Advice Hub

June 13, 2011

Finding and applying for your first job

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Written by: Kyle Raffo
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To apply for a job, you need to understand what makes a good CV and how to perform well in an interview. Being prepared to work hard and learn new skills will help you get to your dream career.

Help with finding a job

No matter what sort of job you’re looking for, you’ll need to know where to look. Job vacancies can be advertised in a number of different places, including:

  • job vacancy websites
  • local or national newspapers
  • your local Jobcentre Plus
  • recruitment agencies
  • college and university career offices and noticeboards
  • shop windows

If you want a job in a particular field, it’s worth doing an online search to find out which employment agencies specialise in that area. This will cut down on unnecessary searches.

You can find details about types of job and the skills needed to do them in the Next Step job profile database.

Building on your skills

When you’re applying for a job, you will usually have to describe how well your skills and previous experience fit the job description. Even if you’re short of experience in the workplace, there are key skills that employers look for that anyone can demonstrate. These include:

  • being able to communicate well with other people
  • evidence of teamwork
  • building working relationships with others
  • computer and IT skills

Think about what you have learned from school or college and any skills you have from activities that you have taken part in. For example, you might have:

  • created your own website or blog
  • taken part in a Duke of Edinburgh scheme
  • been a member of a sports team

All of these examples use skills that employers look for, as well as general ones like showing initiative and commitment.

CVs, covering letters and application forms

When you have found a job you think you could do, there are different ways that companies may ask you to apply for it.

Curriculum vitae (CV)

A curriculum vitae or CV is a short document that lists your personal details, skills and experience. Employers will decide whether to ask you for an interview based solely on this CV, so it’s important that it:

  • is accurate
  • describes you in a positive way
  • matches the job description as closely as possible

Covering letter

When you send in a CV, you will often be asked to accompany it with a covering letter.

You should use the letter to:

  • sell yourself
  • explain why you are suitable for the role
  • describe how the information in your CV is relevant to the job that you’re applying for

When you’re writing the letter, you should:

  • keep it to a maximum of one side of A4 paper
  • always use a computer to write it, unless the job advert asks for a handwritten letter
  • include the job title or reference number of the job you’re applying for
  • get someone else to check it for spelling mistakes before you send it off; don’t rely on a computer spell check, as these can often be unreliable

Application forms

Some companies will ask you to fill in an application form instead of sending a CV. If you are asked to complete a form, remember to:

  • read and follow all the instructions carefully
  • draft out your answers on a notepad first and get someone else to read through them
  • don’t just cut and paste your CV into the form – this looks lazy
  • be truthful and highlight how your skills relate to the job as much as possible

Going to an interview

If an employer likes what they see in your application form or CV, you may be invited to go to an interview.

An interview isn’t just a chance for an employer to find out more about you and judge whether you would fit the job. It’s also your opportunity to ask them some questions about the job to see if it’s what you’re looking for.

Before you go to any interview, make sure you’ve done a bit of research about the company. Look at the company’s website to see what work they’re currently doing and find out about any recent developments. Showing that you have an understanding of the wider industry as a whole will make you stand out from other interviewees.

As with interviews for college or university, you should always:

  • make sure you know where the interview will be held and who you will be speaking to
  • be on time
  • tell the truth; if you lie in an interview and are asked to go into more detail, it will be obvious that you don’t know what you’re talking about
  • ask at least one question about the job itself

Deciding what to wear for a job interview

What you wear for an interview will depend on the type of job you are interviewing for. You should always wear something that is neat and and relatively smart, but that doesn’t always mean you need to buy an expensive suit.

If you’re in doubt, get in contact with the company and ask about their dress code.



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