For recent graduates, looking for a job can be a very stressful time. With many new positions hitting the job market daily it can be easy for them to apply for every job they come across. More often than not they don't hear back and the process can quickly become difficult and disheartening. Finding a job you'll enjoy long-term that matches your interests and lifestyle requires more thought and unfortunately, most people don’t know where to start.

With that in mind, we have compiled our top 10 tips for landing your dream job in 2021 including how to research a company, identify a job that aligns with your goals and skills, and how to navigate the interview process.

Focus on skills, not job titles.

Many people start their job search by looking at the job titles that sound most fitting to their career goals. However, while this may work for some, job titles are constantly changing and graduates can often spend hours applying for jobs they're simply not qualified for which can often leave them feeling demotivated as they wait to hear back from potential employers.

Instead, we would suggest focusing on the skills & requirements listed on the job description which will allow you to identify the jobs that best match your skillset and experience. Being able to discuss how you've performed the roles and responsibilities in the past during the interview process will ensure that you stand out in a market where employers are keen to get people in who can hit the ground running.

Tailor your CV for each job application.

Your CV should constantly be growing and evolving, both with your development, and with the roles you are applying for. Once you've identified the jobs most closely aligned with your skillset, it's important to tailor your CV to match the job you’re applying for.

While your CV will contain many of the same elements from one application to the next, customising it based on the job description will not only give you a competitive edge, it'll allow you to easily navigate those pesky applicant tracking systems.

If you're looking for some advice on how to format your CV, we've got you covered with a previous blog post.

Reach out to someone before applying

Prior to applying for a role, use LinkedIn to identify and reach out to people in the already in that position at your target company. Then ask them if they would be willing to share insights and advice on the hiring process and what the day-to-day of the role entails.

Hi [their name],

My name is [your name], and I’m a recent [your course] graduate from [your college].

I have recently started looking for a job and would love to learn more about what it's like to work in the [their industry] given the experience you have working at [their company].

If it suits, it would be great to have a quick call to ask you some questions about the hiring process and what the day-to-day of being a [job title] is like at [their company].

Please let me know if you’re free over the next week or two to discuss. I’d really appreciate the opportunity!

Thanks again,

[your name]

Not only will this allow you to get information that would otherwise be hard to find, you may even improve your chances of getting a warm introduction or referral if you make a good impression, which can often be the difference between success and failure in a competitive hiring process.

If you don't hear back from them straight away, don't let that discourage you. You can either politely follow-up a second time or just try someone else who is in the same position at the company. More often than not, someone will be willing to lend a helping hand.

Research the company extensively

Once you have an interview secured, you should spend at least a few hours researching the company and the role. Familiarise yourself with their mission, their customers, their market and how they make money. Their company website is a great starting point but don't be afraid to deep dive online to find out other key details that will help you stand out from other candidates.

By reading articles about the backgrounds of their key leaders, their recent company news and what they've talked about in their company blog, you'll have plenty of context to not only answer many of their questions but to ask intelligent ones yourself.

Research the person/people interviewing you

Once you know who you will be interviewing you, invest time into learning about their background and experience. By looking at their job title on LinkedIn, you'll get a great indication of what kind of questions they’re likely to ask and you'll have a good idea of questions you should ask them.

Additionally, you may find that you studied at the same university, worked in the same city, know the same people or have common interests that you can talk about in the interview. It's nice to have an icebreaker at the start of the conversation and having something in common with the interviewer can get you off to a strong start.

Prepare for "Why Us?"

While it can be a fool's errand trying to predict what interview questions, you will invariably be asked some version of  “Why us?” This provides you with ample opportunity to show the research that you've done, so make sure you are well prepared for it.

The trick with this answer is to make sure that it's something you could only say about that particular company. Specifically, what attracted you to apply for this company? The more precise you can be, the better. A one-size fits all generic answer gets minus points and a good interviewer can spot it from a mile away.

Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses

If you have competitive advantages over others in the hiring process – use them. Whether you've been a member of a successful sports team, taught yourself to code or have a side business that you're working on in your spare time, highlighting what makes you unique can often be the difference between being remembered and being just another applicant.

Just as you should be honest about your strengths, don't be afraid to acknowledge your weaknesses as well. There is a perception that getting asked about our weaknesses in a job interview often feels like a trap. So we tend to give weaknesses that are actually strengths like, “I’m a perfectionist”. What the interviewer is really trying to do with this question is gauge your self-awareness and honesty. You should answer by honestly assessing your skillset, choosing a genuine weakness and then outlining how you plan on addressing it.

Highlight your coachability

One thing we have consistently heard when talking to recruiters and hiring managers is those who are constantly learning tend to be great employees. When asked about your short, medium or long term-goals, always highlight learning and constant improvement as one of your key areas of focus.

Instead of just talking about it, you can also show it during the interview process. Chances are you won't know the answer to each and every question that you're asked — and there's nothing wrong with that. Instead of attempting to answer it and subsequently stumbling through 30 seconds of nonsense, just say “I don’t know” but that you'll follow up once you've found out. Then follow up!

Ask unique questions

Typically towards the end of an interview you'll be asked, “Do you have any questions for me?” While you may feel like you've covered absolutely everything and might therefore be tempted to say that you don't — you should jump at any opportunity to learn more about the role and company.

Questions you ask during an interview reveal what you care about and the amount of preparation you’ve done for the interview. By asking great questions, you can demonstrate that you were engaged during the process and have quickly gained a sense of the company's goals and priorities.

A job interview is not, and should not, be one-sided. We would suggest preparing 3-5 questions ahead of time based on the research that you've done and combining those with a couple of questions regarding what you covered in the interview.

Thankfully, we've covered this in a lot more detail in another blog.

Follow-up with thank you note

After the interview, it's imperative to send a follow up email thanking the interviewer(s) for their time. Not only does this give you another opportunity to influence their decision by reiterating your interest in the role, it enables you to raise a particular topic you enjoyed discussing or revisit questions that you feel you could have answered better. (See the paragraph on saying 'I don't know')

If you think you'd be interested in finding out a little bit more information on this topic, we've covered it in another blog.