Making Speculative Approaches | Oxford University Careers Service Making Speculative Approaches | Oxford University Careers Service
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A speculative application involves proactively approaching an employer to seek out opportunities that have not been advertised.

These may be necessary for:

  • Work in employment areas in which vacancies are rarely advertised (eg journalism, broadcasting, publishing)
  • Vacation work
  • Unpaid work experience or work shadowing


Who to contact

Think about who you know – friends, family, tutors – that might help you get in touch with someone in the organisation or sector of interest. At Oxford you also have access to alumni contacts that can be very helpful in this regard – for example through your college alumni office and department. For more ideas about how to develop your network and find contacts, see our webpage on Networking.

Some sectors and organisations may have different recruitment timelines from the traditional “milkround” (which is typically from September – December), so ensure that you do some research on the ideal time to apply.  eg: contact the organisation or try to find out from contacts at what time of year your application is most likely to get noticed.

Top tips

Example Speculative Cover Letter

A speculative application usually consists of a CV and Cover Letter, but could be preceded or followed up with a telephone call. A few pointers:

  • Write to a named individual if at all possible.
  • Download an example speculative cover letter for ideas.
  • Match the tone of the letter to the organisation. For example, a media company may appreciate a less formal approach than a law firm, which is more likely to appreciate a more traditional approach.
  • Careful targeting is far more likely to lead to success than sending out numerous near-identical applications.
  • Research the role, organisation and sector and demonstrate your understanding in your letter. Allow your motivation and interest to come through and you will stand out as a knowledgeable applicant.
  • Clearly and quickly establish what you want and why. If your goal is work experience, don’t cut out any chance that the recipient may be able to offer, say, a work shadowing opportunity. Be clear about what you would be interested in, but don’t close any doors!
  • Make it clear what you have to offer them. You are making a business proposition, and must prepare your case carefully and research the organisation.
  • Suggest that you will follow up your letter by telephone within, say, a week.
  • Follow our standard advice for writing CVs and Cover Letters. For example, tailor each speculative application to the organisation, and demonstrate how your experience and achievements are relevant.
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This information was last updated on 08 September 2015.
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Recent blogs about Making Speculative Approaches

Share your opinion… and win £40!

Blogged by Hugh Nicholson-Lailey on November 27, 2015.

Feedback helps us to improve the tools and services that we offer you at The Careers Service and we’d be very interested to hear what you think about our new look Oxford Guide to Careers 2016.

Take the Oxford Guide to Careers Survey now.

It will only take a few minutes to complete our short survey asking you to tell us what you like best and what doesn’t work for you in this year’s Guide.

Your Chance to Win

As you complete the survey you will have the chance to enter our prize draw for a £40 voucher to spend online: the draw will take place at the start of Hilary Term.

You can access the survey until 18th January 2016.

Copies of The Oxford Guide to Careers can be collected from The Careers Service at 56 Banbury Road.

Careers in Heritage evening at Oxford Castle Unlocked

Posted on behalf of Oxford Castle Unlocked. Blogged by Julia Hilton on November 26, 2015.

On 8th December Oxford Castle Unlocked will be hosting a ‘Careers in Heritage’ evening. This is a free event aimed at people trying to build a career in the arts, culture and heritage sector. This can be a challenging sector to break in to, and the aim of the evening is to give the audience an insight in to potential career paths, how to build the right skillset and apply for roles successfully, and to listen and ask advice from industry professionals.

There will be a number of speakers on the evening, including Debbie Dance, Director of the Oxford Preservation Trust, and Juliana Delaney, CEO of Continuum Attractions.

The event runs from 6pm – 8pm (doors 5.45pm) and tea and coffee will be served. Spaces are limited, and can be booked online.


Meet P&G One-to-One

Posted on behalf of P&G. Blogged by Employer Relations Team on November 26, 2015.

P&G, like many Fast Moving Consumer Goods Companies (FMCGs), relies on the power of its minds to create a winning culture. As such, the recruitment process at P&G is rigorous and competitive.

We will be at the Recruiters in Residence day, on the morning of Tuesday 1 December, offering tips on what makes a candidate stand out, through a CV and Cover Letter workshop. These will be informal sessions that will help you understand and prepare fully for the recruitment process. In particular, we will help you convey your strengths articulately and clearly through your CV and Cover Letter. We will also be on hand to provide practical advice on interview preparation, as well as an overview of the sorts of business skills and commercial awareness P&G looks for.

To make an appointment you will need to book your time slot through CareerConnect. Login to CareerConnect and search under events, click on ‘Book Now’ and select an available time. If your preferred time is not available you will be added to a waiting list and notified if it becomes available.

If you have any particular requirements, that may help you to access this event, then please do share them with us prior to attending by contacting or telephone 01865 274646.

Campaigning Training Programme

Posted on behalf of Emily Silcock OUSU Vice-President (Charities and Community). Blogged by Jane Chanaa on November 26, 2015.

Campaigning for Change is a training progamme run by OUSU, supported by the Careers Service. It consists of eight weekly sessions throughout Hilary term, run by top employers in the nonprofit sector, such as Oxfam and Amnesty International. Nonprofit employers often look for first hand experience of campaigning, therefore the course builds towards a ‘create a campaign’ challenge in 8th week, where participants will have 24 hours to plan and deliver a micro-campaign, based on a real issue that an Oxford-based charity is facing. To find out more, or to apply to take part, visit OUSU’s What’s On page or email

Emily Silcock
Vice-President (Charities and Community)
Tel: 01865 288465

Advertising and PR: Recommended Reading

Blogged by Julia Hilton on November 24, 2015.

Miles Young, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, gave the headline talk at the 2015 Oxford Arts, Media and Marketing Fair. The talk covered how the landscape is changing in the advertising world and what companies are really looking for from the next generation of applicants in this digital world. The good news is that being immersed in digital media already makes you an expert, it’s not all about swotting up on technical language and programming, recruiters still want to see bright, creative minds and people who can work with clients and manage projects.

So how can you really prepare for making competitive applications in advertising and how can you impress at interview? Gain some commercial insight! Not just by building your relevant experience via extra-curricular pursuits and work experience, but via books. GET READING. Here’s some key suggestions from Miles for careers in advertising and PR…

Advertising books to read

  1. Alfredo Marcantonio,”Well-written and red”
  1. Alan Fletcher, “The art of looking sideways”
  2. Paul Arden, “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be”
  3. Bob Gill, “Graphic design as a second language”
  4. Bob Levenson,”Bill Bernbach’s Book”
  5. Luke Sullivan, “Hey Mr Whipple, squeeze this”
  6. Beryl McAlhone & David Stuart, “A smile in the mind”
  7. James Webb Young, “A technique for producing ideas”
  8. Jonas Ridderstrale + Kjeli Nordstrom, “Funky Business”
  9. “The Art Direction Book” published by D&AD
  10. “The Copy Book” published by D&AD
  11. “The Movie Book” published by Phaidon
  12. Cutting Edge Advertising by Jim Aitchison
  13. “Truth, Lies and Advertising: The Art of Account Planning” by Jon Steele
  14. “Good Thinking: A Guide to Qualitative Research” by Wendy Gordon
  15. “How to Plan advertising” by The APG (Account Planning Group)


PR Reading List

  1. “The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR” by Al Ries
  2. “The handbook of Strategic Public Relations” by Clarke Caywood
  3. “The 18 Immutable Laws of Corporate Reputation” by Ronald Alsop
  4. Value-Added Public Relations: The Secret Weapon of Integrated Marketing, Thomas L Harris
  5. Where The Truth Lies: Trust and Morality in PR and Journalism, Hobsbawm, J (2006)


Publications to Read Regularly:

  • Advertising Age
  • Adweek
  • Campaign ‐ The British advertising news source
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