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Applying for your First Job

Help with finding a job

You may know what kind of job you want, but you need to know where to look. Job vacancies can be advertised in a number of different places, including:

  • job vacancy websites
  • in local or national newspapers
  • at your local Jobcentre Plus or Connexions office
  • at recruitment agencies
  • college and university career offices and noticeboards
  • shop windows

If you’re interested in finding a job in a particular field, it’s worth investigating which employment agencies and websites specialise in that area. This will cut down on unnecessary searches.

Building on your skills

When you're applying for a job, you will usually have to describe how well your skills and previous experience fit the job description. Even if you’re short of experience in the workplace, there are key skills that employers look for that anyone can demonstrate. These include:

  • good communication skills
  • evidence of teamwork
  • building working relationships with others
  • computer and IT skills

Think about what you have learned from school or college and any skills you have from activities that you have taken part in. For example, you might have:

  • created your own website or blog
  • taken part in a Duke of Edinburgh scheme
  • been a member of a sports team

All of these examples use skills that employers look for, as well as general ones like showing initiative and commitment.

When you have found a job you think you could do, there are different ways that companies may ask you to apply for it.

Curriculum Vitae (CV)

A curriculum vitae or CV is a short document that lists your personal details, skills and experience. Employers will decide whether to ask you for an interview based solely on this CV, so it’s important that it’s accurate, describes you in a positive way and matches the job description.

Covering letter

When you send in a CV, you will often be asked to include it with a covering letter.

You should use the letter to sell yourself, explain why you are suitable for the role and describe how the information in your CV is suited to the job that you’re applying for.

When you're writing the letter, you should:

  • keep it to a maximum of one side of A4 paper and emphasise your suitability for the role
  • always use a computer to write it, unless the job advert asks for a handwritten letter
  • include the job title or reference number of the job you're applying for
  • get someone else to check it for spelling mistakes and grammar before you send it off; don’t rely on a computer spell check, as these can often be unreliable

Going to an interview

If an employer likes what they see in your application form or CV, you may be invited to go to an interview. As well as a chance for an employer to find out more about you and judge whether you would fit the job, it’s an opportunity for you to ask questions about the job to see if it’s what you’re looking for

Before you go to any interview, make sure you've done a bit of research about the company. Look at the company's website to see what work they’re currently doing and find out about any recent developments. Showing that you have an understanding of the wider industry as a whole will make you stand out from other interviewees.

As with interviews for college or university, there are some common sense rules that you should follow:

  • make sure you know where the interview will be held and who you will be speaking to
  • be on time (at least 15 minutes before)
  • even if it's a casual workplace, dressing smartly will always make a good impression
  • tell the truth - if you lie in an interview and are asked to go into more detail, it will be obvious that you don’t know what you’re talking about
  • once the interview is over, ask at least one question about the job itself

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