When you see an advertisement for a job placed by a recruitment agency you will often be given far more information than you would normally expect. In most instances you will be interviewed for the job by the recruitment agency on behalf of the client company. The interviewers are usually highly experienced and professional so you can expect to undergo a fairly thorough interview. Afterwards, whether you get the job or not, you may be offered the chance of feedback on how you performed. This, in itself, can be a helpful means of improving your future technique. A recruitment agency may be willing to keep your name on file and approach you if a similar vacancy crops up. Most agencies are discreet. They understand that you may not want your present employer to know that you are considering moving on. They often work outside normal office hours so you can talk confidentially to their staff.
Most application forms ask you for the names and addresses of two or three people who can be approached by the company for information about you. When you are preparing your curriculum vitae you should include such names.
It is almost certain that an employer who is seriously considering inviting you to an interview will contact these people. Usually, employers like to have information about your performance in the workplace. They like to get a view of you from someone you have worked for. Ideally, they would like a reference from your present boss. In the public service, you would be hard-pressed to avoid this. In the private sector, however, it is recognized that not all candidates wish their present employer to know that they are considering leaving his employment. On that basis it is reasonable to offer names of alternative referees stating why you do not wish your current employer to be approached without prior consultation with yourself.
If you cannot provide the names and addresses of two people who can report on your ability and and character in the workplace, your second referee could be someone who can offer complementary evidence of your suitability for this job - for example, someone of good standing in the community who can enthuse about your personal qualities, your honesty and integrity. References from within and without the workplace can be a powerful combination which enables an interviewer to get a picture of the whole person.
If you are just leaving college, your tutor should know you well enough to write with some authority about your academic achievements and your contribution to the social life of the institution, so a good second referee might be a supervisor from your work-experience placement or your boss from the company where you worked during the last vacation.
Whoever you choose, make sure that you have their permission to offer their names as referees and brief them well about the job you are applying for. A general reference stating 'This person will be an asset to any company fortunate enough to employ her 'is all right, but a reference which is written with a specific job in mind can be much more powerful - 'Her voluntary work with young children allied to her commercial experience give me no hesitation in recommending this person to you for the post of school secretary at ...'
Take some time to talk through the job with your referees. They're going to be working on your behalf so let them know what the job is all about and why it is important to you.
There is no substitute for good research. It is an essential part of your preparation. It gives you the background knowledge which you need to make a strong application for a job. When you apply you need to know as much as you can about the company. At least you should know what it makes, or the service it offers. Make an effort to discover what its customers are like and why this particular company is different from others which seem to offer similar goods or services. Try to find out about the size of its operation and check out its advertisements. How does this company make its sales pitch? Are its goods or services cheaper, faster or better quality than those of its competitors? Take a walk around the area to discover what the clients are like and, finally, make a visit to the local library to see whether the company has been in the news during the past few years.
Routine, the very thing which you may have hated about your previous job, can be a life-saver during periods of unemployment. Getting a job demands discipline. You have to make a full-time job out of it so get into a regular routine of checking newspapers for advertisements, writing letters, visiting the Job centre and phoning around employers. Set yourself some targets and deadlines. What can you achieve by the end of the week? How long will it take you to contact every likely employer listed in Yellow Pages? How many should you contact each day? Enroll on some courses (many are offered at reduced rates to unemployed people) to improve your skills and plan some free time into your schedule so that you can still meet friends and maintain contact with the rest of the world. Getting a job takes energy and it can be time-consuming but if you are unemployed you have plenty of that to spare. Use it constructively.