When you think about it, getting anybody to accept you as their new employee when going for a job interview is a pretty incredible thing. While some posts will only attract a handful of applicants, many more – especially the good ones – will have piqued the interest of dozens if not hundreds of people.
Studies have shown that 98 per cent of these candidates will fall at the first hurdle, their red-ink emblazoned CVs (and their dreams) consigned to the corporate waste paper basket. Of the remaining two per cent who are interviewed, just one will be given a yes.
So, before you start beating yourself up about the fact that your current job might not be the one you really want, you at least deserve a small pat on the back for landing it in the first place.Now that the self-congratulation is done with, it’s time for the unforgiving truth: getting your dream job is going to be difficult. There are a multitude of hurdles to overcome, and the long list of things standing between you and career nirvana includes everything from experience and personality to interview skills and geographic location. There’re also things you can’t do much about, such as your age, but it’s probably best not to think about that.
What’s also worth flagging up is that just because you think a job is the one you were born to do, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re right. Thomas Giles, a US-based international HR consultant who delivers support across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, offers the following food for thought. ‘Often people land dream jobs only to realise shortly after that they are actually in a nightmare situation,’ he says. ‘What happened? They likely got excited about a job title and pay, but ignored other key, and in some cases more important, factors that define the perfect career role.’
Giles says that finding a great job should start by first developing a keen self awareness of your own individual operational preferences – gained, perhaps, through assessments such as Gallup’s CliftonStrengths (formerly StrengthFinders). ‘Knowing how you’re hard-wired will help you compare that against potential work environments and allow you to find a job that complements your natural talents,’ Giles says.
Alongside this, pausing to consider your personal values can also help you to see whether a job is right for you, so Giles recommends asking yourself the following questions:
✱ Does the company you are talking to align with your own values?
✱ What is the mission/purpose of the organisation?
✱ How do they support their employees’ professional growth?
✱ Do they participate in - and give back to - their communities?
✱ Do they trust their members of staff, or tell them what to do?
‘More and more employers are emphasising cultural fit over technical qualification,’ says Giles, ‘and job candidates need to do the same by first understanding how they enjoy working, and then seeking out opportunities that reflect their values. Money and title are important, but they alone don’t compensate for a lack of cultural alignment between candidate and employer.’
The charm offensive
Luxury lifestyle and etiquette expert Paul Russell (officialpaulrussell.com) offers candidates some thoughts on acing a job interview:
Use their name
‘A very easy way to establish rapport with your interviewer is to use their name at least three times during the interview. When they hear their own name, they will instantly become more engaged and alert, and it can help to develop intimacy and shared understanding.’
Think about your posture
‘Most people sit full back on their chairs which inevitably makes them slump. Instead, sit at an angle with your right shoulder towards the interviewer. If you do this, you will automatically be seen as more approachable.’
Tell them you want the job
‘Surprising as it may sound, the majority of people won’t actually say that they want the job. If the interview has gone well, a strong way to close is to say how much you’ve enjoyed meeting them and that you would very much like the position. It demonstrates your enthusiasm and also shows you are a clear communicator.’
Here’s what experts have to say...
Do your research
As well as researching the company, we advise candidates to research the person who will be interviewing them as it is important to know who you are speaking to. We’ve found that by doing this, candidates can see connections or experiences that they have in common which helps to humanise the interviewer. It is much easier to have a conversation when you know about these common threads.
Guv Jassal, Director of Washington Frank recruitment (washingtonfrank.com)
Be ready with specific examples
Candidates who just read from their resume and give shallow answers do not have the same success as candidates who can give real-life examples supporting their experience. Interviewers like to hear numbers, so be specific.
Zeta Yarwood, UAE-based career coach (zetayardwood.com)
You can build rapport with your interviewer by subconsciously matching and mirroring – matching their vocal tone, their facial expressions, the pace they are speaking at, their body language and their breathing. It’s about showing you are similar, because the more people see themselves in you the more likely they will like and trust you.
Check their checklist
Most companies will have a checklist of attributes and core skills that they look for in applicants. If you can find out what they’re looking for in advance, then you can tailor your application to give you the best possible chance. Amazon’s Leadership Principles, for example, can be found on our website.
Dee Clarke, Senior Manager and Head of Campus Recruitment at Amazon Be curious
Curiosity and passion always shine through, so knowing industry trends, the biggest opportunities and the potential barriers – and thinking about solutions for them – are good steps to helping you land your dream job.
Know your message
Learn how to present what you are and what you do in short, focused statements and be ready to summarise your skills and know-how quickly. Say how you can help the organisation. Before the interview, decide in advance what are the six most important things on the employer’s shopping list, and prepare engaging stories to match.
John Lees, career coach and author of How to Get a Job You Love (johnleescareers.com) Look like you already work there
Don’t just make sure you look immaculate, but study the style of the people who work at the organisation. If they’re in suits, be as smart as possible. If they’re casual, be smart-casual but in excellent quality clothes. Susy Roberts, executive coach and founder of international people development consultancy Hunter Roberts (hunterroberts.com)
Be – or at least sound – absolutely passionate about the role and have all the reasons as to why you really think you’d be a great fit to the culture of the company.
Consider the employer’s priorities
Most candidates make the mistake of focusing on themselves – their fears, achievements and experiences – but neglect to consider what the employer really wants. In an interview, managers and HR staff will be looking for alignment: do the company’s needs align with your own talent? The less you think solely of yourself, and the more you adopt a stance that reflects the employer’s concerns, the higher your chances of performing outstandingly.
Do your networking
Mentions of ‘knowing the right people’ often call to mind images of CEOs or other executives, but in my experience, there are no required levels of seniority to establishing a strong network. Instead, make it a priority to foster a group of acquaintances that have inside knowledge of your sector; like-minded folks who can share relevant information on new job openings, pass along interesting articles and share invitations to relevant events. Biljana Kocevska Adam, HR Manager at diversified insurance and financial services group Nest Investments (Holdings)
I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to practice for a job interview or assessment. For aptitude assessments like psychometric testing, there’re numerous websites where you can practice. The more you do, the better you’ll get.
Prepare, prepare and prepare again
For interviews, it’s natural for some people to be nervous. Ask a friend or family member to conduct a ‘mock interview’ with you beforehand. Practising talking through your experience and answering interview questions, even if it’s with someone you know well, will make a big difference to how comfortable you feel talking to the interviewer.
Talk about how you’d apply your experience to the role
While potential employers want to know what you’ve done and achieved in the past, they also want to know what makes your experience relevant to them. So, when you’re giving an example of your previous work, try to expand on this and talk about how you might apply that experience in the role you’re applying for. Mandy Hurt, VP Resourcing, Upstream at BP Ace the tests
Ask where you see yourself in 2-5 years’ from now. It’s well worth your time, because it can show you the reason why you chase your dream job, or it may be that it changes your idea of a dream job. Either way, it is definitely worth considering.
Conduct a personal SWOT analysis
Review your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This will give you a balance of your reality and your ambitions. For example, an ambition of working as a chef may be stifled according to your location (weakness), but you are a natural chef in your home kitchen (strength), whilst there are multiple restaurant jobs going in your nearest town (opportunity), yet this is a competitive industry (threat). Face this with your own measure of ambition as a starting point – it will provide you with the steps needed on your route to your dream job.
George Brown, Head of Employability and Careers at London School of Business and Finance