So you’ve found yourself in need of a job. Maybe you’ve just left school or graduated from university. Maybe you have been made redundant or your work contract has come to an end. Maybe you are desperate for a change. Whatever the reason behind your job search, I wouldn’t be surprised if you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious and defeated trying to succeed in today’s job market. It’s not easy out there. But it is absolutely possible to take your next career step. Here’s some guidance for finding and securing a job during tough market conditions.
Before I get into the practical advice for maximising your chances of success when looking for your next job, I want to take a moment for the emotional side of job hunting in tough market conditions. It can feel rubbish, I know. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It’s okay not to be okay as you endure the process of finding a new job. You don’t have to pretend this is easy because it’s not.
Don’t forget to look after yourself and do what you need to do to stay motivated. Stay positive, stay persistent, and keep pushing forward. You are more than capable of being hired for the job you’re looking for. Anything you don’t know about the job hunting process is learnable. There are so many factors in the recruitment process so a no from a recruiter doesn’t mean you’re not good enough, you just weren’t the right person for them. You will be the right person for another company.
Talking about the job search process being learnable even in tough market conditions. Here are some of my top tips for the three main stages of securing your next job.
Stage 1: Finding Opportunities
Refine your understanding of what a good job looks like for you. A lot of people default to a job they are familiar with and that fits within their salary expectations. But if you really want to enjoy your next job, dig a bit deeper. What are your strengths? I’m not talking about the tasks you can do, but the tasks you like to do. What motivates you? We’re humans so we often want more from our jobs than just money. Think about what excites you and you’ll be willing to persist with during challenging times.
We all talk about getting stuck in a scroll hole on Instagram, TikTok and other social media platforms. What we don’t talk about as much is getting stuck in scroll holes when searching on job boards. You just keep scrolling, hoping the perfect role in a dream company pops up, resolving all your problems.
My top piece of advice here is to approach looking on job boards with curiosity. Don’t be dismissive about what’s out there and what you are able to do. Be curious about who is recruiting and what they’re looking for. Be open-minded about how their requirements could play to your strengths and provide an opportunity for the acquisition of new skills. Widen your search criteria and vary the keywords you search for. You never know what you could find. Keep your options open.
Stage 2: Your Application
As a reminder, your initial application and CV are supposed to get you a first interview. That’s the focus. It’s not supposed to get you the job in one hit. Keep that in mind when choosing what to include in the limited space available on your CV.
As well as optimizing what you include in your CV, write it in a compelling way. Recruiters may need to choose from hundreds of applications so you don’t want yours to blend into the others. There are two main ways to stand out. First, adapt your CV to the specific job you’re applying for at the specific company. Make sure your CV reflects what they state they are looking for in the job description. Second, use action words. Cliches and passive verbs send recruiters to sleep. Use the active voice. I’ve got examples of words you can use in your CV in this blog.
A creative way to stand out is to include quotes from employers and clients. If you have received feedback which is really positive and only takes up a line or two, it could be a great way to demonstrate how well you do what you do. I go into more detail about this CV technique in this blog. All in all, write and adapt your CV to make giving you an interview an easy yes.
Stage 3: Acing the Interview
The interview is a real sticking point for a lot of candidates, even very qualified and experienced ones, so let’s explore what a good interview takes. Preparation and practice make all the difference to how an interview goes. A well-prepared interviewee has an immediate advantage in an interview because feeling prepared will build confidence and reduce interview anxiety.
After all, belief starts with you. If you don’t believe in yourself and your abilities to do a great job, then you can’t expect others to do the same. If you need to improve your self-awareness (and in turn, confidence), then take time to understand what you’re good at and what you really enjoy doing. Ask others what they think your strengths are. That always brings up interesting insights.
Top Tip #1: Identify specific areas of improvement
Feedback is key to interview success. It’s helpful to know how other people perceive you in terms of your work performance. It’s also helpful to know people’s feedback on your interview performance. We just don’t see ourselves the way other people do. It’s particularly easy to miss things in pressurised situations like interviews. So, always ask for feedback if you are unsuccessful at interview. However, if this is not available, reflecting on your previous interviews is a key part of your preparation. What worked well? How did you feel? Which questions would you need to think about answering differently next time?
Choose one takeaway from the interview and make that the target point of improvement for your next interview. Maybe you want to be able to think better on your feet, so you don’t stumble over your words when you’re asked an unexpected question. Or, maybe you want to prepare a wider bank of success stories to share so that you’re prepared for any competency-based question they could throw at you. Giving yourself a focus for improvement helps to create better outcomes.
Top Tip #2: Practice out loud
Verbally rehearsing allows you to hear how your answers would sound to an interviewer, which is often very different from how they sound in your head. But it’s here that people (with the best of intentions) make the worst interview prep mistake…
You throw your list of questions into a Word document and start typing away. Page after page, you meticulously write out the perfect answers for each question. Maybe you even go back and tweak them a little until they feel just right. You feel accomplished looking at the amount you’ve written. While written preparation is an important layer of your preparation, it’s not the be-all and end-all because it doesn’t mean you’ll remember your beautifully scripted answers. Even if you do remember them they could come out sounding like a robot!
It’s unavoidable. You do need to practice answering questions out loud. When you’re ready to kick it up a notch, find someone to interview you. If that makes you nervous—good! You should be practising staying calm too. The person you’re practising with doesn’t need to be a seasoned interviewing expert, a friend or relative will do for interview role-play. Choose someone you know will be supportive, but also honest. That will help you to refine your interview performance until you’re confident in it.
Working on your career management skills including your ability to find good opportunities, sell yourself in your application and portray your capability in interviews will get you far no matter the market conditions. Focus on yourself because that’s all you can control in the job market.
For more interview tips check out my book ‘Be Better Prepared For Interview Success’. Alternatively, if you think you’d benefit from having some impartial feedback from an experienced interview coach to help refine your preparation and boost your confidence, that’s what I offer through my interview coaching service. Take a look and book a session or two. There’s no perfect interview, but you absolutely can have a positive interview experience so let’s make that happen for you.