Job Search Course
A 5-Day guide to finding a job successfully
Overcoming difficulties and planning for the future
Learning how to write an ATS CV, and professional Cover Letter
Understanding how to use LinkedIn and a list of Job Search Companies and Recruiters
Preparing for an interview and the type of behaviour and questions to expect
Quizzes designed to test your memory and recap the lessons
How to Plan for the Future
If you have a clear plan for your career that is not limited to your current job, the notion of job security should mean very little to you. It is better to not surrender full control of your future to anyone including your employer. Keep doing your job diligently and being of great value to the organisation you work for, that is the best way to secure your job, but even this sometimes is not enough as there are other external factors including overall company performance.
Grabbing the bull by the horns
Decide what you want to do should you need to leave the job you’re in. Everything has risk including running a business or being self-employed, so don’t be misled to thinking these options are a safer bet. You certainly will have more control over your time but you may find that financially you have way less control, being self-employed means your next paycheck is not guaranteed. Getting another job also carries its own line of stress, so you need to make a decision that best serves where you are in life. Once you have assessed all options and chosen one or more with the best possible outcome, design a clear path of how you will get there. If your fall-back plan is getting another job, then work on your work search strategy and make sure that your job search tools (CV and LinkedIn) are always in an impeccable condition ready at all times. If you decide to consult or start your own business start working on your business plan and know how you will finance this venture.
Be comfortable with being uncomfortable
The reason people settle in life is due to fear and the daunting idea of discomfort, once you have this in check there will be very little standing in the way of your success. There’s a region in our midbrain called the substantia nigra area which is the part of the brain which responds to novel stimuli, this part of the brain plays a major role in reward and motivation. Science has shown that new experiences activate this side of the brain, this has been linked to the activation of dopamine pathways (brain’s reward center). So in essence new experiences are scientifically found to be very rewarding so should you find yourself faced with change, don’t view it as a bad thing.
“Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it’s a small price to pay for living a dream.” – Peter McWilliams
What doesn’t kill you……..
You know how the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Nine out of ten times the anticipation of an outcome is far more daunting than the reality of it. There are numerous benefits to change including growth, the opportunity to pursue a passion, and the knowledge that comes with new experiences. Use every challenge to build up your professional muscle.
Albert Einstein famously cited that in every crisis lies opportunity. Losing a job would be challenging for anyone, it is without a doubt better to leave a job out of choice, none the less, one should not lose sight of possible opportunities when change comes knocking.
Taking the plunge can be extremely rewarding, as long you still have your health and your mental faculties are in place, losing the security of a job is not the end, it could in fact be a very fulfilling start.
Entering the Job Market
- It’s tough and intimidating, but simple
- Finding a job is more a mental thing then action is required.
- You must be positive in even during hard times.
- Start with an end in mind (Company, position, salary and accomplishment you will achieve)
At one point or another most people wear the “job seeker” hat. Be it due to the desire or need to relocate, seeking financial or career growth, as a result of retrenchment or any other reason. People get armed with their résumé’s, do a little research and psych themselves up for what I consider to be an emotionally taxing process.
The job market is extremely tough these days, avoiding some of the following mistakes will make the process a little easier for candidates.
Starting the process mentally unprepared
Make no mistake, putting yourself out there to convince people you are worth it and facing possible rejection takes its toll mentally. Be prepared for everything that comes with the process, know upfront how you plan to address or deal with different scenarios. From the search itself to interviews, to negotiating your package, to resigning from your current position where applicable, all the way to starting afresh in a new position/company. Be aware and remain present.
Unrefined job search
Before updating your CV and LinkedIn profile, take a moment to think about what is it that you are looking for. Make note of everything that will influence your decision, everything that matters to you. For me, that list will include flexibility, organisational culture, proximity to home, ability to work off-site on occasion and ultimately the role itself as I am at a point in my career where I long only for roles that will stretch and challenge me. This list will look different for each individual but is so important and will help you apply only for roles that are right for you and prevent you from “falling” into just any job.
Casting your net too wide
Try resitting the edge to apply for just any and job in your field that gets posted. Streamline your search by mostly applying for jobs that you have adequate experience and qualifications for. This will increase your chances of securing interviews significantly.
Applying for jobs you are not qualified for may leave you despondent. If you are seeking to apply-up, just check that you can satisfy the role requirements, and this will mean doing what I call a “required skills vs acquired skills analysis”. In most roles qualifications and experience are interchangeable so it is not necessary to be put off by a required degree (unless you are seeking employment in a specialised field such as medicine, law, engineering…).
One Size does not fit all – Diversify
The method that helped your colleague get a job in record time may not work the same for you. Just posting your CV on job portals and waiting for someone to reach out to you is not an effective way of seeking new opportunities. It is great to reach out to recruiters however you need to maintain control of the process. Different ways to explore includes:
- Direct networking (LinkedIn is a great platform for this)
- Finding a reputable recruitment firm that specialises in your field.
- Researching companies that are hiring and applying directly through the careers page of their website.
- Most companies encourage their staff to bring in Talent so let your friends and family know you are in the market and send them your CV.
- Good old job portals. Make good use of those filters and narrow your search to the exact roles you are interested in.
Think about it, two candidates with the same experience and qualifications, which one makes a better impression? The one that brands themselves really well of cause and yes, an immaculate CV forms part of branding but it does not end there. Your social media pages should represent you well, if you don’t have time to go far back to clean it, keep the accounts private. Decorum is a critical part of your personal brand, pay attention to it! Your brand is essentially the impression you leave people with.
Not knowing your value proposition
Simply being qualified for a job is no longer enough as rarely will you be the only qualified candidate that applies for a position. You need to be clear about what else you bring to the table that makes you unique. By the time you apply for a position you probably have an idea about what you will be getting out of the relationship now let the employer know what they will benefit by having you as part of the team.
Finally, it may take time don’t be disheartened hang in there, nothing worth having comes easy.
Your Career is your business, it is time you manage it as a CEO – Dorit Sher
Understanding the Job Market
#1 The unemployment rate can be misleading. Jobs are available and thousands of opportunities are posted daily.
- Request for a service
- Job Availability Announcement (post a job)
- CV Screening and Shortlisting (references and background checks)
- Job Offer
Recruiters receive hundreds of applications per post specially if the job role is general.
They usually work with limited time, so the process is very quick and for them to short list you, you will have to stand out.
New Careers in the Marketplace
The development of technology has brought about new careers that many of us who were born in the 60s 70s and 80s wouldn’t have considered because they simply did not exist in the past. So, if you are in desperate need to change your career then you might want to consider the following careers because skilled and experienced people are hard to find in these sectors.
- Mobile App developer
- Digital Marketing and Sales
- Sales and marketing have always been around, I’d say the two are so fundamental, they are a critical cornerstone of commerce. With the increase in e-commerce, skill sets in the digital marketing and sales are in high demand. Products and services now need to be sold online and many companies are looking for digital marketers and sales representatives.
- Cloud computing specialist
- YouTube content creators
- Vloggers are making it big on the internet, some making millions of dollars a year. Over 300 hours of content gets uploaded every day on YouTube, and if you were to join the party, you have the option to literately talk about any subject; the trick is in producing interesting content and marketing your channel well. This is a great career to start as a hobby, but the industry can surely make you a millionaire.
- Drone operators
- Solar Engineer
With persistence and the willingness to learn, you can change the path you are currently walking on and take a whole new direction, and because you are now more mature, it should be a fun journey to switch careers but, remember in some new industries the road is not yet paved so, you might have to clear the path to your own success.
Getting Your Documents Ready
This day’s lesson is focused at showing you how to create a modern and professional CV and Cover letter while keeping in mind ATS which many struggle with
How to write a great CV
The structure and readability of a CV is incredibly important as some recruiters may spend as little as 45 seconds skimming through your CV before marking it “no”, “maybe” or “yes”. Another thing to consider is, with the use of technology to scan through CVs it is important to choose the right keywords that match your expertise to the role you are applying for, please remember to keep it honest. Keep your professional CV brief and to the point and save the not so important details for the interview.
Most job advertisements receive hundreds of applications and most candidates are perfectly suitable for the job so it is vital that your CV stands out from the crowd. Make it look great, image is important when applying for job and this is not just limited to how you dress for an interview, it extends to your CV as well. Take some time in making it look good, be smart with the use of white space to make it easy on the eye. The use of colour has become common recently but please don’t go crazy with your colours, keep it modest, and keep the role you are applying for and organisation in mind when choosing your colours. Alternatively, use a professional CV writing and design services and let the experts design an outstanding CV for you. There is no single “correct” way to write and present a professional CV but the following general rules apply:
- It should be carefully and clearly laid out: logically ordered, easy to read and not cramped
- It should be informative but concise
- It should be accurate in content, spelling and grammar. If you mention attention to detail as a skill, make sure your spelling and grammar is perfect!
The content of your CV is what actually lets the employer see why you are the best candidate for the job, use this opportunity to match your skills to the employer’s requirements. You can go into more detail on your Cover Letter. Some of the most important aspects of a CV include but are not limited to: Contact Information – Keep it basic: your name, physical address, email address, and phone number, you can include your LinkedIn URL, too if you wish. It is not necessary to include personal details such as your date of birth, marital status, or religion.
This is arguably one of the most important aspects of your CV. It is where you give an overview of who you are and inject a touch of personality. Keep it short, no longer than a few sentences. Cover the following:
- Who you are
- What you do
- What you can offer the company
- Your career goals
Previous Work Experience
Your experience should be listed in reverse chronological order. You should state your job title and the dates you worked, followed by your responsibilities. Your current role is the one recruiters will look at with the most attention, your older roles can just be listed and accompanied by a summary of the role. It helps to choose the duties most relevant to the job you are applying for, especially if it is a long list. You can experiment with the format, but in this section, bullet points are useful for clarity and highlighting key skills. Reason for leaving is unnecessary on your CV, remember the main purpose of this document is to sell yourself and secure interviews, you can give this information in the interview if you are asked.
Education and Qualifications
Like the Experience section, your education should be listed in reverse chronological order. Include the name of the institutions and the dates you were there, followed by the grades you achieved. If you have a lot of qualifications, there is no need to list them all; just choose the most relevant.
Not only does this section tell employers what computer skills you have, the additional keywords help your resume compete in a resume database.
This is a great opportunity to display yourself as a good Culture/Team fit. Choose your attributes carefully and highlight the most relevant ones for the role, now is not the time to be modest, do not downplay your capabilities. Again, please do not get “creative”, keep it honest, you do not want to have your integrity questioned.
Your referees should be your previous employers or your educational tutors, but there is no need to list all their details in this section. A person’s Name, Company/Institution, Designation, Contact Number, and Email Address are common things to include. Stating “References available on request” is also acceptable.
Send your CV out in PDF Format (unless otherwise stated by the recruiter), this will help maintain formatting, insuring the recruiter sees your CV the way you intended it to look. It is also the safest format as it can be opened from almost any device. Including a picture on a CV is getting increasingly common but it is ultimately your decision. If you do decide to include a picture, make sure it is a professional headshot.
Common Mistakes to avoid
Take care to avoid these common mistakes when writing your professional CV as they could come at a hefty cost:
- Spelling and grammar
- Not tailored to the job
- Poor format
- Poor work history
- Vague or overly complex descriptions
With all that said, your CV is a representation of you so have a CV you are proud to send out.
How to write a Cover Letter
A Cover Letter serves a purpose far beyond introducing you to a prospective employer, it puts your CV in context. A lot of attention is paid to compiling a meticulous CV and rightfully so, however, a CV in itself is limited in its ability to articulate your value proposition. Essentially, a great Cover Letter tells a story of how you are the candidate of choice and a CV provides the evidence thereof.
A Cover Letter also summarises your experience and expertise in a single page. More importantly, it is a fantastic opportunity for you to match your skills to the position you are applying for and showcase your suitability.
So how do you put together a superb Cover Letter?
Avoid writing a generic letter as this defeats the purpose of a Cover Letter. When writing, keep the end in mind, what idea do you want the reader to have about you, what message are you trying to articulate? Where possible, address the letter to the intended recipient (i.e. Hiring Manager Company X or Mrs Linda Smith, Human Resources, Company C). There are tons of Cover Letter samples on the internet, resist the temptation to copy and paste. Recruiters and hiring managers see dozens of Cover Letters, and it may discredit you if the reader of your Cover Letter is familiar with the content you are sampling. Also, you don’t want to submit the same Cover Letter as another applicant. Just go through the sample letters for guidance if you are struggling to come up with the right content, but keep your letter authentic.
State your interest in the hiring company
Speak to what in particular about the role and company piqued your interest. Use this opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the position and the organisation. This can only work in your favour as it will show you made an effort and that you are not just applying for the sake of applying.
Your CV will address your abilities in detail so focus on the skills that are most relevant to the position you are applying for. Provide a brief professional background and touch on relevant education and training. On a new paragraph, go into your core competencies and match your skills to the role.
Achievements, achievements, achievements!
Everything you say means so much more if you can back it up. Highlight the achievements most relevant to the position you are applying for. Everything you promise to deliver in a new role is far more believable if you can show that you have already achieved similar results in the past.
In closing, emphasise your interest in the role and again highlight your suitability based on your skills and experience. Mention what you will bring to the team if appointed and let the reader see what an incredible candidate they stand to gain if you are selected.
Keep it brief
Remember a Cover Letter does not replace your CV and should never be more than a page long. Three-quarters of a page is the ideal length.
Read over your Cover Letter out loud several times and look out for spelling and grammatical errors. Even the slightest mistake could make the reader lose interest in you as a potential contender for the role. Before sending out your newly written Cover Letter, ask a friend or trusted colleague to read through it, as a fresh pair of eyes could pick up any errors you may have missed.
Most job adverts do not request a Cover Letter submission and by default, jobseekers assume a CV alone will suffice, perhaps, but a cover letter provides an added advantage. Forbes published a very helpful article titled a Formula For Writing An Attention-Grabbing Cover Letter, it has tips on mistakes to avoid and how to grab the reader with a great opening line.
ATS-Applicant Tracking System
Could ATS be the reason you didn’t get called for that interview?
A couple of years back, I confidently submitted my CV online to apply for a vacancy, just as I have done many times before. I was more than qualified for the job, and I knew that if invited, I would ace the interview. Besides, since the beginning of my career, there was never a time I did not get invited for an interview for any of the jobs I applied for. So needless to say, I was super confident that I’d get that call.
Days turned to weeks and no call, I was really baffled. I could not understand why I didn’t make the shortlist even though I ticked all the boxes for the requirements, it just did not make sense to me at all at the time. Fast forward many years later, I started hearing the word ATS. It sounded like some exotic virus to me, like “Hey Susan, I’m really sorry I could not make it to your party last weekend I caught ATS but don’t worry I’m fine now”.
Little did I know this ATS “virus” is the reason I did not get that interview. Looking back at the CV I submitted and gauging it against job specs for similar roles it now makes complete sense that I didn’t make the cut. Sad thing is, many professionals are yet to discover how this ATS is standing in their way of getting the jobs they want.
Thanks to google, we all know that ATS is an acronym for Applicant Tracking System, but how many people really understand how it works and how it affects the job application process? When job boards came into the picture in the late 90’s, electronic recruitment systems or applicant tracking systems were not far behind.
It made sense as it became far easier to apply for a job so, each post got a lot more applicants and having a person or people vet every individual CV was a mundane task not to mention time-consuming. ATS is similar to CRMs, it does more than shortlist candidates, it also offers features like interview scheduling and manages contact with the candidates; overall, it provides companies with end-to-end recruitment automation.
The most commonly used (and the largest) ATS globally is Taleo, and it is owned by Oracle. It is very important to be familiar with ATS requirements as 90% of medium and large companies use applicant tracking systems, and only an average of 25% of CVs pass the ATS screening stage. This does not mean that the 25% represents the most qualified candidates, it just means they have the most ATS optimised CVs. Seeing that 75% of CVs get rejected before reaching human eyes, makes optimising your CV a basic necessity and not a bonus.
Mistakes to avoid when optimising your CV for ATS
Keyword overload: Some applicant tracking systems use sophisticated algorithms that will pick up irregularities on your CV, such as an abnormally high keyword match. If the CV makes it though in cases where companies still use dated ATS, the HR personnel or recruiter will definitely pick this up when your CV makes it to them.
Buzzwords: Specialised, experienced, detail-oriented, motivated, team player, leader are some of the most overused buzzwords on CVs. You want your CV to stand out, so try avoiding using common buzzwords because you don’t want to pass ATS filtering only to have your CV chucked by the first person that reviews it. Another consideration is that there is a recommended CV length, and you don’t want to make your CV unnecessarily lengthy by adding meaningless phrases. The Balance wrote a great article on Top 10 CV buzzwords – and how to avoid them
Cheating the system: There is a lot of bad advice out there on how to get around ATS or bluntly put, how to cheat your way through ATS. The most common one making the rounds is how you should copy and paste the job spec at the bottom of your CV, make the text super small and white so it is not visible to human eyes. Please don’t do this, it is a terrible idea, if you came across this information, it is unreasonable to think recruiters are not aware of this “trick”. Think of what it does to your credibility when you get caught, it is extremely easy to pick this up. It’s not all doom and gloom, there are things you can to optimise your CV for ATS by using techniques similar to those used in search engine optimisation (SEO). The most important thing to remember is to stay completely truthful, if you get caught lying on your CV, you could get blacklisted and lose out on future opportunities within that organisation.
Tips for an ATS compatible CV
Start with a job spec: If you know what the role requirements are you are better equipped to understand what proficiencies to focus on. This may mean tailoring your CV for each of the different roles you apply for. Skills you may deem unimportant to mention may be just the skills that will help your CV rate high when scanned.
Make a list: Listing all the keywords on the job spec that are applicable to you is a great starting point when writing your CV, it provides direction and will help you not to undersell yourself by leaving out required skills you are in possession of.
Keyword match tastefully: Don’t just randomly throw keywords all over or make a lengthy list of every keyword. Work the important keywords into your summary then have a list of skills and a list of attributes or soft skills. Another great place to use for keyword matching is under career history, as you summarise each role keep the job spec in mind and highlight relevant skills and experience.
Education is important: The advantage of your CV being shortlisted by a human is that humans are able to determine your role suitability in the absence of required qualifications based on the amount of relevant experience you have. ATS on the other hand is not so forgiving, if the role requires a bachelor’s degree or higher and you don’t have it, you may not get past the ATS. When adding your education, use both long-form and acronym version, example “Master of Business Administration (MBA)”.
Use standard headings: ATS will look for specific words on your CV so do not get creative with your headings. Use standard/common headings such as Work History/Career History/Work Experience.
Use the correct format: Use consistent formatting for dates throughout your CV. Though visually appealing, adding graphs to your CV is not useful as ATS won’t be able to read them so save the space and don’t include them. Rather have your achievements in bullet point. Best file formats to use is .pdf or .docx.
Bonus Tip: Your CV must pass both robot and human eyes. Don’t focus so much on ATS optimisation that you end up with a CV that fails to impress a human. Always write your CV with the recruiter and hiring manager in mind, then optimise that CV for ATS, do not try and do it the other way around it will be more difficult. Christmas is around the corner and the best gift for any occasion is a Rubik’s Cube that you can easily solve with this cube puzzle tutorial.
Where are the Jobs
There are many platform out to find jobs some are great and some are just a waste of time
Making the Best use of LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a wonderful platform full of endless networking opportunities. If used wisely, it can help advance your career and open great doors for you. It is a great tool for meeting new contacts in your area of expertise or industry. It is not only a platform for getting a job but, but also one to help grow your career and link you with the right people. I personally love LinkedIn because you rarely find personal posts about dinner plates, casual selfies, and inappropriate personal moments. Usually, you find inspiring content about individuals, products, and companies.
Take care of your professional digital brand
Your LinkedIn profile is as important as your CV! The only difference is that your CV is typically being sent to individuals, to recruiters, or as a job application, which has limited exposure. Yet your LinkedIn profile is open to the entire world around the clock. Moreover, LinkedIn is now considered the choice tool by recruiters and HR professionals.
Don’t miss out on great opportunities. Take care of your digital brand, after all the internet is the go-to place if someone needs information about you. Always keep in mind that not all social platforms are meant for the same purpose, use each platform appropriately because they are your digital representation.
You may want to revisit your LinkedIn profile and make sure that it is fully updated
Having a professionally taken headshot enhances your profile and makes it easier to be identified. To top it up, create an eye-catching headline, it should be a good description of what you do. The summary section should be your marketing piece, use it wisely. Your current and past positions should be clear and precise, don’t say too much; rather make them intriguing by including strong accomplishments. Relevant keywords for your profession should be included; this will assist in increasing your chances of coming up top when employers search for potential candidates.
Ask for recommendations, they serve as strong support for your candidacy because they come from people you have developed a good working relationship with, everything else you say in your LinkedIn profile comes from you. Belonging to several professional groups also enhances your professional image. Similarly, if you’ve received honours and awards, they should be listed. Customise your profile URL to make it short, easy to remember, and to fit on your business card. And finally, review your personal settings. There may be great qualifications and skills listed on your profile, but if you limit those you allow to view the profile, whom do you think is losing out?
Acquire meaningful connections
When building your network, focus on gaining meaningful connections that will yield better results; those that create value for both parties involved, such connections can easily blossom into lifelong relationships. Since LinkedIn is all about professional networking, a meaningful LinkedIn connection likely involves adding professional value on some level. It can be in the way of helping you to find that perfect job, providing advice and mentorship to boost your career, or giving you access to potential clients. Be active, authentic, and relevant. You can post articles, videos, and any professional related content. Be involved in group discussions and interact with others. The more you interact and post as a professional, the more you’ll be noticed and build recognition.
Join groups and follow organisations that are relevant to you and what you do. Follow the pages that are of interest to you. Stay informed of happenings and network with fellow graduates. Also, link yourself to the pages of both current and former employers so that you show support for your current company, but also stay connected with places you contributed to in the past, as well as the individuals that shared in your experiences at those places. In addition, you can search for groups made up of other like-minded individuals with similar educational or professional backgrounds. There are groups for all sorts of professions and industries.
Research the companies you’re interested in and follow them. LinkedIn makes it easy to find and follow companies, you can search by name or keyword in the search bar at the top of your LinkedIn homepage, and also, LinkedIn will recommend companies and groups that are a good fit for you. This will help you stay in the know about the company news and new positions as they become available.
Use advanced search options to find out which of your connections are associated with the company you are interested in, make a list for easy tracking. You can reach out to these people and ask any relevant questions in order to get the ball rolling.
Get a job…
LinkedIn makes it easy to be headhunted by recruiters/hiring managers only if your profile is updated and includes the right keywords that employers use to search for candidates for specific roles. Alternatively, to be more active in your job search, you can take advantage of the LinkedIn job search option. You can search for the positions you are targeting and filter according to your preferences. More job posting will be recommended to you through the “jobs you may be interested in” feature.
Take time to go through each post to see if you are a perfect fit for the position advertised before you apply, and when you clearly see that you meet the requirements you can go ahead and click on the apply button. You can take it further by using the LinkedIn features to see who posted the job, and who you might know or be connected to that works in the company. That is what is interesting about LinkedIn, you can get free referrals. It will be a win-win for you as your CV will be sent to the hiring manager directly. This will minimise the probability of your CV disappearing in the clouds and maximise the likelihood of your CV being reviewed with care.
Is your CV ready for when the right job opening becomes available? We are happy to evaluate your current curriculum vitae and offer you Free expert advice and recommendations.
The Best 50 Job Search and Recruitment Sites in South Africa
Looking for a job can be a daunting task, with the endless searching and application forms, to assist we have compiled a list of the best 50 job search and recruitment websites in South Africa.
To start, here are the 25 best websites to search for jobs in South Africa
Remember: ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) can prevent you from being shortlisted, therefore it is important to construct your professional CV with ATS and the right keywords in mind. Don’t take unnecessary chances with your career, let one of our professional writers assist you.
Recruiters play a vital role in the job market, they help companies to find the best candidates in the market and also prepare the candidates accordingly.
Here are 25 of the best recruiters in South Africa.
When looking for a job it is important to have your CV ready, however it must be a quality professional CV that will help you stand out while showcasing your skills, attributes, and achievements in a way that highlights you as a choice candidate.
Here we look at how to engage professionally and with confidence
9 Job Interview Tips
You have to have a great cover letter and a world class CV, then successfully master the job application process, and soon you will enter the interview stage, but don’t worry here are 9 interview tips to help guide you through this maze filled with conundrums and intimidating faces.
Carry a Pen and Paper
10 Important Interview Questions
1. Tell us more about yourself?
What not to say: When answering this question, it’s important not to undersell yourself by responding to the question with a simple answer like “I am Joe Soup, married with 2 kids and living in Johannesburg”.
What to say: Because this question is usually asked first, it is an opportunity for you to set the tone of the interview by selling yourself to your interviewer. If you have a great cover letter, I’d recommend memorising it so you can say it in your own words and with passion. Remember a great cover letter describes who you are in a summarised manner, your mission, vision, goals, strengths, achievements and all the things that make you a great candidate for the job.
2. What are your short-term goals?
What not to say: When you hear this question include the word “career” within the statement. An interview is not a confession booth, and neither is it a social gathering. It is a meeting relating to matching a candidate to a job/task. So, in most cases I advise that you do not answer this question with an unrelated career or work passion such as clubbing, hunting even travelling, these could potentially showcase you as an opposite character to what they want.
What to say: The best way to answer this question is to relate it to your career or the role you are being interviewed for e.g. I want to improve my current knowledge of (project management, marketing, online platform, etc.) or I want to see myself as part of a strong team that will help me to grow. Something down these lines, you get the picture, right?
3. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
What not to say: Again, this question also refers to your career and not your family or social life unless specifically asked. So, do not answer this question by mentioning things like, I want to be living in a different city/country or touring the world. This only shows that you are not going to be dedicated to the job.
What to say: Relate to your career or role, and improve something within that regard, such as “I want to be a director, manager, or supervisor” aim for a higher position or improve a skills but, it has to be something that positively impacts the current role you are being interviewed for.
4. What do you know about our company?
This question is very common, and it is surprising how many people come unprepared for it. This is the one question that tells the interviewer if the candidate is interested in working for the company or is just looking for the next paying job.
What not to say: I don’t know, I quickly browsed the website and I think …,
What to say: Recite and relate to the company mission and vision, highlight competitors and what makes this company good and where it can improve. There is no short cut to this question, you need to do as much research as possible, with adequate information comes informed questions.
5. Why should we hire you?
What not to say: Because I am hard working or because I have the required qualifications and experience.
What to say: Be confident and ready to sell yourself, this is an opportunity for you to reassure the interviewer that you are the perfect candidate. Don’t recite the whole interview, think of highlights, focus on one or two points that make you especially well suited to the position. You can mention a few of your strength and how you would make a difference.
6. What are your biggest weaknesses?
What not to say: Never say you don’t have any weakness or that you don’t know, that will portray you as a “perfectionist”. It’s important not to come across as arrogant or dishonest by claiming that you don’t have any weaknesses.
What to say: Your answer should be framed around the positive aspect of your skills and abilities as a professional. Mention skills that are not critical for the job, discuss skills you have improved on, or turn a negative into a positive.
7. Describe your dream job?
What not to say: Do not mention another company.
What to say: Rather say a place where I can be part of a strong team that allows you to grow.
8. What are your strongest qualities?
What not to say: Do not mention qualities that are not relevant to the position.
What to say: Come very prepared for this question. Go through the job spec and learn as much as you can about the company. Use what you have read to identify the relevant qualities and how it will allow you to contribute. Mention your key competencies that are aligned to the role.
9. What are your salary expectations?
What not to say: As much as you might be desperate for the position, be careful not to over-exaggerate or undervalue yourself.
What to say: Do your calculations and have facts, its very important that you are well aware of the market trends, how the job demands, and how much people in similar roles get paid. When stating your desired salary, be clear and precise. It’s always best to indicate it in a range rather than a specific denomination. A range will allow more room for negotiation. Justify your salary expectations with your experiences, projects accomplished, achievements and skills gained that will benefit the company.
10. Why do you want to leave your current job?
What not to say: Don’t bad mouth your ex job, you will be seen as petty, or even worse, a risky hire.
What to say: Give diplomatic responses about your past employers, even if your tenure at a former job ended badly. Try to find something positive you can say about every past work experience on your CV and then pivot to the skills you have gained along the way that will benefit your next employer.
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5 Steps to help you recover after missing an interview
There a very few things in life that are more daunting or as devastating as realising you were supposed to be in an interview and it completely slipped your mind or heavens forbid, you overslept. Whatever the reason, be it your alarm clock hates you or you prepared so late into the night that waking up in the morning was as hard as life without internet, the situation is not completely unsalvageable.
Here are some tips to help you recover.
Before making a breathless and panicked phone call to your interviewer and begging for mercy, take a moment and think of your options. Admittedly, accidentally missing an interview does not reflect well on you so it is critical that you don’t compound the issue by making an emotional and disorganized appeal.
Do your best to formulate a game plan, which should certainly include a reasonable explanation for your absence (more on that below). However, you should try and reach out as soon as possible as the longer you wait, the less credible you may sound. Whatever you do, don’t ignore the issue.
Make no mistake about it: this is 100% your fault and you should be clear about taking ownership. Without assigning any blame to outside parties, you need to offer your sincere apologies and assurances that this type of behaviour is extremely uncharacteristic.
If you come across as trying to deflect responsibility, it will reflect poorly on you and make the interviewer feel even more distrusting. It may certainly hurt your pride to apologise so profusely but it may just be your one saving grace.
Rather than passively hoping the interviewer will forgive you and reschedule the meeting, take pro-active measures to ensure that you can get your foot back in the door. You should follow up all verbal communications with an email (and vice versa).
You should also offer additional insights into your candidacy for further proof of your seriousness; for example, I would suggest providing additional references or offering to perform additional interview steps as a means of demonstrating that you are dependable and industrious.
Let’s face it, you are now going to have work harder than any other candidate to convince the interviewer that you are the right person for the job.
Work on your excuse
I’m going to be honest: it is extremely hard for a recruiter to forgive a candidate who misses an interview. (Of course, if you endured a personal emergency or something wholly unforeseen, most interviewers should certainly be sympathetic.) In all likelihood, though, you will certainly have an uphill battle on your hands – especially if you have a weak excuse.
If the interviewer demands an explanation, you are going to need to provide something quite compelling to get yourself back in the running. So, if you missed the interview because you overslept or forgot to put the interview in your calendar, do yourself a favour and come up with something better. This is a rare instance where telling the truth may not be in your best interest.
Look, it may be that you have simply blown this opportunity. Regardless of your efforts, the interviewer may no longer be interested in your candidacy. While this is regrettable, it isn’t hard to understand why. In such a case, I would advise you to pick up your pieces and move on. Don’t lash out at the interviewer and do not take to social media to voice your displeasure.
You should retain a strong sense of professional decorum and remain contrite in your communications. You never know when another opportunity may arise so keep all your options open by keeping your emotions in check.
Having said that,
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Please take a moment to go through these informative quizzes which will help you in finding the perfect job for you.