Careers advice

Search smart: New Zealand's ultimate job hunting guide

Looking for a one-stop shop on how to apply for a job? Here’s an easy checklist to improve your chances of success.

There’s a difference between working hard and working smart when it comes to job seeking.

In this competitive and fast-moving game, the person completing the most applications is far from guaranteed to be first over the finish line. No, getting employed is about thinking ahead, scoping out promising opportunities and giving yourself the best chance of success.

So, how do you effectively hunt jobs?

It doesn’t matter if you’re seeking a first role, or a career upgrade — this step by step guide will help you streamline your search and get you closer to your goal.

Channel your inner Orca on your next job hunt.

Step 1: Write/update your CV

First impressions count, and your CV will be the first thing potential employers or recruiters see when you submit an application. 

This means it’s essential you follow best practices when creating your CV, and ensure it’s up to date with recent qualifications or work experience.

Now, we know what you’re thinking, ‘aren’t I supposed to tailor my CV? How can I do that before I know what jobs are out there?’. Well yes, tailoring is important. However, you can apply a lot more efficiently if you have the basis of your CV in place, and then make minor tweaks for each role.

You can apply a lot more efficiently if you have the basis of your CV in place, and then make minor tweaks for each role.

This template CV can include sections you’re unlikely to change regularly — for example, your contact details and past qualifications. You can then chop and change other areas like your personal statement or selected work experience to more closely match the specific job.

Bonus tip: ensure your CV contains keywords in order to get past the applicant tracking systems (ATS) many employers use to screen candidates. The best way to do this is to look at the requirements in the job ad and, without simply parroting them back, reference the most important in your CV.

Step 2: Think digital

With so much of the application process now taking place online, being a cyber savvy candidate is vital to a modern job search steps checklist. There are two sides to this:

1. Creating an online job profile

You’re not the only one on the hunt. Right now, recruiters and hiring managers are on the lookout for great candidates to fill vacancies. Make it easy for them by creating a Trade Me Jobs Profile.

You can use this tool to list your skills, experience and qualifications so that when a business is looking to hire for a relevant position — guess who pops up? On top of this, when you input your info, your profile will automatically generate a CV you can download and use in seconds.

2. Cleaning up your social media

It’s not a myth — companies look at applicants’ social media accounts. If you’re in the majority of people who have content online they’d prefer hiring managers not to see, it’s time to employer-proof your social platforms.

The easiest way is to switch all your accounts to private. However, if you don’t want to do this, consider:

  • Removing old accounts you no longer use
  • Going through old posts and deleting anything inappropriate
  • Untagging yourself from friends’ images you don’t want on your page
  • Choosing your profile picture wisely — this is what employers will see first!

If you want to go a step further and use social media to your advantage during your job search, start posting thought-provoking content about your chosen industry. Just be prepared to talk about it at interview if you do go this route.

Make sure you remove any social media clangers before they ruin your first impression.

Step 3: Start searching

You’re ready to grab the bull by the horns and start combing through some listings. But before you dive in, here are a few tips for maximising your productivity:

1. Schedule some designated application time

The internet is a distracting place, especially when you’re doing repetitive tasks like job applications. To minimise the risk of ending up in a YouTube hole, set aside a couple of concentrated hours to submit your applications, and then take a break.

While you might be tempted to just keep firing through listings, not giving yourself any time off will likely mean the quality of your applications drops. You’re not doing yourself any favours if you’re submitting CVs with typos, or leaving application fields blank.

2. Tap into your network

As you come across jobs you like, take a minute to think if you know anyone who might be able to help with your application.

The dream is someone within the company itself who can put in a good word to help your name stand out. However, a friend within the same sector will likely be able to give you tips on what X or Y company wants from their employees, and how to craft a strong application.

3. Use different search functions

On Trade Me Jobs, you can filter listings by a range of factors including salary band, region and contract type, as well as industry sector.

Using these together will help you find the most relevant jobs to you, and speed up your search.

4. Set up job alert emails

What’s quicker than the jobs coming to you? Setting up email alerts is easy and helps you avoid missing golden opportunities. To start receiving email alerts for relevant jobs on Trade Me, simply click 'Save this search'. You will automatically be sent email alerts, the frequency of these emails can be configured in the settings in your 'Favourites'.

Put your CV under the microscope before sending it in, and scan for errors.

Step 4: Write your cover letter

Once you’ve got a shortlist of roles, it’s time to write your cover letter.

This needs to be highly tailored to the specific position and organisation, and should be no longer than one page. Importantly, ensure it highlights what you will bring to the company, as well as what you hope to get out of the role.

Step 5: Prepare for interviews and tests

Great, you’ve been asked to come for an interview.

To give yourself the best chance of acing it, read up on some common job interview questions, as well as some that are specific to your chosen industry.

In addition, have a go at some practice psychometric and personality tests. These are common in the later stages of job applications, and often take repetitive formats — so it’s worth knowing what to expect.

Step 6: Choose your referees

You probably already know who you’d like to have as supporting references for your application.

But if you don’t, expect your prospective employer to ask for two people they can contact (either by email or phone) to discuss what you’re like to work with. Previous managers are the most common referees, but if you have limited work experience, tutors, coaches or community leaders are good options.

Whoever you choose, it’s polite to give them a heads up if you know the company wants to get in touch. This also means they won’t simply cancel the call when an unknown number appears on their phone screen.

Choose a referee you’ve worked closely with, or someone you know well.

Step 7: Deciding on an offer

It can be tempting to jump on the first job offer that comes your way, and maybe you should.

However, it pays (sometimes literally) to scrutinise job offers to ensure you’re happy with the terms. If you aren’t, ask the hiring manager whether there’s room to negotiate on certain aspects — for example, pay, holidays or working hours.

You may even find yourself in the lucky position of being able to choose between multiple job offers. In these cases, as well as looking at factors like salary, think about which will offer you the best chance for development, and which seems like the best cultural fit.

Once you’re happy, it’s time to accept that offer and prepare for your first day!

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