Wondering how to write a speculative cover letter?
A speculative CV with an accompanying cover letter is a way of connecting with employers when they’re not advertising vacancies. Speculative applications can have great results, and can also be an effective way of getting internships or work placements.
Lots of positions are filled without ever being advertised, and a speculative letter could be your way in.
Here’s how to write a speculative cover letter that strikes the right tone and helps you get your foot in the door.
Start by researching thoroughly
Once you’ve found an organisation you’d like to work for, the first thing to do is research it thoroughly. Find out everything you can about the organisation, its staff and the wider industry it operates in.
Most of the information you’ll need will be readily available from online sources, including:
The organisation’s website
Press releases published by the organisation
Its LinkedIn page and social media profiles
News articles relating to the organisation
Industry-specific publications, newsletters or blogs
Review sites like Glassdoor
The more knowledge you can arm yourself with, the better you’ll be able to work out how your skills, experience and interests could benefit the organisation.
And remember, when writing a speculative cover letter, accuracy is key. Misspelling the name of the organisation, its products or services or the addressee could spell disaster for your speculative letter.
Know who you’re talking to
Research the organisation’s staff list carefully to find out who to address your letter to. This may be:
The managing director, if it’s a smaller firm
A head of department
The hiring manager
A member of the HR team
It’s absolutely crucial that you address the letter to a specific person. ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ or ‘To whom it may concern’ won’t score you any points.
Strike the right tone
It can be hard to judge how to write a speculative cover letter and what tone to use. In our opinion, it’s best to opt for a formal tone. You don’t know the person, so don’t be over-familiar.
Open with ‘Dear [person’s name]’, and avoid any informal chit-chat like ‘I hope you had a good weekend’. Keep your tone friendly but professional throughout, and close with ‘Yours sincerely’.
You might think sending a speculative CV and cover letter will come across as pushy or presumptuous - but hiring managers are unlikely to see it that way.
Don’t be tempted to start with something apologetic like ‘I hope you don’t mind me contacting you unsolicited’.
There’s no need to apologise - a speculative application is evidence that you’re enthusiastic and proactive, rather than arrogant.
Get straight to the point
If you’re wondering about how to start a speculative cover letter, our top tip would be: get to the point!
Hiring managers are busy - so don’t waste their time. Too many speculative cover letters suffer from long, repetitive introductions, clichéd language and wordy explanations that are unlikely to be read.
Cut to the chase straight away. Say why you’re writing, and demonstrate how you can benefit the organisation with a few key highlights from your CV.
Format your cover letter appropriately
A formally laid out cover letter is likely to have a better chance of succeeding. Put your name, address and the date on the right at the top, and the addressee’s details on the left starting on the line below.
The purpose of a speculative job letter is to get the hiring manager to look at your CV - so give them a reason to read it with three or four solid points straight off the bat. You could format these as bullet points to make them even easier to read.
Keep paragraphs short and snappy and try to keep your letter to around half a page, and definitely no more than one page.
Focus on the employer
When writing a speculative cover letter, you should say as much (if not more) about the organisation you’re writing to as you do about yourself.
Try not to start every paragraph with ‘I’. You want to communicate what you can do for the organisation and why you want to work there, so try to evidence the knowledge you gained through your research.
What challenges and opportunities is the organisation facing? Try to focus on the person reading the letter and their priorities, and give a few examples from your experience that show how you can meet them.
Wrap it up
Avoid the hard sell. Some sources recommend ending with something like ‘I’ll be calling you next week to schedule an interview’, but this pushy approach may backfire.
End simply by expressing that you’d like the opportunity to continue the conversation. Specify how the hiring manager can contact you (by phone or email, for example) followed by ‘I look forward to hearing from you’.
As always, check, check and check again for typos and grammatical errors. Get someone else to proofread it for you if you can.
If you don’t hear anything within a couple of weeks, it’s a good idea to follow up by email or phone. This will show perseverance and a real desire to work for the organisation.
How to write a speculative cover letter: a summary
A speculative application can be a great way to engage with an organisation, and could get you one step closer to your dream job. Even if the employer doesn’t have any openings immediately, it could put you on their radar as someone to contact in the future.
We hope our guide has given you a better idea of how to write a speculative cover letter. Remember, a cover letter acts as the bait to get hiring managers to read your CV - so make sure your accompanying CV is as good as it can be!
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