An easier, faster job search starts here.

Job hunting is a time-consuming endeavour. Securing your dream job requires hard work and effort and, depending on the roles available, can take anything from a few days to a few months. Luckily, we've got some top tips to help you manage the job-search process efficiently. We've broken down the process into three simple steps: prep, search and close.

TopCV job search journey

Step 1: Prep

As with anything in life, much of your job-search success depends on preparation. Pulling together everything you need at the beginning of the process will help to focus your job search. You'll also be ready if you find a role with an imminent deadline.

Job goals and job fit

A scattergun approach to job hunting rarely works well. Just because you hate your boss and are desperate to quit, doesn't mean that you should send off applications to every job you see advertised. The most successful applications are ones that are tailored to specific roles, so take some time to identify exactly what you're looking for.

Think about your skills, your experience to date and what you really enjoy. Are you looking for progression or training? Is there a particular type of company you'd like to target or avoid? This will help you to zoom in on particular roles, companies and networking opportunities, and it will save you from spending time firing off tons of applications that will ultimately be unsuccessful.

This exercise will also ensure that when you do get a job offer, it's one that's genuinely right for you and not a knee-jerk reaction that will swap a bad situation for a worse one. Job fit is crucial for both you and the recruiter – they want to find the right person to minimise both staff turnover and hiring costs, and you need to find something that improves your current position and offers long-term satisfaction.

When considering whether the job is the right fit for you, you'll need to assess not just the role itself but also the company and its culture.

CV and cover letter

Now that you know where you're heading, it's time to create some impressive job-search documents to support you on the way. Your CV should be tailored to the type of role you want and formatted to appeal to both humans and applicant tracking systems. Prepare a comprehensive, up-to-date master CV, which you can then tweak to suit each application.

Not only is a CV a vital job hunt tool ‒ it should also make you feel more confident about the impending job search as you'll be bolstered by the focus on your achievements and successes to date.

The cover letter is more controversial – sometimes they won't be read, but often they're a vital part of the recruitment process. It's safest, therefore, to send a cover letter with every application unless it's explicitly stated otherwise.

The letter should focus on why you're the perfect fit for that particular role, highlight some of your key achievements to set you apart from other candidates and explain why you're interested in the position. It shouldn't be a reproduction of your CV – clearly there will be overlap in the content, but the letter should also add something new.

Online brand

A strong LinkedIn profile is a must – and it should tell the same career story as your CV. But with potential employers having the whole internet at their fingertips, it's vital that any searches they do beyond LinkedIn also portray you in nothing less than a shining light.

Whilst it's good to have fun and share your personal life on social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, do check every profile and ensure there's nothing published that you wouldn't want a potential employer to see. Moans about your current employer, discriminatory posts and illegal activities should be deleted; if you don't want to delete, at least change your privacy settings.

Have a quick Google of your name too, to ensure that nothing of concern comes up. These days, your name is part of your personal brand, so it's important that you're in control of your online presence.

References

It shouldn't take too much time to identify a few people you'd like to use as your referees. Courtesy dictates that you contact them beforehand to confirm that they're happy to provide a reference and to warn them that they may receive requests shortly. You can also use this opportunity to clarify your goals with them so that they understand what skills and experience they should highlight.

Step 2: Search

OK, the preparation is done – it's time to hit the job search! Don't just rely on online job boards. Speak to recruitment agencies and tap into your network as well.

Applications and follow-up

First things first, make sure you meet the majority of the role requirements before applying. Most job adverts these days come with a Person Specification or About You section, so by checking that you tick most of the boxes, you could be saving yourself time by not applying for roles that you ultimately aren't qualified to do and have no hope of getting.

If you do fulfil the criteria, bingo! When you've found the ideal job, it's time to send off your CV or fill in the application form. Don't forget to tailor your CV to ensure it aligns exactly with their requirements.

But don't then just sit around waiting for a response! Even if the role seems perfect, there's no point letting other opportunities slide by. Keep looking for other suitable roles and follow up on applications a few days after the closing date.

Utilising recruiters

Whilst recruitment agencies have a somewhat mixed reputation, they can still be a valuable resource for finding out about suitable roles. Many recruiters specialise in one particular sector, so do your research first. The appropriate recruiter will be able to provide insight into the company and the role, which you wouldn't necessarily get from an advert.

Make sure your LinkedIn profile has the 'Let recruiters know you're open to opportunities' button switched on – you may find you're being approached with no effort at all! Job boards are also a popular resource. Whether you're using a general board, such as CV-Library, Indeed, reed.co.uk, Totaljobs, LinkedIn or one of the many others, or you're lucky enough to have found an industry-specific board like Caterer.com or NHS Jobs, online job boards can prove to be a real wormhole. Many an hour has been lost to them, so before you even start, consider the value that working with a recruiter could bring to your job search.

Networking

Many, many jobs are filled through networking rather than advertising. You'll already have a network – friends, current and former colleagues, family, social media contacts, and people you've met through hobbies. Let them know you're open to new opportunities and, if it seems appropriate, practise your elevator pitch on them.

Don't forget to stay active on LinkedIn, as well. You don't have to be open about your job hunt, but a regular post, the occasional message and some information sharing will ensure that you're fresh in people's minds if they hear of an appropriate role opening up.

There are also numerous local networking meetings happening around the country, so find out about yours and, if you're feeling brave, stick your head in!

Step 3: Close

The end is in sight and a fantastic new career is just around the corner. Hopefully, your preparation has paid off and your job search is starting to produce results.

Interviews and follow-up

The interview is a two-way street – the interviewer will be evaluating your suitability for the vacancy, but it's also your chance to assess whether the role, the team and the company are right for you.

Make sure your outfit aligns with their dress code (but if it's a casual office, do step up the formality a notch to acknowledge that you care about the opportunity). Practise suitable responses to questions you think may be asked, and make sure you know your CV inside out. Don't forget to go equipped with a list of questions to ask them as well – this is your opportunity to get the insight you need to make an informed decision, should you get an offer.

As you leave, don't forget to ask what the next steps will be and when you can expect to hear from them. Don't be afraid to follow up if you don't hear anything – even if you don't get a job offer, you'll probably get some valuable feedback.

Negotiation

Fantastic news, you smashed the interview and received a job offer! You'll need to be prepared for this conversation, as there's every chance that there's some negotiation to be done on salary and terms. Research the offering for similar roles in advance and be clear on what you will and won't accept.

Onboarding

Some first-day nerves are to be expected. After all, meeting your new colleagues can feel like one big interview. You may also have a probationary period in which you must prove yourself, plus inductions and training sessions to complete. The first days in a new job can be pretty full on!

Try to strike a balance between friendly and professional when you're introduced to new people, and avoid being dragged into any office politics before you've had time to form your own impressions. Whatever level you're entering at, offering to make the tea is usually a good way to break the ice and integrate yourself into the team. The odd little mistake is a natural part of the process, but as long as you put your hands up and learn from them, you'll soon be sailing along as if you've been doing the job your whole life.

Well done ‒ you've secured your dream job and are on your way up the career ladder. The preparation, networking and endless scouring of job boards have delivered results, so all that remains is for us to wish you good luck in your new role!

One way to help speed up the job search is to let an expert handle your CV. Consider working with one of TopCV's professional CV writers today.

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