How To REALLY Get Hired
July 13, 2012
By: Z Khan
The graduate job market is getting more and more competitive. We’re hearing this from the media, friends, employers and our parents. Suddenly a 2:1 isn’t good enough and ‘real’ work experience is essential. To tell you the truth, I’m sick of it. I’m sick of reading regurgitated articles written by smug interns (who have already landed their dream internship!) telling me the way to increase my chances of getting hired is by having a ‘great CV’ and ‘solid work experience.’ Great. Now tell me how…?
Here are some tips (from my own experience) that will bring you a step closer to your dream job, or at least a reply to your application!
It’s nice to think that every organization is professional and the recruitment process is fair but more often than not, it’s about who you know as opposed to what you know. My first paid job was waitressing in a small café. I had no previous experience and only got the job because I saw the advert in the window, asked the manager about it, went home to print my CV and handed it in an hour later. And the manager thought I had a pretty smile.
During my time at the café, a LOT of people looking for jobs handed in their CVs (I’m talking hundreds!). When it came to hiring, my manager took the first 10 and threw the rest in the bin without looking at them simply because he didn’t have the time to read every single 3 page booklet. Whilst this wasn’t fair/ethical/professional, it was a small but extremely busy café with only one man in charge. This wouldn’t happen in a large organization, but you can get an idea about how pressed for time employers can be and the amount of attention your CV will receive. Therefore, it is EXTREMELY important that your CV stands out!
1. Make sure it’s no longer than 1 sheet of A4- Most employers won’t have time or won’t be bothered to read anything longer. Save a PDF version of your CV to attach to email applications. It’s easier to open and read on all operating systems as opposed to a Microsoft Word file. There is nothing more annoying than trying to open a document, only to be told that you don’t have the latest version of Word installed. Grrr.
2. Only include relevant information- You achieved a gold certificate in the Junior Maths Challenge in Year 8 and attended after-school Judo classes? Who cares? Your employer certainly won’t and it takes up valuable space on your CV. If you can speak any languages, use any software or have special skills that will directly benefit your employer, HIGHLIGHT THEM! Remember to tailor your CV to each job application. There’s no use in highlighting your amazing salesman skills if you’re applying for a teaching job. Keep it specific. And please don’t use clique copy and paste phrases, “I am a responsible individual who works well on my own as well as part of a team” will get you nowhere. It says nothing about your actual skills or make you an ideal candidate. It does, however, say a lot about your creativity, ability to think outside of the box and language skills.
3. Make it stand out- Elle Woods is a smart girl. Your CV will be one of hundreds. Getting creative with it can have amazing results. I got an interview for a job at Lush after giving them a box filled with origami stars, a pop-up picture of my face with my CV on the back and a cover letter. If pop-up isn’t your thing, here are some other mind-blowing examples of what you can do: http://www.businessinsider.com/insanely-creative-resumes-2011-6?op=1
4. Photo?- Employers have mixed feelings about photos on CVs. Whilst it can make your CV stand out against others who don’t have one as it puts a face to words on a page, it can backfire too. How attractive or unattractive your photo is can affect how some recruiters react to your CV; if you’re blonde and beautiful and the recruiter is male you may be more likely to get shortlisted for an interview. Alternatively, you may be passed over for an interview if the recruiter is female or if you have an unattractive photo, so be careful with this one.
5. Video CV- Whilst they’re not appropriate for all sectors, they can be a great way to convey your skills and personality as well as standing out from the standard black and white paper CVs. This is probably more useful if you’re after a career in TV, radio, sales etc. Check out http://www.meettherealme.co.uk to get started.
4. Social Media- Linkedin is a great way to bring together photos, blog posts and portfolios to create a strong CV. If you network using a site like Twitter, you could try uploading your CV as a background, but remember to keep your tweets PROFESSIONAL! If you tweet ‘omf s0 fvkiff drvnkk!111’ or ‘OMGZ, new phoneeee!!! I need numberzz <33’ you can guarantee you won’t hear back from anyone.
- You’re spending £3000 upwards in tuition fees so it’s only fair that you’re getting your money’s worth at university. If your university allows you to take an elective module like mine does, opt for a language or business module. Not only do they add variation to your degree, they also allow you to develop skills that benefit you and your future employer as well as making your job/internship application stand out.
- My university offers all its students a free intensive 3-day Adobe certified course in Dreamweaver and Photoshop. A working knowledge of this software is essential if you want to work for a magazine or newspaper after you graduate. Check if your university offers anything similar by getting in touch with the IT department or the Student Union.
- Your Student Union should be doing all it can to make your experience at university as fulfilling and enjoyable as it can be (after all, you voted for them!). Follow them on Twitter or Facebook. Westminster’s president Tarik is particularly good at tweeting and posting about jobs, ways to save money and developing your skills. You can follow him on twitter @UWSU_PRESIDENT.
- If you have an unusual skill, big it up! I’m crazy about baking and cakes are very important in an office or staff room. When I added this skill to my cover letter along with photos of my creations, I actually got interviews and more replies to my internship enquiries than I did when I just sent the standard CV and cover letter!
- If you’re lucky enough to have a summer job, working on your gap year or even working in retail whilst hunting for a graduate job, you can still develop skills to boost your CV. Ask your employer about management training opportunities. You may not want to work in retail forever, but you can learn valuable skills that are transferable to a graduate job through management training.
The Cover Letter
This is where you really have to sell yourself. You need to persuade your employer why they should hire you and why you are the best person for the job. Remember to stick to 1 piece of A4 and don’t waffle about irrelevant information. You should expand on parts of your CV that are relevant to the job/internship you are applying for. Make sure you’re addressing the letter/email to the right person (you can easily find out their name or email address by phoning and asking) and that your spelling and grammar are correct.
I found I received the most responses when I wrote a couple of sentences about who I was, what I was studying, why I wanted to intern with them and most importantly, what I could offer them. If you’re applying for an internship at a magazine or newspaper, you’ll need to send previous examples of your work. If you write for your university paper, magazine or even Heruni.com, it’s worth saving your work as a PDF or JPEG file to attach to email applications. They’re easier to read and open.
Hopefully, you will have been called for an interview by now. I’m all for making full use of my assets if it helps me to get ahead. I’m sure many of us have dressed up nicely for an interview, but just remember that wearing a figure hugging pencil skirt, low cut blouse and heels can hinder you as much as it can help you. If your interviewer is male, flaunting your curves may give you an advantage over male applicants and more conservatively dressed females but it could also encourage unprofessionalism (you could be judged for your looks rather than skills and experience) but ultimately, it’s your call to make.