Step-by-step plan applying for a job

This step-by-step stages covers the application procedure for finding paid employment from orientation to job interview. It is also handy if you need to prepare for a hands-on training position or a job on the side besides your work as a self-employed entrepreneur without personnel.

1. Know your qualities

A successful career starts with knowing who you are and recognising your own qualities. Your education and training, the labour market, your personal characteristics, ambitions and wishes all play a part in finding work or assignments. Know your strengths and your weaknesses so that you can look for vacancies or assignments in a more targeted way and can present yourself at your best, both in your letter of application and CV as well as online or during a pitch or job interview.

2. Look for work in the open and informal labour market

Decide in which sector you want to look for work and what kind of work it is. Then you can see with what kind of organisation you would like to work. Approximately 65% of all jobs are taken via the informal market. These are jobs that are taken via hands-on training, informal networks or by word of mouth. You can find other jobs in the open labour market via advertisements (online and in newspapers and magazines), jobs markets and during network meetings, but you can also already build up a network with interesting contacts during your period of hands-on training or voluntary work.

Prepare an elevator pitch to make people curious enough to invite you for an exploratory interview. Don't start with the employer with whom you are very keen to work, but practise a couple of times first with organisations that come less high on your list. Be clear about the reason for the interview and never ask directly for a job in order not to embarrass the other party.

3. Analyse the vacancy

Try to find a match between what you want and what the employer has to offer: the common denominator. Don't apply if you hardly satisfy any of the requirements for the function, but remember that no one is perfect either. It is already something if you can satisfy 75% of the skills and personal characteristics. Think about what you would like to do in order to be able to satisfy all the criteria in the longer term. Employers appreciate this. It is always a good idea to phone and ask a few questions. It is a way of showing your interest, making an impression, and obtaining information that you can use in your letter.

4. Write a letter of application

Explain in your letter of application why you in particular are the best candidate. The standard letter starts by stating for which function you are applying and where you saw the vacancy advertised. In the body of the letter you describe your motivation – why you are interested in the function and why you are suitable for it. Illustrate this with examples, or present your view of the discipline. The letter should conclude by expressing the wish to be able to discuss your letter and CV in more detail during an interview.

5. Compile an appropriate Curriculum Vitae (CV)

A good CV is one that matches the function for which you are applying. So make a new CV each time that is targeted to the specific demands. Employers or potential clients look at your CV first. If you do not satisfy the requirements or if your CV is badly presented, they will not even bother to read your letter.

Start by making a basic CV listing your education and training, all work experience, functions, tasks, competences, hands-on training experience, secondary functions and voluntary work. You can draw on this for the relevant information for each application. Download the file 'model CV' to help you.

Make sure that your online profile and the information on the social media match what you write in your letter of application. Check what happens when you use a search engine to find yourself, because that is what your potential employer will do as well.

6. Prepare for the interview properly

A job interview is an opportunity for both parties to get to know one another better. The organisation wants to see confirmation of the positive picture that your letter and CV have formed. You want to see whether the function matches your wishes and expectations and to try to convince the employer of your suitability. Be properly prepared: make sure that you can remember the contents of your letter and CV and think about possible questions. Give a clear and realistic picture of yourself in relation to the function.

It is common for a case to be presented or for you to be asked to describe a case from the past. You must then describe what your tasks were, which actions you took, what the result was, and what you learnt from it. This is known as the STARR method: Situation –> Tasks –> Actions –> Results –> Reflection.

After the interview you may be invited for a second round, or you may be rejected. In the latter case, call to ask for the reason for rejection so that you can learn from it. Keep on actively looking for work.

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