Monthly Archives: August 2016

Surprising things that make a good candidate

Article by Belinda Fuller

Surprising Things That Make a Good CandidateGreat candidates come in all shapes and sizes. Just because you have a raft of qualifications and/or experience in a certain area doesn’t mean you’re an ideal candidate for every role that interests you. The problem is complex when fewer roles are advertised, and more and more applicants (often 100+) are applying for each role. So how can you stand out and catch the recruiter’s attention?

Lately, I am coming across more clients wanting to change careers for a variety of different reasons. Many of these clients would like to de-stress their lives and are seeking what they consider, a less stressful role. Whilst most of these clients are well qualified and highly experienced in their current field, I often get the impression they think they’ll be a certainty for those ‘lesser’ roles they’re applying for. The problem with this thought process is that the recruiter doesn’t see it that way. There are many reasons for this – not least of which is that you just don’t have the same level of experience in THAT particular area as other candidates might have.

One of my recent clients was a qualified lawyer who had been working in private practice for about ten years and had built up an impressive array of experience and skills. For personal reasons, this client was seeking a lower to mid-level administration role. In her words, she felt she’d be able to do these roles ‘standing on her head’. She had already applied for a number of roles she thought suited her well but hadn’t received any feedback. The problem stemmed from her Resume not addressing many (if any) of the requirements of roles she was applying for. She felt her legal expertise and experience spoke for itself and would be jumped at by recruiters looking for someone to take on an administrative role. However this just wasn’t the case. We talked about realigning her existing skills and thinking about her legal experience in the context of the roles she was applying for so she became more competitive with the other candidates who had current administration specific experience. Once her Resume was tweaked and targeted, she began to gain some traction with interviews.

So what are some of the surprising things that might make you a good candidate – particularly if you’re heading in a new direction?

Uniqueness: Ask yourself why you’re the best candidate for the job and cover off those reasons in your application. If you’re low on experience in the actual field you’re applying in (even if you have what you believe is higher level experience) think about your transferrable skills and how they’ll contribute to your success. Read our previous article on Why transferable skills matter for tips on identifying and articulating those skills.

Value Add: know how you add value. Talking about your achievements is essential in a Resume and application, but quantifying how you add value is even more important. Using quantifiable numbers and data is the best approach, however if you honestly can’t do that there are other ways to demonstrate your worth. Using the STAR approach to identify and articulate your value is a great place to start.

Social Media Links: recruiters will search for you on social media, so including your links saves them time and shows openness and professionalism. You should include LinkedIn, and any work related Blogs, but avoid Facebook and other personal social media pages. See our article Want the job? Audit your online profile for tips on social media content.

Career Breaks: most candidates are determined to hide career breaks, but this needn’t be the case. Many recruiters see career breaks as an essential part of the career development process. So long as you can show that you didn’t lie around on the couch all day – it can be seen as a valuable, personally, and professionally fulfilling time. Leaving a job to travel can show that you’re not afraid of change, that you’re independent, and comfortable with unfamiliar situations. Experiences like volunteer work, study, or other worthwhile pursuits can demonstrate your good character and could attract the recruiter’s interest.

Volunteer Work and Side Projects: If you’re using your spare time to help others, develop a side business, or work on developing some kind of unique skill set, this can also be of interest. Volunteering is also a great approach if you’re finding it hard to break into a new area – by volunteering in a role that exposes you to the type of work you’re seeking, you can start to develop some of the new skills that might be required.

Failures: Huh?? Yes, failures! Perhaps not an item for your Resume, but certainly something to think about for the interview. Learning from your mistakes and being able to talk about them openly and frankly is a great asset for any candidate. Employers are interested in hearing about new things you’ve tried and how you learnt from your mistakes if things didn’t go exactly to plan. This can demonstrate a proactive approach and willingness to innovate – attractive traits for any good employee.

Don’t be afraid of using specific examples and details of accomplishments and achievements to show your successes. Employers want to see that information – in a cluttered market, having details about the value you added in previous roles, helps them to visualise you as a good candidate and might mean the difference between you being selected for an interview or not.

Would you like some help identifying your key assets and understanding what might make you a more impressive candidate for your next application? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services.

10 mistakes to avoid in an interview

Article by Belinda Fuller

10 Mistakes to Avoid in an InterviewMost people admit to being nervous going into a job interview – in fact many would say there is nothing more nerve racking than a job interview. Recruiters don’t usually go out of their way to make candidates feel uncomfortable; however creating a tough interview experience can challenge candidates to perform under pressure. What are the biggest mistakes made, and how can you avoid them?

If your application was a success and you’ve secured an interview – congratulations! That’s a great achievement in today’s competitive job market! If you’re feeling uneasy about the interview, you’re not alone. Make these mistakes and it could cost you the job.

MISTAKE # 1 – Not knowing much about the company – you will most likely be asked what you know about the company and why you want to work there. This should be one of the easiest questions to answer – if you’ve done your research. Review the company website, LinkedIn, Facebook and other Social Media pages before your interview. Get a feel for the company culture and how it matches your values – workplace culture is very important and an area of increasing focus for employers to ensure candidates are a good long term fit. Use or review the company’s products if appropriate. Do a ‘google’ search so you can read recent media articles that are not controlled by the company. This often uncovers issues or situations that may be appropriate to discuss.

MISTAKE # 2 – Not being well prepared – it’s amazing how many people don’t recall what they did in previous roles. It isn’t acceptable to say “it was so long ago, I can’t really recall”. Under pressure, you can’t just ‘wing an interview’. Taking time to prepare by reviewing your job history and creating quick mental or physical lists of areas to discuss is essential. A better option is to prepare mini success stories that demonstrate the value you provided – have these on hand to help you articulate your experiences and accomplishments more clearly.

MISTAKE # 3Not dressing appropriately – dress neatly and ensure you are well groomed. The actual attire you wear will vary depending on the role and company but if you research the company first, you can decide what would be expected. If unsure, err on the more conservative side.

MISTAKE # 4 – Arriving late and/or flustered – work out where you’re going and how you’re getting there before you leave. If you’re catching public transport, catch the earlier service. If you’re driving, know where the parking is and allow extra time in case of last minute problems. There is nothing worse than arriving red faced after running to make it on time or, worse still, arriving late. It really does give a lasting negative first impression.

MISTAKE # 5 – Lying or stretching the truth – not knowing your true value could lead to the temptation to stretch the truth. Be prepared to talk about yourself, recent projects, and accomplishments so when you are asked, you have some accurate things to say. Focus on achievements made for current or past employers and demonstrate how you’ve handled different types of scenarios. If you’re asked if you’re good at something that you’re not – be honest, but give it a positive spin if you can. You could say something like “Well I wouldn’t call myself a whiz, but I have been learning more recently, and have been able to solve some fairly complex issues.”

MISTAKE # 6 Making non-verbal mistakes – body language is one of the most important aspects of an interview with many psychologists believing non-verbal communication can reveal more about what we are thinking than what we actually say. It is therefore essential to pay close attention to your body language – so it supports what you are saying. In summary, pay attention to the following: smile, limit hand gestures while talking, retain good posture, maintain eye contact (but don’t stare), don’t cross your arms, match your facial expression to what you’re saying, and avoid fidgeting. For more information, read our previous article – Body Language – 8 Tips for Interview Success.

MISTAKE # 7 – Bad-mouthing a previous employer – this is never appropriate. All it does is make you look like someone who might be difficult to work with. If you accidentally say something negative about a former employer – simply say “Let me re-phrase that” and move on with a more positive approach.

MISTAKE # 8 – Talking too much about what you want – and not about what you can offer. Ensure your answers are succinct and to the point. Research common interview questions and practice appropriate answers before-hand, so you have an idea of what you might say in response to different questions. Understanding the company, the role, and the needs you meet is key to being able to successfully talk about what you can offer in the role.

MISTAKE # 9 – Failing to differentiate yourself – being able to set yourself apart is essential. Identify your unique skills and qualities and again practice talking about them. You’ve landed an interview and now it’s time to impress. Don’t come across as bored or uninterested – make an effort to show your positive approach and explain why you’re different to others.

MISTAKE # 10 – Not asking for the job – if you’re interested, show it, and say so. You could also follow the recruiter up with a short email to reiterate your keenness.

Securing an interview is tough these days, so being prepared is essential. Recruiters use interviews to test candidates’ performance under pressure because people who think quickly are an asset in business. Concentrate on the interviewer and the questions they are asking. You only get one chance to impress, so make it count.

Would you like some assistance to prepare for a job interview? Are you keen to overcome your nerves, build confidence and increase your success rate? If so, please see our Interview Skills Training service.

How to survive redundancy

Article by Belinda Fuller

How to Survive RedundancyThe time following a redundancy is usually fairly stressful and extremely unsettling. You’re stirring up all kinds of emotions including disappointment, anger, resentment, shame, anxiety, and uncertainty, which can all lead to reduced levels of confidence and self-belief. Despite this, it’s important to look to the future – and maintaining a positive attitude is going to help you in achieving your next role.

At 29 years old and six months pregnant, I was made redundant from a senior executive role. Despite the fact my company had recently been bought out, I was caught completely off guard. Looking back now, it was definitely for the best, however there was a period of pain and anxiety, not helped by all the ‘what ifs’ surrounding the impending birth of my baby. I got through it and managed to come out the other end with better options and an improved outlook on my career.

Here are our tips to help minimise your own pain in a similar situation:

  1. Be positive. OK this is hard because when faced with challenges, we tend to focus on the negatives. Accept this natural emotion, then try to encourage positivity by engaging in activities that help you think clearly and optimistically about your future.
  2. Take a step back, then forward. Try not to panic and jump straight into searching for a new role. Give yourself some time to acknowledge your feelings and work out if this could be an opportunity for change. Ask yourself if you are in the right career or if you could undertake study or work towards diversifying your skills. Grieve the loss if you need to, however the sooner you let go, the better. Redundancies are business decisions, so accept it is out of your control and try not to take it personally.
  3. Start networking. The sooner, the better. If you’re not on LinkedIn, now is a great time to create a profile. Invite colleagues to connect and let them know you are seeking new opportunities.
  4. Sort out your finances. Depending on your financial situation, you may need to seek financial advice or talk to your bank about loans. Do this quickly, so you have one less thing to worry about.
  5. Maintain a routine. Treat Monday to Friday like a working week. Dress like you are leaving the house and establish a schedule. Aim to complete some job search tasks every day – these might include networking, searching for jobs online, talking to recruitment agencies, polishing your resume, or practicing your interview skills.
  6. Seek professional help. Career Consultants provide independent advice and up-to-date job trend information. They can help with career transition by advising how to position yourself in the market, identify job opportunities, and present yourself effectively to potential employers. They’ll also help boost your confidence and ease some of the anxiety you might be feeling at this time.
  7. Polish your career documents. Revamp your resume or enlist a professional to prepare a resume and cover letter for you. If you’re applying for government positions, you may need assistance preparing Selection Criteria. Having a set of professional documents you feel proud of will also help boost your confidence.
  8. Start looking for a new job. Think about the perfect role for you. Research job sites and the careers sections on individual company’s websites. Meet with recruitment companies, and talk to colleagues about who you could approach for assistance. Then start applying!
  9. Practice your interview skills. You could enlist a professional or simply think about the types of questions that might be asked. Devise your perfect answers, and practice responding so you feel more confident and prepared.

The period following a redundancy can be stressful, however it is important to look to the future. By all means, take some time out, but don’t wait too long to begin your job search. This will allow you time to achieve the perfect role, rather than becoming desperate and needing to take the first thing that comes along.

Are you are struggling following a redundancy? Would you like some assistance from a professional writer to prepare a winning Resume, Cover Letter and/or LinkedIn profile? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services, LinkedIn Profile Writing Services and Job Search Coaching Services. We also offer Outplacement Services for organisations who wish to support their employees through redundancy.