Depending on whose statistics you believe, as many as 50-70% of jobs in the UK are never advertised. Why? Many companies prefer to gather candidates through word of mouth, by recruiting internally, or through networking sites like LinkedIn; while some smaller companies simply may not have the budget to advertise on the larger jobs boards.
Stick to applying to advertised positions and you risk limiting your prospects. Supplement your search with speculative applications and you’ll tap into a hidden underground network of job opportunities!
Many candidates are put off from sending speculative applications because the likelihood of them being successful seems so remote; but there are several ways you can significantly improve your chances of getting noticed. Here are the five steps to preparing successful speculative application! :
1. Choose Your Target, Then Research, Research…and Research Some More
Investigate companies in the industry you want to work in. Once you’ve chosen your target company, it’s time to research the heck out of it! In particular, look at: what the company does, their recent highs and lows, their competition, current staff profiles, the types of roles they’ve recruited for before, and what sort of skills they look for. The more information you can get your hands on, the better! You’ll have more weapons in your armoury when it comes to part 2- tailoring your speculative application.
Not all companies accept speculative applications; have a look on their website to check for their policy before you start. As a general rule of thumb: larger employers often have structured hiring processes, particularly for their graduate recruitment, whereas smaller companies tend to be a little more flexible.
2. Tailor Your Speculative Application to within an Inch of its Life!
Tailoring your application to the company you’re applying to is more important than ever when applying speculatively; so adjust both your covering letter and your CV using your research from part one.
Whereas a covering letter for an advertised role is typically about 50% ‘Why I want to work for your company’ and 50% ‘What I can offer your company’; when applying speculatively the balance tips in favour of the latter. The emphasis has to be on what you can do for the company, rather than what you want from them. You want to seem proactive, not desperate.
With that in mind, write a brief introductory paragraph which outlines who you are and your career aspirations, then spend the majority of the letter matching up your skills and experiences to what you think the company needs.
Remember, your speculative application is designed to convince someone to go out of their way to get in contact with you, so it has to be hard hitting! Keep it upbeat and concise – no more than, say 300 words, and keep your sentences short and punchy.
3. Find a Named Contact at the Company
When applying speculatively it’s much better to have a name than to go in blind. Dear Sir/Madam covering letters look generic and have an unfortunate tendency to be ignored!
There are several ways you can go about getting a name. The first is by looking on the company’s website, or by searching the company name together with titles like ‘HR Manager’ or ‘Recruiter’ on Google or LinkedIn. Alternatively, you can ring the HR department/general office number and ask who would be the best person to contact regarding company vacancies.
Yes, all of these methods do sound a little stalker-esque, but getting that name will drastically increase the chances of your application being read!
4. Initiate Contact
Once you have a name, there are three main ways to initiate contact with your prospective employer – calling, emailing or in a letter. A phone call is going to get you more attention. If you think you have a good phone manner, be brave and go for an initial call – it gives you a chance to show off your communication skills. If you’re not sold on the idea, go for an email or letter.
Some people argue that letters are better than emails, as letters are almost always opened, whereas emails may go unread – but the choice is yours!
5. Chase up Your Speculative Application!
No matter how you choose to make contact, it’s ESSENTIAL to follow up about a week afterwards. Again, a phone call is best as emails are far too easy to ignore, and a follow up email can feel a little pestery.
Expect some rebuffs but don’t take it personally. Even if you get a ‘no’, console yourself with the fact that you’ve made a contact at that company, now know how/when the organisation recruits and, most importantly, have refined your speculative technique for next time!
ABOUT AUTHOR: Jenna Allcock works for graduates careers site, GradTouch.com, writing articles for their Student and Graduate Support Section. For the latest graduate jobs and advice follow her and the team at @GradTouch.