Whether you’re applying to be the CEO or the Coffee Runner (see intern), applying for a new job is a scary proposition. But, with some proper planning and preparation it shouldn’t be nearly as daunting. We spoke with a recruiter to bring you seven pieces of advice to help you land your dream job.
1. Get your CV looking a million bucks.
The first step in getting a job is getting the interview, and without a good CV or the right connections, you won’t even get your foot in the door. The connections part you might not be able to do anything about, but the CV part is something you definitely can do something about. Get yourself a ‘gold standard’ CV from a recruiter or a friend who works in the industry you want to enter – the perfect style for an engineer is likely to be different to the perfect style for an accountant.
Recruitment agencies spend an average of 6 seconds looking at each CV so make sure it’s short, sharp, and easily digestible. Get rid of the long narrative and get to know dot points.
A good rule of thumb in the quest for an interview is to list your responsibilities in three bullet points then your achievements in three bullet points under each job you’ve had to date. Give them data. They love percentages, savings, dollars, numbers, quantities, and time. Why? Because ultimately organisations are looking to hire talent that makes a palpable contribution.
Oh, and everyone knows it’s hard to proofread your own work, so have someone you regard as an excellent writer proofread your CV.
2. Don’t become a serial applicant. Do be a realist.
Organisations these days have algorithms in their recruitment software which flag candidates who apply for anything and everything. Needless to say, if you’re doing this, your application is immediately going to the trash folder. By focusing solely on opportunities that are a good match for your experience and qualifications, you’re giving yourself the best chance of getting the interview.
On that note, it’s best to make sure you’re competing at the right level. Look in the mirror and give yourself an honest assessment as to the prospects available to you. If you’re in the ‘P’s get degrees’ boat but are applying for McKinsey & Company grad roles with no luck…maybe lower your sights. Likewise, if you’ve applied to 20, 40, 100 roles without so much as a call back, it’s probably worth changing something up. As they say, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
3. Don’t rely on text and email. Pick up the phone.
There’s literally no job in town that doesn’t require good communication skills, so by picking up the phone, you’re already one step ahead of the competition. Yes, we know it might be scary for you to make a call, but if you can’t handle calling a recruiter to introduce yourself, you’re going to struggle in an interview.
Anita Ziemer, from Melbourne recruitment agency The Interchange Bench, couldn’t agree more. “I recently ran a job for which I had over 100 applications from reasonably well qualified young professionals. Just five of those candidates called me to introduce themselves or to ask more about the role. I was more likely to put forward those who called, and surprise, surprise, the client hired one of the candidates who took the time to pick up the phone.”
4. Overcome any reluctance to call in favours.
If you’re just starting out in the workforce, you’re basically a nobody at this stage. Full stop. Now’s the time to call in favours.
Your second cousin’s boyfriend works there, your neighbour plays footy with the recruiter, you went to primary school with the bosses’ daughter? Get in touch. The worst possible outcome is that you don’t get the interview or the job, but hey, that would’ve happened anyway. Take all possible angles on your job search and you never know, that dream job could magically fall into your lap.
5. Prepare, prepare, prepare.
Boom. You got the interview.
Now it’s time to really knuckle down and prepare for any interview questions they can throw at you. Spend some serious hours researching both the company you’re applying for and the person who’s interviewing you. It’s worth developing strong answers to the usual generic questions, “why do you want to work with us”, “what are your strengths and weaknesses”, “describe a challenging situation you’ve faced”, as well as understanding how and why the company operates so you can weave in informed, insightful answers into your interview.
Don’t forget, an interview isn’t a one-way street, and you should prepare some questions to ask the interviewer to gauge whether the role and company is the right fit for you. Making a good first impression in the interview has to be one of the most important tips. Out of all the interview tips we could give you, over preparing is the most important.
6. Look sharp, feel sharp.
But not too sharp. This one goes without saying, but just in case you’re in the group of people who haven’t been told: shower, comb that hair, groom well, and dress the part. If heads start to turn in the waiting room, know that you’re either incredibly attractive… or you’ve done too much. Probably the latter (sorry, bud). As the great Rudyard Kipling once wrote, “’…don’t look too good, nor talk too wise’. Dress commensurately with the job.
7. Be confident, not arrogant.
Game day. Be nice to the receptionist. Introduce yourself with a firm (but not too firm) handshake while looking your interviewer in the eye. Pitch your case. Why would this company be making a mistake in not hiring you? What can you bring to the table? An interview is not the time for modesty, but it’s also not the time for arrogance. If you’ve taken our advice, you’ll have done as much as you can to get the job. Now it’s time to play the waiting game.
But not before a courtesy email to the recruiter or interviewer thanking them for their time.