If you’re tired of trawling through job sites and not seeing the job you want, a speculative application could be the answer. Speculative applications are a way of connecting with employers when they’re not advertising vacancies, and can have great results. They’re also an effective way of getting internships or work placements. Lots of positions are filled without ever being advertised. A speculative cover letter could be your way in - but it can be difficult to get the tone right.
Here’s how to write a speculative cover letter that strikes the right balance and helps you get your foot in the door…
Once you’ve found an organisation you want to apply to, the first thing to do is research about the organisation. Find out everything you can about the organisation, its staff and the wider industry it operates in.
Scour the organisation’s website, LinkedIn page and social media profiles, and search for news articles relating to it. The more knowledge you can arm yourself with, the better you’ll be able to work out how your skills, experience and interests could benefit the organisation.
Research the organisation’s staff list carefully to find out who to address your letter to. This may be the managing director if it’s a smaller firm, or a head of department.
It’s absolutely crucial that you address the letter to a specific person. ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ or ‘To whom it may concern’ won’t score you any points.
It’s best to opt for a formal tone when writing a speculative cover letter. You don’t know the person, so don’t be over-familiar.
Open with ‘Dear [person’s name]’, and avoid any informal chit-chat like ‘I hope you had a good weekend’. Keep your tone friendly but professional throughout, and close with ‘Yours sincerely’.
You might think a speculative cover letter will come across as pushy or presumptuous - but hiring managers are unlikely to see it that way.
Don’t be tempted to start your letter with something like ‘I hope you don’t mind me contacting you unsolicited’. This is polite, but the implication that the hiring manager might not want you to contact them is akin to an apology.
There’s no need to apologise - a speculative application is evidence that you’re enthusiastic and proactive, rather than arrogant. Be polite but direct - which takes us nicely onto our next tip...
Get straight to the point
Hiring managers are busy - so don’t waste their time. Too many speculative cover letters suffer from long, repetitive introductions, clichéd language and wordy explanations that are unlikely to be read.
Cut to the chase straight away. Say why you’re writing, and demonstrate how you can benefit the organisation with a few key highlights from your CV.
The purpose of a speculative cover letter is to get the hiring manager to look at your CV - so give them a reason to read it with three or four solid points straight off the bat. You could format these as bullet points to make them even easier to read.
Keep paragraphs short and snappy and try to keep your letter to around half a page, and definitely no more than one page.
Focus on the employer
A speculative cover letter should say as much (if not more) about the organisation you’re writing to as it does about you.
Try not to start every paragraph with ‘I’. You want to communicate what you can do for the organisation and why you want to work there, so try to evidence the knowledge you gained through your research.
What challenges and opportunities is the organisation facing? Try to focus on the person reading the letter and their priorities, and give a few examples from your experience that show how you can meet them.
Wrap it up
Avoid the hard sell. Some sources recommend ending with something like ‘I’ll be calling you next week to schedule an interview’, but this pushy approach may backfire.
End simply by expressing that you’d like the opportunity to continue the conversation. Specify how the hiring manager can contact you (by phone or email, for example) followed by ‘I look forward to hearing from you’.
As always, check, check and check again for typos and grammatical errors. Get someone else to proofread it for you if you can.
If you don’t hear anything within a couple of weeks, it’s a good idea to follow up by email or phone. This will show perseverance and a real desire to work for the organisation.
Summary: How to write a speculative cover letter
A speculative application can be a great way to engage with an organisation, and could get you one step closer to your dream job. Even if the employer doesn’t have any openings immediately, it could put you on their radar as someone to contact in the future.
We hope our guide has given you a better idea of how to write a speculative cover letter. Remember, a cover letter acts as the bait to get hiring managers to read your CV - so make sure your accompanying CV is as good as it can be!
If you need help writing a cover letter, you can use our automated cover letter generator.