letters: getting
your foot in the
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Basic principles
‘Speculative letter’
A speculative letter is a letter you send to prospective employers who have
not openly stated that they have a specific vacancy to fill. You are simply
writing to enquire whether or not they have opportunities for someone with
your qualifications and experience.
I believe speculative applications to be of much greater importance in a
job hunt than most people give them credit for.
It may sound a long shot and I’ll admit that you probably will have a
relatively low level of response – but if you have put together a strong CV
and cover letter (the cover letter being particularly important) then you
really are in with a chance.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
The hidden job market
Do you know how much an employer has to pay to advertise a vacancy in
a national newspaper? And how much do you think a recruitment agency
normally charges? Believe me, it’s a lot of money. Any employer in their
right mind will be keen to avoid such costs if it’s practical to do so.
More than half of all job vacancies are never advertised or put out to recruit-
ment consultants.That’s an awful lot of jobs! These positions are filled:
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40 brilliant Cover L etters
G by employers trawling through their files for CVs;
G via word of mouth;
G through network contacts;
G by ‘poaching’ from other organisations.
It’s the first item on that list that you’re most interested in. When a pos-
ition comes up, you want to make sure that your CV is in that
all-important file and hasn’t just been chucked in the bin the moment
it was received. And the cover letter you write can make all the difference.
Even though an employer may not have any vacancies at the time of your
initial application, they may well do so in the near future. As long as your CV
and cover letter make a powerful impression, you should hopefully be
considered when a suitable position does arise.
You may still find yourself up against candidates supplied by a recruit-
ment agency, but the fact that you can essentially be recruited ‘for free’
may be a deciding factor, particularly for a small company. I hired my first
ever employee after she wrote to me out of the blue on a purely specula-
tive basis – and I’ve hired many more in this way since.
Finding your targets
Identifying suitable targets for speculative applications will require some
research on your part, but local (and even national) newspapers, Yellow
Pages and the Internet are generally the best places to start.Trade journals
can also be very useful, not least because of the additional background
information they can sometimes provide. However, having identified a
target, it’s not usually too difficult to dig up relevant information online –
information you can use when crafting your cover letter.The Internet is a
wonderful research tool. (I’ll talk more about finding and researching
appropriate targets in Chapter 9, page 189: Job hunting.)
You also need to try to ascertain what sorts of individual these organis-
ations are likely to be looking for. The more you know about the kind of
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