Speculative applications video

Speculative applications

Not all internships, research opportunities and graduate roles are advertised. Many small to medium enterprises (SMEs), research groups and start-ups rely on students approaching them speculatively to fill their vacant job roles.

Speculative approaches are also a good way to build your network and gather information about jobs, research opportunities and companies that you may be interested in working in. Visit the Networking and LinkedIn pages for more information on how to do this.

Speculative tabs

Starting points

A speculative application is an application made to an employer or research group where a job, research opportunity or internship is not publicly advertised but you are interested in working for them. You are enquiring if there is a potential opportunity available. 

Here are starting points to making speculative applications:

  • Ensure you have visited our self reflection webpages to help you identify which areas of industry, or companies, you are interested in contacting and to figure out what skills you currently have.
  • Visit our What can you do with your degree pages to for help in finding relevant organisations that you may wish to approach.
  • Try to send speculative applications to a named person if you can. Even if you use the companies general or human resources (HR) email account, see if you can find the name of the head of the department you’d like to work in, or someone in appropriate seniority. LinkedIn is a good resource to help with this if the companies own website does not tell you.

By email or cover letter

Speculative applications are often an email. There are two different ways you can structure this:

  1. Write a condensed version of your cover letter to form the body of the email and attach your CV. Your email would be short (300 words maximum) and you would include the following information:
    1. A brief introduction of yourself and why you are contacting the organisation
    2. What attracted you to this organisation including highlighting the role or area of the organisation you’d like to work in.
    3. Your availability, contact details and the next steps you will take (e.g. following up on this email in 2-3 weeks)
  2. Write a standard cover letter, focusing on the role you would like in the organisation, and attach it as a PDF to a very short introductory email. Your email should be short (150-200 words) and concise.

Targeting your CV

While you may not know exactly what skills you’ll need for a role when submitting speculative applications, it is still possible to target your CV to the types of jobs you would like to do. Below are some ideas on how to identify what skills to highlight:

  • Look at similar job advertisements in similar companies. What sort of skills do they ask for? Our reading job advertisements webpage can help with this.
  • Study the companies website and see if you can find any clues from that. Do they have a ‘our people’ or a ‘work for us’ page that might give you further details?
  • Use LinkedIn to explore other employees of the company or companies in similar industries. What skills to they have that you can also highlight?
  • Consider the industry/research area you are applying for? Are there specific skills that will be good to highlight?

With speculative CVs they may become detached from the email or cover letter that you send with them so it is a good idea to include a brief personal statement at the top of you CV. Use this statement to tell the reader briefly who you are and what sort of role you are interested in. e.g. 3rd year Bioengineering student interested in gaining work experience in the field of prosthetic limb design with a career goal to improve the lives of patients.

Be sure to attach your CV as a PDF and save it with your full name as the file title e.g. "Jennifer Humphreys CV", so they can find it more readily.