Successful job hunting

How to stay at the centre of your job search

An illustration of a person sitting facing away, at their desk with a computer and lampshade
Image by Elf-Moondance on Pixabay

Looking for a job can be a tricky process. From figuring out what you want in your career to finding a workplace that can support your wellbeing, there’s a lot to think about. Plus, job adverts can sometimes take some translating to figure out what the employer’s really looking for. This post will walk you through some steps to consider in your job hunt.

Understanding your value

It’s important to feel empowered in your job hunt journey. You are a valuable candidate with lots to offer (and if you need some help expressing that, check out our elevator pitch builder). You deserve to be in a position that fulfils you.

If you’re currently in the process of sending in applications, check out Yun Wen Soh’s words of wisdom on how to bounce back from rejection.

“At times like these, it can be really helpful to practice self-compassion – imagine how you would treat a friend or loved one.”

What do recruiters want?

It can be pretty hard to break down a job advert. The language isn’t always straightforward, and it takes a bit of research to understand what the HR team of an organisation is really looking for.

There are some things you can consider when you’re reading a person specification:

  • Essential criteria are things you’ll need to demonstrate in your application (either in your CV or cover letter).
  • If you can demonstrate all or most of the desirable criteria in your application, you’re much more likely to get through to interview.

Jargon breakdown

Here’s some common jargon (and some acronyms) used in vacancy adverts. We have an even more detailed glossary if you’re stuck!

  • Permanent contract: this means a contract of employment that won’t expire. You or your boss will decide when it ends.
  • FTC, or fixed-term contract: this is a contract that will end after a specified time period. For example, your contract could be a maternity cover, and therefore may end when the parent comes back to work.
  • Pro rata: this is a Latin term meaning ‘in proportion’. For example, if you’re working 20 hours a week in a position where the full time (35 hour) pay is £19,000, your pro rata pay would be £10,857. This can be important to figure out before you apply for the job to make sure you’ll be making as much as you want.

Searching effectively

Some terms are interchangeable. For example, ‘assistant’, ‘coordinator’, ‘executive’, ‘associate’ and ‘officer’ often mean the same thing in terms of job seniority. ‘Manager’ and ‘supervisor’ are often similar roles.

These examples certainly aren’t always the case, and the most important thing is to read through the job description to see how much experience, and what qualifications, the job requires. However, having different search terms at your disposal can be really helpful to widen your search!

There may also be images and phrases to let you know that diverse applications are accepted and appreciated. For example, the organisation might be a disability confident employer, or the listing may have phrasing such as ‘We encourage applications from all backgrounds’ or ‘from BAME and disabled candidates’. This means the organisation will be interested in supporting diverse candidates.

We have more tips for finding disability inclusive employers, and how to job hunt as a disabled candidate, online.

Ask questions!


One of the best ways to figure out whether a workplace is for you is to get in touch. Vacancy listings usually have the email and phone number of the employee who is recruiting for the role, and who can give you a bit more information about the job.

If there are no contact details listed, look up the company and find an email address. One for recruitment or HR would be best, but a general one will do. Then you can write a polite email asking to speak to someone about the vacancy.

Even though it’s nerve-wracking to pick up the phone, it can be really helpful to get a vibe for whether the organisation sounds like a good place to be for you. With some handy questions at your disposal, the conversation might be easier to initiate – and always remember, it’s just another person at the end of the phone.


  • What is a day like?

This question can help you understand how you’d fit into the routine of the organisation – what tasks would be most important? How long is a lunch break? Is there the possibility for flexible hours?

  • What is the structure of the company like?

This would help you understand at what level you’d be entering the company, as well as giving you ideas of potential progression.

  • What opportunities for growth and development are there within the company?

This question makes you seem motivated and interested, but can also be revealing if there aren’t many opportunities to progress.

See how you feel about the conversation, and trust your gut feeling. Remember, you are a really valuable candidate, who might have lots to offer the organisation. You deserve to work in a place that makes you feel supported and valued!

If you need any help with applications and job hunting, don’t forget that you have plenty of resources at your disposal with the Careers Service!

We have tips and tricks on how to look for jobs, writing your CV, developing an application, as well as help on whether you should disclose your disability. We can hold mock interviews and go through applications – get in touch with us on Live Chat to find out more!