3 tips for job search success

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September 14, 2021

Hearing about skills shortages and still can’t get through those interviews?

The quote below, from page 6 of the January 2021 Government report, reflects many graduate-level jobseekers’ experience: being unable to find a job while there are skills shortages reported in their job area.

“…only 66% of UK working-age graduates are in high-skilled employment…”


 If that’s you, here are 3 tips:

Target well-matched jobs rather than making lots of applications. 

  • Less is more…  spending more time & effort on fewer applications should reap more results.
  • Avoid modesty in interviews. Make it easy for the panel to score you highly on your relevant achievements and skills relevant to their job.
  • Network, network, network. Keeping in touch with your networks of individuals and groups is a great way to come across vacancies.  (see my previous blog on this)

Here’s some more detail:

  • Target well-matched jobs rather than making lots of applications.
  • It’s better to target just 1-3 applications per week.
  • Carefully scrutinise the Job Description and the Person Specification to assess how close it is to your aims, values, experience.  Select just those jobs that really fire your enthusiasm. If it fits your aims & values but you don’t have quite enough experience, it still may be worth applying.  Employers value motivation and career ‘fit’ over almost everything else, in my experience. So think about that and how to express it.
  • It’s tempting to upload the same CV and covering letter or statement for large numbers of applications on platforms like LinkedIn and Job boards. In the hope that by submitting so many applications the law of average may produce interviews.  However, many other people are taking the same approach and so most employers receive far more applications than they can fully assess.  Yours is likely to be overlooked,  especially if it wasn’t carefully matched to the vacancy.
  • Make it easy for recruiters to spot your application.  Make your CV, letter, the statement specifically tailored for this vacancy and employer.  That will take at least an hour to research and write. And only send the documents the employer asks for.

Avoid modesty in interviews

Interview MistakesThis is a big one that causes many employers to miss great candidates. Interviews require interviewees to showcase their achievements and attitudes.  Few people are comfortable doing this in any context, and especially to strangers in an interview!

The objective of this approach is to try to be fair and transparent in selection.  However, the common reality is that some personality types and perhaps cultural norms succeed more than others.   However, it is the main UK system for selection so candidates have to try to get through.


  • Prepare carefully, using an adviser, colleagues, friends who know the system
  • Practice
  • Practice some more

 Common interview miscommunications

  1. Employers may assume that they and the candidate share the same assumptions about promoting oneself at an interview
  2. In fact, many people are uncomfortable with this, preferring to remain modest and unassuming
  3. Interviewees may not directly answer the question.  This may be a cultural miscommunication.
  4. The employer is expecting an answer that directly addresses the relevant criteria in the person specification that the question is drawn from
  5. The employer may also be unclear about why the candidate is applying for this job. Especially if their previous experience is at a higher level.  It is the task of the candidate to explain why they want this job in a way that persuades the employer. The employers’ task is to be fair and inclusive.

The employer should have trained the interviewers in how to interview fairly. Most employers would not spend time and money on interviewing a candidate if they had no intention of seriously assessing them at that interview.

Here’s a good guide with example interview questions and answers using competencies to assess (using the STAR method).  It’s designed for assessment centers, though is a useful resource for all interviews http://www.assessmentday.co.uk/free/competancy-based-interview/CompetancyBasedinterview-Reccommendations.pdf and here are some more interview tips from Monster: https://www.monster.co.uk/career-advice/job-interview-tips

 So, to maximise success in interviews:

  • Predict and practice the questions so you can showcase your profile well.  All the interview questions relate to the Person Specification requirements, so you can predict and practice most of the questions that should come up.
  • Make confident responses that are congruent with your values and aims and also theirs.  For example, if they are a public or not-for-profit service (eg a credit union, local government or a housing association, then talk about your commitment to efficient, value for money public service. If you’re looking for private-sector employment and they are a large, private engineering company, then talk about your experience in terms of contributing to the profitability of a business.

Network, network, network


Here’s a short podcast to listen to, with great advice about networking, by the Prospect   Union for professionals: https://careersmart.org.uk/your-career/career-development/networking-podcast And a link to the National Careers Service advice about career networking: https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/careers-advice/networking

Networking enables a ripple effect on your career management, and can directly help interviews. For example:

  • Information. If you have contacts who know about this employer or sector, their information and advice may allow you to make a great answer to an interview question.
  • Mentoring. A mentor can help you prepare for the interview
  • Vacancies. Letting your network know you’re on the lookout for a new role can often lead you to knowing about vacancies you may otherwise not have known about.
  • Speculative applications. If you want to work for a specific employer, and you know a colleague there, they may know who’s best to contact to make your enquiry.