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Tips on Job Hunting: the Strategies, Advice & Skills you will need

Job hunting can seem challenging for first time hunters, or for those who have been in settled employment for a number of years.

However, as with most activities, once you take the plunge you'll find it's not as hard as you first thought and that a little practice makes perfect. 

With the right mental attitude and a few tried and trusted techniques up your sleeve you'll soon secure some interviews and be well on your way to employment.

The Basics

When embarking on a job hunt it's important to start positive and keep the momentum going. The most important attribute for any job search is determination. You are not going to get every position you apply for, so it's crucial to take any disappointments on the chin and keep going. Your persistence will be rewarded. If you stay focused and keep plugging away it really will just be a matter of time before someone says 'yes'.

Construct a Routine

A trap many people slip into is approaching their job search with a 'make an application then wait for the phone to ring' attitude. The problem with this is that it can breed habits of general lethargy which can lead to feelings of apathy and a state of inactivity. These emotions and habits will have a serious negative impact on your job hunting, so it's important to keep your energy levels up, and the best way to do this is to set yourself a routine.

Make sure you get out of bed in the mornings and maintain a working '9 to 5' day; try and get out and about, either visiting agencies or distributing CVs; and when you are on the move make sure you're presentable. These simple behaviours will ensure you don't get trapped at home watching daytime TV.

The Fundamental Resources

The best approach to job hunting is to cast your net both far and wide. There are a number of different types of media and institutions that are a must for any serious job search:

The Job Centre

If you are out of work you should have already registered for the benefits you are entitled to and be familiar with your local Job Centre. We recommend checking their selection of vacancies as regularly as you are able - at least every few days. Jobs can be snapped up very quickly from these centres so it's wise to keep a frequent eye on their catalogue. The staff at the centre will also be able to give you advice on CV layouts, job hunting and interview techniques, and often provide the equipment to print CVs or contact businesses via fax or phone.

Recruitment agencies

Sign up with all the recruitment agencies you can. They will assess your skills and try and get you into work as soon as possible. As with the Job Centre, agencies often provide assistance with CV writing and advice on how best to conduct yourself during an interview.

The Internet

There are many online recruitment agencies and job search websites, we recommend you register with any that deal with careers in your chosen sector/s that you find on the first few pages of your web search. The internet can also be a wonderful resource for researching a company you are hoping to work for, with websites offering contact details and information about what their daily business entails, all of which will be very helpful when you approach that company for work.

Newspapers

You should check both your local papers and the national press for their jobs sections. As well as displaying vacancies, articles in business sections can provide you with more knowledge about your target field and sometimes details of companies which suit your skill set which you otherwise would have been unaware of. In addition to the mainstream press, there are many magazines which focus on particular industries which can be useful for finding specific jobs.

Job Hunting Techniques and Strategies

It's not common knowledge but, strange as it may seem, many jobs are not actually advertised through the outlets we have listed above. There can be several reasons for this.

For one thing, placing adverts with newspapers and agencies costs time and money. If you consider that they will most likely have a pool of CVs to choose from (delivered by people who approached them directly or through agencies) they are more likely to run through these before they look to spend resources announcing a position is available: this is just good economic sense on their part.

Also, if you were looking to take on a new member of staff, would you be more likely to choose someone who applied for the job only after they knew it was available, or an applicant who had contacted you expressing a desire to work for your business?

So you need to engage in a more proactive job search; take yourselves to the jobs, rather than wait for the jobs to come to you.

Proactive Internet Job Hunting

This is a very cost and time effective method, allowing you to contact a large amount of companies quickly and cheaply. You simply carry out a web search on the type of companies you wish to work for in your area, browse their websites to identify the correct email address to use, then fire them off an email introducing yourself and including your CV.

You can either attach your CV to the email as an external document, or if you have an online CV, include a link to it. If using an attached document, we advise you opt for an MS Word or even plain text format. In these days of internet viruses, uncommon attachments will often remain unopened.

The best thing about this method is that you can cover a lot of ground. Once you've typed up a covering email you are happy with and created your CV attachment or link, you only have to make slight alterations (such as changing who it is addressed to) each time you send it out. A good tip here is to customise each email slightly if you can, to mention the type of work the company does and why you'd like to work for them.

The drawback is that email is an impersonal way of going about things and is unlikely to create much of an impact - especially if your message looks like a 'cut and paste' form email. In the worst case scenario, it will end up straight in the recycle bin. Still, you can reach a large number of businesses cheaply, so a few hours spent doing this a week cannot hurt.

It's a good idea to keep both your introduction email and CV short, well-presented and to the point. Busy managers are unlikely to dedicate too much time to unsolicited applications, so you need to make a quick professional impression in the space of a few short paragraphs.

Contacting Companies by Post

This is basically the same method as email. Write a well laid out covering letter, seal it in an envelope along with your CV and post it off to your target business. Here it's crucial to make sure your letter is going to the right person; if you are unable to obtain the name of the person you need to contact you're probably better off saving the money for the stamp.

The advantage of this technique is that it's more personal than an email. Provided your letter is addressed to the right person, is short and looks professional it's much more likely to be read and leave an impression than an email. Simply the physical act of opening your letter means the person it's addressed to has invested enough time into it to at least read the first few lines.

The drawback is really the price of the materials. You're going to need access to a printer, and after a few letters the costs of the paper, ink and postage will start to add up.

If you do send a letter off, do follow it up with a phone call after a week or so. You can give the reason for the call as checking your letter actually made it through, and you may find that this brings your letter back in the mind of the person you wrote to. If they never saw your letter, introduce yourself and ask for an interview, and/or offer to send your CV to them again. Even if they have no vacancies at that time, it will give you a chance to make a good impression, which might take you to the head of the queue if any jobs become available in the future.

Contacting Businesses by Telephone

This is a very direct method and one that can yield results if carried out in the correct way. As with the letters and emails, your chances of dealing with the person you really need to speak to are vastly improved if you can get their name prior to the call. The internet can be very useful for this. If you cannot get hold of this information then you will need to introduce yourself to whoever answers the phone and ask them to put you through to the relevant person. If they are in a meeting or at lunch, ask for their name and a good time to call back.

When you do get to speak to your target, it's important that you are professional, polite and have worked out a 'pitch' about yourself. You need to make a good impression in a few short sentences, so your pitch should include a brief introduction, a short appraisal of your skills and relevant qualifications and the reasons you want to work for this company specifically.

You may find it helps to go over what you're going to say in your head and practice a few times before you make the call. If you are not used to speaking to people on the phone in a business situation, you may find this quite challenging at first, however after a few calls you should start to relax and find it seems to get easier. Two tips: first, don't reel off your script like you're readng small print! Take your time and sound relaxed and enthusiastic. Second, stand up when you make the call. This actually helps you sound more focused and attentive and will help you concentrate.

Visiting Companies in Person

The most direct method of all - visiting a company in person -  is well worth while. First you need to stock up on a good amount of your CVs and covering introduction letters and make sure you are well presented, then it's simply a case of working through an area dropping in on all the businesses you would like to work for.

Approach the reception area and introduce yourself, and request a few minutes with the person you need to speak to. In large companies this will probably be someone who handles recruitment, and in smaller businesses it will be the owner, general manager or managing director.

If no one is available, ask for the best time to come back, try to get the name of the best person to speak with and leave your CV addressed to them. It's a good idea to get a contact telephone number so you can call back the next day to see if they received your information. Even if they have not seen your CV, this call can often lead to an interview if you request one.

As with telephone contact, it's important you have a practiced introductory pitch worked out in your head when you call on a business. Another good tip is to have the CV and letter you are planning to leave with a business stored separately. This is so when you hand it over, it isn't immediately obvious this is just one of many companies you are visiting today, and will give the impression you have specifically targeted this business.

This method can seem even more daunting than cold calling at first and, if you encounter a few negative responses early on, it can be dispiriting. But you will find you start to feel more relaxed and confident after the first few calls, which will improve your chances of success in the future. Make a point of enjoying yourself: be friendly, be polite, be relaxed. Remember that you're showing initiative, confidence and determination, qualities that any employer should look for.

Record your Progress

It's a good idea to keep a detailed record of the businesses you have contacted, the date contacted, the method used, and the responses you get.

Take a Positive from a Negative

It may often be the case that you establish contact with a employer on good terms, but they simply have no vacancies available at that time. In these situations it's a good idea to ask if they could give you any pointers on any aspect of your job search techniques and any useful information on what a company in their industry is looking for in a candidate. You can use this information to adjust your introductory pitches, CV and job hunting strategy accordingly to best fit the line of work you hope to secure a job in.

Networking

Word of mouth and introductions from existing employees to an employer are often a very successful avenue, and one that is very simple to instigate. You start by talking to friends and family who work in the industry you are looking for a job in, or know someone who does. Arrange to meet with person and use this meeting to find out all about their daily duties and any knowledge of the industry they work in that will be useful to you. If your meeting with this person goes well they should be willing to enquire with their company if it's possible for you to have an introductory interview, or provide you with the contact details of the best person to speak with.

Mix and Match and Keep on Going

For the most effective job search routine, we suggest you take advantage of all the resources and strategies mentioned in this article, combine different techniques and come up with a routine that works best for you.

If you are dedicated and diligent and keep the momentum up, you will find you become more confident with each day of your search. Apply yourself wholeheartedly and the days will pass quickly, your list of contacts will grow and before long you will secure the job you have been working towards.

Good luck!