Getting the Interview
If you've been following the advice on our career transition programmes, your efforts at assessing your strengths, skills and preferences, identifying the right job market for you, and developing a great CV will mean you are ready to make successful job applications. [If you are struggling with these earlier areas it will impact your success at the later stages and career coaching may be helpful].
Over the last ten years or so, a number of studies have looked at job interviews and identified a number of things candidates can do to maximise their chances of success. This is the first in a series of articles in which we will look at each in turn. Here we are looking at how to favourably influence the chances of getting an interview.
People like people like themselves
Until such time as selection is carried out without human involvement, and despite the best efforts of many interviewers, the selection process is subjective (and in some cases highly so). It is therefore susceptible to being influenced by the well-informed candidate. Here are some important things to bear in mind:
Organisational Fit: this is considered to be very important. 'Fit' concerns issues such as an applicant's attitude, personality, values and appearance. For many organisations (eg., John Lewis) the selection focus has moved away from just matching applicant's skills to a particular job and more towards matching individuals with their future work and interactions with a wide range of colleagues. The view taken is that an organisation can help an employee develop appropriate skills with training, but cannot do much to enhance attitude or fit.
The person offered a position needs to be able to fit into the social environment of the company's culture, its customers and suppliers. Your CV (or application form) is the first impression the organisation has of you. The way your CV looks, the content of your profile and the kind of attributes and style you describe, will be used to form this initial impression. It is important therefore that you get it right - in other words that it accurately reflects you and does you justice, and describes the characteristics they are looking for (and of course those two things should overlap otherwise you shouldn't be applying for the job!)
Selectors' Aims: Studies consistently indicate that selectors are looking for broadly similar attributes in candidates. They are looking for successful ("winning") people and those with the potential to be successful. This means people they perceive to be appropriately intelligent, assertive, creative, knowledgeable, optimistic, enthusiastic and confident. They want to weed out those whom they feel do not have this potential. With this in mind review your CV or application form: does it reflect a confident, successful person (or someone with the potential for success)? Or does it reflect a bland, unconfident person or someone who is underplaying his or her achievements or skills?
Application form and CV: Selectors form impressions from the early information they receive, therefore information presented at the start of your CV affects how later information is interpreted. If the selector first reads positive information at the start of the CV, later, less positive, information will have less of a negative impact. Again, review your CV to ensure that the top third of the first page contains the information you consider is most influential to this application. This will certainly include your Contact details and your appropriately worded Profile or Personal Summary. You should then consider what section should best follow. There are no hard and fast rules to CV layout. So for example if you have excellent and recent qualifications and the employer has specifically asked for them or if you know that the employer is a stickler for qualifications, you might follow your Profile section with your Education and Qualifications section. Equally if your qualifications are not so impressive or relevant, you might place this section at the end of the CV.
In the next article in the series, we will look at influencing during the interview itself.