Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Five top tips that will help you smash that job application!

I've just been recruiting people for a number of roles and the same issues cropped up time and time again. If you want to get a job, you've got to get the basics right!

None of what I am about to say is new, and it's certainly not rocket science. That being said, people are still not getting the basics of job hunting right! So here we go, my top five tips for applying for a job based on my experience of being an employer.

1. Do exactly what the employer is asking for in the job advert
This means you must provide all the information the employer is asking for and in the format she is asking. So, if the employer wants you to put a pitch in two pages, do it! Don't write a pitch in six pages! If you are asked to answer selection criteria, for goodness sake, answer the selection criteria!

If you miss out an element of the application, for example do not address selection criteria, or do not follow formatting instructions, your application will not even be considered for short listing, especially if there are a large number of applications. If you cannot even get an application right, how will you perform in the job is what the employer will be thinking. 

2. Give your future employer a KISS!
Not a real kiss, obviously - you'd don't want to miss out on an interview because the employer thinks you are weird. What I mean is: Keep It Simple Stupid. Write in plain English. Make sure you get all your grammar and spelling correct. Be concise. 
This is particularly important with your CV. Employers do not have time to wade themselves through pages and pages of your CV. I have 40 years of career to talk about, so I focus on elements that are of particular relevance to my job application in my CV, and summarise very briefly my career history. 

As an employer, I hate fancy and colourful CVs especially when they do not have the content to back them up. But obviously, if you're applying for a marketing job, a colourful CV might be totally appropriate. I would also advise that you do not put your photo on your CV because there is the potential to bias the employer against you.
3. Speak to the employer/recruiter/contact person before you submit your application 
There are several advantages of speaking to the employer/contact person before you submit your application. You will be able find out more about the job which will help your application. It may also give you an advantage against the rest of the applicants - the employer will remember you and give you a "brownie point" for taking the time to ring up. Of course, that can also go against you if you make a bad impression over the phone, so be very polite and ask sensible questions.
4. Be prepared at your interview
Do your homework! Read up as much as you can about your future employer. Talk to others about the company/organisation. The more prepared you are, the easier you will find it to answer questions and the more interested in the job you will appear to the interviewer. 
Have stories prepared to tell which demonstrate what your experience and skills are; how you go about doing your work; what you have achieved in your current and previous roles. Stories will back up your claims about how good you are.
Dress smartly, even if you are having a phone or online interview. It drives me mad when I see applicants dressed scruffy for a job interview. Makes me think you are not serious about the interview, and makes me doubt how serious you are about the job. 
5. Follow up your interview with a 'thank you' call  
It can feel humiliating to call up the employer after the interview, especially if you think you did badly. But again, it keeps you in the employer's consciousness. I interviewed a person a little while ago. I didn't give them the job but because they rang me to thank me and took my feedback very well, I thought of them when the next vacancy came up and give it to them. 

I hope you find these tips useful. What are your top tips for getting a job?

Friday, April 3, 2020

Covid, sourdough bread and Granfer

One of the impacts of isolation from covid, has been the over-whelming interest around the world in learning to make bread. I'm one of the many who has given it a go.

I decided to have a go at making sourdough bread because that is what I enjoy when I go to our local cafe for Sunday morning breakfast. What I didn't realise was there is a very definite art in making sourdough bread, and people become obsessed for years.

Ready, steady...get your starter   

The first difficulty was trying to decide what recipe to use, and to find out what a starter is. Apparently, you make your own starter and it can live in your fridge, like some slimy monster ghost from Ghostbusters, for years!  One of my friends told me they have moods....and different smells depending what mood they are in...and you have to feed it! Freaked me out, I have to say. 

In the end, I must admit I cheated and used this recipe which has yeast in its starter: How To Make Homemade Sourdough Bread. But another friend of mine loves this recipe, which uses a starter from just flour and water: Sourdough Bread: A Beginner’s Guide. The advantage of sour dough is it doesn't use yeast, which currently is really difficult to find, and apparently is better for your gastric system. 

Everything went well with the starter and five days later it was ready to go. I was afraid that I would not be able to find somewhere warm enough in our apartment to encourage the dough to rise, but it seemed to like our small laundry room which can get quite warm when we're using the washing machine.

Rise and shine

Another tip I was given by friends is that you cannot rush the rising stage. I got my timing all wrong because I didn't read the recipe right. Next time I'll be a little more careful with my planning because making the bread (including hours for rising) takes all day.
My other concern was that I wouldn't get the kneading right, or that I'd get bored. But I actually found it really relaxing and I was quite happy to knead away while I was listening to my audio book.


 Fire and water   

   Eventually I got to the stage I was ready to cook, but didn't have   a dutch oven. Not sure why I needed one, or even what a dutch oven is. But in the end, I experimented. One loaf I cooked in a Pyrex bowl with lid which seemed to work well. The other loaf I cooked on a baking tray which definitely didn't work, as you can see....got horribly burnt!  I also put a bowl with water in the oven. Again, I have no idea why, but it was on the advice of a friend.


It's in the blood!

I've always been afraid of making bread. My Granfer was a baker, and even worked as a baker in the army in WW2. But I never did any baking with him when I was a child so never learned any skills from him. My mother is a wonderful cake maker but she never got on well with bread-making. So whilst I learned to make cakes from her, I also think I learned from her that bread-making is hard and consequently have never really tried it. Even when I had a bread-maker, I never got on very well with it.

Ironically, it takes a world-wide epidemic to bring me to bread-making and a connection to my Granfer. I wish he were here so I could pick his brains for tips, but I am sure he'd be pleased that someone is carrying on the family tradition.