This brief guide will provide you with the formula for successful job search. Success is all about adopting a positive, organised and persistent approach.
You may have already identified some obvious places to look such as the internet, newspaper job ad pages and at careers fairs. Less obvious job search strategies include applying for jobs speculatively, networking and using recruitment agencies.
Although the suggestions below are applicable to all job hunting, please note that some may be more appropriate for students with higher academic qualifications – such as A levels, the International Baccalaureate or BTEC National/Advanced diploma.
If you are one of these it’s worth noting the following:
• websites and social media now play a more prominent role than ever before in how employers, particularly the larger companies, communicate with potential recruits
• many of the larger employers have an annual recruitment cycle in which vacancies are advertised in the autumn for a start date of the following summer/autumn or maybe in January/February for a September start. Students interested in these therefore need to be geared up to apply at the right time
• small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with up to 250 employees have become more important in recent years and there are many opportunities to be found there. They usually only recruit when they need to fill a post – for instance when someone leaves, or for a new position
• SMEs and large employers recruit in different ways so you need to be flexible and adapt your job search techniques to access all opportunities of potential interest. For instance, smaller companies may not advertise their jobs due to the cost of doing so and instead will rely on speculative applications to find candidates
All the strategies described below have merit as job hunting methods. It’s up to you which to use but I recommend considering a wide range of approaches to maximise your chances.
Searching for Vacancies Online
- Online job sites.
Some of these will allow you to upload your CV so that employers can search for you. You can also set up email alerts to your inbox when they have vacancies that match your chosen criteria such as location, job category or keywords. Examples of such sites include:
Don’t attempt to use all of these! Pick a couple that you like the look and feel of and bear in mind that some are “meta search engines” which just means that they pull together vacancies listed on other sites.
In addition there are the web sites of various local and national newspapers and for those looking for apprenticeships it is important to sign up with (and do regular check on) the Find an Apprenticeship site (https://www.gov.uk/apply-apprenticeship) and Notgoingtouni (www.notgoingtouni.co.uk/).
- The websites of recruitment agencies
You can apply for the jobs you see on their sites. In addition, once registered they’ll match you to jobs and contact you. Some agencies are sector specific while others cover a variety of sectors. You can also use www.rec.uk.com to search for specialist recruitment agencies. See the section on recruitment agencies later in this guide.
- Trade associations and professional institutions
These may publish lists of member companies and sometimes vacancies.
- Country specific sites
GTA England – this site doesn’t have vacancies but is a directory of group training associations in England
Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland
Careers Wales vacancies
Northern Ireland vacancies
Increasingly prominent as a job hunting tool, social media is an option to be embraced by the internet savvy – but with a health warning for the un-wary.
According to a recent survey of over 700 UK job hunters, 73% of candidates acknowledged the positive impact social media sites have had in their search for a new role. More than three quarters of employers have filled vacancies using social media, with almost 90% of these using LinkedIn. BUT be careful what you share, as recruiters react negatively to certain postings. For instance, 47% of recruiters react most negatively to pictures of alcohol consumption, whilst an even greater percentage (54%) react most negatively to spelling and grammar errors in posts/tweets.
How you come across on social media is therefore a critical factor in your success (or otherwise) and you should work on your personal brand to set you apart from other candidates and to get you noticed. If you do nothing else, adjust the privacy settings on your Facebook page if you have content there you don’t want an employer to see. 45% of employers check Facebook when considering potential employees!
So which social media should you consider in your job hunting?
• LinkedIn is designed for making professional, rather than social, connections. It’s an excellent platform for searching for jobs by industry and for making links with employees who might be able to help you in your job hunting
• Facebook, although more of a social network, still has its place for helping you engage with potential employers by ‘liking’ them and also for finding out more about them. You can also see where friends work and join Facebook ‘groups’ which are relevant to your interests
• Twitter is more than just the ultimate microblogging site. Use it proactively to build upon your expertise by following and connecting with people who would otherwise be out of your reach. Twitter’s informal nature allows you to connect with relevant contacts in a more relaxed setting than on networks such as LinkedIn…and no invites or introductions are required
• Google+ is, according to reports, on its way to becoming one of the powerhouses of social media. It combines aspects of Skype, Facebook and Twitter and this, along with its ‘Hangout’ feature make it well worth considering
• blogging is a great way to improve your writing skills, learn about job sectors and widen your network. A number of students have secured employment in, for instance, the journalism and digital marketing sectors, as a result of their blog
• there are a number of job hunting apps around now too, such as Talent Zoo and Monster.com jobs that pull jobs from a range of sites, streamlining your efforts into one place
• Delicious, Showcase and Pinterest are just a handful of the many other platforms available to consider as part of your job hunting strategy
An excellent one-stop-shop for helping you decide what to use and how to use it can be found at:
National, regional and local newspapers also list jobs and these can be viewed on the papers’ websites.
Specialist journals and publications such as Accountancy Age (for the accounting and financial sector) often have job sections, although many of the roles will be for those who already have related work experience.
Don’t miss opportunities to meet employers face to face at careers fairs in your region. At these events you can talk to recruiters, find out about forthcoming vacancies and even get feedback on your CV.
Making speculative approaches can be an effective way of getting a job and in some industries it’s the norm. Applying speculatively means sending your CV and covering letter to a company you’re interested in working for, even though they haven’t advertised a role. Tailoring your CV and covering letter to the company is essential as it’s important to highlight what you can offer them in terms of skills, experience and motivation.
The following are steps to take when applying speculatively:
• Identify employers who are likely to have suitable vacancies
• Prepare a general CV and covering letter geared towards a particular industry sector and then adapt it to target the organisation
• Find out the name of the appropriate person to send your CV and covering letter to
• Ensure your covering letter clearly states what you’re looking for whether it be a
permanent job, vacation work, work experience or work shadowing. Stress what skills and experience you have to offer and why you particularly want to work for them
• Follow up your letter with a phone call to show your genuine interest and to see if you can arrange a meeting to discuss job possibilities, review your application or gain further contacts
• Remember that for some employers speculative applications are the principal
method of recruitment
[Visit the CV and covering letter section of my website for further guidance. ]
Only a minority of jobs are advertised and a high proportion of job seekers find their ideal position through initially talking to someone they know. In other words they network.
By expanding the number of people you know and who know you, it’s possible to get access to a wide range of advice and support in planning your career and finding out about opportunities. As well as getting support from contacts, a good networker finds ways of “giving back” to their network.
Why networking is important for job hunting
It’s easier to have a clear idea of what a job involves if you’ve talked to someone who does it. There are many job opportunities which you may only hear about through contacts in the field and you’ll have a greater chance of success in job applications if you can get advice from people who work in the organisation or industry.
Network contacts can help you to:
- understand what a career involves and the various routes into it
- research careers in depth
- identify sources of information and vacancies
- obtain work experience and identify further contacts
- and prepare effectively for job applications and interviews
How to begin networking
Start by brainstorming lists of existing contacts – It’s often easiest to start to network with people that you have a close link to. You can access these people easily and they may well feel more commitment towards you than someone you have no link to at all. All these contacts will have many further contacts of their own.
Think about all the networks you already belong to. For example extended family, friends, places you’ve studied or worked and clubs and societies that you’ve belonged to.
Now try creating lists of people within these networks who might either be able to help you directly or who might know someone else who could help.
Next identify sources of new contacts. There are many sources you can use to find new contacts. Professional bodies and societies are a good starting point. They often have online directories/databases of members and frequently employ people who can answer careers enquiries. They regularly offer student membership at low cost, allowing you access to networking events such as conferences and local meetings.
Always say ‘thank you’ to a contact who’s helped you. A follow up email, thanking them for the time and advice they’ve given you, is a courteous and professional way to conduct yourself during the process of networking.
Where to network
Networking in informal settings: Face-to-face discussions are the best place to start a networking relationship. Meeting someone directly guarantees a response while an e-mail or letter may receive no reply. You can network very effectively at parties and social events and by sitting next to people at conferences and courses. Having established an informal link, it’s easy to set up a more formal meeting.
Information interviews: If you’ve been given a contact’s details by someone else or have identified them from a database or directory, your first meeting will have to be arranged formally. It’s usually best if you organise an information interview, which really just involves preparing questions beforehand to ask at the meeting. If you already know a contact, you might arrange to meet in an informal setting such as a café. If you’ve not met the contact before, it may be more appropriate to meet at their work-place.
Networking online: As discussed above (under Social Media), if used carefully online communication offers many networking opportunities. Social networking sites can enable you to access many new contacts. It’s important, however, to use sites appropriately and to know who you’re talking to. Communication by e-mail is good for following up contacts you have made in person and for corresponding with people you know well or with whom you’ve established a common interest. It is, however, poor for getting a response from someone you don’t know or for conducting a detailed conversation.
Using recruitment agencies
The purpose of a recruitment agency is to help employers find staff and to help you find work. The employer is their client and you are a potential candidate. Recruitment agencies are paid by their clients when they place a candidate in one of their vacancies. That’s how agencies make their money. Therefore you, the candidate, shouldn’t have to part with your money in this process, so beware of any agency that asks for your cash.
Employers use agencies for a number of reasons. For instance: they might not have the resources in-house to do the recruitment themselves; or they may be seeking an experienced specialist and know that certain agencies attract such applicants. Some major blue-chip companies may prefer to outsource the recruitment process to an agency as it’s more cost-efficient for them and by doing so it leaves them free to focus on their core business activities.
Agencies will tend to withhold the name of their client (the employer) from you in the early stages of the process, usually to prevent you applying directly to the company (and thereby taking away their earning opportunity).
However, you should be able to find out who you’re applying to at a relatively early stage in the recruitment process. If you can’t, then you probably have cause for concern. After all, you need to know as much as you can about a company so that you can prepare yourself thoroughly for interview.
Points to be aware of when using agencies:
• Agents act on behalf of the employer and their main concern is to find that employer the right candidate
• Agents are not careers advisers and are usually not qualified to help you with any career decisions
• Agents charge their fees to employers on a commission basis and are therefore commercially motivated
• They may offer services to you at a fee such as CV writing, whereas help with CVs may be available to you free from a careers adviser or job centre
• You could be applying for jobs alongside experienced personnel. In fact, agency advertisements often stress ‘experience required’
• If you’re offered a job, the agency may be keen for you to accept so that they can claim their commission. Resist any pressure from them, and make your own decision to accept or decline the job offer.
How to get the most from a recruitment agency:
Approach appropriate agencies. Some specialise in narrow areas such as medical sales while others may deal solely with temporary or part-time work. Search the Recruitment and Employment Confederation website to find lists of relevant agencies (www.rec.uk.com). As a general rule of thumb, bear in mind that smaller agencies specialising in a particular industry, job type or locality will be more useful than the big national outfits.
Prepare thoroughly before contacting an agency so that you can tell them specifically what sort of work you’re seeking.
Telephone or email them in the first instance and this will possibly be followed up with a face-to-face interview at the agency’s premises. Regard an interview with an agency as you would that with a potential employer. You will only get to see the employer if you impress the agency, so dress appropriately and adopt a professional manner.
If you don’t hear from the agency for a while, contact them to find out where things stand. Although the agency will be seeking opportunities on your behalf, it’s a two way process: it’s a good idea to keep contacting them to see what’s new and to remind them you’re still seeking work.
A Last Word
Finally, the most important advice regarding job hunting is to remain proactive, positive and persistent and use a range of different approaches in your search.