A speculative application is one which is made to an employer where a job is not advertised but you want to enquire if there is a potential job or internship.

You might want to use the speculative approach, for example, if you are hoping to find a job within a very specific industry sector or technology and had heard about a company who are currently having significant impact in this area.

Not all jobs are advertised and there is a so-called ‘hidden' job market which you may wish to explore to enhance your chances of securing employment. Speculative approaches can also be made as part of the networking process. You can find out more about this process, through which you can develop personal contacts and enhance your knowledge of career opportunities, by reading our networking webpage and viewing our Quick Guide to Networking. The making speculative applications page on TARGETjobs is also a useful source of advice.

Speculative Applications Block

Speculative CV

As part of a speculative approach to an employer, you should send a version of your CV tailored to the kind of role that you are seeking within their company. Although it may be tempting, you shouldn't use a 'blanket approach' and send the same CV to lots of different employers. What skills, abilities, and experience do you have that you could bring to that particular employer's team, which are specifically required in their line of work? This should form your main focus when writing a speculative CV.

Speculative cover letter

When proactively approaching an employer to discover opportunities which have not been advertised, you should always include a cover letter with any CV you send to an employer. You should make sure that you can concisely convey your interest in working for their organisation, the skillset and experience you have that is relevant to the opportunities you are seeking, as well as indicating the degree of flexibility you have - for example, whether you're looking for full-time, part-time, or work shadowing opportunities.

Hidden job market

The ‘hidden' job market describes those vacancies which employers don't advertise yet still want to fill. Advertising a job can be costly and might generate many applications which can be time consuming to process. Some job sectors are so popular that the employer may receive enough speculative applications to fill any position. It is estimated that as much as 75% of posts for jobs generally are filled though the hidden job market.

Spec Apps Accordion Widget

Speculative cover letters

  • Do make sure that you have carried out your research so that your application is targeted to that particular employer. It might be tempting to use a 'mail shot' approach and send the same information to many employers but this is where speculative applications often fail
  • Tailor your letter on each occasion. You want to ensure that the employer knows that you are specifically attracted to their company. Why have you written to them?
  • Identify, wherever possible, a named person in the department where you would like to work, and send your application addressed to them rather than 'Dear Sir or Madam'. The more personalised approach can indicate that you have taken the time to do your research and are therefore motivated. If necessary, you may need to telephone the organisation to try to find the name of a contact
  • If you are unsure if you have sent the letter to the right contact in the organisation, then you may wish to include a request that your letter be passed to the most appropriate person if you have misdirected it
  • Ensure that you clearly outline what you want and why you are writing to the organisation. How flexible are you prepared to be - would you consider a work shadowing opportunity as well as a longer placement? Are you writing to someone to establish a networking contact and wish to meet with them to find out more about their work and industry?
  • The Guide to Career Planning and our handout on How to write a covering letter [pdf] provide further information on the structure and content you should use

Speculative CVs

  • Ensure that you target the content of your CV to the type of work to which you are applying. What information about your skills, knowledge and experience will be of most relevance? You could consider using job descriptions for similar positions in the industry - or other advertised positions with the employer you're targeting -  to gain an insight into what you should be highlighting in your CV
  • You might wish to write a more concise one page CV so an employer can see at a glance what you have to offer
  • Our section on CVs and Guide to Career Planning can provide further information on the structure and content you could use

The hidden job market

Increasing your chances in the hidden job market

  • Do ensure that you have a clear understanding of the type(s) of work which you would like to undertake. You will be approaching potential employers and contacts, so you want to be well informed. Please read the information on researching a career for suggestions of the resources which may help
  • Keep up to date with industry trends and news through the national press, professional journals and professional bodies and trade association websites
  • Networking with friends, family, alumni Imperial and contacts in your chosen career or industry could enhance your chances by alerting you to where vacancies might occur and what employers are looking for. Find out more about this by reading the Careers Service handout on Networking [pdf]
  • Target employers for whom you would like to work with speculative applications asking them to consider you for any vacancies. A well-researched letter which is clearly aimed at that one company is likely to be more effective than a general mail shot
  • Attend relevant events, exhibitions and presentations
  • Consider approaching small and medium sized companies, as well as the largest employers, in the industry sector in which you would like to work. 
  • Consider taking temporary work, a job at a lower level or arranging some form of work shadowing or work experience in your ‘target' sector. This might help you find contacts and also get an idea of where and when permanent and internal company vacancies might be available

See our hidden job market webpage for some further information.