Career choicesBeginning your job search

The first step is to decide what type of job you are looking for, or what interests or skills you have. This can be done by making a list such as, working with computers, working with animals, organised etc. This will help to match your interests and skills to areas of work or specific jobs. The second step is where and how to look for a job.

Speculative letters

A covering letter is an application for a specific advertised job. A speculative letter is sent directly to a company to enquire about a job matching your skills. It is a good idea to send speculative letters to companies which interest you. You might have just the qualifications and skills needed to fill a vacancy. Even if there is nothing available at the time, many employers would rather turn to their pile of speculative letters than spend money on advertising.

Some estimates say more than 50% of vacancies are never advertised, so it is always worth contacting an employer to find out what job opportunities are available.

How to write a speculative letter:

  • Research - research means finding out about job opportunities or companies which match your skills/interests. A starting point is your local paper for job advertisements and also articles which may announce new companies moving to the area, or companies that are expanding and therefore likely to be taking on extra staff. Your local library or the Yellow Pages can help locate companies.
  • Content - Once you have identified a company you would like to work for and call them and explain the type of job or which department e.g. accounts you are enquiring about and ask who is responsible for recruiting new staff. Make sure you get the full name and job title of the person concerned and check your spelling! This shows you have done your research and want to make a good impression.

    Write your speculative letter making it as specific to the company as possible. The letter needs to outline the main reasons why you are interested in working for the company or organisation. Match what you can offer with the work of the company and highlight your strengths, qualifications and experience. Remember to send your CV with your letter.

Key tips for letter layout

  • Use A4, 80g, white paper to print your letter and CV
  • Make sure you set equal margins on the page e.g. 2cm
  • Use one side of paper only
  • Include the company address and date
  • Start your letter with Dear + (name of person writing to)
  • End your letter with Yours sincerely and type your first and last name
  • Sign the letter with your name
  • Use a font style and size which is clear and easy to read e.g. size 12 font, Arial
  • Check for spelling mistakes and ask someone else to look over your letter before you send it.