From finding vacancies to acing the interview, read how to get the edge on your rivals and bag an all-important job offer.
On the first rung of the career ladder after leaving school or higher education? Perhaps you’ve recently been made redundant, or want to take the next step in your career? Or maybe you’re simply yearning for a career change? Whatever your reasons, finding and applying for jobs can be both daunting and stressful.
But there are ways to boost your chances of success. Here, we lead you step-by-step through the process of finding the right vacancies, writing an impressive application, and doing a winning interview. Plus we have tips to keep you motivated when the going gets tough. Relax – your perfect job may just be around the corner!
Find the right vacancies
So you want a new job, but you’re not sure where to start. These days, there are lots of routes to finding a role that will suit you….
Look offline – and online
The traditional places to advertise jobs are local and national newspapers, trade magazines and Jobcentres. These are all still valid but the vast majority of companies now put most of their energy into advertising online: on their own websites, and through recruitment websites. As far as these are concerned, there are general recruitment websites and specialist ones for different sectors. If you know the kind of job you’re interested in, target your search as narrowly as possible. Online business networking sites, such as LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), are good for building contacts and finding opportunities, as are Facebook and Twitter.
Try a recruitment agency
Recruitment agencies are another great way to find roles. Agencies often specialise in specific sectors, such as IT, and some employers recruit mainly through agencies, so their jobs aren’t advertised anywhere else. The agency will get to know you and your skills, put you forward for jobs they think you’re suitable for and, most importantly, help you work on your CV and craft your actual application.
Networking allows you to find out about opportunities in your sector, including those that haven’t yet been advertised. Let people know you’re job hunting and ask if they know of suitable posts. Make a point of going to industry conferences and events, too.
Find out about fairs
If you’re a recent graduate – or soon will be – don’t miss out on graduate jobs fairs. Employers will be actively recruiting employees at your level, so it’s a fantastic way to find out what’s available and get your foot on the ladder.
Craft the perfect application
Your application letter and CV are your first opportunity to show a potential employer what you have to offer – and first impressions count! This is your chance to sell your skills and experience, and convince them you’re worth interviewing, so don’t cut corners.
A dream CV
Your CV has just over six seconds to impress. That’s the amount of time that a recent study by job search site TheLadders.com claimed potential bosses spend looking at CVs before deciding if they want to find out more about a particular candidate.
The study also showed the majority of that time – some 80% – was spent looking at these six areas to find out your:
• Current title/company
• Previous title/company
• Previous position, start and end dates
• Current position, start and end dates
There are plenty of websites that guide you through designing an impressive CV, such as the CV Builder at www.nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk. However, it’s vital to remember these basic rules:
- Keep your CV neat, simple, easy to read – and no more than two pages long.
- Tailor your career history and skills to
the vacancy you’re applying for – match your experience and abilities to the requirements of the job.
- Emphasise relevant achievements.
- Keep it concise and to the point.
- Use powerful, active words such as ‘supervised’, ‘created’ and ‘transformed’.
A new breed of CV
Another way to make your CV stand out is to transform it into something that’s visually engaging. Take your cue from wannabe creatives at social networking giants Facebook and Google, who’ve turned theirs into video games, chocolate bars and even milk cartons in order to land roles.
But never fear – it’s not vital to be 100% wacky to stand out from the crowd. Check out online tools that help you show off your work history and skills in a more interesting way. Try CVMKR (http://cvmkr.com/) or ResumUp (http://resumup.com/) for starters.
The right covering letter
Your covering letter needs to grab your potential employer’s attention and make them want to read your CV. Use it to show you’ve done your research, know what they’re looking for and you can fulfill it. You can also use your letter to highlight the most relevant parts of your CV. It should be specific to the job (don’t send out multiple copies of the same letter to different employers) and full of enthusiasm. But don’t make it too long – one side of A4, well spaced, is plenty.
Good first impressions
Finally, get someone else to double-check your CV and covering letter for spelling and grammar mistakes before you send it. It could be the difference between having your CV dropped into the recycling bin, or getting a much-longed-for call for an interview CV buzzwords: good vs bad.
Clichés, jargon and buzzwords should have no place on your CV. Not only are they a turnoff for recruiters, but they’re so generic they won’t set you apart (apart from for the wrong reasons). Here’s how to swap any self-congratulatory wording for modest yet powerful words and phrases that let your accomplishments speak for themselves:
Think outside of the box.
Depending on the role you’re applying for, your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts might be a real asset. This is especially for creative jobs where you can show off your written and visual skills, and for roles in marketing and digital marketing, where having plenty of followers and engaging with others proves you know your stuff.
But your online profiles may also be harming your career before you’ve even applied for a job. So could it be time to spring clean your social media?
One job website surveyed 400 employers, and found more than half admitted to hunting for extra information on candidates’ profiles before they made up their minds about them.
What’s more, another 10% had plans to start doing so at some point in the future.
Ill-advised comments or shares on social media could have a real impact on getting a job – or your future career. This means it’s time – if you haven’t done so already – to take a long, hard look at your use of social media and the impression your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter might be giving off. At the very least, if you have any doubts about how you’re coming across it’s a good idea to lock down your privacy settings so no one outside your approved circle can take a look at what you’re up to on those accounts.
Your pre interview checklist
So, you’ve been invited for an interview – you’re over the first hurdle! But this isn’t the time to sit back and relax.
You can’t just expect to turn up and wow a potential employer. Making a good impression involves homework, so here are six things it’s vital to do to help you sail through the interview…
Research the company
First of all, get to know about the company you’ve applied to. Knowing nothing about the organisation is a guaranteed fail. At the very least, explore the company’s own website. It will give you a broad understanding of what it does, its aims and successes, plus you’ll get an idea of its corporate style and culture.
If there’s an annual report, check out recent activities and business figures. A news page or Google search will allow you to refer to the company’s recent activities and be ready with insightful questions and comments.
Can you find any information on the person who’ll be interviewing you? Take a look at their LinkedIn profile if they have one. Knowing as much as you can about them will give you an advantage – you can discuss their role in the company, and how it would relate to yours.
Know about your industry
It’s also important to have some knowledge of the wider industry. Websites, news searches and online business publications will help you set the company in context. Being able to discuss the current state of the industry, and who the big players are, will impress your interviewer. If you know anyone else in the sector, grill them for inside information.
Think up questions
However, this interview isn’t just about the company – it’s about selling yourself, and you’ll be a lot more confident if you take time to prepare. Go through your CV and anticipate what the interviewer may ask. Be ready to talk about previous jobs – your main duties, challenges and successes. Work out which are most relevant to the post you’ve applied for.
Do an elevator pitch – of yourself
Be ready with an answer when the interviewer says, ‘Tell me about yourself,’ but keep it professional – they probably don’t want to know about your family and hobbies. Be able to sum up your career ambitions. Why should they hire you and not someone else?
Sort the logistics
To avoid unnecessary stress on the day, make sure you know exactly where and when the interview will take place. Plan your journey to give you plenty of time, leaving a margin for any delays (you can even do a dry run beforehand). Plan what you’ll wear and choose something you know you feel comfortable and relaxed in. If you’re asked to bring certificates, references or examples of your work, get them ready well in advance.
Do a great interview
So your interview has arrived, and naturally you want to make the best possible impression. You’ve done your preparation – now, how can you present yourself well and convince them you’re the right person for the job? Read our tips – and good luck!
Re-read the job advert
Just before you go into the interview, read
the job advert again to remind yourself of the main qualities they’re looking for. It might
help to highlight some good words or phrases you want to mention.
If you’re struggling with nerves, there are a few nifty tricks you can use to help calm your racing heart and shaky hands. Firstly, you can try to breathe more slowly. This will bring down your heart rate. Next, clench your buttocks to get shaking under control (yes, really…). Finally, make a conscious effort to speak slowly. Not only will this stop your mind racing but it will give you a little extra time to think about your answers.
As far as you can, be yourself. Speak clearly but don’t put on a formal voice or try to use long words – people want to see your authentic self. If you’re struggling for an answer, don’t be afraid to leave a pause while you gather your thoughts, or ask the interviewer to clarify their question. If there’s a gap in your knowledge, say so – it’s fine to admit you don’t know something, and they’ll see through you if you start guessing or making things up. See Sarah’s advice (below).
Don’t be bashful about highlighting your successes and saying what you can bring to the company – but try not to appear arrogant or like you think you’re doing them a favour! Ask questions, listen and show a genuine interest in the company and the others in the room.
Companies want employees who are open to learning, and are keen and enthusiastic about their products or services.
Even if you’re miserable in your current job or you hate your boss, resist the urge to say so.
It just implies you’re unprofessional and will bring a bad attitude into your new job. And don’t be afraid to ask when you’ll hear from them and what the next steps will be – it demonstrates confidence and enthusiasm.
Are you video-ready?
More and more job interviews are being done by Skype, especially if you live a long way away and the job will require relocating.
Video interviewing is a great way for employers to judge your interpersonal skills and see
if you’re right for their company. Don’t forget, you’ll also get a chance to gauge how you feel about a potential manager, too.
For a Skype or video interview, follow the same rules as with a face-to-face interview as far as possible. Dress smartly, even if you’re in your own home. Set up your camera in a room with a neutral backdrop – preferably not your bedroom. Clear away any plates and laundry to make it look as professional and office-like as possible.
Make sure your technology is working efficiently in advance to avoid frustrations. You’ll need a reliable internet connection and as little interruption or background noise as possible.
How to stay motivated
You may feel like quitting if you’ve been job hunting for a while without success. But don’t worry! Try to keep your spirits up with these tips…
Treat it like a job
Set ‘working’ hours, stick to them, and have a schedule – for instance, research vacancies in the morning and do applications in the afternoon. At the end of the ‘working’ day, clock off and forget about it.
Have a change of scenery
If you’re going stir-crazy trawling through job websites on your own at home, relocate to a local café or library.
If you’ve had a productive day sending out applications, or you’ve been called for an interview, give yourself a treat. It needn’t be expensive – binge-watch a few episodes of a new TV boxset, or book up coffee and cake with a friend for a boost.
If you keep being rejected, contact companies and politely ask if they’re willing
to give you feedback. Don’t be defensive – knowing where you’re going wrong will help you make improvements next time.
Take time out
It’s easy to burn out. Make sure you spend time with friends and family, and do things you enjoy – you’ll return refreshed and ready to dive back in!