Prepare to Nail Your Job Search!

So you have drawn the conclusion that it’s time to move job? Are you going to plan your job-search before throwing yourself in at the deep end? Surely you just bang your CV out to job posts that catch your eye, and maybe a few agencies, and see what happens, right? I would argue that your job and more importantly your career is actually a strategically important item. There is potentially a huge upside in getting it right, ranging from job satisfaction, work-life balance, financial security etc. However there is also a potentially a huge down-side in getting it wrong ranging from job dis-satisfaction, life upheaval and financial hardship. Would you plan a key project in this way in your ‘day job’ that had major financial, and strategic implications and significant ‘risk’? I thought not! So again, with your job search, given that it’s a proper project, what is the purpose, scope, timeframes, budget, supplier/partners and stakeholders? What is the review mechanisms and review process?

If you find yourself out of work, due to un-planned events e.g. redundancy then I urge you to consider your job-search as your new full-time job! Go at it with the same level of thought, care, energy and commitment that you would put into any other work project.

If you are currently gainfully employed but are looking for a change, you will need to allocate time in which to conduct the process properly in order to reasonably expect a good result.

But before you thrust your CV out of the closet:

  •  are you sure that you really want to leave your employer?
  •  Is this the best or the only solution to your issue?
  •  What are the ‘push factors’ driving the move and is there another way to remove, limit or work around them?
  •  If you are looking for a pay-rise can you put a decent business case forward for this to your boss?
  • If your boss is the problem, can you either resolve your differences through discussion/mediation or move internally?
  •  If you are looking for more interesting projects can you put your hand up and get some?
  •  If the commute is killing you can you negotiate flexible hours and/or home-working?

If your issues are not fixable as above, if your factors are ‘pull factors’ such as pursuing your passion, and/or you have reached a well thought out conclusion that moving could be the best thing for you, then go ahead, but go ahead confidently, indeed purposefully.

Set yourself a career peak goal or at least where you are aiming to get to medium term and work back from there as to what kind of next step aligns with that direction and facilitates the accomplishment of your career goals. To give an example if your goal is to run your own consulting business then a position giving you more exposure to sales/marketing could be synergistic.

Patience is a virtue that I think is less exercised in general ‘these-days’. Timing is often said to be ‘everything, and considering internal and external factors in order to time job-search right is certainly worthwhile.  If on reflection ‘the time is still now’, I still suggest to be strategic, don’t just look at jobs salaries and start hitting apply. Do some research & some reflection!

  • Think about industries that are attractive in general and to you specifically
  • Think about companies to target and companies to avoid.
  • Consider aspects such as reputation, financial performance, ownership, trajectory, projects, and the elusive company culture as well as the obvious stuff like proximity.
  • Is the company in question a ‘safe-bet’ but also is it a good ‘fit’ for you?
  • Will your norms, values and beliefs align?
  • Think about jobs, not just about if it’s the job you do now or something you are qualified to to.
  • Evaluate the challenge(s) associated with the role  It is worth noting at this point that the companies & jobs that pay the most are not always ‘the best’.
  • Overall, look at if the job in hand is attractive (whatever that means for you), but also if it will help you springboard to bigger and better things in your next role.
  • Lastly look at your potential new boss. This person is likely the highest influencer of your enjoyment of the new role and largely hold the keys to your success and access to future promotions.

In terms of what methods to use and not use again a plan even if broad/general is likely going to be better than no plan.  Make sure you analyse your results and then refine your approach as you continue the search to focus on the areas which are giving you best ‘bang for your buck’!

Utilising recruitment agents.  A related point is in respect to controlling your CV distribution. This is crucial in respect to protecting your confidentiality in keeping the CV from ending up in the wrong hands. However it is also a matter of how you are perceived i.e discerning or desperate. Rightly or wrongly hiring, consciously or un-consciously hiring decision makers have a demand & supply mind-set where if your CV is readily available or worse is sent in from multiple sources then it is in over-supply and therefore treated as of less value.

In terms of what jobs to apply for specifically, again I suggest applying some discipline.

  • Apply primarily or exclusively to positions where you have a high chance of success or at least where you meet the mandatory criteria.
  • Only apply to opportunities where company, location and salary are such that you will actually be willing to attend an in-person interview.
  • Don’t bombard a company or contact with numerous applications, if they have multiple vacancies be selective, which again demonstrates your understanding of the closest matches and respects their time.
  • I would also suggest you avoid using your current company email to make applications. It may be viewed as un-professional and you may end up flagging your intentions to your current company depending on how closely the monitor email. (Yes companies do monitor email)!
  • Do tailor your covering letter for each job, keep it short and sweet.
  • I think to make a polite, professional follow up call to ensure CV received and to chase progress is in order.

Treat all stages of the process and every touchpoint with a prospective employer or representing recruitment agency as ‘part of the process’. Your communications should be timely, accurate, friendly and in-line with their company values. You should be willing and able to return calls / answer questions, book appointments etc. and the best way to facilitate this may be to take time off to prioritise this important project. Likewise ensure you don’t burn any bridges when coming out of a recruitment process, communication is key. Whether declining an interview or an offer make sure you handle politely, professionally and in-person. NB I will cover interview preparation / technique and offer negotiation / management in a separate blog.

Play your cards close to your chest. I would argue that it is best not to tell anyone at all that you are looking until you hand in your resignation. Your Boss should be the first to know in professional protocol .

Pause to reflect. Even if you start a job search, make applications, attend interviews and even entertain offers, you don’t have to move! Having researched the job market, gauged interest and maybe got a good idea of your current market value through the process; you could still elect to ‘come off the market’ and stay put. This is much the same as you would in the house buying/selling example I used earlier. If you didn’t like any offers you may take time out, possibly make some changes and have another go at a future date where you may do better. You want to make your next move count!

So if you are considering looking for a new job or are actively looking currently, I hope that my observations and advice are of value to you. If you are looking for first class representation as a client or candidate, keep Macstaff in mind. All the best with your ongoing career journey & let me know how you get along!


Anthony McCormack

01275 331307 / 07983255399
TW @MacstaffUK