How to find a job

"Alexa, find me a job."

We wish it were that simple. Launching yourself into looking for work without planning is like going to the supermarket without a list. Surrounded by a bewildering array of choices, you'll lose all focus. The process will take longer, you'll probably spend too much, and you'll get home to find you've made some bizarre decisions. However, with a bit of structure, looking for a job can be straightforward. 

We've set up the steps you need to take to increase your chances of job-hunting success. In this guide, we'll take you through how to apply for a job. Starting with the importance of identifying your ideal position, right through to details such as finding a recruitment agency, we're here to help make job searching run smoothly. 

So, when you're shopping around for that ideal new job, you'll have it clear in your mind what you want, and the steps you need to take to get there. Let's get started.

Introduction

Planning your job search

How to look for a job

Looking for a job via recruitment agencies

Following up your job application

How to apply for a job

Planning your job search

How are you going to find that perfect new job? By being diligent and focused – and that takes planning. Essentially, looking for a job is a project, and you’re more likely to keep on top of the application process if you treat it as such. You can even create yourself a Gantt chart, if you’re that way inclined.

Dedicate some time each day to your job searching project, even if sometimes it’s just half an hour of reading through the jobs pages. Be prepared that unless you’re very lucky and strike gold immediately, finding the right job can take time. If it’s your first job or you’re currently not employed, you may need to find interim work while you strive towards your goal. 

And speaking of which, what exactly is your goal?

Set your goals

Your target is clear: “I want to find my first job”, "I need a new job" or “I want a new career”. Now you can start refining this end goal. Beyond gaining employment, what is important to you about this new role? What would your ideal job look like? Think about:

  • Industry
  • Location and distance
  • Relocation or commute
  • Salary
  • Benefits
  • The experience you hope to gain
  • Promotion opportunities
  • Training and development
  • Working hours
  • Potential organisations
  • Company size

Don’t be afraid to think big. If there are large multinationals you’ve always fancied working for, go for it. After all, the larger the company, the more potential vacancies. 

Plan a timeframe and milestones

If you like a spreadsheet or colour-coded calendar, you’ll love this stage. Okay, you can’t predict the specific times you'll find vacancies, but you can set yourself targets such as “Write my CV by X”, “Upload my CV to Monster by Y”, “Visit three recruitment agencies by Z”. This will help you feel in control of the process.

When you start firing out applications, it’s a good idea to keep track of what you sent and when you sent it. You should also note the closing dates (more about keeping tabs on this later). Before you embark upon your job searching journey, however, you'll need a CV.

Prepare your CV and cover letter

If it's your first professional job, or it's simply been a while since you last applied for a post, you’ll need to create an up-to-date CV, potentially from scratch. Putting all your experience and qualifications down on paper is a really useful (and confidence-boosting) exercise, as it helps you focus on your talents. It’s also a great way to remind yourself of those older, but relevant, skills. Writing an effective CV takes time, but it’s time worth spending – after all, it’s your shop window, your advertisement and your opening sales pitch. 

Be prepared to keep tweaking it to suit the specific job you’re applying for. If you’re going for two jobs that are both in, say, marketing, one may require more of an emphasis on digital marketing, the other on writing skills. Shuffle your CV around to give the most relevant skill the most weight.

Again, a cover letter should never be standard, as its purpose is to highlight the selling points on your CV that make you ideal for that particular role. Having said that, you need to move swiftly in the world of job applications, so at least have a template set up with your contact details. Here’s how to write the perfect cover letter.

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How to look for a job

You have a template CV, a spreadsheet and a good idea of the job you want. Now it’s time to track it down. There are lots of ways to approach this, and most job searchers use a combination of methods.

Different industries approach recruitment in different ways, but broadly, here are the main places where you’ll find job opportunities:

  • Online job sites
  • Company websites
  • Recruitment agencies
  • Job centres
  • Networking
  • Careers fairs 
  • Trade publications
  • National press
  • Local press
  • Speculative letters

Job applications online

With an online job searching portal like Monster, you can search for employment vacancies – and post your CV so recruiters can find you. This is a really straightforward way of creating a shortlist of suitable jobs.

With Monster, you can refine your job searching by keywords and location, and then it’s simply a case of selecting 'Apply' for the positions that appeal to you. The organisations that have posted vacancies with us may have different application processes, but there are clear instructions for each.

Companies also advertise their vacancies (or indicate that they’re open for speculative enquiries) on their own websites. Keep tabs on organisations that appeal to you by checking in once a week.

Recruitment agencies

We’ll look at these in more depth in the next section. However, an additional point: don’t discount the local job centre if you’re looking for a job in a specific area. You never know…

Networking and careers fairs

If you’re on the ball with your career development plans, the chances are you’ve been working on your networking for a while. Building up a professional, social group of useful contacts is a great way to get the heads-up on potential jobs, while ensuring that you’re a familiar face within your industry.

A careers fair is a fantastic networking opportunity, as well as the chance to shop around those firms who have current recruitment drives. If you’re looking for work for the first time, your university or college will be holding regular careers events, so get out there and see who's hiring graduates.

Trade, national and local press job advertisements

Your chosen industry’s trade publication is always worth checking out, especially if you work in a specialist area. Subscribe to your trade journal (and it’s always good to do your homework, anyway).

Even in these days of online recruitment, organisations still advertise in the national papers. In some newspapers, the recruitment supplement or pages are dedicated to particular sector on different days of the week. Find out which day is relevant, and get down to the newsagent. Again, don’t discount the local approach. Local papers have vacancies – along with nuggets of useful information for the speculative job hunter.

Speculative approaches

Because you already have your whizz-bang CV and persuasive cover letter ready to go, why not send them out to some companies you like the look of? These could be organisations you admire and would like to work for, or even ones you’ve read about in the local paper.

If you ask yourself, “what have I got to lose?”, the answer is simply the cost of a stamp, or the time it takes to compose an email. The worst that can happen is that you get a reply saying they don’t have any vacancies at present. Definitely worth a punt.

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Looking for a job through recruitment agencies

A recruitment agency’s role is to provide an outsourced service for organisations, finding suitable candidates for their vacancies. If you walk into an agency and say, “Please help me find a job”, they’ll interview you, and match your skills and qualifications with their database of available roles. The agency then puts you forward for the role, acting as a kind of broker. 

Most agencies will also help you with interview techniques and CV writing. Some also specialise in providing temping roles to fill short-term vacancies. This can actually be a useful way to build your portfolio when you’re starting out. So, how do you find the right job agency?

How to find a recruitment agency

A good agency can give you the right support and help finding a job. Track down your ideal job-hunting partner by:

  • Asking your friends. The chances are someone can recommend a good agency, and maybe even has a specific contact within the company.
  • Hitting the high street. Check out your local branches, and pop in to book an appointment. Which ones are welcoming and helpful? What jobs are advertised in the windows or reception?
  • Googling it. This is especially helpful if you’re looking for an industry specialist that may not have such obvious branches.
  • Reading trade publications. Are the recruitment ads posted by a specific agency? If so, that’s one to pursue for your industry

Always keep in mind that agencies work for the recruiting organisation, so their goal is to find the right candidates. That doesn’t mean that they won’t give you lots of expert support – a good agency is worth its weight in gold for wise words – but they won’t necessarily take a risk and put you forward if they don’t think you’re right.

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Following up your job application

You sent off your CV with a flutter of anticipation. Then – nothing. Do you wait a bit longer, chase it, or write it off?

If you’ve not reached the closing date yet, or it’s only just passed, leave it for now. If you haven’t heard anything a few days after D-day, it’s acceptable to get in touch. After all, there’s nothing wrong with looking keen. However, don’t take this as licence to call several times until you hear for definite – it’s a fine line between persistence and pestering, as far as a busy organisation is concerned. 

Also, bear in mind that this part of the process can take ages. Some organisations don’t contact unsuccessful applicants at all (they may say this in their ads or application packs, so check before you chase).

If you simply can’t wait, you can always call with a good reason to get in touch, and find out the progress that way. These good reasons could be to advise the recruiter that you’re away for a few days, or that you or your referee has new contact details.

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What happens next?

If you’ve been invited to proceed to the next stage, congratulations! You’re already ahead of much of the competition. Accept any invitations promptly. If you receive a letter or email explaining you’ve been unsuccessful, write back to thank them for considering your application, and let them know you’d like to be considered for similar positions in the future. As we said earlier, what have you got to lose?

Above all, keep your confidence while you’re looking for a job. If it’s a no, put it down to experience and move on to the next application. One day soon, it’ll be a yes.

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How to apply for a job

Spend some time planning your job search in advance and think through the practicalities. This can make a huge difference when it comes to looking for work. Here are our top job-hunting tips:

  • Set your job searching goals, based on both career aspirations and practicalities.
  • Get a plan in place, with timescales and milestones.
  • Prepare your CV and cover letter, and be ready to tweak them different roles' requirements.
  • Upload your CV to Monster so recruiters can see you.
  • Send speculative letters (if appropriate).
  • Register with a recruitment agency or agencies.
  • Track your application and follow up if necessary.
  • If it's a no, reply politely and say you'd like to be considered for future roles.
  • If it's a yes, act promptly - and start researching interview techniques.

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Get started on your job journey today. Put together that spreadsheet, subscribe to your trade magazine – and search for jobs through Monster.