Your covering letter is arguably the most important element of your speculative application, as this is what the reader will see first.
There are some small, lesser-known organisations that don’t run a massive recruitment drive for graduates and interns each year because they offer specialist or niche services and take on fewer people. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get work with them. Quite the opposite!
Speculative applications explained
A speculative application is when you submit a covering letter and CV to an organisation to enquire about possible job opportunities in your chosen sector. It’s speculative because you’re not responding to a position that’s been advertised.
You can send your applications by post or email – it’s up to you, although email is more normal these days. If you’re unsure, trial both approaches to find out which gets the companies’ attention.
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, fewer employers may be able to offer jobs or work experience to speculative applicants, but it's still worth trying. Applying for a combination of speculative and advertised vacancies will give you the best chance of success in your job hunt.
A real route into financial services
Speculative applications are particularly useful for actuarial, financial planning and insurance loss adjusting roles because there are several companies in the UK that offer these services but don’t recruit staff through a typical graduate scheme.
It’s mainly large employers, such as Lane Clark & Peacock LLP, Mercer, Willis Towers Watson and Hymans Robertson LLP, that run an annual recruitment drive for both graduate roles and internships. Small and medium sized organisations, particularly those offering specialist services, don’t recruit on this scale and probably won’t get as much interest from job hunters, which creates a good opportunity for you to use a speculative application to worm your way into a business.
1. Search for employers in your sector
There are many businesses in the UK that recruit insurance loss adjusters, financial planners and actuaries – so there’ll be plenty of places for you to apply to speculatively. How do you find them? Professional bodies, such as the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA), allow users to search their online databases to find respective firms. It’s also worth perusing online/print directories of relevant companies in the UK.
2. Essential research for your covering letter
Your covering letter is arguably the most important element of your speculative application, as this is what the reader will see first. You’ll need to hook them in otherwise your application will most probably end up in the bin. Remember, they’re not expecting to hear from you.
Research the organisation
Thoroughly research each organisation that you apply to. Having a good understanding of your targeted businesses will tell the recruiters that you’re truly interested in a position with them and not just a job.
Most will have a company website, although the websites used by smaller businesses may not contain as much information as, say, a huge international company. So use them as a starting point, reading the about us section, testimonials, specialisms etc. Also check out the recruitment page.
Then find out if your desired employer(s) have a LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook profile, and if they’ve been mentioned in social media, the local news or industry magazines. A quick search on social media platforms, as well as Google, will often generate some information.
It might also be worth giving them a call to speak with someone about the business or even visit the company for a tour. However, you should ONLY consider these approaches if you’re genuinely interested in the business – don’t waste your time or theirs.
Research the skills employers want
The areas of work section of TARGETjobs financial services and insurance is a good place to start your research into what insurance loss adjusting, financial planning or actuarial science graduate roles entail and the skills you’ll need to do the job – whether you’re applying for a graduate position or work experience. This knowledge is essential for your covering letter because you’ll need to include something on why you’re qualified for the job.
Apply your research
Once you have gathered a good amount of research about the firm and job requirements, you’ll be able to include particular details in your covering letter to show the recruiter that you’ve taken the time to carry out thorough research and are seriously interested in joining the team.
Ensure you find out the name of the person you should address your application to – a speculative application addressed to Sir/Madam or otherwise will probably go down like a sinking ship. Does the company have a HR officer or head of recruitment, or will it be the manager of the department that you apply to? A phone call may well be necessary here and you may have to explain why you’re calling.
Tell the reader why you’re writing the letter, ensuring you mention that you’re enquiring about possible openings – they might otherwise think an advert has been posted somewhere. Also include a bit of information about yourself, such as your qualifications, experience or key skills. However, don’t go into great detail, you can do this in the following paragraph.
Elaborate on your relevant qualifications, experience and skills – being succinct and only including what the employer will be interested in. Use one or two examples. For a role as an insurance loss adjuster, for instance, you could prove that you’ve got good communication, negotiation and customer facing skills by referencing an internship in sales and your particular responsibilities.
Conclude your covering letter by convincing the recruiter that you want to work for the company and no other by pinpointing one or two aspects that have attracted you to the business. This is where your research will come in handy. This could be the size of the business, reputation, customer satisfaction record etc.
For instance, perhaps the business has a small team and you’re keen to be part of that because you want to work closely with colleagues and have the chance to get involved in different aspects of the business. Before you sign off with your name, let the reader know you’ll be in touch.
4. Follow up your application
Get in touch with the recruiter about a week after you submitted your application to confirm that they received it and find out if they’ve had the chance to take a look at it. Bear in mind that financial services professionals are often extremely busy, so don’t be deterred if your enquiry can’t be addressed immediately. Begin the call by introducing yourself and letting the receptionist know why you’re calling, and then ask to speak with the person you sent the letter to.
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