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Speculative Applications

009 Speculative Applications

A speculative application involves proactively approaching an employer to seek out opportunities that have not been advertised. This approach can be especially relevant for finding a career with small employers who don’t recruit graduates onto a formal scheme, find jobs in a highly specialised field or roles in a specific location.

What is a Creative Job Search?

A Creative Job Search is an active approach using lateral thinking to research careers and make job applications. This approach means that instead of waiting and reacting to job vacancies that appear on the internet, you instead take the initiative in seeking out and making career opportunities for yourself.

Starting your creative job search

  1. Think about the career you want
    Move away from simply looking at vacancy websites, and think about your career plan. What sort of job roles do you want? What sort of companies, and what kind of industries would you like to work in?
  2. Make a shortlist
    Focus on organisations that suit your criteria for the kind of career and sectors you would like to work in (education, HR, etc). Visiting a Careers Fair will provide you with a great opportunity to find out more about relevant employers and vacancies, and network with different companies.
    Don’t forget to think outside the box! For example: many companies will have marketing departments - look beyond specialised marketing companies to find your career in marketing. Network, and use your contacts.
  3. Look for specific vacancies
    Check in with the employers you’ve shortlisted to see if they are, in fact, advertising for a position that you would be interested in - or something that would help you get a foot in the door for your preferred role later.
  4. Research and prepare your speculative application
    Identify a company you are interested in and find out as much as you can about them - look at their website(s), social media and mentions of them in news media (many search engines will allow you to specifically search news sources). You want to be as well-informed as possible.

Why make a speculative application?

Some organisations won’t always advertise or widely publicise their roles for a variety of reasons- and some employers may not even realise they need another employee until the appropriate person approaches them. Making a speculative application will help you access what people call the ‘Hidden Job Market’ of unadvertised roles. If nothing else, they will get you in contact with an employer, gaining information that could help you when a vacancy does arise.

Get Support

At the University of Lincoln you still have access to the University’s Careers & Employability Service for up to 15 months after graduation. Looking through the information we have on local employers could give you an idea of where to make a speculative application. We also have case studies from the University’s alumni network, giving you some ideas about the opportunities available to you as a University of Lincoln graduate.

Starting a speculative application

Finding a contact

The first hurdle you will face is finding an appropriate contact to send your speculative application to. Finding a named contact is the number one rule of making speculative applications, as generic ’ Dear Sir/Madam’ letters sent to HR departments are often ignored - leaving you with no response.

Make use of your network. Family friends, University lecturers and your peers may be able to give you insights into their working lives and any potential job opportunities with their employers. Make the best possible use of social media, including your LinkedIn profile.

Take some time to research the company using a search engine or social media site like LinkedIn. Identify the person within that organisation who you believe might be responsible for a role you want - then address your application to them. Recruitment events and Careers Fairs will offer you a unique opportunity to talk to a company directly and ask for an appropriate contact person. If these avenues fail, a quick phone call to the company to ask for the name of whoever is responsible for recruiting will enable you to personalise your approach.

What is in a Speculative Application?

Most students and graduates make contact with an organisation by sending their CV and an accompanying cover letter. These will be similar to a standard Cover Letter and CV, and they still need to be tailored to the organisation and role you want, even though you do not have an actual job advert to respond to.

It’s essential that your cover letter is concise and that it emphasises what you can do for the employer rather than what you want from them.

Ways to make your application


Written or Emailed Applications

This is the most traditional approach.

  •  Ensure you address your application to a named contact.
  • If sending an email, ensure you send your CV and cover letter as separate attachments in addition to writing a proper introduction to yourself in the body of your email.
  •  To improve your chances of success, follow up your Speculative Application with a phone call a few days after you have sent it.


This is a quick and direct way to speak to someone about whether or not they would accept an application from you.

  • Think through your approach carefully. Write a script to help you.
  • Don’t be discouraged if the person who answers your call is unhelpful. Ask them for an appropriate contact, or the best method to request information.


This is the most direct approach. As you will be presenting yourself, ensure you approach similar to how you would approach a job interview.

  • Dress smartly.
  • Ask to speak to someone from Human Resources, or the hiring manager.
  • Script and practice a short introduction for yourself - highlight your skills, education and experience. Pitch what you can offer to the company.
  • Leave a nicely printed and presented CV and Cover Letter with the person you speak to.

Writing your cover letter

Think of your speculative approach as a compelling argument as to how you would be great for the organisation. There is no ‘right’ way to make a cover letter as every employer is different, and what may suit one could be inappropriate for another. Some employers may call for more creative approaches. As a guide, however, you will usually want to cover the following points:

  1. An introduction
    Tell the employer who you are and why you are writing. Tell them the kind of role you are hoping to gain with them.
  2. Why them?
    Show you have done your research into the company, and establish your interest in them. Talk about any projects you are interested in, and perhaps suggest how you would be able to make worthwhile contributions to these specific areas of their organisation.
  3. Why you?
    Highlight your skills, experience and education - putting them into a context of how you will use them to be a valuable addition to their company.
  4. Open for a follow-up
    As there is not a vacancy end-date that you are working within, make sure you specify when you are available to start work, the hours you can work and any requirements you have (for instance, regarding payment). You may also want to request a meeting.
  5. Conclusion
    Ensure you thank the employer for their time, and finish on a positive note.

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