James Max - James Max is a broadcaster, columnist and business expert

How to get the job you want – part 1

Before applying for a job, you have some serious work to do.

In this first blog, here are some tips and hints about writing a good CV, doing your research and writing a cover letter.

The riots we saw in London and across the country were as shocking as they were unnerving. We live in a democracy. We live in a tolerant society and a fairly wealthy one at that. That’s not to say we don’t have problems. We do. Some of those problems relate to society breakdown, some to social circumstances and as I have written in a previous blog , my belief that the education system holds the key so solving many of these issues.

With our current social and economic problems in mind, it’s even more important that you work hard if you are to get the job you really want.

I am often asked about getting a job and changing career. As a qualified surveyor, who went into investment banking then private equity and has ended up as a broadcaster on radio and TV, let’s face it. I have chopped and changed a few times!

I thought it might be helpful to set out some guidance and advice that I have received over many years to help you. To help you get the job you always wanted or to help you switch career. The techniques are the same but for some the advice simply isn’t there. Until now that is!

Our job market has changed. Yes, there are some careers that involve and require specific skills. You aren’t going to be able to become a doctor without studying medicine. Nor a lawyer without studying law. But even with areas like property and banking, the markets have really opened up. There are some with few barriers to entry. You can change direction. Lateral hires, as they are called, are being made more frequently and there are plenty of one-year courses available for those who wish to switch. With the jobs market more competitive than ever, you are going to have to sharpen up if you are to succeed.

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

First things first. How many times were you asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. Aside from arguing that I have never grown up, this is the most important question you can ask yourself. What is the job you want? What skills do you have that could make it a reality? As soon as you work out what you are destined for this will help. In addition to that, there’s the realisation that some jobs are simply out of reach or that you may have to acquire new skills if you are to have a chance.

If that means doing free work experience, taking a course, reading up, speaking to people who are already in the job you want? Do it.

The CV
Once you have decided where you are headed. You can begin the somewhat labourious task of writing your CV. A Curriculum Vitae is not a “one size fits all” document. Depending on what you are applying for, so different skills you possess or indeed certain personality traits need priority. Think very carefully about what your potential employer is looking for and try to provide it within your CV. Never lie. Never embellish. And never make claims in your CV that you cannot back up. Personally, I think a CV should be no more than two a4 pages. Don’t write an essay and do use bullet points. Ensure an employer knows where to contact you, explain what qualifications you have, emphasise the skills you possess and demonstrate your personality. You don’t have to fit everything in there. It’s also known as a resume for good reason. Think of it as edited highlights. Do ensure you have spell-checked the document before you send it anywhere and also ask two good friends to look over it and pick up any errors.

The Research

Before you even apply for a job you must do your research. Having researched yourself you now have to research you potential employer. The internet is a great tool. Virtually every company has a website. In addition to explaining what they do, what services or goods they sell, there will also be plenty of information about the company. Of course reality may be different but if you are applying you need to understand what the company does, who the key players are, the counterparties for their business, how they make their money and most importantly their ethos.

Too many people apply for jobs without researching. Those applicants that demonstrate that they know themselves and know the company they are applying to and have reconciled the two to apply for the appropriate job. They are the people who will be called for interview.

The Cover Letter

Some people seem to think that a CV can simply be thrust into someone hands and a job miraculously appears. Wrong! This is but a calling card. An application “cover” letter is equally important. Ensure it’s sent to the right person at the right address and that you have ensured there are no errors. Remember a cover letter should be three paragraphs. One for an intro. Two for the meat. Three to wrap it up. No more. Make sure you set up the letter properly, and ensure you have formatted it correctly. Have a look at sites like this, for example.


I am not a fan of the personal statement. Either in a CV or a cover letter. They are generally awful and smack of some jargon-filled, jingoistic, egotistical nonsense.

Once you send your cover letter and CV to apply for a job, so the hard work begins! Next time, I’ll demystify interview technique and the art of following up.

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