Guidance for Jobseekers

Guidance for Jobseekers

Almost every student needs a job, if not for money, at least for experience. Laura Starling gives the down low on the best ways to score some work.

It's getting to the time when, while students are stressing about assignments and exams, they have run out of course related costs and are frantically applying for part time work and graduate employment. Job hunting can be a dreary and disheartening process, but you’ve got to stick at it to get results. Here are Critic’s best tips for jobseekers. 


First, you need to familiarise yourself with all the important job hunting search engines. The big ones include OtagoCareerHub, LinkedIn, GradConnections, Seek, Trademe, Student Job Search and Indeed. Following this, you can and should set up watches with each search engine. Not every engine gathers every job and it’s good to make sure you’re seeing everything available. You can adjust settings to receive notifications via email for every job that aligns with your skillset. 

Beyond this, check out local newspapers for anything the engines might have missed. Don’t be afraid to reach out to businesses and stores you are interested in. Drop in and ask about potential work. You could call, email, anything. They’re not going to be bothered by you enquiring, and it shows you’re motivated.


When applying for any position, ensure your CV is up to standard. Keeping it short and sharp is ideal; the less crap employers have to go through the better. Cater your CV to the job you’re applying for – show them why you’re the best candidate for the job. It’s obvious when people just hand in the same generic CV to every job – you’ll stand out more if you’ve catered it to the position at hand. 

Don’t be afraid to show off your strengths and abilities. It might feel awkward to talk yourself up, but who else is going to? They’re not going to ask your mum for a referral. If you’re an English student, show off your superior writing skills in your CV and cover letter. If you’ve studied design, put in the effort to literally show those skills in the design of your CV. 

Never apply for a position without a cover letter. It’s lazy to go without one and some employers won’t even bother looking at your application if you haven’t included one. If you know the name of the person you’re sending the application to, address the cover letter to them. 

Jackie Dean of the Otago Career Development Centre says that there is little in life you don’t learn transferrable skills from. You need to make the most of it by “selling the experience you already have” and that “how you package yourself” plays a vital role in applying for jobs, because it’s not always enough to rely on the skills gained from study when 80 other students are applying for the same position. What else you have done will be important.


Applying is the easy part – the interview is the real challenge. They weed out the potentials from the dozens of applicants, so the interview is where you actually have to sell yourself. 

Before you even get to the interview, do some research on the company or organisation you’re about to be interviewed for. Even if it’s just the basic information, you will be expected to be somewhat familiar with who they are, and it will really show if you don’t. Get educated or don’t expect it to go well. Don’t just ‘wing it’. Dean explains that “good preparation can make you feel more confident, positive and knowledgeable”. 

Show up five minutes early. Don’t be late unless there is a serious emergency. But don’t show up half an hour early, either. 

Dress appropriately for the position. If you’re applying for a professional job, suit up. If you’re applying for a job in retail, or customer service, or any position where your personal presentation really matters, just suit up. If you’re applying for something in construction, don’t suit up. I once worked out at a landfill - when I showed up for the interview, I chose to wear casual, tidy clothes that were practical and comfortable. Most other applicants were suited up which made me very nervous. My future bosses told me that the people who suited up seemed, to them, unfit for the position because they came over dressed - they didn’t understand what the job would involve. 

Wash your hair, face, shave scruff or trim and tidy the beard. Look like you’re trying. Show them you want the job without you even having to open your mouth. 

When you show up for the interview, be polite and kind to everyone there. This means everyone from the receptionist, your fellow applicants, to the people actually interviewing you. All of this plays a role in how you’re received. Employers will often ask receptionists what they thought of the person when they came in for the interview – they want to know how you treat people when you aren’t expressly trying to impress in an interview. 

Prepare for some difficult questions: Tell me about yourself? Why do you want to work here? What do you know about our company? How do you deal with a tough customer? Give an example of you confronting a work mate. How have you resolved issues in the workplace in the past? What are your weaknesses? Why should they employ you? What makes you better for the position than any other applicant? These are the kinds of questions employers almost always ask – so prepare beforehand so you’re not just pulling a response out of your ass.  

Don’t ask about money in an interview unless the interviewee brings it up themselves – it’s just common courtesy. Also, try to come prepared with some questions for your potential employers. Ask about the position and express genuine interest. This will show that you’re not only there for the moolah.


Nervousness can be one of the most difficult things to overcome prior to an interview, or any part of the job application process. The team at the Otago Career Development Centre offered some of their personal tips for overcoming those nerves. 

Yvonne Gout advocates for taking a power stance before you head off to your interview. Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy has found that taking up a short ‘power pose’, which is an open and expansive stance, can actually change body chemistry and make people feel more confident. Spend five minutes before your interview standing up very straight with your legs open, hands on your hips, and your chin up like a superhero. You may want to do this one in a bathroom if you feel silly. If you are sitting, lean back, stretch your legs out and put your hands in the air or behind your head with your elbows splayed. Essentially, pretend you have the confidence and body language of a mediocre man. 

Robyn Bridges said that going for a walk, getting some fresh air after completing preparation, and forgetting about the interview for a while can help. 

Jackie Dean said that smiling, breathing deeply to regulate nerves, and adopting “positive body language so you look and feel more confident to the person interviewing you.” She adds, “And talk to us if you want to practice beforehand. We will give you feedback.” 

Offers and Rejections

After all of this, you’ll either get an offer or a decline. The important thing is to remain polite through the whole process. 

More often than not people don’t bother with calling to reject an applicant, so you’re most likely to receive an email or letter. However, on the off chance someone does call you, do your best to be gracious and accept the outcome. You can sound disappointed, but don’t be a dick. Word of mouth travels fast, especially in places like Dunedin, so you don’t want to tarnish your reputation. 

If you’re offered a job, remember that you don’t have to accept it. Most employers will understand – students are often applying for a number of jobs, and the one you’ve just been offered may not have been your first choice. If you’re uncertain, it’s okay to ask for a day to mull the decision over. Again, most employers will understand. 

Otherwise, if you get offered the job you want, and you accept, thank them, be happy and celebrate! Congrats, dude, you just got a job!


Anyone still studying and looking for work will be after temporary or part time work. With this in mind, you will also want to look at applying at any temping agencies who might be able to hook you up with some full time work over the summer, or at least a few various positions, giving you the much sought after experience that every employer demands. 

Knowing people and networking really helps when looking for this kind of work. If you have a friend already working somewhere, you’ve got an instant ‘in’ into the place. If someone already working there is willing to vouch for you as a person, then you’ve got an advantage. Yep, you heard me right, start harassing all your employed friends now. 

Jackie Dean said that developing networks is incredibly invaluable. Through volunteering and paid or unpaid internships you can be exposed “to people who will employ you in the future.” She said to think of the experience as a long term interview - they’re seeing if you have the skills to join their team once you’ve graduated. 

You will never be too good for your first job. The experience is so important. Even if you hate it, just think of it as another notch on your CV which you can use to impress future employers when you’re finally getting into interviews for the kind of positions you want, rather than the work you need. 

Volunteering your time, while you’re at uni, is a good idea for future you. You can volunteer for an organisation you believe in, and there are plenty of organisations around the university you can get involved in (Critic included!). Don’t be afraid to set up work experience at the places you want to work – ask to shadow someone for a few days so you get an idea of what work is required. Take the time, while you have it, to do additional short courses to give a little extra to your application. It all adds up.


You poor suckers are looking for full time work in your (hopefully) chosen career. You’re entering the adult world and that shit is scary. 

Your full time job, until you get a job, is finding a job. You need to make yourself available, so if someone calls you, you can answer the phone. Use what little money you do have to ensure you have enough credit to call them back promptly if you miss a call. Practice your phone voice, speaking clearly and confidently.

Don’t be scared to call people and ask if they have any positions open, especially if it’s a place you’d really like to work. Showing how keen you are to work for someone is never going to backfire.

Be prepared to move. It’s a difficult decision to make, but if you’re serious about wanting to get a job in your career, it’s something you’re going to have to consider. Dunedin is a small city, so there are limited options here, with a lot of graduates every year applying for them. Look at other places within New Zealand, apply for jobs in your career that suit you, and be willing to move for them. If you’re happy to move across country in order to get a position, it will prove just how dedicated you are to the job, and set you out from other applicants. 

The University of Otago has one of the best careers advisor teams in New Zealand, so it’s worth checking them out. Pop into the Career Development Centre on campus (by central), set up an appointment, and talk to them about what you want to do. They have an abundance of print and online resources available for students and graduates alike. You can set up a mock interview for a job you want through them, you can have your CV and cover letter checked and they’re incredibly friendly to boot. They’ll be able to guide you in the right direction and give valuable advice while you’re applying for jobs and stressing about your future.

Most importantly, enjoy the time you have as a student. You will never have as much free time as you do now, even if it’s bogged down by study guilt. Have fun, try new things, and try not to worry too much!


Visit the Career Development Centre  website at

This article first appeared in Issue 8, 2016.
Posted 11:34am Sunday 17th April 2016 by Anonymous Bird.