Job Search - The Speculative Approach
The speculative approach of locating vacancies is often overlooked because is appears to be the least productive, however, looks can be deceiving.
The speculative approach is where the job applicant makes applications to companies who are not currently advertising a vacancy. In many ways this is similar to cold calling and like cold calling you can expect a similar number of rejections. Please, please, please realise that this does not mean that the speculative approach is not working, in fact you will find it is working just fine.
Month after month the statistics demanded of Jobclubs by Employment Services showed that more of our members found employment using the speculative approach than by any other method.
Is that surprising?
It shouldn't be when you look at the efficient method we used when employing the speculative approach. Our Jobclub members had a target of 10 job leads a day. They typically looked for advertised vacancies first as these took the longest to prepare for. The bulk of the remaining applications came from the speculative approach.
Job leads for the speculative approach come from locating companies that employ people in your chosen field by using publications such as:-
Specialist Trade Publications
One key piece of information that you should take time to locate is the name of the Human Resources Manager or if it is a small company the business owner (CEO or Director) or a Manager in the Department you are applying for a job in.
How do you get that information?
The quickest was is by phone. Call the company, you will normally get a receptionist or switchboard operator answering. So ask them! Simply say something like...
"I have a letter for the person that deals with job applications but I can't find their name, can you tell me who's name I should put on the letter?"
How simple is that? Now I know some of you probably don't enjoy calling people you don't know by telephone, but does the minor discomfort really matter compared to the potential results? It's a sixty second call, easy.
Now if you can find out a little bit more about the company, then you can make sure that you fine tune your approach to them.
But having located the potential vacancy what should the covering letter look like?
Before I show you an example, please understand that you should always write in your own style, but certain phrases within the example are key to the success of the approach, in particular, the one's that suggest why you are writing and the closing statement that prompts the employer to take action.
Have a close look at the example below, we can discuss it afterwards (please ignore "." characters used for spacing):-
.......................................123 Some Street
Dear Named Person,
It was with interest that I recently found details of
your company in a local publication and it occurred to
me that my previous experience may be a close match for
any positions you may have available now or in the near
As you can see from my enclosed resume, my experience
with COMPANY NAME as a JOB TITLE would be suited to a
similar position within your company. Previous employers
have found my skills coupled with my ability to work as
part of a team or on my own initiative to be a useful
Should you have any suitable vacancies now or in the
near future, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss
my suitability with you.
I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
Right, lets take a look at the structure. First off, this is a business letter and so the layout should reflect that in the address and date layout.
Next lets look at the opening paragraph;
It was with interest that I recently found details of your company in a local publication and it occurred to me that my previous experience may be a close match for any positions you may have available now or in the near future.
By using language like "with interest that I recently found details of your company" is a subtle compliment and leads them into the letter. The rest of the paragraph is a polite way of say "any jobs going?" :-)
The second paragraph is the real key paragraph;
"As you can see from my enclosed resume" is an invitation to read the resume, in fact the reader should at this point stop reading the letter and start looking at the resume, but just in case they don't, it continues to build a desire to read the resume....
"my experience with COMPANY NAME as a JOB TITLE would be suited to a similar position within your company." At this point they should be trying to find those key skills in your resume.
Now we come to something called third party credibility. That is to say, we want to suggest that other people think you are good at your job;
"Previous employers have found my skills coupled with my ability to work as part of a team or on my own initiative to be a useful combination."
The wording here is critical, if you say "I am an expert at xyz" then you are blowing your own trumpet, bragging etc, but that does not help anyone believe that it is so. If you imply that someone else thinks you are good at your job then they are much more likely to believe it.
This is a commonly used technique in advertising, for a quick example look at sales pages on the internet, most have "testimonials" because you are more likely to believe the product or service is good if someone else says it is so.
We should never be afraid of using these techniques because they actually work.
The covering letter and resume should be a combination that work together to sell your skills and abilities, they are your sales copy with the sole purpose of getting you to an interview.
Therefore to be professional in your approach you need to sell the features and benefits that you have to offer the company. Horrible idea you are thinking. I agree! But we have to get the job done in the best way possible and that means selling your skills.
"Should you have any suitable vacancies now or in the near future, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss my suitability with you."
Is a polite request that you be considered for any up-coming vacancies, if you are lucky they are about to start a recruitment campaign and you can save them the trouble and cost. If you are unlucky you may be put on file for a 2 or 3 months, that is not a bad thing in the short term.
"I look forward to hearing from you in the near future." Is a straight forward request for them to contact you. You could substitute it with:-
"Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me."
And of course if you are actually looking for a job in sales then you have to prove you are a sales person:-
"I look forward to hearing from you in the near future and will call to discuss any forthcoming vacancies with you in a few days time."
How pushy is that? Please don't use that if you are not applying for a sales post. But if you are looking for a sales job it is a good line so long as you follow it up with a phone call to prove you are good at your job.
For most people the traditional ending is plenty good enough.
So, take some time to run through this again tomorrow after you have had time to think about it, write out a similar letter in your own words and see if you are happier with your own words. But what ever you decide, take action and use the speculative approach. It really is a very effective tool in the job search toolbox.
About the Author
Leaving the Royal Air Force, Steve worked for a Charity helping the unemployed to find work. Within a few months the two programs he ran were top of the counties league table.
Head hunted, Steve lead 7 similar programs, within 6 months they were all in the top 10 - including the number one spot.