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Support with your online job applications during the coronavirus pandemic...

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8 months ago

by Joseph Mulligan

Support with your online job applications during the coronavirus pandemic

This is especially useful if you’re applying for work during the coronavirus pandemic. Many people around the world are applying for temporary roles/ roles they have never done before/ work where they have no prior experience/ voluntary work for health and social services etc.

As most job applications are done online, it’s important to get the basics right, to ensure that your application efforts have the most effective impact. It’s too easy to waste hours and hours of your precious time getting nowhere.

Before you start applying – top 5 tips

As Elvis sang back in the 60s, “only fools rush in” and that’s especially relevant in the world of recruitment. You could spend two hours firing your CV over for 20 or 30 roles, but that’s two hours wasted if you don’t get any replies.

  1. Job Sites.

    If your CV is on job sites such as CV-Library and Total Jobs, it will mostly be recruitment agencies looking at your CV. Get the basics right and make it very clear at the top of your CV:

    • Your entitlement to work

      in the UK e.g. “British Citizen” or state the type of VISA you hold: “Indefinite Right to Remain” etc. All recruiters legally have to check this before securing a role for you.

    • Your location for work. If you can travel/ relocate. Your mode of transport. Make it clear

      where

      you can work.

    • Are you flexible with hours?

      If you can do shift work/ night shifts – make this clear on your CV. Often shift work pays more, so if you can work shifts and are keen to earn more then make sure this is clear on your CV.

    • If you have very specific salary expectations

      – make this clear on your CV. If you are flexible with salary, leave it off.

  2. What are you applying for and why?

    Take time to think about what sort of roles you will be applying for. Do you need two or three versions of your CV? If all the roles you will be applying for are within the same field/industry then you may be ok with one version of your CV. Be prepared to tweak it for each application.

  3. Research your desired roles and companies.

    What do their job descriptions and person specifications say? What are the job adverts looking for? Take time to go through your CV and check if it matches the jobs you will be applying for.

  4. Boolean searches.

    Recruitment agencies often run a CV search for a specific job vacancy. They mostly use boolean searches, with keywords, as well as other search criteria such as location/salary range/relocation etc. Make sure that your CV contains the right keywords for the roles you are applying for. E.g. If we are looking for a QC analyst with HPLC experience, to work for a pharmaceutical manufacturer, we would search on things such as: “GMP” and “HPLC” and (“analyst” or “QC”).

  5. List all of your relevant work experience and qualifications, with the most recent at the top. As you explain each job role, think of it like you are answering the following question: “What were your daily responsibilities for this role? Tell me what you did on a day-to-day basis.” It can seem obvious and people often write paragraphs on things that are not necessarily relevant. Recruiters need to know if you have the experience and skills for their vacancy. Companies need to know the same. What systems or equipment did you use? Which regulations did you work to? What were your practical responsibilities? If you have supervisory/management experience: how many people did you manage? Were you responsible for training and reviews?

Why are online applications so frustrating?

Whether you’re actively looking for a new career opportunity, or you’d simply like to be kept in the loop if something interesting comes up, questions from job seekers are often the same:

·        Why do I rarely hear back from online applications?

·        When will I get feedback from my recent application/ interview?

·        How do I get my CV noticed online?

·        Where do I find career opportunities that are genuinely suitable for me?

·        Is it possible to find out about progression opportunities anonymously?

We feel your frustration – we’ve all been there at some point. The internet is amazing, and it certainly opens doors that would have been closed in the past, but the frustrating part is feeling like a needle in a haystack, lost amongst thousands of other job seekers. Too much information. Not enough information. Poor quality information.

We spoke to a lady who had posted her CV on a job site. The first thing we said, was “We’d like to say thank you! Your CV is amazing. We really wish they were all like that, it would make our jobs so much easier!”

At the top of her CV, before her personal profile, she had written a couple of lines, detailing the geographical area she could work in, how she would travel to work, her salary expectations and her industry experience to date. “Wonderful,” we thought. You’ve done half our job for us. She replied by saying that she had spoken to several recruitment agencies, and they were all asking her the same questions, so she decided to list the answers to those questions at the top of her CV. Genius. We really hope it helps her with at least a few of the questions above.

Of course, like most things in life, there isn’t a miracle answer, but we can try to shed a little light on some of these issues and if you have any questions or thoughts, please do tell us about your experience and let’s see if we can help.

·        Why do I rarely hear back from online applications?

The short answer – the person checking through the applications won’t have time to respond to the ones that aren’t suitable for the job. Sometimes we get 99 applications for 1 CV that our client will be interested in. It can be a laborious task at both ends. We do try to call people anyway, to speak to them about other opportunities, but it’s not always possible.

What can you do differently?

Read the job description/ person specification carefully, and only apply if you fit the criteria.

When applying through a job site/ agency- remember that they will only send CVs to their client, for those people who fit the criteria. The company will be paying the agency a fee, to find the best possible person for the job. The person with the most relevant experience and the best overall fit for their company.

If you see a job that really interests you, and you are confident that you match the person specification – pick up the phone and ring the agency/ company. Talk to them about it. Find out more. Definitely call for agency-advertised jobs. If the job is direct with a company, be careful if it says, ‘You must apply online’ etc.

By picking up the phone, you should find out straight away if you are suitable for the job. This way, you might also find out about other opportunities at the same time.

·        When will I get feedback from my recent application/ interview?

If you have applied for a job, or had an interview and not heard back – just give the agency/ company a call. If the job is through an agency, it will likely be that they are also waiting for feedback. Sometimes it can take weeks and the process can be frustrating. If you’re not sure what’s happening, make sure to ask. If you are applying for several jobs, be organised about it. List your applications and the date you applied, with the contact name and number of the person you need to speak to. That way, you can keep track of where you’ve applied, and can follow up for feedback easily. Here at Science Solutions, we try to keep people regularly updated. Nobody likes the waiting game.

·        How do I get my CV noticed online?

You could try doing the same as the recent job seeker mentioned earlier, be specific at the top of your CV. For example:

“I am a junior formulation chemist, with 6 months of industry experience at (company name), specialising in cosmetic and personal care products. I have a full driving license and my own car, and can commute from (current location) up to an hour. I can relocate for the right opportunity, anywhere in mainland UK. My salary expectations are £19,000 – £24,000 and my current notice period is 1 month. ETW: British citizen.”

If you are using your CV to apply for roles where you don’t have any prior experience, think about explaining this in the summary section at the top of your CV. Which jobs are you interested in and why are you suitable for them? For example if you’re applying for delivery driver jobs – the most important thing might be to list your driving license information at the top of your CV: driving license categories, any points, any enhanced driving courses or additional qualifications, perhaps your age or year of birth as some driving jobs will require you to be over a certain age.

Look at adverts for the type of jobs you are applying for and note down the most important skills/ qualifications that they are asking for. Make sure you demonstrate your skills/ qualifications in these areas at the top of your CV.

If you can’t relocate – put a note on your CV. If you can – be specific about which areas you can relocate to. For example, “I can relocate across the UK, but am only interested in job vacancies that are close to large cities with good transport links.”

Often companies and agencies will use job sites to carry out keyword searches. Learn more about this by searching for information on Boolean searches. If we are looking for an experienced QC analyst, we might use a search like this:

(QC OR analyst OR analysis OR quality) AND (chemist* or MCHEM or pharmaceutical) AND (cosmetic* or household OR “personal care” or shampoo or “hair care” or haircare)

Make sure any relevant keywords are in your CV. Check job descriptions and person specifications and see what words they are using. If you think you could do the job, are those same keywords in your CV? For industry experience, be very succinct but specific in your CV. What are your day to day responsibilities? Be very clear about exactly what you do, or have done in the past. What products do you work with and what are your individual duties?

·        Where do I find career opportunities that are genuinely suitable for me?

This one is more difficult. If you know what you are looking for, try to treat it like a part-time job. Research companies in the locations that you can work in. You could call them and find out how they advertise jobs, so you don’t miss an opportunity there if it arises. Speak to agencies that are relevant to your industry field. Find out which companies they work with and ask them questions about the type of role they would consider you for. Try to limit the amount of time you spend applying for jobs that you are unlikely to get. If you get some advice from a few different sources, you should get a good all-round picture of what you can expect in terms of availability of jobs, salary and industry areas.

In many industries, certain roles will require specific skills or qualifications for a good reason. If a pharmaceutical manufacturer need a Regulatory Affairs Manager, the appointed person will need global knowledge of technical and regulatory standards for pharmaceutical manufacturing. The person will be responsible for approving operating standards and procedures. The company getting products from formulation and development through to market relies on regulatory compliance.

If you’ve just graduated with a degree in chemistry, there really isn’t any point in applying for this job. You’d be wasting your own time as well as the time of the person looking through applications. It’s also possible that your CV might be missed for a really good graduate role, because you’ve become seen as the ‘unsuitable’ applicant. It serves no purpose to continuously apply for roles that you won’t get, and yet many people must spend hours doing this every day.

So – make sure every minute you spend applying for jobs online is used wisely, for your own career development and personal benefit.

  • Start off by asking yourself the same questions a recruiter would ask you:

    • What is your entitlement to work in the UK?

      List it on your CV, even if it’s simply to say: British Citizen.

    • Do you have any unspent criminal convictions that you need to disclose?

      You don’t need to put this on your CV but be prepared to be asked this question by recruiters (unless you’re applying for a job that requires a DBS check, in which case you could put on your CV, “Enhanced, clear DBS on the Update Service” – for example).

    • Which industry sectors are you applying to and why?

    • What specific job roles are you looking for?

    • What skills and experience are required for these roles?

    • What skills and experience do you have that match the job description/ person specification? 

    • Tell me about a recent job advert you applied for.

      What essential skills were listed? Talk me through how you meet the advertised criteria.

    • Talk me through your CV.

      Is it obvious on your CV that you are looking for these specific roles and that you can demonstrate that you have desirable skills or knowledge required to apply?

    • If you’re applying for an area where you have no prior experience, are you sure that the employer will consider people from a variety of professional backgrounds? Is this specified on the advert? For example it might say, “no prior experience necessary” or “all training will be provided.”

    • Which geographical locations can you work in?

      If you can relocate – where can you relocate to? If you can’t relocate, how far can you commute? Do you drive or will you be using public transport? How long are you willing to spend on your commute? 30 minutes? An hour? We usually advice no more than an hour to be realistic (except maybe in London).

    • What are your salary expectations?

      Why? What is your current salary? What salaries have you seen advertised for the roles you are applying for?

    • What is your current notice period?

    • Are you available for face-to-face interviews?

      (Obviously this changed to Skype/ Zoom etc. during the coronavirus pandemic).

    • If you can relocate anywhere across the UK, are you able to fund yourself getting to interviews?

      (Some companies pay expenses, many do not).

This may seem like a long list, but these are the questions you will be asked by industry-specific recruiters and prospective employers. If you know all the answers before you even start your job search, you will save yourself a lot of time in the long run.

  • Make a list of questions to ask recruiters/ companies. Questions might include:

    • Which job roles would you suggest for me, based on my CV?

    • What salary should I expect for the skills I have?

    • Are any geographical hot spots for your preferred industry sectors? For example, many areas of science such as biotech and speciality chemicals have hubs around the UK. If you don’t live anywhere near the companies, it might be difficult to find your dream job without relocating. Things like that are important to be aware of at the start of your job search.

    • What would my day to day duties be as an ‘X’?

    • What career progression/ training is available for ‘X’ job roles?

    • Can you offer me any career advice?

    • If you are particularly unsure about any element of the application process – ask for clarification/ advice/ tips/ resources. For example, if you are confident about your skills but find face-to-face interviews challenging – ask for support at an early stage.

The short answer: don’t waste time applying for roles that you are unlikely to get. Start smart: conduct your research, answer the questions above and make a plan. If what you really want is a change in career path – speak to people first and get some advice, rather than blindly applying and hoping for the best. We have successfully supported hundreds of scientists with changes in career direction but it can take time and it certainly requires some forethought.

  • Is it possible to find out about progression opportunities anonymously?

Yes! We have many clients who are also job seekers and a big part of our role is to discover exciting career opportunities and to head hunt industry-specific staff. You can register with agencies, just be very clear at the start of the process, that you don’t want your name to go out on any marketing and for it to be taken off your CV. You can write your own CV, taking off your name and even taking off company names etc, if you do not want your current employer to accidentally discover that you are applying for other jobs. The new GDPR legislation is excellent in this respect – you are fully in control of what happens to your personal data. Discuss it with your agency. In this situation I’d advise against registering with multiple agencies, to make it easier to keep a track of your applications. Once you have registered with an agency, most of them would call you about any suitable job opportunities, but they might also send out your CV and preferences speculatively, to companies they work with. If you don’t want this to happen – just ask. You can ask for a written confirmation of what will happen to your personal data, and how your registration will be handled. It shouldn’t ever be a problem.

TOP TIP: Make the most of industry-specific recruiters. Talk to them. Discuss your career goals. Take on advice and make any job searching as efficient as possible.

We’d love to hear your feedback on this topic, as it’s a subject we often discuss with job seekers and clients.

With warm regards from the team at Science Solutions Recruitment.

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