Thursday, 18 September 2014

Top Tips to Help You Get the Job You Want

You are ambitious.  You are ABE qualified.  But in a competitive job market, how do you stand out from the crowd?  Here are some top tips to help you turn job applications into job offers.

The initial application

  • Tweak your résumé (often referred to as CV/Curriculum Vitae here in the UK) according to the job you are applying for.   Have several versions you can use based on the type of role and company. For example, if the role stresses excellent IT skills, don’t bury your IT expertise several lines below less relevant information.    Include examples of the way you have used technology in a practical, work-relevant way.  Likewise, if the role stresses people skills, highlight the teams you have worked in and any group projects you have undertaken.
  • If you have some great references from past employers or tutors, consider including the best quotes from these with your résumé or covering letter. You can even list them on a separate sheet if you have enough. 
  • Create a professional LinkedIn profile and get peer recommendations and endorsements.  Include a link to your LinkedIn profile with online applications (remember, don’t link to your personal social media accounts if these show a less professional side of you).
  • Get a recruitment professional to look over your résumé and provide their honest feedback; ensure it highlights your strengths in a clear, concise, easy-to-read manner.
  • If you have a completed your ABE qualification, remember to highlight that you have a recognised professional qualification that has given you practical business skills.  Emphasise those learning outcomes that match the requirements of the job.

The interview

When it comes to interviews, remember the Benjamin Franklin quote:  “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”   He probably wasn’t thinking about job interviews at the time, but no saying could be more apt.

Before your interview

  • Re-read the job application and research the company.
  • Think about the questions you are likely to be asked.  Prepare your answers in a way that highlights your skills and personality, and then applies these to the role. For example, most employers like to see that you are ambitious, but don’t give the impression that you will leave if not made a director in the first month! Talk about your ambition to take ownership of the role and make a difference in the department, as well as long-term ambitions.
  • Get a friend to give you a mock interview, or practice in front of a mirror. Make sure your answers aren’t just about you, but about how you can apply your skills to the job.  
Some advice about good answers to typical interview questions can be found on YouTube at

On the day

  • Turn up on time. If you’re late to an interview, it gives the impression that you don’t care enough about the job to arrive on time.
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Make sure you sure you have the name of the person you need to ask for when you get there. This sounds obvious, but it’s a surprisingly easy mistake to make.

The interviewer

This is the unknown element of any interview.  Here is a lowdown on the types you might encounter and how best to handle them: 


Luckily, most people want to put you at your ease, and recognise this is the best way to get to know a candidate. Most interviewers you meet should, hopefully, be friendly. 

Tip: there is a danger you can get side-tracked by pleasant chat and lose focus.  Make sure you steer the conversation back to the role and your suitability for it.


Unlike Friendly, this type has no interest in creating a connection with you. They just want get through the interview and fill the vacancy. Expect less casual talk and more focus on business.

Tip: don’t waste time trying to get this type of interviewer to like you. Instead, simply convey your work ethic and your professionalism.  Build their respect by making your answers as clear and concise as possible. But be careful not to let their attitude stop you from showing your enthusiasm for the role, or rush you into finishing without providing a full account of your skills.


Sometimes, an employer will want to see how you react under pressure, which gives rise to this type of interviewer. They may try to put you off by grilling you for details or specific figures that you may not have to hand.    

Tip: be honest about what you don’t know, and be very clear and detailed with the answers that you do know.  Above all, keep calm and don’t let them scare you into giving rushed, undeveloped answers.


Though unusual, this type of interviewer can frustrate you by asking naive questions or demonstrating a lack of understanding of the role. 

Tip: the trick with these types is to make sure you cover all relevant areas, even if they are not asked about, but without sounding condescending.


Try not to view a job interview as an ordeal. Instead, try to see it as a challenge, and a chance to shine and show what you know.  Keep calm: if you are prepared and professional, the only other thing to remember is to be yourself.  Good luck.

Did you find this article useful? Do you have your own top job-winning tips?

This story was published in Student Focus the free magazine available to all ABE members.  Find out more at:


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