Ensure that your resume is complete and up-to-date. Prepare for different interview questions and research the company. If you have no experience, consider doing internships or volunteer work. Apply to jobs that fit your skills and interests. In interviews, sell your qualifications and stress that you look forward to getting trained, learning, and growing.
1. Building Your Qualifications
Revise your resume. Before you start job hunting, make sure that your resume is as complete and up-to-date as possible. Your resume is an important distillation of who you are, where you come from, and what you can offer. Here are a few tips to consider:
Never make up information on a resume; it can come back to haunt you later.
Look at a variety of recent, relevant job descriptions. Use similar language to describe your skills and accomplishments on your own resume.
Use active verbs. When describing what you did at your last job, make the sentence as tight and active as possible.
Proofread. Review your resume several times for grammatical or spelling errors. Even something as simple as a typo could negatively impact your ability to land an interview, so pay close attention to what you’ve left on the page. Have one or two other people look at it as well.
Keep the formatting classic and to the point. How your resume looks is almost as important as how it reads. Use a simple font (such as Times New Roman, Arial or Bevan), black ink on white or ivory colored paper, and wide margins (about 1″ on each side). Avoid bold or italic lettering. Ensure your name and contact information are clearly and prominently displayed.
2. Prepare for the job interview:
Develop your personal “elevator pitch”. Many structured interviews, particularly those at large companies, start with a question like “Tell me about yourself.” The interviewer doesn’t want to hear about grade school or growing up. This is a work and experience related question with a right answer: in two minutes or so, the interviewer wants to understand your background, your accomplishments, why you want to work at this company and what your future goals are.
Keep it brief — between 30 seconds and two minutes — and have the basics of it memorized so that you don’t stammer when you’re asked to describe yourself. You don’t want to sound like recording or a robot, either, so only get the structure of it down, and learn to improvise the rest depending on who you’re talking to. Practice your elevator pitch out loud on someone who can give you feedback.
An elevator pitch is also useful for when you’re networking, at a party or anywhere with a group of strangers who want to get to know you a little bit more. In a networking situation, as opposed to a job interview, keep the elevator pitch to 30 seconds or less.
3. Make a list of work-related skills you’d like to learn.
Your employer will be interested in hearing about how you intend to become a better employee. Think about which skills will make you more competent in the position you’re applying for. Find some books and upcoming conferences that would significantly improve your abilities. In an interview, tell the employer what you’re reading and learning, and that you’d like to continue doing so. Here is a list of some of the most important job skills, wanted by employers, that a job-seeker must have to be sure of landing a good job and just as importantly, keeping it.
Logical thinking and information handling: Most businesses regard the ability to handle and organize information to produce effective solutions as one of the top skills they want. They value the ability to make sensible solutions regarding a spending proposal or an internal activity.
Technological ability: Most job openings will require people who are IT or computer literate or know how to operate different machines and office equipment, whether it’s a PC or multi-function copier and scanner. This doesn’t mean that employers need people who are technology graduates — knowing the basic principles of using current technology is sufficient.
Communicating effectively: Employers tend to value and hire people who are able to express their thoughts efficiently through verbal and written communication. People who land a good job easily are usually those who are adept in speaking and writing.
Strong interpersonal skills: Because the working environment consists of various kinds of personalities and people with different backgrounds, it is essential to possess the skill of communicating and working with people from different walks of life.
4. Prepare for a behavioral interview.
You might be asked to describe problems you’ve encountered in the past and how you handled them, or you’ll be given a hypothetical situation and asked what you would do. You might also be asked questions looking for negative information. They’ll basically want to know how you’ll perform when faced with obstacles in the position you’re interviewing for. Be able to give honest, detailed examples from your past, even if the question is hypothetical (e.g. “I would contact the customer directly, based on my past experience in a different situation in which the customer was very pleased to receive a phone call from the supervisor”). You might find yourself listing facts — if so, remember that in this kind of interview, you need to tell a story. Some questions you might be asked are:
“Describe a time you had to work with someone you didn’t like.”
“Tell me about a time when you had to stick by a decision you had made, even though it made you unpopular.”
“Give us an example of something particularly innovative that you have done that made a difference in the workplace.”
“How would you handle an employee who’s consistently late?”
5. Research the company.
Don’t just do an Internet search, memorize their mission, and be done with it. Remember that you’re competing with lots of other candidates for a few or single position. You may not be able to change your natural intelligence, or the skills that you bring to the job, but you can always change your work ethic. Work harder than everyone else by researching the company or companies you wish to work for as if your life depended on it.
If it’s a retail company, visit a few of their stores, observe the customers, and even strike up a few conversations. Talk to existing employees — ask them what it’s like working there, how long the position has been open, and what you can do to increase your chances of getting it. Become familiar with the history of the company. Who started it? Where? Who runs it now? Be creative!
6. Do informational interviews.
An informational interview is when you invite a contact or a professional out to lunch or coffee, and ask them questions without the expectation of getting a job. Informational interviews are a great way to network, expand your list of contacts, and find out tips and tricks from professionals who are on the ground.
Have lots of questions prepared — “What’s a normal day like for you?” “What are the advantages of your job?” “What might you have done differently?” are all great — but be mindful of their time.
When the interview is done, ask them politely for additional contacts. If you impress them enough, they could even hire you or refer you to someone who could hire you.
The best companies to work for tend to rely heavily on employee referrals. Make a list of all of your friends, relatives, and acquaintances. Contact them one by one and ask them if they know of any openings for which they could recommend you. Don’t be too humble or apologetic. Tell them what you’re looking for, but let them know you’re flexible and open to suggestions. Don’t be picky about jobs at this stage; a connection can get your foot in the door, and you can negotiate pay or switch positions once you’ve gained experience and established your reputation.
Touch base with all of your references. The purpose of this is twofold. You can ask them for leads, and you’ll also be refreshing their memory of you. (Hopefully their memories of you are good ones, or else you shouldn’t be listing them as references.) If a potential employer calls them, they won’t hesitate as much when remembering you. Offer all of your references a copy of your latest resume.
Keep in mind that, as with dating, “weak” personal connections are often the best way to find a new job because they expand your network beyond options you’re already aware of. You probably know all about your sister’s company, and you know that if they were hiring she would tell you; but what about your sister’s friend’s company? Don’t be afraid to ask the friend of a friend or another slightly removed acquaintance for recommendations during your job search.
If you aren’t already, start volunteering for an organization that focuses on something you’re passionate about. You may start out doing boring or easy work, but as you stick around and demonstrate your commitment, you’ll be given more responsibilities. Not only will you be helping others, but you’ll also be gaining references. Emphasize your volunteer experience on your resume, as companies that treat their employees well tend to favor candidates who help the community somehow.
Internships may fall into this category, or they may be paid. An internship is a great way to get your foot in the door, as many companies prefer to hire from within. Even if you’re far removed from your twenties or your college days, the willingness to work for little or no money shows companies that you’re serious about putting in the work, learning the skills, and getting ahead.
Believe it or not, volunteer positions and internships can lead to jobs. In today’s economy, many companies are turning to internships as a cost-effective way to vet potential future employees. This is because many companies simply don’t have the money or resources to take a stab in the dark and offer a job to someone who isn’t tested. If you put in hard work, demonstrate your ability to solve problems, and keep your chin up, your value to the company might be too big for them to pass up on.
9. Cold call.
Locate a specific person who can help you (usually the human resources or hiring manager at a company or organization you’re interested in). Call that person and ask if they are hiring, but do not become discouraged if they are not. Ask what kind of qualifications they look for or if they have apprentice or government-sponsored work programs. Ask if you can send your resume indicating what field you want to go into. Indicate whether you would accept a lesser job and work up.
Reflect after each phone call on what went well and what did not. Consider writing out some standard answers on your list of skills so you can speak fluently. You may need to get some additional training to break into your chosen field. None of this means you cannot get a good job, only that you need to become further prepared to do so.
Visit the company or business in person. There’s a saying among employers: “People don’t hire resumes; people hire people.” Don’t underestimate the value of personal relationships. Go to the company or business where you think you might want to work, bring your resume, and ask to speak to the Human Resources manager about job opportunities. If you make an excellent personal impression on the HR manager, you’ve done your job: s/he will have connected your face to a resume, and will have a much better idea of your natural intelligence, your persistence, and your likability. People don’t always hire the person best suited for the job; people often hire the person they like the best.
10. Change your attitude.
There’s a difference between making phone calls and going to interviews thinking “I’m looking for a job” versus “I’m here to do the work you need to have done”. When you’re looking to get a job, you’re expecting someone to give something to you, so you focus on impressing them. Yes, it’s important to make a good impression, but it’s even more important to demonstrate your desire and ability to help.
Everything that you write and say should be preceded silently by the statement “This is how I can help your business succeed.”
11. Settle down.
If you’ve moved around a lot, be prepared to offer a good reason for it. Otherwise, you’ll need to make a good case for why you want to stick around in the area where the job is located. A company doesn’t want to hire someone with wanderlust who still wants to relocate.
Be prepared to outline why you are where you are today, how long you intend to stay there, and why. Give specific reasons like, “This country has the best school systems in the entire continent, and I have a daughter who might find the cure for cancer” or “I was drawn to this area because it’s at the cutting edge of innovation for this business and I want to be a part of that.” The more details, names, and specifics, the better.
12. Find jobs to apply for that fit your skill-set and interests, rather than trying to fit skills and yourself to the wrong kind of job for you. If you don’t have an idea of what jobs your skills and aptitude fit, prepare your mind to learn what you are more qualified to do. Instead of searching for job openings, and then trying to see how you can tweak the way you present their own skills and experiences to fit the job description, try something that fits you. Instead of the usual top-down approach, start from the bottom up. Build your base of skills and abilities, and narrow them to the jobs that work better for you.
Make a list of all of your skills, determine which kinds of businesses and industries need them most (ask around for advice if you need to) and find businesses that will benefit from having you and your skills around. You might find that you get more satisfaction and enjoyment out of a career that wasn’t even on your radar to begin with.
Explore the nature of jobs to fit your personality and salary requirements, otherwise you’ll have spent a significant amount of time to find a day job — but then you dread getting up for every morning. So be realistic about what you expect, but be open to what you find about yourself.
13. Sell the qualifications you have, and say you look forward to the honing your skills and getting trained, and growing into the rest. Don’t panic, and don’t count yourself out, if you don’t have 100% of the things in a job description. The job description may describe an idealized candidate, which may be a different set of qualifications than they really require.
Appear well mannered, sitting upright, yet relaxed, not frowning or grimacing, but being positive, proactive and leaning slightly forward, showing interest, and do all you may to make a good impression based on optimism and confidence.
Don’t settle back in your chair or get too comfortable, but be alert, while not acting too nervous or desperate.