When you’re searching for a new job, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what you should be doing to convince the hiring manager that you’re an incredible candidate. The job description can give you some clues, but they tend to focus on technical skills which any number of people have. With employers all wanting different things from their new recruits, how can you make sure you’re ticking their boxes? While there’s no one silver bullet that will guarantee you stand out as a top-tier candidate, here are some traits that employers look for on a universal level.
learn about the company
Have you done your research? Knowing what the company does is a good start, but that shouldn’t be all you know. Doing a little research into the company only takes a few minutes of your time but can pay off in a big way. Check out the company’s website and social media pages. If they have a Wikipedia page or recent press releases check those out too. If you’re knowledgeable about what’s been happening at the company recently, you’ll come off as someone who knows their stuff and genuinely cares about joining the team.
understand their pain points
Once you understand the basics of what the company does and their brand, dig a little deeper and try to determine what their pain points are. Why are they hiring for this role? What function does this department serve within the company as a whole? What problems can you solve by joining the team? If you can frame yourself as a solution to a problem, it’s an instant credibility booster for you as a candidate.
dress the part
Appearances matter. Though many workplaces are shifting toward casual dress codes for day-to-day work, job interview attire continues to err on the professional side. Unless you’re given specifics on what’s appropriate, stick with business professional attire for job interviews or any other interactions with potential employers – this means wearing a suit or a professional dress. Keep it simple. Dark or neutral colours are safe bets that are unlikely to steer you wrong. Dressing the part shows respect for the employer and the job you’re applying for.
be an excellent listener
Listening is an underrated skill, especially in job interviews. Job seekers have a tendency to think that job interviews are all about them talking and selling their skills. While that’s certainly part of the process, your interviewer is also part of the conversation. Listen closely to the types of questions they ask. Watch their reactions and what answers seem to impress them. You can gather a lot of information by being a good listener. You can also tailor your answers depending on what you learn. Maybe you’ve noticed your interview is really focused on teamwork and collaboration. Use examples that show you’re a team player. By repeating what they’re looking for back to your interviewer, you’ll be a shoo-in for the role.
speak slowly and clearly
Job interviews can be nerve-wracking. Often, that leads to fast-talking or rambling. Check your nerves at the door and remember to speak slowly and keep your answers focused. When you’re excited and have a lot of information to share, it can be overwhelming to listen to. Remember to take breaths in between sentences and enunciate. People who speak slower and are more measured with their words come across to others as more intelligent, deeper thinkers. Despite that, our natural instinct is to fill silences as quickly as possible. Don’t be afraid of short silences. If you need a moment to think after being asked a question, feel free to say ‘that’s a great question’ to give yourself a moment to compose a thoughtful response rather than rushing into an answer just to break the silence.
focus on what you’re good at
To turn your work into ‘more than just a job’ the key is to specialise. Make a list of your skills and determine where they can take you. Uncover what you’re best at and focus on honing those skills throughout your career. Specialising in a specific niche that’s interesting to you will help ensure that you’re limiting your focus to jobs you actually want, rather than something to simply tide you over until a better role comes along. When you care about what you’re doing, it’s easier to share your passion and you’ll carry more weight as a specialist. Dedication is clear to hiring managers, and can give you a distinct advantage over other candidates.
highlight your skills
If you focus on developing highly valued and in-demand skills, you’re already one step ahead in building your credibility. The job markets of today and tomorrow will be focused on transferable skills that can be adapted depending on the role. As technology and job requirements evolve rapidly, employers are shifting away from looking for specific technical proficiencies and toward transferable skills with many applications. There are already some serious skills gaps in many markets (such as IT, engineering and skilled trades) so hiring managers are becoming more creative about how they seek out candidates. Don’t forget about soft skills such as leadership, critical thinking and communication, which can give your candidacy an added boost above and beyond your technical skills.
develop your career plan
Do you have a well thought-out answer to this common job interview question: ‘where do you see yourself in a few years?’ Planning out your career goals will help you come up with an honest answer, something that a lot of other candidates won’t be able to offer. Determine the milestones you want to hit in your career. This can help you work out exactly which opportunities to pursue. Try developing a 6-month, 12-month and 2-year plan describing how you want your career path to go. Hold yourself accountable to ensure you’re working towards your ultimate goal. Have you not reached your goals for your two-year plan? It’s time to do something about that! Maybe that means having a frank discussion with your manager. Perhaps it means looking elsewhere for an opportunity that will allow you to reach the targets you’ve set yourself.
tailor your job application
Tailor your job application for every job. Yes, it’s more time consuming. However, making your application unique to the opportunity will also make you seem uniquely suited to the role. This serves to explicitly align your skills and experience to the role on offer. It will serve you well in getting through any automated application systems the company uses, as well as making it easy for the hiring manager to decide who to call in for an interview. Make sure you use the right keywords on both your job applications and LinkedIn profiles. The former will also help to get you through any applicant tracking system, while the latter will boost your chances of appearing in any searches for that keyword.
Be upfront about what you know and what you don’t. Have you heard stories of people who have claimed they could do something in their application to be confronted with that situation, unable to deliver? No one wants to be in that sticky situation. No matter how awkward it might feel to admit you don’t know something, it’s better than being a liar. And on the plus side, you’ll seem more authentic. After all, if you’re willing to be up front about areas of weakness, surely you’re telling the truth about everything else. If you’re worried about not seeming knowledgeable enough in an interview, turn it into a positive. Be the first to bring up your lack of familiarity, and explain that you’re eager to overcome this and learn about the subject. Highlight previous instances where you’ve picked up new skills and mastered a topic.
You’re the only one of you. Don’t try to emulate someone else; it will only come across as inauthentic. If you get the job, they’re going to have to see the real you sooner or later. Unless you’re planning on pretending for the rest of your career… which, let’s be honest, sounds exhausting. So you might as well be yourself right from the first interview. Though it can be intimidating to put yourself and your personality on the line, it’s the only way you’ll find a role that’s right for you. Though you might run into a role or two that aren’t right, that’s just part of the process. We promise the right fit is out there somewhere!