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Top tips for getting a job

26 November 2020

Deborah Foster Whether you‘re looking to make the next move in your career or, you’re starting an entirely new path into employment Deb Foster, Enterprise Coordinator at SEMLEP has shared her insight into getting the perfect job. 

Having worked within the careers field for ten years, Deb is perfectly placed to advise and support individuals throughout their careers, starting with knowing if you’re the right person for the job:

Are you the right person for the job?

Firstly, read through the job description. What interests you about the role? If you are interested, take a look at the person specification and consider your experiences and knowledge against the criteria. Can you see yourself in this role?

The person specification will set out the skills, qualifications and experience the company is looking for and is your key to knowing if you’re suited for the role.

Before applying, make sure that you are a good fit for the role, for example, if they need someone to be really flexible with their time but you have regular commitments outside of work, it probably isn’t going to be a suitable role for you.

In connection with the requirements listed for their ideal candidate, employers will sometimes be flexible. If you meet the majority of the essential and desired characteristics listed, but miss out on a couple, be bold and call the employer for an informal chat. This will provide the opportunity to talk through your suitability. I have known of companies stating that a degree is essential but following a preliminary discussion where they found out about the potential candidate’s experience, they have invited them to apply.

Is the job right for you?

It’s important to remember employment is a two-way relationship.

When you’re looking for a job, you get to pick the company you apply for, in the same way, that they get to pick if you’re right for the job. To get a job you really love, it’s important that you and the company share the same values.

Before you start your application, do your research. Looking at the company’s website and social media channels will give you an initial understanding of who they are, what they do and most importantly whether they would be a good fit for you.

For example, if sustainably is important to you, you probably don’t want to work for a single-use plastic manufacturer or for a company that encourages fast fashion.

Reference the job specification in your CV cover letter

Top tips for getting a job Many organisations require a CV or completed application form, together with a covering letter. The covering letter should be used to describe how you meet the person specification. 

Some companies are sticklers for how you approach the person spec. I once applied for a job that I thought I was perfect for. It was like the job had been designed for me, but I didn’t even get an interview.

When I asked for feedback, they said that I didn’t itemise how I met each item on the person spec. Even though I had demonstrated how I met the criteria in a descriptive letter, because the information wasn’t presented in the way they required, my application wasn’t successful.

So, make sure your cover letter really demonstrates how you meet the criteria by giving examples. For instance, if the experience of managing projects is required, detail a specific project you have been involved in, highlighting your involvement.

Proofread your application and covering letter carefully. Many recruiters will disregard your application if they find any spelling mistakes.

Finally, avoid repeating information included in your application on your cover letter. It’s just a waste of space, add value by addressing the person spec and detailing all the skills and experience you have.

Acing the Interview

The majority of interviewers will ask “what you know about the company.”

You want to be prepared for this question, it’s not enough to say the company’s by-line. If you spend some time researching the company, you will be able to answer this question confidently and show your interest in both the company and the role.

The ‘Tell me something about yourself’ question is likely to come up in some form or another. This question aims to find out if you’re a good fit for the job, not your life story. Tell the interviewers about your experience, key skills and knowledge – show how you’re a good match.

Questions about strengths and weaknesses come up all the time, and it used to be okay that a weakness was an overuse of a strength:

  • “I’m a bit of a perfectionist”
  • “Sometimes I get bogged down by detail”

Top tips for getting a jobThese sorts of responses are now considered a bit cliché. Be honest about your weakness. I used to say ‘chocolate’, but it never used to get many laughs! Say something like “I’ve got extensive experience in X, but my knowledge about Y is limited. I do appreciate this is a weakness coming into the job, but it’s something I’ll work hard on to ensure I’m up to speed as soon as possible.”

You may be asked a competency-based question where you will be invited to describe a particular scenario or solve a problem. The STAR technique can be helpful in this situation:

Situation
Task
Action
Result

You may be asked, “Can you tell me about a time where you had to overcome a challenge.” for instance.

Always keep yourself central to your response, the interviewer wants to know about you. Try breaking your answer down by using the STAR technique, such as in the light-hearted example below:

The situation: I’d pre-ordered a PlayStation 5 and it didn’t arrive.
The task: I had to track down what had happened to it and find out where it was.
The action: I contacted the retailer who put me in contact with the delivery company and after various phone calls, I discovered that it had been delivered to the wrong address.
The result: I received the package the following day.

Finally, the last question will usually be: Do you have any questions for us?

ALWAYS have at least one question. Even if they’ve covered everything, it shows your interest in the role. A couple of insightful questions that could be asked are:

  • What do you enjoy most about working for the company?
  • What do you enjoy least about working for the company?

These questions will remind the interviewer that you are also deciding if the job and company are right for you.

Remember to thank the interviewers, and if you are keen, tell them how interested you are and that you’re looking forward to hearing from them.

Other interview tipsTop tips for getting a job

  1. Role play your interview, practice, practice, practice
  2. Arrive early
  3. It’s fine to take notes in an interview or come in with notes
  4. It’s okay to ask for questions to be repeated or to check that you’ve understood them correctly
  5. Have confidence
  6. Show your energy and positive attitude
  7. Posture – present yourself well

If you’d like to access further employment support, take a look at SEMLEP’s Define Your Career initiative to access a network of local, national and regional support.

 

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