“Preparation is key!”
You must’ve heard this a dozen times, but it’s the closest thing to the truth. Most people apply to the biggest and most competitive positions on the market. Since students or fresh graduates are regarded as “lacking in experience” it is crucial to prove this statement wrong. But doing that takes more than just a degree, a nice CV and a firm handshake with the HR. At Times International, we all had our own experiences when entering the chamber of doom (interview room) to pitch-sale our skills and enthusiasm for a specific job. We thought we’d share all that we’ve learnt over the years from multiple interviews.
Before you apply!
There are certain steps you need to take before submitting your CV / Resume. You have to make sure that all your submission are up-to-date and reflect that you are the perfect candidate for the job. This may sound straight forward, but we know it’s not easy. So here’s our advice: enlist the help of your friend, classmate, parent or someone from your study board if you are in a university. However one quick and easy way to ensure a good overview of your CV is to make it stand out from the crowd. Avoid Microsoft Word and rather use a professional template from CVMaker. Colour, content and different frames can make your CV stand out from the hundreds of other applications, companies receive on a daily bases.
Furthermore if you want honest and quick advise, our suggestion is to go to TopResume. You can upload your CV and get a response within a few hours or days with a detailed review for FREE! This helped me also, to point out my strengths and weaknesses, and I was really grateful for their help. While I thought my CV was top-notch, they pointed out several errors or setbacks since I tried to cram five years of academic and work experience on two pages.
Another obvious point you should know is to research the firm you’re applying to. And the best way to get an insight is to look at Glassdoor. Glassdoor not only shows vacant positions for some of the biggest names out there, but it’s also a reliable source to look at applicants’ and employees’ reviews. There are honest opinions regarding salaries, interviews, employee opinions and work experiences. People highlight the positive and negative – so we believe its really great if you want to see the truth about a company’s true portfolio on Glassdoor.
If you get called in for an interview, you can consider it as a 50% success rate. The firm has reviewed your skills and has already seen something in you. So what’s next? Well, this is where everything gets interesting because it’s time to live up to the expectations and stand out. This might be hard for people who get easily nervous when questioned or feel a bit introverted for the task. Have no worries, we’re here to help.
The entire process is like this: You need to picture yourself as a salesmen and your skills as the services that you want to sell to your future employer. You need to convince the people at the interview that you are indeed what they’re looking for. Sounds easier than done, right? Well as mentioned, preparation is key. You need to go to the interview room with several key selling points in mind that you can clarify. Usually the first question you get asked is: “Tell us about yourself?” Here you should focus on your a brief explanation of yourself from an academic and career perspective: your background, education and significant work you’ve done.
There are certain questions you can anticipate, even if they’re not mentioned. At the interview table they want to know if they’ll make the right choice by choosing you. So you have to prepare such question in mind like: What makes you the best candidate for the position? What are your previous work experiences that would fit in? Why do you want this job? (Don’t mention the salary.) Prepare your answers so you won’t have to fumble for them during the actual interview and support them with an example.
“While doing projects at university, I have gained good communication skills. For example, I persuaded my project group to do this…”
In many cases, company culture dictates that they have to ask questions about your expected salary. This may sound strange, especially if interviewed by big companies, since they already have a fixed salary for their employees. So look at it more like a test. They probably want to know your expectations. Try and research how much the company is willing to pay in this field before getting labelled as too humble or haughty. Once again Glassdoor can be great for this.
The time of your application is also crucial for your success. Millions of students finish their finals at the end of a semester and get their degrees after defending their thesis. If you are one of these students, you need to avoid having your submissions fall into the reams of CVs that will be sent out once people get hold of their diplomas. It is advisable to apply a few months before or after the end of each semester. Otherwise your application will be piled up on someone’s desk, left ignored. Whatever you do, avoid the crowd!
The Actual Interview
Studies show that most interviewers make up their minds about candidates in the first three to five minutes of the interview – and then spend the rest of the time fishing for things to confirm that decision! So what can you do in those five minutes to impress the hell out of someone? Come in with a smile even if its not returned, show enthusiasm, and express your appreciation for the interviewer’s time.
1, Go business casual: Dress appropriately, make eye contact, give a firm handshake, have good posture, speak clearly, and from personal experience don’t or use just a slight amount of perfume or cologne! Most interview locations we’ve been in were small rooms that may lack good air circulation.
2, Bring your CV / resume with you: it is very likely that the people asking you questions will have your documents in front of you. But if they want to dig deeper into your background, its advisable to have a copy of your own so it makes it easier for you to follow them if they point something out.
3, Remain assertive and don’t wait for questions: Don’t make the mistake of just sitting still, waiting for the interviewer to ask you about your biggest achievement. It’s your responsibility to make sure they walk away knowing your key selling points.
4, Remain positive: Don’t dwell on negative experiences during an interview. If they ask you about “Why you’ve left your previous job?” or “What did you like the least in your previous job or studies?” you should not follow up on the question. Instead focus on explaining that you were looking for different projects, bigger challenges or something closer to your passion.
5, Be ready for “behaviour assessment” or “logic assessment” questions: Nowadays, interviewers expect you to describe previous experiences you have had that demonstrated behaviours in particular situations. You might be asked to talk about a time when you made an unpopular decision, displayed a high level of persistence, or made a decision under time pressure and with limited information. These questions may sound challenging, but our advice is to reflect on an experience that is on your CV. Prepare a story you were familiar with.
Whatever happens, the job market is wrought with competition. So don’t feel down if you get a rejection. There are usually hundreds if not thousands of applicants for a few vacant positions for Forbes 500 companies or SMEs. It is advisable to apply to as many places as possible that you see fit for your ability and liking. You need to be flexible and hand out as many applications as possible. Ten or twenty a day if possible. In time you will get a phone call and you can make adjustments for a suitable time for an interview.
Another experience I had when send out multiple applications is aiming for the biggest companies. I had this desire to show off in the future with a company badge like Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Google, Exxonmobil or Deloitte. But as a graduate who worked for one of these big firms, it was quite disappointing. Not only because of the stark administration that limits creativity and free thinking, but because I felt like a number amidst the thousands of colleagues. After ending later at a start-up environment, it did not seem as attractive and prominent as a Forbes 500 company at first. But it is a great place to feel valued, learn new skills and use your brain instead of being placed in line and limited by corporate rules. Of course opinions might differ and so do company cultures. But small to medium companies usually give more freedom, diverse tasks and responsibility.
Whatever you do, keep your head up and apply, apply apply! 🙂
Founder of Times International