Seven handy hints to improve your chances of preparing a successful job application and impressing at interview.
Under pressure, kept late after work, probably not in the best of moods: welcome to the world of the person you want to be your next manager. With hundreds of candidates to vet on top of an already busy day job, it’s no surprise that most employers spend seconds, not minutes, on each job application with the express intention of rejecting as many as they can in the shortest time possible. Here’s how to give yourself every chance of staying out of the ‘no’ pile:
The application process:
- Follow the instructions on the form. Application documents and processes vary from employer to employer, but always do exactly what is asked. If the form asks you to demonstrate how you meet the skills listed – and you don’t – it shows you either don’t have them or can’t follow simple instructions. Bin.
- Keep it short and sweet. Even if there is a generous word limit on the form, keep your answers as succinct and relevant as possible, backing up your claims with only the best examples of your experience, not your entire employment history. Save your prospective employer some time and you could save your application.
- Don’t be afraid to call the recruiter if you don’t completely understand the job spec. It certainly can’t do any harm to politely tell them who you are and ask a few intelligent questions, while being respectful of their time. Make a good impression and your application may stand out when it reaches the top of their pile.
- Don’t blag it! Getting an interview under false pretences is worse than getting no interview at all. If you are too economical with the truth, it is sure to come out at interview. This will (a) mean an excruciating grilling for you as your lack of competence is exposed, and (b) annoy the panel whose time you are wasting. Don’t expect an interview next time they have a job vacancy.
So you got an interview…
Well done! You’ve negotiated the application process and are now suited, booted and ten minutes early for your interview. Hopefully, you’ve also already taken the time to:
- Do your homework. Do you understand their organisational mission and goals, culture and values, and the challenges they currently face? Think about how these match your own motivations and ambitions, and how your skills and personal qualities can help them meet those challenges. Be familiar with their website and other digital channels, media profile and any company literature you can get your hands on, such as their annual report.Another excellent way to get across your interest in them is to take the opportunity at the end of the interview to ask them some intelligent questions (e.g. about company culture, strategy, their approach to problem-solving, etc.). The harder you make them think about their answers, the better they’ll remember you.
- Prepare your answers. You can take some of the pressure off yourself by having answers ready for the most common interview questions (there’s no shortage of online articles on this subject). But you will still need to be able to think on your feet when the panel throws something leftfield at you. Bear in mind that interviewers really only want to know three things: whether you can do the job, why you want the job and whether you will fit into their organisation.Every answer should speak to one or more of these concerns.
They like you! Don’t blow it now!
- Check your digital footprint. These days, you can often assume a recruiting manager is going to Google you to make sure they aren’t about to hire a sociopath. There’s plenty of online advice about cleaning up your digital profile, but at the very least, be sure to:
- Google yourself, then remove or block access to anything on the first couple of pages of search results that you wouldn’t want a would-be boss to see;
- set your privacy setting to high (aka ‘friends only’) on Facebook, Twitter and any other social sites where you still have ‘not suitable for work’ personal content on public display (e.g. compromising photos); and
- polish up your professional persona – make sure your Linkedin profile and/or personal website is current, complete and consistent with your CV.
Negotiating recruitment can seem like a minefield, but getting into the mindset of your future employer is a good place to start. And there are plenty more tips and advice here on workSMART on finding, preparing for, and getting that dream job. Good luck!