Finding a job is a job. How do you draw positive attention to yourself?
How do you find your superpower? What should you include in a resume? Do you need to record a video or create a page in Notion? How should you behave in interviews? How do you use STAR? Career coach Marina Stasevich gives her recommendations about how to present yourself to potential employers.
In this article
— I’ve been in the recruiting industry since 2011. First, at an international outsourcing company, and then at a major developer of computer games. At my last job, I was involved in the recruitment of more than 500 IT specialists to the company. To do that, I conducted more than 3,000 interviews, and I looked at countless resumes. I can say with confidence that the IT field is well known to me, and I understand the challenges and needs associated with it. Today, as a coach, I help create an environment in which people will find answers to questions about building their careers.
— Finding a job is work. Expect it to take 3-6 months, depending on the company's hiring processes and the level of the position. Sometimes, for top roles, it can take about a year from the start of the search to the offer. Plan what you will do during this time: prepare a “financial cushion,” review and upgrade your hard and soft skills, and focus on the communication, presentation, and negotiation skills that you will need during the interview. Update contacts from your network because they can also be useful when you are looking for a job.
What to do before the interview
— Where do you start when looking for a job? From a career path perspective, when you begin your search, it would be nice to have a complete picture of what you as a specialist want to achieve and how you want to build your career. Based on this picture, you will understand what next steps you need to take. The bottom line is that you should be able to answer the main question: what kind of work do you want to find so that your career develops in the way you imagined? Consider the following points:
- What is important to you in your work;
- What about work brings you the most pleasure;
- What tasks are interesting to you;
- What do you want to learn;
- What would be the best team for you at this point - people with what interests, hobbies, values;
- What qualities should the team leader have - after all, we learn a lot from them;
- What employment conditions would you prefer - telecommuting or office, full-time, part-time, or flexible schedule;
- What level of influence do you want at this point - do you want to make decisions or not; and
- What are the culture and values within the company.
Collect these answers, then look at them and determine what else is important for you. And then decide what kind of professional you need to be to perform this job. What skills and qualities do you need to have? Be sure to include all of this in your resume.
One of my clients was looking for a job as a product designer. He was fond of football. In an interview with a company that developed a football simulation game, he mentioned his hobby. He was preferred over all other candidates, since his culture and values and those of the company coincided. These things are important and worth considering.
I recommend looking for a job based on your strengths; on your superpower. How do you put this into practice? Remember all your professional achievements and digitize them. Think about what you can do better than others, what professional achievements you are proud of, how you can demonstrate the results of your successful efforts in numbers. Remember what your colleagues and managers praised you for, what difficulties you successfully overcame. Maybe you optimized something, improved it. Compile and process all this information and you will have a portrait of your strengths.
Many of us are very humble people. Sometimes we may have difficulty identifying our own significant achievements as a result. In such a case, there is a cool method you can use to get the information you need — a 360-degree assessment. This involves collecting feedback from those with whom you interact at work, including your: manager, colleagues, stakeholders, subordinates. If you are a beginner, you can ask your social circle, on social networks. Make a post on Instagram, for example, with the question: “What is my strength?”
When a person can do work that drives them, and that they do well, this develops, promotes, and strengthens them as a professional.
People often make a mistake when listing their duties on a resume. Responsibilities do not reveal the potential of a specialist, and do not speak about them as a professional. It is important to talk about your results instead, using past tense action verbs, including: made, launched, developed, optimized, implemented, etc. For example, a programmer optimized the code by reducing the number of lines, and as a result the code became more readable. The QA specialist developed a testing algorithm that automatically began to find many bugs, optimizing the use of time and human resources.
If you are a junior without rich experience to describe, and it is difficult for you to boast of achievements, your resume can reflect how you are developing in your chosen profession. Give examples of training that you have taken, reading you have done to develop your skills, and webinars you’ve attended. Describe study cases, volunteer projects, personal projects, freelance work done, and internships.
How do you draw positive attention to yourself?
— We all want employers to notice us out of the hundreds of responses they receive to an available position. To improve your chances of this happening, focus on the requirements and standards of the company. It is important to understand the internal workings of the resume review process here. Most often, the first filter that a resume goes through is a technical sourcer, designed to view resumes by keywords from a vacancy, or a bot. Companies use automated tracking systems to process all incoming resumes through mail, job search sites, LinkedIn, etc. Such a filter may not appreciate a creative approach.
Companies without such tools generally employ fewer people. Limited resources means that they have no time to track non-standard approaches: it’s easier if everything follows the usual process.
A creative Nike candidate recently printed her resume on a cake, for example. The company did not hire her. The approach was creative, but it did not secure the job. Still, the method is usually not as important as the content:
- The resume should be in the language of numbers, quantifying results and achievements.
- It should be concise (1-2 pages).
- Skills must be up-to-date (and correspond to current trends). It is not necessary, for example, to indicate that you can program in Pascal, which no one uses anymore.
You can and should write your resume based on the requirements of a particular vacancy, aligning your own experience with the criteria of the employer. If a vacancy says that an international company is looking for an enterprising specialist to influence the quality of its code, working as part of a large team of analysts, testers, etc., then highlight in your resume a similar experience you had at a prior job.
— The trend of video presentations of oneself appeared during the pandemic, when the opportunity to see a person live was not available. It gained traction because we all want to see who we have to work with. Now, companies are creating requirements for video presentations. You will need to make a presentation that is consistent with some kind of standards. If the companies you are engaging with do not have requirements in place, then Elevator Pitch, a self-presentation technology, will help. It is necessary to very succinctly and essentially answer 3 questions:
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- Why you are the right fit?
You can add information about why you chose this company and this vacancy, but it is better to focus on the first 3 questions in 1-3 minutes.
With the help of video, an employer can hear and see a person and analyze how clearly and concisely they convey their thoughts. The video presentation gives a first impression. It serves as a kind of filter to help the employer assess whether it is worth inviting the candidate for an interview and investing company time in that person. An interview, as a rule, takes 1 hour, and finishing it sooner is not considered tactful toward the candidate. As an employer, you need to answer the candidate’s questions, even if the candidate is clearly not suitable. Therefore, a video presentation is a way to save the time of the recruitment team.
A video presentation does not, however, allow for a deep analysis of soft and hard skills. This is clarified during an interview or a test task.
As you might expect, this method is in high demand for top positions. With the help of the video, an employer can understand how a person talks; how clearly and effectively they convey information.
— Page in Notion is also a popular way of presenting now. It is used by designers, marketers, and analysts. It is a convenient format for structuring work cases. It does not exclude or pre-empt your resume, but rather complements it. You can add a link in your resume to Notion, Figma, Canva, and any other landing page or showreel. But you need to remember that none of these tools replace a resume. That is the golden rule.
We analyze information through three channels in an interview:
- Visual — what we see;
- Auditory — what we hear; and
- Semantic — what meaning the language carries.
With regard to the visual channel of the presentation, it is important to understand that people are represented by their clothing. At the interview, the employer representative evaluates a candidate from head to toe. The way a person looks can influence the employment decision. It is important to consider your image before the interview. There are companies where the dress code is not so important, and companies where the dress code is strict. You can find out about this in advance by looking at the company's website, checking its visual style and what language is used - official or unofficial. It is important to plan and prepare your image in advance — to be rested, not stressed, positive, and to make a good impression. During the interview, watch your gestures, facial expressions, and your posture.
The auditory channel is how you sound: the timbre and tempo of your voice; your intonation. Speak confidently, loudly, and clearly so that you can be easily understood. Do not rush, but do not hesitate either; follow the energy of the interviewer.
The semantic channel involves the interviewer’s reaction to your logic, conciseness, accessibility, and literacy. Plan the information you want to discuss; what cases will best highlight your experience and expertise. Here again a prepared Elevator Pitch comes to your rescue.
There is also an excellent technique for answering questions during an interview under the acronym STAR:
- S (situation) — what was the situation you experienced at work;
- T (task) — the task you completed in that situation;
- A (actions) — the actions that you took; and
- R (result) — what happened as a result of these actions.
You can describe all your achievements in the interview using the STAR method — what was the situation, what was my task, what did I do, and what results did I achieve. This method is universal and suitable for any questions about your experience. If you are asked to talk about failures, you can also use the STAR method — there was such a situation, certain mistakes were made by me or the team, the result was something that taught me, and I later applied this experience to prevent errors. Even answering a question about failure, you can present yourself as a successful specialist.
— I always recommend rehearsing interviews. Record yourself on video. Watch and listen by yourself or seek the help of a career coach. There is no universal recipe for how to create your path in the profession, everyone is individual. Therefore, a coach or career consultant can help determine what you can do in a given situation to achieve your specific goals, attain a specific role, and save you time for your substantive preparation.
Keep in mind that a manager who comes to an interview with a candidate often rushes from meeting to meeting. The manager may only have a few minutes to review the information about the candidate before the interview. Therefore, the more carefully and concisely the candidate presents their experience, the better for the candidate. A resume of 1-2 pages maximum and a link to a portfolio or additional cases in case the resume hooks is ideal.
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