Charm offensive is key to securing post

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 February, 2009, 12:00am

The key to landing a job is to sell yourself. This means you have to plan and prepare a superb resume?and cover letter to introduce yourself.

The main purpose of a resume?is to summarise your personal, educational and professional qualifications in a written document, whereas the cover letter is the first point of contact and accompanies your resume? It gives you the opportunity to establish why the employer should consider you for the advertised vacancy and, hopefully, interest them enough to invite you for an interview.

For those with work experience, list your period of employment in your resume? along with the name of the employer, your position with the company and precisely what you did. However, don't just write out your job duties - expand and elaborate on the key skills you learned which are applicable for the position.

If you have no work experience, you can still show responsibility and transferable workplace skills gained through university, volunteer work, extra-curricular sporting activities and unpaid internships as long as you can establish relevance to the position at hand.

You may also wish to highlight your selected subjects which you excelled in within the achievements section of your resume?and highlight any other relevant skills, such as language proficiencies and computer skills.

As employers receive hundreds of applications, it is of paramount importance that you tailor your application and address why you believe you are the ideal candidate according to what the employer is looking for before they consider the next applicant.

Try to make their job easier by being succinct and keep the information relevant - although your resume?need not be as short as one page, an appropriate length is from two to three pages at most.

Employers also want to hire people who have initiative and take action, so use high impact words and try to quantify your achievements in your resume?and cover letter. For example, having led a team of classmates to victory in a regional science competition, you not only won first prize but also learned an important lesson in teamwork and project management.

As with any written document, don't forget to use a formal and professional tone, perform a spell check and proof read it to correct any unintended errors and typos. Spending time to prepare a well thought out application lets it stand out from the crowd and gives you a head start over the competition.

Tips on how to prepare for an interview

A well-written resume?has aroused the prospective employer's interest in you and has landed you an interview. What comes into play next is to fully prepare for it and try to make a favourable impression on the interviewer. There are two major areas to work on to increase the chances of securing that job - preparation and performance.

Preparation can make a difference between getting an offer and being rejected. Spend some time reviewing the job advertisement and think about the qualities and requirements of the kind of candidates the company is looking for. It always helps to research the background of the organisation, including its corporate values, products, services and latest development, together with seemingly minor details, such as address, directions and the amount of time you need to get there.

If you know someone who works for the company, turn to them for their opinions. One important part of your preparation is to predict possible questions that may come up during the interview and devise appropriate answers. Invite your family members, friends and teachers to comment on your answers and role-play the interview scene with them to hone your interview skills.

It would also be wise to check the latest salary index to know your worth so you could be prepared for any salary negotiations if the topic surfaces at a later time.

Normally, between half and two-thirds of an interview will focus on you as the focal point, with topics such as your academic achievements, knowledge, skills, previous work experience and career goals, so make sure you have a good understanding of your strengths, accomplishments and shortcomings.

During the interview, it is important to establish an immediate rapport with the interviewer and show your confidence and ability to get your message across. From the moment you walk into the interview room, the interviewer will be observing and forming opinions about you, from your physical appearance to your attire.

As a sign of respect to the interviewer, dress appropriate to the level of job which you are aiming for and wear conservative office attire. Pay attention to social etiquette such as a firm handshake, direct eye contact, and a sincere smile.

Whether you are introducing yourself or answering questions, always maintain a modest tone and keep your information concise and relevant.

Address all questions truthfully and don't be afraid to turn questions to your advantage and sell yourself for the position. Look for cues in the interviewer's questions where you can show off your strengths, achievements and knowledge about the company and the industry at large.

At the end of the interview, ask the interviewer what the next stage will be and when you can expect to hear from them, or even whether it would be better if you contacted them to follow up.

Lastly, thank them for their time, part with a warm handshake, and send out a written thank you message within 24 hours of the interview.

Common interview questions

Ice breakers and self-understanding

Can you introduce yourself?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Knowledge of the company/industry

Why did you apply for this job?
Why do you want to work for our company?
How can you add value to the company in this position?
How do you look at our company in view of our competitors?

Career goals and aspirations

Why do you think you are a better candidate?
How do you expect our company to help advance your career?
What do you see yourself doing at our company in three years' time?'