Job search tips

Interview tips

How to Ace Your Next Interview — Part 1: The Prep

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Shortlist helps candidates find and apply to great jobs, and the best-fit candidates advance to interviews with employers. We’ve written a practical guide for job seekers like you, to make sure you put your best foot forward and feel prepared and confident for the big day! In this post, we share tips for the first step of acing your interview — the preparation.

Congrats on landing an interview! Now, what do you do?

Have you showed up to an interview unprepared and actually thought you could ace it freestyle? I have, and the second I sat in front of the panel of interviewers, I realized it was probably the worst idea I’ve had in my entire career.

Here are seven tips for you to feel fully prepared and confident for your next interview:

1. Read, research…stalk!

Whatever you’d like to call it, do what you need to do to make sure you have a thorough understanding of what the organization is all about. Here are some questions to consider as you research:

  • What is the company’s mission and vision?
  • What are the company’s products or services? Who are their clients or customers?
  • What’s their latest project/product launch/offer?
  • What is the company’s work culture? Will you be successful in that work style?
  • Have they won awards or been honoured for some of their work?

Hosting interviews takes a ton of time and effort on the company’s part, and nothing turns off an employer more than a candidate who shows that they never took the time to learn the basics. It won’t matter how good you are on paper and how well you have presented yourself, you will lose points if you don’t have a solid understanding of their organisation. So do your research! Remember:

“Opportunity does not waste time with those who are unprepared.”

― Idowu Koyenikan

2. Understand the necessary skills and key responsibilities of the role

During the interview, you must be able to show the employer that you have the necessary skill set required for the role. One way you can approach this is thinking through instances where you have utilized them in your previous work experience. If you’ve never done them before, think through how you would approach these new responsibilities.

Also, note the responsibilities that the role would involve and provide examples of instances where you have engaged in similar tasks.

If you’re applying for the role from outside the industry or are pulling off a career switch, make sure to identify transferrable skills and emphasize them during the interview. For example, if you’d like to move from administrative work to an operational role, you could explain how needing to be extremely organised in your past jobs would serve you well in an operations position.

We design our job descriptions to thoroughly explain the role to applicants. Make sure you know the JD from front and back and have thoughtfully considered how you match the must-haves.

3. Prepare some questions in advance

Most interviewers will allow you to ask questions at the end of your session. To avoid becoming flustered and having to make up questions on the spot, prepare them in advance, and write them down. Some example questions might be:

  • I was excited to read that [element of their work culture] is a major part of your company culture. How have you experienced that during your time here?
  • How could I grow and evolve in this role in a way that would support the Organization?
  • What is the biggest priority for your department/company right now? Any challenges?

Just remember — don’t ask questions that can be found on the company’s website. If you followed step one, you’ll already know everything there is to know 🙂

4. Plan what to carry

Ensure you have at least four copies of your CV with you, as you might not know what type of interview you will be having (it could be one-on-one, a panel interview, or something else entirely). It may seem unprofessional to the employer if you come empty-handed, assuming they will have made copies on their end.

You should be sure to carry a pen and notepad to note down information or questions that come up during the session.

5. Before the interview, get your mind in the right place

Before the interview, take some time to self-reflect and consider how you want to frame your past experience, strengths, and weaknesses to the employer. Know your personal and career journey inside out. Prepare your examples and references. And be authentic!

Even though you might be nervous, be sure to get a good night’s sleep! You do not want to find yourself distracted, tired, or yawning!

6. Look your best to feel your best

The right candidate should be hired based on their skills and potential, not their appearance. However, taking the time to look professional and polished can boost your confidence and help you feel at ease on the big day.

Pick an outfit that is comfortable and fits well. Try to learn a bit about the company’s office culture when choosing your interview outfit. In specific industries like finance and consulting, most offices follow a business dress code, and you should as well. But for smaller companies or startups, they may have a much looser dress code in their office. If you show up in a suit and tie for a job at a startup in a coworking space, it could indicate that you don’t have a clear idea of their company culture and expectations.

7. Be on time

Always purpose to begin your journey to the interview location early (even earlier than you think you need to!). Look up the area in advance or if need be, call the organization to confirm to avoid the mishap of missing the location.

If for some reason you are running late, call the interviewer or contact person at the organization and inform them, letting them know when they can expect you. You are better off calling in advance rather than showing up late without having communicated.

If you are unable to make it to the interview or are no longer interested in the position, ensure that you communicate this to the employer immediately upon receiving an interview invitation. Maintaining your professionalism in this kind of situation is always appreciated.

We hope that these tips will be helpful for you as you prepare for your next interview — you got this!

Check out our second and third series on interviewing: The interview and How to seal the deal

Social media

Activating the power of social media for your career

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We recently led a career coaching session at a local university when a student asked, “I’ve heard that employers look at your social media accounts when they’re considering you for job placement. Is this true? And if so, what should we do to make sure we give the right impression?”

This is a great question and one that professionals around the world are increasingly contemplating. The answer is yes — many employers use social media as another means of understanding a candidate’s personality beyond the polished confines of the interview room. The rule of thumb we recommend is to ask yourself before you post anything publicly, “Would I want my next employer to see this?” If the answer is yes, post away.

We understand that some content you want to post is light-hearted and purely social, but when in doubt we advise that you keep content meant for friends — and not your employer or professional connections — in private settings.

But social media isn’t just a risk factor for your career — it can have a positive impact as well! Here are a few ways that social media can work for you while building your career:

Use social media to build your brand

Social media provides an avenue for individuals to showcase who they are, their passions and talents. To use this as a tool to build your brand, decide the level of interaction you prefer and stick to it.

Choose the platform that you like to use the best — LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat all serve a different purpose and attract a diverse audience. Whichever you choose, you want to maintain consistency across these platforms.

For instance, LinkedIn provides an opportunity to tell a story about your professional journey. Use this wisely by ensuring that your information is up to date from your employment history to projects and volunteer activities. List your areas of expertise and offer advice to other professionals who are interested in the same field.

As an alternative, Twitter and Facebook are conversational platforms where people share their views on current trends and topics. These can be great avenues to use social media for your career by engaging with other like-minded individuals, raise awareness on issues that you are passionate about in discourse on social issues.

If you’re more keen on laid-back platforms to showcase your hobbies and creative side, Instagram and Snapchat are right up your alley. The visual storytelling and engagement elements of these platforms make them a great one for aspiring marketers and content creators to focus on.

Whatever the social media platform of your choice, here are a few housekeeping rules to keep in mind:

  • Ensure that your information is accurate across all platforms.
  • Avoid the use of unprofessional names; use your official names across all platforms.
  • Pick a profile picture that portrays an image you want the world to see. As the saying goes, a picture speaks a thousand words. Ensure that your posts are thoughtful and do not have grammatical errors. Remember, you never know who is looking at your profile!

The lack of attention to detail can give the impression that you would make similar mistakes in professional emails which could, in turn, turn off a potential employer.

Showcase your expertise

You can use social media for your career by positioning yourself as a thought leader through contributing to topics in your area of interest and knowledge, sharing relevant articles and actively pursuing offline opportunities to build your brand. Social proof goes a long way!

Cultivating useful social media habits is bound to position you as an expert. Some of these include:

  • Stay informed on the latest developments in your areas of interest. Do this by, following relevant accounts, industry leaders, and groups.
  • Take a peek at some of your favourite companies and follow their corporate pages. You never know what might pop up in your LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram feed.
  • Post some of your content or join in on conversations in your area of speciality.
  • Share your story and connect with like-minded individuals. You’d be surprised at the level of influence you may have on these platforms just by being authentic and sharing your knowledge.

If you’re on social media, be active

Merely signing up won’t cut it; engage with your audience with consistency. Share content a few times a week. Take time to respond to other peoples’ comments on your posts and private messages.

Consistency will help you build your audience and through that, your brand!

Have fun and show your personality

Using social media for your career does not have to be yet another formal pursuit after your 8 to 5. Feel free to share your hobbies, talk about an awesome personal project you are working on. Post your ideal wind-down routine, recipes, travel experiences, and whatever else brings you joy! Additionally, your varied interests may also show that you are well-rounded and able to balance your work and personal life.

But don’t forget…

There are, however, some types of content that are never okay to post online. This includes aggressive or derogatory posts and anything suggestive of illegal behaviour. Similarly, airing out your frustrations about your job, boss, or client all make you appear unprofessional and immature. Get to understand your organisation’s policies on social media; you may have restrictions on what topics you can discuss as they may point to some of your clients or the organisation itself.

Even if your accounts are set to private, it’s important to note that everything leaves behind a digital footprint and an uncomfortable situation could be just a screenshot away.

What are your favourite social media accounts to follow, and why? Let us know through our channels: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook

​Not sure about that sales job? Go for it – your career will thank you!

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Have you ever considered taking a sales job? No doubt, the art of selling comes a little easier to certain people than it does to others. But if you’ve never considered yourself the “sales” type, you may be missing out.

An opportunity in sales can turn into a lifelong career or simply a stepping stone towards a different path, as Alice Mbori-Mwalimo, Head of Sales at GlaxoSmithKline Kenya, noted recently at a Shortlist panel discussion. She observed that sales professionals are more likely than any other function to progress to a General Manager, due to their deep understanding of the product and customer, and the other valuable skills they’ve developed over time in a sales position.

What exactly are those skills? Read on to learn more:

Clear and persuasive communication

The key to a great salesperson is their ability to communicate persuasively and succinctly, so taking on a sales job can help you cultivate those qualities. With consistent practice and engagement with different customers, you will learn how to adapt to different communication tactics depending on the individual you are interacting with.

In a sales job, you’ll learn how to deliver an effective elevator pitch, a hallmark of great communication skills. In a fast-paced environment, you will find that the ability to succinctly communicate your value proposition is essential.

Communication and presentation skills will be valuable to you both in personal and professional areas, no matter your chosen field. After all, every day you are explaining an idea, process or feeling to others around you – why not hone that skill in your job, too?

Active listening

One of the most significant outcomes of a sales job is the cultivation of excellent listening skills. It’s no secret that people love to talk – especially about themselves, their achievements and their needs – and customers are no exception. It’s crucial that you listen and make them feel that they are heard. You learn how to take a step back and prioritize listening to those around you rather than focus on the hard sell. This will be helpful in any role, especially as a manager.

Flexibility and adaptability

As you gain more experience in your sales role, you will face some uncertain situations which have the potential of throwing you off course – these can range from meeting schedules, locations, or changing client needs. In a sales job, you will learn how to navigate these and ensure that you can adapt to whatever setting you find yourself in.

 Resilience and grit

It’s no secret that a sales role will have its tough moments- unmet targets, demanding client needs, and tiring days full of meetings and demos. But each time you find a way to get past these challenges, you build your resilience. Learning how to manage setbacks and stressful situations will go a long way in helping you push through hurdles until you succeed.

In a sales job, Sealing the deal is crucial!Confidence

Walking up to someone and starting a conversation is certainly not an easy task. Every cold-call or client meeting will be scary in the beginning. However, it gets easier with time. As you learn how to interact with different people in diverse situations, you ultimately build your confidence in selling and presenting yourself. In turn, this will be key throughout your career, especially when networking during a job search.

 Problem-solving

For your product to have value in a potential client’s eyes, you need to be solving a problem for them. As Salesforce sales expert Aaron Ross said, “Customers don’t care at all whether you close the deal or not. They care about improving their business.”

Other times you may encounter challenges with the functionality of a product sold to a client. As a salesperson, you need to understand the customer’s needs. In addition to this, understand your product functionality from end to end to troubleshoot appropriately.

Research skills in your sales job and beyond

To be a successful salesperson, you must understand what your potential customer does. With a sales job, every day you will be conducting research into an organisation’s operations. You will also prepare questions you will need to ask to get the most useful information. This skill will benefit you in the long run as ultimately, you learn how to make decisions based on facts.

The beauty of the skills you gain from a sales role is that they are transferable across different fields and industries. So next time you get an opportunity to take up a sales job, go into it with an open mind and see where you can go! Oh, and did we mention the flexibility in work hours? 

In conclusion, whether you are new to sales or are already working within the field, developing these eight skills will help you advance to the next level. For all, you book lovers, a great one I’d recommend is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. In this book, he shares simple rules on how to achieve success with people. All these, illustrated from his own and others’ experiences.

We’ve got Sales job openings with top employers like Jumia and Ramco Plexus below:
JUMIA Kenya is hiring Channel Managers and Vendor Managers in Nairobi.

Market Power International Limited, a company under the Ramco Plexus family, is looking to hire a Sales Lead

For more job opportunities, sign up to take a look at our current openings with our partner organizations:

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Have you had the opportunity to take on a role outside your field of study? Please share some of your key learnings with us in the comment section.

Finding the latest jobs

Introducing the new Shortlist candidate profile

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Today we’re excited to share with you a brand new way to elevate your career and find the latest jobs with Shortlist.

In the past, the way to sign up with Shortlist was to apply for an open role with one of our employer partners. Now, professionals can proactively create a profile on our platform regardless of the current opportunities on our site. Once you tell us more about your background and preferences, we can reach out to you with the latest jobs.

In this post we’ll take a tour to highlight some key features of the new profile:

  • Lots more questions that take into account your work style preferences and career dreams
  • No matter what stage you are in the job search, you can sign up and learn more about the best opportunities as they arise
  • We help you highlight your top strengths and achievements.

Whether you’re new to Shortlist or have applied to jobs with us before, updating your profile is the first step to landing your next job. Let’s take a look!

Do you like flexible hours or 9-to-5? Startup or corporate? Now you can let us know!

 

At Shortlist, we believe you’re more than a CV. In our new profile, we’ll let you tell us more about your day-to-day work preferences as well as your career aspirations.

Maybe you’re motivated by the fast pace and growth opportunities of a startup and know that the corporate life isn’t for you. Perhaps you feel most productive in a formal environment or love the comfort of wearing jeans to work. You can now indicate all of these preferences in your profile.

And it’s not just about the office space and company, we also ask questions about the type of roles in which you thrive. Some people prefer being an individual contributor over working in a collaborative team. Some people excel in a clearly defined role, while some thrive in an unstructured position

We believe that these preferences play a huge role in your happiness and success at work. Hence when you indicate your workplace preferences on your Shortlist profile, we can share the latest jobs that you’ll love.

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Instead of actively applying for the latest jobs, we can let you know if the perfect opportunity pops up

We want to provide value for professionals no matter what stage you are in the job search process. We understand that even if you’re not actively looking, you may be open to a new role if the right one comes your way (in fact, one of our candidate surveys revealed that 95% of candidates who were currently employed were still open to new job opportunities).

When you complete your profile, we can learn enough about your skills and preferences. We can then identify which opportunities would be a great fit for you as they arise. This makes the job application process far more efficient for busy professionals, and ensures that you don’t miss any of the latest jobs!

In the new profile, you can indicate whether you are actively looking for a job, not actively looking but open to new opportunities, or that you want to create a profile but are not planning to apply for jobs. We also let you indicate whether you’d like to be contacted about new opportunities or not. This way, we’re only getting in touch-based on your preferences.

New questions allow you to highlight your strengths and achievements

The new profile gives you more opportunities to share your professional strengths and achievements. You get to select your top professional strength to give employers a quick look at where you excel.

Additionally, you can now share up to five positions of previous work experience, and for each, you can include a short description that highlights some of your favourite achievements and what you contributed in each role.

This information is extremely helpful to our recruiters, and helps to bring you life for prospective employers!

We hope you enjoyed this quick tour of the new candidate profile on Shortlist. Now you have the opportunity to express yourself and share your career goals. We can’t wait to connect you with some of Kenya’s top employers.

Our team is excited to support you on your career journey – we’re with you every step of the way!

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tailor your CV

How To Tailor Your CV: Customize For Each New Role

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Applying for jobs is a tiresome and time-consuming exercise that is not only emotionally draining but financially constraining. Job seekers often try to shortcut the process by firing off the same CV to scores of job advertisements  –  no matter what the role. This approach may increase the count of jobs to which you’ve applied but significantly decreases the quality of each application. Try instead, to tailor your CV to each new role. 

There are not two roles that are similar whatsoever, hence the need customize or tailor your CV to meet the specific needs and requirements of each role. One customized, targeted and strong application is far better than ten similar and poor applications.

So, given the nature and diversity of roles, how do you solve the puzzle with a single similar tool (CV)?

This underscores the paramount nature of customizing your CV to a specific role each time you press that send button.

Deciding to tailor your CV doesn’t mean writing a new one from scratch for every application. Rather, it’s understanding your strongest qualities and skills important to the job to which you’re applying, then making them stand out to the recruiter.

The elephant in the room now is: How do you tailor your CV?

Read the entire job advert to understand what the recruiter or hiring manager is looking for. It is not enough to be excited about the job title, skimming through the JD, and firing off your CV to the recruiter. Ensure your prominent qualities match the job requirements.

Before pressing the ‘red send’ button, ask yourself…

Can I immediately see the key requirements for the job on my CV?

If not, add some skills you’ve left out or move some information around to emphasize what really matters.

What is my CV missing?

Even though you will rarely tick every box of the job requirements, understanding your shortfall is important to help you combat them competently. Creativity is necessary when you miss on a crucial job requirement. This can be complemented by substituting with a similar experience and highlighting transferable skills to improve your brand.

Tailor your CV profile/summary

This is the first thing recruiters see and make a judgement on. A shocking fact is, if a recruiter doesn’t locate the most crucial skill requirement for the job in your profile, some recruiters pass on to the next CV without another look. So, the skills most important to the role for which you are applying should prominently be featured in your profile.

Bonus Tips:

Throughout your CV, as much as possible, mirror and use the adjectives and keywords used in the job advertisement.

As much as possible, avoid generic terms like a team player, working under pressure, meeting deadlines e.t.c — instead, use active verbs to demonstrate these qualities. e.g. I mobilized a team of 12 colleagues and worked on a new work planning software within two weeks (More CV writing advice)

Besides predominantly bringing out your qualities and skills-set necessary to the job, ensure to highlight your key accomplishments relevant to the application.

In conclusion, “Always view the final CV you’re sending out from the recruiter’s/hiring manager’s perspective”

I would love to hear from you! Share more tips you may have on how to tailor your CV for a specific role in the comments. Also, shoot any questions you may have. In the meantime, here’s a few more tips on customizing your resume, which you might find useful.