By: Dr Kamran Iqbal
Working opportunities in this world are already scarce, and the rise of smarter people makes it even more competitive to grab the right place at the right time. Especially for fresh grads, this is one hell of an unforgiving wild world marking the great end of innocence.
Before you throw yourself and make amphibious way warm waters in the wild, it makes sense to know the rules of the jungle. In other words, my 30 cents on ‘How to hunt for a job like a pro and reach where you really want’ – albeit in our Pakistani setting. Let’s get straight to the point. Writing Covering Letter and CV is very important part of practice for any business school grads. They cannot cross ladders without it. Disappointingly, most of these grads don’t know how to write a proper CV. I was rather petrified to see the kind of CV’s I recently saw when screening for hiring in my department.
So below are some myth shattering realities I would want students to know before writing and applying for positions anywhere:
- There’s a business school in Clifton area from which all CV’s look same in format? ALL! Why oh’ why? Please be innovative and don’t become slave of format. Most of their students did not know what to put first on CV. These kinds of business schools are now producing army of MBA’s but no Generals. One should always remember that there’s no standard universal form of CV, but there’s a thing called ‘The Best CV’ the one which makes you a compelling candidate for the job, someone who is difficult to turn down.
- Please note, no one’s interested in your CGPA or even knowing where you did your internship. Don’t be disappointed. You did internship for yourself not for your prospective employer. Smart people get hired in the place where they did their internship on first place. Catch the first boat. Don’t wait for the ship.
- At the end it is less likely to help you where you did your MBA from (exceptions apply) but what you did after your MBA. Exceptions are, of course, Ivy League or its local/regional equivalents. If you are from that exception zone, do not forget to brag about it. Here’s the reason why you should brag about it: You are MBA, you should know the power of brand equity. Brand equity of your business school translates into better size in job market equity.
- Business schools should not only share opportunities but must provide matching/placement facility for its students. Most of the fresh grads need some hand holding till they can walk by themselves. I see most of the business schools simply throw CVs of their students on opportunities. Throwing CV to opportunity is job not well done. Wrong CV’s send for right positions can lead to negative branding of your business school, especially how particular business school is perceived by HR in any company matters. It has impact on all the students coming from that business school. Hence, Dear Business Schools, please don’t play dart with opportunities, be a match maker.
- There’s a thing called career progression, which works most of the time. If you are thinking of switching the sector or even your profession (in which there’s absolutely nothing wrong! It is no sin or blasphemy!) state clearly why you want to do it or why you are doing it. It has to be a compelling reason and you should make a strong case. Do some thought articulation to plan your response beforehand. Articulate and play the switch for your advantage, show it as your risk taking ability and passion to do what you like doing overcoming all the challenges. Erase confusion with logic + passion but most importantly -be honest. Honesty has tendency to jump out and shine, even if it is on paper. Beware smart interviewers do not hire people whose CV show series of job hopping i.e., not sticking to companies for more than a year and changing 5 jobs in 5 years. Inconsistency is a big ‘no’ ‘no’ for an interviewer even if the person is interviewed.
- Brevity is important. It is especially important for your first face – your first ever impression – i.e., your Cover Letter and CV. Many people (especially fresh grads) put fillers as many cannot handle the insecurity of having a CV way too short and with many empty spaces and nothing to fill. Do not add fillers. Fillers do not fly and this does not help. Fillers are empty vessels making noises and noise is what people avoid. Keep only those points which you can defend with credible evidence (especially those points which tells a lot about your team player attitude and leadership potentials). Be honest about your CV even if you feel your CV is embarrassingly half a page. Most importantly – be yourself. That ‘Yourself’ is what interviewer wants to see. Being yourself would also tremendously help you maintain decent yet classy tiny bit of humor in Q&A during interview.
- Brevity, though highly important on your cover letter and CV, but brevity should not be there in your interview, however. Give well thought out answers in your interview. Read the job ad thrice before applying and before coming for your interview and stick to the major points mentioned in that ad related to JD. Research thoroughly before you apply and research again before going for an interview. During the interview give real life examples to convey your point of view. This will demonstrate the interviewer that you know what you are talking. ALWAYS use active voice and sit in relaxed alert mode. Do not shy away from asking the question, especially if you think something need clarity, be it a question or an answer. Do not feel shy or embarrassed if you have worked in some small and unknown company for shortest time or longest time period, take ownership of your experience and be proud about it.
- Always check company details on internet before applying, know what company do, its infrastructure, its culture, its higher ups, movers and shakers and (and internal and external stakeholders). Especially figure out where you would fit in in the hierarchy. Know what powers you would have and what you would not have on this job. Use LinkedIn and Facebook to actively to know who you are about to meet. Knowing interviewer’s interests, experiences and background (including academics) would tremendously help you to fine tune and smarten your replies. But surprising the interviewer with Happy Birthday wishes to show how much you know is something for sure a disaster.
- I would even recommend you meet present and past employees (you can easily search their profile on LinkedIn). No one can tell you things with details as greater as present and past employees would do. These are your assets who can not only help you prepare for the interview but can also help you throughout your job telling you do’s and don’ts while strategizing. Your guts will tell you about applying discretion on due course, about what advice to follow and what should not be followed and what would be considered as obsolete once you are in the job.
- Girls (I think it will equally apply to boys too), I would highly recommend you should personally pay a visit to your potential workplace where you have applied and got interview call. When visiting, make sure you set up an appointment and meet your prospective boss as well. It’s important you should know who will be your boss before you decide to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for whatever good (or bad) reasons. Besides yes or no part, it’s important to know beforehand whether you will get to learn something new and improving from your boss or not.
- Before and during interview it always helps to know who will be your boss and how much you can learn from him/her if you join this position. Not just pay and position that are important but also look at development and learning curve your boss and your job can give you. Smart people win appointment and visit the place where they have applied just to get the feel of work, build rapport and then apply. You will be putting your time in this company and you are the one who should be more concerned and active about it. If your work does not turns you on then you should not linger on it longer.
- In CV’s there’s a thin line between what can be called a diverse CV and what can be called a confused person CV.
- Somewherefar, Nadeemrulz, wildtiger and bedofroses are NOT at all professional email addresses and these are definite pointers of your ‘soaring maturity’. Come on, you are a business school grad who went to Business School, THE BUSINESS SCHOOL! Please act like one.
- Cover letter is important. Don’t blow your own trumpet on paper, you will have a better chance for it interview, at cover letter and CV level, rather allow your experience and passion to inform about you. Be humble and grounded.
- Trigger words! Trigger words! Trigger words! Use words which triggers certain consciousness about yourself. Use words that reader would associate you with. I had a subordinate, which I used to think of ‘Action Man’/’The implementer’ because he was always on to doing something really visible and good and used words which reflected the same.
- Your photograph on CV is not important. I suggest you should put it only if your photograph compliments your CV. Human beauty bias is rampant, however. If you are really smart, you would know how to use interviewer’s bias in your favor. Mostly women know this art naturally or may be by experience. Guys, learn from them!
- Please do not put your date of birth on CV. No one is interested to know when you were born. Put it only if really needed, or if it’s a part of job requirement. Your D.O.B can come in the last part of CV somewhere if you are so poised to show how young (or old) you are.
- Your CNIC number, what this got to do with your job? Think about it. It surely won’t land you to some opportunity. Believe me. CNIC is useful for voting and for other things and its space is not on CV.
- Don’t put organization logos on your CV when sharing past experience. Not only that its violation of law it is also a pointer that how you would tend to miss out on ‘ethical details’ of work and communications.
- In your CV, please describe the nature of work of company you worked for in your past experience and give the link of company website. For example, as interviewer, I would never know what is this Zumba Enterprise. Are they Zumba practice people or some company in Africa? How would you expect me to know?
- Ideally, your CV’s should not be in editable word document but in non-editable PDF format unless specifically required by the company.
- The space to show your career objectives does not lie on the top of CV because that’s the place to show off your experience regardless the quality or duration of it. These fillers of career objectives, personal statement, personality trait and key competency stuff should be reserved for interview only that too only if required and supported with real world honest examples. You have applied for the job and now your career objective is actually hidden somewhere in your JD. If you are trying to show in your CV that you are a smart person for this job, no interviewer would believe it unless he or she has met you. That’s the way it is in most cases!
- Always try to put your experience first and academics later. Unless you have strong reasons to use the brand name of your business school to compliment your CV. People are interested more in the relevance, quality, progression, continuity and duration of experience and then which business school you graduated from comes second. Smooth career progression with reasonable experience on CV with honest interview has power to trump the brand name of even the most average business school.
- Why there’s sudden rise in MBAs with concentration in supply chain? I can’t comprehend the basis behind this trend, someone please enlighten me.
- 95% of the time personal objectives written on the top of the CV are waste of space. No one reads it. Believe me it does not add value of your CV. It’s filler and will not rise above it.
- Virtually none of the MBA’s in Pakistan is ready enough for case based interviews. Literally none of them have been trained in this art.
- Even in CV’s there are two types: ‘Low-esteemed CV’s’ and ‘full of themselves CVs’. Then there are ‘humble CV’s’ and there are ‘CV’s of curious beings full of spark’. Latter ones are mostly the best ones.
- The positive and interesting trend I am seeing is that there is rise in women applicants and they are as smart and as competitive as men.
- Never ask about salary in your first interview. You are in for this job with complete mindfulness because you wanted it and your being into this job also involves that you must have done some background homework about what salary range the company is offering. Asking for salary and negotiating for it is a very tricky part and should almost always be reserved for second/or third round of interview when you have a signal that you are selected.
- Always remember to send a follow up email expressing ‘thank you for your time’ to interviewers and share how this interaction has helped you further your understanding about the company and nature of the job and important and relevant this job is to achieve company goals in its unique way. This will have greater impact as in Pakistan, rarely many people make follow up call or emails after interview (whether or not interview is successful). Do this regardless even if you internally realize that you won’t be hired, because this world is a small place, you never know you would be either re-applying for some position in this same company again or meeting the same interviewers again in a new company. People value thoughtful courtesy and details, always honor it.
Dr Kamran Iqbal is a HerCareer.pk mentor. He is currently the Head of Marketing & Resource Mobilization at AKHSP. With years of experience in multiple industries, he is an expert on job related tips and tricks. He hopes to guide the women at HerCareer.pk in achieving the best throughout their careers. We are proud of his contribution to our blog 🙂