It is time to look for a new job so what better place to begin than the recruitment pages? But how do you make sure you really understand what employers are looking for? Reading job ads carefully and relating your existing experience to a potential new post is the first step to making a successful application and avoiding spending more time than necessary on job search.
That may sound simplistic but careers advisors and employers believe that failing to take this first step is all too common. 'People think they have read the job ads when they haven't,' says Sophie Rowan, of careers advisor Career Psychology. 'As part of the careers assessment we go through with clients, we look at the importance of being clear about what employers are looking for.'
Diane Hutchinson, marketing manager of Whitby, Bird & Partners, agrees. Although the company takes great care with both the wording and the appearance of its recruitment advertisements, it still receives applications which are completely unsuitable.
'We do get some applications which are wild cards,' she says. 'For instance, October can be a dangerous time to advertise because you get the graduates who are sending their cvs everywhere. Making applications like that are a waste of time and it looks as if you haven't bothered to read the ad. It's better to send a firm you want to work for a speculative cv saying: I am really interested in your company.'
Once you have read the advert closely, the next step is to show that your existing experience and skills are applicable to the post. 'The job spec is the template for the ideal candidate,' says Rowan. 'You need to present yourself as a person who comes as near as possible to that benchmark.'
The most systematic approach is to specifically relate your strengths and work history to each point on the list.
On to the interview itself. Preparation is important, and includes following major stories in the industry press and reading the company's own literature. 'It's also good to get the views of people working for the firm already,' says Rowan.
This view is shared by Rae Whittaker, resourcing action team manager with the Highways Agency. 'Read the information we send out, visit our website, and don't be afraid of picking up the phone if you need further information,' she advises.
And Whittaker points out that you need to get this right at the very beginning of the process. Attention to detail is the first step to making your application stand out.
'When we give feedback to applicants who contact us because they didn't get an interview, it is generally because they didn't bring their skills out strongly enough on the application form.'
Finally, it's important to look beyond your current job. If the new post involves management skills, for example, the fact you run a youth group or a sports team can be as important as your role at work.'
Make sure you read the job advertisement carefully.
Match your skills as closely as possible to the job requirements.
Do not be afraid to ask for more information from the company advertising the job.
Include skills from beyond your current job.