job hunter's guide

This article is © Copyright Liam Healy & Associates 2009.
We are happy for other sites to link into this page, but no unauthorised copying or reproduction is allowed.

 

Introduction

Guide Use
This Guide is intended as a manual for people who are thinking about changing jobs, organising their career or starting out in the world of work. It contains information for use through the whole of the job search process, from thinking about looking for a new job, to the first few months of a new job.

*Please note that some information is applicable only in the United Kingdom.*

Changing Trends in Work

The nature of work is continuously evolving and changing, the notion that an individual will have a job in the same organisation for life is a very rare concept. Today people tend to change jobs, industries, or even careers more often. It is not unusual for a person who is established in one career to decide to go to college or university to train for another, totally unrelated career for better opportunities and rewards.

Organisations are no longer responsible for an individual’s career; it is left up to the person, meaning that some people drift through their Career, without any real goals or focus, changing jobs without a plan of what they want to be doing in the next six months. Whereas other people take control of their own personal development and plan where they want to go and what they want to achieve.

Organisations encourage their employees to take advantage of learning opportunities as a way to enhance their skills and motivation. The accessibility of learning has increased, with more online, distance and part time courses becoming available for people interested in learning new skills.

The emergence of new technology has dramatically changed the way organisations are run. Computers and Internet technologies have enabled different parts of organisations to communicate with one another across continents and work together from all corners of the globe. This has enabled organisations to centralise departments and use fewer employees to perform the same volume of work that was accomplished previously, cutting costs for employers. This has brought about greater job insecurity for the remaining employees, fearing that their job will be cut next.

Technology had also led to changes in the types of working practises. Part-time work is on the increase, so is Teleworking (working from home), Job sharing, Short-term contracts, flexible working hours, team working, even working with teams across the other side of the world.

Employees today have to be flexible and adaptable and be able to tolerate the level of change that their organisation is going through. They have to be able to use the latest technology in their work and keep up with their continuous personal development so they do not get ‘left behind’.

Part 1  How to prepare for a Job Search

RESOURCES YOU WILL NEED

1. Time
Looking for a job or new career is a time consuming process. Expect to spend at least 10 hours a week on working towards getting a job. You need to spend time planning and doing research, completing application forms, tailoring your CV, following up applications and attending selection events.

2. Commitment
You need to be wholly committed to your Career Development, because nobody else will do it for you. It is your responsibility to manage your career and develop to your full potential. It takes a lot of effort and energy to research different career options but it is important for you to choose the right one for you, as you will be in your career for years to come. Properly researching your Career Goals is a major, but extremely worthwhile investment you can make for yourself.

3. Access to Resources
You can find a vast amount of information about Career Planning using the Internet. There are many websites devoted to trade associations and career advice. Organizations provide web surfers with information about what they do, cases studies of recent work they have done and job availability.

Membership of a library may be extremely beneficial, as well as the resources they provide, there is also the added benefit of having somewhere to work on your career without normal day-to-day interruptions. There are many Career Help books on psychometric tests and interviewing techniques etc. that may come in useful. Libraries often have access to trade magazines and newspapers, which will help you in your Career Research.

4. Support
You will, no doubt, need some support during your career planning, both financial and emotional. A Career Search can be a very stressful process, due to the fact that it is strange and unfamiliar. Also, during selection procedures you have to reveal a lot of sensitive information about yourself to relative strangers and open yourself up to rejection. There is also the added pressure of having to wait to see if you are invited to come for an interview or rejected. Due to the volume of applications a job opening usually has, it is becoming more common that the organisation does not contact you to tell you that you have been successful.

Going to organizations for selection events may be a costly process, especially if you have to travel a long distance. Sometimes the organization will pay your travelling expenses. Help with travelling costs may also be offered by your local job centre, contact them for details.

CAREER OPTIONS

There are many difficult decisions to make when looking for a career. The main question people typically ask us is:

What Career would suit me and enable me to become successful?

Unfortunately, we are unable to provide you with all the answers. This is a serious decision and the only person who can answer this question is you. A number of different factors predict ‘success’ in a job. Everyone has his or her own definition of success. For some it is becoming very wealthy, powerful and being the ‘boss’, for others it is having a job they enjoy, find interesting and can do well.

Motivating Factors
When looking at Career Choices it may be useful to look at the things you want to get out of your work life.

Examples of motivators include:
 

  • Helping others
  • Being involved in good causes
  • Enjoyment/fun
  • Social Interaction
  • Money/Reward
  • Power, control and influence
  • Variety
  • Intellectual Challenge
  • Responsibility
  • Recognition
  • Achievement


You have to decide whether you will get what you want out of your career. It may be useful to remember that within a particular industry, all organisations are different and the benefits offered by a job in one organisation may not be what you get out of another.

Interests
Interests have a big influence over what type of career you would be interested in. For example, if your least favourite subject at school was art and you have no artistic ability whatsoever, you would be advised to stay away from being an artist or graphic designer. The same goes for people who disliked studying maths, they may not enjoy being a maths teacher or accountant.

When making your Career Choice, try to answer these questions.
1. What subjects did you enjoy at school?
2. What do you enjoy doing now?
3. What skills do you have?
4. If you had the guarantee of being successful, what would you be doing in 10 years time?

These questions will enable you to think about the areas you would be interested in finding more information out about. If you have completed the Careers Interest Report, use your interests and the report to narrow down the type of field you would be interested in to start of your Career Research.

Ability
The actual ability to do a job is an important factor. If you find that you are unable to sing a note, despite having lessons for years, it may not be practical for you to pursue a career as a singer. The same goes for intellectual ability, if you found that you struggled at physics and nothing made sense to you, it may be logical to stay away from jobs that required any use of physics.

Different types of ability have been shown to be gender-specific due to biological and evolutionary factors. Males tend to be better at spatial awareness and numerical reasoning, whereas females tend to be better at communicating and verbal reasoning. There are many exceptions to this, of course, but this is the reason why you find more men in scientific careers and more women in counselling and caring professions, although the gender ratios are rapidly changing. You should not stay away from careers that have been traditionally male or female, you should try to find a job to suit your personal interests and abilities.

RESEARCHING YOUR CAREER CHOICES
 

The Internet
The Internet is an invaluable tool for Career Researchers. The easiest way of finding information about a particular career is typing the job name into a search engine and seeing what information you can get.

For Example
Type in ‘Accountant’ into a search engine, the results you would expect to find are:

1. Accountancy Companies
   - Useful for giving you more information about the type of companies that are offering accountancy services.
   - There are often links to job vacancy pages and details of the type of knowledge, skills and abilities they are looking for in applicants.


2. Websites offering Accountancy Job listings/recruitment consultants
   - Can give you an idea of accountant’s role, salaries, qualifications necessary for the role and personal abilities required.


3. The Website for the Institute of Chartered Accountants
   - This gives up to date and clear information on how to become a chartered accountant and other information for Accountants.

This type of information will help you in your Career Decision-Making and help you get information about different industries and jobs.


Trade Magazines and Newspapers
Trade magazines and journals can be useful sources of information about new developments in a profession. It may be useful for future selection activities to be familiar with the type of jargon used in the profession’s trade magazines. Also, there are often job advertisements in the back of trade magazines, giving you an idea of the qualifications and experience employers in the industry are looking for.

Local newspapers routinely run stories about businesses in the area. It may be useful to keep an eye out for stories that interest you about companies. National Newspapers often run stories about organisations. For example if a particular company in the sector you are researching is announcing record profits, you may feel that is good news for people who want to work in that sector.

An additional note, employers do like applicants who have a good grasp of world affairs, in particular issues that have an effect on their business, so it would not harm your chances to brush up on your general knowledge.

Once you have narrowed down a list of professions you are interested in, it may be useful to find out more detailed and specific information about the different aspects of the job and the types of organisations that employ people within the industry.

Career Interviews
Career Interviews are informal interviews the job hunter has with a person who already holds the job they would like to find out more information about. The main goal of a Career interview is to collect information about the job from the person you are interviewing; you are not there to enquire about job vacancies.

There are many benefits of Career Interviews:
 

  • You are able to get first hand knowledge about a job from the person who is doing the job already.

  • You are able to ask questions which will be of use to you.

  • You will find out about the organisation the person is employed in.

  • You will expand your contacts in the area of work.

  • You will get some experience of speaking to people in the field about your current aspirations, useful practise before going for job interviews etc.

Decide if you would be able to do the job, and whether you would want to.

Asking for a Career Interview
 

  1. Your first step would be to do some systematic research into some companies that employ people in the job you wish to explore. Ask around your friends and family to see if anyone is doing the job you wish to know more about.

  2. Contact the organisation(s) and ask for the name and job title of a person who is doing the job.

  3. You could write the person a letter or email them, but calling them is a better approach and you will probably get a better result on the telephone. This is because it is a more personal method of communication.

  4. Whilst on the phone, maintain a friendly and polite tone and listen to what the person is saying to you. Remember, you are asking them to do you a favour.

 

The structure of the call would be:

 

  1. Explain who you are and why you are calling (you are interested in researching the person’s job)

  2. Clarify how you got the person’s name/number

  3. Tell the person what type of work you would like to research.

  4. Explain that you would only require 20-30 minutes of their time, to go for a quick coffee.

  5. If the person is too busy, ask if you can arrange a time to speak to them on the telephone.

  6. If they say no to this, ask if they have the name and contact details of someone who might be able to help you.

  7. If they agree to meet you, thank the person for speaking to you and confirm the time and location of the meeting.

  8. If they are unable to see you, express regret, but thank them for speaking to you.
     

It would be a good idea to practise this with a friend before you call an organisation, as you should sound confident and clear.

Before the Career Interview
 

  1. Research the job, company and industry, so you do not have to ask pointless questions, which you could find out from different sources.

  2. Some examples of questions you could ask are:
     

  • On a typical day at work, what do you do?

  • How did you get your job?

  • What personal qualities or abilities are important to being successful in this job?

  • What special knowledge, skills or experience did you have or need for this job?

  • What do you like least/most about your job?

  • What is the starting salary for this type of work?

  • What part of this job do you find most satisfying? Most challenging?

  • What special advice would you give to a person entering this field?

  • Which professional journals and organizations could help me learn more about this industry?

 

Be prepared to provide some information about yourself. The person who you are interviewing may want to ask you some questions too.

During the Career Interview
 

  1. Make sure you look professional for the interview, wear a suit or smart clothes.

  2. You requested the interview, so keep to the point so as not to waste the person's time.

  3. Allow the person to make any additional points they feel may be useful.

  4. Make notes during your meeting, not only will it make you look keen and interested; it will help you remember the answers to questions you have asked.

  5. Always send a thank you letter promptly (within 1 day of the interview).

 

 

Job Shadowing, Work Experience and Voluntary Work
Job Shadowing is much the same as the Career interview, you spend more time with the person in the job and you may get to observe and help with their day to day work. Job shadowing can last anywhere from ½ a day to a week, depending on arrangements with the person being observed. Follow the advice given for conducting the Career Interview, make sure you ask lots of questions and take notes.

Becoming qualified for a job is not the problem people face, as accessibility of learning has never been better. The major issue that people face is getting suitable experience as many companies ask for 1-2 years experience in the role. This, of course, is a vicious circle! People often ask us how you can get experience when there are not many entry-level jobs on offer.

You could get some work experience, which usually consists of spending a longer period of time in the organisation. You may not get to observe the person in their job as much, but you will gain a better understanding of the organisation and different roles in it, and may be doing a job. You should not expect to get paid doing work experience and when you approach organisations try to make this a selling point.

Voluntary work often consists of regular work you do that is unpaid. Employers look favourably on any type of experience in the industry and working for nothing, shows that you are determined and that you want to get ahead in your career.

The main thing to keep in mind in all these situations is, this is an excellent networking opportunity and it would be highly beneficial for you to impress the people you are observing in the organisation enough so they feel that are able to give you a reference in the future.

If you are unable to secure work experience or voluntary work in your chosen industry, it is time to think laterally. Think about jobs that are related to the one you ultimately want or jobs that enable you to use the same skills as your target job. For example, if you are researching a career in law, aiming to become a solicitor, try contacting voluntary organisations that offer free legal advice or organisations that do work in courts, such as looking after witnesses etc. Any similar role will look good on your CV.


Training
For entry onto some jobs, you may find that there is a minimum education requirement. This information can be discovered through contact with people who are already in the industry, or through finding out more information from job adverts/trade associations/careers guidance.

There are three main ways to gain qualifications in the UK:
 

1. Attend College or University Full Time

This is a quite expensive option, as you may have to pay for your course, which depends on your circumstances, and you may not be able to fit in work around your course.
 

2. Attend College or University Part Time.
This will enable you to go to college on evenings, on a part time basis, you will be able to keep working, but you may loose all your spare time!
 

3. Do an Online or Distance learning course in your own time.

This is an option for people who feel confident in their ability to work alone, you will usually have a tutor who you will be able to contact if you run into any problems. You need to be very motivated to do this, as you have to keep on top of the workload and make sure that completing your course remains a high priority.

Many universities are offering sandwich courses; the typical format would be that you go to university to do a 3-year degree, but after your second year you spend a year in industry gaining experience. This will extend your degree by a year, but you will graduate with a years worth of experience in your chosen field.

There is an abundance of financial help available for funding courses your training provider will have further details on this. It may also be useful to contact your local council about training grants offered to employers to train their staff.

 

ASSESSING YOUR ABILITIES

Before you write your CV and start applying for jobs, it would be highly beneficial to think about your marketing strategy. In other words, what are your key selling points and what would make an organisation want to employ you. You need to be able to pinpoint your major strengths and skills, so if you are asked questions about them you are able to respond appropriately.

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities
To help you it may be useful to make lists about:
 

1. What you know

a. Knowledge about the Industry
b. Knowledge about the Job
c. Specialist Knowledge about the subject
 

2. What you are able to do

a. Particular Qualifications
b. Competencies
 

3. What you have experience doing

a. Work Experience in the area.
b. Experience of work in general.
 

Ask your friends and relatives about your best qualities and ask them how they would describe you. This will enable you to find out how people perceive you and make you more aware of how you present yourself. This is a very valuable learning experience and may give you the motivation to change less appealing perceptions before you start going to selection events.


Competencies
Many organisations use competencies in their personnel selection. Competencies are defined as ‘a motive, skill, aspect of one’s self-image or social role, or a body of knowledge’ (McClelland, 1973)

Typical competencies organisations look for are

Interpersonal Communication Skills
Involving interacting, listening and conversing with other people in order to develop and maintain relationships with them. It may involve giving advice to others, bargaining, negotiation, influencing and encouraging people at work. This may also involve verbal and non-verbal communication, writing and presentation skills.

Team Working
Team Working involves working with others to complete an activity, task or project, or solve a problem using communication/interpersonal and organisational skills. Participation in a team often involves using influencing and persuasion skills, as well as bargaining and negotiation skills, whilst ensuring cooperation rather than competition with fellow team members.

Planning and Organisation
Planning and organisation involves preparation to make sure that all available eventualities are considered, searching for and communicating relevant information to others, and the evaluation of all available evidence. It may also involve coordinating people and other resources in a methodical, logical, and systematic manner with a close attention to detail.

Problem Solving
Problem Solving involves identifying that a problem exists and accurately defining what the nature of the problem is, gathering and evaluating problem relevant information, generating and evaluating possible problem solutions, implementing solutions and monitoring the effectiveness of your actions by setting objectives and milestones.

Adaptability and Resilience
This involves being able to deal with ambiguous or conflicting information, handling conflict and maintaining levels of performance in high-pressure situations. It also involves being able to cope with the demands of change or the unexpected, using personal flexibility, assertiveness, confidence, enthusiasm, responsiveness, objectivity, drive, and judgment.

It may be useful to keep these definitions of competencies in mind so that if you are asked a question on an application form or in an interview, you are able to recall what makes up a particular competency.

Key Selling Points
Thinking about your Key Selling Point is an important part of your preparation for your job search. This is the one thing that makes you stand out and makes you special. You have to answer the question.

 

CAREER MARKETING TOOLS
As you have already gathered lots of information about yourself, the type of work you would be interested in doing, and the organisations you would like to work in, you will find it very easy to write an effective CV and Covering Letter. The difference between a good and poor application is the amount of time spent on the application, including researching the position and organisation. Applications fail because the person reading the CV thinks that the candidate lacks the qualifications and experience required for the job.

The Covering Letter and CV, or application form, are your crucial marketing documents. They are the only items an employer has to base their decision on whether to invite you to a selection event or not. Remember, the employer is looking for what you can do for them, rather than what they can do for you.

Preparing a generic CV and Covering Letter before you start your job hunt is a good idea, as all you will have to do is adapt it to fit the organisation you are applying to. It would be a good idea to invest in some good quality stationary, including envelopes that do not require you to fold your CV, so it arrives in good condition.

Sending a CV by email is a tricky thing, as employers are anxious about receiving computer viruses by email, and some may be reluctant to open your attachment. A way round this is to remove all formatting and put your Covering Letter and CV into the main body of your email. You should email this to a few of your friends and ask them to send it back to you to check that it does not get corrupted.


Covering Letter
This is the letter that will invite the person opening your letter to read your CV. It introduces you and sets the tone of your application.
 

  • Write it as you would write a formal letter; make sure your spelling, punctuation and grammar are immaculate

  • Make sure you address the letter to a person. You can find out the name of the person who deals with recruitment by calling the organisation.

  • You can keep the general layout the same for all organisations, but it is imperative to tailor each Covering Letter to reflect the things the organisation is looking for.

  • Flatter the company/employee and show the reader that you have done your company research, mention any news articles that you have seen about the company.

  • A very important piece of advice would be to say what you can do for the organisation, not what the organisation can do for you.
     

    • For example do not say:
      ‘I am looking for a position that will enable me to practise what I have learnt on my course and help me achieve experience in this field.’
      You can make the same statement more useful to an employer by phrasing it like this:
      ‘As I have recently completed my course, my up to date knowledge, fresh views and new ideas may be highly advantageous to your company.’
       

  • The Basic outline should be:

    • You should take me seriously because…

    • I have the skills you need/are looking for…

 
Curriculum Vitae/Resume

  • Your CV should give a complete chronicle of what you have been doing in your Career in the past; in particular, what have you been doing over the past 10 years.

  • It is up to you how you present the information, you should aim to make your qualifications and experience look outstanding.

  • Your CV should only be 2 pages in length, unless you have had a lengthy Career, where you should only include information that is relevant to the job you are applying for.

  • Tailor it for each application; each job application requires different things.

  • There are many different CV types and ways to format them. You have to decide the best way to present yourself.

  • Get as many people as you can to proof read it and check it for spelling and grammatical errors.
     

Try to avoid ...

  • Using the wrong CV Layout Type for your individual circumstances

  • Writing a CV with inappropriate or irrelevant content

  • Writing a CV with key information missing

  • Failing to make the most of your own unique history and producing a CV which looks just like everyone else's

  • Padding your CV with useless information because you struggle to find interesting
    content

  • Using only a single CV for different job applications, rather than tailoring it for each different job application

  • Not keeping your CV up to date

  • Having too many CV's and losing track of them

  • Failing to make the most of non work related experience

  • Not adequately describing your own behavioural strengths

  • Writing inappropriate or badly produced covering letters

Part 2: Job Search Techniques

PREPARATION
Before you start you have to put a lot of planning and organisation work in. You should plan your job-hunting as you would a normal project, or marketing campaign, there are some guidelines below:

1. Define your project

  • What are your aims?
  • What do you want to achieve?

2. Define your working times/days off

  • How much time have you got available to work on this project?
  • Don’t forget to include days off to get out of the house to entertain yourself.
     

3. Organise your time between applying for advertised jobs and looking elsewhere.

4. List the people/organisations/industries you want to target.

5. Research the target people/organisations/industries.

6. Plan how you are going to market yourself.

7. Schedule your tasks

8. Set deadlines and targets

  • The numbers of jobs applied for per day/week/month
  • The numbers of Organisations researched per day/week/month
     

Tools

There are many physical tools that are needed to carry out your Job Search.

1. Telephone
Having access to a telephone and answering machine/service is essential in your Career Search. This will enable potential employers to contact you, and if you are not available, they will be able to leave a message for you to return their call.
 

2. Address Book
It is very important to keep a note of all the people you speak to in your job search, including the names of people who interview you. This is very essential as you need to be able to chase up applications you have submitted and know who you have send your details to.
 

3. Diary
With so much going on it is essential that you keep a diary. This will enable you to track how much time you have spent on an application and plan your days. You also will be able to schedule your selection events and plan your preparation for them.
 

4. Filing System
You should keep records of all paperwork that an organisation has sent to you and photocopies of everything you have sent to an organisation. Keep all paperwork from the same organisation together in one place, so the information is easily accessible if you are called in for selection events.
 

 


COMPANY RESEARCH
The key questions you need to answer when you are researching companies that you are going to be applying to are:

1. Will this organisation suit me?
2. Will I suit this organisation?

There are other things you need to find out about a company, which will aide you in your choice are:
1. The history of the company.
2. Products and Services they offer.
3. Their main competitors.

A company’s financial information can be obtained from Companies House.

Please click here for a pro forma detailing the information you need to find out about an organization before applying. You may photocopy this and use it to keep a record of all the organizations you have applied to.

The more research you do into your target organization, the better prepared you are for the application process and for any selection events. It also shows that you take your career choice seriously and want to work for the organization.

Application Forms
 

  • You usually have to complete Application Forms in your own handwriting. Do all your rough work on a separate piece of paper, or photocopy the application and do a ‘trial’ application first.

  • Most of the information they ask for will be on your CV, but expect questions that ask you to describe a time you displayed a particular competency.

  • Display a high level of literacy by using a thesaurus and dictionary to check words and spellings.

  • Check your application form, make certain that you have included all the information they asked for.


Make sure you photocopy your completed application form before you send it to ensure you know what your answers to the questions they asked were.



Person Specification and Job Description
The Person Specification and Job Description are very valuable resources. You can often get these from the organisation you are applying to. The Person Specification describes what the organisation is looking for in terms of the qualifications, skills and experience that is required to do the job. The Job Description is, naturally, what the successful candidate is expected to do once they have started working.

These two documents greatly enhance your ability to tailor your CV and Covering Letter to make sure it markets you in light the organisation’s requirements.

References
There is some debate over whether to include references in your application; of course if the employer asks for them, you should provide them. It is up to you to decide. The recommendation is to put them on a separate piece of paper and refer to them in your Covering letter.

Employers should not check referees, particularly referees in your current employment without your permission.

With recent legislation from the USA, employers are becoming more and more reluctant to provide references of their former employees for fear that someone will sue them. The general trend is to confirm the former employee’s job title and the dates that they worked for the organisation.
 

 

JOB HUNTING TECHNIQUES

There are a few places that people can find jobs:

Newspaper Advertisements
Newspapers have job advertisement sections on a weekly basis. Libraries often have daily newspapers in them and increasingly newspapers are also advertising vacancies on their Website.

The adverts usually ask you to directly send in your CV and Covering Letter to an address or to call/write/email to receive an application form and job description.

Advantages

  • You may find that different industries are advertised on regular days of the week in certain newspapers.

  • Your local newspaper will have details about jobs in your area.

  • You may be able to access job advertisement information on the Newspaper’s Websites, forgoing the price of the newspaper


Disadvantages

  • You may have to pay for a newspaper, unless you have access to a local library.

  • You may have to trawl through lots of irrelevant job adverts to find the ones that are applicable to you.

     

Trade Magazine Advertisements
Most Trade Magazines have job advertisements included in them; it may be useful to have a look through them. Trade Associations usually have a website with a dedicated area for job vacancies.

Advantages

  • The advertisements will be specific to your field; you will not have to spot a relevant advert in masses of irrelevant information.

  • You may be able to access job advertisement information on the Trade Magazine’s website, although a subscription charge may be required.
     

Disadvantages

  • It may prove expensive to subscribe to trade magazines; a library card may be a must in this case.

     

Online Job Posting Databases
There is an abundance of websites, which offer the opportunity to complete an online CV and search and apply for jobs in the database. Typically potential employers are able to search the database and contact you directly.

Advantages

  • The service is usually free; the employers have to pay to advertise.

  • You could just sit and wait for a potential employer to contact you, but this is not recommended!

  • Once you have completed your CV, it is usually very quick and easy to apply for jobs.

  • You are often given the opportunity to sign up for ‘job alerts’ of jobs that are of relevance to you this can be by email, or even by SMS text message to your mobile.

  • You may have the opportunity of making different targeted CVs and sending your selected CV in response to a job advert.

     

Disadvantages

  • There will be many other people with similar qualifications to you, so you have to have a remarkable online CV to get noticed.

  • Recruitment companies tend to use these services, which makes it difficult for you to do some proper company research before applying.

  • A quick and easy way of applying for an online job may mean that lots of people apply for the same job. This could suggest that the organisation you apply to may not always send you a response to your application.

  • There are certain security issues with having your CV online, including who will have access to information about you. Online Job Posting Databases have many methods of rectifying this, but you have to make sure that you only give your details to a reputable company and one you trust, please read the terms and conditions of service on the individual websites.

     

Company Websites
Today most organisations have their own websites and often list any job vacancies they have on their website. These are beneficial for companies, as they do not have to spend a lot of money advertising positions, but it tends to be big companies who do this in conjunction with another method for attracting clients.

Occasionally, you may come across a company website that is not advertising a job as such, but give a description of the roles that people in the organisation do and what they are looking for in an employee and ask for people to send in their CV to be kept on file until another vacancy is available.

Advantages

  • You can apply directly to organisations that you are interested in.

  • You can explore the company website while you are deciding to apply and find out if the organization is one you would be comfortable working in.

  • You do not have to apply through a third party; you know that the information you send is going directly to the organization itself.

     

Disadvantages

  • You will have to go through a lot of company websites until you find one that will have a suitable vacancy.

     

Out and About
Many job opportunities can be seen when you are walking around your neighbourhood, or the town/city where you live. You often find jobs advertised in local shops and supermarkets, this is particularly true about jobs in retail.

Advantages

  • If looking at a job in the window of a shop, you can see where you are likely to work before you apply to work.

  • You can stumble across great job opportunities when you least expect it; you have to keep your eyes open.

  • You may be able to go into the place where the job is being advertised and speak directly to the person who is responsible for hiring. You could leave them with a good impression by asking relevant questions before applying.

     

Disadvantages

  • It is highly unlikely for you to be carrying around your CV when you are walking around the shops, so you may have to return at another time.

     

Recruitment Agencies
Recruitment agencies exist to put people into jobs and they tend to be paid when they place people in jobs.

You should call the agency for an appointment and take your CV, National Insurance Number and names of 2 referees. Occasionally you will be asked to sit computer/word processing tests and/or basic psychometric tests, please refer to the psychometric test section for more information. The recruitment company will ask you about things such as where you want to work, what you are able to do and your ideal salary requirements. If and when a suitable job comes up, you may be sent to the company for an interview or straight into work.

Before you go to work you need to find out from the agency:

  • What you should wear, whether you need to take any specific clothing or equipment.

  • The time you need to arrive, where to go and who to report to.

  • Anything you need to know for health and safety reasons.

  • The rate of pay.

     

Advantages

  • The agency does most of the work finding you the job.

  • If you impress the organisation they may decide to keep you on for a longer-term project and buy your contract.

  • You may gain valuable experience of an industry by being a temp in different organisations.

  • It is easier to find a job whilst in employment, even if it is only temporary.

  • Some people prefer the challenge of adapting to many different environments and would like to work for organisations on a project basis.

     

Disadvantages

  • You may have to keep reminding the agency that you are still available for work.

  • If you keep turning down work or not impressing the organisation the agency may refuse to refer you for further work.

  • People in the organisation may treat you differently as you are a ‘temp’ and will be only there for a short period of time.

  • You may be on a different pay scale to people in the organisation as a percentage of your salary may be given to the agency.

  • You will not be able to do much research into companies, as you may not know which organisations you are applying to!


     

Networking
There have been scores of books written on networking and the best way to do it. Basically, networking is a term to describe the way we interact with people and build relationships with them. In job-hunting terms, it is about asking the people you know, your friends and family for help in your job search. They many have information that could be useful to your job search.

Many job opportunities are not advertised and employers find new employees by asking for recommendations of people to contact. There are many different networking opportunities available, such as conferences, seminars, business clubs, and discussion groups. Remember, networking is a reciprocal process, you have to be prepared to help other people, not just to get help.

Advantages

  • People have many different contacts and using your existing network may prove useful.

  • You have countless opportunities to get to know people from the industry you are interested in, which could be excellent for learning about the industry and making valuable contacts.

     

Disadvantages

  • Some people are reluctant to talk to people they do not know.

  • People may feel uncomfortable about giving information out to people they barely know, you have to take time to build relationships with people

  • You have to be careful to respect the wishes of the person giving you the information as to whether or not they want you to use their name in the contact they have given you.

  • If you have been given permission to use the name, the person you networked with may get informally asked what they think about you, so make sure you are certain that they will give you a good recommendation.

     

Speculative Approaches
Making speculative approaches is a very good way of getting a job. Many employers may be considering taking on an employee, but have not got round to formalizing the process they want to take, or they may even create a post for the right applicant.

This method works very well if you have a recommendation from someone they know and trust, so you are able to say “ Mr. Smith recommended that I contact you…”

You have to be prepared for rejection as not all companies can afford to take on a new employee, so you should ask them to keep your details on file for a suitable job position in the future.
There are three ways of making a speculative approach, but the most important thing to do before considering any of these approaches is to DO YOUR RESEARCH and focus on what you can do for them, not what they can do for you!

In Person
 

  1. Contact the organisation and ask for the name and job title of a person who is doing the job.

  2. Go to the employer’s premises in very smart clothing, as if you were going to an interview.

  3.  Take with you a copy of your CV and Covering Letter in a large envelope addressed to the person that makes hiring decisions.

  4. Ask to speak to the person responsible for making hiring decisions.

  5. Make sure you are very polite and friendly, as secretaries and receptionists tend to keep people from wasting the time of people in the organization.

  6. If the person you want to speak to is available:

    1. Thank them for agreeing to see you.

    2. Give your CV to the person.

    3. Explain who you are, what you want and what interested you in the organization (in less than 5 minutes, practice what you are going to say before you arrive so you come across as confident and prepared).

    4. Answer any questions they have.

    5. Thank the person profusely for their time and leave.

    6. Call the person a few days later to ask about their impression of your CV.

  7.  If the person you want to speak to is unavailable:

    1. Ask to speak to someone else in his or her department – try not to be pushy, as this may come across as aggressive.

  8. If you are unable to see anyone:

    1. Thank the receptionist for his or her time and ask if you could leave your CV and Covering letter for the person you wanted to speak to.

    2. Call the person a few days later to check that they have received your CV and ask about their impression of it.
      Advantages

 

  • This shows the employer you are serious about working for the organization and that you are confident, determined and self-reliant.

  • You give the person in charge of hiring a face to put to the endless CVs they receive, it is harder to say ‘No’ to someone they have met than a CV.

  • Gives the employer a chance to ask you further questions and get to know more things about you.

  • Even if you do not get to speak to the person you were after, the receptionist may be compelled to describe you to the employer.

  • Gives you more knowledge about the organization, which will help you decide if you would like to work there.

     

Disadvantages

  • It takes a lot of courage and self-belief to walk into a company and do this.

  • If you make a poor first-impression, it is quite difficult to mend relationships so you have to be extremely careful about being polite and professional at all times.

  • If the company is a long way from where you live, the costs of getting there may be extortionate, so the best thing to do would be to call the company.

     

On the Phone

  1.  Contact the organisation and ask for the name and phone number of the person who makes hiring decisions.

  2. The structure of the call would be:

    1. Explain who you are, what you want and what interested you in the organization (in less than 5 minutes, practice what you are going to say before you phone so you come across confident and prepared).

    2. Ask the person if you could send your CV to them and how they would like you to do it, e.g. by post or e-mail.

    3. Make it obvious you have done your research into the organisation.

    4. Answer any questions they have.

    5. Thank the person for speaking to you.

  3. Send your CV to the person by post or email

  4. Call the person a few days later to ask them for their impression of your CV.

 

Advantages

  • The employer will know that you are serious about the organization and the job.

  • It will ensure that the person is expecting your email/letter and it will get their interest.

  • Gives you a better impression of the organization, which will help you decide if you would like to work there.

     

Disadvantages

  • Can also be a nerve-wracking experience, requiring confidence and self-belief.

  • If the person you are calling is having a bad day and does not want to be disturbed, they may come across as annoyed and uninterested, or cut you off. You can’t let this upset you or put you off other speculative approaches, you can learn more from situations, which did not go well for the next time.

     

By Letter/ Email

  1. Contact the organisation and ask for the name and address/email address of the person who makes hiring decisions.

  2. Send the person your CV and Covering letter, making reference to your company research.

  3. If you are emailing your CV, some organizations do not like to receive attachments due to computer viruses, it may be better to remove all formatting and put the CV and Covering Letter content into the main body of the email. Then send a nicely formatted CV in the post.

  4. Wait until they have had the CV for a few days and call them to ask them if they have received your CV and what they thought about it.

 


Advantages

  • This is the less intimidating route and will suit more introverted people better, your CV still gets delivered to the person who needs to see it.

  • It may be extremely difficult to contact someone who is very busy and this way they have something quite tangible that they have to do something with (even if it does mean put it in the bin).

     

Disadvantages

  • This may not be very effective unless you make the call afterwards as it takes less effort for the employer to not respond to speculative CVs, than to respond and say thanks, but no thanks.

     

Job Centres/ Careers Centres/ University Careers Offices
These places sometimes have Jobs advertised that may not be elsewhere. You do not have to be unemployed to go into a Job Centre. Job/Careers Centres often have company brochures and application forms ready for you to take away and complete, bypassing the need to contact organisations directly.

Take your CV with you, as there is usually someone available to have a look at it and give you some advice about any vacancies that have arisen. Also there may be Careers Counsellors on hand to speak to you about your job goals.

Advantages

  • You may find jobs that are not advertised elsewhere and you can get advice on how to tackle your application.

  • You could ask for help from people who work in the job centre with aspects of applying for jobs.

     

Disadvantages

  • You have to make the effort to go to the job centre.

     

Create a Job for yourself
Creating a job for yourself basically consists of doing some in-depth research into the target organisation, finding a niche in the organisation that you could fill and the sending a proposal for the job to the person who is in charge of the hiring process.

Just think of yourself as a specialist consultant, offering them your knowledge and skills to solve a problem that they have.

Advantages

  • You could end up with exactly the job you wanted, but could not see advertised.

  • Your employers will be very grateful that they found you, especially if you solve their problem.

     

Disadvantages

  • There is a thin line between looking like you want to solve their problem and telling someone how to run their business, which may not go down well!

  • The organisation may not have realised they had a problem. They may decide to use your problem and solve it themselves, using your methods, thus not requiring you!

  • If you are unable to solve the problem you highlighted to get your job, it will look very bad on you.

     

Become Self-Employed
Today, with the right idea, you do not have to be an employee. It has never been so inexpensive to start your own business, the start up costs now can consist of; a computer, modem, Internet Service Provider and a Web hosting Account. This has resulted in a proliferation of new businesses worldwide offering every imaginable product and service.

If you want to go down this route, there are many places you can turn to for help. High-street banks have business advisers and can help you with the financial side of starting your business. Organisations such as chambers of commerce or business clubs offer advice to people considering starting up in business. The Inland Revenue arranges workshops covering aspects of business. Your local council may be able to give you information about grants that are available for starting a business, hiring employees etc. Make sure you get advice from everyone who is offering help and research and plan for all eventualities.

Advantages

  • You will have total control of the work you do, when you do it and how you do it. You will not have to answer to anyone (other than your customers).

  • You could potentially be making a lot more money and feel more satisfied with what you are doing than you were in employment.


Disadvantages

  • Starting a new business and becoming self-employed is a life-changing event and it is a big risk not having a monthly paycheck coming in. If you are not doing the work, you are not getting paid!

  • You are wholly responsible for the success of the company.

  • There are frightening statistics about how many new businesses fail in the early years, be sure to research and plan what you will be doing very carefully.

Part 3: Being Assessed for a Job

Introduction to Selection Events
There are many different ways of selecting people for a job. This section will describe the most common methods and give advice on how to deal with them. The important thing to remember is:

IF YOU HAVE BEEN INVITED FOR A SELECTION EVENT, THE EMPLOYER THINKS YOU ARE CAPABLE OF DOING THE JOB BASED ON THE INFORMATION YOU PROVIDED TO THEM. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO NOW IS TO CONVINCE THEM THAT THEY HAVE MADE THE CORRECT CHOICE.

Without doubt the selection process is one of the most stressful things you will experience, not least because a major life change is likely to depend on the outcome. How can you maximise your chances of success when faced with one?

Before you can begin your preparation you must have an understanding of why employers use selection events. Long before you arrive for a selection event the employer will have decided what exactly they want performance at interview to predict, usually job performance. Then they will have carried out a thorough analysis of the job in question to identify the key tasks involved in it and identified the personal attributes candidates will need in order to perform them. The final stage in the process is to assess those attributes in the candidates.

Preparation
Before arriving for the selection event you will already have done a number of things designed to minimise the amount of work you will have to do (you should really have done them before even applying for the job). Firstly, you will have carried out thorough research into the organisation, this is essential and most interviewers at some time during the interview will ask ‘What do you know about us?’ and often it is one of the first things they ask. Don't fall over yourself in an attempt to demonstrate your knowledge, use it sparingly and only when appropriate to demonstrate that you know enough about the organisation, its structure, its history and where it is going to be able to make a well informed decision about whether or not you want to work there.

Always make sure that you are aware of what is happening in the world at large. It is a good idea to read a quality newspaper every day in the weeks leading up to the interview because interviewers often wish to know how well informed you are on a wide range of issues 

 

You will also have kept a copy of your application as well as information about the job itself and you will have gone through this in your own mind listing the ways that your experience and qualifications relate to the characteristics listed in the person specification.

Make sure you arrive at the interview in plenty of time (something which always needs a good deal of planning) and even if the organisation is liberal in its dress code always dress smartly - this will demonstrate that you have made an effort and are taking the interview seriously.

Present yourself to the people you meet at the organisation in a friendly and relaxed manner which may well serve to relax them as well, interviewers can also be affected by nerves!


Types of Selection Events

There are many types of Selection Events, these are the most widely used and they will be discussed in detail in this section.
 

  • Traditional Interviews

  • Structured Interviews

  • Psychometric Personality and Ability Tests

  • Work Samples

  • Assessment Centres

     

The Traditional Interview
Within the selection process the interview is given great weight by both candidates and employers alike and will often form a central part of the procedure. In good selection practice each of the tools used are validated by looking at how job related they are i.e. how well they predict subsequent job performance. The job relatedness of the traditional selection interview, which typically followed no particular pattern and involved each party subjectively tailoring their responses to those of the other, is generally regarded as low. This was because different interviewers often rated the same information differently and features that were irrelevant to the personal attributes required for the job such as age, race, appearance, sex, experience of interviews and the job market situation introduced bias into how interviewers evaluated information. Some researchers have found that application forms were used to form hypotheses, which the interviewer would then use the interview to confirm. It was also commonly known that in some cases interviewers made up their minds about an applicant only four minutes into an interview.

Structured Interviews
Given all of these problems, plus the fact that there are numerous other methods of assessing personal characteristics in candidates one might wonder why use an interview at all?

Fortunately, in recent years the concept of the Structured Interview has been developed. In a structured interview, questions are developed through job analysis, every candidate is asked each of the questions (or a standardised version of each), and responses are rated using an objective, behaviourally based scoring system.

It is not surprising that by removing the subjectivity from the interview, standardising the procedure and introducing a direct link between the interview content and job success we find that structured interviews have high degree of job relatedness. Some structured interviews are so objective that they are almost work sample tests (a test to see how you behave at work) because they involve simply asking candidates how they would behave in certain situations, which is conceptually very close to having them actually perform the task. The drawback with structured interviews is that they remove from the interview situation those interpersonal aspects, which are often valued by interviewers and interviewees alike. Most organisations nowadays use structured interviews and one finds that the interview may be used by organisations to engage in good public relations, to answer candidates’ questions, to provide an opportunity to add to or clarify missing information about the candidate or to negotiate terms of employment.


WHAT DO INTERVIEWERS WANT?
It is not uncommon for candidates to view the interview as the selection procedure but remember that many more applicants are likely to have been rejected at the application stage. You should congratulate yourself because the very fact that you have been invited to interview means that the organisation regards you as potentially suitable employee and will want to look for evidence to support this.

When the interview starts the interviewers will be aware that their organisation is on show and will be trying to give you a good impression of them but don't let this lull you into a false sense of security - they will be observing you very carefully so always be polite, sit up straight in your chair and maintain good eye contact particularly when listening to or responding to questions. You should also be aware of the interviewers’ non verbal behaviour and do not be afraid to ask if you feel that they have misunderstood a point, interviewers want a true picture of you and will generally appreciate you clarifying something when it is unclear.

An employer is primarily concerned with whether you can do the job or can be trained to, whether you are motivated enough to stay with the job and the organisation, and whether you will you fit into the existing workforce. Their questions will be designed to elicit this information from you. Sometimes they will use the application form as a framework for the interview (which is why you should be familiar with what you have written) or sometimes they will use a structure of their own. Always think carefully before answering questions - if you have done your preparation well then you may well have little difficulty in making your responses but you should still show that you are giving careful thought to what you are being asked.
Interviewers are likely to be interested in situations where you took the initiative, worked as part of a team, used communication skills, had to influence others, motivated yourself or others, marshalled your resources effectively to achieve results, designed and executed some form of plan, adapted to change, made a decision or solved a problem. Before you go into the interview you should have at least two examples of where you did each of these things in your life, as always back up what you say with evidence - ‘When I was working on a project last year with some colleagues I learned the importance of communicating quickly and effectively and really developed my skills in doing so’ is much better than - ‘I have good communication skills’.

A common technique interviewers use is to ask you to explain why you took certain decisions in your life. The rationale behind this is that your life decisions are in fact a post mortem view of your development. The critical incidents the interviewers will be concerned with are those which you have told them about in your application and they will want to know why you made decisions in the way you did so make sure you do know and can clearly express the reasons why. Common questions can include:

 

  • Why did you choose this University?

  • Why did you choose this degree subject?

  • Why do you want this career?

  • Why do you want to work for us?

     

Interviewers will look for inconsistencies in your choices - for instance why you want to do a job different to the one for which you are best qualified, or why you failed to achieve certain things and had to re-adjust as a consequence e.g. changing a course subject half way through a semester. When you answer these questions don't just give your reasons but also the consequences of the decisions you took and what you gained as a result. For instance ‘Yes, the University I chose was a long way from home but I decided that I wanted to be completely independent and over the last four years I do believe that I have matured and developed my life skills as a result. I am happy that I made the right decision’. If you have made a poor decision then don't try to hide the fact but emphasise what you learned from it - this can often do you more credit than reeling off a list of good decisions.

Before you enter the selection process you should decide on some clear goals and render them explicit. If you set yourself objectives you will be able to gauge your own success or failure and you will be able to identify a focal point for the organisation of your resources. The fact that you have objectives will demonstrate to a potential employer that you know where you are going; you have a coherent plan to get there and are motivated to succeed. Do not be afraid to admit to having applied to other organisations that may be in competition with the one interviewing you - it displays motivation, a clear plan, commitment to a course of action and most of all honesty. Be prepared to discuss your objectives in short, medium and long-range terms. Short term goals (6 months or less) may include; getting the job and completing the training or orientation period; a medium term goal (up to two years) might be to put your training into practice, learn how the organisation works, consolidate you knowledge and continue your development; a long term goal (up to five years and often more) might include promotion or specialisation.

When you are asked an open question (one that does not require a simple yes or no answer) remember that because you are the main source of information the interviewer has you should make your answer reasonably detailed. If you do not provide the interviewer with the information they require then they will continue to question you until you do. You can avoid this problem by first giving a general response and then justifying or elaborating on it as necessary. Do not be afraid to volunteer as much information as you think necessary to answer the question because if you consistently provide too little information then the interviewer may think that you are either unsure of the answer or unsure of yourself. A good practice technique is to role-play an interview with a friend (or better still not a friend!), if the thought of doing this makes you feel uncomfortable think of how uncomfortable you will feel in an interview when you are struggling to explain why you want the job.
Try to plan for every eventuality - the interview is not the place to find out that you don't know what you have to offer the organisation or that you don't really know what you want to do with your life.
Other common questions include:

Where do you see yourself in five years time?
You must at all costs avoid not having an answer to this one or having an answer that is inconsistent with the organisation’s own goals. The answer may well be I haven't a clue but you should demonstrate that you have some ideas about the issues that are involved and have considered them carefully. This is to do with your personal objectives but you should discuss your answer in terms of the organisation’s own goals e.g. ‘With the training I would receive I would hope to be a successful Management Accountant looking for my first managerial position’ and a useful way in might be ‘In order to place where I see myself in five years time into context I would first briefly like to describe my short and medium term objectives’. This shows that you want to develop personally and professionally, that you want to tie your goals and your success to those of the organisation and that you see the job as means of doing that. Under no circumstances should you give the impression that you view the job as being just a short-term fix until you find something better.


What are your strengths?
You should prepare these beforehand, give no more than three and always back them up with evidence and relate them to how they can satisfy the organisation’s needs. e.g. ‘I enjoy working as part of a team, that was why I took up hockey at University. I did have to work very hard to bring myself up to standards of the other players but once I did we worked really well together. The experience of being the most junior member of the team stood me in good stead in my final year when I took on some responsibility for coaching new team members because I could remember how I felt when I first started.’

What are your weaknesses?
Never try to underplay your answer to this question. Many organisations are now stressing the role of the individual in their own development and they want to see that you can realistically appraise your own development needs. Often what you do about your weaknesses is more important than what they actually are. Do not give standard answers such as ‘Sometimes I work too much at the expense of my social life’ which is an old chestnut that interviewers are tired of hearing. Instead tell the truth, but stress why you think it is a weakness, what steps you have taken to overcome it and what you are learning in the process e.g. ‘When I am working in a group I sometimes try to do everything myself which gives the impression that I don't trust the other team members which isn't true - it is just because I want to help. When I was working on a joint project last year I worked hard on developing my communication skills so that I didn't try to help unless it was needed and everything ran much more smoothly’. An interviewer may sometimes remain silent so don't talk yourself out of a job, and give no more than two or at the most three weaknesses.

At the conclusion of the interview you will almost certainly be asked if you have any questions. You should have some but it is a good idea to have asked questions as the interview has gone along firstly because the interview is meant to be an interaction but also because it shows you are interested and are paying attention, although you must avoid making the interviewer feel that you are interviewing them. Do keep a few salient questions until the end, make them relevant and link them to your research e.g. don't say ‘would I get a chance to work in Europe?’ instead say ‘I read that you are expanding into Northern Europe, I've always been interested in working in Europe later in my career, what would be the chances of me having an opportunity to do so?’. One question you should always ask is ‘What will happen next?’.

 

Assessment Centres
Assessment centres typically involve the participants completing a range of exercises, which simulate the activities carried out in the target job. Various combinations of these exercises and sometimes other assessment methods like psychometric testing and interviews are used to assess particular competencies in individuals. The theory behind this is that if one wishes to predict future job performance then the best way of doing this is to get the individual to carry out a set of tasks which accurately reflect those required in the job and are as similar to them as possible.

You may probably come across Interviewing, Psychometric Tests and Work Sample Tests as part of an Assessment Centre. There are other things that are frequently used in Assessment Centres, such as:

 

  • Group Exercises

  • Group discussions

  • In-tray exercises

  • Angry Customer Exercises

  • The presentation

  • Analytical/problem solving exercises

  • One-to-one Role play exercises

     

Group Exercises
Group exercises aim to replicate the types of group activity that the jobholder performs as well as the circumstances under which they must carry it out. The exercises can be written or practical and because there is an increasing emphasis being placed on teams in organisations we find that group exercises are being used more and more in assessment centres. The size of the group has be small enough to allow each participant a chance to contribute and also to allow close observation of each. Usually six to eight is the usual number per team. Frequently one will find a group exercise being carried out early in the assessment centre because it is a good way to break down inhibitions and help candidates to get to know each other.

Group exercises are often used to assess the following competencies:

· Negotiation and co-operation
· Communication
· Listening
· Analysis
· Presentation
· Interpersonal skills


Group Discussions
The discussion topic can be open, or as is more commonly the case, a work related topic determined by the exercise designer. These can include leaderless group discussions or exercises where decisions must be made under pressure, often without sufficient time or information.

These often take the form of business management games and can be used to assess tolerance to pressure, ambiguity or uncertainty
There are two types of group discussion:

Assigned role exercises
In the assigned role group discussion each candidate has an assigned role and a unique brief before they enter the discussion. The format allows for the exercise to be designed so that every individual is obliged to display the competencies required. This reduces the risk of individual members of the group making little or no contribution. These are commonly used in the Ministry of Defence Officer Selection Boards where one individual has to take command of a group for the purpose of completing a problem solving exercise

Unassigned role exercises
In the non-assigned role group discussion there are no assigned roles, each participant receives the same brief and the purpose of the group is to reach a consensus. There tends to be less competition in groups of this type, not because the potential for conflict does not exist, it most certainly does, but because the format of the exercise makes the need for teamwork clear to the participants. This also tends to emphasise to participants that some activity is required on their part but there is still the risk of individual members being ‘left behind’ and not having a chance to display the competencies that are being measured.


In-tray Exercises
Exercises of this type are designed to simulate the sorts of written work that the jobholder is required to do and tend to be visibly job relevant. This format is typically used to measure competencies such as written communication, problem solving, judgment and creativity.

In-trays consist of a representative sample of documentation, which a jobholder has to deal with. Typically this will involve the participant taking on the role of a manager and completing the in-tray alone over a period of one or two hours. During this time they may have to handle a variety of strategic and tactical issues concerning finance, business strategy, human resources etc.

Angry Customer Exercises
This type of exercise is used to assess interpersonal and communication skills, as the candidate has to deal with an irate employee or customer. In the US Office of Strategic Studies one of the exercises involved the candidate having to explain under the cross-examination of a lawyer why they had been caught searching through secret files in a government office late at night.

The Presentation
This can include trying to sell a product or idea to a sceptical audience or giving a lecture on some subject of the candidate’s choice. These may be used to assess persuasiveness, self-confidence or communication skills.

Analytical/problem solving exercises
Analytical/problem solving exercises involve the participants carrying out a piece of work, which is analytical in nature, usually focusing on an issue, which is job relevant.

One-on-one exercises
One-on-one exercises involve the inclusion of an individual whose task it is to play a particular role and act out some scenario while the behaviour of the participant (who plays the job holder) is observed by the assessor. The role could be that of a customer, competitor, subordinate, superior, supplier any other person or agency that the jobholder comes into contact with. Because this is a very flexible method it is one that is frequently included in assessment centres.

 


General Approach to Assessment Centre Exercises
 

  • If you are working in a group, check that all members of the group have the same information.

  • Make sure that someone is keeping an eye on the time and giving the group reminders of the amount of time they have left.

  • Try not to get trapped by the flip chart, that is, if you volunteer to write on the flip chart/board, make sure you also make a contribution.

  • Try to involve the quieter members of the group and listen to what they have to say.

  • Smile, maintain eye contact and encourage people to talk to you.

  • Present a confident image of yourselves to the other people in the group.

  • Show that you are enthusiastic and motivated about the exercise.

  • Acknowledge other people’s ideas; don’t adopt them as your own.

  • If the exercise is very complicated – plan how you are going to accomplish the goal.

  • Allow other people to speak, don’t interrupt or shout over them.

  • Make sure that you get ample opportunities to speak – be assertive, but don’t take it too far.

  • Acknowledge other people’s ideas.

  • Don’t be afraid to disagree with other people.

  • Don’t be afraid to state your own opinion and defend it.

  • Challenge others – ask them to clarify anything you don’t understand

  • Don’t be afraid to take control if you all are getting nowhere.

  • Look for the wider picture – don’t get completely bogged down by the detail.

  • It is very important to contribute to the group discussion/exercise as if you do not, the assessors do not have anything to mark.

  • Try to use the names of people in the group.

  • Use the exercises as an opportunity to demonstrate your abilities and to learn new ones.

  • Stick to the time allocated for each exercise.

  • Listen to instructions carefully and if in doubt ask.

  • Expect to be stretched.

  • Expect to get better as the day goes on, as you get to know the other participants and feel more relaxed.

  • You should not work like you are in competition with the other participants, you will be looked on more favourably if you work well with others and are friendly and polite.

  • If you feel you have done poorly in one exercise, do not get your self down; make sure you do better in the next! Poor performance on one exercise will not automatically fail you.

  • Be yourself, relax and enjoy the process as much as you can.

  • If you are given an opportunity to ask the assessors questions about the organisation, make sure you ask a relevant question or two, this will help you get noticed.

     

FEEDBACK
Feedback is usually provided after the Selection Event. If it is not explicitly offered, you should ask for it. You will find that your feedback from one selection event is extremely useful for your future development and future Selection Events.
What Happens Next?

After you have left the selection event, it may be very useful to think about what exercises you did and what you felt you did well or not so well on. It may be useful to jot some notes about your impression of the selection process and the organisation and what you have learnt about yourself. Selection events are very valuable learning experiences and it is important to learn from your mistakes and the things you feel that you have not done well.

You should have found out what the next stage is, it may be a second interview, assessment centre or a job offer. You will usually have to wait until you receive a phone call or a letter to find out what has happened with your application.

If you have been unsuccessful, then you should put it all down to experience and learn from it. It is understandable to feel a bit down, but the most useful thing you could do is to call or write to the company to ask for feedback on your performance. This will help you in your future selection activities and will give you points to improve your performance. If you are offered telephone feedback, make sure you take notes, so you remember what they have said.

You also have to remember that you got to the selection event stage for this company, so it will only be a matter of time before you get asked to another one.

If you have been successful in this round, you may have to face another round of selection activities, in which case you should feel a sense of achievement that you have got this far.
 

 

Being Offered a Job

Deciding which job to take

Congratulations, you have received a job offer. The decision about whether to take the job or not is up to you. If you have received a number of job offers, you are very lucky, and you will have the luxury of picking the job that is most suitable for you. By the time you have been offered a job, you should have a very good grasp about the organisation and what the job entails.

To make a decision about accepting a job offer, you have to look very carefully at many different things concerning the job, including:

1. Location

  • Where you will be working

  • The distance you have to travel to get to work

  • Whether you have to relocate
     

2. Terms of Employment

  • What are the terms of your employment, the amount of notice you have to give, confidentiality clauses, etc. and whether you are comfortable with these.
     

3. Job

  • The job that you have been offered, what you will actually be doing on a day-to-day basis.

  • Who you have to report to and people who report to you.

  • The amount of freedom and independence or support you have in carrying out your duties.
     

4. Salary

  • The amount of money you will earn from the job, whether there are opportunities for overtime, bonuses, performance related pay and whether you are content with this.
     

5. Length of contract

  • Many organisations take on employees on a temporary contract for a trial period, before offering them a permanent contract. This is to enable employers to ensure that you can do the job they hired you for in a competent manner.

  • Employees are also often employed for the duration of a contract, so after the project has been completed, so has the job.
     

6. Benefits

  • Many employers offer special incentives for employees, such as the use of a company car, employee award scheme, private health insurance, company pension, sports club membership etc.

  • Please be aware of the fact that benefits are often subject to tax and national insurance.
     

7. Training opportunities.

  • Does the employer offer any training? This can add a vast amount of extra value to your career prospects.
     

8. Working practises.

  • Practises such as flexi-time, where you are free to choose your own working hours, subject to having to be in the office during certain ‘core’ periods.

  • Whether people put in a lot of extra hours as there is a culture of working late and people who leave at home time are not as committed to the job.

     


Part 4: Starting a New Job

Starting a new job can be a very daunting experience. Make sure that you are in contact with the person who offered the job. A few days before you are going to start, make sure you know:
 

  • Where you are going and how to get there.

  • Any parking arrangements there are.

  • Who you should report to when you arrive.

  • What you are going to be doing on your first day

  • What you are supposed to wear.

  • If you need to bring anything.

     

Your First Day
On the first day of your new job, it is understandable to feel a bit anxious and nervous. You are the new person and all your colleagues know each other and everything is unfamiliar and new. You have to remember that it is very likely that most people were once the ‘new person’ too, so they know what you are going through.

Starting a new job is the beginning of a very steep learning curve, even if you did exactly the same job in your previous organisation, there will be differences between that and your new organisation. The major difference will be the change in your customers. These could include:
1. External Clients – people who buy the service or product from the organisation.
2. External Suppliers – people who provide you with services which are essential to your completing your work.
3. Internal Customers – your line manager, your subordinates, the people you are in a team with.

Usually, on the first day of the job, you are given an induction, whether formal or informal. This normally includes any health and safety procedures, where to find the things you use to do your job, introductions to your colleagues, any procedures etc.

Important things to remember are:

  • Be on your best behaviour, but be yourself, first impressions count and it is less effort to make a good first impression than make a poor first impression and then try to change people’s minds.

  • Be polite and friendly to everyone you meet in the organisation.

  • If you don’t know how to do something, or where to find something, do not hesitate to ask questions, people will understand and try to help you.

  • If you make a mistake, do not panic, you should expect to make mistakes when you are new at a job.

  • Ask for help if you need it, people will be willing to help you when you are new.

  • People will be curious about you, expect colleagues to ask you personal questions about your life, where you are from, where you used to work etc.

  • Take notes;

    • Write down the names of people you meet and their job title or department if available.

    • Take notes of any complicated procedures

  • Be careful when talking about people in the organisation, you do not know what loyalties or friendships there are.

  • Try to make a contribution and show how capable you are and prove that the organisation has made the right decision in hiring you.

  • Be prepared to listen and learn from the people in the organisation, they will have their own way of doing things.

  • Start as you mean to go on; if you put in 12 hour days and have lunch at your desk when you start work, any variation to this will make it look like you are slacking off.
     

Developing Relationships with Co-workers
When you are new to an organisation, it is difficult to see what is going on, where allegiances are and whether your colleagues have good or bad reputations in the organisation. Immediately befriending the first person that talks to you may alienate other colleagues. You should take time to speak to everyone to make sure that you do not automatically get labelled as being a part of a particular clique.

  • Try to be aware of Organisational politics, there are people that can help you in your career and people that can hinder you.

  • Stay clear of listening to gossip; use your own judgement when it comes to forming opinions on people.

  • Do not gossip about people you work with, as your words may eventually find their way to the person you gossiped about, and inevitably what you said would have been exaggerated.

If you have replaced someone, you may feel that your colleagues are comparing you with the person you just replaced. This is especially difficult if the person was popular or left under difficult conditions. There is no point worrying about this as you are a different person and when people see your unique strengths they will realise that they are unable to compare you with their previous colleague.

Developing a Working Relationship with your Boss.
Your boss is a very important person in your career development. His or her opinion of you can have a great influence over your progress within the organisation. Their opinion on you and the quality of your work will be prominent in their discussions of you with his or her own boss.

  • Keep him/her informed as to your progress and what you are doing whether small or large.

  • Ask their advice on topics that you do not understand.

  • Ask for regular feedback to enable you to improve your performance.
     

Continuing Career Development
After you have undergone the whole stressful process of looking for a career or job you want, researching the job, applying for the job, undergoing selection events and starting a new job it is extremely important that you don’t sit back and relax. You worked so hard to get here, a continued effort in your Career Development can take you further.

 

  • Keep up to date with what is happening in your industry or field

  • Attend Networking events share information and meet new contacts.

  • Keep on top of your training.

  • Volunteer to take on extra responsibilities.

  • Keep a record of your achievements and publicise them.

  • Think about where you want your Career to go and plan how to get there.

  • Don’t sit and wait for things to happen to you, be proactive and go out and get it!