A Job Application Strategy made simple

If you are looking for your next (or first) job – you need a strategy. Typically most people’s approach to the job search is haphazard at best. Read on for a more coherent strategy.

Firstly, let’s start with the three common “un-strategies” that most applicants use:

  • Find their perfect role, apply, then wait, knowing that without doubt they are the perfect applicant, so will be offered it – The problem with this is firstly, that part of the job application process is luck, secondly, those perfect roles are usually in high demand and are unlikely to meet expectations.
  • Google a generic area, like “Marketing + Job” then click on the first page of results and apply where suitable – The problem with this is firstly, so does everybody else and secondly it is not specific enough, there is more to you than that.
  • Apply for any and every possible job they hear of – The problem is that it is uncoordinated, so you are unlikely to be focused sufficiently when the best fit comes along.

Naturally there is a better strategy you can implement. Firstly, decide which of the four main avenues or channels you should take. – Most people tend to get their first job on one of the first two, then as they become more experienced they use the third and fourth more.

  1. Companies’ websites Applying directly from their website job board. Generally better for bigger corporates.
  2. Aggregate job boards – These are where jobs are posted by companies or recruiters on the behalf of companies.
  3. Recruitment companies  Recruiting for a company is an expensive and often cumbersome process, which is full of risk to the employer. Which is where good recruitment companies come in, as they can mitigate some of this risk.
  4. Contacts and network – Probably the most successful way to get a job though, is through utilising your network. Most people don’t have one at first though. Or perhaps more accurately they don’t think they do, but with a little effort, they can.

Once you have decided which channels you are going to try, the next step is to get organised in a strategic way:

  1. Inventory your network and include principles for engaging – Include who they are, how you know them and track any contact made. Next set up principles for engaging with your network. It is fragile and you want to leverage it in a courteous, but also beneficial way (make it win-win where possible).
  2. Application and Interview Question Prep – Create an inventory of all application questions you come across as you apply. They tend to repeat themselves and your response gets refined over time. Track where and when you used it, as well as any other comments. Many of the questions that occur during the application phase will repeat in another applications first interview phase. Also ensure you have a couple of questions for the company interviewing you, they will expect this and it shows interest as well as preparation. Try to make it something the interviewer would like to answer, this is not your time to catch them out.
  3. Interview Preparation – Prepare a checklist (or download ours below) which you go through before every interview. Including things like reviewing the specific CV you used, any research on the company and general behaviour you wish to demonstrate
  4. Application tracker – If you are applying for more than 2-3 roles, it is worthwhile preparing a tracker, otherwise it is very easy for you to lose track of what stages each application is in.
  5. Obstacles – Prepare a list of potential obstacles you come across and seek advice on how to handle them.

A last little bit of advice is that the world is smaller than you think and you should always remain courteous and polite, a bad impression in one interview may affect further opportunities.

Further Resources:

  • Milkround  – A great start for a UK Graduate
  • Course – For a complete step- by-step strategy
  • The Fred Factor – It’s not what you do, but how you do it.

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