Sunday, 2 September 2012

Looking for a job? How to give yourself an edge

       A world-renowned actor was once asked the secret of his success. He replied with three simple words: “I turn up.” Not JUST turn up, you notice.
       ‘To turn up’ meant to present himself for action, ready, able and having memorised his lines. Always willing to listen, eager to learn, happy to follow direction and co-operate with cast and crew, he never threw his weight around even when he became famous, but played all roles to perfection - except for that of the ‘divo’. It all came down to attitude. Because he took his work seriously and behaved with modesty and courtesy, he was pleasure to have around. So he got the parts.
       In the same way, people in other fields who seem to get the breaks also rely on ‘turning up’ rather than on any amount of natural talent or luck. And with fewer jobs available these days, you need all the ‘turning up’ you can get. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve left Cambridge with an Honours Degree or are hoping to get a part-time job at your local Tesco – the principle holds good – a willing pair of hands, a pleasant demeanour and a co-operative spirit will give you a definite edge. Get the attitude right and the rest is purely a formality. 

Be determined
       Getting a regular job really starts in your first year at school. No matter what career you eventually choose, you’ll need to be both literate and numerate, which is why parents and teachers always seem to be on your case! Okay, so you may not want to be a brain surgeon, but truck drivers need to read road signs, factory workers have to fill in job-completion forms, and it really helps if you can tot up your pay cheques every month. To give yourself a fighting chance of a reasonable job, any gaps in your reading, writing and arithmetic need to be plugged – even if it means a short period at night school or an adult learning centre.
       When looking for work, you don’t have to wait for an opportunity to be advertised. With some jobs, such as shop work or bricklaying, you may find the most effective course is to visit the premises and introduce yourself – to simply ‘turn up’. Remember, first impressions really count, so dress smartly and modestly, avoid slang or sloppy speech and, above all, be respectful. Ask the manager or whomever you meet to bear you in mind for a future opening. The fact that you’ve shown initiative will go a long way, even if there’s nothing for you at the time.
       For many positions, however, employees prefer you to go through the usual channels – a covering letter with a well-presented CV. If writing isn’t your strong point, ask someone who’s good with words to draft one up for you. Include any achievements at school, any voluntary work you’ve undertaken, Saturday jobs and other work experience, such as babysitting, car cleaning, pot washing or paper delivery. Even family chores or walking the dog can be included. It’s not so much the skills which employers are looking for as your readiness to work. In short, how willing you are to ‘turn up’!
       Good reference will also help: ask your teachers, scout master, religious minister, doctor, piano teacher - anyone who can give a fair account of your trustworthy character.

Be presentable
       Job counsellor Cleveland Jones advises: “Before going on a job interview, remember, first impressions are lasting impressions.”  Jeans, tracksuits and trainers are definite ‘no no’s’, as employers believe that the way a person dresses is the way the person will approach his work. Always dress appropriately and ensure clothes are clean and pressed. If applying for an office job, wear a suit or, if female, wear tights and dress shoes with a suitable outfit.
Be persistent
       Not many people get the first job they apply for. If you fail at the first attempt, just put it down to experience and keep looking. The more applications you send out, the more likely you are to find the right position.
Be grown up
       Go alone to job interviews. According to Jones, the presence of your mother or friends could make you look immature.
Be honest

        Never try to bluff, as employers are quick to see through any fabrications. He or she will, however, respect your honesty.
Be attentive
       Show an interest in their company and the job for which you have applied. Ask questions. Never use the ‘what’s in it for me’ ploy, which is the biggest turn off ever! It’s up to you to convince the prospective employer that you really want the job and are capable of doing it.
Be persistent

       Employment recruiter Cleveland Jones advises: “Never give up if you are out of school and looking for a job. Do not go out on two or three interviews, then go home and sit and wait. You will never get called for a job that way.” One young candidate took seven months to find the job he wanted, spending eight hours a day, every day searching and applying.  
Be prepared

       Some years ago, a New York State Employment Services Office brochure* gave a list of do’s and don’ts that still hold true for job candidates today:

1.       Address the employer as “Mr Whoever” and not as “Buddy” or “Pal”. At this point in your relationship, he’s very far from being either!

2.       Don’t slouch. Sit up properly in your chair. Concentrate on being relaxed, poised, interested and alert.

3.       Don’t be pressured into answering off the top of your head. Carefully consider each question and take time to formulate our thoughts. When answering, be respectful, honest, modest, frank and accurate. Whatever you do, don’t exaggerate and don’t try to impress!

4.       Savvy interviewees take a guide sheet with them, listing past jobs, dates, salaries, duties and reason for leaving. You should also be ready to say how your experience and training will help you with the job you’re seeking. Another must is a list of at least three references with names, addresses and contact numbers – people who know you and for whom you may have worked.

5.       One of the worst things you can do is talk too much. Answer the interviewer’s questions clearly and distinctly and don’t try to bluff.

6.       Listen to what the interviewer is saying, be polite, tactful and don’t interrupt or, worse, get into an argument!

7.       Steer clear of personal information such as home, health or money worries. The employer is only interested in your ability to do the job.

8.       If the employer feels that you’re not suitable for that particular job, ask about other more relevant positions that may arise in future.

9.       No matter how the interview goes, follow up with a ‘thank you’ letter or email.

10.   And finally, if you get the job, remember to ‘turn up!’

Update – Feb 2013 

Do YOU fidget? Surprisingly, according to a recent study by the University of Roehampton, fidgeting could also help you land that amazing job – but only if you’re male!

A man who drums his fingers, wriggles in his seat or scratches his ears actually demonstrates far less tension at interviews and performs much better in mental arithmetic.

On the other hand, a woman who fidgets displays higher levels of stress, makes more mistakes and is far less likely to impress.

During mock interviews, male and female ‘candidates’ were asked to give a presentation followed by a complex mathematical test -  subtracting units of 17 from an initial 4-figure number.  The men who fidgeted the most got the highest scores, whereas for women the opposite was true. Women who tapped their feet, flicked their hair and generally found it hard to keep still were less able to concentrate on the task and making double the number of errors than females who kept their cool.   

According to a spokesman for the University, while fidgeting may reduce tension for men, their female counterparts may be more aware of doing it and so try to stop themselves, which in turn creates more stress.

 “Why do you keep fidgeting?" said Mr Smyle.

“I’m just dancing in my head,” replied Odi.  He’d always had a problem sitting down for long. The Runaway Children Volume 2 – The Astonishing Mr Smyle by Jacy Brean



  1. “Before going on a job interview, remember, first impressions are lasting impressions.” You’re right. The first interview would indeed serve as the individual’s pass for the second interview or for the job offer itself. In addition, be sure to come on time or even earlier than the scheduled interview. In that way, you will have ample time to prepare yourself for the interview.

    Rupert  Echard

  2. I've given this to my 28 yr old son. He needs it! Well done, Jacey :)

  3. Amazing tips.. Never knew some of the last ideas you mentioned above. But somehow, I always recommend applicant to refer to a professional resume samples before sending his resume. This way, he makes sure that he created an outstanding resume that is worth reading by a recruiter.