Follow our foolproof guide to securing your dream position
1 Use recruitment consultants
One of the most effective ways to find a job is to use a recruitment agency as their specialist consultants have all the experience and contacts you’ll need.
Compile a list of agencies that specialise in your field and decide on the package you want. Then, when they put you forward for a job, find out as much as you can about it. There’s no incentive for an agency to send you to an interview that’s unsuitable, but don’t be afraid to turn them down if you know you don’t want the job. Finally, if you’re still looking for work, call the agency regularly to let them know.
2 Improve your networking skills
Many people think that networking means being pushy, whereas effective networkers never come across that way. It’s all about having the right approach. First, make a list of family, friends and former co-workers and let them know about your job hunt. Give them a good idea of the types of job you’re interested in as well as your relevant skills and experience. Ask those on your list to suggest other people you might speak to about job opportunities and any publications they think might be of use.
3 Check out jobs and careers fairs
Most graduates are familiar with the importance of careers fairs for finding graduate appointments – or at least for making contact with potential employers. However, jobs fairs aren’t only for new graduates; most industries hold regular fairs open to people looking for their first jobs as well as to those hoping to transfer their skills to a new field. Forum 3, for example, is an annual careers fair with representatives from various NGOs who can offer advice to those keen to work for a not-for-profit organisation. Similarly, fairs are held to help people looking to move into a variety of professions including teaching, nursing and law.
4 Make the most of the internet
A wealth of online resources has now made job-hunting far quicker and easier. Internet job sites, online CV creators and social networking sites mean that it’s possible to find and apply for vacancies from your own home or from an internet café. Many job sites will also send you an email alert when the kind of job you’re looking for becomes available. The fact that you can search and apply for jobs at any time of day or night is also a bonus if you’re already employed and can’t spend your working hours job hunting.
5 Read the classified ads in the press
Many employers still advertise in the local and national press, making newspapers an invaluable resource. Whether you decide to devote your time to local or national papers will probably depend on your field. The Guardian covers different industries on different days so it’s a good place to start. Alternatively, publications tailored to specific sectors can prove useful so if, for instance, you want a teaching job, the Times Educational Supplement is a must.
6 Consider doing work experience
A period of work undertaken for no financial gain looks great on your CV, as it shows prospective employers how serious you are about your chosen field. What’s more, work experience can be a valuable source of contacts – an opportunity for you to meet people important to your future job prospects. Don’t forget that it’s also a chance for you to decide whether your chosen career is, in fact, right for you. Many people have preconceived ideas about some careers – that they’re glamorous or exciting, for instance – only to be disillusioned. Work experience allows you to discover the truth about a career in a given area.
7 Stay motivated and positive
If you’re not in work and you’re finding it harder than expected to find your perfect job, don’t be disheartened. The key is to stay motivated, believe that the right opportunity is just around the corner, and be proactive about finding it. Treat any periods of unemployment as a golden chance to spend time polishing and updating your CV, perfecting your interview technique and researching what you really want to do. Treat finding a job like havinga job – get up early, dress smartly and plan your day wisely – and your chances of landing that dream role will rocket.
8 Draft the perfect covering letter
This is a first point of contact, so it needs to be right. Keep your letter brief and to the point and use professional language. Immediately tell your reader why you’re writing. If you were referred by a mutual contact, say so. If you’re responding to an ad, note the source and job title. And if you’re approaching a company on spec, explain why you want to work for them. Next, in one or two short paragraphs, highlight any qualifications, experiences and accomplishments you have that are relevant to the job and give examples. Finally, be positive about the company, the role and what you can bring to it.
9 Compile the perfect CV
Employers want to know what relevant knowledge, skills and experience you have, so a CV should be easy to read. Experience should be listed in reverse – starting with your most recent job and working backwards – and show a clear employment history with greater detail in the more recent jobs and very little in the earlier ones. Don’t leave gaps. If you’ve had a break in employment, explain why. Layout is important, too. Your CV should present the relevant information in a way that’s easy to access. (Remember, you have about 30 seconds to grab an employer’s attention, so don’t waste it.) Finally, make sure your contact details are correct!
10 Make sure you do your research
If your covering letter and CV have done their job, the next stage will be the interview. This is your chance to wow a future employer so do your research. Nothing impresses an interviewer more than a thorough knowledge of the company and the role you hope to take on – it shows commitment, dedication and a real desire to work for them. When it comes to gathering information, the internet is an invaluable tool. Check out the company’s website as this will give you a good overview of its ethos, earning power and who’s who in the office.
11 Dress to make a good impression
First impressions are vital and a prospective employer will inevitably judge you to some extent based on how you look and what you are wearing. That’s why, even if the work environment is casual, it’s always important to dress professionally for a job interview. A candidate who is wearing a suit is going to make a much better impression than one who turns up in scruffy jeans and a T-shirt. As a general rule, for both men and women, you can’t go wrong with a sensible suit in neutral colours and a conservative pair of shoes.
12 Find out who’s interviewing you
It’s really important to find out all you can about the person who will be conducting your interview. At the very least you should be familiar with their name and job title – and if they have a name that’s difficult to pronounce, it’s very impressive if you get it right. Find out from your recruitment consultant or whoever set up the interview, or simply call the company’s switchboard and ask. Many companies also list biographical information about their employers, and it can’t hurt to familiarise yourself with it. If your interviewer shares a love of a particular sport with you, for example, it could be a great icebreaker.
13 Plan your route to the interview
You don’t want to turn up to your interview flustered or, even worse, late. Instead, plan to get there early so that you have time to get yourself together and collect your thoughts before going into the interview itself. Make sure you allow time for heavy traffic or delays on public transport, particularly if you have to travel during rush hour. And check the exact location before the big day. Going for an interview in London’s Oxford Street could mean you’re a mile and a half away if you go to the wrong end! If your interview is local, it might even be worth doing a dummy run so you know exactly what to expect.
14 Perform well at the interview
Start with a firm handshake and be sure to make – and maintain – eye contact with your interviewer. It shows confidence and honesty. (Plus, wandering eyes indicate lack of interest.) You may be nervous, but if you sit up straight and smile, you’ll come across as easygoing and relaxed. Don’t be afraid to speak up. There’s nothing worse than an interviewee who responds only with one-word answers. Remember, you’re selling yourself, so you want to appear enthusiastic. However, even if you think you have something crucial to contribute, don’t interrupt and instead wait until the interviewer finishes. When it comes to answering the questions themselves, preparation is key. The following are particularly popular…
- What interests you about this job?
- Where do you see yourself in five years time?
- What is your ultimate career goal?
- Describe a difficult problem for which you found a solution.
- What are your greatest strengths?
- What did you like about your last job?
At the end of the interview, you’re likely to be asked if you have any questions. You might ask the interviewer to describe a typical work day or what the best part of working at this company is. Whatever your question, make sure it’s relevant.
15 Follow up with a letter or a phone call
Your interview isn’t over the minute you walk out the door. Hopefully you’ll have made a good impression but it makes sense to follow this up.
Some people recommend sending a brief letter to thank the interviewer for meeting them. If you haven’t heard back after a week, a friendly phone call tells the employer that you are truly interested in the position and reminds them what a good candidate you are.
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