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 sectors where vacancies are rarely advertised (eg: journalism, broadcasting, publishing, television and film)
  • 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, you can contact people through the Oxford Careers Network (for current students only), the university and/or your college alumni office. 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 which time of year is best to submit your application.

If you are looking for work experience or internships, it might also be worth contacting the recruiting or HR team of the company you are interested in to find out whether they offer this.

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  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.
  • 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.
  • You may wish to follow up your letter with a phone call (1-2 weeks after you have sent it) to check that it was received and if there is any feedback.
Our resources
This information was last updated on 14 September 2016.
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Recent blogs about Making Speculative Approaches

Accessing STEM Careers with a Disability

Posted on behalf of Annie Dutton. Blogged by Annie Dutton on October 20, 2016.

We are pleased to announce that at the Careers in Computing Fair speakers from JP Morgan (technology) will be joining our Disability Careers Advisers, and at the Science, Engineering & Technology Fair there will be  speaker from Shell. Come along to these sessions to discuss why a recruiter is keen to meet with students with a health condition, disability, mental health conditions or learning difficulties, such as dyslexia or dyspraxia.

It is an opportunity  for you to find out how you can assess how disability-friendly an organisation  is – and what impact revealing or not revealing your own specific circumstances may have on recruitment, selection, working and studying. There will be lots of opportunity for you to ask questions in this confidential setting.

Attending will also give you early access to the Careers in Computing and SET Fairs.   Booking is essential.  For further details see  CareerConnect 

Teacher training: applications open & events coming up

Blogged by Abby Evans on October 20, 2016.

UCAS Teacher training applications are now open – you can search and apply for PGCE and School Direct programmes.

If you are not sure which route is right for you then there are a couple of events coming up that should help:

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DEADLINE THIS WEEKEND! – Micro-internships

Posted on behalf of Internship Officer. Blogged by Rachel Sene on October 19, 2016.

Only one week left to submit an application to a micro-internship placement for 9th week of this term!

The deadline for applications is this Sunday 23rd October at midnight.

We have over 120 placements on offer with an incredible range of organizations across Oxfordshire and in London.

Each placement will provide an excellent snapshot into the workings of the organization and its sector, as well as valuable transferable experience for your CV, through the assignment of a challenging project to tackle over the course of the week. This project will be of significant benefit to the host organization.

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To view and apply to available placements, log on to CareerConnect. Once logged on, just use the search bar to find available micro-internships after clicking ‘Search & Apply’ under the ‘Opportunities’ tab.

For any queries, please email

Springboard – is it for you?

Posted on behalf of The Careers Service. Blogged by Emily Game on October 19, 2016.

Come to our information session and opportunity to hear from previous participants and guest speakers of the ‘Springboard Programme’ on Tuesday, 8th November from 12.30 – 13.30 in the Careers Service.

This is your chance to ask questions and increase your understanding about how the Springboard Programme could be beneficial for you.  Here are some highlights of what previous participants have said about what they gained from taking part in the ‘Springboard programme’

“The holistic approach allows you to grow and have the tools and confidence to improve in all aspects of life, and because it’s not just about studying or careers I will carry these skills with me for years to come”.

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Science, Engineering & Technology Fair 2016

Blogged by John Gilbert on October 18, 2016.

When: Saturday 29 October, exhibitors from 11.00-15.00.
Where: Exam Schools

Come to our annual fair for scientists!

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Download a preview of the fair booklet now!

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