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Landing a job during or immediately after university can be difficult - you don't have experience and the job market is tight. But it's not always an uphill battle. You can land that dream role provided you work hard, put together great applications and interview well. Here are 10 tips to help you nail your next application
Getting your foot in the door
1. Personalise each job application: Hiring managers scan resumes for credentials relevant to the job vacancy, then look at how you sell your skills and experience. Carefully dissect the job description and pick out the most important criteria for a successful application. Rejig your resume to answer these criteria, and bring forward your relevant skills or experience.
2. Nail the cover letter: Keep this brief. Recruiters often only glance at cover letters, so don't make it longer than three paragraphs. You need only address three issues: what attracted you to the role, your career ambitions and your background or hobbies. Your objective here is to pique the reader's interest, but let your resume explain your suitability for the role.
The phone-screening interview
3. Make sure you're ready for the call: Once you've submitted your resume, it's time to research. Learn all you can about the company and make note of the work that resonates with you. Be ready to relate your skills and experience to the company and what you can bring to the advertised position. Feel free to follow up with a phone call after a few days - it will let the hiring manager know you're proactive and a self-starter. Just don't pester.
4. Do some light social media investigating: Use social media to get an idea of the company's culture, its projects and clients, common connections you have with staff and how the interviewer's job connects to the role you're applying for. You can use this information to personalise your phone interview or present yourself in a more relevant way.
The big interview
5. Next-level preparation: So you've moved through the process to face-to-face interviews. Get together with a friend and have them ask you sample questions, or you could record yourself and pay attention to your body language and verbal presentation. Eliminate filler words, such as "um" and "uh", and try to exude confidence with eye contact and good posture.
6. Look the part: Organise your clothes well in advance - nobody wants to be running around looking for a tie at the last minute. Get your business suit and shirt dry-cleaned and polish your shoes. You should also be immaculately groomed, meaning your hair must be tidy, and your fingernails and any facial hair trimmed. For ladies, don't go overboard on the jewellery.
7. Take the initiative: After some small talk, ask the interviewer to go through the job description so you can understand the core competencies. Get ready to provide an example relevant to each one. Be ready for common questions, such as your general background, qualifications, relevant experience, reason for applying and career objectives.
Also prepare for behavioural interview questions. These try to uncover your motivations and working style. There are some typical questions in this category. How did you handle a situation in which you didn't meet your goal? What happened when you encountered a situation with resistance from key people? Did you eventually convince the person or people to do what you wanted?
8. Stay calm: Keeping your cool in a high-pressure situation, like an interview, is a huge positive. Starting with a firm handshake and a big smile when you first arrive while initiating small talk will reflect positively on your character. Accept an offer of a drink - it will make you appear confident and relaxed. Treat the interview as a two-way discussion and feel free to bounce things back at the interviewer. Stay on point, listen, never interrupt and answer only what is asked.
Common mistakes to avoid
9. Targeting unrealistic jobs: Don't waste employer's time with unnecessary, pie-in-the-sky applications. Measure your suitability for each role with your relevant skills and experience, and once you feel you are appropriate for the job then apply.
10. Not putting yourself out there: Many young jobseekers fail to promote themselves on social media. Always comment, post, share and like on LinkedIn, and keep your resume updated. Start following people and companies you like, ask for endorsements, showcase your work-related achievements and be active in relevant groups.
There you have it! A top-to-bottom guide for acing your next role. Now get to applying - your dream job is just around the corner.