Let’s face it. Getting a job is tough. According to an ABC News article, only 71% of university students manage to secure employment straight after graduation and 15% are still unemployed 4 years after graduating.
Navigating the journey while being jobless is tough as well. Many struggle with disappointment, discouragement and depression. It’s not surprising to find yourself questioning your purpose, worth, value and future, especially after receiving wave after wave of rejection from employers.
Pushing yourself to stand out is tough as well because it takes a tremendous amount of time, effort and commitment to invest in your skill development, build up your work experience/portfolio and to develop your grit and resilience in the process.
But guess what’s even tougher? Being, staying and remaining mediocre.
From my experience of having to send out 526 resumes over 561 days to secure full-time employment, I’ve tried and tasted both sides of the coin. And trust me, I’d rather you push hard for success and greatness, than be glanced over for opportunities and made irrelevant for being average.
If you want to get an unfair advantage over the rest of the crowd in the job search process, then read on. Here’s 7 ways to get that edge and turn the job interview into a job offer.
1. Get your head right
Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”
The average person thinks that he has an okay level of skills and is aiming to just be okay and to get by. But that kind of thinking will get him an average life in the best and most ideal of conditions. Bring in fierce competitors, unforeseen circumstances and disruption, and he’ll be gone in no time.
The first step to attaining success is to make a decision that you desire success and that you will do what is needed to attain it.
This is important because if you don’t get your head, your thinking, your beliefs and your mentality right, you are already shooting yourself in the foot before you begin. Think about that friend who’s so talented with music/art/numbers/computers/cooking/photography, etc. And when complimented on his gifts and asked whether he’s thought of pursuing his gifts further, he’ll say “Nahhh…I’m not really that good though…”
And that’s the end of his story. Doesn’t matter if he’s a nice guy. Doesn’t matter if he’s really smart and talented. Doesn’t matter if there are countless opportunities waiting in line to knock on his door. As long as he thinks he’s never good enough, that belief will limit and suffocate any possibilities of success.
To get your head right, it starts by making (at least) a decision.
- Decide that you are more than capable of achieving your wildest dreams.
- Decide that you will do whatever it takes to get what you want.
- Decide that you can live a life of impact and influence.
- Decide that nothing is too difficult for you.
- Decide that failures only make you better, not bitter.
- Decide that you will take full ownership and responsibility over your situation.
- Decide that you were born to win.
- Decide that achieving success and greatness allows you to serve and add more value to the world and people around you.
- Decide that there is no shortage of success/opportunities/money/talent/work; only a shortage of people who dare to dream big enough.
- Decide that you can and will handle whatever life throws at you.
- Decide that you have had enough of the shit that the critics and naysayers have been throwing at you.
What do you need to make a decision on?
2. Define your compelling personal pitch
Call this your elevator pitch. Or call this your response to the “So what do you do?” or “Tell me about yourself.” questions directed at you during interviews and networking events.
In a job interview, 99.9% of the time, you will be asked to tell the interviewer about yourself.
Most people just talk about their education, work history, project experience, etc.
So here’s a simple way on how you can differentiate yourself from the other candidates.
Q: So, tell me about yourself.
A: I <insert what you do or what you want to do – your vocation> because <insert what drives you to do it – your conviction>.
Here’s how it looks…
Weak response: I’m a recent mechanical engineering graduate from ABC university.
Strong response: I’m passionate about pursuing a career in mechanical engineering in your company because I see engineering as a means to solve problems in the world and to move civilisation forward.
Weak response: At this moment, I’m looking to apply for a role in management consulting because this role definitely excites me.
Strong response: I’m really looking forward to taking on this management consulting role because I want to help businesses make better commercial decisions so that they can add more value to customers and the community.
Weak response: I’ve been in HR for the past 5 years and I’m applying for this role because I’m looking forward to leading a team.
Strong response: I’ve been in HR for the past 5 years and I’m applying for this role because ABC company has been known for investing heavily in its staff and I want to work for an organisation which sees human talent as its greatest asset.
So what’s your personal pitch?
3. Follow up after the interview
Most candidates put their best foot forward for the job interview. They suit up, dress up, do the necessary legwork prior to the interview and give their best during it.
But about 90-95% of candidates forget to do this one thing which could actually cost them the job offer.
It’s not so much as to what you do before or during the interview. It’s what you do after the interview that makes the difference too.
Most candidates forget to follow up after the interview. And most people forget to follow up after the conversations they had in a networking setting.
Making the follow up effort isn’t rocket science, You just have to bear these guidelines in mind for it to be effective:
- It should be short and sweet,
- It should be 100% authentic and personalised (no copy-and-paste), and
- It should be sent within 24 hours after the interview.
Download this free guide to get an example on the follow-up email message which you can use.
4. Do these 3 things prior to the interview
You mind think that shining during the interview is important. Well, you’re right. But what you do before the interview is equally important, and I’m not talking about preparing your clothes or finding out how to get to the location in advance.
Firstly, research the company. Go to their website and find out about the things that they do. Learn about their vision, mission, culture and philosophy. But most important of all, find and understand one specific thing about the company – a project, a feature in a news article, a newly developed product, a case study, a client testimonial, etc. This will allow you to have a deeper appreciation of the company and go through more in-depth conversations during the interview. Plus it shows that you have done your research and are really interested in working with the company.
Secondly, research the employee. Connect with a staff member in the company who’s working in the role you’re applying for. You can find this through the company’s website or through doing a search on LinkedIn. Once you have identified the individual, (1) make a LinkedIn connection request or (2) give the company a call and request to speak to that person because you are interested to apply for that role and you’d like to find out more about the highlights and challenges of that position.
Doing this will give you extra brownie points during the interview because when they ask you “So why do you want to work with us?”, you can say “It’s because I had the chance to chat with Albert who works in the management consulting team and he mentioned some of the exciting projects which you guys are doing. That really resonated with me and is something which I see myself doing in my career.”
And thirdly, research the industry. Head online and read articles, journals, publications, etc, to find out about what’s happening in your space. Was there a merger or acquisition between some prominent players? Did ABC company recently pour in $50 million to fund the latest infrastructure development project with the government? Did XYZ company just launched their innovative solution for biomedical applications? What do experts say about how technology and automation could impact the accounting and finance industry? And so on. This will allow you to have a larger perspective of the field you’re playing in and you could use some of your findings to aid you in answering your interview questions.
5. Tailor your job application
This is the power of tailoring your job application – from my personal experience. #truestory
I’ve sent 526 resumes over the course of 561 days to land full-time employment. When I was sending hundreds of applications, I was so desperate and discouraged that I applied for whatever jobs I could get my hands on – positions in engineering, engineering management, project management, business consulting, marketing, admin, filing and even newspaper delivery!
It was like throwing spaghetti on the wall and hoping that something will stick.
I did get some interviews here and there but nothing eventuated from that.
But the moment I tailored my application (for training roles) and highlighted my passion for training and speaking, as well as bringing attention to my experience in delivering careers workshops for universities, things started to change.
After sending out 7 tailored applications, I received 4 calls for interviews which resulted in 2 job offers. And the time difference was just 12 days between application and offer for one of them – and this job paid $10,000 more per year than my previous role.
This is the power of tailoring your job applications. And this comprehensive guide will help you in crafting the winning resume and cover letter that will help you secure the job interview.
6. Be interested
The truth is that you will be applying for many jobs. And chances are, most people will end up glancing over the job application and copying-and-pasting parts of the documents.
But if you really want to stand out, you don’t just need to tailor your application. You need to have a vested interest in the company you’re applying for.
You need to be eager, passionate, enthusiastic and interested in what they are doing. You need to come from the standpoint of hungering for more and of wanting to know more.
In a job interview setting, being interested means doing research of the company, the employee and the industry (like mentioned above) and giving your best and listening intently to the interviewer. It means asking good questions (“What does success look like in this role?”, “Where do you see the team heading towards in the next 3-5 years?”, “What are some challenges which the team faces and how does this role help to address those issues?”) and showing (through your verbal and non-verbal body language) that you are really looking forward to working with them.
In a networking event, being interested means asking questions and getting the other person to share more about herself. It means asking her for her opinion, insight or expert advice about a topic that matters to her (e.g. “So what are your thoughts about the future of accounting? Do you think accountants will still be needed since many accounting tasks and functions can be automated?”).
Put your best foot forward, put yourself out there and be proactive in all that you do.
7. Be interesting
This is one of the most underrated differentiators.
If being interested means being understanding. Then being interesting means being outstanding.
Have you ever met or have been introduced to someone who has done remarkable feats and who just exudes a certain charm or aura? People who are successful and go-getting have something unique and different about them. And sometimes you don’t even have to listen to them to know the difference; just by being in their proximity, you already know there’s something about them.
How cool is that? People are naturally inclined to hang around people who are interesting because we like to find out more about the cool things they have done and hear about their stories and adventures along the way.
Likewise, if you want to be a distinctive and attractive candidate, these are just 3 things you can do to be (even more) interesting.
- Invest in yourself. Interesting people are well read, mature and have a good and solid worldview of the things happening around them. They are able to ask good questions, challenge ideas and see things from multiple angles. And because they invest in themselves, they are skilled and competent in their craft which makes them very valuable in the marketplace.
- Go on an adventure. Interesting people step out of their comfort zones to try new things, overcome their fears and experience the fullest measure of life. This could mean travelling to various countries, picking up a new language, meeting new people, starting a business or doing any feat that places you outside of your comfort zone.
- Invest in others. Interesting people love and care about themselves. But they also look beyond their own needs. They look to give back, pay it forward and invest in others through coaching, mentoring, advising, charity work, philanthropy, and other acts of selflessness. They know that they exist for a purpose bigger than themselves and they are always eager to learn from and give to the people around them.
So what’s one thing you can do to make you a more interesting person and candidate?
Remember that success is your duty and service to the world and people around you. Some might say that you being ambitious is a greedy act. That might be true and but it shouldn’t stop you, because being massively successful is how you can impact the world and help move civilisation forward.
To get you going in your job search and career success, make sure you download the 3 Essentials to Crush any Job Interview guide. This will aid you in answering some of the toughest interview questions and in standing out in the one question which 99.9% of interviewers will ask. You deserve that extra advantage.
All the best!