Interviewing for jobs in 2021? These 13 tips will help you land the role

Photography by Kai Lao
Words by Alyce Greer

Study up.

In case you hadn’t quite realised it just yet, it’s a pretttty competitive job market right now. Among the usual graduates planning their foray into the real world, people are looking to pick up a few extra days to supplement their newly part-time role, while others have been forced into the job hunt, with very little say in the matter.

Plus, we’re in the midst of a devastating global pandemic and a recession – a real double whammy – so jobs are scarce right now. This means hundreds are vying for the same dream jobs and you, my friend, are one of many well-qualified, desirable candidates. It doesn’t mean you’re not good enough, it simply means there are others out there who are equally suited to the role.

If you’re hoping to land a new job in 2021, it’s time to get the proverbial claws out. These tips are important, and they work. Read them, study them, write some notes, then report back to us once you’ve been hired.

Outsmart scanning software 

There’s a fine line between I’m-the-employee-of-your-dreams and I-once-read-that-companies-scan-resumes-for-keywords. Found an advertised job that sharpens your pencil? Great. Print it out, then physically highlight the skills and requirements that are frequently used or seem very important. Once you have five to 10 keywords, weave these into your CV but don’t be too obvious. There’s a precise balance between finessing your CV so it is exactly what the company is looking for and blatant plagiarism. 

Schedule your interview on the luckiest day and time

Got an opening in your diary for Wednesday at 11:45am? Your interviewer is probably hungry AF, and isn’t listening to a word you say because they’re deciding whether to order the chicken schnitzel sandwich they always get for lunch, or maybe they’ll try the new sushi place everyone is talking about. The point is, they’re preoccupied. Same goes for after lunch (food coma), Mondays in general (long to-do list) and Friday afternoons (drink o’clock). Experts agree the ‘luckiest’ day and time to interview is a Tuesday mid-morning because that’s when employees are most productive.

Set up a voicemail 

When an unknown number calls, our human instinct is to scream and throw our phone over the closest fence. But we also don’t like having a voicemail – we don’t like our own voice and we also don’t like calling people back — so it makes it near impossible for people to reach us. In fact, there’s probably no point in having a phone at all. If you’re job hunting, suck it up and set up a voicemail that is clear (no public transport background noise) and professional (i.e. not your DJ name). If you haven’t changed phone providers since high school, maybe look into changing your message recording. Since you never call yourself, who knows what your 2009 message bank says.

Game face on, earphones out

Let’s make one thing clear: the interview starts when you leave your house, not when you enter the boardroom. Give your outfit one final check, say a few positive affirmations to your reflection and put your game face on. Please don’t approach reception with earphones in your ears and an iced coffee in your hand. It’ll appear you aren’t taking the interview seriously and you’re not great at time management. The same goes for video interviews. Just because you’re sitting in your bedroom, it doesn’t mean you should take things any less seriously presentation-wise.

Being too early is just as bad as being late 

Controversial? Maybe. True? One hundred per cent. Ask any interviewer and they will say this is one of their biggest pet peeves. While it’s very important to be punctual, being more than a few minutes early can be considered rude. If you arrive 30 minutes before the meeting, your interviewer probably isn’t prepared. This will annoy them and makes it very hard to claw your way back. If you’re too early, sit outside and rehearse your answers. If it’s a video interview this obviously doesn’t apply as much, but make sure you do a practice run on whatever video platform you’re going to be interviewed on, so you can prevent any last minute hiccups. Sit in an area of your house that has nice natural lighting, and remove any mess and distractions from the area behind you – the last thing you want is your potential new boss seeing a pair of underwear strewn on the ground behind you.

Don’t be a jerk to the receptionist 

It’s a common scenario: the interviewee is rude or dismissive to the receptionist, then a pure joy to the manager. The problem is the manager will often ask the receptionist what they thought of you, and it’s not going to be pretty. In fact, it’s highly likely there’ll be some swear words involved. The moral of the story? Be nice to everyone you come in contact with, from the courier in the lift to the intern bringing you your coffee. This probably goes without applying, but this also applies to all communication you have with people via phone and email in the lead up to your virtual interview.

Create a personal elevator pitch

There’s an ice-breaker coming and it’ll look something like this: “So, tell us a little about yourself”. If you’ve spent all of your time researching the company’s values, identifying your strengths and weaknesses, and thinking of impressive things you’ve done, chances are you have nothing prepared for this little gem. Think of it as your personal elevator pitch and practise it until you can say it in your sleep.

Phone or video interview? Get dressed, stand up and smile

A phone interview doesn’t mean you can stay in bed, and a Skype interview is not a licence to wear a blazer with pyjama pants. Regardless of whether it’s a face-to-face, phone or video catch-up, get dressed in your favourite power outfit (with shoes). This will make you feel more confident. Stand or sit up straight. Smile as you speak. The phone interviewer will be able to tell if you’re lying on the couch covered in Doritos dust.

Come prepared with a list of ideas

It goes without saying that most people being interviewed are going to research the company, prepare their answers and turn up on time. But will most people go above and beyond by bringing a list of curated ideas relevant to the role they’re applying for? Doubt it. If it’s a sales position, this could be a handful of sales leads. If it’s a writing job, it might be a list of pitches.

Nail the “what’s your biggest weakness?” question 

Don’t think you’re being cute by choosing a weakness that’s not really a weakness. Interviewers can see right through it, and you’ll come off as sneaky and not at all self-aware. Instead of claiming to be a perfectionist or someone that just works too hard, opt for a real trait that doesn’t negatively impact the role too much. Be honest in explaining the trait, and follow up with how you’re actively working on it.

Think in reverse for every question 

Whether it’s a cover letter, CV or interview, we all have a really bad habit of explaining why the role would be really great for our career progression. It’ll give us a chance to spread our wings, allow us to explore other industries or help to boost our experience. But does the company really care about our wings? Avoid answering questions with how the job will help your career, instead focus on how your skills and experience will better the company.

Answer with the STAR method 

Experts say the ideal length of time to wait before answering a job interview question is three seconds. If you answer too quickly, you probably haven’t thought about it hard enough and might miss something vital. If you wait too long, they will think you’re weird and ask if you’re okay. These three seconds are really key to crafting the perfect answer, which should always follow the STAR method: first you explain the Situation you faced, then you detail the Tasks that were involved, followed by the Actions you took and finally reveal the Results you achieved.

Have a damn good question to ask at the end 

You know that part at the end of the interview when they’re packing up their notes and thanking you for your time and you think you’re off the hook? They ask, “So, do you have any questions for us?” It sounds like they’re just being polite, but they’re actually tossing one last grenade in your direction. Don’t blow up in their faces. This your chance to leave a lasting impression, so have something prepared. Be genuine and ask something you’re actually interested in learning, such as what the culture of the business is like, what they personally like about working there, or what an average day looks like for a person in the role you’re going for.

Alyce is a contributing writer for Fashion Journal. She writes about career advice, pop culture and the ins and outs of how to hustle.

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