21st May 2012
In the 35 years since I have left school I have applied for hundreds of jobs. In the last twenty years I have worked in roles where it has been a substantial part of my role, sometimes a challenging part, to review the applications of hopeful job seekers. In this time I have seen and learnt an awful lot about job-hunting, about what works, and what doesn’t; and about what draws my attention when I am looking to employ people. I hope that by sharing some of my experience and observations I can help others to be successful in progressing their own careers.
Advertising for help, reviewing applications and selecting candidates can be a tedious business. However, at the same time, it is critically important to the success of any manager and to the success of any business.
Respect the Employer and Yourself
When applying for a job, no matter where, when or what, there are some attributes of a job seeker that will provide a competitive edge. These include applications that show respect for the employer, understanding of generally accepted protocol, process, and etiquette, and a genuine desire to make a contribution to a team.
There is an old adage that “you are as people perceive you to be” and hence your ability to project confidence, ability, respect, honesty and commitment will not only serve to reinforce others’ image of you but will reinforce your own image and self-worth. Time invested in building and reinforcing your skill in this area will be time well-spent.
In direct conflict with this approach is the thought that any job will do. By indicating this to an employer you are inferring that your self-confidence is at such low ebb that you don’t believe yourself worthy of even having a choice. The employer is likely to then consider you in that light and to pass you over for someone with more aspiration and belief in their ability to make a contribution. This doesn’t mean you should be dismissive of opportunities that don’t suit you, it means that you should consider, carefully, how accepting a role might give you the opportunity to contribute to your own self-improvement and the business of your employer. If you can articulate this you will be ahead of most of the competition.
The Application Process
I think of the application process as a series of events that begins with your introduction to the employer. This introduction often occurs through an approach by you to an employer who is looking to recruit. It provides a “first impression” to the employer and dependent upon the quality of the first impression, will determine whether or not the employer wants to know some more about you.
Assuming that your first contact is not “in person”, submission of a CV with no attempt to introduce yourself, and to thereby excite the employer’s interest, is probably the worst possible way to approach this step.
A letter that clearly and concisely addresses a need that the employer has (usually expressed in a job advertisement), accompanied by a CV that the employer may read – if they wish to know more – is a good approach.
Once an employer has been introduced to you they may decide to find out some more about you and I often do this by reviewing your CV and perhaps looking up your profile on Linked In. At this point, I may decide that a candidate is someone that might possibly fit the role that has been advertised and that it is worth speaking directly to them, with a colleague, to clarify the information that the candidate has shared and to obtain a second opinion regarding the candidate’s suitability for the role. Interviews will usually be held with more than one candidate so that comparison can be made and the best-fit to the team can be achieved.
Specific Job requirements
There are attributes that an employer looks for in candidates that will be specific to a role, these will reflect how the successful applicant will fit within the team (even if that team is You and the Boss) and the nature of the contribution that they will make to the combined effort of the team.
No manager or leader ever accomplished anything significant, good or bad, which was not directly attributable to the effort, quality and level of commitment of the people who work with them.
A sound manger and leader will clearly understand and articulate the requirements for each of the roles in their team.
When a role is advertised, minimum requirements for the individual who will be successful are usually included in the advertisement. This is an important first step in the recruitment process and companies who are worth investing time and effort in will go to the trouble of advertising roles in a way that ensures no ambiguity and misunderstanding in the application process. The alternative indicates sloppiness, a lack of focus and, perhaps, an implied disregard for the contribution of individuals.
To get through the employment process successfully it is important that, as an applicant, you communicate clearly and effectively with the selection team. Never set out to deceive, especially through omission of key facts. This will eventually be discovered in any good process and will always lead to a negative outcome.
There is a lot of information around about how to interview well, but if you cannot get through the selection process to the interview stage then, no matter how charismatic, intelligent and articulate you are, you will not get the job!
Due to the nature of the roles that I recruit for, interviews are often held on the telephone by conference call, or on Skype. In remote locations it is becoming increasingly rare that a face to face interview will be deemed either necessary or cost-effective. Given this, I have some simple advice for approaching interviews.
First, try to relax. If you get to interview stage have already made it through a good proportion of the selection process, tension and stress won’t help now. Relax, be yourself, enjoy and learn from the experience. Listen to the queues from the interviewers. Listen actively and ask questions if you need to, it’s a conversation, not an inquisition, and a successful interview will inform both sides about the role and your suitability.
Think about what you say and the impact it will have on the listener. I have seen the most brilliant applicants blow their chances of ever being employed by to doing something utterly stupid like bringing up the topic of remuneration before the interview even starts. Not clever. Not respectful. Not on. In fact I suggest that, unless the interviewer approaches the subject, the interview is not the place to bring up questions about any topic that does not affect your ability to do the job or to make a contribution to the employer’s enterprise.
Good luck with your job search!