Job Applications

Where to look for your ideal role

Where to look for your ideal role

Technology continues to facilitate the exercise of searching for those interesting matching roles and this is the most common and effective method for securing employment in the present market. Interrogating job boards is now a straightforward exercise, just requiring patience and an attitude of thoroughness. Some sites will capture all job advertising, including newspapers, consultants, boards, magazines and employers. Through frequent interrogation, you will become familiar with the sites that are most relevant to you. Again, I emphasise being selective and using only my recommended qualitative method of application.

It is easy to identify and search the major websites, job boards and the specialist sites. Be mindful, however, to make purposeful applications when you have identified jobs in which you are particularly interested and which suit your range of skills. Refer to the section ‘Responding to job advertisements’, and closely follow the advice. Do not send your CV speculatively and do not send your CV without an accompanying email.

‘Please find enclosed my CV for the position of… If you need any further information, please contact me.’

This type of application normally results in employers reaching for the delete key. It is not a serious application. In my role, I write and place advertisements on the main job boards. I then review the hundreds of replies and call about five per cent for interview. Knowing what works, I can give you that ‘inside track’ expertise to dramatically increase your chances of being in that five per cent.

Apply direct

Use the internet to identify organisations that you consider may benefit from your skills. The current vacancies will normally be listed on their website. In the section ‘Responding to job advertisements’, I shall elaborate on the most effective method and approach to use. Send your CV together with a strong email identifying and outlining four of your skills that you consider to be relevant to the organisation and its activities. Follow your application with a further telephone call or, if you prefer email.

Network through your contacts

Today’s market offers greater flexibility in choice of career structure and skills application. This flexibility creates an environment whereby the candidate can be more independent in their application of skills. This situation means that the candidate is less reliant on the ‘who you know’ phenomena and personal recommendations. It is, however, useful to network through friends and family by way of finding out background information about an organisation that they know as an employee or supplier.

Currently, the vast majority of candidates gain employment through the internet rather than personal contacts. The internet as a recruitment vehicle allows for more objectivity in your consideration of a role, rather than joining a company because a friend works there or recommended you and then two months later realising that the work does not really match your skills or career aspirations.

Job advertisements – in print

This is also an important source for identifying interesting vacancies. Use the national press, scanning both the display and semi-display advertisements. Use periodicals, magazines, and industry-specific or specialist publications. Familiarise yourself with the content and classification of recruitment advertising that is carried by these publications. You may be surprised, for example, in the UK, The Grocer carries a comprehensive range of advertisements for roles that are not necessarily compliant with its title.

The identification of market trends, salary ranges and employment growth areas is important information that you will gain from scanning these publications.

Recruitment consultants

This is an area you will have already covered through your applications on the leading websites. Many recruitment consultancies do not use their own websites, but place their advertisements on the job boards. Do not send your CV speculatively as recruitment consultants work on the basis of identifying an application against an intended vacancy. If you are lucky enough, they might occasionally approach you when you will be the subject of that ego-boosting headhunt. However, do not let emotional reaction cloud your judgement. Ask the headhunter why they have called you and what they know about your skills. You may be surprised and disappointed at their vacant answers and then realise that the call was a speculative canvassing exercise on their part.

The professional headhunter will do comprehensive research and only call you to discuss a serious career opportunity that fits your profile.

Responding to job advertisements

Never send a CV on its own – you must explain the reason and context in which you are sending it.

You may be sending it in response to an advertisement and you must accompany the CV with a well-constructed email (or letter) outlining your reason for applying for the role.

A well-written email, outlining your suitability, will dramatically increase your chance of being called for interview.

An advertisement is a summary of a job description and will mention the salient skills required. When reading the advertisement, firstly identify the critical compulsory skills and construct your accompanying email in a way that demonstrates your expertise in that area.

‘I notice in your advertisement that you are seeking a candidate with analytical skills. In my current role, I research statistical reports and compile a summary…’

Job descriptions, which are the source of information for the advertisement, will vary in length and detail. Some will be extremely cursory and brief. In some cases, the recruiter will not have a written job description but will work from a verbal briefing. In other cases, there will be a detailed and comprehensive description of the role. Terminology will vary but typically will include the purpose of the job, the description of the organisation, competencies and levels, experience, knowledge, qualifications, duties, responsibilities, activities, soft skills, technical skills, location and remuneration package. The description will specify and demarcate between essential required skills and those that are desirable but not critical.

When you are applying for a particular role, identify four skills requirements from the advertisement that you think strongly match your profile. Outline your relevant experience or competencies that endorse your suitability for the role. Your email should be specific and concise. Occasionally, some advertisements will invite you also to telephone to ascertain your initiative, where good communication skills are critical to the role such as advertising, PR, business development and situations where you deliver client presentations. Make sure you do telephone. Use the content and format of your email as a guide for presenting yourself verbally.

Having submitted your application, you wait for a response. Don’t expect an acknowledgement. Recruiters will not have the time to respond to each application and will contact only those candidates whom they would like to call for interview. They may contact you by telephone or, more frequently, by email. Your job search is influenced by many unforeseen factors. The number of responses I receive will vary between 10 and 200 per role. Therefore, if a recruiter does not invite you for an  interview, it may not be that you don’t have the experience and competency to carry out the role successfully, but merely that another candidate fits the criteria more closely in terms of location and competitor experience.

In your skills profile and CV construction you have identified your dominant competencies and you should only apply to roles that match those. Be selective; only make quality applications. Don’t scan the job boards and apply to roles that look vaguely interesting with no regard for competencies required. Don’t just click and send with the inevitable one or two-liner.

‘Please find enclosed my CV for the role of… If you require any further information, please email me or phone me on my mobile. I look forward to an early response.’

This type of click and send normally promotes a click and delete.

I review applications from a positive perspective. Recruiters are hoping to find a match. As I am continually reviewing job descriptions, writing advertisements and managing responses daily, I am familiar with the winning formula. Follow the recommendations on CV and email construction and you will increase your chances of being in that five per cent whom we are delighted to call for an interview.

Consider the following advertisements that I wrote and posted online on leading job boards when recruiting on behalf of prestigious clients. You can then view real responses at first hand. This exercise will demonstrate the importance of formulating quality applications and dramatically increase your ratio of positive replies.


Four key attributes, therefore, that a suitable candidate for this Economist/Analyst role might possess include:

  • excellent analytical skills
  • flexibility
  • strong interpersonal skills
  • creativity

We receive over 100 CVs with supporting emails everyday, some of which are replicated on the following pages. Judge which ones are the serious applications and the ones which we consider to be the just ‘click and send’. Here are some examples from our inbox:


What job is this applicant responding to? The reference number is the online advertiser’s, not our reference. The respondent does not demonstrate any commitment or engagement with the role. Deleted.


This example sounds polite, but it does not engage with the role and its responsibilities and the applicant is responding in a ‘click and send’ manner.


Brief and to the point. An enthusiastic response – I invited the candidate for interview.


It is surprising how frequently I receive this type of response. Deleted.


We again highlight the dominant skills required:

  • Develop and implement strategic plans.
  • Results oriented.
  • Consumer marketing.
  • Profit and loss.
  • Negotiation.
  • Initiative.

Your email should include at least four skills that endorse your suitability for the role and match those specified in the advertisement.


A strong, focused reply, which endorses a range of synergistic skills within brief, direct narrative. The candidate was enthusiastically invited for interview.


Auto and interior products are technical experiences that do not match the job requirements. It would be better for the candidate to adopt a more selective approach at this level and seek roles that capitalise on their unique experiences. Deleted.


Not an engaging response. Deleted.

This is a strong response. The candidate has taken the time and care to engage with the advertisement.


A positive reply – the candidate was invited for interview.


There is a wide range of experiences to choose from that are highlighted in this advertisement. Choose four.

  • Leadership/management - 50 staff.
  • Construction industry plant.
  • Profit and loss.
  • Business strategy.
  • Customer focus.
  • Performance oriented.
  • Ambitious.


This is a strong response and, though brief, reactive in terms of the advertisement’s specification. The candidate was invited for an interview.


This response is majoring on the ‘construction’ industry experience and ignores the rest of the criteria. Deleted.


We can identify the following skills as critical from the tone of the advertisement:

  • Leadership - 3,000 staff.
  • International experience.
  • Planning.
  • Determining strategy.
  • Service sector.
  • Performance orientation.
  • Innovative.


A good response. The candidate may not be logistically senior enough for the role in terms of people numbers and international exposure; however, they are worth inviting for interview as a candidate ‘with potential’ rather than proven track record. Personality and interview performance will be critical here.


This applicant does not engage with the critical content of the advertisement. Management consultants require good report writing skills and the respondent must therefore give a coherent account of themselves. Deleted.


A strong application endorsing the synergy of technical and soft skills and operational performance – the dominant criteria. The candidate was invited for interview.


No comment needed here. Deleted.


This is an interesting exercise in terms of identifying the required key skills. The advertisement does not nominate competencies, but rather describes an opportunity for potential publishing graduates. Therefore, we can be assumptive and address the following key issues:

Why are you choosing a career in publishing? Ambitious – explain and elaborate.

Excellent communication skills are foundational to publishing, therefore the content and construction of your email will be judged in that context.


Easy decision. Deleted.


Good reply. Took care and time to write. The candidate was called for interview.


Content and quality is poor and there is no engagement with the advertisement. Deleted.

The response focuses exclusively on the role. The candidate was called for interview.


  • Only apply for roles that really interest you and which match your skills.
  • Don’t send your CV speculatively in the hope that ‘something will come up’.
  • When you have identified a suitable role, spend time analysing the key skills required and then describe how they match your particular profile.


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