Getting yourself instantly slotted into the dream job after graduation is a rarity. It's hard enough responding to the ads that are out there and doing your best to sound like the perfect candidate the employer's asking for.
But things can seem even tougher when the companies you want to work for aren’t advertising. You know you’ve got the skills and you think a particular business could benefit from hiring you but the opportunity just doesn’t seem to exist. However, there may be a way in down a less conventional route: this is where a speculative application comes in. Get
Applying ‘speculatively’ means sending a company your CV and covering letter asking whether there are any jobs or work experience on offer. Rather than a response to a publicly advertised need for a new team member, a speculative application lets the employer know that you’re looking, you’ve got what they need and share their values, and you’d be an asset to have on board.
Speculative applications can be the beginning of a success story because more than 50% of jobs go unadvertised but are discovered – and filled – through networking and word of mouth.
Sending your CV and a concise, focused cover letter can be useful in many job hunting instances. You may wish to be recruited into a very specific field, or you might be after a specialised position that would benefit from you demonstrating your technical expertise and terminology. This could be great for roles in computer gaming, animation or motor racing to name a few.
It’s also a good way of finding out what’s on offer if you’re looking in a particular geographical area – you could try writing to a number of large local employers to see if they’ve got a gap you can fill. Smaller companies who aren’t advertising are also likely to appreciate the skilled applicant who turns up at the right time as this can save them a hefty amount of money and effort in the recruitment process.
Jobs in media and the arts especially value prospective candidates who aren’t afraid to put themselves forward and ask what’s on offer. Speculative applications are also a fairly standard way of asking if there’s work experience, shadowing or voluntary placements going – there’s certainly no need to worry about bothering an employer when you’re offering to work for free!
Although you can’t even be sure there’s a vacancy, it’s still important to target your cover letter at a named individual wherever possible. Without a name the letter is no one’s responsibility, which means it’s much more likely to get put aside, forgotten about or discarded. Go the extra distance to either look up the right person online, telephone the company and ask who to address or search regional directories in your local public library. Like an ordinary cover letter, it’s vital to be specific; work hard on tailoring the content to the organisation because recruiters can spot a generic application a mile away. This is also true in regard to the role you’re looking for – you should always state exactly what you want as opposed to requesting anything that’s going that is vaguely appropriate to your qualifications.
Making a follow up phone call a few days after you send your application both gives the employer more of an idea about you – taking you above and beyond a name on a piece of paper – and demonstrates an enthusiastic, proactive approach towards achieving your goals. Mention that you’ll call in your cover letter and then make sure you do, proving that you’re reliable and keep to your word.
Don’t be disheartened if there’s nothing going at this moment in time. A rejection now is not a ‘no’ forever; ask to be kept on file and to be remembered if anything comes up in the future. Give the business a call in a few months time to ask what’s available and as a reminder that you’re still interested.
Remember: the more applications you send out, the more chance you have of receiving good news. Don’t be put off by the time and effort required to write each application and don’t try and take shortcuts by simply changing the name of your addressee and a few details. In the long run, unwavering determination, a quality CV and cover letter with all the relevant information, and a little bit of luck and timing on your side will land you the job you’re after.
For more information, download the Creative Job Search and Networking guide on the Bristol Careers Service website and see the employer links for a searchable list of organisations who have previously sought to recruit Bristol students and graduates.