Until last year I held a wonderful distinction of being offered every position in which I’d ever received the opportunity to interview. They say pride comes before a fall and so it was that my 21 year winning streak came to an unceremonious end that saw me in a room filled with people where the head of the organization actually fell asleep more than once during my interview.
Even now, the entire experience leaves me chuckling. My energy and enthusiasm usually has the ability to at least engage my audience, but in that moment I was humbled by an elderly gentlemen who had simply had his fill of interviews. Yet, even before I walked into that room I had broken a number of my own “rules of engagement” for job competition. Rules that I have since shared with a number of graduating students who were getting no where in their job search and in every case they have been able to land positions.
We are living in one of the most difficult times for graduate students. It’s particularly bad when the media has actually coined the term “Generation Jobless“. That means the competition is FIERCE and unfortunately most post-secondary institutions are not spending time teaching their students on how to compete which I personally think is a huge disservice.
With that in mind I thought I’d share my own rules from motivation to presentation that has provided me success through the years. If you’re a student (or even if you’re not) perhaps this will provide you some insight.
Rule #1 – Never (and I mean NEVER) apply for a position you are not absolutely enthusiastic about!
If you only take this one piece of advice this would be the most important thing. The truth is that no matter how hard you try you cannot fake real enthusiasm. I get it, life is tough, you just need a job – any job – and so you are willing to “settle”. Here’s the thing, you are wasting the employers time and your time as well. The employer will have a plethora of candidates and while you walk in with your fake enthusiasm there will be a candidate who truly believes this is their “dream” job.
Their hunger for that position means they are going to do their homework and they won’t be able to restrain their enthusiasm at wanting to work for that employer. In other words – you’re a goner against that candidate.
This was the rule I broke when I went for that interview that I really didn’t want. I rationalized my reasons for seeing the interview through including my deep desire to not offend certain important people who asked me to apply for the position – but deep down I knew that the position would be the equivalent of watching paint dry on a wall. When I thought about what it would feel like working at that role I actually groaned inwardly.
As you look at positions and read the descriptions, pay attention to how you feel when you think about doing that role. Even if the role is something totally different than what you saw yourself doing – if you feel that enthusiasm and excitement about chasing it you’re in the right direction.
Rule #2 – Don’t just do your homework on your employer – social stalk your potential new employer.
First of all, if you have ever showed up to an interview and actually asked the employer “what do you do?” then you’re beyond reach. (Note: Interviewing candidates over the years this has happened more than once. Every time it blows my mind.) That aside, if you’ve felt pretty good that you’ve read your employers website and even some recent news – know this – it is NOT enough. Every candidate serious about the position has done this.
This is a competition and you need to put on your detective hat and get to work. You need to pull out a nugget that none of the other candidates have – and the best way to do that is to hit social media. Get on LinkedIn and read the profiles of all their employees, jump on Facebook and see what they post on their company page, head over Twitter and follow them to learn about what they think is important.
What you are trying to do is understand their culture and how you fit in and you need to do this PRIOR to preparing your cover letter and resume so that you know how to position yourself.
Music to an employer’s ears?
“One of the things I really think your company gets right is your interaction with customers on Facebook. I like how (funny, direct, professional) your responses are and it made me realize that I share the same approach to customer engagement as your company.”
From the employer’s viewpoint you just jumped ahead of the competition. Not only have you jump started you’re own “employee orientation” but you cared enough to narrow in on the details of our work. Impressive. You just passed to the next round of interviews.
In Part 2 of this series I will take you through the following tips:
* Preparing your cover letter & resume.
* The rules of the interview. The 3 things to do (that you’re probably not) that will guarantee you progress in the competition.
* Understanding what the “post-interview” is and how to use it to your advantage.