If you’re ready for your next career challenge and want to stand out, here are some top tips from an expert.
A new year is a great time to make a change and look for your dream job, but what can you do to give yourself a better chance of securing it?
How to get shortlisted
You are going to increase your chances of being shortlisted if you describe your career in a way that is compatible with the role you are applying for.
Resist the temptation to just talk about your current job description, and instead draw out all of the parallels between your career experiences and those required in the new job (e.g. the same core skills, similar technology or customers, or the need to work to strict deadlines).
It also helps to present yourself as a high performer, offering examples where you’ve made a positive contribution to your team - for example, winning employee of the month, reducing costs, or improving a business process.
Everyone has examples of where they’ve helped made things better at work regardless of your role or even how much you liked your job. If you can show clearly that you have the skills and experience the recruiter is looking for and that you have performed well in your career then you’ll grab the attention of those busy recruiters who will want to find out more.
Understand Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
Most recruitment websites, including the career websites for large employers, will use an Applicant Tracking System to manage applications.
Recruiters shortlist candidates by using keywords related to the job selection criteria to search the database of CVs. Candidates whose CVs mention the sought-after keywords frequently and towards the top of their CV will be ranked more highly for shortlisting than others. This is why you should study the selection criteria carefully and make sure that these are mentioned specifically in the profile in your CV or just underneath.
Don’t use these keywords on their own, but alongside some proof that you have that capability (e.g. examples of when you have used that skill at work).
Make sure that your CV doesn’t use any heavy formatting such as columns or tables as this can interfere with the readability of your CV by the recruitment software, and you don’t want your nicely presented document to be mangled by the system.
Make full use of LinkedIn
If you are not already using LinkedIn then you could be missing out on career opportunities. Recruiters trawl through the LinkedIn database and directly approach candidates they think are suitable for their vacancies.
The LinkedIn software will also suggest job vacancies you may be interested in according to how you have completed your profile. Remember that your LinkedIn profile, like your CV, is meant to be a very positive portrayal of your capabilities, not just a copy of your job description.
Start building and keeping in touch with your LinkedIn connections so that you are in their mind’s eye if they hear of any suitable opportunities
Have career conversations
Talk to as many people as you can. In the course of your conversations, let them know that you are thinking about your next career move, and ask that if they hear of anything suitable they let you know.
Be very clear about your skills, expertise and the type of role you are looking for, so the message doesn’t get distorted as it is passed on. Personal grapevines are often amazingly effective at signposting you to job opportunities you might otherwise have missed.
Talk to your current organisation
Don’t overlook the fact that there may well be interesting career development opportunities in your current organisation.
Talk to your manager and ask for their suggestions about how you might develop your career further in the organisation. They might be willing to relook at your current role, arrange a job swap, or assign you to a new project if they are keen to retain your skills.
Talk to other managers you are interested in working with, to HR or the Learning and Development team if there is one, as they are often keen to promote career development opportunities in order to improve staff engagement and retention and keep down recruitment costs.
Take the direct approach
You don’t have to wait for a job advert. You can always proactively contact individuals you are interested in working with to offer your services.
You will need to make a compelling argument as to why it is in their interests to see you and why you would be an asset to their organisation (e.g. helping them sell more, improving quality, efficiency and so on). If you can relate this specifically to some challenges their organisation is currently facing, such as international expansion, cost-saving initiatives, or new legislation, even better.
Realistically, you may need to make many approaches and have several meetings before a job offer materialises, but even then this can still be a faster way to find your next role than relying solely on advertised jobs.
Seek help and advice
Looking for your next role can be a time-consuming and sometimes frustrating business, so it’s extremely helpful to have input from other people along the way. Whether it’s a career coach, your manager, a trusted friend or colleague, seek out people whose judgement you trust so they can be sounding board for your career ideas, check over your CV, and give you a mock interview or a pep talk when you need it. There are also many books and articles on all aspects of job searching that provide sound advice.