When an employer advertises a job vacancy, their dream candidate is someone who offers something different which puts them a cut above the competition. Whether or not you get the job you have applied for rests on whether or not you are seen to have this employability factor.
To maximise your prospects it is essential to learn what employers are looking for. However, this often varies from employer to employer so researching a specific employer before you submit a job application is always recommended.
At our Catterick 2012 event, there were presentations from two major employers of former Armed Forces personnel which gave plenty of advice and insight into what they look for in a perfect candidate. These are ‘Understanding What Recruiters Look For’ from the National Grid and a presentation from hotelier Hilton Worldwide's divisional resourcing director, Kathryn Porter.
• Download ‘National Grid: Understanding What Recruiters Look For’
• Download ‘Hilton Worldwide Recruitment Presentation’
There are some qualities which all employers look for in a candidate and you should seek to adopt these to increase your employability factor. We have reduced them down to three core attributes: Skills, values and presentation.
First and foremost, employers need to know that you have the skills to do the job, and to do it well.
Skills are often referred to as “competencies”. When measuring how competent you are for a position, an employer will try to match the skills you have demonstrated, either in your CV or during an interview, to those required for the job role. A good candidate will meet those requirements – a great candidate will exceed them.
A good way of thinking about competencies is as “skills in context”. How will the skills you already possess allow you to excel in your desired position?
National Grid advises you to: “Understand as much as you can about the role, the team, the company, and the sector – so you can tailor your application to highlight relevant strengths and experience. Give as much information as you can but make sure it is relevant.
Your skills do not have to be formal qualifications or direct experience with the tools and procedures used in the job role you are applying for. A career in the Forces has prepared you well for life on Civvy Street by providing you with many transferable skills, qualifications and experiences that may qualify you for the role.
Transferable skills can include team-working, people management and problem-solving skills – things that the Armed Forces has primed you for.
You have a short space of time during the job application process to demonstrate your skills to an employer, so spend some time thinking about what your transferable skills are and find specific examples of when you have used them for success.
Hilton Worldwide suggests that you “prepare competency-related experiences that demonstrate your transferrable and job-related skills – facts tell, stories sell.”
This section is not so much about individual values as shared values. Before hiring you, employers want to know that you are “their type of person”. By demonstrating shared values you will tick this box. Likewise, you should be on the lookout for a job which matches your own set of values.
Questions such as “Why do you think you would fit in here?” have become commonplace in job interviews. Two reasons for this are:
1. Large companies such as National Grid and Hilton Worldwide have strong branding guidelines and a corporate image to uphold and they will only want to employ people who will exemplify them.
2. Employers want to create an efficient and harmonious workplace. This means they are looking for people who will “muck in” and get along with everyone else.
In your CV, job application and interview you need to find ways of demonstrating that you have the appropriate values for the job role and company. As Hilton Worldwide puts it, “Consider the employer and adapt accordingly.”
There are many key values which are essential for a wide range of roles and which employers are always looking for. Many of these are common sense, such as 46% of hiring managers having uncovered a lie on a CV (so always be honest!). Other values include your motivations, work ethic, flexibility and dependability.
Do not be afraid to discuss your passions and hobbies outside of work with a prospective employer as these also demonstrate value and offer an insight into your personality.
In the short space of time you have to convince an employer that you are right for their company, how you present yourself is key.
There are many standard pieces of job-hunting advice that will help you, and you have probably heard them all before: make sure your CV and job application are neat, professional and written using perfect spelling and grammar, arrive on time to an interview dressed smartly, offer the interviewer(s) a firm hand shake and remember to make eye contact.
However, in the age of social media, employers are now assessing how you present yourself even before you arrive for an interview.
Kathryn Porter from Hilton Worldwide shares a secret: “80% of companies use social media to recruit, and 95% of those use LinkedIn.”
The message is that how you present yourself online using social media may affect whether or not you get an interview. Therefore, “Only post what you are happy for a potential employer to see”.