How to do a speculative job application

Ever done a speculative job application?

There are times in my career when I have relied on these. Times when the kind of job I wanted was only available within a small number of companies (even just one). Or when I was seeking to relocate. Or one time when I was so desperate to get out of an awful working environment it needed to be now. A speculative application along the lines of ‘Saw your company / really like it / would love to apply my existing skills there’ played a vitally important role in my early career development.

The other advantage of such job applications is of course that they may get you in front of employers to discuss a job that is not advertised. So, if you fit the bill, there may be faster and less onerous process.

So how do you make a speculative job application? Here’s how:

Target carefully

I distinctly remember when I was working as a recruitment consultant and a candidate told me that the job he really wanted was in a sign makers. Now this would be no good for most recruitment agencies, since the chances of having a client company in this field at this exact time would always be small.

So the best option in this case was for him to identify a list of companies in the industry (from a directory or from an internet search) and then write to them (either in paper form or electronically).

A CV and a well written cover letter is then all you need.

Demonstrate that you know what they want

Whereas with an advertised job you have information to go on, here you do not. Unless that is, you go and find the information for yourself. To do this, you should use published information from trusted guides to the kind of role you are seeking, industry publications, membership organisations like Chartered Institutes and the websites of the companies you are targeting. Looking at adverts for jobs they have advertised in the past would be very useful if you can get hold of them. Alternatively, search for jobs in different locations, so that even though you are not applying there, you can see the kind of skills and qualities that are typically sought.

 Persuade them that you are suited to their needs

Now that you know what they want, the same rules apply as any other job application. Show that you can meet the requirements and give evidence to support it. You will need to include transferable skills if you have not worked in the industry before.

Persuade them that you are committed

Actually wanting the job specifically, being motivated and committed will make a big difference. Most employers know that this makes the difference between minimal performance and high performance. And motivation is not something that can be trained.

End the communication well

They either have a vacancy that you can fill or they don’t. There is no point being pushy. End with a request for a meeting if they believe there is a suitable opportunity but also state that you would appreciate being considered for future opportunities.

Keep track

When I’ve been the recruiter, I know that some people applied for multiple jobs within my team having not even realised they had applied previously. They were sending out hundreds of applications and lost track of which ones were new and which were already known to them. But I remembered them and their ‘scatter gun’ approach was of course unconvincing. Such people never got interviews.

Keep track of who you have contacted and make reference to it when you contact them again. Maybe a call to follow up on a written application, but no more. After that, leave it six months at least before you write to them again. I would usually expect an employer to keep an application for 12 months at most. So, if you are still looking, or seeking another move after a year has passed, you should assume that you are starting from the beginning.

See further advice on how to write a CV

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Graeme Jordan

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CV Writer and Interview Coach. Blogging about ways to improve your CV writing and job searching experience.