Applying for jobs can feel like a lonely affair. We caught up with Kat Snodgrass, Head of Talent at mthree for the EMEA region, about why it’s worth listening to what your friends have to say.
If you’ve ever been through the ups and downs of job-hunting with a couple of great mates by your side, their advice was probably invaluable. Our friends often know us better than we know ourselves.
It’s not that simple though is it? Because they’re a friend, not a professional, their words go in one ear and out the other...
Sound familiar? I know that’s been the case for me in the past!
Now I’ve had the perspective of an employer for many years, I can see that their advice really rings true. Next time a friend shares their opinion with you, maybe you’ll want to do a double-take in case it’s the nugget of wisdom you’ve been waiting for.
Below I remember some of the things friends have said to me that I brushed off at the time. Do you recognize any yourself?
Friend: “Don’t over-egg your CV, you have enough amazing qualities and experience”
It’s typical. The skill you’re the least confident about is the one an employer will pick from your CV to discuss during an interview.
Go through every line of your CV and be ready with an example for each. If you’ve only dabbled in something, but you want to include it anyway, write “beginner” to set the interviewer’s expectations, so you’re not caught off guard.
And anyway, when you think really hard about it, you won’t need to over-egg your strengths. Think back to group projects at school or university or work experience you’ve completed. What was it that set you apart from the other people on your team? These are the unique qualities that will set your CV apart too.
I often see generic skills such as “teamwork”, “time management”, “organization”. These may be accurate, but they won’t make you stand out. Do a deep dive into the specifics that you’ve brought to the table in the past, then talk about those instead.
Friend: “Don’t be disheartened when you don’t hear back”
Agreed. Unfortunately, you won’t always get a response to your job applications. It’s not right, and all employers should attempt to reply, but sometimes they lack the technology or the manpower to do so.
Also, you can never be 100% sure what’s going on behind the scenes. Maybe the vacancy was cancelled, or the organization is in some sort of trouble. You may find it helpful to bear this in mind!
If you feel you meet all the criteria in the job spec and it’s been over a month since you applied, have a look online to see who works in the recruitment team or HR team and reach out to someone senior. You might find an email address or phone number on the company’s website, or you might be able to locate them on Linkedin.
Maybe you’ll get some useful feedback about your application. Maybe they’re just running behind schedule, and your follow-up demonstrates proactiveness, which could work out in your favour.
If an employer hasn’t got back to you even though you’ve ticked the entry criteria, chances are – they’re the ones missing out. Please don’t let it knock your confidence. Keep on applying, there is a place for everyone.
Just remember to read the job spec carefully, then showcase the entry criteria in your CV. I always advise candidates to tweak their CV for the role. That extra five minutes you spend adding or changing bits to highlight aspects the employer is looking for really does make a difference. Don’t waste an application by just sending off a generic CV. This is extra important at the start of your career, before you’ve built a reputation for being good at what you do.
Friend: “Don’t be nervous in an interview, you’re assessing them as much as they are you!”
Absolutely. If you got a terrible vibe from an interview and they offered you the job, would you accept it? Probably not! The power is in your hands as well as the organization’s.
I know it’s easy to feel nervous about interviews. Nerves always hit me big time! But as soon as you realize it’s a two-way street, some of those nerves will settle, so you can actually look forward to it.
You never know for sure what a job will be like until you start, but the interview process gives you a window into an organization’s world. Who you’d be working with. How they work. Why they do what they do. Not just what you’d be doing. At the end of the day, recruiting can be hard for the organization as well as the person who’s applying. The hiring team are trying to cater for a range of individuals, and everyone is generally just trying to do their best. You should always feel comfortable asking questions, getting support and guidance every step of the way.
Friend: “If you didn’t pass the interview process, they aren’t for you”
Ready for some mental gymnastics? Instead of thinking of your situation as a rejection, flip the perspective on its head.
Interviewers are looking for candidates who will be happy in the role. They know the ins and outs of what it’s going to be like. If they have any doubts that you’d enjoy it, why would they offer it to you?
You can put all the work into an interview, you can look like the perfect fit on paper, but sometimes you still won’t succeed. You never know who else you’re up against. There could be a curveball that sways the decision towards someone else. It helps to ask for feedback, but try not to dwell on the information.
Every interview is a learning process (even when it doesn’t feel like it!) and you can take those lessons into your next interview. It’s a great achievement that you got this far. Use the experience to build your confidence rather than bring you down. Yes, it’s a tough mindset to get into, but persistence does pay off.
Friend: “Stick it out for the right role”
I know it’s not always possible to pick and choose. Sometimes we have to take what we can get. But if your heart is holding out for something else career-wise, you don’t have to accept the first job you come across, with the intention of leaving as soon as you can. Obviously that’s bad for the employer, but it can also be detrimental to your CV. Better to hold off than jump into an industry or career path you’re not excited about.
That said, do be open-minded. Does a job sound like it could be interesting to you? Why not try it out to see if you like it? As a graduate with a degree in business management, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I worked in bars for a couple of years after university until I found a company and a role that made sense at the time. A headhunter discussed recruitment with me, which I hadn’t thought of before. Here I am, ten years later, no regrets!
Every day at mthree, we speak with grads to help them understand the roles in tech that could be perfect for them, despite never knowing they were an option, such as production support and dev ops.
Friend: “An employer would be lucky to have you”
If we don’t have faith in ourselves, who will? The key to succeeding in an interview is realizing our strengths as well as our development points. No job applicant is perfect, everyone has a different combination of skills.
You have to understand *your* transferable skills for the role. Take time to think about these. It will help you tackle the questions that come your way.
And yes, there are always some elements of a job spec that we wish we were better at. Things that make us feel second-rate compared to other people. But we can’t be brilliant at everything from day one.
Having identified the areas where you may not be as strong for the job, put an action plan in place. How will you develop yourself in those areas? An interviewer will love to hear your ideas.
Once you get your foot in the door of a company, that’s when you can really prove what you are made of. Expect to take on some more of the mundane tasks while you’re getting up to speed. Say yes to taking on that extra bit of work, or getting involved in activities that sit outside your immediate responsibilities. I thought uni was hard before I experienced working life! However, the next chapter is rewarding as well as challenging.
The process of job-hunting can be tough. Be kind to yourself, listen to your friends, and the energy you put in will pay off in the end.
Looking to launch your career with an amazing graduate job? See our opportunities here.