Job applications & interviews are the worst!

JPEG image 3Ugghhhhh I really do not enjoy the whole applying for a job and going to an interview process, and I’ve yet to find anyone who finds the whole thing enjoyable. Even though I’ve facilitated a couple of thousand interviews in my time, and reviewed even more resumes I just do not enjoy being on the other side of the table. It probably dates back to when I was 18 and went for an interview in a very stuffy & corporate organisation, after shaking the interviewers hand I sat back in the chair (a little too hard) it toppled back and I flashed my knickers to the hiring manager. I did not get the job and would 0/10 recommend doing again.

So how do you ensure your application stands out to the recruiter, and better still that you ace the interview? There are 1000’s of articles on this very subject and the advice can vary widely, and thats because recruiters aren’t clones, what one person thinks its great another will think as tragic. It also varies from industry to industry and whether you’re attempting to standout against 100’s of other candidates or just 10.

So presenting my top tips, which by no means are the be all & end all – just what I look for when recruiting.

Make sure your resume & cover letter is consistent with the position you are applying for, too many times I’ve opened an application to see the candidate has written that they aspire to obtain a job driving trucks on a FIFO site when the job is as a Process Tech and residential.

Typos & formatting – particularly if you are applying for an admin job. I find it hard to believe you have advanced word skills if I display the formatting and I see nothing but space space space space space space space.

The style of your resume; unless you are applying for a job in a creative industry don’t make your resume too busy and overly creative. When I’m shortlisting if I have to go hunting on the page for your qualifications and work experience I’m closing your application and moving on. Make sure your resume is nice and clear to read, formatted in a logical way and has your name, address, qualifications and relevant work experience on the first page. Depending how long you’ve been in the workforce and how many jobs you’ve had I would try to keep the in-depth job info to about 10 years and then just list your previous employers and the dates you worked there underneath, or group irrelevant jobs together ie: “2001 – 2005 Various retail & customer service positions”. If you’re returning to an industry you haven’t worked in for several years I would suggest a header of “Relevant work experience” and then “Recent work experience” so the recruiter can see straight away that you do have experience it’s just not as current as your most recent positions.

Nobody cares what primary school you went to or that you won an award at scouts when you were 12 and you’re now 35. Adding to that, once you’ve passed your early – mid 20’s I’d be removing any reference to high school, your TER or subjects studied.

You don’t need to list every single duty performed and try to steer clear of overused buzzword or jargon only relevant in your company. I really enjoy reading how you collated the WENUS for the Finance Manager but it would make much more sense to me if you wrote “Utilised complex Excel spreadsheets to collate the Weekly Estimated Net Usage System report for the Finance Manager”

Please use common industry terminology and list software you have used, particularly when sending your resume to recruitment agencies and large employers. Every resume received is parsed through recruitment software that is programmed to pick out your details and common industry words, so if you’ve used Pronto, MYOB, Leica or Datamine then list it. It helps the recruiter identify you when they are searching for an AP/AR Officer who has Pronto experience or a Surveyor who has used Leica.

Please, oh please, do not put a photo on your resume unless it is considered standard industry practice – like you’re a model. Similarly don’t include personal info such as age, marital status, children, hobbies, religion or things like tax file or drivers licence number. I only want to know if you can do the job and will be a good fit for the organisation, recruiters and hiring managers can unwittingly succumbed to unconscious bias if they have too much personal information about you so just don’t go there.

Okay, so you’ve been shortlisted for an interview, how do you improve your chances of making a good impression?

Number 1 tip – rehearse. A good interviewer will ask (at the very least) about your previous work experience, examples of encountering conflict in the workplace, how you work within a team, how you overcame a challenge / solved a difficult problem, showed initiative, a safety issue you identified and what you did next and where you see yourself in the next 5 years (Life Pro Tip – don’t say in the Manager who is interviewing you’s job). Go through your resume and make notes about your experience giving actual examples, then stand in front of a mirror and keep practicing until you can rattle off your answers without looking at your notes. Take your notes to the interview with you, theres is nothing wrong with excusing yourself to refer to your notes to ensure you’ve not missed anything.

For the love of god please research the company you have applied for a job at. The more senior the position the more information you know about us I want to hear, applying for a management position and you haven’t even bothered to look at an Annual Report or Strategic Plan? Seriously? Even for an entry level position replying “not much” when asked what you know about us is not acceptable. Everyone has a webpage and / or Facebook, show an interest and do some research.

As hard as it may seem try to picture the interview as a cup of coffee between friends, when you walk in the room exchange pleasantries and try to find something complementary to say for example “Wow great building” “What a fantastic day it is outside” or if it’s today “I can’t believe the feels like temp is still only 4 degrees” Whilst on this subject, employers you have nothing to gain by making the recruitment process stuffy, formal & intimidating. The whole point of an interview is to get a feel for the candidates skills, experience, personality and values to assess their compatibility to your organisation. Not breaking the ice, offering a drink of water or conducting the dreaded panel interview with them sitting opposite a row of staff is intimidating and went out the window of best practice 10 plus years ago. Interviews flow a lot easier when the candidate can see each member of the panels faces easily to address their questions, theres is a bit of banter and additional explorations questions are asked to dig deeper into their experiences. Another big one for recruiters and hiring managers, quite often a candidate telling a bit of a furphy is evident in their bodily language and a bit of a flush rising in their cheeks or across their chest, you can’t see this if your head is down for 90% of the interview busily writing notes, or reading questions off the page.

Try to think of a couple of questions to ask at the end of the interview so you can get a good feel for the employer or the team you would be working for – remember this is also your opportunity to interview the employer to see if this is somewhere you would actually want to work at. Some good questions to ask are “How would you describe your leadership style” “How would you described the culture of the team and the organisation overall” “If I were successful what do you consider my biggest challenge will be” “How has this position become available”

So I think that pretty much covers a general overview, if I’ve missed something you would like to know please comment below or send me a message and I’ll attempt to answer your question.

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