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In our Future Women with Jamila Rizvi podcast, we spoke to Sarah McCartney, Head of Corporate Affairs and Government Relations at SEEK, and Janine Allis, founder of Boost Juice, part-owner of Retail Zoo and Shark Tank judge, to get their best tips around preparing for an interview and how you can stand out for all the right reasons.
Understanding the industry you’re wanting to get into is essential. McCartney suggests that if you’re wanting to change your job, or the industry you’re in, first weigh up the pros and cons of your current job to find out what you want from your career. Then, do your research: talk to someone in the industry you want to get into, to teach you about what transferable skills you might have, and the value you could add to the role.
“When looking to change industries, it’s really important to understand why you want to change industries,” she said. “Often we have misconceptions about an industry, so finding someone who works in that industry that you want to move into, really understanding what’s happening in that industry, is critical to then understand what you could do in that industry.”
We know that women are particularly notorious for not applying for a position if they don’t meet all the criteria, while men will apply for a role if they meet around half of the criteria. But McCartney says that the criteria listed on job description is often just a company’s “wish list”. “Women are really doing themselves a disservice by not having the confidence to apply for these roles they are more than capable of doing,” she said. “We really encourage women in particular to have the confidence to apply for these roles, because companies, hiring managers and recruiters are not always expecting people to do every element of the role.”
Allis said that the key to a good resume is to engage the reader in the first paragraph, so they want to keep on reading. “People have short attention spans, so the information that you give to someone needs to grab their attention,” she said. “If you’ve got the headline and the first paragraph wrong, they won’t even read all the wonderful stuff you’ve done. So really take time in making sure that you can give an executive summary in the first paragraph to make them want to read the whole resume.”
Don’t just send your resume out and hope for the best. Show initiative and follow up with a phone call to make sure the company remembers you, says McCartney. “It just really demonstrates that you’re prepared to go above and beyond, you want to make contact with the company, you want them to know you’ve applied for the role,” she said. “Having a person to talk to, it starts to build rapport and a relationship, and that can go a long way to ensure that someone reviews your application, or allows you to just add more colour to yourself.”
Once you get an interview, you need to prepare to maximise your chances of performing at your best on the day. “What managers and hirers are looking for is someone who is deeply passionate about this role in particular that they’re applying for,” McCartney said. “So to get a step ahead of the crowd and to stand out when you’re applying for a job, the most beneficial thing you can do for yourself is research the company. Ways you can do that is to go on the company’s website, and doing news searches on Google. It gives you a really good feel about the strategy of the company, issues that are apparent in that company, and broadly, what the industry of that company is going through, and therefore that can help someone make sense of why the company might be advertising for this role, and what they might be expecting this role to be delivering.”
Don’t forget how you present yourself during an interview. Show that you’re a good fit the the role and company by making a positive, professional impression. “In my office, I have a ‘wear what you want’ policy,” said Allis. “But if you’re going for a job, you should come dressed for that job. That doesn’t mean you should come in a suit, but you should make sure your shoes are clean, your clothes are neat, your hair is done, you are presenting as someone who has all their stuff together. But also know your room. I was looking for a PA a few years ago, and I had a lot of women come in wearing suits, for me that was too far. So try and understand the culture of the business as well.”
While you shouldn’t lie about your experience or why you want the job, try to avoid bringing up any personal weaknesses or negative points that might affect your likelihood of getting the job. “I think the worst thing you can do is bag your previous boss, because the person interviewing you is always thinking in the back of their head ‘Well if you say that about him or her what are you going to say about me?’,” Allis said. “So even if they are an absolute shocker, you just don’t do it.”
Both McCartney and Allis agree that the key to nailing a job interview is to be confident in your own skills and abilities. “It is important to be aware that businesses are becoming increasingly flexible in their workplace practices,” said McCartney. “So if you feel like you could do a job, don’t let any of the superficial barriers such as full-time [work], or must-have requirements be barriers. Feel confident to apply for a role, and demonstrate the value you added to companies when you were employed, and bring that through into your application.”
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” Allis said. “And the most important thing – I know this is silly – but have a firm handshake. The amount of men and women I’ve come across that have a fish handshake, immediately I think [they’re a] weak person, I can walk all over them, or they haven’t got the confidence. So one of the things I teach my 9-year-old daughter is how to shake a hand. A firm, confident handshake immediately says ‘Hi, I’ve got confidence.’”
Don’t forget to check out episode eight ‘How To Get Hired’ of our weekly podcast, hosted by Jamila Rizvi. While you’re at it, take a look at our other episodes where you’ll meet inspiring guests, discover more about gender equity, hear real-life stories of working women and learn clever, practical tips to help you get ahead.
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