KEYS TO GETTING AND ACING A JOB INTERVIEW

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  Image Source: www.lucrativetech.com.ng                 Finding a job can be very daun...




  Image Source: www.lucrativetech.com.ng               

Finding a job can be very daunting especially in the current economic climate – there are far too many people gunning for too few positions. On the other hand, an event in one part of the world generates a ripple effect, affecting other economies elsewhere; sometimes in multiple places. Businesses are often the first to respond to economic downturns by downsizing their workforce, which simply means firing a large number of workers. Having said that, people are still securing and retaining top jobs in top companies. So, what makes them different? What are the key ingredients of their success? Those who get these jobs may not necessarily be smarter than you are. Of course in the Nigerian environment, a lot of other subterranean factors come into play, but that aside, some people do apply for top jobs and succeed in securing them, without extra help from anyone. I recall a good friend of mine by the name Vincent who was crystal clear about what he wanted to do upon graduation. He clearly wrote down in his diary that he was going to work for Pricewaterhousecoopers, even before graduation. The interesting thing is that he trained in University as a Microbiologist with no training whatsoever at the time in accounting or finance. Yet, he could not have been more certain about where he was going to work. Indeed, he went on to secure a job at Pricewaterhousecoopers, from where he has now gone on to work for Deloitte and KPMG. It has to be said that he had no contacts in any of these companies prior to sending out applications to them.

He is only one of his kind. I know someone else by the name Dennis who studied Mass Communication and always, he maintained that he was going to be the PR officer of some of the biggest and finest companies in the country. He has now served in that capacity for one of the biggest banks in the country. Currently he is the PR officer of one of the biggest oil companies in Nigeria.  The Vincents and Dennises of this world have inherent abilities that set them apart from the rest of the crowd. Like everyone else, they experience setbacks and failure but they find a way to get through them. Often, the grade you graduate with makes a difference, but believe it or not, there are lots of people who graduated with first class honors and high second upper (2:1) who are still struggling on some stale, drab and boring jobs, and many have struggled to find work at all. One may look at them and argue that they do not deserve the degrees they graduated with. I do not fully subscribe to that opinion. Yes, some people obtain certain grades via dubious means. However, many others work their tails off to make good grades, and there are many of them who are still struggling extensively in the clogged job market.

This is mainly because some of them have not been given a chance at all. You cannot get a job when you are not offered an interview or test at all. Therefore, getting your foot in the door becomes the singular most important thing in the job hunting world. How do you get noticed? How do you attract the attention of recruiters to be offered the all-important invitation to a test or an interview? Whether you like it or not, your resume (CV) speaks volumes about you. It is your only shot at opening door and how you sell yourself on it can make a world of difference. These days, most companies like KPMG, Pricewaterhousecoopers, Total, Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Nigerian Breweries, Guinness, Nestle Foods, Google, Unilever, Huawei, MTN and Globacom no longer sort CVs by hand. The sheer volumes of applications they receive make it impossible for them to sift through thousands of CVs. Your fate then is left in the hands of a computer. Computers are programed to do the sorting after thousands have sent in their applications electronically. When you prepare your CV then, you cannot hope that someone would take a good look at it and see that you have what they need. No! Those days are fast becoming extinct. You have to think of how to endear your CV to the eyes of a computer. You have to think like the computer, understand the type of program the computer runs on as it wades through thousands of applications.

A common practice is to program the computer to look out for specific key words. The frequencies at which these words occur on you CV greatly enhance your chance of getting through the computer. Many talented people are not getting calls for interviews because they are still thinking in the old ways. Even when you make it past the computer, the human eyes consistently look for salient points on your CV that make you stand out of the big crowd. If you are a young graduate or about to graduate and you are not investing a great deal of time in re-learning how to prepare your CV, then you are setting yourself up for massive failure. Some of the things that outstanding employers look out for on CVs include;

Clarity: A lot of people have the propensity to be generic on their CV. They use words such as ‘intelligent’ ‘dedicated’ ‘hard working’ and ‘good interpersonal skills’. There is no special fee that qualifies you to use those terms, so anybody can include those on their CV. You should desist from those if you are still using them. The best way to get a prospective employer raving about you after you have carefully negotiated the computer is by telling a story on your CV. Instead of stamping the word ‘intelligent’ on your CV as one of your attributes, tell a story that indirectly, but clearly highlights your intelligence. A few short lines for instance about an experience during NYSC where you made a meaningful contribution to a situation at work or a project will speak much louder than simply stating that you are ‘intelligent’. That, no longer sells.

More importantly, you should clearly narrate your passion for the company you are applying for. You can let them know that it has been your lifelong dream and passion to work for them. That alone is not enough though. You have to tell them why. What led to this burning desire? What contributions do you think you can make by virtue of this job? What special attributes and experiences of yours back up your claim? Vincent in his interview with Pricewaterhousecoopers told them that he had scribbled them down in his diary as his dream place to work, because despite his training as a microbiologist, he likes numbers. He finds their work fascinating and that he had taken time to research how the company contributes immensely to the economy. He knew so much about them, their main clients, how they operated and what their overarching goals and policies were. He made them understand that he had the Pricewater DNA in him. Who would not want to hire someone like this? Before the interview though, his CV had already conveyed the same message in crisp and clear terms.

Preparation: Writing down the name of the company you wish to work for is one thing, and actually preparing for the journey itself is a different ball game. Some people can build a mansion with their mouth alone. Wishes achieve nothing in life. If you desire to work for a particular company, you must take clear and decisive steps to prepare for the position you so dearly covet. In Vincent’s case, he made time to study accounting on his own. He took classes in finance and auditing. Despite the extra cost of all these, he was willing to do them – the gains he was pursuing far outstripped the cost. In addition, he volunteered in a small audit firm in Ilesha during holidays while he was in University. Including such volunteering experiences on your CV (not made up experiences but true experiences) showed that he had taken far-reaching steps to prepare for the job he loved and wanted. He was proactive! If you decide to include a fake volunteering experience on your CV, it will only bring you woes rather than success because when the questions begin to rain down on you from all angles, you’d find yourself in a hot boiling soup.

What can you offer? Providing specific ideas as to how you can significantly improve the company’s bottom line will be the icing on the cake during a job interview. Assuming you were a computer engineering graduate interviewing for a job in Zenith Bank. In this age of internet banking and globalization, people are rapidly moving all over the world. You could share with your interviewers an idea about developing an application (App) that will allow marketers (who are often on the go in search of new accounts) to communicate with staffers in operations, who often need the marketers’ approval to honor certain cheques presented on the accounts they (marketers) manage.

Such an App can also include an interface that allows marketers to communicate more effectively with their globe-trotting customers. As a Microbiologist interviewing for a position in Guinness or Nigerian Breweries you could put forward the idea of micro-brewing. In addition to their major brand names such as Gulder, Star, Guinness Stout, and Malta Guinness, micro-brewing would allow these companies to create newer and cheaper products from cheap, locally sourced raw materials that will serve the needs of customers in specific locations in the hinterland who do not have the same spending power as their city counterparts. The important thing is that the company is staying competitive while growing their profit in newer markets by virtue of your creativity.

A Chemist interviewing for a position with Nestle Foods could put forward the idea of creating and enhancing flavors that mimic the taste of Maggi cube at a lower cost that excludes or significantly reduces the input of raw materials during production. This could ultimately save the company money by the millions while making you a valuable employee. Similarly, you could float the idea of creating new flavors synthetically with respect to the production of Bournvita, if you are looking for a job in Cadbury. Employers are no longer looking for people who want to be baby-sat. Of course there will always be internal training exercises within organization, but overall, companies are looking for people who are driven; people with creativity and the boldness to pursue them. For every opportunity you get during an interview, let your creativity shine through. Find out the problems the company may be facing and come with a plausible solution to it. Whether your idea is eventually adopted or not is a different thing, but on the spot, your creative nature will shine through, and very few employers will overlook that. Companies are looking for leaders…sell yourself as one. Be one!

Confidence: I am not going to suggest that you brag, but I must say that your CV is not a place to be modest. It is a place to shout as loudly as you can. Modesty gets you swept under the carpet in the job hunting world. If you have great talents relevant to the position you are applying for, you MUST highlight them and emphasize them CONFIDENTLY. Do not be afraid to say that you graduated top of your class or in the top 5 or ten of a class of 150. If you have worked on a successful project for instance during NYSC, you should elegantly and colorfully present your contributions to that project. Part-time jobs for students are rare in Nigeria, so you have to seek out opportunities that will equip you with skills you are not likely to acquire from the classroom (university).

Find a place to work for no pay as a student (volunteering) for a short time. The experience you gain from this will certainly blow your trumpet (on your CV) in years to come. Bag as much experiences as you can as a student. The average Nigerian student thinks that they cannot gain experience until they are in the job market. Announcement folks!!! Times have changed. The corporate culture in the country is changing rapidly. To sit around and wait is the ultimate travesty. If you can’t find a way, make one yourself. As a student, you have a golden opportunity to acquire experiences that will CERTAINLY set you apart through volunteering. Forget about money for now and seek out those opportunities. Most of all, when you have acquired experiences through volunteering, be prepared to emphasize them on your CV, as lavishly as you possibly can.

Public Speaking and Writing: This is one of the most important skills you will ever acquire. Most Nigerian universities do very little to prepare their students in terms of communication. Communication is not exclusively reserved for Mass Comm students. In my time at University in Nigeria, I probably gave just one presentation in four years. In a few years abroad, I was faced with several presentations. The more you talk to groups, the more confident you become. Ultimately, this puts you at ease during interviews and imbues you with the ability to convey your thoughts and ideas to your colleagues when you have secured the job. Work on your public speaking skills as well as your writing. These are special skills that can get you easily noticed…and respected.


Finally, to think that the classroom education you are receiving is enough to get your career going is a big lie – snap out of that notion. Some people are downright indecisive when it comes to the work that they need to put in to position themselves to get ahead in life. Do not fall into the same camp. Set yourself apart. Go the extra mile. Remember, computers have entered the game. You too should up your game to stand a chance at success!

This article was written by:

Victor Chinoo

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