How to look for work

assorted jobs and careers headlines

You have collected all the information and papers that you need
to get a job

Now you need to know where to look for work, how to write your resume or CV and a cover letter,
and how to prepare for job interviews.

Many people say they are looking for ‘any job’.

This actually makes it more difficult to find work. You need to know what you want to do so that you can find the job advertisement for this type of work. No one wants to do ‘any job’, everyone has things they do not want to do: maybe working night shift, killing animals for meat, or working in very cold conditions, for example. We all have things that we think are OK and things that are not.

So before you start looking, you need to:

  • Know what type of job you are looking for
  • Know where that job can be found
  • Have a resume and cover letter that suits that particular job.

There is no point in applying for jobs you are not suited to, or jobs you have no chance of getting – it’s a waste of your time.

If you are unsure what sort of work you are suited for, some websites can help you:

There are many places where you can look for work:

  • On the internet
  • In the local newspaper
  • Through a recruitment agency
  • Through your friends (networking)
  • By knocking on doors (canvassing)


The Internet is one of the easiest ways to look for work – but this can make actually getting a job difficult, as tens of thousands of people a day use this method of job searching.

Types of work: all types – with websites dedicated to specific types of work.

Positives: easy to apply for jobs; many jobs advertised; local and national jobs advertised.

Negatives: many people applying for the same jobs; limited personal contact.

Success Rate: low if you do not have Australian experience and qualifications.

There are many job search websites, for instance:



Newspapers for your local area have job ads at the back, and the main newspaper in your city has an ‘Employment’ section on Saturdays. Local newspapers are one of the best ways of looking for work in your area.

Types of work: all types, particularly semi skilled.

Positives: local jobs advertised, not as many people looking at these job ads, usually ads will have a person’s name to call.

Negatives: most job ads are also online; limited personal contact with employer (generally telephone and email).

Success Rate: low to medium if you do not have Australian experience and qualifications.


Recruitment Agencies

Employers often pay a recruitment agency or labour hire company to find workers for them. Registering with a few recruitment agencies or labour hire companies is a good idea when you are looking for work.

Types of work: all types, but agencies specialise in certain areas. For instance, agencies like Staff Australia, Adecco, Skilled Group are good for low-skilled to semi-skilled work in factories or warehouses. Agencies like Robert Half, Hays, Michael Page are better for professionals like accountants, project managers or engineers.

Positives: provides access to multiple employers through one contact. Good entry point to build up Australian work history and can lead to permanent employment.

Negatives: predominantly casual employment therefore lacks security and continuity.



In Australia, as in most other places in the world, the most effective way of finding work is by knowing an employer or knowing someone who works for a company and can talk about you to their employer. The reason for this is that people like to hire people who are recommended by someone they already know.

Types of work: all types

Positives: you are more likely to get a job when it is through a personal connection; local experience and qualifications are not as important; you do not need to spend as much time and energy completing job applications. 

Negatives: it can take time to make new connections and build your personal and professional networks, especially if you are new to Australia.



‘Canvassing’ means knocking on doors of companies in search for work. ‘Canvassing’, ‘cold calling’ or ‘going door to door’ is where you go in search of the ‘hidden’ job market by visiting numerous employers in the hope they are considering hiring staff.

Type of work: it is only suitable for some job types, such as hospitality.

Positives: you can meet many potential employers; you may find jobs that are not advertised; and there is more chance that you will meet your potential employer face-to-face.

Negatives: you will get a lot of rejection; you will also need good spoken English.

When canvassing, you are trying to use the advantage of talking one-on-one with employers in the hope that they will see you as more than just your resume. Therefore how you present and look is as important as how well your resume is written. It is good to practise your approach before you visit or call a business.

The biggest mistake people make with canvassing is not following up. They simply drop their resume in and hope for the best. Think about it: if the employer is hiring they are obviously very busy. Your resume may be one more in a large pile of things to get to. You need to call the day after you visit to ask if they have have read the resume and what they think. Always call if you said you would.

There is no point in applying for jobs you are not suited to, or jobs you have no chance of getting.

You need to read the job ad very carefully to check that you have what they want.  The job ad is actually the person who is doing the hiring telling you exactly what they want! For instance, if they say they want someone with a minimum of five years of experience in Australia, and if you don’t have this, there is little point in applying.

Who is advertising?

Job ads are placed either by recruitment agencies or by employers themselves.

Agency – usually has a word like “recruitment” or “personnel” in the title or something like “Hays Industrial”. Recruitment Agencies get paid by businesses to find good staff. Things to know about them:

  • They have very strict criteria – most want 2 referees from past Australian employers, some may want a permanent visa and your own transport.
  • If they take you on their list, you will be given one or two chances to prove you are keen to work. If they call you to work and you say “no” for whatever reason, they may not call you again.
  • If they put you on their list you need to call them once a week to ask for work – even if you have been working for them recently.

Employer – In ASSET’s experience the best option is applying direct to the employer. Things to know about employers:

  • They are generally very busy and appreciate any action on your behalf that makes their lives easier: getting to the point when you call, easy to read resumes and cover letters, follow-up calls (short and to the point) will all help.
  • Your chances of getting the job increases if you call before and after sending your application.
  • They are more likely not to be too concerned about a lack of Australian references.
  • You can usually talk directly to the person who makes the final decision on hiring.

Reading a job ad can be tricky as they use a lot of abbreviations and jargon. Check our Job ads Glossary (pdf) for help.

There are a few rules to follow when you apply:

  • Do not lie on an application – if you get the job and the employer finds out you were deceitful they may terminate your position.
  • Call the employer when possible before and after your application.
  • Your resume should be directly suited to the job.
  • Every application should have a cover letter or introduction email which states the job you are applying for and where you saw it advertised.

Before you can start looking for work, you need a resume.

A resume is like a ‘photo’ of your professional history: what have you done before that is similar to the sort of work you are looking for? Your resume needs to give the employer the confidence that you are the right person for the job.

A good resume in itself will not get you a job, but it will get you an interview. It is very important to get your resume right.

Every resume should include:

  • Contact details
  • Skills: what are the things you know how to do?
  • Experience: starting with the most recent
  • Qualifications/Education: starting with the most recent
  • Referees

Your resume needs to be clear, without spelling mistakes, and written in the same ‘font’ throughout. When you have finished writing your resume, get a friend who speaks good English to check it for you to make sure there are no mistakes.

Your resume needs to be ‘tailored’ to the job you are applying for. Your experience does not change but you can make some skills more prominent by putting the most relevant skills first in the ‘Key Skills’ section. For instance, if you are applying for a job that requires heavy lifting, remember to mention that you are fit and strong.

See Resume example (1) and Resume example (2)you can use to write yours.

Want more detail? You can also see further information and videos on the Live in Victoria website.

Every application should have a cover letter or introduction email which states the job you are applying for and where you saw it advertised.

Like the resume, the cover letter needs to be written or edited specifically for the job you are applying for. It does not need to be complicated.

Why a cover letter/email?

The point of a cover letter is to introduce yourself to an employer in a shorter way than the resume.

Employers and recruitment agencies receive hundreds of applications a day and often the cover letter is the first thing they read.

Keep it simple

A cover letter should be simple, and include the following information:

  • What position are you applying for?
  • What key qualifications and experience do you have that make you a good candidate for this position?
  • Information about your availability: are you available straight away? Full Time? Can you work night shift?
  • If you have a drivers licence and car, you should include this information in your cover letter and resume.

Make sure someone who speaks English very well checks your cover letter before you send it as mistakes will mean the agency/employer will not look at your resume.

Check this information about how to structure your cover letter: Guide_to_writing_a_basic_cover_letter simple (pdf) or cover email (Writing a cover e-mail).

Why have a job interview?

It would be great if employers gave you a chance to show what you can do on the job. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. You will need to sit down with the employer or the recruitment agency and explain why you are the best person for the job. This can be difficult if your English is limited. There are also some rules around interviews that you may not know if you are new to Australia.

This information should help you better understand how to prepare for job interviews.

What happens in a job interview?

For the employer, the interview is a chance to meet with you to find out if you are the best person for the job.

For you, the interview is your chance to talk about why you are the best person for the job.

A job interview is like trying to get onto a football team. The coach does not have time to watch you play. Instead he gives you twenty minutes to talk about why you should be chosen. If you don’t talk much and you act modest and quiet, the coach will have no choice but to choose someone else. So you have to be clear and convincing!

There are four keys to a job interview:

  • Be prepared
  • Match your skills to what the employer wants
  • Be your confident and friendly self
  • Provide the right amount of information

Be prepared

This is very important. To prepare for the interview, you need to learn the words to describe in English the work you have done before, what tools you have used, the environment where you worked. You can do this with a dictionary, even if your English is not very good.

Look at your resume and learn the words to explain what your resume says about your experience.

There are some questions that you will always be asked at job interviews, and it is important for you to prepare for them.

Match your skills to what the employer wants

You need to:
  • Be clear about what skills they are looking for (they are in the job ad)
  • Identify the skills you have (they are in your resume)
  • Quantify your experience
  • Memorise it for the interview.

Quantifying means that you need to give examples of what you have done, with names and numbers. This is particularly important as most of your experience will be overseas and the employer may not understand it. For instance, instead of saying  ‘I had a shop in Sri Lanka‘, you can say: ‘I used to own and manage a clothes shop, we had on average fifty customers a day, I had four staff. I also had to liaise with importers and banks‘. ‘Names and numbers’ are a great way of proving you have what it takes to do the job. It encourages you to talk in detail about your skills and experience using the ‘language’ of that industry. Here’s another example:

Employer asks the question: Have you worked in a busy restaurant before?

Bad Answer: Yes.

Good Answer: Yes, I worked as a waiter at Sahara, a Tuskish restaurant in Dandenong, for 2 months. They seat 100 customers and turn over tables every hour.

Use this Skills Matching Activity to compare your skills and describe them with names and numbers.

Be your confident and friendly self

People are often very nervous before a job interview, which is perfectly normal. It is particularly difficult to do an interview in English if this is not your first language.

Remember that the employer may be concerned about the language and cultural differences, so you need to reassure them by being comfortable and confident. You will do a better job interview is you are relaxed and friendly.

A way of doing this it to prepare by talking to a friend you respect. You can do it in your own language first, pay attention to your body language and your tone, and then try to replicate this when you practice in English.

Provide the right amount of information

When people are interviewed, they often provide either too much or not enough information. It can be difficult to find the balance. Here are a few tips that may help:

  • Listen first, think second, answer last
  • Never just ‘Yes’ or ‘No’
  • If you don’t understand the question, ask the person to repeat. It is much better than providing an answer that does not match the question.

And finally… A few things to remember:

  • Know exactly who you are meeting, where and at what time.
  • Dress neatly and ensure your clothes are clean.
  • Get there 15 minutes early. If you can, go there the day before to check where the interview will take place.
  • Always bring your resume, visa and copy of qualifications to your job interview.
  • Know how to answer questions about your visa (see Frequently Asked Questions)
  • Turn your mobile phone OFF
  • Practice, practice and practice again…

Recruitment agencies will often want to interview you over the phone before asking to meet with you. This is to check how good your English is and whether you have the right experience.

Once you start looking for work, you need to always pick up the phone as if it was a recruitment agency calling, just in case. This means:

  • Always answer the phone politely. Say “Hello, (YOUR NAME) speaking”
  • Make sure you are in a quiet place where you can hear the person calling clearly and there isn’t too much background noise. If there is too much noise get their name and phone number and tell them you will call them back and when (in 10 or 15mins). Make sure you call them back when you say you will!
  • Write down the name of who you are speaking to
  • Answer any questions they might have politely and honestly
  • If you don’t understand or didn’t hear ask them to repeat the question or information.

If they offer you an interview in person:

Make sure you write down all the details:

  • Name of Company_______________________
  • Address_______________________________
  • Date/Time of interview____________________
  • Who you are to ask for____________________
  • A contact number________________________

 When calling a company to ask about a job:

  • Introduce yourself and tell them why you are calling – “Hello my name is ……….. I am calling about the position of …………. Is it still available?”
  • Be polite
  • You might get transferred to several different people. If so introduce yourself again each time.

YouTube videos

How to look for work youtube video

Interview Skills Preparation Video