Finding the right job
There is no one right way to get a new job, but there are quite a few wrong ones. So first, make sure you consider all your options. Ask yourself where you are and where you think you can get to. And be realistic.
Then spend some time detailing your skills and experience, while also thinking about what makes you want to do the job in the first place. It can be useful to think back to the ‘highs and lows’ of previous roles and the reasons why you experienced them.
You should also consider your ‘life balance’. Are you spending too much time at work at the expense of family life? Would you like to spend more time pursuing a particular interest? Put simply, are you leaving time for the different aspects of your life, or is one area dominating the rest? Once you understand this you can begin to plan how you can get a better balance in the future.
What is the point of all this? Well, the more we know ourselves, the better we tend to be at the things we do, such as planning our next career move. Thus, you will be more focused when thinking through what you want from a new job: what kind of role and company, whether you want to work full or part-time, and what kind of salary and prospects you are looking for.
Now you have to find the job you have identified. You can do this in one of four ways: by responding to an advertisement, either in the press or via the internet; by making a speculative application to an employer; by contacting a recruitment consultancy; or by ‘networking’ among contacts you have made or plan to make.
The one thing to keep in mind is this: the clearer you are about what you are trying to achieve, the more likely it is you will find what you are looking for.
Writing a CV
A CV ‘sells’ you to an organisation: not just your ability to do the job, but also what you will bring to their team. It will win you an interview and, for that alone, it is worth making a real effort.
Every CV is different, but most contain the same key information:
- Your contact and personal information.
- A detailed account of your current employment.
- A list of all your significant achievements.
- A summary of your previous employment.
- Relevant personal or educational details.
How to Write a Great CV
When thinking about writing your CV you need to decide what type of CV suits you and your current situation best. A chronological CV is the most commonly used however if you are looking at a change in career, or there are gaps in your employment history, a functional CV may be more appropriate. This allows you to place greater emphasis on less recent experience, emphasise your transferable skills, and group together experience gained from different roles. Deciding on the most appropriate style will show you at your best thus making you more appealing to potential employers.
Regardless of layout choice, it is likely that your CV will be viewed for 60 seconds on average therefore it is important that you make it; strong, concise (2 pages ideally), easy to read, interesting, factual, honest, and most importantly, relevant to the job you are applying for. Place more emphasis on your experience that matches the job criteria and keep everything else to a minimum.
Don’t include irrelevant courses as this will make your CV needlessly longer and look like you haven’t tailored it to the job role.
Do include your achievements by bullet pointing them to make it easy for the reader to pick out your successes.
Don’t forget to include any voluntary or work placements – it is the quality of what you achieved in the role that is important, not whether or not you were paid.
For more comprehensive information please download our CV Writing Guide.
Our Example CVs
Using your CV effectively
The CV you have spent so long creating now needs to do its job: earn you interviews. In order for it to do that, you must send it with the right covering letter. This section helps you to craft letters for use when responding to a job advertisement.
Replying to job advertisements
Job ads represent the most open recruitment marketplace. It is a highly competitive field, so your application needs to work hard for you. Careful preparation of a succinct covering letter is every bit as important as the CV itself.
A job advertisement provides only very limited information about the employer and the role. Your challenge is to look beyond the actual words, analyse the employer’s needs and match yourself to those criteria. The more precisely your skills can be linked to the job, the greater your chance of being short listed. A good guideline is that you should exceed 80% of the advertised requirements.
Read reply instructions carefully. One of the most common reasons for applications being rejected at the first sift is that the reply instructions have not been followed. You will usually be asked to quote a reference number and may be asked for other information, such as salary expectations. Only rarely will advertisers come back to you to request information you have omitted. They will have plenty of other applicants who will have followed the instructions.
Surviving the first sift
Your application may not get more than a 30-second look first time around. Check that you have done the following to ensure it passes that 30-second test and makes it to the next stage:
- You have followed reply instructions.
- Your overall presentation is good.
- Your written style is clear.
- You have been succinct.
- You have shown good attention to detail.
- You have displayed good judgment by selecting the right, relevant information.
Do’s and don’ts
Do keep dated copies of all the job ads you reply to.
Do check if there is a closing date and reply in plenty of time.
Do write a relevant covering letter with every application.
Do ensure your application passes the 30-second test.
Don’t get despondent if you are rejected; accept it and move on to the next application.
Don’t apply indiscriminately for jobs; each application you make needs to be focused.
Don’t ignore reply instructions.
Don’t omit specifically required information.
Preparing for an interview
Helping you prepare for an interview
- Do your homework: the internet is a great way of finding out as much as you can about an employer and the job on offer. Most large organisations have a website, usually with a dedicated part about careers.
- Make sure you plan for the interview by re-reading your CV and thinking about the type of questions you may be asked.
- If you can, find out who will interview you. Is it one person or more? What are their names? What are their positions?
- Also, ask what you can expect from the interview. Will it be formal or informal? Will it involve tests and, if so, what will they involve? If possible, request some sample tests in advance.
- If you have a disability or any special requirements, let the employer know in advance, for example, if you need access for the interview to a sign language interpreter.
- Think about what you are going to wear.
- And make sure you have the organisation’s full address, contact details and directions. Work out the night before how you are going to get there and how long it will take. If you are well prepared and arrive in plenty of time, you should be more relaxed.
Helping you succeed at the interview
- Be warm and engaging, but professional.
- Look interested and keep regular eye contact with your interviewer(s).
- If possible, give your interviewer(s) examples of your experience and skills.
- Sell yourself.
- Be positive.
- Be confident.
- Most employers like people who listen, who answer questions with examples and who have done their homework.
- Remember, your interviewer will want you to do well.
What is an Assessment Centre?
An assessment centre, as the name suggests, can be used as part of the selection process for identifying candidates’ suitability for a role. They are events where candidates are involved in a number of different types of exercises and are assessed by a number of different recruiters. The length of such events varies, generally lasting between half a day and two days.
Why do employers use Assessment Centres?
There are many reasons to use assessment centres. For you there are several benefits:
- They provide you with a deeper understanding of your potential employers business and allow you to make sure that the role you are applying for is right for you.
- They also give you multiple opportunities to demonstrate the skills that you have and why you are right for the role.
- They allow you to gain an insight into what it is like to work for that organisation.
- As well as the benefits to you, assessment centres enable employers to see you acting in realistic situations so that they can determine how well you fit with what they are looking for.
What happens at an Assessment Centre?
Assessment centres generally include several exercises. These may include interviews, ability tests, role-plays, group exercises or presentations. Some assessment centres also use in-tray exercises, analysis presentations or fact-find exercises. Because you have the chance to participate in several exercises, there are several opportunities for you to demonstrate your skills. Furthermore, you are likely to be seen by a number of assessors during the event, making the whole process fairer to you.