It’s a new year and you have decided that it’s time to make a job change or maybe even change careers, but in such a tight job market and with fierce competition for positions, you need to be able to stand out of the crowd and make yourself visible to potential employers. Paying attention to and understanding the finer details of the employment process might help you to land that dream job.


Paying attention to and understanding the finer details of the employment process might help you to land that dream job.

The first step is in selecting the advertisements to respond to or the companies and departments to target. Many people adopt a spray and pray approach to their job search and think that as long as their CV is out there, they will find their dream job. This is like shooting an arrow without taking aim… you may hit something, but not necessarily the target you intended to hit. A targeted search will more likely yield the results you are hoping for. If you are choosing not to go through a recruitment agency, you will have to spend time going through newspapers, the internet and speaking to people to research and select the companies you want to target. Once you have selected the companies, put in a little effort and try to find out the name of the Recruiting Manager or the Head of the Department you are interested in. Addressing your application to a specific individual, as opposed to simply “sending your CV”, increases the chances of your CV being noticed and not just being glanced over.

Should you choose to engage the services of a reputable recruitment agency, be sure to meet the recruitment consultant who will be managing your job search and talk to them about what you are looking for and ask their advice on whether or not your expectations are reasonable. Good recruiters know what is happening in the market and should be able to give sound advice. Also ask that the consultant to contact you before sending your CV to a potential employer so that you remain in ultimate control of your search.


Many people use these two interchangeably, but  it’s important to understand the distinction. The difference is in the length and content included. A resume is a shorter more concise document while a CV is often two pages or longer and contains a detailed synopsis of your career to date. Deciding which of the two to submit depends on the advert requirements and your own discretion.

Should you choose to go with a resume remember to keep it as brief and succinct as possible. In a resume there is no need to include the details of the certificate of attendance from the Karate Camp you attended in the third grade. This is a waste of space on your resume and simply adds clutter. If you are responding to a specific advert, keep the information relevant to the requirements of the position and lead with that information or find a way of highlighting it. Most recruiters spend approximately 10 seconds on a resume when they initially receive it, so should the relevant information be buried in text, it may be missed and your application placed on the back burner.

If however, you are applying to a company when there is no specific opening at the time, the more relevant information you include, along with a cover letter, the more attractive a prospect you might appear. Of course, you have to address this application to a specific individual and perhaps precede it with a phone call and also place a second call a day or so after submitting the CV to ensure it was received.

Cover letters are a good way of making an impression, but the information in the resume or CV must back up what your cover letter states. Should you be submitting a resume, you may either put your cover letter in the body of the email you send or condense the details of the cover letter into a few lines at the top of your resume.


Most recruitment agencies and HR departments receive a huge volume of CVs on a daily basis and often don’t get back to the majority of applicants (they often put a small disclaimer on the advert stating that if you haven’t received any communication from them by a specific date, your application has been unsuccessful). Should you decide to follow up on your application, make sure you have read the details of cut-off dates regarding feedback, otherwise you will simply be wasting your time and come across as desperate or a nag. Also make sure you have kept the details of the advert, the date you submitted your resume and any communication you have had with the Agency or the company so that you can quote the details accurately.


Securing an interview might seem like the hard part is done and you may be tempted to relax from this stage on. This is however, where it counts most that you be organized and prepared. Going through a reputable agency may prove to be advantageous at this stage as they are in a position to arrange a time which is suitable for you, negotiate salary on your behalf and run with all the follow-ups. Good recruitment consultants are also able to prepare an information pack for you with details of the company so that you have some understanding of the company, the position and the people you will be meeting with.

If you have applied for the position directly, take some time to do your research about the company. Don’t just read what the company says about itself on the website, but find some publications and articles on the internet, talk to people in the industry who know something about the company and go into your interview armed with some facts and interesting bits of information about the company. 

Knowing something about the company shows that you are not just looking for any old job, but are genuinely interested in working with this particular organisation and it will impress the interviewer if you show some company knowledge. Having information beyond the basics also means that you can ask more in-depth questions and come away from the interview with enough information to make a decision.

After the interview, be sure to send an email thanking the interviewers for their time and letting them know that you are looking forward to hearing from them. While this seems like a simple courtesy, many people overlook this and this could be the one little thing that differentiates you from the pack.


Talking about money is considered crass in polite company and many people find it difficult to discuss it. In a case where the advert has simply stated Market Related Salary or Negotiable (and you haven’t gone through an agent who will typically negotiate salary on your behalf),  it’s advisable to not be the one who raises the issue of salary. Should the interview go well, the HR department or interviewer, will either raise it in the interview or send a follow-up email requesting details of current salary and asking what would be an acceptable salary for you to move.  It’s important to have researched salaries for your position and the industry before you start throwing out figures. If you are asking for a salary higher than market/industry norms, be prepared to justify it. Most companies are happy to pay a higher salary if the candidate is “a rock star”.


Most companies will conduct professional reference checks as well as educational, credit and criminal checks. These checks cannot necessarily be used as grounds to reject a candidate, unless the company can prove that your having a bad credit record has a direct impact on your performing the job, but  it’s best to ensure your records are clean before submitting your application for any position. Make sure that any individuals you have named as references are aware that they may be called on to give a reference and they do actually know you well enough to give worthwhile positive comment.

The internet and rise of social media, also means that potential employers have easy access to information about you. Of course information they find using these sources may not be allowable grounds to decline your application, but it certainly creates an impression which could lead to negative bias.  It’s advisable to check all the privacy settings on your Facebook, Twitter and any other cyber profiles you may have. Delete any dormant or unused accounts and every once in a while Google yourself to see what comes up.

Finding your dream job takes effort, commitment and perseverance and a little bit of luck, but if you are willing to put the work in, it will pay off.