Finding vacancies to apply for

If you haven’t had to look for a job for a few years or more, the first thing to know is that job hunting has moved on. Although the major and regional newspapers still carry job vacancies, all of these vacancies are generally also available online. Because not all employers want to pay for their ad to be placed in both print and online, you will generally find a better choice of jobs online.

The same thing applies to vacancies managed by recruiters – there will still be a selection in their windows, or on boards in their offices, but the majority can be found (and much more easily sifted) online.

Using aggregators – finding jobs and posting your CV online

The biggest single change is the entry of ‘aggregators’ to the job hunting marketplace. These companies work in two ways:

  • They post thousands of jobs from hundreds of employers and agencies on their sites. Then they provide sophisticated search and filter capabilities that mean you can search all the vacancies at once, narrowing them down by criteria such as the geography, discipline and salary you are looking for. Many of the aggregators enable you to apply for jobs there and then, online, by submitting your CV.
  • Working the same model the other way around, aggregators allow you to post your CV so that recruiters and employers can find you. They do this by using word search or string search (a string is a combination of words commonly found together, if you didn’t know), and matching the results to their vacancies.

How to find the best recruitment sites for you

Generic aggregators

Many people use a general aggregator to find jobs. Several, such as Reed and have become extremely well-known, both to applicants and recruiters, and will have a good selection of jobs in all categories. Reed was the industry leader for a long time, but has recently begun to charge recruiters, some of whom have de-camped to Monster, so it is worth checking both.

Discipline- or industry-specific aggregators

If the general aggregators do not return much in your discipline, look for a more specific aggregator in your industry. To do this, first of all, decide what word (or words) you would use to describe the kind of job you want. For some of us, that’s easy – marketing, accountancy, teaching are all recognised terms. You may have to think a bit harder for jobs in things like administration, production or media. Aim for words that you’re likely to see on a job ad – maybe imagine your ideal job ad, and create a short list of words around that.

Next, go to a search engine and type in: ‘jobs in’ followed by the first of your search terms, eg ‘jobs in marketing’. You can even put in terms that don’t make up a proper sentence, for instance, if you want significant financial responsibility in your job, type in ‘jobs in financial responsibility’ and, although you won’t get very many results, you will get a sprinkling of job types which include financial responsibility. Experiment. It’s impossible to get this wrong.

A search engine is a program that sifts through millions of pages to find matches to a search, and ranks them in order of what it believes is most relevant. It does this by looking at the number of times relevant terms are mentioned on a page, and by the number and relevance of links to and from those pages. It also ranks by the number of hits those pages get. So, in general, the pages that come up on your search will be the ones most people are looking at for jobs in your discipline.

If you have a ‘local’ button on your search engine (eg the ‘UK’ button on Google) that confines your search to sites in your country, use that (your results won’t be perfectly country-matched, due to problems with search engine software, but they will eliminate most of the country non-matches).

For most searches, you will almost certainly be presented with literally hundreds of results which match your job search. Don’t be fazed: break down the results logically. Read the excerpts, which are the little descriptors of what each site is about. What you are looking for here isn’t the jobs themselves, but the best aggregator or jobs site to search on regularly.

You may see words or terms pop up in some of the results which are better at describing the kind of job you want. If this is so, search again on that new term to bring up results that are a better match.

The results with a coloured highlight at the top are paid-for – the site owner has paid Google to be the highest placed results for that web search. This placement often costs hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, so do look at these links – to pay that much, the owners are probably pretty seriously in the business of recruitment for your industry.

You may recognise sites from industry magazines that you’re familiar with, and these are also a good place to start.

Searching for job vacancies on an aggregator site

Once you have found one or more aggregators in your industry to try, go onto one of their sites and have a look. Some aggregators require you to register or sign in before you can start searching. Because the registration process can sometimes require you to upload your information straight away, it may be better to pick another aggregator rather than register on any sites for your first few experiments. You can always go back and register later if you think the site looks like a good one.

Aggregator sites will guide you to put in search terms for them to try. You might be invited to put a key word into a free-form box, eg your job discipline (eg Marketing) or it might be a drop-down list of disciplines to pick from. There will be similar options (usually multi-choice) for you to select things like geographic area, salary band, full-time or part-time, permanent or temporary and possibly other factors. These are all known as ‘filters’.

When you have filled in all the criteria, and hit ‘search’ at the end of the page, the filters will kick in, leaving you with the jobs that best match your needs. If the vacancies seem to match your needs well, look around the results screen and see if there is a ‘save search’ button. You may have to register for the site (if you have not already) in order to save a search, but once you have, it means you can return to this aggregator’s site, log in, and re-run your search without filling in all the parameters again.

Advanced sites will allow you to set up an email alert based on your search criteria, so that jobs which meet your requirements are automatically mailed to you. Other sites allow you to receive alerts via RSS, which is a newsfeed (many people use RSS to receive newsfeeds about things that interest them, from news headlines to share prices – you can read more about RSS here.)

Posting your CV on a job search site

There are three ways to post a CV on an aggregator web site. You can build your CV directly onto the site by filling in a series of boxes (make sure you have all your info, including dates, and list of training courses, to hand before you start). You can cut and paste the content of your CV into the site, and you can upload your whole CV. Link to pop-up below

Some sites will ask you to two of these. This is because the software which searches for words and strings in order to match you to potential vacancies cannot work on some formats of CV (eg PDF), and so you are recommended to upload both the raw content and the finished CV, so recruiters can search on one and read the other.

If you are not familiar with uploading documents to web sites, this is how to do it. Pick the option to upload your CV, and you will be presented with an empty content box, next to which is a button with the word ‘browse’. Click on the button, and you will recognise the file structure from your PC. Navigate to find your CV, and click on it. You may also have to click on ‘open’ for it to load to the site. Now you should be able to see the document’s file address in the previously-blank box next to the ‘browse’ button. If there is an ‘upload’ button, press this, otherwise press enter.

Once your CV is live on a site, you will receive quite a lot of contact from recruiters in the first week or two. This is because you are ‘fresh meat’, and recruiters will be keen to talk to you. Make sure your channels of communication are open: check your email regularly, carry your mobile phone and switch the answerphone on. It’s not a good idea to post your CV just before you go on holiday.

As your CV becomes less fresh (in reality, it will be sliding down an electronic listing onto a second or third page visible to recruiters), you will get fewer calls. For this reason, it is not a good idea to post your CV on a Friday. By the time Monday comes, it will be sitting behind all those posted over the weekend. Post first thing on a Monday instead.

If the flow of calls and contacts dries up before you have found a job, remove your CV from the site and re-post it. That way, it will move to the top of the list again, and get another boost (don’t do this too often, or recruiters will begin to automatically blank it out when they browse – even if it is actually the right CV for the job).