- Mindset - Looking for a job is a job in itself. You therefore need to maintain a positive attitude no matter how despondent you feel inside. If you are still at university then socialise and mix with A & B grade, hard-working students. Keep away from negative friends or friends who think you are too boring or are taking your studies or job hunting too seriously.
- Treat job hunting as a (research) project - keep copies of correspondence, whom you wrote to and when, their job title, what was their response (including rejections to ensure you do not send duplicate applications). Some companies may take weeks to respond so make sure you’ve got all these details to hand as you may be called in and yet don’t remember the job details.
- Research the company - Always research/google the company you are applying to. It is very off putting as a recruiting manager to receive a covering letter from someone who has clearly not researched the company. Some candidates even incorrectly spell the name of the organisation. So, earn a few brownie points by doing your research – easy points to grab since many of your fellow competitors will not have done so.
- Contact people who are already in this job - If you read about someone who is doing the job you love, google them and then call their office to ask for advice as to how you may break into this sector. This may sound audacious but most human beings are reasonable and so would find it very difficult to reject a request from a young graduate asking for advice. It is impressive to get a call from a pro-active young person who is using their initiative. However, bear in mind that you may be calling them at a busy period, so ask them when would be a good time for you to call – making clear, you only need five minutes of their time. After all, if this conversation goes well, he/she may agree to: speak with you again; meet with you; or agree for you to email them. Make sure you have a set of 2-3 questions in front of you when you do call this person – don’t waste this opportunity but ensure you keep this first call short and focussed. If you find that after this call or follow up calls that your dream career is actually not what you thought it was, then you should not lose heart. Sifting yourself out of a career is just as important as sifting yourself in.
- Career Fairs/Company Road shows - Even if you are not due to graduate for another year or two, you should still attend career fairs. This will be an opportunity for you to ask questions without worrying about looking uninformed. Start your job search preparations at least a year before your graduation. NOTE – Always be smartly dressed for career fairs. First impressions do count and, as most of your fellow students will have turned up in jeans or casual wear, why not stand out from the crowd? Show potential employers that you mean business.
- Be up to date with Current Affairs! - You must always read or listen to the news every day. You must be aware of what is going on not only in your country but be aware of major world events as these events may impact the sector in which you are targeting? For example, if the price of oil rises in the market and you are targeting the airline business, then this will have an impact. The BBC radio (world service) and/or website cover a wide range of international news. Listening to or reading information from the BBC is also useful to help improve your spoken and /or written English.
- Invitation to Interview - When invited to interview, reply with a polite email or SMS – depending on the mode of communication the manager used – accepting the invitation. If, for whatever reason, you are unable to attend this interview i.e. you’ve already accepted another job offer or you are unable to attend due to a hospital appointment, then politely decline or explain the reasons why you are unable to attend at the date/time specified by the manager. Politely ask for an alternative appointment. NOTE – Never ignore an interview invitation (even if you have another job) and no matter whether this invitation has been sent by email or SMS, never use text speak when communicating with an HR manager. Maintain professional standards at all times.
- Go on a reconnaissance before your interview - Visit the company (a reconnaissance) before your interview. This is to establish and confirm the exact location of the company as well as to gauge how long your journey will take to your interview. Take a few minutes to observe the people coming in and out of the company. What is the culture i.e. dress code, demography (will you fit in?).
- Interview Dress Code - Unless your name is Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerman, then it is better to dress smart and conservatively than to dress too casual for an interview. For gentlemen we would advise a suit and tie and no other form of jewellery apart from a watch. For ladies we would advise a skirt and smart blouse, a suit or a smart, simple dress. Your outfit should not be too short. As with gentlemen, we would also advise ladies not to wear too much jewellery; also keep your earrings simple i.e. studs rather than long, dangling earrings. For both ladies and gentlemen, we would advise that you play it safe with black, navy or grey suits complemented with light shirts. Dark suits are a good investment as you may have to attend two or three interviews with the company and so if you change your shirt, they won’t notice it’s the same suit – useful if money is tight. However, ensure clothes are fresh and not sweaty. In terms of shoes – once again stick with dark colours. Gentlemen should wear closed shoes and for ladies, we would recommend office/court shoes but if not, then make sure your heels are not too high. For corporate interviews, we would not recommend sandals no matter how trendy you think they look. Polished shoes – whether you are a lady or gentleman, you must ensure that your shoes are polished.
- Personal Hygiene and habits - While this may not be comfortable to read, it is important that we address some important issues:
- Do not arrive at interviews sweating i.e. avoid body odour.
- Always use deodorant and arrive early so you can use the bathroom to check yourself. Eat a mint before interviews but do not chew gum during your interview.
- If you need to sneeze then do so, into a handkerchief
If offered tea, coffee or water opt for water. It is always handy to have a glass of water nearby by as nerves can often result in a dry mouth. Also when you are nervous, it is not always easy to balance a tea cup and saucer using shaky hands.
Interview Questions - Hiring managers know your credentials from your CV and covering letter, now they want to get a good sense of how clearly you communicate and support your qualifications and fit for the job. Be prepared to answer some of the following questions:
- Why did you leave your last job?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
INTERVIEWS CAN GENERALLY BE DIVIDED INTO THREE CATEGORIES:
1. TRADITIONAL INTERVIEW - is the most common and usually consists of a series of standard questions about: qualifications, work experience (what duties did you have in your previous role), knowledge (general, sector, company specific), and possibly, expectations (as per the questions above).
2. CASE INTERVIEW - This can be challenging and needs thought. Think before you jump in to answer. In this situation, the interviewer presents a problem and then follows this with a series of questions to find out how the candidate would approach the problem. An example being: Company A (a company selling luxury top brand sunglasses) plans to launch a new range of sunglasses. It has to decide whether to expand its current market base (which consists of high income men and women aged 25 – 30) or, risk branching out and reaching a new client base (men and women aged 18-25). What would you advise them to do and how? In this situation, you are being asked to demonstrate that you have the ability to think logically, that you can ask the right questions, and that you can communicate effectively with the interviewer.
3. BEHAVIOURAL INTERVIEW OR THE ”TELL ME ABOUT A TIME…” – Designed to find out how candidates actually behave in certain situations and questions are based on examples from the candidate’s own past and are designed to find out how a candidate coped or handled tricky situations and relationships in the past i.e. give me an example of a situation where you had to follow orders that you didn’t agree with? The question is: are they trying to find out whether you would report wrong doing (important especially in the areas of finance), are they testing whether you have the “herd” mentality or whether you might just be too difficult to manage? This question relies on the candidate showing examples of good, mature behaviour and also talking a lot but knowing when it’s time to leave the stage.
• Describe a situation in which you effectively developed a solution to a problem by combining different perspectives or approaches.
• Tell me about a time when you had to teach or train somebody, how you did it and how it turned out
• Tell me about a time when you influenced other people and how.
• Tell me about a time when you overcame x, y. z
BEHAVIOURAL INTERVIEWS TEST YOU IN THE FOLLOWING AREAS:
|CONFLICT||Will s/he get on with other people?|
|AUTHORITY||Will s/he respect authority?|
|AMBITION||Is s/he interested in career development?|
|NETWORKING||Is s/he able to develop and maintain contacts?|
|SOCIABILITY||Will s/he mix easily with other people?|
|APPEARANCE||Is this important to the candidate?|
NOTE – Telephone interviews
More and more companies are now using telephone interviews in the early stages of the recruitment process as a sifting tool. Your spoken English should therefore be of a high standard and clear and you must also treat this as a proper interview (which it is) and so ensure you are in a quiet location where you won’t be interrupted. Also make sure you have your CV in front of you. Make notes and ensure you have also done your research. Listen to the questions carefully – don’t jump in to speak before the interviewer has finished his/her question(s). Finally, smile while you speak on the phone; it adds warmth to your voice – although the interviewer may not be able to see you, it does come through. Also, avoid gesturing and moving around too much during your phone interview as this will affect your voice.
- If your interview went well and, if it feels right then write a thank you email. If you are an ATB candidate, then we will be able to assist and guide you with this.
- Dealing with rejection - Accept rejection with dignity. Interviews are never a waste of time and if possible write a thank you email and then ask for feedback. This is clearly at the discretion of the manager but if you have gone as far as interview stage, then it is well worth chasing feedback. You can also read our article titled: How to Handle Job Rejection(s)
FEEDBACK - Did you enjoy this article? Are there any other topics that you’d like us to cover? We welcome and encourage feedback so if you wish to comment on this article or indeed anything else in relation to ATB services, then please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Miriam Mukasa, Founder and MD of AfricaTalentbank.com (ATB) has over ten years HR/recruitment experience in the UK.