Looking for a new job – where do you start?

By Tristan Shirley

December 14 2020

In the first article of our series on recruitment and employability, Tristan Shirley from Prospectus helps you get back to basics and shares tips that could help you find your next role.

Even before our lives were turned upside down by coronavirus, it wasn’t easy being a candidate entering the ‘beyond profit’ job market. Taking your first steps into a sea of job boards, understanding the scale of the sector, searching for connections via your networks, and crafting a stellar CV were all slightly daunting to say the least. 

Now, add the impact of everything that has happened in 2020, and there are even more important issues to consider. But fear not, today we start by providing some straightforward tips and ideas to ensure you are maximising the time you use on your job search and giving yourself the best chance for success.

Here are our tips on how to search for a ‘beyond profit’ job during the good times and a crisis.

Before you start

Update your CV/resume – Ensure it is uncomplicated and clear. No photo of you, no mention of your age, your gender, your ethnicity, your economic background, your children or marital status, or any other protected characteristics. Your CV should be achievements focused, short context of the organisation if needed, and do focus on the ‘I’ not the ‘We’– if you led a team to success, make this clear too. We have a more in-depth CV guide available here.

Think about your non-negotiables – salary, location, cause? Be clear with yourself on what will and won’t work at the beginning rather than only considering these things later in the process! 

LinkedIn – update your profile, find an appropriate picture, request recommendations from previous colleagues, be active (add posts, etc.), and engage with colleagues across the sector. Begin building your network or enhance your existing networks as you embark on a job search. Request to join special interest groups, for example.  

During your job search 

Join events; be seen, build connections - learn, listen and develop your opinions - this is how you will stand out at interview!  Virtual events are much more accessible now, this is great for you for several reasons; you can join from home wherever you are in the country, and fit these into your normal working day without nearly as much time/energy/expense committed. 

Job alerts – you may want to keep this broad to begin with to get a sense of the market and to spot any micro-trends from the sector. Review and understand as many job descriptions as possible and then narrow your search down to roles that really fit your expertise and interests.  

Follow your favourite organisations on Linkedin and Twitter and, where possible, get involved with events and volunteering. Not only does this give you a great insight into the organisation and what they are like, but you may be first to hear about the role before they even come to market.

Speak to recruiters – or HR or line manager contacts in the sector – to get advice. Are you going for the right roles, are your ambitions/expectations in the right place? Others can be useful in giving you new ideas or looking at things in a slightly different way.  

Ask questions – get in touch with the recruiter or the line manager if you need to – there is no harm in asking. It shows you’re keen and can only help you with your application. 😊  

General advice is to use the essential criteria on the job description to guide your application – you need to give your best examples of success for each of these. Be clear and concise, no waffle. Always show your interest in the mission and values of the organisation – show off your research!

Always read ‘how to apply’ closely and follow the instructions. Job hunting/applying for roles will take up lots of time – don't waste it by not following a process correctly.  

Interview and beyond 

Preparing for interviews – prepare STAR (situation, task, action and result) answers relating to the essential criteria. Prepare carefully for the questions: ‘Why this role, why this organisation, why now?’. 

As cringey as it sounds, this is a chance for you to find out whether this is the right role for you just as much as the organisation are trying to find out if you are the right candidate. So, be prepared with questions and get the answers that will help you decide. The organisation’s social media channels are useful, free resources to learn specific bits of information about programmes, policies, and focus areas of the organisation.

Evaluate afterwards – was there anything else you wanted to know? Anything you could have done better? Help ‘future you’ for the next interview process you find yourself in. Remember to request feedback. If you are not successful in your application for a role, don’t be tempted to just forget about it, learn from the process and make your next application/interview stronger.

At Prospectus, we recognise the important role we can play in connecting you with relevant opportunities in the beyond profit space. I would recommend following some of the advice above and start to engage with our job posts and job alerts by registering your newly updated CV (as above) here. While this list is by no means exhaustive, if you have these bullet points ticked off as you head into your search and interviews, you’ll remain as focused and cause-driven as you can be when meeting interviewers, and by extension know you’ve delivered as strong an interview as you can.

Good luck!

Tristan Shirley is Associate Director of Recruitment at Prospectus, a specialist in recruitment for the not-for-profit sector. CIPR Not for Profit recently partnered with Prospectus to provide a webinar full of advice and tips on how to achieve success when looking for your next job.

Some Useful Resources

A candidate’s experience of starting a new job remotely 

CV Advice

Planning for an Interview

Video interview tips 

Virtual onboarding

Write the Perfect Cover Letter