Job hunting can feel like a daunting prospect – I often refer to is as a job in itself. The competition for roles can be strong, you may be unsure of exactly what role you want to go after, or you may be in the position of applying for different types of roles.
Key to success in finding a new role is to be focused and prepared and to help, I’ve broken down the key areas to concentrate on into 4 weekly stages:
Week 1 – Identify roles & companies of interest
- Research potential roles – use Indeed, LinkedIn, Reed or any other job boards to research roles that interest you. At this stage, don’t necessarily restrict it to your own area – you are just researching types of jobs and job titles that interest you.
- Start a Word document or Excel spreadsheet of roles and the skills required by the companies recruiting. This will help you start preparing a tailored CV.
- Sign up for job alerts based on your criteria and continue to build your Word document or spreadsheet.
- Research specific companies you are interested in working for. Follow them on social media and LinkedIn and sign up for job vacancy notifications if available.
Week 2 – Enhance your CV
Using your research, start to tailor your CV to the skills required in the roles you’ve found. Tailoring your CV to match keywords in job descriptions is vital. Start with your researched list and aim to meet those requirements.
CVs are best written in what is called the 1st person implied. This omits the first person ‘I’ and leads to more targeted writing, especially in the profile, for example: “Hard-working, conscientious and reliable individual with excellent attention to detail and good communication skills, used to develop strong working relationships and deliver exceptional customer service.”
Your CV needs to be clear and to the point, succinct but not overly-brief. Include any work experience and volunteering posts.
A good running order for a CV is:
- Heading with name, email, phone number and town / postcode (no need to include a full address)
- Profile of approximately 5-7 lines
- Key Skills in short keywords, e.g. Customer Service, Complaint Handling, Team Building etc.
- Your career history / work experience to date, in reverse date order so most recent first. If you’re a graduate, include any internships and volunteering experience
- Education & Qualifications (for graduates, these should go straight after the profile)
- Any other relevant information, e.g. Languages, Driving Licence. Interests are optional, they can help complete a CV and add that bit of personal information, but it’s not vital to include them.
Proofreading is of course critically important – if you want to show attention to detail, your spelling must be spot on. Get someone to proofread your CV to make 100% sure.
Week 3 – LinkedIn
LinkedIn was originally a business networking platform but is now widely used as a recruiting tool by employers and recruiters. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, create one now. If you already have one, follow the guidelines below to make sure it is fully optimised.
The profile follows a similar format as the CV but unlike the CV is best written in the first person which helps your personality comes across more. LinkedIn is also a good place to include your career aims and passions.
Complete the Experience and Education sections with the relevant details and add your key skills in LinkedIn’s Skills section, making sure you select from the stored options to match keywords that recruiters and companies will search for.
Select a good photo for your profile. The ideal is a headshot on a plain background, wearing something business-like or suitable for your industry – and smiling!
Next and most importantly, start building your network. Connect with people you meet or know through work, study or as friends. You never know when a contact might be helpful – they may work for a company you want to work for, or they might know people who know other people! You can also ask your contacts to endorse your skills (and reciprocate with endorsing their skills).
Ask a manager or ex-manager to write a recommendation for you on LinkedIn. It’s like having a reference and it adds significant credibility to your profile which helps set you apart from other candidates.
If you feel confident, start sharing useful and interesting posts on LinkedIn or write your own posts on relevant topics close to your heart. Your network may not yet be large, but your posts will show on your profile and may well impress a future employer. Just remember, LinkedIn is a professional network and not social media, so choose your posts carefully with this in mind.
Week 4 – Preparing Interviewing Answers
Whatever strengths and experiences you have included on your CV, you need to be prepared to talk about these in more detail. An interviewer has made a judgement on your suitability based on your CV and LinkedIn. They will now aim to draw out your personality, skills and experience to assess your suitability for the role and how you would fit within their organisation and current team. They may want to know things like how work within a team, how you respond to working under pressure or how good your time management is.
Some typical interview questions to prepare answers to are:
- Tell me about yourself
- What are your key strengths?
- Do you have any weaknesses / areas for development?
- Why do you want to work for us?
- What makes you an ideal candidate for this role?
There is not the space on a blog to go into each of these and books are written just covering these questions! Suffice to say there are techniques for answering each of these and either research or a couple of coaching sessions can help you prepare good answers to these questions.
You may also be asked situational-type questions. These are usually based on competencies listed in the job descriptions so examples can be thought about and prepared in advance. For example if the job description lists amongst other things time management and good customer handling as requirements for the role, you can expect to be asked questions on these areas. Examples might be:
“Tell me about a time when you had to juggle multiple tasks and meet deadlines”, or “Tell me about a situation when you had to handle a difficult customer and how you handled it”
The interviewer is asking these types of questions to draw out how you actually do things, what competencies you use. Interviewees often dread these questions but once you have prepared answers to these types of questions, interviews become a whole lot easier, and even enjoyable.
Go through the list of competencies required by a role and think of an example when you demonstrated these. If it’s work related then great, not every example has to be but wherever possible try to think of professional examples and avoid social examples. The main thing you want to demonstrate is how your skills and abilities match the role requirements.