During my career, I have interviewed thousands of students and job seekers who are striving to start their careers and build their futures, and I have become aware that there are many misinterpretations when it comes to candidates not being selected. I would like to highlight the things that will help you minimize the number of rejections and increase your chances of getting hired. But, before we proceed, I would like to emphasize that life is constantly evolving, and we need to be able to cope with change – a key theme throughout this book.
Until around five years ago, academic qualifications were one of the main job requirements for students, interns, and first-time job seekers (candidates). As we are living in a fast-paced world (especially here in the UAE which is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world), job requirements are changing all the time and academic qualifications are not necessarily prioritized as much as they used to be.
This doesn’t mean that academic qualifications are not important, but the focus on qualifications as the leading factor in the recruitment decision has been drastically reduced from 80% to 10%. Based on my research and conversations with many decision-makers, personality and character are now becoming more important. These decision-makers also state that they, more often than not, require someone who can cope with change and who can focus on innovation and creativity.
The new recruitment parameters have changed the ratio to 70/20/10. 70% represents personality, attitude, and character. 20% represents skills and competencies. 10% represents qualifications. Qualifications can be academic, professional, and so on. Don’t only focus on being qualified for the job based on your exam scores. Instead, focus on developing skills, experience, and a positive attitude.
Focusing on your positive attitude helps with your body language, facial expressions, your words, your actions and reactions, being innovative/thinking out of the box, and much more. All of these can be developed under the ‘soft’ skills umbrella. What recruiters and line managers want to see is not necessarily what job you can do, but how you’ll do it – giving them insight into who you are and your approach to something. This will help to differentiate you from others and help you get hired.
If you land a job interview, there are some things you need to be aware of before, during, and after:
Prepare your own résumé with a tailored cover letter – familiarise yourself with everything in it, so that you’re prepared to answer questions on it.
Don’t lie on your résumé, or fake it. Keep in mind that recruiters have enough experience to determine whether you have written your CV, or if you have exaggerated or falsified things.
Dress professionally and pay attention to personal grooming and hygiene. Dress formally – it’s better to be over, rather than underdressed. This means business formal (suits) or national dress for Emiratis. Remove your sunglasses when you enter the building or premises where the interview will take place.
Silence your phone and keep it in your pocket during the interview to avoid 82 distractions – whether through notification sounds or the screen flashing.
Don’t be on time – be early! It’s advisable to be ahead of time by at least 15 minutes to avoid any delays due to traffic, parking issues, or getting lost in the building. Recruiters and line managers like to see candidates waiting for their interview, instead of the other way around.
Be aware of and maintain your body language. First impressions do count for a lot so it’s important to project poise and confidence. Don’t talk or use your phone – instead, read magazines or company literature while waiting for your interview.
Smile, breathe normally, and don’t ask too many questions. I have noticed that when candidates are nervous, they tend to ask imprudent questions about the role.
Be patient. You should not be especially concerned if a job interview starts late. Don’t overthink and be aware of your behavior whilst you wait.
Always conduct thorough research on the company and the job that you are being interviewed for in advance. This reflects how proactive, professional and well-prepared you are.
Things to consider while you are in the interview:
Body language and first impressions play a huge role in determining how serious you are about being part of an organization. Always be positive and friendly from the outset. After the initial greeting, shake hands and sit only after you have been invited to do so, or after the recruiter/line manager has sat down. Be especially aware of your posture and hand gestures.
Listen very carefully and don’t rush your answers. If you don’t understand a question, ask politely for it to be repeated or clarified. Answer the questions without being overconfident. Be genuine, realistic, and honest.
Don’t speak negatively about previous employers or companies, or discuss any previous issues you had with them. Always be respectful, positive, and polite when making reference to other companies, competitors, and employers. Why is this? Recruiters/line managers don’t want to hire someone that talks negatively about others and therefore might talk negatively about them in the future.
Always ask relevant and genuine questions related to the role or job. It is advisable to ask questions at the end of the interview, or whenever the recruiter/line manager allows.
Stay poised and composed. Sometimes, recruiters/line managers will try to push your limits by asking you unexpected questions to see how you react in a challenging situation.
Don’t raise discussion about salary expectations until they ask you. If you have been asked, always show that your motive is to learn, grow and advance in your career. Don’t indicate to them that you only want to work for the money. If you do so, you will give the impression that you would leave at a moment’s notice if presented with another opportunity with a better salary. This would be a concern for the employer especially if they have invested in your training and development in order to perform the role that you have been specifically hired for. 83
Always be humble, and be open to comments, ideas, suggestions, and rejections. If you have not been selected or if you feel that the interview didn’t go well, stay positive. There will be other opportunities. Ask for feedback, and use it to help you next time.
As mentioned earlier, there are many aspects that recruiters/line managers are looking for which are not just academic. Having qualifications is great, but if you are not able to perform the role, having top qualifications won’t be beneficial for the organization. Qualifications will support you in entering the business; however, to sustain the role, you will need skills and competencies.
The below questions will give you an idea of what recruiters/line managers are looking for:
Will the candidate embrace the organization’s culture? • How will the candidate perform in challenging and difficult situations?
Will the candidate be a team player and how flexible is he/she? • Can the candidate multi-task various projects?
How ambitious and innovative is the candidate? In what capacity can he/ she think out of the box?
Is money the candidate’s main reason for working with the organization, or is it learning and career growth, etc.?
All of the questions above are not related to academic or professional qualifications. They are called ‘soft’ qualifications, which is similar to the ‘soft’ skills concept. It is recommended to put equal focus on developing your personality, character and attitude as well as your skills and competencies. After you have finished your interview, always thank recruiters/line managers for their time. This is considered good practice in appreciation of their efforts, regardless of how you felt the interview went. Then, after three days, call for a follow-up, but no more than twice if you didn’t yet receive an update, or send a follow-up email just once. You don’t want to tarnish your image by bothering or annoying recruiters/line managers having performed well during an interview.
Here are the main takeaways:
Don’t only focus on your qualifications. Instead, focus on developing your attitude, personality, and experience.
Be humble, positive, and eager to learn – especially when things go wrong. This will help you grow and develop.
It does not matter what you do, it does matter how you do it.
Always keep doors open for future opportunities.