New year, new job? Everything you need to know if you're looking for a career change in 2020.
If you're thinking about a career change in the new year, you're not alone. The number of British people looking for a new job generally soars in January compared to the rest of the year, according to Indeed, a jobs website.
Experts say the new year is a good time to start looking for a different occupation as candidates and recruiters come back to work reinvigorated after the Christmas lull. But with so many people thinking the same thing, what's the best way to get ahead?
Here, we asked recruitment experts for their top tips for job hunting, interview techniques and making your CV as attractive as possible.
The job hunt
Shaun Thomson, head of Sandler Training, a business development consultancy, said it was important to avoid being "blinkered by the present" and instead to think about where you want to be in the next three to five years – and then apply for jobs that will get you there.
And as well as applying for jobs the usual way, using jobs websites and recruitment agencies, Laura Hayes, who runs her own HR consultancy, Freshr, said it was worth emailing companies directly.
She said: "Try writing a polite email explaining that you've read about the company, the reasons you like it and why you feel you'd be a good fit. Ask if there are any upcoming opportunities and for it to bear you in mind. It's a blessing for a company to receive these kinds of messages."
You should also use your own networks: arrange some informal chats with people in the types of job you're interested in or with people who have good relationships with recruiters.
Sprucing up your CV
The problem with CV's is that they all look overwhelmingly similar, said Mr Thomson. "We're all motivated team players with bags of passion. You've got to be a bit bold. Some employers won't like it but it's better to stand out than be lukewarm."
He said companies had become a lot more focused on their "culture" and "values", which they often displayed on their websites. This should be reflected in your CV in a summary at the top.
"Include some points at the top which reinforce how you relate to the company's values. 'Fit of company culture' will be a box to tick at lots of firms," he said.
There's no point telling everyone everything. Tailor your CV to the role and make it specific to the company, including the most relevant jobs and experience, with five points describing each role and the impact you had on the organisation concerned.
Ms Hayes, who can read up to 100 CVs a day, said that if, for example, you had achieved £10,000 of sales in your first month at a former employer, explain what this had enabled the firm to do.
Make sure you include some hobbies and interests, as interviewers will be "looking for a colleague, not just someone to fill a role", she added.
And if there are gaps in your CV, be honest about them. "If you've spent a short time at a company or it ended on bad terms, explain this in the cover letter.
"It's much better to say that your current role is not right for your circumstances, which you can explain at the interview, rather than leave the firm to make its own assumptions."
Two pages is plenty for your CV. If you've got a LinkedIn profile make sure it's up to date.
Preparation has always been key so make sure you've done your research, found out who will be interviewing you and have an idea of what to expect. Is it going to be a "getting-to-know-you" chat or something more formal?
Questions can usually be categorised into a handful of topics, such as technical ability, strengths, weaknesses, working with others, self-motivation and customer service, according to Catherine Davies from Pay Rise Accelerator, a programme to help women negotiate higher salaries.
Think of a couple of examples to illustrate these points and you'll have something to say for almost any question you will be asked, she said.
Ms Hayes said many companies had moved away from asking questions that were competence-based to "scenario-based", where you're put on the spot and tested on how you'd respond in certain situations.
This line of questioning is often "rhetorical". The interviewer isn't necessarily after a particular answer but wants to see how you'd react and your thought process.
Ms Hayes said more firms were asking questions that were deliberately "weird" such as "How would you get out of a washing machine if you shrunk down to three centimetres?".
The best way to deal with these curveballs is to stay calm. It's fine to tell the interviewer you weren't expecting that question and take your time answering it. They want to see your thought processes, so talk it through methodically.
The worst thing you can do is clam up and not answer it. Companies want to see more courage than that.
Positive behavioural patterns are also very attractive, according to Mr Thomson. For example, if you go to the gym regularly three times a week it works in your favour as it implies there is a "bigger purpose or goal". Companies also often want regular tasks completed.
Don't be too "matey" too early. It's important to create a relationship, so start open and friendly but follow the interviewer's lead. If you're getting nothing back, adjust your banter. Make sure you are as "interested" as you are "interesting".
Once you've got through the interview you should always have questions to ask. Ms Hayes said: "Have a question about the job, one about the company and one about the team or working environment."
This is a sensitive topic and if you're after more money you should ask for it before you actually join the new company.
If the salary is listed in the job advert, Mr Thomson said you were unlikely to get much more. If you ask, you'll need to justify it, he said.
But if no figure is mentioned ask for the "salary band" and try to work your way to the top of the scale. Offer examples of when you've taken on extra responsibility and show your ambition and drive.
Ms Hayes said it was worth "having a go" at the end but candidates should tread carefully.
If you've heard your "potential and "growth" mentioned, it may be worth trying to seek an early review – say in six months' time – rather than a higher salary at the outset, as the company wants to concentrate on developing you. You should also request this if you don't get the money you're after.
Don't go in too aggressively. If you use the threat of the offer of another job that pays more, the firm will probably tell you to sling your hook.
And one more thing...
Getting a new job should be a two-way process. It's not just about "winning" a role in a new company; you're going to spend most of your time doing this new job. So if it doesn't feel right in the interview, walk away, said Mr Thomson.