saying that you're good with people, for example, explain how you increased the number of returning customers to the shop you worked in during the summer while in university.
Try to show the practical, quantitative impact your work had on the business to make it easier for the hiring manager to see the value of your experience and remember a specific example. This can help you make a stronger impression and may help increase your chances of earning a position in the future.
The benefits you may bring to the company
After giving a quick overview of some past successes, you may describe how you could achieve similar results for the prospective client. Since you're writing a speculative cover letter, you may make an educated guess at which problems the employer has that you could help solve using your skills and experiences. Review your research and insight to create several examples of how your skills can benefit the business and state these in as specific of terms as possible.
For example, you could say that your warm personality and careful attention to the needs of others could help you increase clientele, improve customer satisfaction and help build a stronger brand through day-to-day interaction. Alternatively, you could say that your strong technical ability can help automate and standardise operational processes, leading to improved efficiency and cost savings. These statements can help show you're able to think broadly about the benefit to the employer, a valuable skill in any industry.
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