I found this link to an article I wrote for City AM last year called “standing out at interview” in an old blog and have cheekily decided to republish it! I have added the link to the original article at the bottom of this blogpost.
It’s a year later and nothing seems to have changed much on the job market. A friend told me recently that they had sent out 38 job applications and hadn’t received even one acknowledgement – much less an interview. I haven’t seen her CV yet – but she has a 2.1 from a Russel Group university and has a year of decent work and interning experience. Tough gig.
Anyway…. here is the article.
It’s tough looking for a job. Hedge funds are attracting over 230 applications for every place. Standing out against a crowd of that many hopefuls is now more important than ever. But it’s amazing how many credible candidates fall at the first hurdle, making mistakes that a little preparation could solve. Here is some of the simplest advice I give to my clients before they go into an interview:
1. Get inside the employers’ head
What is relevant to them? Are they looking for big ideas, contacts, industry knowledge or the ability to shift large amounts of grunt work? You have to ask these questions if you want to stand out. You have to be able to answer the killer question: “what do you bring to the table?”
Too many job hunters go on (and on and on and on…) about things that don’t remotely interest the employer. Things that are irrelevant because they are “givens” (your 2.1 degree for example) or things you think are relevant, but the employer doesn’t. You have to identify what drives them. These are always tangible skills and strong personal characteristics. They will be looking for someone they think fits into their company culture. Oh, and they tend to choose people they like too.
Make sure you do your homework. Research the company, read their recent news articles, find out about their corporate culture and learn about their plans for the future. Company websites are a mine of information – you aren’t trying hard enough if you don’t read them and tailor your message accordingly.
2. Don’t try to blag it
Once you have done that, you have to illustrate the fact that you can deliver what they want. Blagging will be found out. However valid the “fake it until you make it” motto is thought to be, in today’s job climate, employers want someone who adds value quickly. You have to convince them they should take the risk with you. This means selling your skills. Merely listing your job titles is no help (and painfully dull). Explain what you have actually done and how you were successful. If you ramble on in jargon without any examples, relying on unsubstantiated claims and copy-and-paste style adjectives (hardworking, innovative, creative, team player) do you really expect to stand out?
3. make sure you stand out
The third thing provides the winning ticket: you have to differentiate yourself from the competition. Unless you can do this, your CV will be canned when the employer first sifts through them. Cheek, charm and chutzpah are great in movies and (sometimes) play a role in getting you a job — but you need to get into the interview room first. Finally, if you want to be the person hired, talk about the future and what you want to achieve within that company and for that company. People who focus on the past don’t move forward.
James Bond is fiction. The effortless amateur hero does not exist. Proper preparation is vital. Working out a clear, compelling and concise narrative will make a difference. If you need help, get help. Athletes use coaches. Margaret Thatcher had coaching. William Hague and his team spent 26.5 hours prepping for every Prime Minister’s question time – every week. Even Eric Schmidt of Google says everyone needs a coach.
Here is the original link: