Strategies for Speculative Job Applications

What is a Speculative Job Application?

A speculative job application occurs whenever someone applies to an employer for a job that is not open. Job seekers do this in the hope that something on their application or résumé sparks an interest from the employer.

Most employers’ websites offer the ability for candidates to post résumés and online applications regardless of whether or not there is a specific opening associated with the application. Most speculative applications are poorly done, and never result in a call for an interview. Remember that most employers’ HR departments are literally bombarded with thousands of job applications in a week, so a speculative job application is a longer-term search strategy. Once a candidate is in the employer’s applicant database, the employer may seek someone with the candidate’s background and skill set and he or she becomes an active candidate.

Best Practices for Speculative Job Applications

Here are several best practices to improve your chances when posting a speculative job application:

a. Thoroughly research the employer so that you can identify the top three skills this employer needs from its employees, and the top three problems it is facing in the area in which you’d like to work. Also take a look at the employer’s mission statement and core values for other keywords. You’ll need to embed these keywords in your application or résumé.

b. Identify the target positions at the employer for which you are qualified. Search the employer’s prior job postings and job descriptions for these positions to identify the skills, keywords, and essential duties of the position. You may also want to look at similar closed postings at other employers.

c. Develop specific examples how, in past positions or roles, you have demonstrated expertise in the skill areas. What specific measurable results can you cite?

d. Create your application with the above three steps in mind, tailoring your application as if you were posting for an opening in the target position.

e. Use your cover letter to:

i. Address the speculative application or résumé to three specific individuals, the hiring manager, department head, and HR manager.

ii. If you are known by current employees there, cite them as internal references, and make sure you inform your referral(s) of your speculative application, so they are prepared to speak favorably of you if asked by the hiring manager, department head, or HR manager.

Posting for Positions Which Are Closed

This is a speculative job application strategy worth pursing if you determine you are a perfect fit for a previously advertised position that is now closed. If the position recently closed, there is a chance that the existing pool of candidates will not make it through the hiring process. If the position is one that is periodically open, it may be simply a matter of time before the employer is again seeking to fill the position. In either case take these additional steps:

a. Create a Google Alert on this employer because they hire people with your skill set.

b. Follow them on social media, especially looking for connections at the employer and in the department that was hiring.

c. Request an informational interview from someone in the hiring department, or the department where employees with the job typically work.

d. Contact the HR department and ask that your résumé be considered as an early response for the next posting for that position.

This article was excepted from the 2015/2016 6th edition of the textbook included with every Graduate Employment Preparedness Assessment. The 6th edition explains more than 2,500 job and career search best practices.

Boyer Management Group works with employers, organizations, and job seekers alike to help them become more successful. For employers, we offer world-class talent management, acquisition and onboarding tools and programs to help employees and volunteers achieve consistent, optimal performance. For job seekers and universities, we offer tools, assessments, books, and curricula to help connect people with careers. To find out more, please visit us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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