In-house recruiters are constantly seeking innovative strategies to identify and secure top-notch candidates. One such approach that has gained traction in recent years is the use of speculative applications.

A speculative application, also known as a cold application, is a proactive approach used in the job recruitment process. Instead of responding to a specific job opening or posting, individuals send out applications or inquiries to companies even when there are no advertised vacancies.

In other words, a speculative application involves expressing interest in working for a particular company and submitting a job application, resume, and cover letter, even if there isn’t a published job listing that matches the applicant’s skills or experience. The goal of a speculative application is to capture the attention of the company’s hiring team and potentially create opportunities that may not have been initially considered.

What are the advantages of a speculative job application?

Advantages for Candidates

Access to Hidden Opportunities

A speculative application can allow candidates to tap into potential job openings that might not be publicly advertised yet. This gives them a competitive edge by being among the first to be considered for new roles, and also heightens their chance of communicating and introducing themselves to a real person in the first instance, rather than having to get past an ATS screening.

Showcasing Proactivity

Submitting speculatively demonstrates a candidate’s initiative and genuine interest in the organisation. It can set them apart from other applicants and create a positive first impression with the team at the company they are inquiring with.

Aligning with Preferred Companies

Candidates can target their dream companies even when there are no immediate openings. This approach enables them to work for organisations that resonate with their values and goals. The responses candidate receive to their speculative job applications will also impact their impression of the organisations, helping them identify employers who are the prime fit for them.

Maximizing Market Presence

By reaching out to multiple companies, candidates increase their chances of being noticed by potential employers, expanding their network and increasing their visibility. Through building this network and having these conversations, the candidate can also get their hands on all kids of useful information, from recruitment team contact details to any skill gaps they may have.

Positioning for Future Opportunities

Even if there are no immediate roles available, a strong speculative job application can leave a lasting impression on the recruitment team, potentially leading to consideration for future openings.

Advantages for In-House Recruitment Teams

Matching Future Needs

Recruitment teams can identify candidates whose skills align with the company’s future needs, allowing for strategic hiring based on long-term business goals. Having a healthy talent pipeline is never a bad thing, so having a network of talent who you already know is interested in your organisation can be a huge positive for your future recruitment needs.

Even if a speculative applicant isn’t possessing the skillset or background which your organisation typically recruits, you never know what could be around the bend or how your needs may change.

Enhanced Employer Branding

A well-crafted speculative application process, even if it doesn’t lead to immediate job offers, can contribute to positive employer branding. It shows that the company values proactive candidates and maintains an open-door policy.

Make sure your process is smooth, easy to navigate, and not too long! You may also want to include something to showcase your brand personality. Whether that be fun questions or sending speculative applicants some merch, how you do this is up to you and according to the impression you want to leave applicants with.

Reduced Time and Effort

Candidates taking the initiative can substantially streamline the recruitment process, leading to significant time and effort savings for in-house recruitment teams. In a conventional scenario, recruiters must sift through a multitude of applications in response to advertised job postings, often resulting in a time-consuming and resource-intensive screening process.

However, when candidates proactively initiate the application process through speculative submissions, they contribute to a more focused and relevant applicant pool. This not only reduces the sheer volume of applications but also ensures that the candidates who do apply are genuinely interested and aligned with the organisation’s values, culture, and mission.

Additionally, sending in a speculative application can empower candidates to demonstrate their enthusiasm for the company and their relevant skills right from the outset. This proactive approach provides recruiters with a clearer understanding of each candidate’s motivations and potential fit within the organisation. As a result, the in-house recruitment team can allocate their time and efforts more efficiently, concentrating on engaging with candidates who have already demonstrated a genuine interest.

Diversity and Inclusion

The practice of candidates sending in speculative applications can be a catalyst for fostering greater diversity within candidate pools. Often, traditional job postings can inadvertently perpetuate biases or exclude certain demographics due to systemic factors. However, when candidates take the initiative to submit speculative applications, they transcend these limitations and contribute to a more inclusive talent pool.

By actively reaching out to organisations they admire or align with, candidates from various backgrounds and experiences can introduce themselves directly to employers. This proactive step enables them to present their unique skills and talents outside the confines of a narrowly defined job description, thereby expanding the scope of what the organisation considers in potential candidates.

Anticipating Skill Gaps

By engaging with candidates through a speculative job application, recruitment teams can identify emerging skills and trends through a direct route that the organisation might need to address in the near future.

Overall, a speculative job application offers a win-win scenario for both candidates and in-house recruitment teams. Candidates have the chance to showcase their enthusiasm and skills to their desired employers, while recruitment teams can uncover hidden talent, build a pipeline of potential hires, and align their hiring strategies with the company’s long-term goals.

Crafting an Effective Speculative Application Strategy

Showcase Company Appeal

Work on your employer brand and emphasise what makes your company an attractive place to work.

Highlight recent achievements, company culture, growth prospects, and unique opportunities. Shout about your mission and culture on social media, and showcase more than what you sell at events, as you never know who may be on the lookout for their next opportunity.

Engage Responsively

If a candidate expresses interest, maintain open communication where possible. From those fresh out of university looking for a graduate job to seasoned professionals, everyone appreciates a timely and human response.

This includes regularly follow up with candidates who are receptive to the idea. Update them on relevant developments within your organisation and maintain a warm relationship. A way to achieve this direct route of communication might be to offer any speculative applicants the option of subscribing to company newsletter, or even a recruitment specific newsletter.

The benefits of a speculative application have caused it to emerge as a powerful tool in the toolkit of in-house recruiters.

By stepping out of the traditional job posting mold and proactively seeking potential candidates, recruiters can tap into an undiscovered talent pool and secure exceptional hires who might not have otherwise been considered new opportunities.

With a strategic approach, personalised communication, and a focus on mutual benefit, a speculative application can become a valuable addition to your talent acquisition strategy, driving growth and success for your organisation.


About the author

Hannah Elliott