With the Covid-19 pandemic seeing millions furloughed or lose work contracts, the current climate of employment is set to worsen for many across the world. As more people than ever before are graduating from University, taking internships, completing further education throughout their careers and undertaking voluntary and creative work on top of their day jobs, the same skills and expertise as the rest of the market will no longer guarantee a job.
Here are seven ways that candidates can dramatically improve their career prospects.
Amongst the hundreds of applications that are now the average for very new job advertised, the average hiring manager only takes 9 seconds to scan your CV before deciding whether to continue with your application. Tailor your CV to every role you apply for to ensure you match the requirements listed on the job advert and attract the attention of the HR department. In your CV, include the specific keywords used in the job advert and demonstrate how you have used these skills to succeed in previous jobs.
The old saying ‘interested is interesting’ is also true of interviews: executives and managers spend all day working to solve their company’s problems and deliver solutions, and will welcome the chance to discuss these with candidates. Research the business extensively to ensure you have plenty of information to answer interview questions, and plenty of questions to ask of your interviewer to show your interest in the company. Use your first interview or phone call to ask these questions, and incorporate the company’s feedback into your second interview to showcase new ideas for solving any problems or challenges.
Ingratiate yourself into your interviewers’ image of the organisation’s future by embodying the company brand at every possible opportunity. Absorb the brand: if you need to deliver a presentation, use the company brand logo, colours, fonts and imagery to make it as visually appealing to your interviewers as possible. Evidence in conversations that you have researched the organisation’s competitors and discuss differences between them. Research to find online PR that reveals an achievement the company has been praised for or a challenge they have had difficulty with, and explore how hiring you would build on success or solve problems.
Make use of your interviews like strategy meetings that you are attending as an existing employee who is invested in the company’s future and tasked with ways of helping the company grow, to cement yourself as the best possible candidate in the minds of interviewers. Leave behind a portfolio and handouts of your presentation or tasks to keep the positive first impression around for days after you leave the office.
You are the person who knows yourself better than anyone else, and therefore, who better to market you as a potential candidate?
To create your own personable brand that makes you stand out from hundreds of other job applicants, determine your Unique Selling Point (USP). In other words: what specific skills, knowledge and experience make you an excellent candidate? What makes you better than all other applicants, and how would your USP help you succeed in the new role? Use your USP to write a two-sentence summary that you can include at the top of your CV, job applications and online profiles, and use it to inform your elevator pitch when speaking to recruiters on the phone and when preparing for interviews.
When you have created your personal profile, build a strong brand presence across social and digital channel and job boards: your hiring manager will likely take the time to Google you and have a look around at your online presence, so make it as enjoyable and easy as possible for them to find your professional information. Ensure your LinkedIn, Xing and social profiles match your updated CV, and fully utilise professional LinkedIn and Facebook groups to build your brand awareness by engaging in discussions relevant to your industry and job title.
Rather than sending a cover letter along with your CV and application, consider sending a ‘pain letter’. This letter focuses on a challenge faced by your potential employer – for example, trade restrictions imposed by Brexit, new regulations , fast business growth with little expertise in potential areas of expansion – and positions you as the answer to this problem. A pain letter not only creates a powerful, memorable first impression and showcases your unique skills and experience, but also demonstrates industry knowledge and the ability to think creatively, which are bound to impress executives and recruiters alike.
The easiest way to establish the potential of a new hire is to see what they’ve already succeeded in. A growth mindset is desirable for employers across industries and locations: individuals who are ambitious, determined and open-minded are much better equipped to develop alongside a company as it grows, and continue to improve their excellent job performance month after month and year after year.
During interviews and on your CV, show how you’ve taken charge of your own development and been flexible when required in previous roles. For example, have you learned coding to develop a new website under budget restrictions, have you learned a new language to expand your knowledge of a market, or have you taken an intensive financial or management course to steer your teams through a crisis? Specific case studies highlight your existing expertise and potential and, as no two candidates have the same personal stories of overcoming obstacles and difficulties, serve to help you stand out from other candidates.
Commitment is valued by all business leaders and managers alike. Mentally start your job before you actually sign the contract. Think ahead: what would be required of you in the first three months of the role? Ask this question when your recruiter first gets in touch or at your first interview, then create a plan based on the answers you receive and use this at your second interview to how the impact you would make in the new role from the very beginning.
Show your best skills from day one, right at the beginning of the recruitment process. If you’re someone who goes the extra mile, prove this through an excellent presentation or interview task: invest as much time and effort as you would do in an important project for your current role. Evidence creativity skills by putting forward new ideas and thinking beyond the limitations you’ve been given, for example showing how a short-term campaign or project would be carried through to the next stage and the long-term impact this would have to business success. Data proficiency can be shown through detailed and creative research online and offline, design skills can be demonstrated with a uniquely presented CV and people skills are easy to highlight by making connections with potential colleagues and building rapport with interviewers.
The candidate that invests the most time, energy and enthusiasm into a potential new role will be the most impressive to prospective employers.
When conducting your research, go beyond the standard website and social channels, and widen your search to get an understanding of the company psychology. Look out for annual reports, PR coverage, trade magazines, and mentions in industry social media groups and any other external online or offline spaces. Every organisation will have its own way of thinking and communicating with its customers based on the needs, interests and lifestyles of these customers, and you can discover this by analysing their brand image.
Look at the keywords used on the company’s website – what is important to the company’s customers, and therefore important to the company? What are the organisation’s USPs? What language do they use to describe themselves and communicate with target markets? If the tone and conversation style are different from the rest of the industry, this shows that the company wants to stand out from their competitors and is ambitious in establishing themselves as a market disruptor.
Utilise your understanding of what matters most to the company and emphasise your affinity to their way of thinking throughout your applications, conversations and interviews. If your potential employers are ambitious and focused on international growth, ensure you discuss your proven success in recent roles and projects, reinforce your enthusiasm for joining the company and personal goals you are striving for, and demonstrate your language skills and geographical market knowledge. If the company values an empathetic and softer approach to business, put a greater emphasis on your leadership, management and communication skills throughout the recruitment process.
In the same way that every candidate is unique, every recruiter, interviewer and potential manager will all have their own personal interests and needs – however, unlike those of job applicants, these are much harder to discover as they are not being assessed in the recruitment process. Whilst remaining professional, remember that every person you encounter throughout the recruitment process is an individual person, doing their job and dealing with problems and challenges on a daily basis. Remember the names of everyone involved and use them often throughout meetings and interviews, and ask questions about their jobs and how the successful candidate would help them, to create rapport and align your interview answers to closely match what your interviewers are looking for.
Evidence your interest in the job through personal communication at every opportunity. Express gratitude for the time invested by your hiring manager and interviewers in the recruitment process, and remain enthusiastic about continuing to the next stage. Keep in close communication with your hiring manager and interviewers: be proactive, don’t wait for them to get in touch, thank them at every stage and reinforce your interest in the next stage. Pick out something or a couple of things they said in previous interviews and use these to say you enjoyed finding this out and looking forward to discussing it next time, reinforce why you care and your connection to these things which was why you enjoyed talking about them.
Being challenged in the right way can impress interviewers, who are normally expecting to test candidates on their knowledge, and will help you stand out by making your interviewers think on their feet. When working on a second interview presentation or task, research to find specific projects, marketing or business ventures and pose questions around the next stages and future plans. Ask them what their plans are for specific and major events affecting their industry such as Brexit, regulation, the possibility of another global pandemic like coronavirus, and exactly how they will maintain their positioning ahead of other competitors.
Particularly in the case of senior positions and roles such as Project Managers, Design Engineers and Team Leaders, the best bosses will want the best employees: people who have good ideas and thoughtful questions, who aren’t afraid to speak up and show initiative.
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