We did some research into how employers like to be approached for either a job or work placement. The findings were pretty common sense: do your research into the company you are approaching, and try to match your skills with their operation; send a good CV and formal letter (informal language and emails don’t cut it here) with a disc of work, or links to your portfolio online; set out your main achievements and quantify them (eg: increased sales turnover by 10% in six months); and try to come up with a unique selling point – some extra skill or ability that you possess and others may not (eg: if you speak Chinese and the company you’re applying to manufacturers there – use it!). You can find general CV advice at http://careersadvice.direct.gov.uk/helpwithyourcareer/writecv/
Do your homework. Who is the employer? What stage is their business at? What is their culture and values? What is the role you would like to talk to them about and what does good look like in that role?
Try to understand their language and terminology.
If you are applying directly - ensure your application addresses as many of the key attributes of the role as you can and wherever possible is consistent with the language and terminology used within the company and role. Take the time to write a tailored cover letter. It might be the tenth one you’ve done that day but a carefully crafted concise e-mail or letter to accompany your cv or application form will give you a competitive edge (and use your spell check J before sending to print or hitting send).
If you are sending a speculative application again do your homework, how can you help the company? Which aspects of your experience could be of benefit? Consider whether you would be prepared to work on a project basis to maximise the attraction and flexibility of your offer.