Angie Obwaka (pictured) is a HR specialist with over 10 years’ experience. She has done hundreds of recruitments for companies and is now a consultant and career coach. She also runs a career YouTube channel; ‘Just Call Me Angie’. What would she tell a job-seeker in 2021?
Beat the applicant tracking systems (ATS) to get your CV seen by the hiring managers.
Applicant tracking systems are what many companies use now to scan resumes for important keywords and qualifications. There is a lot of information online on how to make your application ATS compliant; the key one being using keywords you find in the job application in the requirements and specifications. If they ask for teamwork, it should be in your CV. Sprinkle the word throughout your application.
Another thing to note is your CV shouldn’t be too colourful or fancy. Strange fonts and formats or too many lines or boxes or templates downloaded from Pinterest are a NO. The ATS must be able to navigate your CV easily, without getting tripped up on any complex formatting elements so keep it simple. Also, use achievement-based language meaning using numbers to quantify what you delivered in your previous role.
Cast your net wide
You should apply through as many channels as possible. Don’t just look at newspaper ads, look on LinkedIn and other job platforms.
Of course beware of fake job sites, especially those that ask for money. In line with that, when deciding between applying through the job site or the company website, I recommend applying through the company email or address as opposed to the job portal. If the company itself does not give the option to apply to them directly, refrain from doing so. But do not apply through both. It makes you look like you don’t follow simple instructions.
The experience factor
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An internship or attachment is there precisely for that reason, to get experience. In these roles you work under someone else who is more experienced so you get to learn how things are done and you can make mistakes without it being fatal to the company. If I hire you on full employment and you do not deliver, your consequences will match your role and there will be no room for mistakes. Always seek an internship first as well as volunteer roles. If you have one-year experience and a company is looking for two years’ worth, still apply for the job. But if they want two years and you have two months of experience, then it’s unlikely you will get the job.
Follow-up after an interview?
Before you leave the interview ask them “How soon should I expect to hear from you”. If you don’t ask that, you will be restless expecting feedback and not hearing back. However, if they say a month and you don’t get any feedback in that time, then feel free to write them a follow-up email. In case you didn’t ask during the interview, two weeks is a good time to do a follow-up.
Don’t ask questions in an interview
First of all, you must ask questions. Don’t pass up the chance. Apart from the above example, another question to ask should be related to the job and specifically the department you are applying to. Who will you be reporting to? How many people are in the department, the history of the role and such questions. As for salary expectations, you do not need to bring it up if the interviewers haven’t. It will be discussed later when they are offering you a job.
Gaps in your CV?
Don’t feel defeated by a gap. You can still get a job even with a six-year gap. However, you cannot ignore it, own the gap and the fact that it is there then control the narrative. Plan how you will communicate about it during the interview before the interviewer brings it up. Perhaps also if your gap is because you moved to a different field unrelated to your original line of work, then leverage on transferable skills. Perhaps you were great with customer service in your previous role, you can still use that in a banking role. Or you can talk about a course or skill you got in that period of time. To show them you are committed and not just having fun with your career at their expense.
Don’t get tripped by the “What is your biggest weakness” question
There are a couple of things you should never say in an interview. Don’t say anything that will paint you in a bad light and disqualify you. Saying ‘I am not a morning person’ yet the job is an eight to five job will get you out. Do not also use that moment to confide your deepest, darkest secrets because that is extremely inappropriate. Strike a balance between being open and honest and revealing too much. Also do not give cliché answers like “I am a perfectionist” and you do not know how to support it. What does that statement mean and how does it affect them? You need to know why you perceive something as a weakness and how it reflects as a weakness in the workplace.
What will get you automatically disqualified in an interview?
1. Arrive late. You had adequate time to prepare for it yet you show up late? Lateness comes off as a lack of appreciation and respect for other people’s time.
2. Present yourself inappropriately. Don’t wear crumpled or tight clothes.
3. Appear clueless. You have no idea what the role is and have no knowledge about the company.
Dos and don’ts in job application:
1. Don’t paste your CV on the body of the email. Attach all your application documents on the email.
2. Don’t apply for just any job. Have a strategy. First, define exactly what you are looking for, define the qualifications you have and the job opportunities you can get with that and your experiences then hunt down the opportunities. Map out how best to position yourself to grab them. Sending 50 CVs in a day is exposing yourself to unnecessary heartbreak and rejection.
3. Don’t use too many fonts, fancy fonts or make your CV very sophisticated in design. It makes it hard for the applicant tracking system to go through it.