Speculative letters

If, as is claimed, only 30% of the total number of job vacancies are advertised, your best bet could be to job-hunt more creatively.

Many job-hunters resort to sending off speculative letters to relevant companies. And many employers would rather turn to their pile of speculative letters than spend thousands of pounds on advertising.

The most important thing is to apply for a specific job. For example, if you decide to target a specific TV programme then ask for a job as a runner, since trainee positions such as a researcher are likely to be advertised.


It’s also important to find out the name and job title of the person you need to write to. Many employers receive speculative letters addressed to the head of personnel, even when they don’t have a personnel department.

For the cost of a phone call, you can easily find out the best person to write to – usually the person you would be working for as they are likely to deal with your application more quickly than a personnel department.

Your goal should be to capture the attention of your prospective employer so that your letter doesn’t go straight into the bin.

One way of doing this is to show that you know plenty about the company. Request in advance an information pack or surf their website.

Careers libraries can also be useful. If you’re feeling bold, you might try firing a few questions at someone in a relevant department of the company.

Employers are always impressed when a candidate gives evidence of their skills and ability. If you say you are a good communicator, give a colourful example of when you communicated well.

If you have had some relevant work experience, demonstrate how you shone in the job. But if you haven’t had relevant work experience you can also show how skills used in one area can be applied to another.

Matthew, 26, a former trainee lawyer used the research skills he applied working in competition law to get a job as a researcher in radio. After sending off a winning speculative letter to one of the national radio stations, he landed two weeks’ work experience, then a job with the company.

His boss explains: “Matthew’s letter was relevant, not too long and he seemed a rounded person – he travelled, knew about radio and he just came across as someone who thought through what they wanted to do. If people write in and say I like to listen to my radio and not much else, you wonder if they will be able to interact with other people.”

Top tips for writing speculative letters:

1. Don’t say ‘I’ll work for nothing’. You’ll only sound desperate.

2. Don’t use coloured paper. Once in a while it might work but more often than not it alienates readers.

3. Don’t say ‘I want to work for a big company’. Be more specific and show off your knowledge of the company.

4. If you want a job in competitive industries like the City or media, don’t ask for a job upfront. Ask to come in for a chat or to shadow someone. Then shine once you’re in.

5. Make sure you know lots about the company and its activities – and namecheck them in your letter.

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