How to approach a company speculatively

How can someone employ you if they don’t know that you exist?

You don’t have to wait for an employer to advertise a vacancy. Making a speculative approach to some companies, showing that you have done your research and know about their work can be very productive.

Employers can be very impressed that you’ve made the effort to understand their business and have identified how you could make a valuable contribution.

Research is vital. Identify the companies you want to approach, look in detail at their websites, read about them in the press, look at their company and staff profiles on LinkedIn and elsewhere. Try to build up a profile of what they’re looking for in the staff they recruit, and see how well you match that profile.

When you’re ready, you can make your approach in the form of a letter and/or email – a suggested outline follows.

The speculative letter/email

Your aim is to set up an introductory interview by sending a small number of letters or emails and short CVs (probably no more than ten, and not all at the same time) to people that could be interested in your skills and experience.

Scattergunning these letters is not a good idea. You need to target the correspondence and make the recipient feel special. Otherwise they will put your letter in the bin or delete your email.

Dear [NAME]
(find out the best person to contact, either via the website or calling the company)

Paragraph 1
[Say something positive/interesting/relevant about their company:]
I was interested to read, in last week’s [name of publication/website] about the new work you are doing in the [NAME] sector...

Or

At a recent event, I had a very interesting conversation with [NAME] and s/he suggested that the experience I have gained with [NAME of other companies] could be of interest to you...

Or

I’ve noticed on your website...

Paragraph 2
[Introduce yourself in a positive way e.g.]
While on a work placement at [NAME OF COMPANY] during my degree, I worked on a variety of [RELEVANT TYPE OF PROJECTS]. This gave me valuable on-the-job experience and skills [ELABORATE...] to complement what I learnt in my studies. In particular, the experience I gained during [EXAMPLE] could be relevant to the type of commission/work your company specialises in.

Paragraph 3
[Don’t ask for a job, ask to meet, e.g.]
I would welcome the opportunity to meet you, or one of your colleagues, to find out more about your plans for the future, and to discuss how my skills and enthusiasm for your work could contribute to the continuing success of [COMPANY NAME] in the future.

I attach a CV and look forward to hearing from you [and remember to follow up yourself].

Yours sincerely,

How to do introductory meetings well

Setting up meetings takes a mix of courtesy, common sense and business-awareness.

You will need to follow up your letter/email and send out a clear and positive message about what you could contribute to the company.

In preparing for your meeting:

  • Think clearly about what you want to achieve – don’t waste the opportunity!
  • Suggest a mutually convenient time and location e.g. in the workplace or a social setting
  • Make sure you are familiar with the company’s work and have something positive/interesting to say about it. View/listen to a representative sample and check their website

At the meeting:

  • Gear your answers to reassure them that you would be an asset to their work, e.g.:
    • Q: Why are you interested in working with us?
    • A: I think I could work well with your team – the skills and experience I gained on [NAME of project] are similar to your production/presentation style
    • [i.e. don’t just say, “Because I think it would be interesting” or “I’m passionate about your work”]
  • Always ask the person you meet whether they can recommend you to other sources of advice, and if you can use their name in any approach.

Always thank them for their help. Follow up with a ‘thank you’ after your meeting.

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