While casual work can be a quick source of cash, we believe that a good job means more than just getting by. A good job provides long term security for you and your family, it protects your employment rights, it respects your right to leisure, and it offers you a chance to develop your career.
Finding it can take time, confidence and, above all, good employability skills. This is why we developed a guide to boost your employability skills. Learn how to look for jobs, avoid scams, draft a modern CV and a persuasive cover letter, and prepare for your interview.
There are a number of sources you can use to look for jobs. Some companies advertise their vacancies directly on their web pages, others use specialised job search websites. You may also find work through newspaper advertisements, posted in shop windows, or through a recruitment agency. Whatever method you use, take caution to avoid fake advertisements. They can waste your time at best, or steal your money and personal information at worst.
If you want to look for work through a Recruitment Agency, we recommend you use agencies that are members of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC, to be sure that you are ethical, professional and responsible. You can search for trustworthy agencies here.
To prevent falling prey to such scams, search online for the details of the job and take advantage of online community forums and social media to find reviews. Chances are that, if the company or recruiter is fake, others have been tricked before you. Make sure you check the trustworthiness of the employer before sending them more details or replying to their emails.
Having found job openings which interest you, the next step is to go through their application process. This generally entails sending a CV, writing a cover letter and/or completing an application form, and sending professional references. If successful, online applications are usually followed by face-to-face, telephonic, or video interviews.
The CV can be seen as the story of your professional life. The typical headings of a CV are, in this order: Profile/personal summary (optional); Work experience; Education and qualifications; Additional information (languages, computer skills, driving license, interests, and other relevant information).
It is not advisable to send the same CV to all employers. Read the job description carefully, identify the skills required for the job, then adapt your CV accordingly.
Use headings, sub-headings and bullet points where appropriate, to make your CV easier to read. Use a professional font like Times New Roman or Arial, in sizes 10 or 12. Do not clutter the page(s), but do not exceed two A4 pages. When applying directly to an employer, It is more professional to send a PDF version rather than a Word version of a CV. Try to avoid using colours - black text on white paper will do.
Active And Confident Style
Use the active voice and first person whenever you can: e.g. ‘I have developed my teamwork abilities through this experience’; rather than ‘This experience taught me teamwork skills’ Be confident, avoid using verbs such as ‘began’, ‘tried’, or ‘was asked to’, and instead use active verbs such as ‘did’, ‘conducted’, ‘developed’, or ‘organised’.
Use UK English (e.g. ‘organised’, rather than ‘organized’; ‘colour’ rather than ‘color’; ‘centre’ rather than ‘center’) and spellcheckers. Correct grammar and punctuation might get you further than you expect.
UK versus other European CVs
The UK CV differs from CVs in other European countries. Do not include your gender, age or a photo. There is no need to have a ‘Skills’ section.
The cover letter is a one-page letter sent together with your CV, to entice employers to consider your application. It typically has two main paragraphs informally known as the ‘why me’ and the ‘why the company you are applying to’.
Compared to CVs, a cover letter is a more detailed way to highlight key relevant experiences, provide details about particular skills you have, are demonstrate your knowledge of the employer.
Do not neglect the role of looks and presentation. Employers will pay attention to the way you write, viewing it as an indicator of your character and ability to communicate. Ideas should be structured clearly and presented well, with no spelling or grammar mistakes.
Detail your professional activity relevant for the job, and conclude by clearly by stating the skills you have gained. Do not be afraid to use exactly the words used in the job description. This makes it easier for busy employers to see that that you are equipped for the role.
If your experience is in a different industry than the one of the employer, emphasise transferable skills, such as communication, teamwork, flexibility, or attention to detail.
Avoid clichés and standard phrases - they are easy to spot and make you less attractive to employers. Instead, use examples to show how you gained the skills the employer seeks.
The letter should not exceed one side of an A4 (three to four paragraphs long).Sentences should be short and snappy. Long paragraphs dissolve ideas and indicate a lack of confidence.
Address the letter to a named person. If the job advert does not mention a name to address the cover letter to, call the company and ask about the name of the person who deals with recruitment. This can make you stand out from other candidates.
Use the appropriate greeting and sign off. Start with ‘Dear’ + Mr/Ms/Dr/etc (if you know the name) or Dear + Sir/Madam (if you don’t know the name). If you are unsure whether a woman is a Miss, Mrs or Ms, the rule is to use ‘Ms’. End with ‘Yours sincerely’ if the letter is addressed to a named individual, and with ‘Yours faithfully’ if it is not.
The vast majority of job applications requires references from past employers, or people that know you well professionally. To ensure your boss or manager will provide a positive reference letter, make sure to give them plenty of notice before you leave your job. Referees cannot be family or friends.
Mastering English is essential for finding a better job. There are a few sources of free English classes available in London:
National Careers Service – everybody who has a National Insurance Number can get free one time advice from a careers adviser. Contact them here.
Jobcentre plus - people who receive Jobseeker Allowance can get help from their adviser, and be sent to classes to improve the English, IT skills, or skills to write CV or cover letter.