How to nail the job interview and win the role
GONE are the days when a university degree was enough to make you stand out in a crowd and guarantee a job.
The latest data from the National Institute of Labour Studies shows that employment prospects for Australian graduates are grim, with the proportion who manage to secure relevant fulltime work plummeting, and many left in part-time purgatory.
But there is one way to boost your chances, and that's by honing your interview skills to ensure that you can compete against the hordes of similarly-qualified applicants.
Don't get us wrong - higher education credentials matter and they'll help you score interviews, but if you want to impress a recruiter, top-shelf interview skills are in order.
Leading recruiters spoke to the New York Post about how interviewees could raise their game.
"Walk in the door with a good attitude," said Allison Hemming, chief executive of The Hired Guns in Manhattan.
"Most people think that recruiters are trying to eliminate them, but in reality, they are hoping that you're the one," Ms Hemming said.
Treat your first interview as you would a first date, she said; "The object of a first date is to get the second date. The object of the first interview is to get to the second interview."
In other words, since people don't typically propose marriage at the end of the first date, don't ask someone to hire you as you're wrapping up the first interview.
LAYING THE GROUNDWORK
So, what should you do? Express your interest in the job and the company, and indicate that you'd like to continue the conversation.
If you're just out of school and your internships haven't provided you much applicable experience, be prepared to map your coursework, case studies and papers you have written to the requirements for the job.
According to Emily Levine from the Career Group, getting the simple stuff right was essential. "Show up five to ten minutes early," Ms Levine said, noting that tardiness was a major red flag.
She also recommended bringing multiple paper copies of your resume, which would show "that you're interested in the opportunity."
And, she advised, drop your latté, Red Bull or whatever beverage strikes your fancy in the garbage outside the company's doors. Avoid leaning on the interviewer's desk and checking your digital devices.
"Turn your phone off and leave it off, even if your interviewer takes a call or steps out of the office for a second," Ms Levine said.
RESPECT AND ENTHUSIASM
Katy Spriano, a recruitment director at WinterWyman, said being respectful in your interactions with the recruiter could go a long way.
"So many candidates treat recruiter interviews as secondary, which they are in a sense, but they are also extremely important in setting things off on the right foot," Ms Spriano said.
She suggested crafting a one-minute pitch about yourself and how you want your recruiter to represent you. The trick was to help recruiters see why you're a fit, she said.
So, when you get a job description, "create a write-up that says why you are right for the job," Ms Spriano, adding that it should look more like bullet points than a cover letter.
Rachel Bitte, chief people officer of social recruiting platform Jobvite, said enthusiasm for the job was the number one reason hiring managers chose one candidate over another.
But it was not about smiling a lot or saying, "I love it," each time the interviewer paused, she said; instead, Ms Bitte recommended researching the company thoroughly.
"News articles, press releases, and company pages on sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor are all good sources," she said.
Making a list of thoughtful questions would also go a long way. "It shows that you're invested," she said.
And if you're not sure if you should apply for a job because you don't meet all of the qualifications, "Don't let [that] scare you off," Ms Hemming said; "Lots of people are punching above their grade."
GETTING A FOOT IN THE DOOR
You may need to spruce up your resume to land that all-important interview. It's important to make sure that you have addressed the relevant criteria for the job.
Hard skills (teachable, technical abilities) will get you in the door for a job interview. But according to Jaime Klein, founder and president of Inspire Human Resources, the soft skills (character traits and interpersonal skills that characterise a person's relationships with other people) help differentiate you from other candidates - and help you succeed at the office.
Do your research and make sure you have the appropriate hard skills for your industry. If you find that you're missing a few, find a free or low-cost online or college course to help you get up to speed, suggests Dan Schawbel, research director at Future Workplace.
"Students tend to think that it's their school's or company's responsibility to teach them these skills, but it's not," Mr Schawbel said; "The person has to do the research and work hard to train themselves."
When it comes to climbing the corporate ladder, soft skills are key. "We looked at the criteria managers use when promoting, and the most important skills are soft skills, Mr Schawbel said, with written and verbal communication at the top of the list.
"That is the key to conveying intelligence, authenticity and trust," Ms Klein said.
In today's world, emails are usually skimmed while people are in transit or multi-tasking, so succinctness is important.
"Show this strength in your own responses - from your cover letter to thank you emails to interview question answers," she said.
"Do not underestimate the power of a handwritten thank you note. It stands out. It has become as rare as a phone booth."
TOP 10 'HARD' SKILLS
1. Project management
3. Customer service/contact
8. Business development
9. Social media
10. Risk management
TOP 10 'SOFT' SKILLS
1. Written communication
2. Oral communication
3. Teamwork and collaboration
5. Detail orientation
8. Problem solving
10. Relationship building
Source: NYCLMIS analysis of Burning Glass Labor Insights
This article first appeared at the New York Post and is reproduced here with permission.