It can be very challenging finding a job, and better yet- your dream job! We’ve consulted with our friends in Human Resources and asked them for things that they look for during the hiring process and some tips they have to share with applicants.
Remember, you won’t get a job unless you apply for one. So check out these tips, muster up some courage and get out there!
1. Know your skills
Before you even start applying for jobs, you should take some time to evaluate your skills – what are you good at? Sit down and make a list of the things that you do well and that other people compliment you on. Maybe you are always well organized, or a whiz with a particular program, or the go to for negotiating with an unruly client. Make notes of this and summarize it down into a concise list that you can reference while working on your job application and interview. It is essential that you know your skills and qualifications so that you can discuss them further if questioned. You can even ask at the end of your interview: “do you have any hesitations or questions about my qualifications for this position?” for a chance to further clarify anything that could be unclear.
“It’s not what you know but who you know”…
It can be incredibly beneficial to have contacts in a company to which you are applying. If you don’t know anyone there personally, don’t worry. See if anyone in your circle of contacts does, or if there are any opportunities where you can meet people in the industry. Maybe there are some volunteer events going on, trade shows, meet and greets. Other great things to think about is if you know anyone who is in a similar industry who can give you some advice about the company and the profession at large. They might not be in the same field necessarily but could have some good advice in applying for the job you seek. You would be amazed how beneficial your contacts can become if you just reach out.
3. Write a cover letter
Some people choose to not submit a cover letter to go with their resume and this can be a really big mistake. Your cover letter is an opportunity to describe yourself and state why you are not only qualified for the position, but the best person for it. Chances are most people applying for the job will be qualified, but it is here that you have to plead your case and set yourself from the rest of the group to capture the employers’ attention.
4. Format your resume
Make sure that your resume is current, well written, and professionally designed. There are lots of free programs and software available on the web, so try them out. You want your resume to stand out from the piles of other contenders and reflect you as a person. Put a lot of time and effort into it and it will pay off. Also, don’t ever lie on a resume, it will come back to haunt you. Sure, everyone embellishes a bit and makes themselves sound as glorious as possible within reason. If you lie and get caught – there can be huge problems and it isn’t worth the risk.
5. Do your research
Make sure that you take some time to research not only the company that you intend to work with, but also competitors in the industry. Try to locate other comparable positions and see what these companies are paying and the kinds of skills that they would be looking for. The best way to apply for a job or take an interview is to be well prepared. A good way to start is to look around at other job postings that are similar for ideas and inspiration.
6. Social media
In a digital age it is essential that you are very careful on what you post on social media. More and more employers are checking in on Facebook and other social media accounts to see what potential employees have been posting. If you are trying to get a job in a professional company and have your accounts covered in pictures of you passed out drunk or doing questionable things… chances are – it isn’t going to look good. Be prepared that potential employers can look up your profile and see the kind of materials that you are posting.
7. Interview preparation
Okay great, your application has been shortlisted and you have been notified for an interview! First thing, start your preparations well in advance so that you know what you well armed to tackle even the toughest questions. Make lists of your skills, your weaknesses, accomplishments, volunteer experience, you name it. Then go through and start to organize things to help you remember in the interview. You want to know your skills and be able to offer experience to back them. If you are good at time management and organization – think of a time when you demonstrated this. Same goes with your weaknesses – it’s annoying, but they are bound to ask something about your weaknesses. Know what they are and try to find a way to put a positive spin on them. Maybe you’ve struggled with a computer program in the past for example, but you are taking night courses to help improve your skills. Another great way to practice is get a friend help by asking you common questions and preparing a mock interview.
8. Prepare references
Always be sure to have a list of people’s names that you can give in an interview or follow-up in the event that you are asked for them. And it is necessary that these people are informed well before they get a call from a prospective employer. Maybe you have lots of references from previous jobs, sort through and pick out the best ones that will really showcase your talents. If you don’t have many references, that is okay too. Work references, personal and character references are also great ways for people to back who you are and what you can do. Aim for around 3-4 references just in case some people aren’t available. Most often it is only one or two that are contacted so list people accordingly.
9. Day before the interview
It is important that you don’t let your nerves get the best of you. Make sure that you stay as calm and relaxed as possible today. Go for a walk, review your notes, and then just chill out for the rest of the evening. If you stay up all night freaking out, you aren’t going to perform well on the interview. Eat some healthy food and do not consume anything that is going to potentially upset your tummy. Get to bed early and give yourself plenty of time in the morning to get ready and not feel too rushed.
10. What to wear to your interview
Okay, today is the big day! Make sure that you have given yourself plenty of time to wake up, shower, get dressed, and have a light breakfast. Try to take the least stressful route to the interview in an effort to remain calm and chilled out.
People are always asking us – what should I wear to an interview? There is no “one perfect outfit” for all jobs. Some work environments will require you to dress formally everyday, even have to wear a suit for example. While other places of work might be totally relaxed and wear jeans. The best rule is to go in looking professional which means: no skin showing (no short skirts or open blouses), natural looking makeup, clean hair that has been set off of your face (even pulled halfback), clean nails, and work appropriate clothes. Another way to know what to wear is to do research on the company and see what they have on their website and even walk by the office one day and see what people are wearing. If you aren’t sure, it is always better to be a little overdressed than underdressed.
11. How to answer questions in an interview
The best way to answer any question in an interview is to be honest. Sure everyone tries to make themselves look good by saying what they think the hiring committee wants to hear, but at the end of the day- a lie is a lie. If you are well prepared and have done your research, you will appear much more confident and hireable. Also, remember to bring a copy of your resume and cover letter in case you need to reference any particular dates or if you are asked to clarify anything. Be calm, professional, and answer the questions as thoroughly as possible without rambling on.
12. Interview follow-up
It is always important to ask a few questions at the end of your interview to show that you are engaged and interested in pursing this specific position. Don’t ask a bunch of random questions, but rather prepare in advance a few that are well thought out and appropriate for the interview. Examples can be things like: i) what have you enjoyed most about working here, ii) can you tell me about the team I will be working with, iii) what is the next step in this process? Short, sweet, and to the point. And this is your turn to put the people who have been grilling you in the hot seat!
13. Learning experience
Treat the entire job application process as a learning experience. From the beginning of the process when you started to do some self reflection, to researching the company, to actually sitting down in the interview, the whole thing from beginning to end is great practice. Whether or not you get the job (which we hope you do!), don’t forget what you have learned. The next time you apply for a job or any other stressful situation, you will be much better prepared to deal with it and will know a lot more about your skills, qualifications, and abilities. Remember, we are rooting for YOU! Now put these tips to the test and get out there!