|For students leaving school and considering employment, the entire process from applying for a job to attending an interview can be a daunting one. Laura Dowrich sought out Hyacinth Guy, president of the Human Resources Managers Association and director of human resources at Powergen, for her advice on how to nab a job.|
|Curriculum Vitae or Résumé?|
In HR, a CV and a resume are two different things, said Hyacinth Guy, thumbing through a dictionary. “A CV is more detailed while a résumé is more specific, tailored to a specific job, ” she said, explaining that on a résumé, you would only put information from your background that is relevant to the job.
CVs are more suited to people high up in the organisational food chain, with years of experience under their belts. Therefore, CVs tend to be long - sometimes running for about 20 pages.
Résumés, however, only contain a portion of what would be on a CV and should ideally be two pages or less. And while coloured, embossed and perfumed paper might stand out, they are no guarantee that you will be a shoo-in for consideration. As a matter of fact, said Guy, fancy paper does not impress her. It is wise to keep your résumé simple on white paper with black ink. So you are preparing for examinations, graduation is a couple months away and you’ve never worked, what do you put on your résumé?
If you do not have any job experience, do not despair. Guy said there are many jobs that do not need prior experience. “That (experience) can be a disadvantage because it comes with behaviours that do not suit the organisation,” she said. “For students, I tell them you may have no experience in the working world, but you must have done something. If you’ve taken part in extra-curricular activities in school, highlight the skills, what in you it developed. Did you do something in your community, group, church or wherever you worshipped?” In describing the skills developed from any of your experiences, remember to use key words, result-oriented words such as “responsible for”, “accountable for”, “achieved this”, “implemented”.
Guy advises that if all you have is your O’ and A’Levels, then you should list the subjects and grades you obtained, if available. For those with university degrees, it is not necessary to list secondary school level examinations.
Age, date of birth, marital status and religion are not necessary and should not be included on a résumé, said Guy. Personal information, she said, should be limited to things that are relevant to the job you are applying for.
Passing all your examinations is good, but not enough to land you a job. Academic proficiency combined with participation on the school’s football or debating team may just give you the edge over other candidates. “If I look at a résumé and see only 1s (CXC grades), then I look to see what else you do, and if there is nothing else listed, then that could be a problem,” said Guy. Extra-curricular activities, she said, are important and should be included on a résumé. They indicate that you are a well-rounded person and not just an academic. “Employers look for that, it shows that you can share information and work with peers and supervisors,” she said.
|Things to avoid|
Spelling, grammatical and typographical errors.
|The Cover Letter|
This is where you get to really sell yourself to your prospective employer. The first statement, said Guy, should state the application for the job you want and, if you saw it advertised, where you saw it. If you are applying for a generic vacancy, be specific about which area of the company you would like to work in. Tell them your skills and qualifications, said Guy. “State something that captures how prepared you are to do that job, what your attributes are, without repeating what you have in the résumé.”
You’ve sent your letter and résumé and your application was considered impressive enough for your prospective employer to call you for an interview. This is where the employer gets the chance to learn more about you and you get the opportunity to convince them that you are the right person for the job. The interview should really be a familiarisation process, but traditionally, said Guy, it has been intimidatory.
The way you look may affect your chances of getting a job. Unfortunate, but true said Guy who acknowledged that certain hairstyles, for example, are still discriminated against in this country. That apart, you should always strive to look clean and neat whenever attending an interview, she said.
Know the environment of the company you are interviewing to work for, said Guy. That means you should do some research on the company when you get the call to attend an interview. What kind of dress does the company promote? Guy said there are three types: business, business casual and casual. Business dress, she said, includes tailored suits, dresses and jackets. Colours should be solid, as in brown, black or navy blue. Business casual, she said, comprises a jacket, with an inner blouse and skirt; for a man, a jacket and shirt with jeans or dockers. Jewelry, advised Guy, should not be too gaudy. “If it can be worn at a nightclub or mall, then don’t wear it, don’t distract me,” she said.
|Answering the tricky questions|
There are standard questions asked in every interview, the answers for which appear not to be that straightforward. Guy gives an outline of the type of answers that you could give for some of these questions. Tell me about yourself... Instead of launching into a diatribe about that time at band camp, relax, said Guy. This question, she said, is intended to get you into a comfort zone. You can talk a little about your family and what kind of values were instilled in you, the type of responsibilities you had at home or the things you like about yourself.
|Where do you see yourself in five years?|
If your intention is to go abroad to study or take the interviewer’s job, chances are complete honesty will not get you hired. But Guy advises that you should always be honest. You can state what you want to do without being specific, she said. “Instead of saying the specific thing you want to do, which might be to start your own company, say you want to hold a senior position in any company you work in,” she said. Why should I hire you? “Be honest. Say, ‘This is what I am looking for...’ and ‘I can bring this to the job...’ “You might want to get personal and talk about your skills and experience. You can say you can work and support the people you are working with, or you want to ensure the company you are working for will succeed,” said Guy.
|Always ask questions|
Guy said you should always ask a question at the end of the interview, to show there is a certain maturity that you can bring to the company and position. Ask general things, she said, such as: “Is the organisation poised for development?”; “To whom will I be reporting?”; “How is the company structured?” or “Is the salary level comparable to the industry?”
|edited article courtesy of Trinidad Guardian, November 6, 2003|
By Laura Dowrich