How to market yourself
As a business owner and employer, I am always looking for good talent but finding talented people with the right skills, qualifications and attitude isn’t always easy. What I have learnt over 33 years of experience is never to recruit someone in a hurry, as you are likely to make mistakes and overlook things and that can be costly. Not only can it be expensive to hire the wrong person but it can have a disruptive effect on the team if people come and go because they are the wrong fit or don’t have the right skills.
Applying for jobs can be easy, nowadays; just upload your CV and click ‘send’ or ‘submit’ and the job is done; but is that enough? Applying for a job and marketing yourself in the right way must be taken seriously and can take time and due consideration. It takes effort, commitment and creativity in today’s competitive world; at least that’s what I expect to see as a prospective employer.
So, if your CV is at the bottom of huge pile of other CVs and you are one of a dozen other candidates to be interviewed, how are you going to stand out and make a positive lasting impression?
Step 1 – Imagine yourself in this job
Marketing yourself starts from the point that you are thinking of applying for a job. When you see a job advertised that you think is suitable, straight away you will start to think about whether or not this is the right role for you. One aspect of this is thinking about the company and the job role and if this is what you are looking for. The other, equally important aspect, is thinking about whether or not you are a good fit for this role and what you have to offer so that you can present yourself as the best person for this job. You may ask yourself: do I have the skills? can I do the job? do I have the relevant experience? All of these are the right questions to set yourself in the right direction of marketing yourself in a positive way.
Step 2 – Introducing yourself through your CV
Your CV is the first impression; it’s how you introduce yourself to a prospective employer without having the opportunity to see them face to face or verbally talk to them. Whether you are presenting yourself on paper, through a traditional CV, or through a video application, think about what you want to say and what the employer is looking for. Some simple tips:
- Your CV should be easy to read; keep it to a maximum of 2-3 pages
- Structure your CV it in a way so that it is logical and the most important information is on the first page
- Customise your CV to the job role you are applying for so it highlights your suitability for the role
- When detailing your experience think about what you achieved in each role and highlight this rather than just listing tasks
- Make sure the information is correct e.g. dates of employment
- Check your contact information is correct and up to date
- Presentation is important so pay attention to detail, the layout of the CV, formatting and of course the spelling!
If you are building an online CV through a job portal or company website make sure you give yourself enough time to do this. Think about the search engine used to screen your CV and what words might be used to filter CVs. It is important to tailor your CV / application to make it relevant to the vacancy. If you make the recruiters job easy by presenting your CV in a reader friendly manner they are less likely to put your CV aside because it too lengthy or difficult to read.
Step 3 – Preparing for the Interview
If you have been invited for an interview this is great news because the prospective employer thinks you can do the job. It’s unlikely that anyone is going to waste their time interviewing candidates that they don’t think are suitable. It’s natural to be nervous and a little anxious but try and channel this nervous energy in a positive way. Don’t find reasons to tell yourself why you won’t get the job e.g. I’m too young or too old, instead focus on what you have to offer and how you are going to use the interview to communicate what the interviewer wants to know about you.
Good preparation is the key to marketing yourself in the right way and ultimately a successful interview. Most interviewers will ask some standard questions like ‘tell me about yourself’ or ‘why should I hire you’. These are your golden opportunities to really sell yourself. Think about what you have to offer and prepare a response that highlights why you should be hired and what you have to offer. If you are unprepared for these types of questions you may lose valuable time in the interview thinking of what to say and the likelihood is you will forget the most important things. Take time to think about how you will respond to these type of questions and don’t be afraid to practice. Remember your response to a question like this should be concise and hard hitting so try not to waffle and make sure you bring out the skills and experience relevant to the job vacancy.
If you take time to prepare and think about the interview you should come up with a list of questions that the interviewer is likely to ask you, so all you have to do is be ready with your answers. In doing this, think about examples you can use if you are asked questions like ‘tell me about a time’ ‘give me an example of when’ ‘have you ever had a situation’. It’s hard to remember good examples on the spot so take time to recall your experiences so that you can share this in the interview and demonstrate how you dealt with similar experiences or situations in the past. This demonstrates what you have done in the past and that you are likely you do again in the future; using hypothetical examples are less convincing.
Whist you are preparing don’t forget to think about what questions you would like to ask. Most interviews will ask you if you have any questions at the end of the interview so don’t be afraid to say ‘yes I do have some questions I have prepared’. It’s ok to have them written down so you don’t forget them. Again it demonstrates you are taking this seriously and you are well prepared. Avoid asking questions related to salary (in particular during the first interview). Some examples of questions you may wish to ask:
- What are the opportunities for growth in the company?
- What is the interviewer’s experience of working in the company?
- What is the work environment or organisational culture like?
- Could you explain your organisational structure?
- What do you most enjoy about your organisation?
So now you are ready for your interview and all you need to do is ‘look the part’ so make sure you think about your dress code and appearance. Its always better to be more formally dressed than under dressed for an interview. This is all part and parcel of how you market yourself.
Step 4 – Handling the Interview
The interview is your ‘stage’ and your opportunity to really promote and market yourself. The only challenge is that you have a limited time slot to convey the messages you want by answering the questions that are posed to you. This is where your preparation will be helpful. If you know what you want to say, use the questions as opportunities to highlight these things. In doing this it is important to listen to the questions and make sure you answer these fully, however the focus should be on highlighting your skills and experience. All of this, in a genuine, warm and friendly manner. If this is your first job interview then draw on examples of your academic career where possible otherwise your personal life. One important thing to remember is always be honest during the interview otherwise you are likely to get caught out.
‘So how did you prepare for this interview?’ This is a question I always ask in a face to face interview and I am always surprised when some candidates proudly tell me they didn’t prepare! It’s almost as if they are telling me they didn’t need to prepare! What I want to hear is that someone has taken the time to consider the job role, researched the company and then thought about how they were going to promote themselves and impress me enough to be offered a job. It’s important to demonstrate that you have taken the time to prepare and this says a lot about how you approach things.
Remember, the interviewer has limited time in which to get to know you, understand your experience and then make a decision on whether or not to hire you, so make sure you use this opportunity in the best way possible. The interviewer may not know anything about you so they will be relying on the information you give them during the interview.
Finally, during the interview (particular the first interview) try and avoid asking questions related to the salary and focus using this opportunity to ask questions to understand more about the company and demonstrate that you have done your research.
Step 5 – After the Interview
Make sure you send a thank you email to the interviewer. If you missed something really important in the interview that you want to include, you could do this in the follow up email however, you must keep this brief.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Mention volunteering experience (if any)
- Mention your accomplishments
- Make sure the start and end dates for previous work history are correct
- Make sure there are no spelling and grammatical errors in your CV
- Mention your contact details
- Be prepared
- Don’t be dishonest or over exaggerate your experience or qualifications
- Don’t be late for the interview
- Don’t talk negatively about your current employer
- Don’t use someone’s name when giving examples