Job Search

How to Correctly Apply for Jobs

Applying through a job website

Targeted applications: Make sure your CV is relevant and targeted to the role you are applying for. The job description is a good place to find relevant keywords, specific skills, qualifications or areas of expertise.Show you’ve made an effort: Prove to a recruiter or hiring manager that you’ve read the job description and that your CV reflects the role requirements.

Get in quick: Expect fierce competition so don’t delay too long before you apply. Speed up your response rate by signing up for alerts which tell you when suitable jobs are advertised.

Respect the limitations: While a beautifully designed CV is great for face-to-face meetings, go for plain formatting when you’re submitting your CV to an online database or job board, so that it can be parsed into the system.

Cover letter: Some job boards give the option to write an application summary or to upload a cover letter. A lot of people don’t use this, so it’s good opportunity to stand out. Be sure not to over do it though. Two or three sentences explaining why you are applying and why you are a good match for the job is enough.

Applying on LinkedIn

Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up to scratch: Make sure there is enough information on your profile for a recruiter to decide if you are qualified or not. Many profiles only have company names and job titles listed. This gives the recruiter limited visibility of what your talents are and very little to work with when assessing your eligibility for the role.

Include a professional profile photo: Having a photo on your LinkedIn profile is the simplest step to show you are invested in how your profile represents your professional brand. Including your picture helps the recruiter connect with you as an individual. This can place you ahead of other candidates without a photo. The photo should be a professional photo, preferably a headshot.

Take the opportunity to provide more personal details than you could on a CV: LinkedIn allows you to provide more personal details than you could on a traditional CV. A recruiter will have much more to speak to you about and will be more inclined to consider you. Add details like interests, hobbies, organizations, or volunteering experience.

Including recommendations and media to enhance your brand will provide recruiters with valuable insights into your work and/or volunteer experience.

Proof read your profile: Just as you should have a close colleague or friend check for typos or errors in your CV, you should also do the same with your profile. Little grammatical and spelling mistakes are harder to spot online than in a Word document. You would be surprised how many recruiters will use poor spelling and grammar to filter out candidates. Don’t use text abbreviations like “u” for you or “2” for to.

When in doubt, upload both: If you are hesitant about only using your LinkedIn profile to apply for a job, try submitting both your profile and your CV. But make sure your CV and profile are telling the same story so as not to confuse the recruiter or muddle your professional brand. Ensure when uploading a CV to double-check the ‘auto fill’ fields. Job sites are now clever enough to pick up key fields like your name, email address and contact numbers and fill in fields automatically.

One-click applications: Applying for jobs with One-click using just your LinkedIn profile is a quick and easy option; just don’t make it a hasty decision. Spend time to make sure your LinkedIn profile is succinct and complete. By applying these tips when using your LinkedIn profile to apply for jobs, you can improve your chances of being shortlisted. 

Applying directly to a person

As well as applying to a specific job, sometimes you might hear about a job through a friend or colleague and therefore approach someone directly on LinkedIn via in-mail, which could form part of your application. It’s important to consider the following when sending in-mails.

Keep it brief: Get to the point quickly and tell the recipient why you are reaching out to them, ideally in the very first line of the message. Remember, they are probably reading the in-mail on their phone and might not ever open it again. A short message makes it easy for the other person to respond to you, also with a short reply. Always finish your in-mail with your name and phone number.

Emphasize common ground: Establish a shared purpose with your recipient – one that is genuine, not fake. For example: you might mention that you have mutual friend/colleague that has mentioned a job opening that you are interested in applying for.

Make it highly personalized: Try reaching out to people in a more personal way by keeping your message informal, a formal message can come across cold and scripted. Be careful not to cross the line, remember you are not friends so there must be a balance. An informal approach can set the tone for a joyful working relationship in the future.

Applying via a Recruitment Agency

Before speaking with a recruiter, here are 8 things you need to know.

Know what you want: One of the first questions a recruiter may ask you is: “What are you looking for from your next job opportunity?” It is crucial to truly know yourself and what you want and need out of your next job. Take some time to be introspective and if necessary, speak with your spouse or family members regarding potential career opportunities. Consider asking yourself the following questions and sharing the answers with your recruiter:

  • What type of jobs and responsibilities are you willing to consider in your job search?
  • In what city (cities) are you willing to work?
  • What salary ranges are you considering?
  • Are those salaries realistic for the location(s) and positions you’re considering?
  • What type of work environment and culture do you want?
  • What are your long and short-term career goals?
  • What is your job search timeline?

Know your deal breakers: From the above categories, which are you willing to be flexible on? For example, decide whether you’re willing to accept a lower salary for a job that is closer to home. Understanding your wiggle room and communicating this with your recruiter can potentially open up your search to more job opportunities.

Know the process: Have you worked with a recruiter before? If not, be sure that your recruiter explains the hiring process and sets your expectations. Even if you have worked with a recruiter previously, it is a good idea to enquire about each employer’s specific process.

Be honest: Honesty is always the best policy when working with a recruiter. Whether you receive a different offer, lose interest in the job or are concerned with the heavy workload, it’s important to be open and communicate any changes in your current status. Only move forward in the job search and interview process if you’re still on-board with the next steps.

Your relationship with your recruiter should be just that – a relationship. Establish the best form of communication up front, to ensure availability on both sides. If necessary, create a weekly calendar appointment to allow you to stay in touch.

Show your energy: Recruiters typically respond to a candidate’s level of enthusiasm, urgency and motivation. A lively, positive attitude goes a long way as a first impression. Recruiters typically want to help the candidates who are serious about their job search, inclined to take action and have an upbeat outlook on the job search process. For many employers, a cultural fit is extremely important and personality can often play a key role in the qualification process.

Provide up-to-date information: Knowing your current skills and career goals are critical. Do a self-assessment of your past job responsibilities, skills, career progression and goals by updating your CV. This helps you determine what jobs you may qualify for and better yet, what interests you most. As a side note, a recruiter will always request your updated CV, so keep a current copy on your PC and even your mobile device so it’s available to send instantly.

Be available: It may seem difficult to return a recruiter’s phone call while you’re already juggling a job, kids and an exercise plan. However, if finding a new job is at the top of your priority list, then being available to speak with your recruiter should as well. Hiring managers can move extremely quickly through the interview process, so make sure your recruiter knows the best times and ways to reach out to you, whether by phone, email or text.

Display gratitude: Thankfulness for a recruiter’s efforts goes a long way, especially if it is from the beginning of the process. If your recruiter feels like his/her efforts are appreciated, they are more likely to go the extra mile for you. It’s always refreshing to hear a simple “thank you for contacting me” at the end of a conversation.

Recruiters speak with dozens of candidates and go through numerous CV each day just to find the right fit for the job opportunity. As a job seeker, you’ll want to stay at the forefront of your recruiter’s mind so that you’re receiving calls about the latest opportunities. A first impression goes a long way so it’s important to stay confident and motivated during your job search and when speaking with a recruiter.

Applying directly to a company

Sometimes called the “speculative approach”, this involves proactively contacting organisations to offer your services. The success of this approach depends on the following factors:

  • Targeting companies that are likely to require someone with your specific skills and expertise.
  • Writing a persuasive letter and CV that matches a particular need they have at that time.
  • Understanding the employer’s needs and being flexible enough to think on the spot about how you can help meet those challenges.
  • Ideally having a contact whose name you can use as an introduction into the company.

How do you decide which companies to target?

  • Other people may have good suggestions so use your connections.
  • Choose companies where you know they could genuinely do with your skills e.g. An underperforming company that needs your business development expertise.
  • Companies selling similar products or services or in an associated industry.
  • Suppliers, customers, or partners of your current or previous employers.
  • Those, which have recruited colleagues or managers from your organisation.
  • Scan the local and trade press for company news such as new contracts won, relocations, consolidations, and senior management changes. These changes could mean new staff requirements.
  • Organisations for whom you are genuinely interested in working.
  • Smaller or less well-known organisations in the relevant field who typically receive fewer approaches from job seekers than more high-profile companies.

How to make a direct approach to a company?

  • Ideally use the name of someone known to the company to effect an introduction.
  • Either ring or write to the manager who would be responsible for hiring you, setting out why you would be an asset to their company and ask for a meeting
  • If you are sending a covering letter then include 5 key bullet points of what you have to offer that can make a difference to their company. Use your research on the company to show your understanding of their market and state why you want to work for that particular company. It is optional to send your CV because your covering letter alone should be sufficiently interesting to grab their attention.
  • Always follow up with a letter or email by ringing the Manager to whom it was addressed. Prepare your telephone sales pitch in advance so that you appear focused, clued-up on their company, business-like and helpful. Ask for a meeting to discuss it further.
  • At the meeting, ask questions and listen carefully so that you can focus on the ways in which you can help them meet their specific organisational challenges. Focus on how you can increase profits, reduce costs, develop business, innovate i.e. how you can impact on the bottom line?
  • Follow-up by email or telephone to thank them for their time and flush out any potential ideas or proposals.
  • Keep in contact because it may be that the seeds you have sown at this meeting don’t come to fruition until much later.
  • The job-search strategy of directly approaching companies requires a degree of research, networking and risk-taking. They may or may not have a job available.

The advantages of this approach are:

  • There is far less or even no competition from other candidates.
  • You are cheap to hire as no advertising or agency fees are involved.
  • Where there isn’t a defined vacancy there is the possibility to shape a role in line with what they need and what you are looking for.

The disadvantages are:

  • You may need to make many approaches to companies before getting a meeting and then several meetings before a job offer materialises. However, this is still likely to be a more effective use of time than applying for oversubscribed advertised jobs.
  • It requires the confidence and ability to think on the spot at meetings in order to shape a proposal that will be of interest to them.
  • It can take several weeks of discussions and negotiations before a firm job offer is made.

Given that the majority of job seekers find their next role using direct approaches to companies, the advantages would seem to far outweigh the disadvantages. This is a highly effective job-search strategy for you to use.


  • Try to get an introduction.
  • Tailor your approach to each company.
  • Rehearse your telephone sales pitch.
  • Be prepared to think on your feet.
  • Demonstrate how you can be an asset to the company.

Following up Applications

Following up your application is a critical step in the application process. The best way to follow-up is by phone, closely followed by email. We will cover both these methods in this section.

Prepare to ask two or three strategically aligned questions; questions that someone in HR or a Recruiter in an agency won’t be able to answer but that a decision maker can. The HR or recruitment person will likely need to ask the decision maker for the answers to these questions. Be sure to ask the HR or recruitment person to mention your name in conversation. This is a very powerful technique to make you more visible to the decision maker.

Some clever example questions are

  • “Can you tell me about what outcomes you most want to see before the end of the year?” Or, “What are their top priorities or goals?”
  • “What kind of experience would your ideal candidate have?”
  • “What would be happening by the end of the year to tell you that you definitely hired the right person?”
  • “What would be the biggest challenges I would face in this position?”

(One benefit to this type of question is that it’s framed as if you’re already in the position and can help the decision maker visualize you in that position.)

Phone call

To open the call, use a friendly, casual tone. Here’s an example:

“Hi, Tom, my name is Jason Holmes, and I recently submitted my CV for your Project Manager opening. I’m calling to make sure you received this, and to ask if you have a minute or two as I have a couple of questions for you …”


E-mail works as well, but it runs the risk of winding up in a junk folder. If you do choose to e-mail, make sure your subject line is specific enough to garner some attention. So use the same tone in an e-mail, as you would in a phone call. Don’t make it too formal, and make sure there are no errors in your writing. Keep the e-mail brief and friendly, and include up to three questions only.

Make sure you attach your CV to the email and include a link to your LinkedIn profile.

You could even send them a link to an online profile or to your web site, if you have one. Or send them a link to an article you think they might be interested in, something about their industry, or relevant to the position, or relevant to a particular goal or challenge they’re facing.

Whether you follow up via e-mail or phone call, be sure to ask, “‛when would be a good time for us to meet to talk further?’ In other words, invite yourself in for an interview.

Frequency of follow-ups

After submitting your CV, wait three days and then call. If you receive no reply to that call, then follow-up again by phone or e-mail three days later, if you receive no reply after the second follow-up then send a final message and that’s it.

  • Unfortunately there will be times when you get no reply.
  • It’s best to call or send emails between 7:30 and 8:45am.
  • Having a schedule like this eliminates the angst over each application and every non-reply.
  • For your third and final message it’s very powerful to say something like, “I know how busy you are and I do not want to pester you, but since I’ve not yet heard back from you with a status on my application, I will assume that you have filled the position. I would welcome an opportunity with the company should a similar position become available.”