A speculative job application is sent to apply for or enquire about a job that is not currently being advertised.
Many job vacancies are never advertised publicly. That means that taking the initiative to approach a potential employer with a carefully thought-out speculative email or cover letter can be the ideal way to get your foot in the door.
You should consider making a speculative job application if you are:
- Actively looking for a new job role
- Trying to find a work experience placement
- Thinking about making a career move
Sending a speculative job application can be an effective way to show you are keen, motivated and committed to your career goals.
Remember, even if the company you send your speculative cover letter or email to doesn’t have any current job vacancies, opening a dialogue with them could help to ensure you are at the top of the list when a suitable vacancy comes up in the future.
Much like a standard cover letter, a speculative cover letter or email accompanies your CV when you are applying for a job. However, a speculative cover letter is different from a standard cover letter in a few ways.
Standard cover letters are usually sent when applying for an advertised vacancy and should be tailored to that vacancy. In contrast, a speculative cover letter is sent to apply for a job that has not been advertised.
This unsolicited job application is 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.
Standard cover letters need to be highly focused on niche or specialist skills that are outlined in a job description or person specification.
In contrast, a speculative cover letter or speculative email should:
- Give details of your relevant transferable skills
- Outline your past work experience
- Demonstrate why you would be a good fit for the company
As with any cover letter, a well written speculative cover letter will provide you with the opportunity to engage with the recipient and start building up a positive rapport.
Where possible, try to send your speculative job application to a particular person, rather than a generic department.
If you are not sure of the name of the person you should send your speculative cover letter to, have a look at the employer’s website. Try to find out the name of the manager for the department you are interested in working for.
Alternatively, you could call the HR department to find out the name of the department manager.
Sending your speculative cover letter to a specific person will help to ensure your letter is read by the most appropriate employee or department. It will also show that you have carried out some background research into the company and its current employees.
- 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.
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.
You can choose to send a speculative cover letter by email or by letter. The advantage of a letter is that it will land on somebody’s desk, making it harder to ignore.
Sending to a ‘hello@’ or ‘enquiries@’ email address increases the chance of your email going unanswered. So take the time to do your research and find a suitable named employee to send your speculative email to.
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.
Your speculative cover letter or email will need to be both engaging and informative.
As you are not writing to apply for one particular job role, you will need to provide an overview of the skills and experience that you have gained so far. A speculative job application aims to show the employer that you are a good all-rounder, not just a specialist in one single area.
Whilst a speculative email or cover letter is not tailored to a particular job role, it will need to be written specifically for an employer. So, if you are planning to send out more than one speculative job application, you will need to adjust each letter or email accordingly.
A speculative cover letter will need to include the following information:
A brief outline of the type of job role you would be interested in applying for
Information on your existing skills and experience and how these could be of benefit to the business
An outline of the reasons why you would like to work for the business
A closing summary to reiterate what you would be able to offer to the business
An assertive, confident call to action to end the letter; for example, ‘I look forward to hearing from you soon’, instead of, ‘I hope to hear from you soon’
Be mindful that your contact is likely to be busy and needs to see the relevant information at a glance.
Format your email or letter into short paragraphs – and make sure sentences are readable, not too long and wordy. Below is a useful guide for ordering your paragraphs:
- 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.
When writing your speculative cover letter or email, try not to repeat the information contained within your CV. Also make sure your CV is up to date and is tailored specifically for the company and role.
Don’t forget to include your name, address and contact details (including your mobile telephone number and email address).
If you are unable to find out the specific manager’s name, start your letter or email with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ and close it with ‘Yours faithfully’.
If you have managed to find a named person to send the letter or email to, you can start it with ‘Dear [Name]’ and close it with ‘Yours sincerely’.
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.
Just like you would for a posted speculative application letter, you must use formal and correct structure and format for your speculative email. Remember that this is a professional email and a chance to make a good impression.
Your speculative job application email subject line is a 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.
Here is an outline of what your speculative cover letter should look like. This speculative cover letter template is for a person who wants to make an application to a legal firm.
1 The Street
Mrs D Judge
Dear Mrs Judge
I would like to enquire whether you have any current administrative vacancies within your firm. Please find enclosed my CV, which outlines the experience I have gained during my career to date.
Having worked as a legal secretary for the past five years, I have demonstrated my commitment to providing high-quality legal administration services. I have a sound working knowledge of industry terminology and legal working practices. I am proud that my dedication and commitment to my work has been recognised through a recent nomination for the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs ‘Legal PA of the Year Award’.
My experience to date has been gained through working for two small legal practices. While this has been both challenging and enjoyable, I would like to develop my skills and experience further in a fast-paced, busy role. I understand your company is one of the largest legal practices in London with continuing plans for growth, making it the ideal place to pursue my future career objectives.
As an administrative worker for your firm, I would strive to support your partners with high-quality secretarial support. I am a competent typist with a keen eye for detail and a proven ability to cope under pressure at all times.
I would be delighted to have the opportunity to discuss my application with you in further detail.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
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.
After you post your speculative cover letter or send your speculative email, you will need to be patient. You probably won’t hear anything straight away but, hopefully, the recipient of your letter or email will be in touch to discuss job vacancies you may be suitable for.
If you don’t receive a reply to your email or letter, 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 or letter. This gives you the chance to open a conversation and brings a more personal element to your speculative application.
If they say that they haven’t received it, ask them whether they would be happy for you to re-send it over to them. At this point, you could find out whether they would be happy for you to send it by email, as they will know to look out for it in their inbox.
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.
Even if there are no suitable vacancies available at the moment, you could still ask them to provide you with constructive feedback on your speculative job application. This will help you to improve any speculative applications you make in the future.
Find out as much as you possibly can about the business you are planning to write to. For example:
- What is their mission statement?
- What are their values?
- What product or service do they provide?
- Who are their customers?
- Who are their main competitors?
- How many people do they employ?
- What are the must-have skills for employees?
The company website is a good place to start. You could also browse through relevant social media pages, press releases and industry-specific content like blogs or newsletters.
Use the information that you find to help you write your speculative job application. For example, if you already have a particular qualification or skill that they want all of their employees to have, make sure this is clearly stated within your application.
Or, if you find out that they are planning to expand or acquire another company, let them know if this is a process you have had experience with in the past.
It is important to keep your speculative cover letter or email short and to the point. Keep the content succinct and focused – doing so will help to ensure the recipient reads it and digests the information it contains.
A letter that is too long will probably end up in the waste paper bin before it has even been read. Likewise, a long email will probably be ignored, especially if relevant information is not immediately accessible.
To ensure your letter makes a good first impression, set it out formally, use an easy-to-read font (such as Calibri or Arial, size 11 or 12) and write a maximum of five short paragraphs.
If you're sending an email, follow our format advice and example above to help keep the reader engaged. Focus on a killer subject line and keep it concise and to the point.
This may just be what prompts your contact to open your email or continue reading your letter.
When making speculative job applications, your cover letter or email is the one opportunity you have to make a good impression. If the text is littered with spelling and grammar errors, this is unlikely to make the manager want to call you to discuss a potential job opening.
Make sure you proofread your letter or email thoroughly, and ask a friend or family member to check through it too.
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.
If you are looking for ways to progress your career, there is no need for you to wait for the perfect job vacancy to be advertised online.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by sending out a speculative job application. After all, your employer of choice could be just waiting for somebody with your skills and experience to make contact with them.
By sending a speculative job application to your preferred employers, you will show them that you are confident, enthusiastic and willing to go the extra mile to achieve your career objectives.
Don’t forget, a speculative cover letter or email aims to show the employer why you would be a great addition to their existing team. Ensure your application gives an overview of your existing qualifications, skills and experience, and how this could help the business to achieve its goals.