The Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Speculative CV

3 minute read

It may sound a bit strange to apply for a job that doesn’t exist. But speculative applications have 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.

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. Because of this, speculative CVs are a little more challenging to craft.

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


Do: Think about your entry point

When you reply to a job advert, you’ll know exactly who you’re 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 their 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 a record 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. So sending your CV again when you’ve recently applied for another role is like nagging.

The Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Speculative CV

Do: Tailor your CV to the organisation

It’s even more important not to send something generic for a speculative application. Instead, really tailor it to what you have to offer the organisation and why they’ll benefit from having you and your skills on board. This will require some research and effort but it’s the most important point. Find out the charity’s current objectives and shape your CV to address these. Similarly, identify their organisational culture and make sure you mould your speculative CV 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 charity. 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 charity 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 a phone call in advance can help, as well as hunting on LinkedIn for others working at the charity in similar roles.

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Do: Answer the obvious questions

Hiring managers will likely be left with more questions from a speculative application than from a normal job application. They may wonder why you’re applying to them, or why you’re 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 the charity doesn’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’ve made positive contributions in ways that would benefit this organisation. Make your CV skill-heavy.

As with any CV, take time to proofread and ensure it’s 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 ultimate CV guide.


This post was originally published in 2020 and has been updated to ensure relevance and to reflect the current jobseeker experience.


Andrew Fennell

Andrew Fennell is the founder and director of StandOut CV, a leading CV builder and careers advice website. He is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to publications like Business Insider, The Guardian, and the Independent.

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