Speculative application preparation

If you are making a speculative approach to an organisation you need to undertake some preparation before you get in touch.

This will involve researching an organisation, deciding the work experience you want, and finding out who the best person is for you to contact. 

Why should I approach a company directly?

Some industries and occupational areas are less likely to advertise work experience opportunities than others; these include the arts, media, heritage, sports and journalism. If you cannot find advertised work experience in your area of interest, you may need to contact organisations directly. This is known as a speculative approach.

Researching the organisation

Before you contact an organisation with a work experience request it’s important to understand what they do and the wider context they work in. Doing your research makes you look organised and shows that you are genuinely interested in the organisation.

  • Internet search engines provide a quick and easy way to search for employers.
  • Industry journals advertising permanent vacancies provide a great insight into employers working in the sector and how to get in touch. Also look in local and national newspapers.
  • Industry professional bodies often provide details of organisations working in a particular field/sector.
  • Lecturers and other contacts may be able to give advice and contact details of companies and individuals.
  • Online directories for local businesses can provide the details of multiple organisations in a sector. Example directories for Birmingham include:
  • Social media - LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can all be extremely useful in finding out more about an organisation.
  • Databases - the University's main library holds a number of databases which you may use to research organisations, including the Fame database, which provides access to 2.8 million UK companies and can be accessed via findit@bham.

Take time to look into the following areas:

  • What are the core business functions, or areas of activity delivered by the organisation, and how is it structured?
  • Are there any recent news items about them on their website or in the media?  This may give an insight into new developments, achievements, or pressures facing the organisation.
  • Have there been any recent developments or issues in the sector they are working in?  How might this impact on the organisation? 
  • Do they have competitors, who are they and what are they doing?

You can look at their website, media articles, reports and other sources to answer the questions above.

Deciding the work experience you want

Think about what type of experience you are asking for:

  • Is there a particular role or department you are interested in finding out more about?
  • Are there specific projects or activities you would like to get involved in?
  • Are you looking for an immediate opportunity, something part time during term or a few weeks in the vacations?

Use the knowledge you have about the organisation to suggest a post or some work that you could usefully do for them.

Identifying who to contact

Your application will be more likely to succeed if it reaches the right person in the organisation.  If you are hoping to get experience in a particular role there may be a specific department delivering these activities or particular individuals within the organisation.

There are three main ways to find out who to speak to:

  • Company website - this may have an online directory or staff lists which will allow you to find the department and person you need to talk to.
  • Telephone switchboard - you can call the main switchboard and ask for the general number for the department you are interested in. When you get through explain why you are calling and ask who they recommend you should speak to.
  • Human Resources or Personnel Department - they may be able to tell you who you need to speak with or they may organise work experience on behalf of the whole organisation, in which case you will need to liaise with them.

CV & covering letter

The final preparation step is to write your CV and covering letter. Use the research you have done in previous steps to write a tailored CV and letter which highlight the skills and experience you can offer the organisation.


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