PART 1 - What kind of a job are you looking for?
The ultimate job application guide (not only) for recent graduates
A big mistake graduates often make is starting by identifying organisations and companies they think they’d like to work for. Randomly applying to interesting organisations, or jobs that sound good is a recipe for disaster. A lack of proper preparation is the reason why many starters are already on the lookout for their next job within their first year. First, you need to take a step back and think about WHAT you enjoy doing.
At the start of your job hunt, take time to really assess your drives: what do you enjoy, what gives you energy, and what kind of activities do you dislike, and why? Are you missing certain skills which you would like to develop? A good tip is to talk to your friends and family as they might have surprising insights about your competences.
Consider the kind of environment you would like to work in. Would you like to work in a big pharma company firm with many growth possibilities? Or would you like to work in a small company, where you might get a lot of responsibility? There are pros and cons to both. Consider questions like: “Would I like to work individually or in a team?”, “Do I prefer a more formal or informal setting?”, and “Will I flourish in a high-pressure, ambitious environment or one with a better work-life balance?”
Once you have an idea about what is important to you in a job, you can start researching companies. Make a list of the ones that fit your profile, and check out if they have relevant vacancies.
Next, talk to people who already work in the organisation, ask about company culture and see if it matches with your initial research. You can also give the HR department a call if you are genuinely interested in working in the organisation to get a better idea of the culture.
Now, you know who you are, and what you are looking for, practise your pitch, so you can fluently explain to others what you are looking for in your first job.
PART 2 - Where can you look for these jobs?
So, now that you have identified what you are looking for and why you are motivated. You should start to activate your network and let them know what you are looking for, also use social media and find out if any of your connections might be able to help you. You can also go and join some networking events. For example, there are often networking events organised by universities and also BCF Career Event is one big networking opportunity. It’s often said that many jobs are not even published though regular channels, so go to these events! Initially networking might feel awkward, but having a good network is important for a flourishing career.
Next to your network you can also look at vacancies on organisation websites and register for job alerts form online job boards, such as BCFjobs.
Also have a look at recruitment agencies, if you find one that is relevant to your location and expertise they can offer valuable assistance, e.g. they know which companies are hiring, and also know a lot about company culture and the type of competencies you need.
Writing your CV
YES! There is a vacancy and you want to send in your CV. What important aspects should you keep in mind?
If you are still early in your career, your CV should not be longer than two pages. Read it thoroughly and identify the weak points. Did you spend longer than average getting your master’s degree or is there a gap when you switched between courses? This can make your CV look suboptimal, but do not lie on your CV or embellish! Do shift the focus to the stronger parts of your CV.
Take a look at the example CV on the following pages and fill in the essentials. Then review the competencies the vacancy is asking for. Can you identify these competencies in your CV? If you can’t, add activities until you do.
Because every vacancy asks for different competencies and you want to create an optimal CV for every application, you’ll have to review and rewrite your CV for every application.
One last tip, often CVs for academic positions, such as a PhD, are very basic: it consists of a concrete list of your skills and experience. However if you are applying for a job in industry, you are allowed more freedom, for example with the design. So if you are applying for a creative job such as writer or in marketing, be sure to have a creative CV. Finally, depending on in which country you apply, make sure to research what is regarded as usual for CVs in that country.
This is where the magic happens, if your CV has caught the recruiter’s eye, you can get yourself invited for an interview when you convince them with your motivation letter. In general keep in mind, your CV is your PAST and the motivation letter is your FUTURE. For a good letter: keep it short, make no mistakes and explain why you are the right person for this job.
Start the letter by mentioning how you came across the vacancy, then continue with the two general subjects of a motivation letter: one is experience, and the second is your motivation.
In the experience you only mention the highlights of your CV, you don’t need to mention everything twice. Keep it relevant.
In the motivation part you can show your personality, explain your drives and why you are such a good fit with this company and this position. Most recruiters don’t like bragging, so walk the line between selling yourself and overselling. However, if you only apply for jobs that make you excited it should be easy to let that excitement shine through.
Don’t forget to finish the letter by suggesting an interview.
Tip: When the job application is in English, be sure to apply in English, even if you are applying to a company based in your home country.
You have already identified your main drives, so make sure this is communicated through all your channels. For example, you are doing your PhD and are looking around for your next step. You know that you got a lot of pleasure teaching, guiding junior students and talking about science and your research. So you want to be known as a great communicator. Now you are onto something… On your CV mention all the different types of communication you have experience with, highlight presentations you have given, students you have helped etc. This also needs to be found in your LinkedIn profile, post a picture of you teaching a class, write an article on your experiences teaching. Next in your motivation letter talk about how teaching gives you energy. As they check your online profile, the information will reinforce your motivation letter.
BONUS: CV sculpting for experienced professionals
As you gain experience through different jobs, switch your education with job history in your CV. Have a regular look at your CV and online presence and keep them up to date.
Good luck and happy job hunting!