Speculative Job Applications by Email
Many job vacancies are never advertised publicly. That means that taking the initiative to approach a potential employer with a carefully thought-out email can be the ideal way to get your foot in the door.
This article will outline the planning and method behind sending a speculative application, including who to send your email to, what to include and leave out, and how to follow up.
A speculative email is an unsolicited job application sent to an organisation to introduce yourself as a potential candidate for any relevant job openings they may have.
This approach is perfect for when you find a company with brand values you agree with, a solid portfolio and a skilled team you’d love to work with – but with no advertised job vacancies.
You could wait for a position to be advertised but, as many companies are generally open to recruiting on an ongoing basis, using a speculative application means that you can get a head start on the competition.
If successful, your email can:
- Build relationships with hiring managers
- Get you the opportunity to intern or shadow staff
- Gain paid employment
If your speculative email is not fruitful, there is every chance that your contact will keep you in mind for when a vacancy does open up – especially if you make a strong impression.
This is an important step in the process, so getting it right is crucial. You can spend time crafting the perfect email but if it lands in the wrong inbox, chances are the recipient will disregard it entirely. It also gives the impression that you haven’t done your homework.
You need to be sure that your intended recipient has hiring authority. There is no point in sending your email to a junior staff member or someone in the wrong team.
So, who exactly do you send it to, and how do you find them?
You need to make sure that you send your application to a named contact. Sending to a ‘hello@’ or ‘enquiries@’ email address increases the chance of your email going unanswered, so take the time to do your research.
- Scour the company website for details of employees. The ‘Meet the Team’ page or the ‘About’ page are usually the best places to start.
- Try LinkedIn. Search for the name of the company and follow the links to find ‘Staff Who Work Here’. This can be a good way to familiarise yourself with the range of departments and the hierarchy of staff. Staff will often be listed that wouldn’t necessarily be featured on the official company website.
- Telephone the company directly and ask for a named contact of someone who deals with recruitment.
In a smaller company, it may be appropriate to contact the managing director with your speculative application. In a larger organisation, the head of the relevant department is more likely to be the hiring authority.
During the research phase, maintain a polite and friendly manner at every interaction. You may be speaking with someone who doesn’t have the power to hire you, but word spreads fast. Making a good impression at every stage will help you build a professional reputation.
As well as researching the individual responsible for hiring, you can also use this phase to find out all you can about the company itself. Having a good knowledge of its work and a genuine interest in company achievements will help you stand out.
You must use formal and correct structure and format for your speculative email. Remember that this is a professional letter and a chance to make a good impression.
If you have the name of your contact, start your email with ‘Dear [name]’. If your attempts to find the right person were unsuccessful, it is acceptable to start with ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ (be sure that you can’t identify a named person before resorting to this general greeting).
When addressing your recipient, be careful to maintain professional boundaries and not to be overfamiliar. This person is not a friend, so ‘Hi’ is not appropriate in this instance.
Your speculative job application email subject line is another crucial factor in whether your email gets opened at all. If your subject line is uninspiring or vague, there is every chance it will be overlooked as just another generic email in your contact’s inbox.
A desktop screen will show around 60 characters of a subject line, whereas a smartphone will show only 30, so being concise is key.
The subject line is your first chance to clearly articulate your intentions. It needs to be short and snappy, while containing all the relevant information at a glance.
It is advisable to include both your full name and your professional qualification or title. For example, ‘John Doe, Freelance Graphic Designer for hire’, or ‘Nicola Fox, Chemical Engineer, M.Eng’.
Filler words or pleasantries are not necessary for a subject line, so there is no need to start with ‘Hello’ or ‘Please look at…’.
It is acceptable (and advisable) to name a mutual acquaintance in the subject line if you have been referred by them.
As you move on to compose the main body of your email, be mindful that your contact is likely to be busy and needs to see the relevant information at a glance.
Format your email into short paragraphs – and make sure sentences are readable, not too long and wordy.
- Paragraph One – Start strongly with your opening sentence. Outline your knowledge of the company and how you came to be aware of it. Did you see it at a convention? Did you read about it in the local press? Explain your interest.
- Paragraph Two – Go on to summarise who you are and why you’re emailing.
- Paragraph Three – Explain what you can offer, and how and why you are a valuable addition to their team. If you have relevant experience, be sure to explain how your transferable skills can be of use. If you have any standout achievements or qualifications, don’t be shy in listing them and pointing out how they can be of benefit.
- Paragraph Four – Summarise why you’re interested in working with the company and draw attention to your attached CV. Consider briefly listing some of the main skills you have.
- Closing Sentence – Think about a call to action; detail here what you’d like to happen next.
You have one short opportunity to capture the attention of your contact enough for them to move you on to the next stage. Ensure that all-important and relevant information is included.
If you’re wondering whether to attach your CV, doing so means it is there if your contact wants to find out more about you. It provides that extra information to make it easier for them to make a quick assessment of your potential.
Make sure your CV is up to date and is tailored specifically for the company and role.
Speculative Job Application Email Example
Here is an example of how your speculative application email should look, following the guidelines above:
Subject Line: Claire Roberts, MA. Fashion Designer available for work
Dear Ms Taylor,
I had the pleasure of attending your show at London Fashion Week and I found it inspiring to see how your new collection works to empower women with luxury statement workwear. I’m very excited to read about your plans to launch at Paris Fashion Week with a view to moving into the European market.
I hold an MA in Fashion Design, awarded by Central Saint Martins, and have been working for a well-known high street clothing designer for three years. I am looking for a move into the luxury fashion field and feel that I have skills that would support your business as you grow.
An internship at a luxury French fashion house as part of my master’s degree gave me valuable insight into the French market and helped me gain fluency in the French language.
Having covered fashion illustration, design, sewing and garment construction as part of my studies, I understand the clothing manufacture process from design to completion. In my current role, I am a leading part of the design team, researching upcoming trends to create new lines. My designs are regularly featured in the ‘Top 10 Must Buy’ lists.
As a move away from fast fashion, I would love to bring my creative flair to your company as part of your design team, helping create high-end looks for your clients.
I have attached my CV, which outlines my qualifications and experience in more detail.
If you are interested in meeting to discuss further, I could come to your office next week.
If you don’t receive a reply to your email, don’t take it as an automatic rejection. Your recipient may have put it aside to come back to later, or may have genuine reasons why they haven’t been able to reply.
There are different ways you can follow up on your speculative application, depending on what you feel comfortable with.
If you don’t hear from your contact after a week or two, you can resend the same email, giving a gentle nudge for your contact to read and reply.
Alternatively, and often with quicker results, it’s acceptable to make a phone call to check they received your email. This gives you the chance to open a conversation and brings a more personal element to your speculative application.
If you are unsuccessful in your application, react graciously and politely ask if they can keep your records on file for any future opportunities that may be suitable.
- Do your research – Know the company and the correct contact before reaching out.
- Focus on a killer subject line – Keep it concise and to the point.
- Mention a mutual acquaintance if you’ve been referred by someone – This may just be what prompts your contact to open your email.
- Act professionally – From the first point of contact to conclusion, even if your attempt is unsuccessful, your contact will remember the way you conducted yourself and this will influence whether they keep you in mind for the future.
- Do not use fluff in your writing – Your recipient is likely to be busy. Help them quickly find the information that they need to assess whether you are a potential candidate.
- Check, check and check again – Make sure you have used correct grammar and that your email has no spelling mistakes. This is your one chance to make a good first impression.