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How to get a job

I have been sitting on both sides of the interview table for 20+ years. Here are a few insights I have picked up over the years as both an interviewee and interviewer.


The first step to getting a job is your resume. Make sure you look at the job description for the position you are applying for and then go through your resume and make sure it highlights the relevant skills and experience in the job description. You’d be amazed at how many people just have a generic resume that may or may not include relevant information to the job they are applying for.

Next, make your resume easily readable. When I was hiring for a new position on my team I reviewed 50 resumes in an hour. Two thirds of these resumes I threw out within 10 seconds because they didn't highlight the relevant information or they were paragraphs long and I had to work hard to find the information I was looking for. Does this sound harsh? Its not uncommon. When you have 50 or even 100 resumes to go through in a short period of time you pick the ones that give you the information you are looking for rather than the ones you have to work to dig out the relevant information. Write your resume to make it easy to pick out the relevant information for the job you are applying for.

Use bullet points. Limit long sentences. Bold key words in your sentences. Make sure you include the relevant key words from the job description on your resume. Your resume may be reviewed by a human or it may be reviewed by a computer system. If its being reviewed by a human they may read between the lines - but they may not. If its a computer reviewing your resume - it cant read between the lines.

Put your experience on the resume. List your accomplishments. Your past is our best indicator of how you will perform in the future. If you’re still in college, you don't have any experience you say? Rubbish! There is always experience you can draw on from your personal life. What about that project you worked on for your church, for your theatre group, your skating club, your Aunt. That's relevant experience. Tell them about it.

Cover letter

Once you are done with your resume, write a short cover letter that summarizes your relevant experience for the hiring manager. Don't use a generic cover letter, that will get your application thrown in the bin straight away. Use your cover letter you highlight your top 3 relevant skills or experiences. Once you’ve written a few cover letters you can bang one out in 10 minutes. And those 10 minutes may well get your feet in the door.

Take the time to proof read your cover letter and your resume. Spelling mistakes will get your application thrown out because its a sign you don't pay attention to details. These small details are important! Use a spell checker and always get someone else to proof read your work. When you’ve been working on a document for a long time your mind skips over your mistakes because it sees what you wanted to put, not what you actually did put.


In addition to your resume and cover letter, your network will go a long way to helping you get an interview. If you know someone who works at the company reach out to them and ask them to put in a good word for you. If you know someone who knows someone who works at the company, ask the person you know to ask their acquaintance to help. As a hiring manager, if I know someone who knows you in some convoluted way I am more likely to give you a first interview.

When you start looking for a job - let everybody you know know. Have an elevator pitch and use it liberally. Your elevator pitch is a 30 second spiel telling everyone what you can do for a business. Don't tell them what you want, tell them how you can help. For example “I am an IT Manager who loves getting the most from my team and making my boss look good by completing software projects early.”

How can you get in to company when you don't know anyone who works there? Call them up and ask to speak to someone in a department you are interested in working in. Don't go in asking for a job, go in to find out more about the field or the company. People love talking about themselves. Go in and say “I want to find out more about the field of forensic accounting" (or whatever it is.) "Could you spare 15 minutes to tell me what the job is like, what skills or experience someone needs to succeed in this field?” They’ll love talking about their job and indirectly they will know you are interested in the field and think of you if a position opens up.

Screening interview

Once you’ve used your writing skills or your spoken skills to actually get a first interview. What now? Screening interviews should be the easiest interview to sail through. You are going to be asked what you know about the company and why you might be able to do the job. This is easy, simply have the “About this company” webpage open and have a printout of the job description in front of you. Its on the phone so they wont see you. Remember your cover letter, make sure you mention those highlights in this conversation. When the interviewer asks you to tell them about yourself they don't want to know that you are fly fisherman. This is your opportunity to give them your elevator pitch. 75% of people fail this. Do these 3 simple things and be one of the 25% who get a second interview.

Second round interview

Congratulations! You did those 3 simple things and they asked you back for second interview. This is the biggy. This is really your chance to nail that job. Now what? Head to the internet and Google interview questions for the type of job you are applying for. Then write out the answers. And the great thing is some of these questions are generic and can you used in any interview - like what are your strengths and weaknesses. Write out the answers to lots and lots of questions. Practice repeating these answers. Say them out loud. Say them to someone else. Get someone else to ask you the questions and answer them. Practice these questions. Get confident with your answers. If you can't say something with confidence, no matter how true it is, people won't believe you.

If you walk into your interview having written out the answers to most of the questions you are likely to be asked and having told yourself you interview well - guess what, you are going to be confident, you are going to be comfortable. You will interview well and you will stand a better than average chance of getting the job!

Make sure you take copies of your resume to the interview, I guarantee at least one of the interviewers won't have had time to print out a copy and have one for them will make you look organized and helpful. It's also good to take a notepad and pen so you can take some notes as well.

At the end of the interview you will be asked if you have any questions. Make sure you have some questions prepared for them. Even if in the course of the interview they covered your questions at least let them know you were prepared and had some questions by going over them again. My favorite ever question from an interviewee was "what are you looking for in an ideal candidate for this position." Ask them this and when they have finished highlight all the ways you meet the requirements of the ideal candidate.

A career coach can help you with this whole process.

You might also be interested in reading: Tried and true tips from a career coach.