Six Steps for Job Searching



When applying for a job, it’s important to be well prepared. One of the key factors in the process is to know yourself well. Your goal as the applicant is to find a job that suits you. The first step is getting the employer’s attention and being invited for an interview. Since employers and hiring agencies generally don’t spend much time reading through any one application, it’s important that both your CV and cover letter are well written and accurately reflect your skills and abilities. Here are six important steps to take when searching for a job and preparing an application.

  1. Know yourself: You need to know what type of knowledge, skills and experience you’ve acquired throughout your education and prior work experience. Ask yourself the following questions: What am I interested in? Where do my strengths lie? What kind of experience have I gained through prior jobs? What kind of experience, knowledge and aptitude have I gained during my studies that are transferable to different types of work? Be open to the possibility of translating your knowledge, skills and experience to different work sectors. It’s also important to know what type of job you’re seeking and in what sector, and what type of environment you’d like to work in.

  2. Do your research: When taking this step, it is important to know where your experience, knowledge and aptitude is most likely to be sought after. Analyze what skills are listed in the job description. Employers often state that they’re looking for “Education relevant to the job position.” Take a moment and look closer at what that actually means. Be open to new opportunities and activate your network and contacts. Keep in mind that a large percentage of jobs are not advertised, so it can be a good idea to sign up with an employment agency and send in general applications to companies and institutions.

  3. Compile your CV: A major factor in marketing yourself as being available for employment is handing in an eye-catching CV that moves your application to the top of the pile. Connect your prior work experience to the job listing. Experience is always valuable and it can transcend different fields of work. That’s why you shouldn’t say, “I have a standard CV,” as the CV should be regularly updated, in sync with your experience and tailored to the specific job you’re applying for at any given point in time. Please note that in Iceland it is customary to include a picture on your CV. The photo should have a neutral background. A CV should usually be 1- 3 pages and include personal information; a listing of education and job experience; extracurricular activities, volunteer experience or community involvement; languages spoken; and other skills like computer skills. You can also mention workshops you’ve attended, especially if they’re relevant to the job you’re applying for. Write a short description of each of your past positions. Emphasize the tasks performed and the skills that each job required. If you are a registered student when applying, emphasize relevant coursework and highlight the skills you’ve acquired through your schooling. If you do not have a lot of work experience, highlight your education; conversely, if you do have a lot of work experience, make that your focus. It’s also important to name one to two references. Remember that there is no one way to put together a CV, but the best CV reflects the qualifications noted in the job listing.

  4. Write your cover letter: The purpose of a cover letter is to introduce yourself further, adding information to the CV and demonstrating your interest in the company or a specific job opening. The cover letter should be a short and precise text, no more than 3-4 paragraphs on a single page. You can highlight your personal attributes along with skills and knowledge that cater to the needs of the company/institution where you’re applying. The cover letter gives you an opportunity to go into more detail or add information that the CV doesn’t cover. Explain how your qualifications meet the needs listed in the job description if it has been advertised. The basis of the cover letter is the self-knowledge you’ve acquired by taking step 1 and reflecting on your skills and qualifications. Finally, state your interest in being invited for an interview to further discuss the position.

  5. Prepare for the job interview: The purpose of the job interview is to give you a chance to address what you would bring to the particular job in question. It’s also an opportunity to describe how you believe your qualifications, education and prior work experience will translate into the new position. It’s important to prepare for various questions, both job interview classics and the more unexpected. It’s also important that you take time before the interview to research the company, for example by checking out their website, and preparing some questions of your own about the company and the open position. Be prepared to answer questions such as how you meet the job qualifications. The answer can involve giving examples from your education or prior work experience. You can practice asking and answering questions out loud. The employer’s questions usually pertain to your education, work experience or personal attributes.

  6. Nail the interview: Landing a job interview is a success in itself, and you need to be well prepared for it. Punctuality is important. Being late doesn’t make a good first impression, so a good rule of thumb is to arrive 5–10 minutes early. In regards to clothing, dress according to the work environment and the job that you’re applying for. Be aware of your body language during the job interview; sit up straight, make eye contact, and be aware of any nervous tics you might have (like pulling your hair, clicking a pen or crossing your arms). First and foremost, be yourself and be honest. A positive mindset is helpful. Be thankful you’ve come this far in the job application process; not everyone gets that chance.

The Student Counselling and Career Centre (SCCC) welcomes students who are in need of assistance with the job search. On SCCC’s website you can find helpful resources on CV writing and also listings of job agencies.

Instagram:  @namsradgjofhi

This article is based on informational material and presentations made by SCCC and from the book: Jón Birgir Guðmundsson and Jónína Guðmundsdóttir. (2012). Frá umsókn til atvinnu: Sjálfskoðun, a’ð markaðssetja sjálfan sig, ráðningarferlið, ferilskrár, kynningarbréf, atvinnuviðtöl, ráðningarsamningar. (2. útgáfa).