Preparing for interviews goes beyond having a suitable qualification and a well-crafted CV. Your social media activity, knowledge about the company and even something that may seem as mundane as your email address can hurt your chances of being successful at a position.
"That means taking care of some important details," said Vuyo Kobokoane, the executive head of PPS Foundation — which has been partnering with various organisations to prepare graduates for the world of work.
You've got to really stand out to make a good impression, but it must be for the right reasons if you want to stand a chance of success.
Kobokoane shares her top tips:
1. Clean up your social media
Set up a professional-looking LinkedIn profile, and beef up the privacy settings on your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Companies are very wary of employees whose social media habits might embarrass them. "You can be sure that recruitment agencies and employers are going to check you out on social media," said Kobokoane. "So before you even apply for a job, there's some housekeeping you need to do."
If you wouldn't say it in a job interview, you shouldn't say it on social media, because in today's society the two go hand and hand. Your social media accounts are a big part of your resume. #Ap2w— Derek Jones (@dukecoachdj) June 20, 2018
2. Ensure your cover email and CV answer directly to the skills requested in the job post
"Make things easy for potential employers," said Kobokoane. "Put the job reference code and position title in the email's subject line. And keep the covering email brief. Simply say which position you're applying for, and how you think your qualifications and skills make you a good candidate for the position. Ensure any other contact details like your phone number are at the end of the email as well as on your CV."
3. Get an appropriate email address — preferably one with your name in it.
This isn't just for professionalism, but also to allow a potential employer to be able to find and respond to your mail with ease.
Applying for a job interview? Try using an appropriate email address. Addresses such as firstname.lastname@example.org will not work. #jobtips— Dev Joshi (@devjoshi247) September 14, 2015
4. Practise your interview techniques
Ask someone with more career experience than you to give you a practice interview so you know what to expect. Practise answering succinctly, and don't forget important aspects like your posture and speaking clearly.
5. Research the company you're applying to
If you haven't done your homework, you will appear uninterested, which doesn't make a good impression. Make sure you understand the company's products or services, its market and competitors, and its ethos. Have an answer for why you want to work there.
The employer doesn't only want to see if you can do the job. They also want to assess whether you are a good fit for the company.
6. Prepare some questions for the interviewer
You don't want to be left scrambling for something intelligent to say when they ask if you have any questions. You could ask about any corporate social investment (CSI) initiatives, company culture, management style, or what internal training and mentorship opportunities they offer.
7. First impressions are very important
Make eye contact, practise a firm handshake, and watch your body language. You want to come across as likeable and confident — but not arrogant. And ensure you dress professionally and appropriately, so find out what people wear in that industry, and remember that it's always better to be overdressed than underdressed. Formal corporate environments may require a suit, for example.
"Being prepared is key, but also remember to be yourself," concluded Kobokoane, "As clichéd as this might sound, the employer doesn't only want to see if you can do the job. They also want to assess whether you are a good fit for the company, and that you are in person what you seem to be on paper."