Being Found – Some thoughts around applying for jobs

"So, tell me all about yourself!"

OK, so I had some thoughts from the hiring side of the table. How about the other side?

These are just things that I find important – your experience may differ depending who is on the other side of the table! This is by no means a comprehensive list, just some random thoughts you may not have considered…

1. If you do not know why you are perfect for the job, neither will they. First step is to take five minutes to compare yourself to what the job ad is asking for. Then get to work on your custom Cover Letter.

Cover Letters are King. If you are not serious enough about the role to write a specific, targeted cover letter, then do not apply. A targeted cover letter should outline three key reasons why you are great idea to get in to interview. It just makes it easy for an employer to judge if you have taken the time to understand what the role needs, and why you are the right person for the job!

The three key reasons should also form your key story during the interview process. Keep reinforcing these reasons during the process.

2. Situation. Task. Action. Result.    Situation. Task. Action. Result.    When you are asked to talk about something to do with work, use this mantra to structure your answer.

Situation – What was the situation? What needed changing? Why were you assigned to do it? Why did you volunteer? What was the environment that led to something needing to be done?

Eg: There was no new products in development when I arrived, so we had no idea what we were going to present at the next range review. Sales were tanking and we were losing shelf space rapidly.

Task – A short summary of what needed to be done.

Eg: The brand needed a comprehensive NPD pipeline to be established out to 3 years.

Action – What did you do to resolve or complete the task. Focus on what YOU actually did.

Eg : Together with the R&D manager, we mapped out a 6 week process to ideate, develop concepts, test them with consumers, and present preferred concepts to the leadership team. etc etc.

Result : What was the outcome? What changed or was different as a result of what you did? How could you have done it better? What worked?

Eg : We went to the next range review with 3 new product lines, 2 of which were accepted by the customer. This resulted in incremental sales of $10 million in year one. Etc etc.

This is all about demonstrating that you can think your way through a problem, develop an effective solution, sell it in to stakeholders, execute it, leading to an improvement in the state of the business in some way.

3. Tell me what makes you different to the other candidates. What are you good at? Use the questions to help communicate your strengths. Make sure you can explain it in a couple of sentences, quickly and surely.

4. Read the job description carefully and pick out the key things they are looking for. For each, match up your demonstrated strength or relevant experience. Be able to relate how you are a great match quickly and decisively.

5. For a great proportion of employers, making a decision is about minimising the risk of making a bad decision rather than selecting the best candidate. Remember this – if you don’t work out to be a great choice, the hiring manager is going to have to explain it to their boss. Make sure that you “minimise risk”. Always overdress a little for an interview – nobody ever got knocked back for a job by wearing a tie, (an example for the guys) but plenty of people have missed the cut by making a poor impression through looking scruffy. A neat, tidy, well laid out resume – without any grammatical or spelling errors – vs one with patterned borders & colours etc will usually represent you better. Including a photo will not probably help you get an interview, so don’t do it.

6. If you don’t get this job, something else still might come up down the track as a result of this interview. Ask for feedback if you missed out. Send a thank you note. In the last year, I have personally employed a person who missed out on a first application with a company I worked with, and also recommended a person who wasn’t quite right for the role I was interviewing for, which also resulted in an appointment… Don’t assume the door is closed after a first knock back.

7. Ask your friends and contacts for help. It is amazing, but the majority of roles are filled by “someone who knows someone”. A personal recommendation from someone you trust when you are considering a candidate carries a lot of weight. The first thing I do when recruiting is ask people I know if they can recommend anyone… Networking is an unattractive word – but asking people for help is not.

8. Do your homework. If you make it to an interview, make sure you know the company, the brands, and that you have sampled the product. You will get asked about it, and not knowing or being able to talk about them is a quick way to the “no” pile of applicants. I am still surprised by how many people do not do this.

9. Lastly, don’t be afraid of “tough” questions. A trick question like “so tell me what you think we could do better” needs to be answered. Focus on how to make things better, not slag off on what is currently being done. Avoiding the question can paint you as a “yes” person. Most of the time, the person asking the question is more interested in your ability to critically think and that you are prepared to share your thoughts than whether you are spot on or not with your analysis.

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One Response to Being Found – Some thoughts around applying for jobs

  1. Pingback: Some more tips for job seekers… | Damian Young

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