Searching for the dream job? Here’s how to stand out

‘It really pays to be patient’: Searching for the dream job? Here’s how to stand out

Finding a dream job has not been top of the to-do list for most workers in recent months. 

After all, millions have been grateful just to hold on to work at a time of rising unemployment, while others have had other priorities such as health, family and adjusting to lockdowns. 

But as we start to move back towards normality, there is still time for those determined to make 2021 the year they get that perfect role. 

While some sectors such as hospitality and travel are shedding jobs, others are booming, and with social restrictions still in place it’s never been easier to complete the whole application process – including interviews – without leaving your home. 

But you’ll need to be savvy. With unemployment running at a five-year high and the number of new jobs being advertised down a quarter on this time last year, you will need to push hard to stand out.


The ‘K-shaped recovery’ is when some parts of the economy bounce back strongly from a downturn while others lag behind. Andrew MacAskill, founder of career consultancy Executive Career Jump, says: ‘As a job seeker, you need to focus on the sectors on the upward part of the ‘K’ – they include e-commerce, logistics, medical devices, cloud communications and pharmaceutical companies.’ 

Persistent: Olivia Walker applied for more than 60 roles in lockdown to find her dream job


Olivia Walker applied for more than 60 roles in lockdown to find her dream job. She had previously worked at a bank on a graduate scheme, but wasn’t sure this field was where her future lay. 

‘I’ve always been interested in sustainability and wanted to do something in that area,’ she says. Olivia, from Bermondsey in South London, was keen on launching her own business too, but with a mortgage, she felt she had to get a job with a regular income. 

‘I sent out seven or eight applications a week for months and targeted each one to the role,’ she says. ‘It was a bit stressful, but worth it.’ 

Olivia, 26, now works for sustainable startup Notpla, which makes packaging from seaweed. She has also launched her own zero waste company, Keep Candles. 

‘Getting a job actually helped with my own business as they’ve been very helpful and supportive,’ she says. 

The Government’s skills shortage list – skilled-worker-visa-shortage-occupations – is a useful snapshot of which sectors need skilled workers. It currently includes healthcare, IT, engineering and veterinary services. 

Fiona Wilson, of talent search company FJWilson, says IT and technology, legal and regulatory, change management and digital transformation roles are good sectors to target. 

You can find details of openings on professional network website LinkedIn, as well as specialist job sites such as Hays, Reed, Escape the City and Angel List. Alternatively, you can target companies directly.


In these days of heightened competition among job seekers, you have to tailor your application to each specific role. 

Wilson says: ‘Make sure your CV, profile and covering letter are all absolutely tailored to the vacancy you are applying for, using the job description and person specification as your starting point.’ 

The stand-out applicants, she says, are those who have done their homework – ‘reading the annual report and news feeds, identifying the employer’s values and key stakeholders and then feeding some of the target employer’s vocabulary and key words into their application.’ 

Amanda Reuben, founder of Bijou Recruitment, says most recruiters will only spend ten seconds looking at each CV, so getting it right is essential. ‘You can’t imagine how many errors I see,’ she says. ‘A CV will often be scanned by some form of artificial intelligence, which is why it needs to be factual and without pictures.’ 

MacAskill recommends contacting the hiring company directly. ‘Send a video introduction or a voice note via LinkedIn,’ he says. Potential employers will often check out your profile on LinkedIn, so ensure it is bang up to date and connects with your application by showing relevant skills or experience. 

Finally, keep an open mind. You might not be right for a certain role, but if you are a great candidate, the company may want to find a position better suited to your skills.