While most organisations encourage potential candidates to check their website for open opportunities and apply only when they see an advertised role that fits their background, it can be useful to take a more speculative approach. Indeed, when job markets are challenging, being proactive can be particularly important.
Your chances of securing the job you want just by sending in your CV and cover letter to a recruitment mailbox in the hope it will be read and actioned might be limited, but this certainly doesn’t mean it’s not worth reaching out to organisations to introduce yourself and let them know what you can do for them.
Some suggestions for success
Taking certain steps will increase the chances of this very speculative approach proving successful.
Our first recommendation would be to reach out to someone within the organisation to ask for an initial chat – to find out more about the work they do, current areas of focus, critical skills and experience sought. Always try to resist sending in your CV until you have had that initial discussion – it’s likely that you might learn something that would mean you’d want to alter your CV in some way – perhaps mentioning a paper you’ve written as part of your degree or highlighting more specifically a particular piece of experience you’ve had that you now know would resonate with them.
In general, larger organisations with very structured hiring processes can be harder to access with a speculatively approach, but it will always help any future application to have spoken with people who know the organisation from the inside. They might be able to act as your sponsor and pass on your details to someone who is hiring, they might be able to give information that will allow you to target your CV and cover letter more specifically, but as a minimum the fact that you have reached out in this way will be itself be proof of your interest and motivation.
Smaller organisations, in particular those that do not have large HR departments and where line managers handle their own recruitment, will tend to be more open to speculative contact. The approach tends to be fairly common in the creative and media sectors as well as start-ups. In some instances, you might be expected to include links to relevant work that you’ve done – a blog or article you’ve writing, a video you’ve produced, a website you’ve designed.
When you’re looking for work experience as opposed to a permanent role, the speculative approach can be particularly fruitful. Here you’ll be aiming to reach out directly to a specific individual working in an area of interest to you. It’s important that you set out clearly why you are getting in touch. You’re aiming for a personalised approach, explaining why you are contacting them (because, perhaps, of your interest in a specific area of their work that you have taken the trouble to research) and outlining clearly the reasons for your interest and, importantly, what you can do for them. The person receiving the mail must feel as though it has been written specifically to them.
How to approach people
Make use of your access to LSE's alumni network, past connections and the possibilities offered by LinkedIn to identify potential contacts.
The most effective approaches will feel personal and sincere, so do your research before getting in touch. Try as far as possible to write to a named individual, ideally someone who has the ability to make hiring decisions, often the Head of Department or business area you are interested in.
Find a hook that will generate interest in the reader. Maybe you have come across an article they have written in a blog that you found interesting? Did you hear them speak on a webinar or at a conference? Are they working on a topic of particular interest that you know something about? Do you have specific skills you know are critical to the organisations work? Referring to this in your email will send a signal to the reader that you have done some research, your approach is not random, and you have a sincere interest is them and what they do. It is this evidence-based approach that will convince them of your motivation and enthusiasm.
Be very explicit about what you can offer; will they be interested in your coding skills, your experience in social media marketing or the research you undertook as part of your degree? Highlight experience or knowledge that you know will be of particular interest and relevance to them, drawing on your education, prior work experience or extra-curricular life.
As mentioned at the start there is no guarantee that a speculative approach will result in a job offer. In many cases you won’t get a reply to your initial mail. This might reflect that the organisation has no vacancies or simply that the individual approached is busy. In either case it is acceptable to politely follow up after two weeks politely reminding them of your initial enquiry.