What to ask for when networking

Ask for advice, not a job!

Networking can be a complex process for many people! There are different aspects to it and all of them require thought. Starting with a clear objective is important – knowing exactly why you are doing it and what you want to get out of it provides direction and motivation. Knowing who to connect with or meet is also important – otherwise you could end up with hundreds of contacts who can’t help you with your objectives. Knowing how to get connected to or meet the people who can help you in your job search is another important part of networking. These aspects of networking have been dealt with in previous articles on this website.

The question of what to say to people or ask of them once connected is frequently asked. This question typically arises when new networkers hear that the golden rule of networking is not to ask for a job. Asking people you have just met or been connected to for a job can create awkwardness, especially if they don’t have a job for you. Asking for a job directly scares people off and can create a ‘cul de sac’ or dead-end for you. So what do you ask of them instead?

Assuming your objective was to connect with people who are in a position to offer you the type of job you are seeking (or at least to connect with people who know these people and could connect you or introduce you to them), then what you ask for is advice or information. Asking someone for advice is non-threatening – it doesn’t create awkwardness – and frequently strokes the person’s ego as it shows respect and admiration. People ask advice from people whose opinions they believe matter, and when asked for advice, it’s natural for the person asked to assume that the person asking admires or respects them. They therefore are likely to agree to help!

The advice to ask for is about your career or about your job search. Tell the person that they have taken the career path you wish to pursue and that you wish to discuss with them the best way forward for you in your pursuit. You are merely asking for career advice.

Or you might again say something flattering about their position or career to-date, and on that basis you are seeking information or advice on the best way to achieve your career goal (i.e. get that job!). As long as you are not asking them directly for a job, they are likely to agree to meet you or get involved in an e-mail exchange. Meeting face-to-face is the most effective way of doing this, and asking for just fifteen to twenty minutes of their time shouldn’t be too much. Always end such discussions by asking them who else might be able to help you.

Even without asking for a job there is much to be gained from such an encounter. You meet them, discuss your career and job search, and they might actually have a vacancy for you! If they don’t, you will have gained valuable knowledge about your career or job search, and they may refer you to someone else who might have a job vacancy or who can introduce you to someone else who might. No matter what the outcome, it’s a positive one for you.

To back up your position that you are not there to ask for a job, do not bring a copy of your resume with you! If asked, tell them that you are there for advice and information so didn’t bring a resume with you, but that you will send it to them shortly afterwards.

This type of meeting (it’s called informational interviewing) is not difficult to conduct, and consistently produces positive outcomes.

How to Identify Your Skills and Strengths

Identify Your Skills and Strengths

To properly prepare for a job interview or to craft a more impactful résumé, at some point you need to identify your skills and strengths. As in previous articles, a ‘strength’ is a skill that you are both good at and enjoy doing. Everybody has skills they are good at but don’t really like doing, so it is better to focus on those that you do enjoy – work using your strengths leads to job satisfaction, fulfilment, and happiness at work.

So, how should you go about compiling your skills and strengths? Firstly, look at your current job – what skills do you use everyday, regularly, and infrequently? Open a file on your computer and start listing these skills. You need to reflect on your job – on what you actually do to meet your objectives. As you list your skills, make a separate list of those you are good at and those you enjoy doing – i.e. your strengths.

Then examine what you did in your previous job and list the skills you used for that. There is no need to repeat any skills you have already listed. You will probably find that there is a large overlap between the skills you use in your current position and those you used in your last job, but make sure to identify those that you no longer use.

Move on to the next job, and then the next, and so on until you have listed all the skills you have used in every position you have held to-date. Depending on your age and experience, identifying and listing your skills can be a tedious task, so perhaps do it over a few days. Doing it this way will not only prevent becoming overwhelmed by the task, but will also result in a more complete list of your skills as your subconscious mind will still be working on identifying your skills even when you are not consciously doing so!

When you have listed all of the skills you have used in your work, both current and past, write a list of all the achievements you are proud of in your life. These achievements will be from both your work life and non-work life, and may include events such as getting a degree, getting married, becoming captain of a sports team, etc. When you have listed the achievements you are proud of, ask yourself what these say about you. For example, getting a degree might say you are studious and disciplined, while passing your driving test at the sixth attempt might say you are determined, motivated and resilient. Then identify the skills you used in these achievements. Since you are proud of these achievements, you most likely used skills you are both good at and enjoy doing – i.e. strengths.

The next step is to identify skills you use outside of work – these are important too. For each of your leisure activities and hobbies, list the skills you use in each. If you are in a leadership position related to any of these, note the skills associated with that role. Some people realise that they have finance ‘strengths’ they use as treasurer of a club, or organising skills they use as secretary of a group. Others identify counselling related skills from voluntary work they do with their faith group or from their involvement in a local youth club or elderly befriending group. List all these skills as some will be strengths and many may well be transferrable skills that an employer might be interested in.

This exercise of identifying your skills and strengths may be a tedious task, but it is also very revealing about yourself. Most people are not aware of all the skills they possess, nor of their strengths, and the process of identifying them is great for their self-esteem. One of the rewards of completing this task is that you will feel better about yourself afterwards. You will also have a realistic list of your skills for updating your résumé, and won’t have to think too hard when you are asked to discuss your strengths at an interview.

Singapore Jobs Forecast for 2018

Better outlook for job seekers

2018 looks better for job seekers

2018 brings a new year with better prospects for job hunters in Singapore. The economy is improving and confidence in it by employers will lead to greater hiring demands. According to a survey conducted by ManpowerGroup Singapore, 16% of employers said that they are planning on increasing their staffing levels in 2018. However, 5% stated that they expect to decrease the number of staff, and 74% stated that they expect no change in staffing levels. This, according to the survey report, gives an 11% growth in the net employment outlook, even when adjusted for seasonal variations. This is good news for job seekers and is the strongest outlook in 2 years, up from 7% for the same period last year.

So where will the job increases be?

The strongest expected staffing level increases will be in the public sector and education with a 22% growth. In the services industry, IT is again looking at strong growth with increasing demand for cyber security specialists, digital applications, data mining and analytics, software applications and software development. Anything to do with helping businesses increase their online presence and market or sell through smart devices will be in strong demand. The government’s focus on Singapore as a Smart Nation is also driving demand for specialist labour in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), especially for software engineers, data scientists, and IoT (Internet of Things) specialists.

The transport and utilities industries are also said to expand in 2018.

Other than in FinTech (finance focused technologies) related jobs, the financial industry is only expected to have a moderate increase in staffing levels. Here, as well as real estate and the wholesale and retail trade sectors, employers seem to be adopting a ‘wait and see’ policy in relation to the economy – if the economy expands more than expected, then they will be hiring. If not, they are not expecting any changes in hiring.

Retrenchments are slowing

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Manpower’s Labour Market Report for the third quarter of 2017 shows that retrenchments are slowing. There were 3400 retrenchments in Q3 2017, down 6.6% from 3640 in Q2 2017, and down 19.4% from a year ago when retrenchments were 4220 in Q3 2016. The slowdown is mainly attributed to the services and manufacturing sectors.

But PMETs hit hard again

Unfortunately, around 70% of retrenchments hit PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians), with most retrenchments being in the services industry (always very vulnerable to shifts in confidence in the economy). Fortunately the government has placed great emphasis on helping retrenched PMETs find new jobs with financial incentives for employers to employ them, and many up-skilling and re-skilling initiatives.

More good news for those retrenched

The good news from the Ministry of Manpower’s Labour Market Report for Q3 for those retrenched is that the six-month re-entry rate is up 1.9 percentage points to 66.4% over Q2, and up 2 percentage points over Q1. This can be attributed to the improving economy and the government’s initiatives.

Overall, job seekers can expect an improvement in hiring in 2018.

Getting the Most out of Working with Recruiters (2)

Help recruiters to help you

We saw in part 1 of this article that recruiters are very busy people trying to match candidates to vacant positions and that they are paid by the hiring companies to do so – this means that they work for those companies and not for you the job hunter. Because recruiters are busy, job hunters should prepare properly before contacting them, including creating an ‘elevator pitch’ to use with them. We also saw how viewing recruiters as your partners in your job search makes the relationship more productive.

In this second part of the article, we look at some more tips for working with recruiters.

Be clear about your job priorities

Knowing exactly what is important to you in a job is essential so that you have criteria for evaluating an offered position. This includes establishing a salary range that identifies that figure below which you will not consider accepting a job no matter what the other favourable conditions might be, as well as the desired actual salary. You also need to be clear about your other expectations of a job such as location, travel, career advancement, career development opportunities, medical and other benefits, etc. Your job priorities should be a written list that you can refer to, and when dealing with a recruiter, that you have clearly and honestly communicated these so that they use them in matching you to a vacant position. This will make the process easier for both of you.

Be flexible with those priorities

Some of your job priorities will be ‘concrete’ in that they are “must have’s” – for example, if travel in your work is very important for you, you will not be happy in a job that doesn’t encompass this, so that’s a “must”. Other priorities may be less set in stone and you should be flexible with these. For instance, a job offer may be on the lower end of your salary expectations but it might have excellent health coverage which can add more than $400 into the overall package. Similarly, reimbursed tuition fees, increased leave or excellent opportunities for advancement may also make-up for the lower salary. So when discussing priorities with a recruiter, especially when a job offer is being made, be flexible where you can, but remain rigid with your “must have’s”.

Listen to what the recruiter suggests

Recruiters will make suggestions as to what to include (or not include) in your resume when applying to specific companies, or what to say to a particular hiring manager during interview, etc. One of recruiters’ main irritations is when candidates argue with them over such suggestions and insist on doing it “their way’ – the recruiter knows their client and is making the suggestions so that the candidate will more easily ‘fit’ with what the hiring manager is looking for. So listen and heed what they say!

Work with multiple recruiters

There are dozens and dozens of employment agencies operating in Singapore, some good, some bad, many in-between. Job searchers should do some research on which agencies deal with the industry they are targeting jobs in and through further research, find out if the agencies they are considering have a reasonable reputation. Then the job searcher should work with a number of different recruiters to increase their exposure to the job market – different recruiters and employment agencies will have different companies as clients, and not all recruiters will have access to all available positions or hiring managers. So it makes sense to work with a number of different recruiters in order to have access to as wide a pool of vacancies as possible.

Getting the Most out of Working with Recruiters (1)

Know how to work with recruiters

The recruiter is not working for you

Recruiters are busy people – they get paid on results, and those results are the successful placement of a person into a vacant job. They are paid only when they fill the position and it is the hiring company that pays them. So don’t make the mistake of thinking that they are working on your behalf – they aren’t! They are working for the company that pays them.

When you as a job hunter deal with an employment agency, bear in mind that the recruiters are busy trying to match candidates to vacant positions. They receive hundreds of applications and speculative resumes for every position on their books and they simply do not have enough time to read all those resumes in detail – they spend less than 30 seconds skimming through them. So you must help them in this process by having a focused resume and clearly showing how you match the key requirements of the job you are applying for.

They are very busy people – so prepare before you call them

Job hunters frequently complain that recruiters are abrupt and don’t spend much time talking to them – as stated above, they are very busy people and simply don’t have the time to talk to people who aren’t a good ‘fit’ for a position they are dealing with. So understand their situation, and when you talk to them, be as brief and concise as possible. If the recruiter phones you, it means there seems to be a ‘fit’ between you and a job, so again remember they are busy and be focused on demonstrating how you meet the requirements of the vacant job. If you talk about irrelevancies, then they will be abrupt in bringing you back to talking about the essentials. For them, time is money!

When responding to a job advertisement, find out the name of the particular recruiter dealing with that position. Sometimes it is stated in the job ad, but if it’s not, call the employment agency and ask who is the recruiter involved. Then use their name in the cover letter / cover e-mail – this slightly more personal touch will always work in your favour. Again, your attached resume must be focused and show how you meet the requirements of the job. If it isn’t thus focused, it goes into the garbage bin.

If you ‘cold call’ a recruitment agency, prepare properly before the phone call – write down what you need to say and ask. Prepare an “elevator pitch” (the 30 second statement of who you are, what you do, what type of position you are looking for, and something unique about yourself) and have it in writing in front of you. The main tactic when talking to a recruiter is being brief, concise and relevantly focused.

View recruiters as partners in your job search

Recruiters may be busy people, but you can still look on them as partners in your job search. To do so, you must be completely honest with them and not try to hide any gaps in employment, or the fact that you were job hopping at a certain stage, or fired from a previous position, etc. They will be able to advise you on how such situations should be presented in your resume and at interview – they will also make sure not to refer you to an employer that they know might have a problem with your particular issue.

If a recruiter phones you but you were unavailable, be respectful and return their call as soon as possible. This is particularly important if you are involved in a job offer negotiation, as there are numerous stories of people who have had job offers withdrawn because they were slow in getting back to the recruiter. Unless your experience and skill-set are very unique, there will always be another candidate to offer the job to! And when a recruiter sends you to a hiring manager for an interview, make sure to promptly provide them with feedback on how things went.

A further posting will continue discussing how to get the most out of dealing with recruiters.

The Reality about Resume Length

A resume needs to cater for the personality type of all hiring managers

The Debate

There is a forever ongoing debate about whether a resume should be just one page or as many pages as it takes to demonstrate a person’s candidacy for a position. The reality is that both opinions are correct – the truth is in the eye of the beholder!

It is the preference of individual hiring managers that matters, and if you ask a group of them, some will say they prefer a one page resume while others will say they want to see a lot more detail. This is down to their ‘personality type’ and in particular, how they prefer to take in or perceive information.

The Theory

You probably have heard of Jung’s theory of personality that is the basis for the Myer Briggs Type Indicator (the MBTI). According to the theory, some people like to take in information through their senses – they like facts, figures and details. They are practical and realistic, and need the detail of a situation before they can see the ‘big picture’. These are called “Sensing” types. In the MBTI four letter designation, these are an “S”.

The opposite preference to Sensing types are people who take in information through “Intuition” or an almost “sixth sense”. In the MBTI four letter designation, these are an “N”. They are future-focused and see possibilities, and prefer to see the ‘big picture’ first, before being able to focus on the detail and facts of a situation.

The Implications

It is safe to assume that approximately half of all hiring managers will be an MBTI “Sensing” preference, and the other half will have an “Intuition” preference. So what are the implications of this information and how should resumes be constructed to meet the preferences of both types of hiring managers? The Sensing types will want to see the details, so they will be interesting in the list of positions you’ve held, the responsibilities involved, and what you achieved in each position. The Intuitive types will want a ‘snapshot’ of where you’ve been, what you have done, and what you can probably do for them. Once the Intuitive has grasped the ‘big picture’ about you, and if interested in what they see, then and only then will they want to see the detail.

Now you can see why the debate about a one page resume or a multiple page detailed one is a forever ongoing one, because both positions are correct depending on the personality type of those discussing the matter. So a resume needs to provide a brief, concise snapshot, followed by the detail. Hence the importance of the first half of the first page of a resume – this should provide the overview of your career and what your strengths are, but focused on a particular job so that the hiring manager reading it can quickly determine if you are what they are looking for. This satisfies the preference of the Intuitive types.

To satisfy the preference of the Sensing type of hiring manager, your resume then needs to provide the detail of what was briefly mentioned in the ‘snapshot’ – the responsibilities and associated achievements of each position held. Again though, these need to be focused on the requirements of a particular job.

The Difference between Your Resume and LinkedIn Profile

Your LinkedIn profile is a lot more than your resume

You have spent a lot of time and effort in crafting your newly updated resume, and are proud of the result – it looks good! Now you need to get your LinkedIn profile uploaded so that people (especially recruiters and hiring managers!) can find you in searches. So that’s just a matter of ‘cut & paste’ from your resume to LinkedIn – right? No, actually! That’s the lazy option and a lost opportunity to portray and sell yourself to the world.

So if copying your resume is not the proper way to creating a LinkedIn profile, what is? And what are the differences between the two?

The Focus

The differences is firstly in the audience they are aimed at. Your resume should be focused on the requirements of a particular job (generic resumes don’t get you an interview anymore!), so the audience for it is narrowly defined.

A LinkedIn profile, on the other hand, has a potentially much wider audience – if you are job searching, you want recruiters and hiring managers from different companies and possibly different industries looking to fill a range of jobs to find you. Even if you are not in the market for a job, you want to portray a professional image of yourself because customers, clients, suppliers, colleagues, your bosses, competitors’ staff, their bosses, etc, may all have a look to find out more about you. And wouldn’t it be nice if a head-hunter contacted you even if you are not looking to change jobs!

So you need to craft your LinkedIn profile in such a way that all of these people can find you. You do this by focusing on two other differences between a resume and a LinkedIn profile – the Headline and the Summary.

The Headline

The headline in your resume should be focused on that one job you are sending it for – it should say something about your job title or area of competency and mention a few key skills required for that job. The headline in your LinkedIn profile should contain some of the keywords people might use in a search to find someone just like you – someone with your skills, your strengths, and experience. The headline is the first place a LinkedIn search goes to, so you should help your potential searchers by using the keywords they will use. If you want some help with this, Google or LinkedIn search for someone reasonably well known in a position similar to yours. Look at their headline and note the keywords they used.

The Summary

The summary or profile in your resume should be just one paragraph in length (but short enough to read in a quick glance) and mention your position, some skills and achievements related to the key requirements of the job you are seeking, and perhaps an educational qualification if that too is key.

The version of the summary in your LinkedIn profile can contain all the information used in your resume’s summary and a lot more! You have a maximum of 2000 characters to use, so make the most of them. Write this summary in the first (I, my or me) or third (he/she, his/her) person – a resume summary shouldn’t contain pronouns, but LinkedIn ones do – and be less formal. Bring in something interesting about yourself, perhaps a passionate pastime or leisure pursuit – if you play on the local football team or are dreadful at but love tennis, mention it – it will portray you as more human. Even though there is a separate section in LinkedIn to list your skills and competencies, it can be useful to use some of those keywords in how you describe yourself – this again helps your profile to be ‘found’ in searches.

Be Creative

LinkedIn facilitates telling your story in multi-media, so, depending on the type of industry you are in and how you want to portray yourself professionally, make good use of this facility. You can have a link to your ‘master-copy’ resume (the not so focused one), a link to a video clip of you presenting at a meeting, a picture of you missing that tennis ball (!), a picture of that award you received, etc. Just make sure that they are in keeping with the image you want to portray and are appropriate for the industry you work in.

Understanding Recruiters

You need to understand recruiters to work well with them

Most people going through the job search process have to deal with recruiters at some point. However, many people are critical about their experience of dealing with them and complain about them not responding to phone calls, being rushed or abrupt, asking for resumes to be sent but never calling back, etc. Understanding more about recruiters and how to partner with them makes the encounter more productive and less stressful.

Types of Recruiters

There are two types of recruiters and they each work differently: agency recruiters, and retained recruiters.

Agency recruiters work on a contingency basis, meaning that they only collect a fee when they place a job seeker with their client company – the person taking up the appointment must stay in the job for a certain duration, generally ninety days. They usually deal with recruitment for junior and middle-level positions.

Retained recruiters are hired exclusively by client companies to manage senior management positions and their fees are paid up-front. As most people’s experience of recruiters is with agency recruiters, they will be our focus in this article.

So what do recruiters actually do?

When a company engages an employment agency, the recruiter contacts the hiring manager involved to gain more specific information on the job vacancy such as responsibilities, required skills, salary, reporting structure, etc. They then check for a match with their own company’s database and also scrutinise major job boards for suitable candidates. In recent years, they are also making greater use of LinkedIn.

Once the recruiter has identified a number of possible candidates, they contact them, usually by phone, for a screening interview. While this may seem like a casual chat to a candidate, it is very much an interview! Their goal is to ascertain the candidates ‘fit’ with the job, their expectations in relation to salary, job advancement, etc, and to discuss why they want to leave their current job (or why they left their last job).

When the recruiter has 8 to 10 candidates that appear to be suitable for the vacant post, they invite them for a more in-depth interview at the agency’s office. This time, as well as focusing on whether the candidate ‘fits’ the job, they collect information on their background (experience, education, goals, etc). If the client company has requested it, there may also be psychometric or aptitude tests. The additional goal in these interviews is that the recruiter wants to screen out any candidates they feel may not stay in the job for three months – their fee depends on this!

When the recruiter has a list of 5 or 6 strong candidates, they send the details to the hiring manager, along with the recruiter’s notes and recommendations. Usually the recruiter then coordinates the interviews for the hiring manager who interviews them.

Many recruiters will coach the candidates on how to approach the interview, how to answer certain questions, what they need to know about the company, etc. This is very valuable and candidates should pay attention to this advice.

As well as getting feedback from each candidate, the recruiter follows up with the hiring manager. If the hiring manager wants to hire one of the candidates, the recruiter establishes the details of the offer to be made and contacts the candidate to discuss the offer. The recruiter acts as a negotiator between the two parties until agreement is reached. Once the candidate starts work and stays for 90 days, the recruiter’s fee of 20% to 30% is paid.

If the hiring manager doesn’t want any of the candidates seen so far, the recruiter restarts the process to look for more candidates.

A follow on article will discuss tips for working better with recruiters.

How to Focus Your Resume

A resume must be focused to get past the gatekeepers

How do I focus my resume?” is one of the main questions that career coaches get asked. Most job seekers have already heard that they must have a focused resume to get past either the software or human gatekeeper – an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) or the person tasked with screening the resumes received. What these ‘gatekeepers’ are looking for is that applicants meet most of the requirements to do the job – these will also probably be the selection criteria used at interview.

So here are some ways that you can ensure that your resume is focused on the requirements of the job.

Firstly and most importantly, read the advertisement for the position you are applying for. This will contain a job description and a section usually called ‘Required’. The ‘required’ section may be divided into ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’ qualities. You need to go through that job description and required qualities and mark or highlight all the keywords used. In particular, you are looking for the keywords used to describe skills, experience and education or qualifications. You should also do this for the desirable qualities.

Type this list of keywords and keep it in front of you. These keywords must appear in your resume for it to be ‘focused’ and to get passed the gatekeeper.

Determine the more important keywords and use these in your profile / summary and in your key strengths sections. If possible, use some of the other keywords here too. When writing your experience section, use as many of the keywords as you can when describing your responsibilities. If an educational or other qualification is required, make sure you list that too. Your aim is to show that you meet at least 80% of the requirements – less than that and you probably won’t be called for interview – more than 80% almost guarantees that you will.

But what if the job wasn’t officially advertised and there isn’t a job description with requirements? This can happen when you hear about a job through networking – somebody tells you about a vacant position and asks you to send in your resume to the hiring manager. Don’t worry – you still have a couple of options.

The US Department of Labour (Labor) maintains a huge database of jobs that includes the requirements for each job. This database can be freely accessed at https://www.onetonline.org/ – just type in the job title and you will have a [usually] long list of job requirements. You will need to do some guesswork here and reduce this list to a manageable number of key requirements to work with to focus your resume.

Another option is to use the job title in a Google search and look for previous advertisements for similar jobs. You can also do this in a LinkedIn search. Use a few previous advertisements and see which are the common requirements mentioned in each. These are likely to be the key requirements for the job you are targeting too, and the keywords you need to use in your resume.

You could also use LinkedIn search to identify specific people in a similar role – you might even be lucky enough to find the previous holder of the position you are going to apply for! Look at their profiles and again note the similarities in their skills (especially the ones they have listed as key skills), experience and education / qualifications. Again, these are likely to be the key requirements for those positions that must be used as keywords to focus your resume.

Focusing your resume in this way with keywords that reflect the key requirements of your targeted job should ensure that you get more interviews.

For any job interview, you need to have two clear objectives

Have clear objectives for your interview

People spend a lot of time preparing for interviews. They try to guess the questions they could be asked and prepare answers for them – hopefully they even practice answering the questions out loud. But preparing for interviews is much easier if you have clear objectives of what you are trying to achieve during that interview. For any job interview, you need to have two clear objectives: Firstly, to demonstrate that you can do the job; and secondly, that you will ‘fit in’ to the company or team you are being interviewed for.

Of course, both of these objectives require that you have properly researched the target job and company – preferably before you finalised the resume you sent with your application. Failing to learn as much as you possibly can before an interview can lead, not only to failing to secure a job offer, but to having a very uncomfortable experience during the actual interview. Incredibly, far too many candidates don’t seem to know sufficiently about a company to be able to adequately answer the questions “why do you want to join our company?” or “what do you know about our company?

Hiring managers hate uninformed candidates, and many state that they will not employ someone who comes across as uniformed. Not properly researching the company means you will come across at interview as uniformed.

One of the most important things you need to discover in your research of the company are the specific requirements of the job. These will form the selection criteria for the interviewers to evaluate and score during the interview process. These are the set of skills, experience and qualifications that you need to demonstrate you have in order to be selected as a suitable candidate for the job. These are what you have to demonstrate that you have in order to meet the first objective of convincing the interviewers that you can do the job.

Your research should have a general and a specific aim. The general aim is to discover the requirements of that type of job wherever it is situated or in any company. The specific aim is to discover the particular requirements of the job for that one company as the requirements may differ slightly from company to company. This research may lead you to discover dozens of requirements for the job and you must break this down into the six to eight “key requirements” for the job. These six to eight “key requirements are then the focus of your interview preparation and you must be able to demonstrate that you possess these. To do this effectively, you should have an example of a time you used that skill or gained that experience. Having these little stories will add impact to your interview.

Your research should also uncover what the culture of the company is. To understand their culture, you need to know what they value and the type of people who work there. Is it the type of company that values creativity over bureaucracy? Do the people working there look for new ways of solving a problem or are they more likely to follow standard procedures and proven ways of doing things?

There are two benefits of knowing a company’s culture, values and the type of people working there. Firstly, you will be able to discuss how you will ‘fit in’ to such a company – this is always a major concern for hiring managers. Secondly and more importantly, when you discover the company’s culture, values and the type of people already working there, you can decide if that really a place you would like to work in? You don’t want to work in a place where you are so different to the majority of people working there – that would lead to constant stress and conflict for you. If you don’t fit, don’t waste your time and that of the interviewers!

So, proper research will help you demonstrate that you can do the job, and ‘fit in’ to the company and team‘s culture and ways of doing things.

How to be an ideal candidate for the job

An ideal candidate is an informed candidate

One of the more annoying aspects of the recruitment process for hiring managers are uninformed candidates. This manifests itself in generic resumes been received which are a complete waste of time for busy managers – they spend less than thirty seconds on them before they are thrown into the garbage bin.

Another manifestation of uninformed candidates are those who get invited to interview because their resume was somewhat focused and relevant, but turn out not to know much, if anything, about the company, its structure, its vision and plans, etc. Worse still are those candidates with completely unrealistic expectations of salary, benefits and working conditions. These candidates didn’t do their research and come to the interview uninformed. The majority of hiring managers admit that they will not consider an uninformed candidate even when their qualifications are a match for the job.

So what, you might ask, is an ideal candidate? From what I’ve written above you can already guess that an ideal is an informed candidate – but informed in what way?

Firstly, an ideal candidate’s cover letter will be addressed to the correct person and will briefly and concisely explain how the applicant meets the requirements of the job (which mostly will form the selection criteria for the job). Hiring managers love such cover letters because this entices them to read the attached resume – where the second mark of an ideal candidate should be.

A resume must be focused on the requirements of the job (or the selection criteria if you can discover them – try asking HR for them!). Anything that is not focused on these requirements is fluff and irrelevant. The resume of an ideal candidate will demonstrate how they match against the requirements of the job in terms of experience, skills / competencies and qualifications. For each such resume, the hiring manager will say: “Great! Let’s have a chat with this one.” They know that such a candidate has done their research and is informed.

The third mark of an ideal candidate is that, at interview, they can relate their skills and experience to the requirements of the job, and do so in such a way that they provide appropriate examples of using those skills. Being able to do this is especially important for competency-based or behaviour-based interviews which are becoming more common. Furthermore, the ideal candidate will ask pertinent questions and exhibit knowledge of the company’s culture, values and public strategy while they talk. In short, they demonstrate that they are informed during the interview.

Hiring managers’ view informed candidates as being more reliable and more likely to stay with the company because they know about it from their research. Informed candidates are also seen to be more likely to settle into the job quicker and be productive because they know about the actual job.

So demonstrate that you are informed about the company, the job and its key requirements. You will then be seen by hiring managers as an “ideal” candidate.

Should you keep your LinkedIn profile General or Focused when job hunting

Decide whether to keep your LinkedIn profile focused or general

To be effective, a resume must be focused on the specific requirements of that one job in that particular company. When applying for different jobs, you send (or should send!) differently focused resumes for each position applied for. A LinkedIn profile on the other hand has a potentially much wider audience – and you cannot have (or shouldn’t have!) different profiles for different audiences.

A question arises then, particularly during job hunting, as to whether you should have a general LinkedIn profile, or to focus your profile on your specific target job (i.e. the position you want to secure).

When you are clearly focused in your job search and have a specific job target in mind, a LinkedIn profile focused on that job is the way to go. Your LinkedIn profile will be more consistent with your focused resume, and searches from hiring managers or recruiters related to your job target are more likely to lead to you. So, for people who are searching for a new job, a focused LinkedIn profile is recommended.

However, keeping your profile general will have it look different to your resume and may be more appealing – you can ‘play’ with it more and make it more personal – more ‘you’. Being general, it will attract or match to a wider set of jobs in searches, leaving you open to a wider set of opportunities.

But if it is too general, your profile might not sufficiently match the keywords hiring managers or recruiters might be using in searches – the keywords they use are related to the key requirements for the job they wish to fill. You might end up with a prettier or more attractive profile, but it won’t be particularly useful to your job search if it doesn’t lead to ‘hits’ in job searches or tells recruiters and hiring managers that you have the skills that match their job vacancy.

The other issue in whether your LinkedIn profile should be general or focused is about what your current employer sees! If your profile is very specific or focused on a particular job, and that job is different to the one you are in now, your employer will know that you are looking for a new job. Remember that LinkedIn informs all of your contacts that you have updated your profile, and if you are ‘connected’ to your manager or others in your company, they will see your new profile and status.

If this is not an issue and won’t cause you problems, then go with a focused profile as it will achieve better results when job hunting.

If it is an issue and you don’t want your boss to know you are ‘available’ to the job market, keep your LinkedIn profile more general, but a little focused too – you want searches to lead to you for the jobs you want. The way to do this is to ensure that your profile’s Headline and Summary contain the keywords that match the type of jobs you want. Of course, there will need to be some emphasis on your current role so that your profile seems informative of your current situation and therefore less like you are looking for a new job. This dual approach is ambiguous and will serve both your purposes of looking for a new job while not alerting your boss about what you are doing!