Job hunting 101
I recently interviewed two job applicants for a single opening in our non-government organization known as the Blas F. Ople Policy Center. The two young women were in their 20s, very pretty, but with resumes too skinny for the position offered. I asked both applicants how long they have been in job search mode. Six months, they replied. They were co-workers in a garments retail outlet that paid them a meagre Php 5,000 monthly salary. I advised them to sue the company, improve their resumes and prepare much better for a second evaluation. They have a week to come back and convince us at the Ople Center why they were worth the wait.
In truth, both applicants were not prepared to sell themselves. I find this as a common affliction among job hunters. They expect their potential bosses to have time for a guessing game. “Guess what I have in mind,” the applicant seems to signal with eyes that look up and down but rarely at me.
It saddens me to see young people ill-prepared for questions that are standard fare in any job interview. Questions such as – “what can you offer our company?”; “where do you see yourself in five years?” and, “why should we choose you instead of the other applicants?” These are questions designed to help the applicant market himself; yet very few applicants do so, preferring to be shy and coy at the absolutely wrong time.
Here are some tips for job applicants based on my own personal experience as an employer:
- Show your personality. When you are on a dance floor, you dance and move your feet to the beat. You don’t stand idly by, and watch the others enjoy themselves. Job interviews can also be fun. It shouldn’t be treated as a life or death situation. Show some life, some energy. Don’t sink into the swivel chair waiting for it to spin on its own. Be true to who you are, and don’t be afraid to show your authentic self.
- Be confident. The job interview is not a debt of gratitude. It is an occasion for a hiring company and a job seeker to meet and decide whether a work relationship is something that would be mutually beneficial. It is a meeting, nothing else. Be prepared because you know more about being you than anyone else in the world. Be confident because the worse thing they could do is decline your application. If they did, move on. Because they certainly will.
- Dress the part. No piercings where none should be, no tattoos where people can see. Your hair must not be greasy, your palms not sweaty, and your hair shouldn’t cover your face. Think of it as posing for a passport photo – with a sunny smile. Don’t wear shoes that are uncomfortable and unbearably noisy. Be conscious of your posture and the way you walk. Stride, not stroll. If you are riding a bus, crossing a fly-over, and squeezing into a jeepney prior to taking the long walk to the interviewer’s office, take time to fix yourself up before meeting your future boss. Sweaty and smelly armpits do make for a lasting impression – but one that the interviewer would rather forget.
- Do know what kind of job you are applying for and where. Nothing annoys me more than having a job applicant seated across me not knowing what exactly our office does. If I had set aside time to study his or her resume, would it be too much to ask that the applicant did the same? A job applicant who can summarize in a minute what the company does has a distinct advantage over the rest. It shows focus, desire, and passion. The reverse is also true. A job seeker who does not care enough to learn more about the company that is hiring, should know where the exit sign is. Employers look for people with initiative, not people who still need to be pushed to do what is right.
- Keep improving yourself and your resume. In a country where 2.8 million citizens are jobless, know how tough the competition is. It is not enough that you have a resume. With time, that resume should grow longer and more impressive. That resume reflects the dynamism or lack of it, in your life. Invest in trainings and seminars. Look for the appropriate on-the-job training programs. Develop a specialization and be the best there is. You control your destiny; you shape your own life. A sloppy resume means a sloppy you. A boring resume implies an applicant who does not have the drive to even come up with the best format possible. You are your resume. Do not copycat the font and format of others, especially when they just bought their form over a counter. Also, have character references ready, and willing to serve that role for you.