- Be Careful. Google yourself and you will be surprised what people can see. If you are going to use your real name and contact details on Facebook and Twitter, it is very easy for potential employers to find you. If you are looking to enter a corporate environment, they may look hard at your personal life. Showing the full extent of your personality on a social networking site should be considered carefully. Try to avoid risqué images and pictures of you doing anything you probably shouldn’t be doing - this will most likely send out the wrong signals to a prospective employer. Wise up about your privacy settings.
- Join LinkedIn. If you’re not already on LinkedIn, you definitely need to be. LinkedIn is the leading online professional directory of individuals and companies. Individuals use LinkedIn for professional networking, connecting, and job searching. If you are already on LinkedIn it is important to keep your account information up to date. It is also important that all of your information is accurate and matches the details already on your CV - any differences may threaten the credibility of this information. If you have a LInkedIn account, website or blog that you’re proud of (particularly if you’re looking to enter the creative industry), reference it on your CV so potential employers can take a look.
- Create a positive online presence. It is helpful to build relationships with organisations and individuals using social media. Join in industry related chats and become acknowledged as a person who engages and shares content and advice on issues facing your industry. This illustrates your knowledge, interest and awareness of your sector and will raise your online profile. You might also meet some great connections and learn some important things about your industry too!
- Search for jobs online. Many employers are using social media to post jobs. LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are frequently used by recruiters to advertise vacancies, so if you don’t have a profile, you could be missing out on a wealth of job opportunities. Link In with companies online to see the vacancies that they post to their jobs pages. If the job is listed directly on LinkedIn you can apply online and/or request a referral from a contact. You can also search for jobs on LinkedIn by keyword, country, and postal code. Use the Advanced Search Option to refine your search and to search by location, experience level, company, job title, salary, industry and date posted. Employers like candidates to have LinkedIn recommendations and endorsements of their skills, therefore, it is beneficial to gather as many of these as possible from previous colleagues and employers to enhance your credibility. Follow companies on Twitter to see all of their latest jbs posts on their profiles. Also, try searching for vacancies using hash tags via location of industry, e.g. #jobsCardiff or #marketingjobs. Like company pages on Facebook to see their jobs posts in your feed. It may also be helpful to join Facebook groups for job-seekers in your area or industry.
A thread on Reddit.com asked hiring managers; what things, no matter how minor, have prevented you from hiring a potential candidate? Some were obvious, some were silly - we here at Fresh have hand-picked our favourite answers for your enjoyment and reference.
'Applications with emoticons. This isn't the internet, keep the smiley faces off your CVs!'
'I once received a paper application filled out in crayon.'
'Get the company name right on your application. We get it, you're recycling cover letters as you send out dozens of applications. But if you can't get the detail of our company name right, what details will you get wrong once you're working for us?'
'Be courteous and professional with EVERYONE in or around the building. Our receptionist greets each applicant before their interview. Part of her duties are to evaluate their appearance and behaviour. The interviews were almost a formality - your fate was pretty much decided by the notes she jotted on your paperwork while you waited to be called in.'
'Last year someone arrived to the interview wearing a novelty hat. Instantly knew it was not going to work out.'
'While conducting a phone interview, the candidate sounded like he was reading from a text book. I asked him to explain sub-netting while opening the Wikipedia page myself. His answer was the first two lines from the same page on Wikipedia. I asked him to explain in more detail. He gave me the next two lines from the Wiki page.'
'Sounds really petty, but I once didn't hire someone purely because they had messy and chipped nail polish. Sloppy attitude for interviews? Sloppy attitude in the workplace.'
'I've had some interesting attention-seeking resumes. I've had resumes folded into a swan, printed on a sheet of aluminium, printed on a wooden puzzle, spoken into a tape recorder, in the form of a Youtube video and printed on a beer bottle label (with the bottle full of beer.) Well done for being creative, but no points for trying to look like a special snowflake. I keep them as conversation pieces but rarely call them for interview.'
'The filename of the CV is a big peeve of mine. Don't name it something silly - on the other hand, if it's simply called 'Resume.doc', it's going to get lost amongst a sea of similarly unoriginal people. Stick to something like 'DavidSmithCV.doc'.'
'The candidate had no questions for me. Always ask your own questions. The interviewer should feel like you are interviewing them also.'
'Once I was interviewing a candidate who was dressed really nicely, almost too nice. At the end of the interview, he leans over and tells me I might want to consider getting a new shirt and tie. Yeah, tell the hiring manager to get better clothes - that'll land you the job for sure.'
The kind of questions you’ll be asked at interview will vary, but in essence employers are all trying to establish your skills and experience, your enthusiasm and interest, and whether you will fit in. If you can answer the following questions, using real-life examples to illustrate your points, then you should be able to answer most of the questions that arise.
- Tell me about yourself? This is usually the start to every interview. Your answer should be well-rehearsed, confidently delivered and last between 3-5 minutes. It should also focus on areas of most relevance to the job in question, include impressive achievement, convey your enthusiasm and avoid personal or irrelevant information.
- What are your key skills/strengths? Focus on what you know they are looking for, no matter how minor. The job advert or person specification form will give you the info you need about their requirements.
- What are your weaknesses? Choose a weakness that doesn’t matter for the job, e.g. languages for a UK firm. Keep it positive; ‘I like to make things happen and get frustrated if too long is spent sitting around discussing it without action’, for example. Or, choose something that used to be a weakness but which you have improved upon.
- Why did you leave your last job? Your answer should be positive and upbeat even if the circumstances were difficult. If you were made redundant, depersonalise it by talking about company restructuring rather than your individual circumstance. Never criticise a previous employer no matter how tempting.
- Why do you want this job? Your answer should reinforce why you are such a good fit job and then convey your enthusiasm for the role. For example; your skills match their requirements, you are interested in their product/market/sector, know of the company’s excellent reputation, want an exciting challenge etc. Do not say (even if it’s true) that you just need a job, or you want it because it’s local.
- Can you tell me about a difficult scenario at work and how you dealt with it? This is a test of how you cope under pressure as well as your problem-solving and communication skills. Good examples include times you helped resolve or improve a difficult situation, were resilient in adverse conditions, showed emotional intelligence and cool-headedness, etc. Avoid any examples which still feel sensitive - in a high pressure interview situation, old emotions can easily resurface and throw you off balance.
- Can you tell me about an achievement of which you are proud? Choose work-related examples that show a tangible benefit to the business. Personal achievements should only be included if they are very impressive or prestigious.
- What are your career goals? Here the employer is checking if you are likely to stay and if so, for how long. Reassure the employer that the role you are applying for its your career plan and your longer term commitment to the company.
- What are your salary expectations? Salary negotiations are best handled at the job offer stage so try to avoid this at interview if you can. If forced to name a price, give a realistic but wide salary range and say that you feel salary won’t be an issue if you decide to work together.
- What to you know about our organisation? Do your research! Nothing looks worse than a candidate who turns up to an interview with no knowledge of what they applied for. Research the company structure, products and services, customers and competitors and market trends and challenges. Bare minimum, know what they do and have a browse of their website and have something to say when they ask you this question.
It is so easy to make mistakes on your CV, and the damage that even a simple mistake can make to your application is impossible to repair. Making sure that your CV is flawless is crucial to your application; here is our check-list of things to avoid when attempting to secure an interview.
- Telling Lies. You may think you’re making yourself sound amazing, but more often than not the employer will figure out you’re lying or exaggerating and will ignore your application entirely. Even worse, if you actually get the job and had greatly exaggerated your experience and skills on your CV, you may find the job impossible to do and will get busted pretty quickly.
- Including a photo. While you might think that your good looks are sure to secure you an interview, it’s just going to give recruiters an opportunity to make an instant judgement and will distract from your skills and expertise. Plus, it may give you an air of appearing arrogant and vain to potential employers. Best to leave the selfies on your Facebook.
- Writing a Novel. Sticking to a maximum of two sheets of A4 means you have to be selective in which information best shows off your skills and is the most relevant. You don’t need to include all of your part-time student jobs or the awards you got in Primary school - no employer wants your life story. Recruiters will often have to filter through hundreds of CV’s so if yours doesn’t catch their immediate attention it is likely to end up at the bottom of the pile.
- Using elaborate fonts and colours. White paper and smart, easy to read fonts are key here. Using Comic-Sans on bright pink paper isn’t likely to get you taken seriously.
- Divulging Sensitive Information. Stick to CV writing guides when looking for what info is necessary. Things like your NI or passport numbers should be kept OFF your CV - especially if you are putting it online!
- Over-using the First Person. I, me, my. While using them occasionally is fine, using them too much will make your CV look overly self-obsessed and will demonstrate poor communication skills. Instead, find other ways of saying the same thing. So, ‘I developed a new system that allowed me to evaluate performance’ would become, ‘Developed a new system, allowing performance to be evaluated.’
- Using Clichés.'I am a highly motivated individual who works well alone and as part of a team'. Yeah, you and every other candidate, mate. While these are not wrong words to use per-say, it’s not very original and prevent you from standing out. If you’re going to use buzzwords, back them up with examples. Writing that you’re a ‘good communicator’ or have good ‘problem solving skills’, needs to be backed up with also mentioning times where these skills were demonstrated.
- Lacking Specifics. When an employer looks at your CV, they need to know exactly what you have achieved in your previous roles and how this is relevant. If you were responsible for new business development, say exactly how you achieved this and include the results you achieved.
- Incorrect Contact Details. Not getting any replies from applications? Check you’ve not accidentally entered an old address or incorrect phone number/email. Even if you are suitable for an interview, you’ll never find out if your contact details are wrong.
- Highlighting Duties, Not Accomplishments. Do not just list your job description; recruiters aren’t interested by what you were told to do by a previous employer. They want to know what you did well, and how well you did them, and what your results were.
- Visually Crowded or Sparse. Your CV should be visually appealing. If it’s too crowded, it’ll be difficult to read and assess. If your CV is too sparse, it looks like either you couldn’t be really bothered with it, or you have too little experience or skills. Show your CV to friends and family before sending it out. Do they find it readable and visually attractive?
- Being Too Generic. You need to demonstrate to your potential employer that you want to work for their company and not anyone else’s. They will expect you to clearly show how and why you fit the position in their specific organisation.
- Spelling Mistakes, Typos and Grammatical Errors. If you submit a CV with mistakes, you’ll look careless or like you can’t be bothered to check your work. Make sure you use spellcheck and get someone else to read over your CV to make sure it reads well.
- Missing Important Info. Use a CV writing guide to make sure you’ve got all the necessary information on there.
- Lacking a Good Opening. Your CV needs to sell you to a potential employer. You are trying to impress them, grab their attention and encourage them to read on. Inspiring their interest is key to securing an interview.
- Being selfish. Don’t just talk about what you need; talk about what you can do for the company.
- Using a poor design and layout. Make sure headings, paragraphs and bullet points are neatly organised and put to good use. The layout of your CV is one of the things that makes an immediate first impression: make this first impression a good one.
- Using Out of Date Info. Include your most recent achievements and current contact details.
- Being Really Dull. If you’re applying for a popular job that will probably gain interest from hundreds of other applicants, then you must ensure that you stand out from the crowd. A dull CV is unlikely to secure you an interview.
- Using a Silly Email Address. As much as you love your favourite football team/band/film, email addresses like ‘ManUForEva07@freshmail.co.uk’ are guaranteed to put off employers rather than gain a like-minded appreciation. It takes 5 minutes to set up a new email - your name and date of birth would be perfect.
Can a simple act or thoughtful gesture increase your chances of succeeding in an interview?
A thread on Reddit.com asked users: What is one thing someone has said or done in an interview that made you want to hire them on the spot?
A Subtle Gesture
'On the way to the conference room for the interview, the interviewee instinctively picked up a gum wrapper off the floor and threw it in the nearest trash can,' notes one Reddit user. 'I just caught this peripherally, and he made no effort to show off his 'insignificant good act.”
'Honestly, I have never hired a single person on an impulse and based on something clever they said/did in an interview. It's about qualifications and overall leaving a good impression. Trash-boy did get hired, and his simple act was really representative of him being pleasant and thoughtful. He also had several years experience in the field.' Just goes to show, the little gestures do count!
A Willingness to Learn
Another user explained; ‘I never hire on the spot. I always give some thought to the decision even when I’m very positive about someone. However, I usually give screening tests to candidates.’
'I had one young, inexperienced candidate that did not even pass the first screening question, but afterwards asked me to show him the correct answer, and said something along the lines of “Thanks for showing me that I have a lot to learn.” A few days later I decided that's the kind of attitude I'd like to hire and gave him the green light. Did not regret.' Proof that honestly sometimes is the best policy.
'I was hiring for a graphic design position, and had a number of resumes on my desk. One guy had actually reached out to me personally through our website, and I just told him to email his resume to our job inbox,' explains one user.
'We had just moved to a new office, and I posted a photo one morning to our Facebook page showing the new view off to our fans. That afternoon, he showed up at our office in a suit and tie, asked for the job, killed the interview and got it. He figured out the general area we were in from the photo, called the various office buildings to ask ahead, found us, and just showed up. 2 years later, he's still there and doing an absolutely fantastic job.'
An Obvious, but Overlooked, Tactic
'Here's one that sort of blew me away, because it's so simple,' muses one of the contributors.
'Near the end of the interview, when we've turned to “Do you have any questions for us?”, the guy said, really matter-of-fact and not at all obsequiously, “Well, I'd like to know if there's anything that we've talked about that has left you with doubts about me, so I can be sure you've got the information you need when you're considering my application.”'
'It was so simple, but so honest and effective because it was phrased as, “I want to help you be thorough”, but also quite self-serving because it got out in front of those doubts. We were immediately amazed that no one asks this. I'll always use this in future from now on.'
- Show What Makes You Unique. For every job that you apply for, you are up against hundreds of other talented candidates: making sure that you stand out is essential. When employers or recruiters are faced with many candidates all possessing similar skill sets, you need to demonstrate how your skills are a benefit to a company. How can you save or make them money? How can you help them? Providing examples is key here. ‘Experienced Sales Manager able to lead a large sales team. Previous experience includes motivating sales staff to exceed targets by 18% in 6 months’ - anything that shows your specific skills is ideal.
- Use the Right Layout. Employers and recruiters spend around 30 seconds scanning your CV; making sure the content of your CV is complemented with an appropriate style of presentation is vital. You need to think carefully about the best layout for the type of vacancies that you are applying for. If you are aiming to work in design, advertising or media then your CV may benefit from a visually appealing presentation. Most occupational areas prefer a more conservative style, however. Regardless, it’s important to keep your CV organised, readable and professional.
- Tailor Your CV Every time you Apply for a Different Role. Recruiters are inundated with applications; a generic CV is often overlooked. A CV that clearly matches the requirements of the job is far more likely to stand out. It is useful to careful read the job role specifications and relate yourself, your skills and abilities to those that are required. Recruiters are looking for a good match so you need to demonstrate clearly that you have what they need.
- Don’t Make Careless Mistakes. Bad spelling and poor grammar can seriously damage your likelihood of securing a job role. A CV is a personal sales document used to showcase your personality and abilities. Subsequently, you need to invest time and effort into it - careless mistakes portray a sloppy attitude. Get friends or family to read it over and make sure it reads smoothly, is free from errors and that the information presented is easy to understand.
- Keep Your CV Up-To-Date. Don’t miss out important information such as your correct contact details. Remember to include all of your most recent achievements, projects and activities at the top of your CV. Every time you achieve something note-worthy, add this to your CV and cut out anything irrelevant. Finally, make sure your have a sensible email address!
As everyone knows, looking for work is a full time job in itself. The process can take longer than you might first hope or expect, and it’s easy to begin to lose faith when rejections begin to pile up and your finances are getting tight.
The best plan of action when you’re feeling the squeeze is just to brush yourself off and get right back on the job-seeking horse. Here’s a few tips to keep you focussed:
- Create the Right Environment. It’s hard to stay focussed if you’re surrounded by clutter, mess and general disarray. Set yourself up a desk (no matter how simplistic!) with a computer, phone, paper - whatever you need to assist your search. Sitting upright at a desk improves your productivity tenfold and helps you focus on the task at hand. Keep your mood lifted with your favourite music or radio station playing in the background.
- Kick Off the Day Early. With no job to get up and go to, the temptation to spend the entire day in bed is a little too strong. Your day of job seeking will be a lot more productive, however, if you get up at a reasonable time, have a shower and a good breakfast, and then get to work.
- Set Goals. You’re more likely to be motivated to keep at a task if it’s an achievable goal. Setting yourself unrealistic goals (such as ‘I’ll apply for 25 jobs today!’) is just going to make you lose heart and give up for the rest of the day. Stick to things you can actually achieve in a day; brushing up your CV, finding 3 jobs to apply for, finding and bookmarking good websites, etc. Ticking off your daily goals will both keep you motivated and give you a sense of achievement.
- Keep Contact With Friends and Family. It’s hard to tackle things if we feel entirely alone in the situation. If you have friends in a similar situation, support each other and give each other pep-talks. Don’t be too shy or proud to seek reassurance from your family - if anyone can help boost your ego and confidence, it’s the people that love you.
- Give Yourself Other Projects to Work On. You can increase your general productivity and focus if you have other things to be thinking about and working on. Whether it’s a knitted tea-cosy, watercolour painting or volunteering in a Charity shop, having something else going on can increase your sense of accomplishment, inspire productivity and make you happier.
- Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself. It may sound cliché, but it’s impossible to find success without some failure along the way. You may even find that interviews go really well, only for you to be rejected: try not to take this personally. Sometimes you’re just not the right fit for that particular job. Just keep up the good work and the right job for you could be just around the corner.
- Look After Yourself. How you treat your body has a massive influence on your mood and energy. Eat healthily, drink plenty of water, and make sure to get out and about once in a while. Living on a diet of instant noodles and never leaving the house might seem like the easiest solution, but it won’t do anything for your happiness or productivity. Make sure to still get out and socialise with friends, or even just for relaxing solitary walks.
Most importantly, make sure you’re getting feedback at every stage of your job seeking process. If you’re finding that interviews are a rare occasion, get a friend or a jobs expert to check over your CV. Do your research on the company if you get invited for an interview, and try to maintain an enthusiastic and positive attitude. If you let yourself get too down, you’ll just set yourself back further. Good luck!
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