Making Speculative Approaches | 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.
Our resources
This information was last updated on 08 September 2015.
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Recent blogs about Making Speculative Approaches

Oxford Hub – Volunteer Recruitment Fair

Posted on behalf of Molly Beck - Student. Blogged by Juliet Tomlinson on May 5, 2016.

Would you like to help your local community and build your skills at the same time? If so, please come along to the Oxford Hub Recruitment Fair on 10th May 6.30-9.00.  Full details are on facebook.

Insight Into Teaching – Trinity 2016

Blogged by Employer Relations Team on May 4, 2016.

Insight into Teaching offers the opportunity to spend three days in a UK school with a full programme of lesson observation, getting involved with activities and possibly the chance to try out some teaching. The programme last three days and takes place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of 9th week this term.

Placements are available in secondary schools, primary schools and further education colleges, in a range of subjects and in both the state-maintained and independent school sectors. Most placements are in Oxford, or nearby towns that are easily accessible from Oxford. We also offer some placements in other parts of the UK.

Placements  available in Trinity Term 2016:

  • Oxfordshire state secondary schools – Music, Maths, English, French, Spanish.
  • Oxfordshire independent senior schools – English, Chemistry, PE.
  • Oxfordshire independent 4-13yrs schools – any subject
  • Cambridge – Chemistry, PE, Study Skills
  • Kings Lynn – all subjects
  • Wigan, Greater Manchester – all subjects

How to apply

Applications for Insight into Teaching are now open. The final closing date for applications is Thursday of 6th week, but placements are offered on a rolling basis as applications are received.

The programme is open to all students at Oxford University.

Find out more – including how to apply – on the Insight Into Teaching webpage.

Deadline for Micro-internship Applications THIS Sunday!

Posted on behalf of The Internship Office. Blogged by Andrew Laithwaite on May 4, 2016.

There is now less than a week left to apply for a micro-internship placement for Week 9 of this term.

If you feel like you still need something to persuade you that doing a micro-internship would be worthwhile, here it is: 98% of last term’s micro-interns stated in their feedback that they enjoyed the experience. Here are a few of their comments:

  • “The micro-internship experience was extremely useful: I have always been considering a career in data science, and the experience provided me with a very valuable opportunity to learn how to use big data analyzing software and how to start my career in the data analysis industry.” – Final Year, DPhil Engineering Science
  • “I found the whole experience both enjoyable and very useful. I certainly believe my CV will look better for having done the micro-internship and I have gained a number of tangible skills. I will definitely be recommending the micro-internship scheme to my friends.” – First Year, BA Literae Humaniores
  • “The micro-internship gave me insight into a sector that I knew relatively little about and it gave me food for thought regarding career paths that I may be interested in pursuing” – First Year, MPhil General Linguistics and Comparative Philology

Micro-internships are open to ALL full-time, matriculated Oxford students studying at either an undergraduate or postgraduate level.

All vacancies can be seen and applied to on CareerConnect. You can also use the lists below to help identify which placements might be best suited to you:

Don’t forget that if you would like any guidance on your CV or personal statement there are two more drop-in sessions happening this week at the Careers Service: at 2-4pm Wednesday 4 May, and 10am-12pm on Friday 6 May.

The deadline for applications is midnight this Sunday.

Please email if you have any questions.

Postgraduate Study in the USA – Info Session

Blogged by John Gilbert on May 4, 2016.
  • When: Tuesday 10th May 2016, 1-2pm
  • Where:  The Careers Service, 56 Banbury Road

Thinking about studying in the USA? The application process can be more complicated than for the UK and ideally you will need to start your investigations more than a year ahead. This is a practical session, covering courses, standardised tests and funding and is designed to help you make a start. Particularly of interest to penultimate year students thinking of postgraduate study in 2017. No booking required.

This session is part of our Insight into Academia programme.
Other remaining events in this programme this term are:

Insight into Academia: Myths and Realities

  • Week 5, Tues 24th May:
  • Hear from a panel of DPhil and post-doctoral researchers about the realities of academic life.

Insight into Academia: International Job-Search Strategies

  • Week 7: Tues 7th June:

Internships Essential Pre-departure Information

Blogged by Rachel Ruscombe-King on May 3, 2016.

Are you planning your overseas internship for this summer? Don’t forget to check out our new Information for Successful Applicants page, which contains useful information on things to consider before you go.

For example, have you thought about arranging your visa, looked into accommodation for your stay, and considered which travel insurance provider to go for? (Please note that travel insurance is a mandatory requirement for the Internship Programme).

You might also want to sign up for travel safety alerts from the FCO website, which advises on global security issues.

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