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The Two Golden Job Search Rules

job hunting

There are two essential things to get right in your job search. You need to find the right jobs to apply to and you need to sell yourself strongly.

It sounds obvious doesn’t it? But it’s astonishing how many people overlook one or both of these principles in their job search. They either apply for jobs that they stand little chance of getting or they fail to communicate their strengths effectively. Sometimes they do both.

We call these two principles targeting and presentation. Let’s look in more detail at each:


A client recently told me that he’d applied for a job for which he knew he did not have the experience but which he hoped he would get. He knew he could do the job and he was pretty confident that the company to which he was applying would take him on once they had seen his CV and understood what his potential was.

Needless to say he didn’t get the job. He probably could have done it perfectly well. But he did not take into account the fact that employers don’t recruit people who could do the job. They recruit people who can prove that they have done the job, or at a pinch, those who demonstrate through their achievements and knowledge that even though they have never done the job, they can do it.

Unless you want to waste a lot of time sending off job applications for unsuitable roles, it is essential that you target the right jobs. This means finding jobs that you are not only qualified for, but which you have a reasonable chance of landing.

For example, you may see a job advertised which is exactly what you are looking for. You know you can do it and you have all the right experience and qualifications. But you can also be pretty sure that there will be dozens, if not hundreds of applicants for the position, because it was advertised so prominently. Many of those applicants will have similar experience to yours. So your chances of landing the job, even though you are well qualified for it, are pretty slim.

It is much better to use a technique like networking to target jobs that have not been advertised, than to chase the same jobs as everyone else. 50% – 70% of people get their jobs through word of mouth compared to around 20% who land jobs through adverts. The figures show that careful targeting works.

An important part of targeting the right jobs is carrying out good research. In order to define your targets you need to know what companies are out there, and what you offer that they need. Whichever industry or sector you are seeking to work in, whether a private company, public body or voluntary organisation, you need to know who the decision makers are, what is happening in their organisation and sector and what needs they have which you can fill. Armed with this information you can identify the companies that are most likely to respond positively to your approach, and have successful conversations with them.


It goes without saying that your job applications need to sell you well. But what does this mean in practice?

Getting a job is an exercise in marketing and selling yourself; it is no different to any other. Think of it in exactly the same way as you would think about bringing a new product or service onto the market. You need to know what the new product offers, and where the market is for it. The only difference is that the product is you and the market is those organisations who could potentially be interested in obtaining your services.

So, in order to sell yourself well, whether in writing through your CV, letters and emails, or verbally, through your conversations and at interview, you need to deliver the messages that your market expects to hear, and you need to demonstrate why, out of all the candidates in the market, you are the best.

Most recruitment these days is competency based. This means that the company which is recruiting defines the competencies, or skills, that it wants the successful candidate to have. You will be expected to demonstrate in your application, or networking meetings, that you do indeed have those competencies.

For example, an old fashioned CV sets out the jobs you have done and describes your duties and responsibilities. A competency based CV lists out your skills and achievements, the things that you have done during the course of your career which demonstrate what you are capable of, and which prove that you are the right person for the job.

A common mistake made by many people, both on their CV and when they are talking about themselves, is to make claims about themselves that are both too general and not supported by evidence. Claims like “I am a hard working, enthusiastic, dynamic professional.” You might well be. But what is that really telling the employer? Would they even look at your application if they didn’t think you were hard working and dynamic. And can you back your claims up by evidence, or are they just the product of your imagination?

The job market at the moment is pretty tough. But people are getting jobs. You can be one of them. By observing the two golden rules of job hunting, you will be astonished just how much easier you can make things for yourself.

If you feel daunted by any of this, or would value some specialist support in getting the job you really want, please get in touch. You can reach the Career Advice Centre on 0845 467 41767 or email