I recently attended Sydney’s biggest Start Up fair at Town Hall, where students and Gen Y and many other job hunters approached me for potential jobs at our FOSSLR Start Up, so I thought this would be a good time to share some of my thoughts.
There are thousands of articles out there on how to prepare a resume, get ready for an interview, send follow-up notes and so forth. Some of the following will no doubt overlap, but hopefully the rest will be advice you don’t normally hear.
# 1 Be Real
At this Start Up fair I spoke to probably over 100 Uni students and at least 30 + other interesting candidates in less than two days. The one that stood out provided the most genuine and honest response to my initial question of anyone there.
I greeted everyone with “How’s your day going?” Responses varied from “I’m doing great” to “Just loving every second of my torts class!” In other words, at best it was a standard response to, at worst, a feeble attempt at displaying fervour for a field few actually desire. However, the guy that stood out had the following response:
“To be honest, I’m totes stressed out. We have finals coming up, then the exam next month which I’m not sure what to make of. I can’t wait for this all to be over.”
It was so refreshing to hear an honest answer after hearing the same script over and over again. Another student, after two sentences stopped and said this was her first real interview “ever” – like, you know, like – and she was very nervous and asked if she was doing alright. I appreciated her honesty, we joked and had a great conversation.
# 2 Be in the Zone
The desired employee of one field of work can be completely different than another field. Take for example an attractive guy applying for a job as a host at a top end restaurant versus the same attractive guy applying to be a pharmaceutical sales rep.
For the former, aside from his looks he has to be extremely nice, understanding, pleasant, and able to handle complaints and concerns gracefully. A pharma sales rep on the other hand has to be able to charm, sell, schmooze, and make the office staff and doctors want him around. If the same guy is applying to these two jobs, he better put on two very different personalities in the interview.
Even within the same field of work, specific areas vary. I negotiate, mitigate and coach for a living so I’m constantly in sessions, in negotiations, communicating with people and writing.
When I am looking for potential staff to hire, if they (1) cannot keep up a conversation, (2) have me bored within seconds, (3) struggle to form proper sentences, (4) seem overly timid [but see below, nerves are not necessarily bad], or (5) aren’t fluent in English, I’m passing. When I meet potential candidates for the first time, I judge them immediately. How was their handshake? Can they keep eye contact? Do they speak eloquently? How does their attire look on them? These are important to me as a job site and job search coaching employer. Know your field and play up the characteristics of a successful employee in that field, even if you have to practise it.
# 3 Know Something
See if you can tell which one of these students I preferred.
Student 1: “So…what do you do at your company?”
Student 2: “I just wanted to come by and say I think it’s very cool how you just left a big firm and started your own Start Up job site. I know many managers think about it but never do so. I’m hoping to do that myself. But let me ask you, do you think it helped that you worked for an online marketing business for several years first?”
Student 1 lost my interest before he even said another word. He didn’t even know what type of business I run, much less anything else.
Student 2 on the other hand, presented herself nicely and I’ll admit it’s a little flattering to hear someone hold your actions in high regard. I realise that what Student 2 said was meant to make me want to engage. I’m not saying you need to research my mother’s maiden name, know that I prefer to eat dessert first, or that my favourite cheese is goat. But know something, anything. Show me you care just a bit.
# 4 Impressions Count
This relates to #5 below, so know how to dress for what you are seeking. Nobody wants a Junior C++ Developer for a software gaming company that shows up in a 3 piece suit for an interview. Make sure your attire fits, have your hair in check, no bad breath and so on. If you can’t spend some time and effort on presenting yourself as best you can for a potential employer, why would I think you’d do otherwise for a big Start Up fair or an important client meeting? There are literally thousands of you out there and unless you have some sort of unrivalled skill or talent that is so desirable everything else can be overlooked (and guess what, 99% of you don’t), then I’m passing if you don’t present yourself well.
# 5 Come prepared
When I put an ad into one of the usual jobsites for an assistant position, I got 300+ resumes in one day. So I had to really filter through these things, and quickly. Realise that this is common for most if not all employers. They will get inundated with resumes for any position and you have maybe 10 – 30 seconds max to get your resume into the next round. So…
- Any mistake, no matter how small, and you’re likely done. If you can’t bother to customise your application to the job and if you can’t be bothered to ensure your submission is error-free then I don’t want you. As I mentioned above, there are thousands of you and you are easily replaceable.
- Be interesting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the same cover letter and resume tedium, whether it be that you “are looking forward to being an integral part of the company” or that you “place teamwork and productivity ahead of your own personal goals” and whatever other standard template language you’ve copied from Dr. Google. Congratulations, so does every other candidate out there.
But there is a limit to being interesting. Don’t be that person who provides a link in their cover letter to their own personal website, which discusses all their achievements in the third person as a Mozart sound clip plays and their name dances across the screen in florescent colours (true story).
So guys, Get with it or Get Out! If you are Genuine about your job hunt and if you apply most or all of these Foolproof Tactics, you will improve your chances of securing a job interview enormously. Just always remember to hunt wisely!