Tips from Apsley Recruitment on getting noticed as a candidate
We offer these notes to help you get the most from all the tools and methods available to secure the role you are looking for. Much of it is common sense and we may be teaching some of you how to suck eggs, but we hope there will be a few useful reminders to ensure you don’t miss any chances to be persuasive and make the right connections. Also, as many of you will have hired staff in the past, we are sure you will use your own experiences to guide your activities!
Most of the world is in the middle of a serious financial crisis, money is tight and many firms are laying people off at all levels. Consequently there is huge competition for jobs and if you are looking you need to give yourself the best chance of getting noticed and interviewed.
- Your CV: things to consider
See our CV Tips pages for some detailed advice. CVs are subject to a lot of opinion and discussion – send yours to us for a general review and advice on how to strengthen it.
- Job boards and agencies – how to stand out from the crowd
A lot of roles are advertised by agencies (but by no means all) on a range of web-based job boards and represent a good way to apply for positions. Remember, it’s probable each advertisement will be attracting huge responses, and each post is likely to be advertised by more than one agency.
To make sure you get noticed, do restrict applications to where your CV and experience are most closely matched to the job. Avoid applying on a whim, or think “I could do that”, when in reality others will be better suited and more likely to be selected. It is also worth adding a few notes to the email you send. Summarise why you think you are suitable for the role – but use simple, sensible language and keep it brief.
Once your CV has been sent, don’t sit by the ‘phone assuming you will get a call – it could be a long wait. Follow up by ‘phoning the consultant handling the position and ask them politely to go through your CV there and then – at least it will get read. Find out if they think you are suitable and if your application will be submitted.
In addition, ask for as much extra detail about the client and role (a job description is useful if you can get one) so you can do some background research, or if you have the right contacts find an internal sponsor* for your application. Try to get some commitment about when they expect feedback and details on interview shortlists so you know when to make follow-up calls. Also, if your application is not successful, see if there are any other possible roles with the potential employer you applied to. If practical, a visit to the agency can be useful and move you up their candidate pecking order, assuming they have the right client base for your skills.
If you have spoken to a recruiter or in-house function directly at the employer (as opposed to a third party agency), send a tailored covering letter to that person together with your application, it will help you stand out from the crowd. It will show you are genuinely interested, have researched the role and business, and it gives the potential employer a different impression than just a CV.
The subject of research is an important issue that sometimes occurs with interviews, even in a tough market. The issue is that we and our clients are sometimes surprised at candidates’ lack of effort in first looking up details about the company they are going to see, including its competitors, marketplace and most crucially, the role. In current conditions candidates need to be on their game from the off and this preparation is an easy way to stand out. Careful research will also help decide if it’s the right opportunity and employer for you.
*Establishing an internal sponsor is potentially very powerful. Having someone the Hiring Manager trusts, telling them you are the right person for the job, can smooth the way to a successful application. However, you should only volunteer someone if (i) you are certain he or she will say positive things about you (you would be surprised how often we see it go the other way), and of course, ii) whether that person is happy to be involved.
Specific job boards specialise in different roles, so it is worth researching a number of them to make sure you are getting the best selection. These include:
www.jobserve.com – probably the market leader for IT related roles
www.jobsite.co.uk – good for technical and junior – mid management roles
www.cwjobs.co.uk – IT focussed job board
www.monster.co.uk – generalist job board covering most disciplines
www.efinancialcareers.com – senior roles in the finance industry including IT
www.theladders.com – roles over a £50k base
www.planetrecruit.com – generalist site including IT
www.totaljobs.com – good general site
www.jumptojobs.co.uk – it mines vacancies from other sites
There are many more, but these are representative of the main boards used by agencies. Google searches will reveal others.
Check your CV uploads accurately with no loss of formatting (search on your own details), and that the file format is accessible to all. Also, re-post your CV regularly, for example fortnightly, to keep it within any date-related searches and to alert recruiters that you are actively looking.
- Who do you know – networking
A lot of roles are advertised by agencies (but by no means all) on a range of web–based job boards and represent a good way to apply for positions. Remember, it’s probable each advertisement will be attracting huge responses, and each post is likely to be advertised by more than one agency.
No doubt you have made plenty of contacts in your career so far. Getting out and seeing people you have worked with before is a very simple and effective way of spreading the word that you are looking for work. Try to meet up with as many people as possible for a coffee or a beer and see who they know who might be able to help you. Now is not the time to be shy! Doing this also keeps up your social skills, especially important if, for whatever reason, unfortunately you have been made redundant and it takes time to find a new job.
A terrific tool is LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com), a sort of Facebook for the business community. This is widely used for careers activity, so get an account and get connecting to as many relevant people as you can – including us! You can’t know too many people, so ask for recommendations (offer them to those good people you know) and get as full a profile as possible. Best of all it is free and can be administered in a short space of time. Adding the URL for your profile to your CV may be useful, especially if you have plenty of recommendations.
- Keeping track
It is likely you will speak to a lot of new people in a short space of time and to avoid losing any potentially crucial details, keep a record of the people you speak to, their contact details, and all roles you apply to, in any way that works for you (Excel, Outlook, etc). This means you can easily schedule follow-up calls to agencies and companies for progress reports, and avoid duplicate submissions to roles (duplication is frowned on).
- Using your time wisely
If you are unlucky enough to be made redundant or between jobs and contracts, besides looking for work make sure your remaining time is productive. Are there any training courses you have been meaning to take but not had time for? New professional qualifications and accreditations are always useful, including continuous professional development (CPD) credits. Are there any professional or trade bodies you can join, e.g. the APM or BCS? Is this the first chance in a long time to complete any personal or family projects? Finishing a nagging and outstanding commitment will help esteem. Maybe consider taking a holiday now as when you start a new job, you may not get another chance for a while. Take time to decide what you actually want to do next and whether the priority is simply to get back to earning and paying the bills, or if a change in direction would be appropriate. Keep talking to people – don’t assume a job will come and find you.
- Be flexible
When you are invited for interview (whether telephone or face to face) be as flexible as necessary about dates and times. Remember, they are hiring and you are looking so it pays to respect their commitments. If you are too inflexible an interview may go to someone else. If it gets you the job then the inconvenience will have been worth it.
See our separate notes on interviews.
Finally, feel free to call us anytime for advice on your CV, recruitment strategies, salaries, market trends, etc. They call us consultants, so why not consult with us?
See also other helpful information from Apsley Recruitment:
- Tips on writing a CV
- Tips on preparing for an interview
- Apsley Recruitment – it’s mission and code of conduct