Job applications

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There are two types of cover letter that you can write: one is for an actual advertised job, and one can be a speculative cover letter. Your cover letter must firstly say why you are interested in that area of work, or that area of study; then, why are you interested in that particular employer or institution. And then, what have you got to offer them? It’s not enough to keep saying what they’ve got to offer you. What have you got to offer them? Why should they take you into their organisation? First and foremost, the CV should be fact, not fiction. It is not where you give your opinion. So don’t use language like “I feel”, “I believe” or “I think”: tell them what you have DONE. What you need to do is give tangible evidence of why they should consider your application. You might not necessarily have performed a role in the past that’s similar to the one you’re applying for; but you might have demonstrated the skills that they’re looking for in another way. So you need to make sure that you get that on the application; so again it’s clear to them why you’re applying. The other thing that’s very important to remember is: have a professional email address. don’t use a silly email address, such as [email protected] If that’s your email address, create a different one for any job applications. Make the CV, and make contacting you, as easy as possible for the recruiter. Always, always research as much as you can about the interview beforehand. So: try and find out the format of the interview; are you going to be meeting one person? Are you going to be meeting a panel? Are you going to have to do any exercises, such as written exercises, role-plays? Try and find this out so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises on the day. A really important thing to do is: try and find out who are the interviewers, and do a bit of research on them beforehand. For example, if you’ve got three people interviewing you: who are they? What are their positions? The reason for this is very important: those people are there for a reason. If there’s any way you can actually meet somebody beforehand, maybe for a coffee, to find out what the environment’s like, see if anybody you know knows anybody who works there. That will obviously help. The worst thing somebody can do when they go for an interview is not prepare. If you don’t prepare, that’s going to be evident. Even if you get asked questions you don’t know the answers to or weren’t expecting, if you’ve done your preparation, that can still come across in your answers, and the recruiter will know that. Interviews are always very intimidating. It doesn’t matter how well you think you know the role, or how prepared and how good you think you are: it’s very daunting. Remember: interviewers are just people. If it helps, think of them at seven o’clock in the morning; getting out of bed, hair ruffled, needing a coffee … they’re just people. I myself have been to interviews where I’ve prepared very very well, and at my last interview, not a single question was one that I’d been anticipating, and I was put on the spot, and felt very awkward. Again, the best thing is try not to panic. Even say “I wasn’t expecting that,” and smile. You might get the difficult interviewer. You might get challenging questions. Again, more often than not, these are tactics used by interviewers to see how you handle situations under pressure. It’s not necessarily that they want you to give the perfect answer. They want to see how you actually respond to that. So try not to trip up: like I said, do ask for a moment to think, have a sip of water if necessary. They do understand. They want to see how you handle it. Because they want to see how you will handle difficult situations when you’re working for them. Many people look just at the person that’s asked them the question. It’s very easy to do that under pressure. The best thing to do, particularly if you’ve got a few people on the panel, is to start your answer by looking at the person who’s asked the question, and end your answer by looking at them; but, throughout the course of your answer, try and look at everybody on the panel. When I was in my last interview, and I was asked questions that I really felt I couldn’t answer, I said that. You shouldn’t feel intimidated and have to create something on the spot. Because you will only let yourself down. Say what you’re really thinking. If you would normally do preparation in order to complete a project, Say that. And then maybe tell them how you would prepare. What kinds of things you’d consider. Don’t feel that you have to give a specific answer. Answer to the best of your ability, and that will take you a lot further. If you don’t get the job, don’t despair! Ask them why. Now, more often than not, the first answer to a response for feedback will be something very generic, and not really very helpful. That’s not really right. You’ve taken the time to research, to apply, to go along: you’ve gone through the trauma of an interview, and it’s reasonable to expect the employer to give you feedback as to why you’ve not been successful. So don’t accept that first “no”. Go back to them, and say “I would really appreciate you letting me know, so that I can perform differently in future interviews.” But also, think yourself. Do you know? Did you have that gut feeling? Do you actually know why you haven’t got the job? And trust that. Maybe it wasn’t the right job for you. You spend a long time in a job, and it’s important to make sure that the job’s right for you as well. So don’t despair, just apply for another one.

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