That you’ve secured an interview with that firm, courtesy of your curriculum vitae, means they’ve seen something in you. It means you’ve avoided that killer mistake affecting so many Nigerian job seekers like a plague. Even at that, you should still read this, because it shows you what concerns companies have (for picking some candidates, and dropping some), so you can properly grasp their bias for inviting you, and what interests they may have during the interviews.
Or if you’re yet to secure your choice interview slot, I bet you’ve developed some butterflies in your stomach, while waiting endlessly for that golden “Invite to Interview”. You check your phone repeatedly, log on to your email inbox, and have managed to squeeze out the phone number of your hiring manager who told you that they would soon be calling candidates for interviews. You’re excited only to realise that your friends are getting called – everyone except you. If this describes your situation, the biggest advice I have for you is this: Check your CV.
In this article, I won’t be telling you those 27 hack-tips to ensure you get an interview with your CV. You know those rules because you’ve seen there everywhere. Tips like write your first name last, do away with your passport photograph, use Times New Roman not Verdana type font and make your margins 1.5 and not 1.o. I’m sure you get it. Rather, I’m going to tell you that strange, ironclad reason why CV screeners feel no remorse deleting your CV from their inbox or CV bank. But before then, an apology. I’m sorry I had to be the one to break this to you, and that’s because it might strike you real hard. No one has dared to tell you this, but it’s simple: You are not thinking like your employer.
“That’s it?”, you said. Yes, that’s it. The best things in life come simple and stupid, you know. Hear this: all CVs that ever got their owners a shot at the interview room have a single element in common – the writer has taken time to get into the brain of the employer and/or better still, the CV screener. It’s called Market Research in business, but company awareness in job search. Many job seekers obsess over needless nuances, such as whether to add their date of birth, either to chip in their career objective or leave it as simply personal profile – all of these, to the detriment of leaving out that all-important item: Thinking like your employer.
If you’d like to make your job search more targeted, and get those juicy interviews you’ve craved for, starting today, then here are 3 tips to get you up and running:
1. Get incredibly specific about the type of job you want
No, you won’t be short-changing yourself. As a matter of fact, this is your best bet to getting what you want. Stop trying to cast a wide net, hoping one day it will land a whale, or better, a phytoplankton one day. Be laser-focused about what you want. Do you desire “a sales operations positions in the budding Nigerian e-commerce industry?” or “a fresh-level line manager slot in a Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) multinational?” Being this specific implies you won’t rush with aimless job seekers to blindly apply for non-existent jobs, or join them to jampack aptitude test venues, so much that you have to be chased away with teargas by the same people who invited you.
2. Research your market and the company needs
Now, this is where it all gets interesting and where the bulk of the work is. Once you’re sure about the kind of work that would make you smile each time you wake up in the morning, roll up your sleeves and start digging. Reach out to top directors in the field and get their own side of the story on the position you’re aiming for. I had always assumed people are so selfish and self-centred they won’t want others in on their secrets, until I tried. Successful people are usually ecstatic about sharing their success stories with others. I found out all I needed to do was ask.
Ask them about life in the firm, what they wish they knew while starting out; what keeps them at work and those things they wish an entry-level employee knew about the company. By doing these, you’re not only getting yourself apprised for all the recruitment stages, you’re also confirming if you’d be fulfilled career-wise at your new job. Know the company, in and out. The biggest career advice you can ever get is this: “Ask your boss his biggest problem, then make it go away”. Stop going about your job search the wrong way.
Honestly, no one cares about your needs, or how you’ve struggled to squeal out only a meal a day. Humans are generally selfish, and they care about those who can identify their pain points (and make them go away). Every business is definitely facing a harrowing challenge or two, and you can bet that they would jump at anyone that would ease those pains. Don’t just go in, trying to imagine how much wealth you’d have amassed after spending a year in the firm. Know your value going in, find out about the problems confronting the specific company, the industry and its competitors and those things they can’t do without.
Knowing these will not only help you build a CV that gets you the job, you’ll be hired for a position that ties to the company’s bottom line directly. It even helps you negotiate better salaries, all because you know your value going in. In other words, your work is crucial to the survival of the company.
3. Turn your CV and cover letter into marketing materials
CVscreeners need to make a decision on whether to call you for an interview or not in 30 seconds, at most one minute. Consequently, making a pleasurable first impression definitely matters. From the first line, let your personality shine through. Let them exclaim “Finally, here’s someone who gets us, we can’t wait to hear from him”.
Start with your qualifications, but hammer in on your achievements and skills you’ve identified to be all-important for the company. Let them know why you’re the most suitable for the role using relevant examples, not by dropping bogus over-used clichés like “innovative, charismatic, team player and efficient”.
BONUS TIP: How to answer CV-based interview questions like a pro
Still coming on the heels about knowing the company, here’s an impressive approach that helps you master how to develop and deliver interview responses that get you the job.
It’s called the PARADE method. PARADE stands for:
P – Problem
A – Anticipated consequence
R – Role
A – Action
D – Decision-making rationale
E – End-result
I’d like to drive this method home with a personal example.
As a 400-level student on campus, I was the Tutorial Head for my department, handling Mathematics lessons from my level downwards.
Upon appointment, I noticed that 100-level students were simply not enthusiastic about the “tutorial-of-a-thing”.
2. Anticipated Consequence
This was the first time a departmental tutorial was being organised for as long as my senior colleagues could recollect. The freshmen needed it most. Without their impressive turnout, we might as well sit back and wonder why the whole program was in place to start with.
They still had their Grade Point Average on a clean slate, and something of this kind would surely help them start off on a good footing. It’s either they get it right early or continue to struggle throughout their 5-year stint with disappointing grades.
Since I was the head of the tutorial committee, it was my duty to find a solution to the problem, and to do so on time.
I immediately got in touch with the 100-level class representative, first getting his opinion on the disposition of his class towards something of this nature and also getting the names and phone numbers of his class members. I went firstly after some members of the class, striking up conversations that bordered not necessarily on academics, so as to warm myself up to them and make them feel more comfortable. By so doing, I was able to get a feel of their problems and truly determine if attending a tutorial class at that point was a proper use of their time.
In asking the students what their most important problem was, I was able to get a feel of their expectations and worries they were experiencing due to the information and misinformation available to them as fresh students. On the whole, these helped me to properly channel the tutorial sessions to dispel their doubts and give them just what they needed to know, without information overload or boring them with unnecessary details, using my personal experiences.
5. Decision making rationale
I determined that I wasn’t going to sit back and watch these fresh students plunge into avoidable pitfalls, just because they had no one to tell them. I decided to share what I wish someone had told me while I was coming in fresh into the University. I decided that looking at the situation from what we could offer them would do the students little good. Rather I should look at what I could do to address the pains they were currently feeling, in a way that would bring the tutorial classes into play.
6. End Result
Attendance increased by 50% within a week and response rates in the interactive classes were impressive. Cordial relationship was fostered among the students, which helped them co-ordinate even their conventional lectures better in the area that would help them to discuss issues among themselves – issues that extend much more than what the lectures and tutorials could handle. Few months later, most of the students reported excellent outings in their exam halls, with attendant stellar performances afterwards.
You’ve just seen the PARADE method in action, and if anything, it makes you stay organised and prepared, while delivering relevant, honest and no-fluff answers, all qualities interviewers look for in applicants. Most times when the interviewer interrupts the candidate, it’s because the latter has skipped a critical step in the PARADE method. For example, when the interviewer is asking, “Why did you decide to move on with that decision?”, then you know you need to hammer in your decision making rationale. There are some things that can only be learned by practice, not by reading. Using the PARADE method in interviews is one of them. Get practising and you’ll definitely improve