Own Your Career

CV writing

Supercharge your CV!

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Take your CV from bland to grand

At Shortlist, we help candidates demonstrate their skills to show that they’re a great fit for a job. Most employers are looking for a mix of ability, which you can show on our assessments, and experience, which is where the CV comes in. Candidates often come to us asking for guidance to bring their CV from “good” to “great,” so we wrote this blog post to have all of our top tips in one place!

We’ve broken down the CV into its key parts, sharing both the basic must-haves and the extra bells and whistles!

  1. Contact Information

The basics: This should appear at the top your resume and include your name, address, phone number and e-mail address. Triple-check that your information is correct and up to date. If you are applying for a job outside the city you live in and are willing to relocate, indicate the same.

Extra insight: Avoid giving irrelevant information, like your date of birth and marital status, unless requested on the job profile.

  1. Personal Statement

The basics: This is your opportunity to showcase your experience, achievements, as well as your career aspirations to your potential employer. The statement should answer three important questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What can you do for the organization?
  • What are you seeking in your next job?

Resist the urge to use a generalized statement to suit any application, instead make this specific to the role you are applying for. While it may take time to customize this statement for each role, it makes all the difference.. Consider the major requirements for the role and use this to phrase your statement to show that you are perfectly suited for the position.

Extra insight: For a fresh graduate, since you may not have much experience to site, focus on your interests as well as the skills you have attained and how they are relevant to the job.

  1. Skills and Qualifications

The basics: Remember to give the recruiter exactly what they want and in the easiest way possible and not have them struggle to find relevant information.While writing this particular section, it is important to keep in mind the industry keywords that are relevant to different roles.

For example:

  • Data Scientist roles often require programming skills in languages like Python and R.
  • Business Development require critical skills like financial modeling, analytical thinking and communication skills among others.
  • Customer Service roles require skills in problem Solving, communication, attention to detail, and demonstrating empathy.

Extra insight: Go through the job description and pick out the must have skills and qualifications that you posses. Ensure that these are what the employer sees first while reviewing your resume. Some organizations use applicant tracking systems that will scan for keywords in your CV, so it’s even more important to include words and phrases from the job description.

  1. Experience

This being the meat of your resume, you want to ensure that, you clearly and honestly present your employment history.

The essentials in this section include: the Company name , your title, years you were employed and a short summary (preferably in bullet points) of your responsibilities and accomplishments.

More importantly, as much as possible do try to quantify your achievements in terms of numbers or other concrete performance measures.

How?

Example:

For Sales roles, you may choose to show your impact by using statements such as:

  • Increased customer engagement and online presence by……
  • Strengthened performance by…….

For Finance roles, showcase your knowledge of the industry and share achievements that demonstrate your ability to maximize utilization of financial resources.

For Managerial roles, Leadership skills are key.

  • Showcase how you you have lead teams towards the achievements of organizational objectives.
  • Showcase how you have also contributed towards the professional development of your employees. For example, training programmes that have been implemented, mentoring team members into junior/mid-senior level managers are some of the things you can highlight.

For Customer Service roles, showcase how you have contributed to ensuring great customer experience to your clients:

  • Mention instances where you developed a program and/or implemented a system which increased the efficiency of a product or service offered by the organization. Leading to Customer retention.

For more experienced professionals who have worked across different sectors, you do not need to include jobs that are not related to the one you are applying for.

Entry-level individuals who do not have on the job experience should include any temporary positions, internships or volunteer work that emphasize the skills related to the job.

  1. Hobbies and Interests

The basics: If you are new in the job market or do not have a lot of experience, this can be the place to differentiate yourself. You never know when your side hustle, hobby or passion will connect with a hiring manager. For example, listing team sports or activities would indicate that you would be a good team player. Social hobbies such as mentoring indicates that you can communicate and connect well with others. This can help find a fit where otherwise the role may have been a stretch.

Don’t forget…

Proofread your resume. Make sure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatically incorrect sentences.

Your resume should be well organised, with uniform font, punctuation, and spacing. Use soft and easily readable fonts like Calibri, Garamond Cambria, Times New Roman or Trebuchet MS. Avoid the use of bold and heavy fonts such as Impact. The same goes for unnecessary graphics, logos and pictures.

Have someone you trust read and give you their honest opinion as well as suggest changes to be made where necessary.

Check out these sample resumes that illustrate a majority of the points I covered above. I hope these guidelines will be helpful to as you chase your next big break!

I would love to hear from you! Share your tried-and-true resume-writing tips in the comments, and please let me know what other career-related topics you would like to learn about.

 

Career Passion: A True Calling in HR

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Learn how Odyssey Capital’s HR Manager left a career in fashion to find her true passion

Meet Vivienne Mukoko, Odyssey Capital Ltd.’s Human Resources Manager. Odyssey Capital is  a client-centric microfinance institution.  They extend credit to borrowers in order to buy consumer goods and appliances. Speaking with Vivienne it’s easy to hear the excitement in her voice.  She speaks passionately about her job and its importance to overall company growth. She explains just how strategic her role because  “HR is basically the person that makes sure we have the right people in the right departments. We ensure these people are equipped to add the right value to their department and overall to the organization. So without HR, the organization is not worthwhile.” In those words it is easy to uncover the passion she has in her work. However, Vivienne carved a non-traditional path to get to this point. This is how Vivienne left her career in fashion to find her true calling in Human Resources.

It’s easy to be taken aback when Vivienne explains how much she liked working in the fashion industry, and yet, it wasn’t a career she wanted to continue to pursue.  “I think it was coming to a realization. I loved fashion, I loved sketching and stitching. Loved it but wasn’t passionate about it. It wasn’t my calling, even though I enjoyed it.” The differentiation can be confusing at first, but it’s clear that she felt driven to HR. She saw the opportunity to provide the greatest benefit to company strategy: “I thought about it and decided I wanted to be in a position where I add that kind of value. Not just to one department, but to all departments.”

Discovering new career opportunities

A common theme in speaking with versatile professionals is their curiosity drives them to think more deeply about their career path. This is certainly the case for Vivienne, as she describes her professional journey that led her to where she is today: “My journey has been an interesting one. I studied fashion, I enjoyed it of course, but it wasn’t for me. I started at a textile company and I used to design for them. The job was great, but I wasn’t passionate about it. In the process of my management training, I went through an induction process with the HR department and realized, ‘Goodness! HR is not just about pushing papers!’ It piqued my interest and I started researching what it entailed and if it was something I wanted to engage in.”

Vivienne completed her Bachelor’s of Science in Apparel and Fashion Design, so it wasn’t just a matter of choosing to suddenly switch to Human Resources. She had to determine what she would need to do to pivot to a vastly different career. “When I had enough information, I decided I wanted to study HR. I moved to Nairobi and got my higher diploma in HR. Then I had the opportunity to work for Deloitte. I started my HR career there, first as an HR Assistant and then grew to HR Associate. My experience there was mainly recruitment. I loved recruitment, I had a lot of fun focusing on recruitment.”

Vivienne then used this opportunity to move across industries to land where she is now:  “I slowly transitioned to different industries, from finance to diplomatic corps to security and finally back to finance here at Odyssey Capital.” Vivienne attributes this range of experiences with helping to unlock a critical step in her professional development: identifying and utilizing mentors.

The importance of mentorship & professional networks

Vivienne credits her first mentor for giving her a glimpse into how vital his role was to the company: “The head of HR in that company was very informative. He would engage me in understanding the strategic aspects of HR, not just the daily filing. I asked a lot of questions about HR and he told me a lot.” This first experience with a mentor encouraged Vivienne to continue to seek out peer leaders who could direct her learning. She says that it’s crucial to seek out the right people to help guide your learning and that it’s particularly important to find advisors who have the drive to push you further: “The mentor I have now has been influential in the growth I have had in the past year.”

In addition to mentorship, Mukoko’s hunger to excel and improve in her position has led her to identify professional networks and forums: “I try to learn not only from my experience but from other HR professionals as well. That’s why I’m in HR forum groups, I try to interact with different HR professionals. You’ll find people have very different experiences, and sometimes you’ll think you won’t find yourself in a situation, but one day you do!” Vivienne also notes the importance of being present and finding yourself in different environments in order to succeed. “Being exposed to different situations and finding yourself trying to adapt to every single one is exciting. A lot of what I’ve learned and use currently is based on those experiences.”

Uncovering Talent

One of the most gratifying aspects of Vivienne’s job is the opportunity to recognize and cultivate talent to succeed beyond their current ability. She explains that as “being able to, more or less, develop talent. You have a talented individual, you identify specific gaps, and you think about how to make this person a more improved version of themself. What kind of value can I add to this person that can  grow them further than they already are? If you can tap into that level where you can quickly identify and advise accordingly to guide that person in that particular direction, it’s such a big difference in such a small way.”

Her passion in her work shows most clearly when she talks about unlocking professional potential:  “It’s very little input in terms of all facets of HR, if I can find a way to embody all these aspects and tap into the people I support, in this particular way, that’s what makes me wake up in the morning realizing I need to be better at structuring Learning & Development that is meaningful, identifying talent needs that bridge this gap. That’s where I get the passion to wake up every morning and go to work.” Vivienne’s drive to support the development of her colleagues is one of the many reasons why Odyssey is growing so quickly!

If you share the same passion for extending credit access to small and middle-income earners and think you might be a good fit, Odyssey is hiring! As a client of Shortlist, check our open jobs to see if Odyssey Capital is hiring!

 

Benefits of an Open Office

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We’re all familiar with working in an office where just going to work everyday feels like a big task. Coworkers rarely converse with one another and bosses sit in their offices behind closed doors. Your daily role is merely a function, and your strategic suggestions are met with a wave of the hand, that those kinds of decisions are above your pay grade. Now imagine the opposite. You walk into an office and employees are frequently working together, solving issues and challenges together in a cohesive way.

The leadership team of Momentum Credit, a microfinance lender to individuals and SMEs, has established an open office environment in order to encourage cross-departmental collaboration and knowledge sharing. Here’s some insight into what that looks like for their employees, as well as some ways in which this strategic decision has allowed Momentum to see rapid growth in its short company history.

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Momentum employees enjoy getting the opportunity to work alongside employees from different departments

No assigned seating

Wambui Kuria has been the Talent & Development Officer for Momentum for just a few months, but the homely atmosphere to the office makes her feel like she’s been here for years. “There’s something peaceful about this place. Honestly, people have a good feeling about it, even our clients, they say there’s a good feeling about Momentum.” This is in part due to the open seating arrangement that Momentum has implemented.

“It’s very interesting, we don’t have sitting positions. I don’t sit near my manager, I don’t just sit with people in HR, I sit with people in sales as well as Finance. We don’t have tags, you can sit in any desk, anywhere, at any time. It’s really open and friendly. When you’re around here, you can’t tell who is support staff and who the bosses are.” Furthermore, the openness of Momentum’s office is reflected in the leadership style of its management team.

The senior leadership of Momentum don’t just expect their employees to work in this way without leading by example: “Our managers are very open. I can walk into the CEO’s office and say to him, ‘come say hi to our visitors.’ It’s more like an American start-up, but the Kenyan way.” They have also formalized their interactions with all employees by instituting regular meetings with all staff members. “We designed a program where our CEO has to meet with everyone, every quarter. We call them 1-on-1’s. Like today, he’s meeting employees from different departments.”

Listening to & considering feedback

Management do not have these meetings simply as formalities, they take into account what their employees are suggesting. “What I like here is that leaders listen. Yeah they know much, but they actually listen to our ideas, what we say. They may not implement it, but they will certainly listen.” This critical linkage between theory and practice is vital to keeping employees bought in on the overall vision, and make for an environment where those not used to this style can adjust and succeed. “We think strategically about how things will affect performance. With people, it’s how your leadership is and how your structure is organized. With the proper leadership and structure, people will find themselves adapting well to it.”

Open office environment helps reduce turnover in salespeople

“Being in HR, just knowing the market for salespeople, their turnover in the market is around 60%. Here, we’re doing like 20%. It’s great. I don’t stress,” says Wambui. She explains that the open office extends to those traditionally seen only as out-of-office employees. “In some companies, salespeople are kind of disregarded, because they don’t have desks in the office. But if a salesperson comes here with a client, they’ll be given a room. So while they don’t usually stay here, they have a right to a room. You’ll find it very weird for normal insurance companies, or in the banking sector, it’s unique. For me it’s very different.”

She explains that for herself and other employees, there’s a bit of adjustment to this working style. “Now, if you look at most companies that do this model, you’ll find these the salespeople are rarely allowed in the office. You sell, tell your team leader whatever you’re selling, team leader will come and process. But I came here, and the shock was real, you see these people in the office, and you couldn’t even tell they were salespeople. Everyone respects them, we have a kitchen where you can take tea & bread in the morning. We all sit together. It’s a very kind place.”

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Karibu Momentum!

Winning Out Through Culture

Employees at Momentum clearly believe that these efforts are helping them build something special  “Once you’re here, there’s openness. If there’s a problem, we solve it quickly, there’s no bureaucracy, honestly. People here like to do things first. We are a team of dynamic people. I think our average age is 26. It’s a very dynamic office, and that whole culture translates to our clients. Our clients come here and they get surprised. It resonates with everyone. What we sell, is sold by more than 15 different companies as well. But why we sell well, is our people. In 2 years, we should win out.” Momentum may be a young company, but their growth trajectory is in part due to the culture that’s been developed among employees, allowing everyone to work together effectively.

As a client of Shortlist, we’re proud of the achievements Momentum have made in such a short time. If you think their working environment is a fit for you, check our open jobs to see if they’re hiring!

 

4 Tips to Learn for Life

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How to Continue Learning to grow in your career journey

In order to become a sought-after professional in today’s job market, you need to be more adaptable and willing to learn than ever. Companies are increasingly looking for individuals with a broad set of skills who are comfortable moving across industries and functions in order to succeed.

But how can you go about gaining these diverse skill sets, and continue to develop yourself professionally, both on-the-job and in your personal time? We asked Wambui Kuria, Talent & Development Officer at our client Momentum Credit. They are a Micro-Finance company providing structured working capital solutions to individuals, and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).  Wambui has had quite a diverse career that has included financial auditing, entrepreneurship, recruiting and software. She describes her current role at Momentum Credit as “fifty percent HR and fifty percent business development.”

Here are four tips from Wambui on how you can continue to learn throughout your career and become a more versatile employee:

  1. Be comfortable outside your comfort zone to grow in your career

Wambui began her career as a financial auditor. However, she quickly realized this was not a career she wanted to continue. She preferred interacting more regularly with people in her professional life. The main challenge was being in a job market where you typically get a job based on what you studied for. In order to make a career shift, she first started scouting for jobs in sales. Eventually she landed a role as a salesperson at a training company. “This anchored my passion for training, particularly when I would see the feedback from our clients saying how much the training changed their mindset.”

Her curiosity once again led her to move into a new role, this time in recruiting. There she found herself in meetings with software developers. She credits this experience with learning how to communicate with the tech team. She had to learn to work effectively with the department to meet her timelines. Wambui used these experiences to push herself out of her comfort zone in order to chart a path of personal growth. “I find myself daring myself in different ways. I praise myself when I learn something new.”

  1. Love and embrace technology

You don’t need to be an engineer or IT professional to use technology to your advantage. Combining a desire to learn new things with technology can have added benefits. “I like to learn new things and I love technology. I’ve really enjoyed learning new software, designing things on Canva, and learning as much as I can on Google.” Being comfortable in Google Drive has paid dividends for Wambui, particularly when working with outside clients. “If you’re working across companies, everything others send is online, on Drive. It really makes it easier to work with my suppliers. I might have big files and need a lot of people to view them, so online tools are crucial.”

Being current with technology can be vital for just about any role within a company. “We’re all needing these skills. When I started working I realized everyone needs to understand IT. Everyone needs to know how to use a smartphones. You might be a great lawyer, but if you don’t know how to sign contracts online, that’s dangerous to your business.”

Knowledge sharing

One of the keys to learning is making sure to share your knowledge with others

  1. Share what you’re learning at work!

Your learning can be significantly enhanced by collaborating with your peers in the office. If done effectively it can even positively affect the culture in your workplace. Encourage others to share their knowledge! It can make for a more interactive environment where everyone is utilizing their colleagues to actively share their learning across departments and functions. Treat this like a form of on-the-job training that everyone can participate in.

Consider starting a book club or a small library in your office to create a culture of reading for professional development. Wambui has implemented a system to reward high-performing employees by giving them books to read. “We reward people monthly depending on performance, and one of the ways we’re trying to do that is by reducing on other incentives and start giving them books to read.” Putting growth and development first can pay huge dividends for everyone to meet their professional potential.

  1. Build your online learning presence

Using your online presence to show your propensity for learning improves your professional brand, according to Wambui. “My LinkedIn has articles I read and it really shows that I am more than my educational background. I would say that’s a major thing that’s worked for me.” This shows employers you are passionate about your interest areas and serious about continuing to develop yourself as a professional.

If you’re like Wambui and YouTube is your “school of life”, consider posting videos to your social media channels to spark a discussion amongst your friends. A good habit to get into is to comment on articles and other resources that thought leaders in your field post to their pages. This can increase your visibility to ensure that high-level professionals know you are actively engaging in your professional development.

Learning is a lifelong process that requires commitment, energy and curiosity. It takes a willingness to take ownership and  expose yourself to new situations and environments. The above tips are just a few of many ways you can apply yourself to professionally grow and show your professional value is more than what’s on your CV. Feel free to share with us other ways in which you drive your own learning!

Thanks so much to Wambui for sharing her wisdom with us! We’re proud to partner with Momentum Credit and help them build happy, high-performing teams. And if you’re interested in working for Momentum Credit, check out our open jobs to see if they’re hiring!

 

3 Tips to Excel Professionally

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Hear from a panel of local experts on their career journeys

On the evening of 22nd August, we held the first of our monthly series of networking events for young professionals at Metta Nairobi. Shortlist’s Top Finance Talent Meetup brought together a select group of finance professionals to hear from three experts within the field of finance. Ariane Fisher, Shortlist’s Managing Director of African Operations, was joined on the panel by Peace Osangir, COO of Kopo Kopo, Sharon Olende, Lendable’s Director of East Africa, and Job Muriuki, CEO of Momentum Credit. This highly informative discussion contained a wealth of insights on topics such as their career journeys, future trends in the field and the importance of cultivating mentorship. In addition, our guests shared their lessons on professional development and lifelong learning.

Here are “3 Tips to Excel Professionally in Kenya” by our panel of finance experts

1. Education Doesn’t Always Equal Results

Peace Osangir shared that, in her experience, many young people are more focused on accumulating credentials and degrees than on how those experiences will enhance their learning. “Someone can have two Master’s, but the output doesn’t tally. How do you make sure that the type of information you’re getting is going to create a difference in terms of your output? Sometimes someone can come in without any background in finance and is able to excel. And that’s because the level of execution really differs. It’s not about how many credentials you accumulate but how your output changes as a result of your learning.”

Sharon noted similar observations from her previous experience of two decades in the banking sector. She spoke about the value of having the right mindset in your professional life,  adding that “it’s not about what you know, it’s about your attitude and what we can teach you. A lot of things can be taught to you. Accumulating degrees with no work experience doesn’t help you. We’re recruiting for people we think can learn. We just want to see your thought process, how you think about a problem. I can tell you that we have put out job adverts looking for someone with five years experience, but we hired someone with two.”

Job lamented the tendency for youth in the workforce to be close-minded when they view their career paths. “I believe to be successful you have to have fun. Too many young people decide to put themselves in a box. If you’re in your 20’s, you’re gonna work for another 40 years or so. So why put yourself in a box when life has so many experiences before you decide what you’re going to do? Think outside the box.” He went on to share that there are plenty of ways to continue your learning outside of the classroom: “The best education I have received in my life has been reading a lot of books. It’s good to enrich your mind with non-conventional thinking, push the envelope, read interesting things. Try not to conform to what people expect you to be.”

Engaged participants listening to our speakers reflect on their career journeys

2. Be reliable and always execute

Throughout the conversation between the panelists, the topic of execution came up frequently. The added benefits of being reliable in your professional life reach far beyond excelling in your current role. As Sharon remarked, “execution is the best thing ever. If you can execute, and people know they can rely on your work, you’ll go far. We’ve all sat in jobs we didn’t like, but you keep performing, because that will open your next opportunity for you.”

It might appear easy for a panel of highly experienced and respected professionals to share this advice  when they are at a point in their careers where they can be highly selective. However, as Peace shared, they got to this point through having a track record of excellence: “To have the luxury of selection, you have to have the execution and stand out from the crowd. Having that ability to select and question decisions comes from understanding your capability and ability to execute.”

3. Learn the tough lessons from early on in your career

Each of our panelists shared harsh truths they gained from past decisions they had made in their professional lives. Peace expressed the uneasiness she encountered when she switched from a role in finance to one in transfer pricing. Since she had no previous work in doing so, she had to apply herself to get up to speed with her colleagues. In turn, she acquired valuable life skills from that opportunity. “That was a moment of challenge. With time, I made sure I understood transfer pricing rules and guidelines. To make sure I could execute the cycle better than I could have. This took a bit of time, being able to start writing 200-page reports, but I needed to make sure I learned it so next time I could  execute. My brand shouldn’t be impacted by the decisions I make. Despite setbacks, I make sure I know where my gaps are so everything is good the next time around.”

Sharon provided an anecdote about the importance of managing people, based on an unfortunate situation she found herself in at a previous position. She explained that it’s not just about managing those beneath you in the organizational structure, but “how you manage people above you is equally important.” She went on to say that “in large corporations, there’s a lot of politics. Unfortunately, to some extent, you have to learn some politicking. Particularly more senior people.”

Job shared a particularly difficult moment when he decided to make a decision without consulting with his supervisors. While the decision he made was the wrong one, he learned immensely from the experience. “Since that day it’s fundamentally changed the way I do everything. Even now as a CEO, I can make any decision I want, but I don’t. It’s not the right way to do things. It was a painful lesson to learn. That was a tough lesson for me because you can be really smart, but it’s important to work as a team.”

Attendees stayed afterwards to network among their peers and gain further insight from the panelists.

After the panel, participants had the opportunity to make peer connections as well as discuss finance and their career with our guests. It was a wonderful opportunity to see so many high-caliber professionals take ownership over their career and professional journey. Be on the lookout for future candidate events offered by Shortlist! And as always, if you’re looking for a new position, check out our open jobs. As partners of Shortlist, KopoKopo, Lendable or Momentum might be hiring!

 

Post Interview Tips to Get the job

Interview follow-up best practice

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How to Ace Your Next Interview — Part 3: What to do post-interview to seal the deal

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 jobseekers like you, to make sure you put your best foot forward and feel prepared and confident for the big day! In this post, I’ll share tips for best practices during your interview. In case you missed them, check out the first two posts in this series — what to do before and during your interview.

So you just wrapped up your interview, and are feeling great about it! What can you do post-interview to seal the deal?

1. Take stock of your performance, and of your experience

Dedicate ten minutes to jotting down what you think went well, and what you could improve on the next time. If you were caught off-guard by any of their questions, take note so you can prepare an answer for future interviews.

Make sure you take time to reflect on how you felt about the experience, as well. Could you see yourself thriving in their office and working with the interviewers you met? If for some reason you feel you are no longer a fit, better to let them know now instead of at the end of the process.

2. Follow up promptly and persuasively post-interview

Be sure to send a personalized thank you note to each of the interviewers you met with, customizing the e-mail to include what you talked about and what you learned from each person. This is a crucial step — while sending thank you notes won’t ensure you get the job, failing to send them will cause the employer to doubt your interest and professionalism.

3. If you get a rejection

Even though you’re disappointed, be sure to respond promptly, thanking them for their consideration. Reflect on any feedback they shared about your performance. You’ll then be able to compare this with your original post-interview notes.

Remember that the chosen candidate may eventually not accept the job offer. You could just be up next on the list! The employer may retain your information for consideration whenever there are other suitable openings in the future. They may also consider you for a different role altogether, if you’ve shown that you might be a better fit for a different position.

Regardless, if this is a company you want to work for, maintain a positive relationship with the employer. You never know what could happen!

4. If you get the job🎉

Congratulations! No doubt your interviewing skills and etiquette helped you clinch the job offer. Way to go!

We hope this blog series helped you set yourself up for interviewing success. Even if you did not get the job offer, you can still have the comfort of knowing you fully prepared and tried your best.

We would love to hear from you! What other career-related topics you would like to learn about in our next series? Let us know in the comments below.

How to succeed in the interview

Interview Success: 6 Pieces of Advice

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How to Ace Your Next Interview — Part 2: The Interview

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 jobseekers like you, to make sure you put your best foot forward and feel prepared and confident for the big day! In this post, I’ll share tips for best practices during your interview. In case you missed it, check out this post on how to prep for your interview. Up next in the series — what to do after your interview to seal the deal.

So you landed an interview, prepared thoroughly, and just walked in the door — what do you need to do next to make sure you leave a lasting impression?

  1. Make a good first impression

Greet the receptionist and warmly introduce yourself and explain your appointment. When you meet the interviewer(s) give them a firm handshake and thank them for seeing you for an interview.

There may be small talk, be sure to follow the employer’s lead and let them guide the conversation. They are busy and might want to get right to the interview questions!

  1. Pay attention to your body language

We can communicate a lot without uttering a single word, even if it’s subconscious. The right body language can help you give the impression that you’re confident, personable, and extremely interested in the conversation you have with each interviewer. A few tips:

  • Sit up straight and display your neck and chest area to show that you are open.
  • When using hand gestures, keep your hands above the desk and below the collarbone — any higher can make you appear frantic.
  • Keep your arms and legs uncrossed, as doing so can make you appear defensive and guarded.
  • Try to avoid fidgeting, which can make you seem nervous.
  • Be sure to maintain regular but not overly persistent eye contact throughout the interview.
  • Most importantly — smile! It creates a positive environment for both you and the interviewer, and can actually make you feel better throughout the conversation.
  1. Be concise, focused, and yourself!

When the interviewer asks a question, it’s perfectly fine to collect your thoughts for a few moments before you respond. Make sure to answer each question truthfully and completely, but without rambling on for too long. Keep your knowledge of the company and open position in the forefront of your mind as you answer, making connections between your background and skills and what they’re seeking in this role.

  1. What to do with panel interviews

If you find yourself in a panel interview, make sure you briefly address each individual with your gaze and return your attention to the person who has asked you a question.

Interview Questions

Remember: both sides are interviewing each other to make sure there’s a fit!

  1. Remember, you’re interviewing them too!

Most interviewers will give you an opportunity to ask questions at the end of your session. Don’t let this opportunity pass you up — not only does it give you the chance to learn more information, but it can show that you’re a critical thinker.

Some questions will flow naturally from the interview, but we recommend preparing a few in advance, too (see other ways to prepare in this blog post!). Some example questions include

  • 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?
  1. Get to know the next steps

You can directly ask the interviewer what the next steps of the process will be. Avoid settling for the common “We’ll get in touch with you” response that places you in a passive position.

Should the interviewer give you such a response, you may politely ask them to give you a timeline within which you can expect feedback or to follow up with them.

We hope these tips will be helpful for you to keep in mind when you walk in for your next interview — you got this!!

Interview Tips to Succeed

7 Tips to Crush the Interview!

800 533 Shortlist

How to Ace Your Next Interview 

 Part 1: The Prep

In my role as Applicant Care Associate in our Nairobi office, I’m here for candidates from start to finish of their applications  and interviews— answering questions over phone and e-mail, and always making process improvements to make sure the Shortlist platform is candidate-friendly.

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, I’ll share tips for the first step of acing your interview — the preparation. Stay tuned for the second and third posts in the series, about what to do during and after your interview!

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 totally 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 honored 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 thoughtfully 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.

Interview Questions

Remember: Both sides are interviewing each other to make sure there’s a fit!

3. Prepare some questions in advance

Most interviewers will give you an opportunity 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. Get your mind in the right place

Before the interview, also 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 based on 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 certain industries like finance and consulting, most offices follow a business dress code, and you should as well. But for smaller companies or startups, it’s possible that they 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

Finally, always begin your journey to the interview location early (even earlier than you think you need to!). Look up the location 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.

Similarly, 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 ! The open jobs on our platform are always a good place to start ☺️

We would love to hear from you! Share your tried-and-true interview tips in the comments, and please let us know what other career-related topics you would like to learn about.