Updated: Jul 1, 2019
A quick guide for people new to or struggling with Jobhunting
If you’ve just left education or have been in the same job for a long time, the thought of looking for vacancies and applying can feel daunting. If you’ve been searching for a while and getting nowhere, it is easy to become jaded to the point where you just look through the same old jobsites and hit the One Click Apply button to save time and bump up your number of applications in the hope one of them will pay off.
This quick guide covers some of the basics when it comes to looking and applying for vacancies effectively.
Sign up to jobsites like Indeed, Monster, CV Library, Reed. These are just a few of the major sites but there are plenty more. Some are more user friendly than others. Look hard enough and you will find some sites dedicated to specific sectors such as IT. Engineering, Construction, Hospitality, Retail etc.
Many companies have a careers page. These aren’t always obvious at first glance. If you don’t see one straight away, try scrolling to the footer at the bottom of the
page to see if you can find it. The good thing about applying directly through a company's careers portal is that you can learn about their workplace culture and what traits they look for in an employee and adjust your CV accordingly.
There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of job groups on Facebook. Type in the search box to find one in your area or a national group such as Job Finder UK, which now has almost 30K members. You can scroll through the vacancies or write a post yourself to enquire about work. If you choose to write a post, remember to mention your experience, skills and the location where you want to work.
As a professional networking site, Linkedin is a great platform to find work. Follow companies and join relevant groups to keep up to date with your sector and apply for any vacancies that become available. Connect with people working in the same industry as yourself who may know of opportunities within their own company or sector. Creating a compelling profile will attract speculative interest from recruiters seeking to fill a post.
Some larger companies, such as BT and Next have dedicated Careers accounts on Twitter. Follow companies you are interested in working for to keep an eye out for arising vacancies.
Not every job is advertised online. Recruiting, whether it is outsourced to professional recruiters or conducted in-house is costly and takes time so many companies use alternatives. It’s still possible to find work using the following traditional methods.
Word of Mouth
This is a great way to find a job because you can hear about upcoming vacancies before they have even been advertised, giving you the advantage. Some companies even have financial incentives for existing employees to find them candidates that are keepers. My partner’s company uses this recruitment method. If one of their employees recommends a candidate that they go on to employ and the new worker stays in their job for 3 months, the employee that referred the candidate earns £600. So, do ask family, friends or your mates down the pub or gym to let you know of any opportunities they hear of. They may be able to give you information on the company, details of who to contact, tell you the best way to apply and even recommend you.
This may seem old-fashioned but, again, it is a cheap alternative for companies to advertise available job roles. Vacancies advertised in shop windows are more likely to be for small, independent retailers but not always. I have seen vacancies advertised this way for chains like Clintons, Greggs and even Primark. Other non-retail companies have been known to advertise in a similar way, maybe with a banner or sandwich board near the premises. Remember, when you go back to drop off your CV or enquire further, dress and behave appropriately as you may meet the hiring manager or owner and you need to create the right first impression. It’s also worth doing some research and prep beforehand as they may decide to interview you there and then, as I’ve known to happen.
Despite most vacancies being advertised online, they can still be found local newspapers, although there are fewer than there used to be. National newspapers like The Guardian and The Times carry vacancies, with opportunities in different sectors advertised on different days of the week.
It can be well worth dropping off, posting or emailing your CV, along with a tailored cover letter to companies you would like to work for. Just because they aren’t actively advertising a role, doesn’t mean there isn’t one and, even when there isn’t, if your CV and cover letter are strong enough, they may keep you in mind for the future because they like the sound of you and it saves them expensive recruitment costs. Before doing this, it is advisable to research the company and tailor your spec letter and CV accordingly (see below). A Spec letter is almost the same as a cover letter but you will need to have some idea of what role or roles you would like in the organisation and explain more about what attracts you to the company.
Around 90% of recruitment is now outsourced to specialist recruiters so, for most of the vacancies you find, you will be going through a recruiter.
Signing up with an agency often means you do not have to go through the formal application process. Recruiters will assess your skills, experience and knowledge by looking through your CV and/or interviewing you as part of their screening process. If they are happy to put you forward for roles, you will either go for an interview directly with the employer or simply start work, especially if they are recruiting large numbers of temporary workers for a single employer at one time. When signing up with an agency, be clear about what jobs you will and will not do, hours you can work and locations you work in so they do not put you forward for work you have to turn down.
Preparing to Apply
Preparation is key to submitting a strong, successful application. It may be tempting to just go for it and hit enter or rush your CV into the place where you saw a vacancy, but it is wise to take a more measured approach.
To ensure your application is as strong as it can be, take your time to review the job description and specifications as well as research the company and role so you can tailor your application as closely as possible.
Job DescriptionRead and reread the job advertisement thoroughly. In your application, you will need to explain how you meet the personal specs, whether this is through skills, experience or knowledge. Don’t worry too much that you don’t meet ALL the criteria unless it’s something absolutely essential for the role, such as having a driving licence when you don’t, for example. Most skills can be learned so, if you believe you can quickly learn some of the skills you are lacking to fully meet the criteria, don’t let it put you off applying. If you emphasise you are keen to learn, have the right attitude and they like you, they will probably be prepared to interview you.
Research the Company
Have a good read of the company website. Find out as much as you can about what they do, the history of the company, their products and policies. Examining their policies will tell you about their values as a company. Being able to match their values could be the deal breaker so don’t overlook this. While you are reading information on the website, note the kind of language they use. Is it formal, informal or even a bit quirky? Copying the language and tone they use on their website and communications can be used to your advantage when it comes to your application.
Research the Role
Make sure you fully understand the role and what it entails. There may be information about different roles within the company on their website, so read these. Google the job role to find out detailed information on what to expect and all the skills you will need. Look at other vacancies for the same role to compare job specs. Note what skills they have in common and you will gain a deeper understanding of what skills are most important to convey when applying. See if you can find out what employees and former employees in that role have to say about it to get more insight. You can find employee reviews on sites like Glassdoor but don’t be put off by negative reviews you might come across – there are always two sides to a story.
When you have a handle on the role and company, you should have enough information to complete an application effectively.
Once you have done your research and understand the job role, it’s time to write your cover letter. Using all the information you have gathered, set out a cover letter explaining what it is about the company and job role that interests you and briefly touch on why you feel confident that you will make a success of the role and be an asset to the company. Keep the tone warm but avoid being too informal. Unless otherwise stated, your cover letter should always be the body of an email, NOT an attachment that may never get opened.
For most people, this is the tricky and sticky bit. Don’t be lazy and just send out your general CV. It cannot be emphasised enough that it is crucial to edit your CV for EVERY application you make, to increase your prospects of getting an interview.
Refer to your research and reflect what you have learned about the company and role in your CV. Tailor your key skills and competencies to those specified in the job description, using the same terminology where you can. In your work history section, demonstrate that you have the required experience and skills by adapting your bullet points, evidencing achievements to meet specific criteria that add strength. For example, if the job description specifies that you should be able to work to targets, write a bullet about achieving a demanding target in the past, using facts and figures, if possible, for scale, i.e. Consistently and accurately processed 24 orders per hour, exceeding set company targets.
Make sure you read an application thoroughly before beginning to complete it. Where a question requires you to give an example, give a specific example, focusing on the actions you took to complete a task or resolve a problem.
Question: Provide an example of when you have met a target
Wrong Answer: When I worked at Big Deal warehouse
This response isn’t telling them anything other than that you worked at Big Deal warehouse! They are looking for more details.
Better Answer: When I worked at Big Deal warehouse, in the run up to Christmas, I was targeted to pick and pack 20 orders in an hour. I consistently managed to process more than 20 orders an hour through working quickly, accurately and efficiently and communicating clearly with members of my team to maintain productivity.
This is a much stronger response that quotes facts and figures. To make this response even stronger, you could take them step by step through how you achieved targets through organisation, planning and/or efficient teamwork. Be careful not to waffle on and just get to the point, though!
In many online applications, you are likely to come across a box that asks for ‘Any other information’ or something similar. NEVER leave this empty! Use this box for your cover letter or to simply explain why you believe you are ideal for the role and how you will be an asset to the team and company.
Double check your application for mistakes, spelling, dates etc. before sending. If possible, it’s always useful to get someone whose opinion you trust to give it the once over and get some feedback. If they think something needs changing, go back to it and see if you can improve on it.
Never rush through an application. Take your time to make sure you complete it to the best standard you can. It’s worth the extra time if it gets you an interview.
Responding to Vacancies Posted on Facebook and Social Media
Just because it’s Facebook does not mean you can drop all the regular formalities. Keep it formal, polite and respectful. Don’t abbreviate with text speak, use emojis or informal terms like ‘hun’ and definitely do not end a comment with kisses!
Like any other advertised vacancy, read the advert very carefully, click and read included links and follow any instructions before taking any action. If the post asks you to phone for more information, do as requested instead of writing a comment asking for more information. Where the advert asks for your CV, send your CV without further comment. If the company is named, do some research to avoid wasting recruiters time by asking for information you can easily find out for yourself. Not doing this can make you look lazy and incompetent. Comments are rarely needed in response to genuine job vacancy posts.
Remember to keep checking your emails including checking your spam folder, in case an unknown sender’s email has been sent there instead of to your inbox. This does occasionally happen when your own email doesn’t recognise a new email address, so you could miss a response from an interested employer. I’ve also known people to miss out on interviews because they don’t answer their phone, so answer it! If you don’t like answering calls from unknown or withheld numbers on your phone, get a cheap second-hand phone to use just for jobhunting (remember to change your contact number on your CV etc.). You won’t need to top up the credit because it’s just to take calls.
If you want to follow up your applications with an email or call, that’s fine, but keep it brief and don’t be pushy. Simply asking if they received your application is a good way to open communication and gauge whether the employer is interested.
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