Hogan Lovells

Speculative Cover Letter

A speculative cover letter is sent as part of a speculative application, alongside your CV. Speculative applications are a great way to target the organisation that you want to work for and let them know about you. Your letter or email forms the first impression the employer has of you.

Have you seen Take Me Out? It’s like the bit when the previously unseen guy comes down to his choice of music and dances in front of the girls. But instead of the girls, it’ll be the employer turning off their light if they don’t like what they see. So, as Paddy McGuinness would say, “Let the onion see the bhaji; young jobseeker reveal yourself!”

Erm, if there’s anything going, can you give me a job please?

The real challenge of writing a speculative cover letter is the fact that you aren’t applying for a particular role at a company, which begs the question what do you put in it?

The company doesn't have to read your letter, in fact they could easily just cast their eyes over the first few sentences and lob your letter into the bin. A speculative covering letter needs to grab them from the onset. No opening with a whimpering: “I’m writing to…” You really have to sell yourself and make them intrigued to find out more about you.

A speculative cover letter needs to be concise; only three or four short paragraphs and no longer than one side of A4. Every word needs to count. Think of different ways to structure and formulate your sentences to really show off your writing style. It should be interesting, but economical.

Tailoring your speculative cover letter…

Research the company and adapt the tone of your letter to suit the firm: for example, if it’s a conservative company then keep your letter conservative. That doesn’t mean peppering it with clichéd expressions and formulaic business speak though; keep it interesting, but formal.

For more creative companies, allow your creativity more free rein, but don’t go too wacky. Feel free to be more original; however, make sure you still get across your key skills and experience, whilst injecting a liberal dose of your own personality.

As you’re approaching the company of your own accord, this is a great chance to show them why you particularly want to work for their company. Thoroughly research the organisation beforehand and come up with unique reasons why you’d love to work for them.

What values do they have that particularly appeal to you? And more importantly, what skills do you have that are going make you attractive as a potential future employee? Do they have a need for your skills?

Writing your speculative cover letter…

You should try and avoid beginning the letter ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ if you can. Phone the company and ask the name of the person who deals with recruitment. Your opening paragraph should stimulate their interest and lure them into reading more.

It should be used to enquire about openings, offer a brief snapshot of what interests you about the company and what has motivated you to send the letter. Tell them briefly about your current position: e.g. “I’m about to graduate with a predicted 2:1 in history from the University of Bristol.” Don’t forget to tell them what kind of work you’re looking for.

The next two paragraphs should be devoted to telling them about your key skills and experience. Tantalise their taste buds by giving them unique reasons why you’d be great for their company. Give them an overview of the key skills you have, backed up with examples of when you have displayed those skills. Mention any relevant work experience and any achievements in that role.

Be confident. Don’t put yourself down, but also don’t brag; no “I’m the best person in the entire world. That’s right, you heard me.” Show them why you would be a top-notch addition to their team. It goes without saying that if you yatter on about skills that aren’t relevant to the company, they won’t be interested.

Ending your speculative cover letter…

End your cover letter on a positive note: “I’m looking forward to your reply” or even “It’d be great, if possible, if we could arrange a meeting to discuss this further.” You could even say “I will call you next week to discuss this further”, drumming home that your speculative cover letter is something they can’t ignore.

Sign the letter off using “Yours sincerely” if it’s being sent to a named person; if you haven’t managed to find out the name of anybody in the organisation then use: “Yours faithfully” followed by your name.

If you’re emailing your speculative covering letter or they’re likely to read it onscreen, then use a font designed to be read on a screen, such as Verdana or Helvetica (Arial is a bit passé, darling!). You should also use shorter paragraphs in emails as well.

Proofread it!

Scour every inch of it your covering letter for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Get someone else to do it as well. So many people make schoolboy errors, such as misspelling the name of the company or addressee. Don’t be a schoolboy. Check, check, check and check again!

If you fancy applying for other jobs without submitting a speculative application, check out our jobs board. We've got tons of live vacancies!