No matter what industry you want to work in, looking for a new job can feel like a daunting process. The good news is that if you focus on the three P’s of Preparation, Perseverance, and Positivity, you’ll already be well ahead of your competition. That’s why we have put together this short FAQ, to make your job-hunting journey a lot less frustrating and hopefully a lot more successful!
The FAQ is divided into two sections:
Section 1: Preparation covers:
- Making sure you have all the essential skills employers are looking for.
- Writing a winning CV.
- Getting ready for your interview and know how to present yourself in the very best way.
Section 2: Perseverance and positivity offers some useful tips for staying motivated if your job search ever gets disheartening. Finding the perfect job can sometimes take longer than you’d like, so it’s vitally important to stay focused and optimistic even when you’re faced with setbacks and disappointments. We promise that all your hard work and dedication will be worth it in the end!
Section 1: Preparation
What are the essential skills all employers are looking for?
Every job and industry requires its own particular set of skills. Still, there are certain essential employability skills (sometimes called ‘core competencies’) that all employers look for, regardless of the profession. When you’re putting together your CV, it’s important to highlight as many of these skills as possible. That way, the hiring manager will instantly see what you can do and why you’ll make a valuable employee.
How can I highlight these skills?
When you’re applying for a job, the best place to highlight these skills is in the ‘Previous Work Experience’ section of your CV/Resume (we’ll interchange those words throughout this FAQ, but they both mean the same thing.) Mention them briefly during the description of your duties (i.e. ‘this role required first-class communication and self-management skills’) but avoid going into detail. You could also include many of them in the ‘Skills & Achievements’ section of your resume, especially practical skills and skills you’ve learned as part of a training course (i.e. customer service skills, negotiation skills, team-building skills.)
You should also ensure that the cover letter attached to your CV mentions two or three of your best skills, especially those that are appropriate to the job you’re applying for or are mentioned in the job posting.
Finally, the job interview is the perfect time to tell the recruiter/hiring manager about all the marketable skills you’ve got, and it’s an opportunity to talk in much more depth about the skills you’ve mentioned in your ‘Previous Work Experience’. We’ll give some advice about interview preparation later in this section, but the key thing to remember is: during the interview, try to talk about all the skills you have that are necessary for the job and be ready to give examples of when you’ve used those skills in the past.
The top ten employability skills
- Communication skills
Effective communication skills are essential in almost every job. After all, it’s vitally important that you can communicate with your managers, customers and fellow team members in the best ways possible and clearly understand what they are communicating with you.
There are eight main communication skills you should consider including on your CV. For most jobs, the communication skills you should definitely mention are written, verbal, listening, and empathy.
- Written: strong writing skills are essential for many positions, even if the job only involves responding to customer emails, writing to suppliers, or creating the occasional social media post. Make sure you list your writing skills on your CV and be specific about the kind of writing you’ve done in the past (i.e. report writing, minute taking, copywriting, etc.)
- Verbal: when you’re applying for a job that involves speaking to customers or being part of a team, strong verbal communication skills are essential. On your CV, describe how you’ve successfully communicated with people in the past (maybe as part of a team-building exercise?)
- Listening: Active listening is essential in any workplace, and especially in any job that’s customer-facing and/or involves working closely with other people. Active listening is when you focus entirely on what the other person is telling you, understand what they’re telling you, and respond accordingly. You can demonstrate active listening in many ways, including asking open questions, showing empathy, and using non-verbal cues like maintaining eye contact, nodding, and smiling. Make sure you highlight your active listening skills on your CV, so the recruiter can see you know how to make people feel understood and valued.
- Presentation: if the job requires you to talk persuasively to customers, hold meetings, or lead a team, make sure you include your presentation and demonstration skills on your resume.
- Negotiation: whether you’re dealing with unhappy customers, trying to get the best out of suppliers, or agreeing on a plan with colleagues from another department, negotiation skills can be extremely useful. If there’s any possibility the job might require negotiation skills, include them on your CV.
- Motivation: On your resume, make sure you mention how well you can motivate other people to help them produce their best and reach their goals. A long time ago, this was a skill that only prospective managers needed to demonstrate, but now it’s an ability everyone should be able to show whenever possible.
- Giving and taking feedback: if the job involves working with other people, being able to provide and accept constructive feedback is a necessity. Make sure your CV indicates how well you can do this because it’s essential if you’re going to be customer-facing or work as part of a team.
- Empathy: being able to show respect and compassion is essential in every job, and especially when you’re dealing with customers or working as part of a team. Demonstrating that you have this skill and that you can communicate honestly, open-mindedly, and empathetically with others is a major plus when you mention it on your resume.
- Teamwork skills
Teamwork skills are the abilities you need to work well with others. They include ‘soft skills’ like the communication skills we’ve mentioned above (especially verbal communication, active listening and empathy) and other skills like being collaborative, flexible, and having a positive ‘can do’ attitude. Most employers consider teamwork skills a must.
- Customer service skills
Customer service skills aren’t necessary for some jobs, but when you’re working in hospitality or other parts of the service sector, customer service skills are vitally important. They include consummate communication skills (especially verbal, active listening, and empathy) and fantastic interpersonal and problem-solving skills. If you can give your prospective new employer one or more examples of how you’ve gone above and beyond to meet a customer’s needs or enhance their overall experience, even better!
- Leadership skills
Most employers look for people who are willing to take on greater responsibilities, and who could make fantastic managers or team leaders at some point in the future. When a recruiter sees skills like active listening, empathy, and motivation on your CV, it’s a good sign you’ll have the leadership qualities they’re looking for.
- Interpersonal skills
Interpersonal skills demonstrate that you can communicate effectively with others, build relationships, and solve problems as thoughtfully and amicably as possible. If you can show that you’re motivated, flexible, and work well with others, those are the kinds of interpersonal skills that look great on your CV.
- Self-management skills
While the ability to work with others is vital, so is the ability to manage yourself. This means prioritising tasks, delivering on promises, staying motivated, and managing your time effectively.
- Learning skills
Regardless of the job you’re applying for, one thing is for sure – the 21st Century workplace is changing faster than ever. That means you have to be able to change with it, and be willing to learn new skills, adapt the skills you already have, and show flexibility, critical thinking, and the readiness to collaborate.
- Problem-solving skills
Problem-solving skills are all about overcoming work challenges in a productive and efficient manner. They include effective communication (especially written, verbal, and negotiation skills), attention to detail, and the ability to make informed decisions.
- Computer skills
Almost every job requires the use of a computer or tablet, so including computer skills on your CV is a definite asset. It’s even better if you can highlight advanced computer skills like word processing, spreadsheets, and familiarity with graphics and/or accounting packages.
- Focus and dedication
Employers want to hire people they can trust, and who won’t need to be managed to the nth degree. If you can show them you’ve got focus and dedication (i.e. a strong work ethic) they’ll feel much more confident about bringing you onto their team, knowing you’ll complete your tasks without continually having to be checked up on.
Writing a winning CV
Let’s start with the basics: your CV/resume should always be properly formatted, grammar and spell-checked, and include enough detail to show you’re a great candidate but be concise enough that the recruiter can scan through it quickly. Unless the role calls for a lot of additional information, try not to make your CV longer than two A4 pages.
Your CV should always be laid out in a logical order:
Name, address, contact phone number and email: you’ll be surprised how many people forget to add them!
A brief personal statement that describes who you are, why you’re applying for the job, and what makes you a terrific candidate. It should be no more than a short paragraph (3-4 lines), which includes just enough information to encourage the recruiter to find out more. Don’t play down your attributes, but don’t go over-the-top either!
Previous Work Experience
Include all your relevant work experience, with your current/most recent job listed first. Include the name of the company, your job title, the dates you worked there, and your key responsibilities.
Skills & Achievements
List all the skills you’ve acquired during your previous work experience that make you an excellent candidate for this role. Include at least one brief example for each skill and write the example so that it’s clear how you could apply the skill to this new job. List your achievements, and don’t forget easily overlooked achievements like ‘Employee of the Month’, because those are excellent indicators about the kind of worker you are and how highly you’re thought of.
List your educational experience and academic achievements in reverse chronological order, including the name(s) of the school/college/university you attended, the dates you were there, the type of qualification, and the grades you achieved. If you’ve just left education to begin full-time work, and you currently have little or no work experience, it’s a good idea to focus on this section as much as possible.
Hobbies and Interests
You don’t have to include this section, but if any of your hobbies and interests underline your skills (i.e. if you’re a coach, group leader, or public speaker) or can demonstrate you’re a well-rounded, responsible person (i.e. if you do voluntary work), mentioning them here can help you stand out from the crowd. Alternatively, you could just call this section ‘Other Relevant Experience’ and concentrate solely on aspects like voluntary work and coaching, leaving out your hobbies. Don’t include interests like ‘Clubbing and partying’ because they’re not relevant and might even be a red flag to some recruiters.
Sometimes recruiters will want to see these in your application, and sometimes they might wait until you’ve passed the selection process. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to put the contact details of two people who’ll give you a strong reference in this section of the CV (name, job title, phone number, email.)
Your resume should be clear, concise, and easy to read. Don’t use it as an opportunity to show off your incredible vocabulary, and always avoid using informal/colloquial words and annoying buzzwords or acronyms like ‘synergy’, ‘bottom line’ and ‘FYI’. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t include emoji’s either! ☹ Try to make it as ‘skimmable’ as possible, so employers/recruiters can quickly find what they’re looking for while still getting a good sense of who you are.
Words like ‘managed’, ‘valued’, ‘committed’, and ‘productive’ are always worth including (so long as they’re truthful!) as are ‘dedicated’, ‘accurate’, ‘adaptable’, ‘proactive’, ‘responsible’, and ‘reliable’.
Even though it’s tempting to use terms like ‘hard-working’ and ‘goal-driven’, try to find another way to say them. Not only does everyone like to think of themselves as hard-working and goal-driven, but those words are also so overused they’ve become a cliché. Other overused words include ‘multi-tasker’ and ‘details oriented.’
As we said at the beginning of this section, and it always bears repeating, make sure your spelling and grammar are correct, and that your punctuation is accurate. Make sure there aren’t any misspelled words, rogue, commas, or unnecessary capital letters that will make your CV a chore to read. Keep the formatting consistent and choose a font that’s clean, business-like and not too small or large (Calibri 12 point or Arial 12 point are perfect (this is written in Calibri 11 point.)) Don’t be tempted to use anything showy and awkward to read like Comic Sans, and don’t include photographs (unless a photo is requested, and a recruiter will usually ask for it attached to your CV.)
Don’t be satisfied with your first draft.
You won’t have a lot of words to play with in your CV, so you’ve got to be sure that every single word is doing its job. Focus on your relevant experience, key skills and achievements, and make sure the CV is tailored to the target job. A lot of people apply for a whole range of different jobs using the same CV, and that can be a big mistake. Even if you’re applying for the same kind of job but with different businesses, it’s always worth taking an extra look at your resume to see if you can tweak it a little bit.
Whenever you apply for a job, take a close look at your CV and ask yourself if it:
- Highlights the specific skills you’ve got that make you right for the role.
- Includes any work or educational experience you’ve got that applies to their industry.
- Underlines the personal qualities that will make you a perfect fit for their organisation.
- Shows that you understand what the job requires.
Give yourself time to read and re-read your CV before sending it off and edit it or rewrite it if necessary. Reading your resume aloud is a useful way to find out how well (or not) it flows, and you might even notice words you could improve upon. Afterwards, show your resume to someone whose opinion you trust and ask for their feedback. If they find something confusing or hard to follow, consider updating your CV to make it clearer.
The Interview: Getting Ready
So now your expertly written resume has landed you the interview you’ve been hoping for, what should you do to prepare? Here are a few of our favourite suggestions:
Knowledge is power – so do your research!
Find out a little bit about the company you’ve applied to, and check out the current news for the industry they’re operating in. The recruiter won’t expect you to know the intricate details, but if you can show you’ve got some basic knowledge of who they are and the wider world they work in, it can be very impressive.
Why do you want the job?
It seems like an obvious question, but a lot of interviewees stumble when they’re asked it. What made you apply for the job? What interests you about it? What are the three key reasons you believe you’re perfect for the role?
Anticipate their questions
There are standard questions you can expect to be asked at most interviews – everything from “How are you today?” and “Tell me about yourself” to specific questions about jobs you’ve done in the past. Think about what those questions are likely to be and ask your friends and family what questions they’d ask you. Get your answers ready, but don’t try to learn them ‘off by heart’ because a) that can sound ‘canned’ and unnatural in the interview, and b) over rehearsing can make you feel more nervous. Besides, the hiring manager might not even ask you those questions anyway! Just be ready for whatever they might say, and be prepared to address any concerns they may have about your work history (especially any significant gaps in your work history.)
Have some questions of your own
At the end of the interview, you’ll probably be offered a chance to ask your own questions. Take the opportunity to show how interested you are in the role and the company by asking at least one or two questions about the work culture (“What’s your favourite thing about working here?”) or the job itself (“What is the most challenging aspect of the role?”, “What are your expectations of the successful candidate?”)
The Interview: Being Your Best
The day of the interview’s here. What are the six things you can do to guarantee yourself the most excellent chance of success?
Choose clothing that’s appropriate to the company’s dress code. It should be an outfit that’s smart and professional and makes you feel comfortable and confident. In a casual workplace, dark jeans/trousers, a shirt/blouse, and closed-toe shoes (not trainers) might work. In a more ‘business’ environment, you’ll need to dress up more. Ask the recruiter about the dress code before your interview.
We know what you’re thinking – in a stressful interview situation ‘being yourself’ is easier said than done. But remember that the interviewer is on your side because they want you to be the perfect candidate too. After all, it would make their life a lot easier if you are! Also, you’re here because they’ve already noticed qualities in your CV that suggest you’d be right for this job. Take a deep breath before entering the room and believe in yourself. This is your moment to shine.
The five-minute rule
You know how you can get a good feeling about someone the moment you first meet them, but other people it might take you longer to connect with? According to some studies, it’s the same during an interview. If you can make a positive impression within the first five minutes of the interview, it will go a long way towards getting the recruiter on your side. Thank the interviewer for seeing you and tell them how pleased you are to be here and have this opportunity to meet them. Be sincere and bring in lots of good energy.
Don’t get baited
Some interviewers like to find out how badly a candidate wants the role by pushing their buttons. They become adversarial, and they might even challenge you on what you’ve said to see how you’ll react. Don’t take it personally, and don’t turn the interview into a battle of wills. Treat the interview as a chance to tell the recruiter more about yourself so you can both find out if you’re right for the job. Hopefully you’ll be the right fit but, if you’re not, it’s better to find out now, so you don’t end up in a role where nobody is happy, including yourself. Besides, every interview is an opportunity to learn and gain more experience.
Show your positives
As the old saying goes, ‘Don’t hide your light under a bushel.’ This is your chance to tell the employer what you can do and highlight what an asset you will be to their business. Tell them what your selling points are, make it clear why you’re a great candidate and back every selling point up with an example. Don’t show off, and don’t make claims you can’t support, but give your interviewer the best chance to realise you’re the one they’re looking for.
Don’t forget that an interview is also a conversation. Don’t wait for the recruiter to ask the all-important question that gives you a chance to highlight your strongest point. Volunteer the information yourself. Being assertive isn’t being pushy, so long as you’re polite and what you’re saying is relevant to the discussion.
End the interview positively
Close the interview on a good note. At the end of the interview, thank the hiring manager for seeing you and reiterate how much you’d like the job and how grateful you are they’ve taken the time to meet you. Tell them that if there’s anything more they’d like to know, you’d be happy to answer any further questions. Leave the recruiter with a positive impression of you, so it’s even easier for them to offer you the role.
Within 48 hours of the interview, send the recruiter a quick thank-you note or email. Don’t gush, just let them know you appreciated the opportunity to meet them, and you’ll look forward to hearing from them soon. It’s a nice thing to do but, more importantly, it’s also a polite and subtle way to keep you at the forefront of their memory!
Section 2: Perseverance and Positivity
So, you’ve applied for 1…10…100 or more jobs, and nobody has got back to you.
Or you had an interview that went badly.
Or you had a fantastic interview (you thought), but you still didn’t get the role.
We’re not going to remind you that Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times before he invented the light bulb (although Edison said he didn’t fail, he just “successfully found 10,000 ways the light bulb will not work!”) or that twelve different publishers rejected the first Harry Potter book!
When you’re trying so hard to find a job, and everything seems to keep knocking you back, being reminded about other people’s hard-luck stories (even though they eventually turned out great) probably won’t make you feel any better.
So, here’s what you’ve got to do.
Stay positive and keep going.
As the American writer Elbert Hubbard said, “There is no failure except in no longer trying.”
Have a routine
When you’re feeling low, it’s easy to stop following a healthy routine. Please try to avoid doing that. Approach each day as if it is a workday (because it is a workday, except your work today is looking for work!) Get up at a normal time, eat and exercise properly, and go to bed early enough to get a full night’s sleep. Resist the temptation to pull the sheets over your head and spend the day watching TV in your pyjamas. Trust us; it will only make you feel worse.
Create good habits
Build small, daily habits that are easy to complete and will keep you moving towards your job-hunting goal, like setting yourself the target of applying for one job a day and reaching out to one contact every day.
Be strategic with your time
Instead of wasting your time hunting through the job vacancies every few hours (and maybe feeling more and more demoralised), set up job alerts so you’ll be notified as soon as the right opportunity appears. Contact recruiters who work in your chosen industry and ask if they’ll talk to you, and hopefully take on your resume. Research the companies you’re interested in. Join a local networking group and/or network on a site liked LinkedIn.
Once a week, read through your resume to see if there’s anything you can change or fine-tune.
Research your role models
Who are the people you admire the most? How did they overcome their challenges to get where they are now? (It’s even better if they’re working in the industry you want to enter.) What can you learn from their experience? What can you do that’s similar?
Alternatively, is there anyone you already know in the industry you want to work in? Or maybe they’re already working in the company you want to work for? Ask them for advice or contact them and introduce yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you approach the subject politely, most people will be flattered you’ve reached out to them.
What else can you do?
Are there any skills you don’t already have, that would make you more eligible for the role? Use this opportunity to learn them. It’s going to be harder to find the time when you’re eventually in a job, and learning a new skill is a constructive, practical way to stay positive and keep focused on your goal.
Know what your goals are
When you’re in a slump, it’s hard to see beyond the present moment. The best way to escape from that prison is to let yourself dream, but dream in a realistic way. Write down everything you’ve ever wanted to do and achieve, and then focus on at least one goal that you really want to pursue. Make a plan about how you’ll do it and then start taking action. A great way to start this process is by using the GROW model, which will help you understand what your true goals are and how to take steps to make them happen. You’ll find plenty of information about GROW (which is an acronym for Grow, Reality, Options, Will) online.
Take a break
Give yourself an occasional day off. Do something you enjoy. See your family and friends. Sometimes you need to take a pause to recharge your batteries and put the job-hunting frustrations behind you.
Even more importantly, make time every day to relax. Meditate. Listen to music. Read a book. Go for a walk. Take a long, hot bath with candles. You’ll find it much easier to stay focused and positive when you’re well-rested. There’s always another day tomorrow.
We hope you’ve found this FAQ useful, and that you’ll want to apply at least some of this advice to your own job search. If you’ve applied to us and been unsuccessful on this occasion, please don’t be disheartened or let it prevent you from contacting us in the future. We receive a lot of enquiries and sometimes we’re simply not able to consider everybody we’d like, but if you ever think you’re appropriate for a role we’re advertising, we’d always love to hear from you. Good luck, believe in yourself, and remember your perfect job is out there waiting for you to find it. It’s just a matter of Preparation, Perseverance, Positivity… and a little bit of time!