The Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Speculative CV

3 minute read

Times are hard. With nearly 6 million UK citizens in danger of losing their jobs as a result of Covid-19, it’s no wonder that so many people are starting to consider different career avenues. But the competition is stiff, and you have to be proactive—if not a little aggressive—to get your foot in the door. So the question is, should you be writing a speculative CV?

A speculative application is a means of flagging up your interest and skills to a company without waiting to respond to a specific advertised vacancy. Sounds a bit crazy, applying for a job that doesn’t exist. But this type of application has some unique benefits, particularly in the charity sector. Sending in a speculative CV may be a way to build a rapport with an organisation that shares your values and provides the opportunity you want, in the location you need.

There’s just one small snag: the charity might not actually be looking to bring in anyone new. So you have to go above and beyond to convince them that they need you. As such, these CVs are a little more challenging to craft.

Not sure where to start? Here are a few tips to help you get started.

The Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Speculative CV

Do: Think about your entry point

When you reply to a job advert, you’ll know exactly who you are contacting. Sending through a speculative application is no different. Try to find a live job advert for the organisation, but for a different role, and send your CV to that hiring manager. Acknowledge where you found their details and why you’re contacting them.

If they aren’t hiring for any roles, you can scour the organisation’s website or LinkedIn for relevant department heads or HR professionals. You can even try phoning first, and then following up with your CV.


Don’t: Get in touch if you’ve applied to work for them quite recently

Most organisations keep organised records of candidates. When you apply for jobs, you normally give permission for them to hold your details on file, usually for up to a year. Therefore, sending your CV again when you’ve recently applied for another role is akin to nagging.



Do: Tailor your CV to the organisation

With a speculative CV, you can’t send out something generic. Instead, you need to really tailor it to what you have to offer the organisation and why they will benefit from having you and your skills on board. This will require some research and effort but it is the most important point. Find out the organisation’s current objectives and shape your CV to address these. Similarly, identify their organisational culture and make sure your CV moulds to this.


Don’t: Cut corners

With speculative applications, you can’t cut corners by sending out a standard CV and cover letter. Remember, you really want to work for this organisation. So invest the time in making your application unique. They want to see that you’re interested in them specifically, not just blasting out applications to everyone.

The Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Speculative CV

Do: Include a cover letter

Keep in mind, your CV will be arriving out of the blue. They need some context. Therefore, take the time to craft a concise and clear cover letter about why this organisation is on your radar, and what you have to offer them.


Don’t: Make assumptions

With a speculative CV, you don’t have the benefit of a clear list of attributes a hiring manager is looking for. Instead, you have to do the homework regarding which characteristics are most likely to get you noticed. That’s why an advance phone call can help, as well as hunting on LinkedIn for others working at the organisation in similar roles.


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Do: Answer the obvious questions

With speculative CVs, it’s easier for readers to be left with more questions. They may wonder why you are applying to them, or why you are applying now. It’s worth explaining the motivations behind your career move, as well as any other important information such as your notice period.


Don’t: Close doors

The last thing you want to do is accidentally cut off future opportunities by limiting the scope of your application. Make sure you leave things open-ended enough so that even if they don’t have a position for you right now, you’ll be there in their mind when they do. Avoid using narrow job titles, but do give evidence of how you have made positive contributions in ways which would benefit this organisation. Make your CV skill-heavy.

As with any CV, take time to proofread and ensure it is easy-to-read. With a speculative CV, you need to do everything that you would normally, but then take it to the next level. Need help starting your CV? Check out our free charity CV and Cover letter templates.

Andrew Fennell

Andrew Fennell is an experienced recruiter and founder of CV and careers advice websites StandOut CV and Job description library, as well as being a regular contributor to sites such as CV Library, The Guardian and Business Insider.

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