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Applying for a job on-spec

15 March 2005

An on-spec application can be an effective way to get a job - as long as you go about it in the right way.

If you're keen to work for a particular company, applying on-spec is probably the best approach. You can contact the company quickly and maybe even get a quick response.

On-spec applications can also be a good idea if you want to get a job as soon as possible. A direct approach can be far more productive than sitting and waiting for an advert for your dream job to appear.

Where to start

Making on-spec applications is no easy task and the process can be very disheartening. The key to success is research.

First, make sure you know what the job you want involves. Read our job profiles and people profiles to get an idea of the qualifications you need and the responsibilities you will have to take on.

Make a list of companies you want to contact. Look in our jobs section, our company profiles

Find out about them in detail. Have they been in the news recently? What are their future plans? How successful are they? Don't forget to look at where they are based and if they have any local branches. There's no point applying to a company a long way away if you don't want to move there.

Get the name of the person you need to contact. This is vital because it makes a good impression and shows that you have done some homework. Usually, this person will be the head of personnel, but it depends on the type and level of job you want. If the company is quite large, you could try the area manager. Just call the head office and ask for the name and make sure you get the correct spelling.

In order to make an on-spec application work, you need to make yourself stand out. Consider what you have to offer that is unique or relates especially to the company. Write a list of your qualities and make this the focus of your application. Companies get enquiries about jobs all the time, so you have to make sure you don't get forgotten.

How to contact them

Post
The traditional way to apply on-spec is to send a covering letter and your CV by post. Use a PC - a typed letter looks more professional. Use good quality paper, too and don't forget to keep copies of letters that you send. Make your letter short and clear, but don't just repeat what's on your CV.

Start by stating the kind of job you are looking for and why you want to work for that particular company. Then sum up your experience and qualifications. End by saying when you could go in for an interview and start work.

Advantages:

  • It gives the person all the essential, standard information they need to decide whether to interview you.

Disadvantages:

  • It might get lost in the post or mislaid.
  • Your letter only has a very short time to persuade the person that you are suitable.
  • A spelling mistake can result in all your efforts being thrown in the bin. Use a spell-checker and get someone else to look at it first, preferably a college tutor or recruitment agency.

E-mail You can also send your covering letter and CV by e-mail.

Advantages:

  • It shows that you can use e-mail software. If, for example, you want to work in reservations, you may need this experience.
  • It's cheap - you don't need to spend money on paper, envelopes and stamps.
  • It's fast to send - you may get a response the same day, and e-mails can be passed on to other people in the company quickly.

Disadvantages:

  • Senior workers often get hundreds of e-mails a day, and many of them are junk. It's very easy for your e-mail to be deleted without the person reading it.
  • The person you are sending your e-mail to might not spend a lot of time at their desk. For example, a hotel manager may often be out entertaining guests, so you might not get a quick reply.

Phone Another good way to approach someone about a job is by phone. Rehearse what you want to say and write it down. While on the phone, refer to your notes and make sure you sound keen. Get straight to the point and don't ramble. Try to arrange a time when you can pop in for a visit. And don't forget to thank them for their time.

Advantages:

  • You can make a personal impact that is hard to achieve with a letter or e-mail.

Disadvantages:

  • You have to be confident.
  • You don't have very long to hold the person's interest.
  • You could catch the person at the wrong moment - they could be moody, having a bad day, in the middle of lunch - and not want to talk to you.
  • Often people will just ask you to write instead.

Going into the company It's probably not a good idea to just walk into a company office or branch in the hope of getting a job. Many people see this as irritating, and more often than not the person will be too busy to see you. You could be lucky and your directness could be seen as a good thing, but success depends too much on how the person approached views this tactic.

The best approach

Your best bet is probably a letter, followed by a phone call a few days later. The main thing is not to be too disheartened if you don't succeed. Companies will keep hold of your details and contact you if anything suitable comes up.

Of course, a lot of the time, success can be down to luck. It's often a case of being in the right place at the right time. But remember, the more effort you put in, the more likely you are to get a job.

With thanks to: Janet Gray, human resources and IT director, Jarvis Hotels Jonathan Lister, director, Lister Charles recruitment company
Kofo Rahaman, careers information officer, Thames Valley University

See also:How to write a CV
How to write a covering letter
Phone interviews
Job interviews
Preparing for an interview

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