How to speculatively apply for jobs

CV expert Emma Alkirwi advises on how to make a speculative application for the job or company you want.

Blank CV with mouse, pen and clock on a desk next to a keyboard


Speculative applications involve contacting a company to enquire about a position you’re interested in when they aren’t actively recruiting for the role.

Like any other job application, speculatively applying for a role means sending a CV and a Cover Letter. However, you need to make some adjustments to impress potential employers outside of a regular recruitment process.

Even if they don’t have the right open position for you, a successful speculative application will create valuable connections within the company and keep you front of mind for future opportunities.

We’ve put together some of the best tips to speculatively apply for jobs and get noticed by the employers and organisations that you want to work for.

Identifying the right employers

Choosing the right company and person to contact is the first key step in a successful speculative job application. Reaching out to the right person in the first place makes it less likely that your CV will get lost in somebody’s inbox.

Think about the relationships you already have within the organisation that could help you find the best person to send a CV to. Otherwise, LinkedIn is a valuable tool for finding out who to get in contact with. LinkedIn also allows you to make a connection before you send out a CV and Cover Letter.

Carry out research

Even without a formal job description, you can conduct background research into an organisation’s recent performance, competitors, values and plans for the future. This way, you ensure you’re in the right place at the right time.

Keeping up to date with company news can show you the best time to send off a speculative application. If they’re experiencing a period of growth and expansion, they may be looking to take on new employees. Similarly, if you know they’re restructuring, speculative applications are likely to be at the bottom of their priority list.

Understanding the internal workings of a company will help you anticipate their needs and figure out what kind of positions they may be advertising in the near future so that you can get ahead of the game.

Know what you want

Before going into a speculative application process, you need to know what you’re looking for from the company.

Even if you have a specific job title in mind, it’s not a good idea to go in with a narrow scope on your application. By staying open, the organisation is more likely to keep you in mind for future opportunities if they don’t have a role for you right now.

What you can do on your CV is highlight the positive contributions you’ve brought to previous positions and the benefits those could bring to the company you are interested in working for.

Tailor your CV to the organisation

As with any application process, your speculative CV should be tailored to the organisation and role that you want.

Quantitative and concrete examples of the benefits you can bring to an organisation are essential, so ensure that you back up any claims you make about your skills and experience.

Look for other roles the company is advertising for, even if they are unrelated to your area of expertise. These postings will give an idea of the more general values and skills they are looking for, which you can then explore on your CV if they are a good fit.

Don’t forget your cover letter

Cover Letters play an important role in a speculative job application. It’s an opportunity to explain why you’re getting in touch, what drew you to want to work for this specific company, and provides additional context to the information you provide on your CV.

Describe your experience you have and previous positions you have held. Instead of referencing a particular job title, as with a standard cover letter, outline the area you would like to work in.

The Cover Letter is also a good opportunity to mention any connections you have already with the company or the person you are contacting.

Sending the application and following up

Emails are the way to go with a speculative job application. Try to contact the appropriate contact you have researched or connected with directly.

Keep the body of your email to the point with a clear and concise subject line stating your name, area of interest and ‘Speculative Application.’ Attach your CV and Cover Letter as PDFs.

When following up, it’s best to give the recipient time to read your email and documents. Allow one to two weeks to pass before following up. After this time, either get in touch via email or a phone call – this will come across as proactive and will give you the chance to ask for feedback.

If, at this stage, you have not received a response, accept that it is not currently a company priority and move on to your next application. Constant emails and phone calls are always off-putting – particularly with speculative applications.

Speculative job applications will not lead to a new role every time, but they are a great way to make new connections in an organisation you want to work for. With the right amount of research and preparation, they can be a great tool in your job search and can lead to interesting opportunities.

*Emma Alkirwi is the Managing Director of the CV Guru which is the leading service provider of professionally written CVs, LinkedIn Profiles, cover letters in the UK and CV Guru also provide specialist consultancy services.  If you want to feel more confident in the CV and Cover Letter you send to potential employers when you speculatively apply for a job, check out their CV Writing Bundles. Their expert writers will work with you to craft a speculative CV and Cover Letter that will make a positive impression on employers and help you land your dream role.

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