Making Speculative Approaches | The Careers Service Making Speculative Approaches – Oxford University Careers Service
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Overview

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 and LinkedIn. 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, try to be open to the type of work experience (work shadowing, internship, visiting the organisation) you are willing to do. 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 27 September 2018.
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Recent blogs about Making Speculative Approaches

The Careers Service at the University of Oxford Open Days

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Are you planning to attend the University of Oxford Open Days on 3 and 4 July?

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The Careers Service is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion and aims to provide resources and services specifically to meet the varying needs of  its users. There are key resources that you might find useful when trying to work out what the work culture of an organisation might be. Check out who are the Top 100 Employers 2019  for LGBT people and other resources at Stonewall.

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