Job hunting skills

Getting a job or apprenticeship can be a long process and involves a number of different skills.  To be successful in our careers we must get good at finding opportunities, filling in application forms, writing CVs and covering letters and performing well at interview.  Read on for some suggestions about all of these job hunting skills.

Job hunting

Finding jobs to apply for can be difficult and frustrating, but it is also an exciting chance to seize opportunities and advance your career.

Remember these key tips for finding a job:

  • Be as flexible as you can be with location, pay, exact job, hours worked etc.
  • You have to work hard to find a job: ask friends and families to look out for vacancies, read the local press, look online, use recruitment agencies (unless they want you to pay!) and approach employers directly.
  • Approach each application individually; you don’t have to come up with a completely new CV for every job you apply for, but you do need to make sure your application is bespoke and not generalised.
  • Consider volunteering/work experience to increase your employability.
  • Networking is a vital career management skill: developing contacts with the right people in your chosen industry can be invaluable.
  • Don’t give up!  It can be disheartening to apply for loads of jobs and not hear anything back, but remember your job is out there somewhere – you just need to get it!

Application Forms

An application form is normally asked for instead of a CV or covering letter (but you may need to do any combination of the three!).  As well as all the basic information, there is normally a ‘personal statement’ section where you are allowed to wax lyrical about your greatness (under ‘describe your suitability for this post’ or similar) – although there is often a word limit!  Make sure you use formal and professional language (and tone), and be sure to include all the skills, qualities and experiences that are on your CV (see below).

Key advice for application forms:

  • Be concise; highlight all your strengths but don’t waffle on.
  • Use evidence to support your assertions (you may say you’re a good communicator but unless you evidence this with e.g. that A grade presentation you did for Business Studies, how will they know it’s true?).
  • Be accurate and don’t make any claims that aren’t true – that’s fraudulent!
  • Be extra careful with language – you want to sound fluent but also to the point, and most of all no spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes (an amazing number of applications are binned for this reason!).
  • Always, always, always match the skills and experiences you highlight in your ‘personal statement’ bit to the job you are applying for

CVs and Covering Letters

The key thing to remember for a good CV/covering letter is that you must tailor them for the job sector you are applying for.  It is no good submitting the same CV for a retail job as an administrative role; you will not include the skills each employer is targeting.  Instead, focus on building a base CV, and then amend and elaborate on this every time you apply for a different type of job.  You may end up with e.g. a ‘retail CV’, an ‘office CV’ and a ‘hospitality CV’ depending on what sort of work you are looking for.

Consider the following:

  • As a school leaver your CV should be no longer than 1 side of A4 – be concise!
  • Be careful with your language; employers want to see good, clear and well-written CVs.
  • Consider the overall visual effect.  Does it look too cluttered? Too spare?
  • Be accurate; don’t make any claims that aren’t true – that’s still fraudulent!
  • Use a professional looking font and always print on good quality, plain coloured paper.
  • Remember your covering letter should highlight your key skills/qualities, outline your suitability for the post you are applying for and why you want to work at that company – but briefly!
  • Use the job description and personal specification to make sure you include evidence of your suitability to the post (e.g. if the person spec says ‘good communicator’, make sure that’s in there somewhere).

More on covering letters: these do tend to worry people, but have no fear!  Remember your audience as you write; think about what you want them to know about you and make it as easy as possible for them to read your letter (good spelling & punctuation, readable language, not too long etc.).  There are no strict rules to writing a covering letter, but a suggested format to get you started is…

1st PARAGRAPH – set the scene e.g.

I am writing to apply for the job of Assistant Manager at your Southampton branch of John Lewis.  I have had a great fondness and respect for John Lewis for as long as I can remember.  Several members of my family have been partners with the company and your ethos is something I both share and admire.  Becoming an assistant manager with you would allow me to further my career and work for a company I am inspired by.

2nd PARAGRAPH – sell yourself e.g.

As a graduate from both the London School of Management and many years of retail experience, I have both a theoretical and practical knowledge of great management.  I am a good listener, keen organiser and passionate about delivering both excellent customer service and a fantastic work environment.  I believe respect is at the heart of all good management and I would achieve… etc.

3rd PARAGRAPH – closing words e.g.

I have attached my application form for your reference and would very much appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and discuss my suitability for the role.  I am most grateful that you have taken the time to review my application and look forward to hearing from you soon.


There is a definite skill to achieving at interview, but the good news is that it is something we can all improve with practice.  Talking ourselves up can feel uncomfortable, but it’s quite alright to be proud of our achievements and confident in our abilities.  It’s important to get this across to potential employers – they want to know why they should employ you.  Remember, they wouldn’t have invited you to interview if they didn’t think you had a good chance of getting the job!

Top tips:

  • Be smart, polite and show you are taking things seriously – you will be judged on the things you say, your tone of voice, how you look, your body language and how you come across – if you are enthusiastic and keen this will go a very long way.
  • When talking about your skills at interview always give brief, concrete examples to back them up (and don’t claim you can do things that you can’t).
  • It’s okay to pause for a couple of seconds to think before you answer a question!
  • Try not to ramble (this is where pausing to marshal your thoughts comes in); make your point, back it up with your example and then round the whole thing off with a positive reflection about yourself or the company.
  • If you realise you’ve missed something vital out, come back to it at the end.
  • Try and ask questions at the end which will have the employer picturing you in the job (e.g. what would I be doing for induction?).
  • Be yourself, but on a really good day! There’s no point in projecting a false image (if you do get the job this way, you’ll soon be found out), but make sure the ‘you’ you present is the absolutely best version of yourself.

Helpful websites

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