News

Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 82 – Job Hunting Tips and Techniques

I am going to do something I have not done in a while, and that is send youa newsletter I wrote for our registrants on job hunting hints, tips andtechniques. Why? There are several very good reasons. The first is that we areseeing improvements in the employment data, and we are seeing a steady increasefor library and records personnel. We are also seeing proxy indicators acrossthe rest of the sectors which seem to indicate organisations based here inPerth, Western Australia are feeling a little more secure – and willing to lookto the future. So why should our registrants be the only ones to take advantageof this information?

In this issue we will look at:

•    1. CV’s
•    2. Start Looking
•    3. Start Applying
•    4. Follow Instructions
•    5. Submitting your application
•    6. Next Steps
•    Social Networking
•    A Thought to Ponder

1.CV’s

Is your CV up to date? Odd thing to start off a job search with perhaps, but it is important. If you “had” to look for a job today – because you had just been made redundant, would you be able to submit your CV in time for the closing date if that date was today?

It is essential to keep your CV up to date, especially during your current placement. We can forget what we have done in the spur of trying to get something completed. Your CV should be a working document, not something carved into stone.

1a. What should your CV contain?
One of the often unstated areas is what we call highlights and significant achievements. Don’t down play your role and what you have achieved. Don’t make people guess about what you are good at, tell them.

1b. What should you not tell them?
Age, date of birth, religion, sexual preferences, number of kids, etc. People can and do still get discriminated because of this kind of information, so don’t give the prospective employer any ammunition.

When I was studying for my degree (granted a few years ago now) I listened in amazement as one of our lecturers told us that during one interview she had been asked how many children she had – of course the assumption is – as a woman, you are going to be taking time off work to give birth and when kids fall sick you are usually the one to take time off (well it was in “my day”). My lecturer said – I have a dozen children and plan to have more. At the time I don’t think she had any, but she just wanted to make a very large point.

Of course in today’s political society prospective employers should never ask you those kinds of questions, or if they do – they should ask everyone who they interview, including men and people who it can be deemed may be rather too old to be thinking about babies. Bear in mind the job may demand time away from home and / or late nights and they may feel they have the right to ask if your “other” responsibilities will impact on your availability and ability to do the job.

1c. Spell check and proof read your document.
The biggest problems I find are Homonyms – “correct” word, wrong context. One of the ones I am seeing at moment is “bored” instead of “board”. Gives a whole new meaning to “bored” meetings doesn’t it. Then you have the usual grammatical errors – It’s, its and they, their, they’re. They all mean very different things, and if used incorrectly can prove you:
a) do not have good eye for detail
b) do not have good written communication skills – as you know, this is always listed as one of those “essential criteria” we need to have. Failure to get it right on paper means you are less likely to be able to prove how good your verbal communication skills are (interview), and
c) makes you appear lazy with regards to your writing.  

So – Read everything out loud before sending things through – as this one technique can highlight errors like nothing else can. Yes I did say out loud, not read in your head as you will add words and breathing points where there aren’t any in the document. Reading out loud makes you edit properly. This is a great technique for any piece of written correspondence and not just your CV, and for those people studying, this editing technique can make the difference between a B and an A.

2. Start looking

If you have never had to look for a job before (or it has been a while since you have had to look for a job) you may not know where to look.  Now these suggestions are not just for “our industry” but if you just need work and you don’t mind what you do until you do find the job of your dreams, then the following are a few of the resources available to you:

  • Local Papers
  • National Papers – but don’t just look in the jobs section. Always check the business pages, find out which businesses are moving into your area and send them a speculative letter as not all their staff will relocate when they move.
  • Shop Windows
  • 24/7 – Places that need to be “manned” 24/7 – fast food places, supermarkets, service stations, hospitals, hotels, motels, boarding schools.
  • High turnover places – whilst that includes some of the above, think about it – what are the jobs that most people hate to do and can’t wait to leave – filing clerks, ironing, bathroom attendants, shopping mall cleaners, security etc. But if you are desperate for money and don’t mind what you do – even if it’s only for a short period of time, then don’t discount these kinds of jobs. I worked in a biscuit factory straight from school. It proves you are motivated to work, and motivated to keep looking for something better.
  • Start your own business – bear in mind there will be certain things you will need to have in place to do this “legitimately” but there are numerous opportunities for self motivated people to do jobs other busy people can’t find the time to do, or don’t want to do.
  • List Servs and Networks – if your networking is not working then neither will you be. Facebook, Twitter and the List servs pertaining to your industry. But don’t just post a message that says “you are looking for a job”. Most companies have a facebook page – including Information Enterprises Australia. Search out the companies you would like to do business with, or be part of and “LIKE” their page. Start interacting with the people who are also listed. Find out what makes them tick and provide them with more than just a sales pitch and your CV. When it comes to applications and interviews you already have an inside edge over the competition. Oh and while you are at it, find us and friend us too, because we may just have your next job lined up and ready to go. Twitter is slightly different – and can be overwhelming to those of you who have never used it. But if you do have time to build a following, and follow other people / organisations, they may be able to point you in the right direction for work opportunities.
  • Events – but don’t go armed with your CV, just listen to conversations and if asked – you can then say you are between jobs at the moment, and if they hear of anything would they please keep you in mind. Bear in mind you can also pay this one forward – if you hear of someone who is looking for a person and know someone – then do them the favour too.
  • Online job boards – get creative with your search terms though, remember what you call a certain job / position others may call it something else.
  • Company websites – if you have always wanted to work for a particular organisation, then surely the job pages should be your first point of call.
  • Employment agencies – either niche specialist agencies like Information Enterprises Australia or generalist agencies who – like their name says – employ in more than one area. Large companies tend to use preferred suppliers for everything including employment, so make sure you are registered across a variety of agencies. However, if you are interested in working for a particular organisation – then call HR and inquire politely whether they are aligned with a specific employment agency, and if so, register.

3. Start applying

When it comes to applying for jobs don’t wait until midnight the night before the closing date before starting your application:

  • You will need time to put together the application, the covering letter, answers to selection criteria and customise your CV for the desired role. It is not something that can be written and sent in the one day. ALWAYS leave a day or two between writing the initial application and associated paperwork and editing it before sending it on to the prospective employer. In fact this one technique is essential for any professional piece of written communication you write and send. Assignments are always better after being left a day before editing – guaranteed you will find spelling errors and grammatical mistakes and /or bits you missed out.
  • Technology may fail and not just yours. If you are sending your application by email, never assume it will get there in time, so make sure you send it a good couple of days before the closing date. Add a read receipt so you know it has got there, or telephone the next day to make sure it has. The same goes for web based (online) applications – things fall over, connections break or fail, things that look like they have been sent – aren’t. Don’t trust anything. The day after sending your application it is a good idea to follow up with the organisation to make sure they received it.
  • Ditto with snail mail.
  • If you decide to hand deliver your application – make sure you dress appropriately. There is nothing more embarrassing than turning up in your sweaty gym gear to hand in your application to the person you think is JUST a receptionist, only to find out at the interview they are head of HR and was covering reception the day you went in.  

Leaving a job application to the last minute also smacks of a lack of planning on your part and maybe procrastination too – get in early, look keen. But don’t rush the application either.

4. Follow instructions

When you are applying for a position it is ESSENTIAL that you follow the instructions to the letter.

Job application packages are there to help you, so take time to read them thoroughly and highlight the area on how to apply and in particular “what to submit with your application”.

Failure to follow their instructions means your application will end up in what we term File 13, or the round receptacle under the desk. If you cannot follow simple instructions will you be able to follow “orders”? It also smacks of a lack of attention to detail… you know – one of THOSE questions the prospective employer always likes answers to. If you don’t follow the instructions, you have demonstrated only too well that you don’t have what they need.

Sounds harsh?

Not if your life or the life of your colleagues or patients depend upon it. Imagine a science experiment where you think you’ve added the right combination of chemicals – well it’s nearly right… nearly right is not always good enough.

I have had an ongoing dialogue with a person who seems to have a blind spot with regards to these kinds of instructions. As I have said to them many times, if the prospective employer wants you to hand write the application on purple paper with green ink, then that is exactly what you send them. If they want 3 copies you send them 3 copies. If they don’t ask you to send a copy of your academic transcript then don’t send it. 3 referees mean they want to be able to contact 3 people.

So:

  • Follow their instructions as stated in the job application package or advertisement
  • Send them exactly what they have asked for – nothing else

5. Submitting your application

When it comes to writing out your application, especially covering letters and statements addressing the selection criteria there are some important points to remember:

  • Be positive about your previous roles – it may be hard to do if you have been laid off / terminated / don’t like your supervisor and had to leave, but it’s important that you are… positive that is.
  • When giving examples always focus on the good, not the bad – although you could be forgiven for thinking the prospective employer wants the down and dirty when they ask you what was your biggest challenge to date has been. Tip 1: Make sure it is a single BIG problem, not several minor annoyances that you faced. Tip 2: What the prospective employer is looking for is how you handled the situation – crying in the corner is not an acceptable resolution. What was the problem, how did you handle it, what were the positives. Believe me – there is always a positive. Your job as a perfect candidate would be to find it.
  • Don’t just focus on the job role, but the achievements you made within that role.
  • Spell check and grammar – this should not need to be said – however, the amount of times we have received applications from people who did neither, or used SMS speak is frightening. Remember too the homonym problem … right sounding word, completely wrong context. Imagine going for a bored role … for instance, where there will be lots of bored meetings. Now the meetings may well be boring, but you are hardly going to get to sit in on them if you get that word wrong.
  • Get someone else to edit / proof read your documents. This is a good idea if you don’t think you are capable of doing it yourself. Let’s face it, we can be our own worst enemy when it comes to selling ourselves, so entrust this job to someone you do trust. But then get a second opinion; we want to ensure we give ourselves the best chance of getting through the written application stage and into the interview.
  • Make sure you submit the application in good time as we have mentioned in previous sections.

Follow the instructions, make sure you send / give them exactly what they want and ensure the application gets to the right person in time. Yours may be the best application, but if it arrives the day after closing date you have just wasted your time.

6. Next steps –
Repeat steps 2-5

It is essential to have more than one application in the pipeline so never sit back and wait for the call from a prospective employer to say you’ve got the job.

Social Networking:

Information Enterprises Australia has finally found the band wagon and joined Facebook. If you would like to “Like” or Friend us we would love to see you there. In recent times we have posted 4 vacant positions, along with a whole slew of interesting bits and pieces we have found or been sent relating to the Information Industry.

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/IEA_com_au

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Information-Enterprises-Australia/338343722917053