Speculative applications

You can increase your chances of finding work by making contact with as many possible employers as you can. Apart from replying to job adverts, you can also write to companies who might have work that fits your interests and skills by sending a CV and covering letter/email. This is called making a "speculative application". Here are some tips:

What kind of job do you want to do?

First you need to decide what kind of job you want to do – and work out how to show that your knowledge, skills, and experience match what is needed to do that type of job. You can use our you and your career and action planning pages to help with this.

Find possible employers

The next step is to find possible employers who might offer this type of work.

  • You can use the internet, Yellow Pages, or your local library.
  • Be creative in your research. If you are looking for work in the building trades, researching local building companies is the obvious thing to do. But you might also contact large building companies (or other large organisations) if you are interested in marketing work. This is because they will need to market the work they do to new customers.
  • Make a list of companies you want to contact, along with some notes on why you think they might be good to get in touch with.
  • Write down phone numbers and, if you can find the information, a contact name. In a large company, this might be someone in the personnel or human resources (HR) department. In a small company, this might be the owner or a director of the company. You could phone the company to find out who deals with job applications.

Now, for each company, make some more notes: the main things they do, how big they are, whether they have just one main business or several branches, any information you can find about their future plans.

Adapt your CV

Then look at your CV, especially your personal statement and your list of skills and achievements. Can you make any changes to your CV to better match what each company might be looking for?

For example, if you are writing to small companies, in whatever area of work – they might be interested in hearing that you are flexible, have a range of relevant skills, and are keen to learn new things. What examples can you give to show this?

You can also look at job adverts from companies that are similar to the ones you are writing to. What skills are they looking for? Do you think these skills would also be useful to the company you are going to contact? If so, what examples can you include in your CV?

Have a look at our information about writing and adapting your CV. Be sure to save different versions of your CV. You might be able to use these again in the future.

Write a covering letter

Now you need to write a covering letter to send to each company with your CV. See our information about writing covering letters.


Keep notes about your speculative applications: who, when, copies of what you sent. Follow up after a week or 10 days.

Print and post

Check your CVs and covering letters for spelling and grammar and print them on good-quality paper. Make sure you send the right copy of your CV to the right company. Keep copies of what you send, with a note of the date and who you wrote to.

Note: If you are applying to small local companies or shops, you can visit them rather than posting your CV and covering letter. If you do this, dress smartly and always be polite. Ask to see the manager or assistant manager and explain that you are looking for work. Give them a copy of your CV and covering letter and say that you are keen to find out about any jobs they have. If the manager/assistant manager is not there, ask the person to pass on your CV and letter. Always ask for the name of the person who is responsible for taking on new staff – and make a note of it.

Follow up

A week or 10 days after you have posted your speculative application, try and phone each company to follow up. Ask to speak to the person you sent or gave your CV to. If they are not available explain that you sent a CV and ask who you should speak to about it.

Ask – politely – whether they have had a chance to look at your CV and whether it fits any jobs they have now or may have in the future. If they do, find out what to do next: do you need to come to an interview or fill in an application form first? If they don’t have any jobs, ask whether they can suggest any other companies or organisations that you can get in touch with.

Write down any details: who you spoke to, what they said, next steps, and so on.

Useful websites

Prospects – Speculative applications
This site is mainly aimed at graduates, but gives useful general information – such as this page on speculative applications.

Last updated 7 June, 2017