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Applying for jobs without adverts: making speculative applications

Not all jobs and opportunities will be advertised, but this shouldn't stop you from sending in a speculative job application. An organisation may not advertise regularly because they do not recruit enough graduates to justify it or use recruitment agencies or word-of-mouth to fill their vacancies. You can use this approach if you know the organisation only recruits those with relevant work experience, or within a defined geographical area or that you really want to work for that organisation.

Making speculative applications

Research the organisation and roles they recruit

  • Use careers information, web searches, social media and recruitment literature to research the organisation and find out about its products and services, its clients, financial position etc.
  • Aim to be aware of other organisations operating in the same market; part of finding out about an employer is understanding the competition. Check out what any jobs you'd like to target actually entail.
  • Look at an employer’s current vacancies, even if they are above your level of experience. You may be able to surmise areas of work and skills used within the business. You may also pick up on keywords that are used in all the organisation’s recruitment advertising, as well as typical traits they like to see in all applicants.

Analyse your skills

  • Analyse your skills, experience and personal work requirements to be sure they match what is required to do the job.

Find which organisations employ people in your sector of interest

  • Use trade and business directories e.g. The Tradefinder, Kompass.com and The Online Business Directory
  • Identify employers who have recruited OU graduates use Graduate Employers
  • Contact professional bodies using Total Professions
  • Explore the Employer Showcase and find employer profiles on the Prospects website
  • Use a regional employer directory or database produced by a local Chamber of Commerce
  • Use graduate agencies and organisations for employment and vacancy information.
  • Use your network; family, friends and peers may be able to provide a contact or any potential job opportunities with their employers. Make the best possible use of social media, including your LinkedIn profile.

Shortlist any interesting organisation(s)

Focus on:

  • what kind of positions they have that are of interest to you
  • what their requirements are in terms of qualifications, work experience and skills
  • why they interest you as a potential employer
  • who you should approach within the organisation.

Contact your chosen organisation(s)

Finally, you need to write a speculative covering letter to accompany your CV (curriculum vitae) and send it to the employers you've decided to target.

Find a named contact is the number one rule of making a speculative job application. ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ letters sent to HR departments are likely to be ignored.

You may be able to get a specific referral from networking or from a recruitment event, but if not, a quick phone call to the company to ask for the name of whoever is responsible for recruiting will enable you to personalise your letter.

Follow up on your application

If you don't hear from them, wait 7-10 days and then follow up with a telephone call. Ask if they've received your letter and CV, and ask to discuss its contents further.

Even if the employer cannot help with your main request, talking enables you to explore if there are any future opportunities coming up, how the organisation typically recruits and where you should look out for their job advertisements.