"Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish" - Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs address at the commencement of Stamford (2005)
For every position advertised by the government there are a set of requirements known as selection criteria and an application that fails to address these is guaranteed to be unsuccessful.
In these applications you need to demonstrate how you meet these criteria by using specific examples of your expertise. You can’t just send a resume and cover letter – you have to respond to each individual criterion (found in the position description) and your response needs to be at least three quarters to one page for each. It is vital that you complete this process accurately as you are rated on how closely you meet the criteria and then ranked accordingly.
Essential & Desirable Criteria
Selection Criteria are the skills, attributes, experience and education that an employer has defined as being essential or desirable for satisfying the requirements of the job. Many employers use selection criteria to ensure a consistent approach is taken towards all applicants. It also enables them to quickly and effectively short list candidates.
If you want to ensure that the panel is impressed by your application, make sure it's:
- Easy to read
- Providing only relevant examples and information
- Addressing the selection criteria
- Saves them time
It really is worth investing time into completing your application and if you know people already in the system, it's well worth your while to seek their advice, expertise and guidance.
Alternatively you can seek out a professional writer, specialising in Selection Criteria. EXCEL is affaliated with Resumes for Results, a nationally based business who provide writing solutions for individuals. Services include professional job search documents, application letters and selection criteria responses.
Accessing Career advice is easy – it can be found through the internet in many different forms, the question is though is the advice that you are receiving the right one for you? Not to mention culling through all the information available can be a long and tedious task, especially if your position is being made redundant and you are not sure what move to make next.
The main media sites are an excellent source of information offering up to date blogs, articles, resources and of course job opportunities. Professional career coaches manage the material with the aim to provide support and guidance to job seekers through times of uncertainty.
Some major sites to look at:
There are also plenty of career blogs, both from local and overseas career professionals who actively share their knowledge to help those looking for assistance. These are great resources to tap into as they are written by professionals who are working in the industry and they have a clear understanding of what does and doesn’t work.
Personal Career Support
Being able to talk to someone personally is always a lot more beneficial as it gives you the opportunity to talk through your unique situation. Talking with friends and family can be great to bounce ideas around but sometimes they can create more confusion as they have a personal invested interested in your decision. A third party can be more impartial providing objective and constructive feedback, as well as positively challenging your thought process to think about all the options available. In addition by recruiting the help of a career coach you can reduce your job search by half as your strategy becomes more refined and you eliminate unproductive downtime. A career coach will assist you to identify a job that satisfies you, which is something that a recruiter can not guarantee as this is not their area of specialisation.
Making the right decisions for your career is one of the most important factors in enhancing your job satisfaction, so making sure the advice you receive is specific to your individual situation will have a lasting effect on your career and in your personal life!
Often the idea of changing career is more exciting than the actual process of changing. But does it have to be as hard as we think it is or make it out to be?
Let’s look at some simple and easy steps that can assist to get the ‘ball rolling’
Avoid being stuck on a job title
A common reason to stay in doing what you’ve always done is the concept that your role is not available in any other industry or sector i.e. public verse private.
The key is to look at why you are considering a change, maybe it's around your values or skills, or possibly your cultural fit to a position or industry. This is where you need to look at your natural talents and where you feel more at ease, and of course identify those areas that provide you with the most satisfaction.
Go through an exercise where you jot down a list of your specific skills such as book keeping, IT skills, diary management and so on as well as your transferable skills such as negotitioan, conflict management, attention to detail etc and through this you will find that you have quite a list that you can apply to other roles, without carrying the title that you have used as your 'personal branding' to current day.
Slice and dice your current role
If your background is predominantly outlined in the same function such as a history of PA support as an example – be aware that a future employer will not see the key skills that you can transfer as easily as you can. So with this in mind look at how you can change the language you use. Re-assess the role responsibilities and maybe re-word your achievements to ensure that the key skills you want to highlight are shinning through.
Always make sure the documents you send out are relevant to the position you are applying for. Key words used in the job advertisement as well as a proactive call to the hiring manager/recruiter will assist you in identifying these.
When writing your resume be mindful of your past – if you feel that there may be a negative assumption made about your work history not being relevant, you may need to pull these roles apart to look for some generic or relevant terminology – and if applicable you could consider tweaking the job titles slightly to provide greater scope of opportunity of course be mindful not to mislead the reader.
It may also be relevant to put a couple of clear lines under your capability profile headed up career objective highlighting to the employer your desired career goal and change in direction.
Be who you want to be
This quote not only applies to dialogue but all skill development.
“People who believe they need to start with themselves do just that. As they work on themselves, they also become the most skilled at dialogue. So here’s the irony. It’s the most talented, not the least talented, who are continually trying to improve their dialogue skills. As is often the case, the rich get richer.”
~ Crucial Conversations by Paterson et al,
There’s no secret that in todays job market competition is fierce, with the weight not just on qualification but also on your relevant experience, desire and persistence. It is also about cultural fit and your ability to working within the team environment.
Don’t let rejections get you down, they are part of life and certainly part of the job search process. Be persistent and with every knock back take it as an opportunity to be more determined. It will pay off eventually and then when it does – you will have succeeded in a successful career change.
In wrap up
A proactive job search will improve your success in career change. Tap into your networks, arrange informational interviews with people in the roles/industries you are interested in, research in to organisations, job descriptions, job boards and educational institutions.
Set clear goals and ensure that your message is clear when talking with people that you are looking for opportunities.
And as always - Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
Let’s look at 3 of the big mistakes to avoid during an interview – have you ever made one of these blunders?
Lack of Research…
If you fail to research about the company you are in danger of coming across as lazy and unmotivated as well as a question will be raised about your genuine interest in the company as well as the role, i.e. – why did you even bother applying?
Always make sure you research past the company’s website which is what the majority of your competition will be doing. Look into the company’s annual report to extract data about their market position and strategy. Pull up local new releases to see what’s happening here and now, maybe they are launching a new product that is appropriate for you to highlight in discussion. HINT – Follow the company on Twitter to get the latest updates as they release them.
Poor Communication Skills…
It is expected that there will be an element of nerves during interview however if you have not settled these down by a good 20 to 30 minutes into the discussion it will potentially indicate that you have lack of self-confidence thus highlight a weakness, and for a management position this can be detrimental to moving through to the next stage. HINT – take every opportunity to role-play and practice your skills.
Poorly Constructed Response to ‘Tell Me About Yourself’…
This question early in the interview process can be such a strong catalyst opportunity to showcase who you are, where you’ve been and your key skills. However a common mistake is to talk on about your career to date from leaving school and through the years as well as bringing in your personal circumstances and interests. If you want the interviewer to ‘turn off’ before you’ve even started then I’m afraid tackling this question in this way will guarantee your success in doing just that. Instead, aim to answer this question with an overview of your industry expertise and positions. Make it concise and bring in one or two key career highlights/achievements that ideally are relevant to the role and if possible quantifiable. This way you will show that your communication is clear and concise and if pitched well, they may even run with you to find out more! HINT – run through your resume and rehearse a short snappy overview within 3 minutes.
These are just a few of the hurdles that can potentially stop you progressing through the application process which can be easily avoided - simply by, as I have said before, ensuring you prepare.
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success”
~Alexander Graham Bell
Cover letters are part of the job application process but how about taking it one step further and sending a Thank You Letter post interview?
Sending a thank you letter after the job interview can be a great way of attracting more attention for a potential employer as well as displaying you in a professional light regarding your approach to the job market.
After interview – writing a few lines can help you in:
Highlighting your key skills as discussed in the interview.
Enabling you to answer any potential gaps in your suitability after you have had time to reflect. This needs to be within reason of course.
Reinforcing your interest in the position.
It’s also a great way in ensuring your name is bought back to the top of the pile, especially if your interview was earlier in the day. By sending a thank you letter you are subtly becoming top of mind.
Choice of Format:
Depending on the personality you are dealing with, you will need to make a judgement call of the most appropriate format to use – some ideas could include:
Email – sending a couple of lines via email is effective and I would suggest the most comfortable way to get your point across for most.
Formal Letter – this certainly shows your professionalism and would be something be an expectation of a senior manager position.
Card – sometimes a hand written note on a professional gift card could make the right connection.
Regardless of the method send your note within 24 hours of your interview and remember it is essential to ensure grammar, spelling and punctuation are error free. If in doubt have someone read over your work.
Thank you letter template
Writing a resume is your most crucial step in acquiring a job. A great resume needs to market all your unique abilities and skills to open up the door to interview where you gain the opportunity to show the hiring manager that you are the one who best suited to the position.
In making a great resume, it is important to note following key points:
The key element to cover here is ensuring the hiring manager knows how to contact you which is why it’s important to double check spellings and numbers. You do NOT need to list private and personal information such as your age, gender, relationship status, number of dependants or health record etc...
In simple terms this is your sales pitch. Specify your key skills, experience and expertise and ideally make it relevant to the position you're applying for. An example is if the job ad asks for a team player you could say ‘proven ability to work well as an individual or as part of a team’ , this shows your skills not only as a team play but also that you're able to work unsupervised. Your profile is to be positioned at the top of the page and I recommend you keep it within 5 lines.
Clearly stating key achievements in your document provides the reader with a good idea of your abilities and gives them a good taste of what you can bring to their business over and above the role responsibilities - it's the big ticket item that sets you aside from your competitors. When writing achievements use the 'STAR' format which will make it flow easily (Situation/Task, Action, Result) and ideally provide quantifiable results - %, $, >.
List down your previous work history in chronological order. In general the golden rule is to only go back as far as 10 years however if past roles are relevant to the position you're applying for now then ensure these are also listed and even highlighted to bring the readers attention if you see the value.
This is where you of course get to describe responsibilities undertaken in your previous roles. Try and avoid copy and pasting an old job description which is oh so boring – instead write with facts such as – ‘Supervised 3 administration staff incorporating performance management, annual leave and compliance’
Qualification / Personal Developments
List down tertiary qualifications and relevant institution along with any current study, it is not necessary to put down the year so feel free to make a judgment call on this. If you've attended internal or external courses that are relevant to the position then for sure list these down to show you have established skills and training in specific areas.
In summary – remember a resume is purely a sales document, keep the length between 2 to 3 pages and when writing the document keep in mind 'what the reader wants to hear – not what you want to tell them.'
As I sit at my desk on a beautiful autumn morning, it’s Mothers Day here in Australia. The sun is beaming through my office window and as much as I try, I just can’t sleep in – it’s 6.00am. So much for my plans to sleep until noon and have breakfast in bed! That said I thought it would be topical to blog a piece for mums (and of course dads) today.
One question I know that I have been dwelling on over recent months is the “how do I manage school hours with work now that Elise has started Kindy?” Previously I’ve had the luxury of day care which offers flexibility, long hours and no school holidays to worry about (gosh, I never appreciated how good life was!) Now, life has changed dramatically with the school run of 9am to 3pm which is pretty tough when trying to run a business from home.
So, if like me you have recently stepped into this new way of living or maybe you are a year away from it and panic is already setting in? Here are some tips that my friends at ‘mums at work’ have put together and I’d like to share with you to help with your planning.
1. Think outside the square and be prepared to be flexible and explore a multitude of options rather than putting all your eggs into one solution - plan B is important!
2. After school care is going to be an important part of the support network you’ll need in place when your child starts school but it's popular and often over-subscribed so if you know the school your child is likely to attend, call in advance and see if there's a waiting list application you can put your name on.
3. Explore with your employer (both parents) if it’s an option to leave or finish early from work one or two days a week so you can share the pick up and drop off together. I know people who have negotiated shorter working days and work from home to help their kids settle into the first term and year of school.
4. Ask for help - can family help out one or two days a week with the pick up and drop off two days per week?
5. Look into employing a mother’s helper/babysitter to do the drop off and/or after school care – this way the carer can help the kids with homework and prepare meals too!
6. Do you know other parents with kids starting school the same year who you could share the pick up and drop off duties with?
I hope these tips help in some way…
Happy planning – oh, and of course – Happy Mothers Day..
As there are so many different types of interview it is important that you ask the recruiter/hiring manager of exactly the kind of interview you can expect. Having this knowledge will ensure that you go in fully prepared with what to expect rather than feeling shocked and overwhelmed when entering the room.
Here are some of the most common interviews you can expect:
This is probably the most commonly known. In this type of interview the recruiter or hiring manager will want to get to know you more personally. They will want to learn more about you and your skills in relation to your resume and to ascertain how you will fit into the culture of the current workforce.
This type of interview is common particularly when applying for government roles. You may have up to 2 or 4 people on the panel which will be from different areas of the business such as business head, human resources and the department manager. All of the people on the panel will have their own agenda and you need to ensure you answer the question to fulfil their need. For example human resources will want to assess your cultural fit.
The interviews can be fairly stressful (sorry, best to be honest) but the flip side is you generally only have to have 1 interview as you're meeting with them all together and decisions follow fairly quickly verse having to have 2 or 3 interviews to meet separately with the key decision makers. It also makes the process fair as it follows a rigid process that all candidates are screened against.
This type of interview is no longer new and applys to both the Public and Private sectors. This is where the technique of answering questions in a structured manner applies, i.e. the STAR principle. Broken down this is:
Situation – Describe the situation YOU were in
Task – What was it that needed doing?
Action – What specific action did YOU take
Result – What was the outcome of YOUR action
The reason for asking these questions is ‘how YOU have performed in the past is a great indicator in how YOU are going to perform in the future’. There are countless questions that you could potentially be asked but in general they will fall under competency headings such as ‘team work’, ‘communication’, ‘financial management’ and so on… The questions start with an open line similiar to ‘tell me about a time’ and ‘describe a time’.
It is important to give examples which clearly explain what YOU have done rather than using the word 'we' as this is the common 'no-no' in behavioural interviews. Be warned, you will not get through to the next stage by generalising.
Assessment Centre / Group Interview
It's not often that you get to meet your ‘competition’ but when the position is a core role for an organisation, for example a bank teller, it works well for the employer to run a group interview.
These can made up in many ways but to give you an idea let's look at a bank teller role. The group interview will be made up of approximately 12 candidates (this could be more or less depending on the calibre of candidates, size of the facilitities, amount of job openings and so on). It will take around 3 hours and is made up of aptitude assessments, 1:1 interviews and a group exercises where your skills are assessed for team work, communication, customer service and leadership. With all the information gathered in the session a decision is made of potential candidates with the next stage of the process moving through to meet the branch manager and reference checks.
Observation is key to this style of interview so it is important to remember your interactions with others are being watched from the moment you enter the room to when you leave.
These can come in the form of an initial telephone screen right through to a full interview where your physical location makes it difficult for you to attend a face-to-face. It is important to be as prepared for this interview as you would for a face-to-face. Make sure you are not disturbed and arrange a suitable time to take the call. It is important to ensure your energy is high and that you communicate clearly. See blog post on phone interviews for more information on what to expect.
Coffee / Lunch Interview
These are more relaxed; however they are still an interview. They could be as a result of an information meeting you have set up as part of your network strategy or maybe a second or third interview where you are now meeting the team and they want you and them to get know each other better. It is best to not order the most expensive dish on the menu and try to make it simple and clean i.e. spaghetti can splash your shirt… and I wasn’t going to mention it but hey, what the hell – I will…. please watch the alcohol intake!
I would like to close with what I always say to my clients… Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. Regardless of what type of interview you are going for – Preparation is key to your success!
The first part of the assessment process for any job application is for the recruiter/hiring manager to read over your resume to determine if you have the initial skills and experience required for the role, once this has been established you are through to the second hurdle which is the telephone screen. The reason for the telephone interview is simply as an avenue to learn about your communication and motivation, as well as to determine if you have the minimum skill requirement. With this information to hand a short-list is drawn up of the number of candidates for a face-to-face interview.
I’d like to share with you some tips on what you can do to improve your chances of being successful in a telephone interview:
Ensure that you are prepared for the call
I always urge my clients to be ready for the telephone interview call which will usually come through in the form of “Hello Nicola, this is Amanda from XYZ co regarding your application for an Administration Officer – do you have time to speak”. The biggest mistake you can make at this point is to take the call as you are unprepared. I highly recommend you excuse yourself at the time by saying it is difficult to speak and to arrange a more suitable time. By doing this you will have time to read over resume and cover letter as well as the job advertisement, it will also allow you to get into 'interview mode'. It is important to remember this is not a casual chat.
Be in a quite space
Regardless of if you are taking the call at home or in the office, the background needs to be quiet with all distractions taken away. Children shouting in the background or office workers chatting and laughing does not position you well as a professional. It is good to ask how the long telephone interview will take in the initial call to assist you in booking a room at the office or arranging an outside activity for the family. Telephone interviews can can often take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.
Know your resume & why you are applying
As mentioned above, make sure you are familiar with what you have written on your resume. Ensure that you know your key achievements and they are relevant to the position. It is good to have your resume on hand during the telephone interview just incase you need a safety net. They will want to know why you are looking for a new role i.e. are you moving from a current position and why or may be you are currently not working and what have you been doing between jobs? They will also want to know why you are interested in this particular role which you need to have an answer for.
What will they want to hear
This is pretty simple – the advert or the Job Description (if you have access to this) will tell you what they are seeking i.e. if they are asking for a strong communicator with excellent people skills – they will for sure be wanting to hear about your expertise in this area so ensure you have key examples and achievements ready to answer these questions. Write these down in the STAR format and have them handy next to you on the phone to use as a good prompt and keep your examples to no more than 2 minutes in length.
Finally, when taking the call make sure you listen to each question and do not interrupt. Speak clearly with enthusiasm and use appropriate language and terminology. Remember the interviewer can not see you, so if you need time to think of a response, tell the interviewer that you need a moment which will avoid the awkward pause