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. Because your education and training, personal characteristics, ambitions and wishes all play a part in finding work that suits you. Know your strengths and your weaknesses so that you can look for vacancies in a more targeted way and can present yourself at your best, both in your letter of application and CV as well as online, during a pitch or job interview.

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2. Look for work in the open and hidden job market

Think about which sector you would like to work in and what kind of work that is. You can subsequently examine which organisations you would like to work at. About 65% of all positions are filled via the hidden job market. These are jobs that are filled via internships, informal networks and by word of mouth. You will find other jobs in the open job market: via adverts (online, in newspapers and magazines), job markets and professional networks. Entry-level jobs are usually published on the internet or filled by word of mouth. You should also keep an eye on social media, as well as online job banks. There are also different networking groups in which vacancies are mentioned, such as LinkedIn and Facebook. You can easily indicate what kind of job you are looking for in your online profile on LinkedIn.

You get to know about the hidden job market via exploratory discussions with people within the sector in which you want to work. You can approach people at job markets and during networking meetings, but you can also build a network with interesting contacts during your internship or volunteer work. Prepare an elevator pitch that will make the other person curious, so that you are invited for an exploratory discussion. Above all, do not begin with the employer where you would really like to work, but practise a few times first at organisations that are lower on your list. Be clear about the reason for the conversation and never ask for a job directly, so that you don’t make the other person feel uncomfortable.

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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. View the download Application letter at the bottom of this page for more information.

5. Compile an appropriate Curriculum Vitae (CV)

In your CV, mention all relevant study programmes, work experience, jobs, roles, qualifications, internships, ancillary positions, volunteer work, etc. A good CV is adapted to the job for which you are applying. Therefore, always make a new CV, aimed at the specific requirements that are mentioned in the vacancy. Employers or clients will often look at your CV first. If it does not meet the requirements or if your CV is poorly organised, your letter will probably not be read. At the bottom of this page, you will find more information and tips in the download ‘Drawing up a CV’.

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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