What happens when you need a new job? For many Singaporeans, the solution is to pick up the phone, call a headhunter and let him do all the dirty work. Others trawl hopefully through job search sites like JobsDB, diligently sending out their resumé to listings that look suitable.
But if you really need a job urgently because you’re going to puke if you eat another packet of Nissin noodles, you need a high-efficiency strategy that will get you a new position as fast as possible. Here are three of the biggest reasons people flop at each stage of the job hunting process.
1. At the job hunting stage: Not reaching out to your personal network
Okay, we understand you want to keep the fact that you’re quitting your job under wraps. Sure, you might bitch about your boss every chance you get, but still, nobody at the office should know that you’re actually trying to leave.
While maintaining secrecy at your workplace is a good idea, if you’re not more forthcoming about your plans to move and do not reach out to your personal network for help, you could be missing out on some good opportunities. For instance, Singapore is basically a country full of banking and finance employees. If you’re looking for a job in this field, chances are you have a few friends or family members who can get you one.
Many of the big multinational banks with offices in Singapore seldom advertise job vacancies on sites like JobsDB, preferring instead to hire through referrals. And they usually also pay their employees tons of money for referring friends—they can get paid more than $10,000 just for helping them recruit a fresh grad. So you can be sure people will be scrambling to refer you, even if they don’t actually like, or even know you that much.
Even if you’re not looking for a banking job, there seems to be a clear preference amongst employers for hiring via referrals, especially for entry level or junior positions. I’ve worked in companies where many of my colleagues were either the kids of the management’s friends or got hired because they used to give one of the boss’s kids tuition.
While you might want to be a little more subtle than that guy who broadcasts on social media that he’s looking for a new job if you haven’t actually quit your current job yet, it’s in your best interests to ask friends and relatives if they, or someone they know, might know of a vacancy you could fill.
2. At the application stage: Not following up
So you’ve gotten your resumé spruced up, and you’ve proofread your cover letters 3 times. You send them out to prospective employers, and then feel disappointed that they didn’t get back to you despite the fact that your resumé was pretty much perfect. What went wrong? Did you use the wrong font?
In many situations, if your resumé really fulfils all the requirements for the job and leaves a good impression, and you have avoided faux pas like attaching an obvious selfie of yourself or failing to correct spelling and grammatical errors, the problem could simply be that you didn’t follow up, and whoever’s in charge of HR just forgot to get back to your application.
As a fresh grad, I applied for jobs in batches of ten. I would send out ten resumés on a Monday, wait a week for a response, and then send out another ten the next week. Sending the applications out in batches made it easier to keep track of when I’d sent them and, more importantly, enabled me to know when to follow up without losing my marbles. I’d simply send out a batch of follow-up emails one week after each set of applications.
And what I found was that a lot of the employers who hadn’t responded immediately after receiving my initial application did respond almost immediately after receiving the follow-up email. Eventually, I ended up working for a company who had just been too busy to reply at first but later replied to my follow-up.
3. At the interview stage: Not showing the employer the personality traits they are looking for
By the time you get invited to show up for an interview, the interviewer only has two objectives in mind: 1) to see if you have the right character traits for the job, and 2) to test your skills.
Number 2 may or may not happen; it depends on the nature of your job and the employer themselves. If you’re interviewing as a fresh grad for a position as a marketing executive, it is highly unlikely you’ll be put through a battery of tests. On the other hand, if you’re an experienced candidate for a post as a data scientist, don’t be surprised if you’re given some problems to solve.
If your skills suck, you won’t be able to pass #2. But everyone has a good shot at #1. You see, most interviewers don’t really care about getting to know your “authentic self”. What they care about is that you display the personality traits they see as desirable. It’s your job to figure out what those are, based on things they’ve said at the interview as well as the kind of company you’re dealing with. As early on in the interview as possible, it’s a good idea to ask what their ideal employee would be.
Some companies are quite upfront about what they want. For instance, I once went to an interview where the interviewer told me that they were very concerned about finding someone who would be staying with them for several years, despite the fact that the job was rather boring. In a situation like this, you would want to present yourself as a loyal employee looking for a long-term relationship with an employer.
Those interviewing for sales roles should try to show that they’re outgoing, dynamic, have great networks and have a can-do attitude. I’ve had friends who were turned down for not having a “sales personality”. On the other hand, if you’re interviewing for a job as a secretary or personal assistant, you want to show you how meticulous and detail-oriented you are. Remember, it’s all about painting yourself as the ideal candidate for the job.
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