How to find a job: Your questions answered

A professional profile of an employee
After a challenging 2020, many people are contemplating what their career will look like in 2021. So, if you are actively looking to find a new job, or casually keeping an eye on the jobs market, you probably have questions about job searching in 2021.

We have answers too.

Read on for our advice on how to stand out and find a job – below we’ve answered some of the top job-seeking questions you recently asked us in our Stand Out in 2021 digital event. 

1. What question can I ask in a job interview to make a great impression on the interviewer?

The best question you can ask is, “What does success look like in this job?” It is a question full of advantages.

It tells your interviewer you are interested in the job. It says volumes about your intentions to succeed in the job. Crucially, it helps your interviewer envision you succeeding in the job.

Just remember that your interviewer might put this same question back on you at some point too, so prepare additional comments to help paint a picture of how you could successfully add value to the organisation in this role.

To do this, ask yourself what success in the role means to you. Then, prepare examples of your relevant successes in previous roles to demonstrate this point.

2. What are some of the main clichés to avoid in my CV or a job interview that I should be aware of?

When job searching in 2021, clichés to steer clear of abound. In particular, we single out the following to avoid: 
  • “I work well independently.”
  • “I am a great team player.”
  • “I am results-driven.” 
  • “I am a hard worker.”
  • “I have good communication skills.”
  • “I am a fast learner.”

Instead of resorting to these clichés and so speaking in generalities about your strengths, think in terms of results you’ve achieved at work to prove you’re the right candidate for the job. For instance, if you are a great team player, share specific concrete examples to convince your interviewer rather than resorting to a trivial “I work well with others”.

Our Hays Interview Guide also has some helpful advice you can take on board to think beyond clichés. 
Remember to also prepare your answers ahead of time. Think carefully about three skills and experiences you have that reflect most favourably on you as a job candidate. The more specific your answers, the more meaningful and memorable an impression you will make on your interviewer.

3. How can I be specific while still being concise when answering interview questions? 

Keep in mind that you can give interview answers that are detailed and concise. In fact, the more detailed you wish to be, the more concise you should be. Likewise, the more concise you are, the more detailed you can afford to be.

As our job interview guide highlights, job interview preparation is paramount to land a new job in 2021. After all, by preparing concise answers ahead of time, you have a better chance of replicating them in interview conditions. 

When preparing, think of short and snappy descriptions of your successes and results in previous jobs. For each, share quantifiable evidence of your accomplishments. In this way, your results prove your strengths in a succinct and explicit way that’s hard to beat.  

4. What are some good ways to upskill that don’t involve formal courses? 

One third of workers are reportedly looking to upskill in the next 12 months, research from the Melbourne Institute indicates.

Our Upskilling Matters Report also highlights that the skills we develop now have a shelf life of about five years before they need updating. In addition, almost one quarter (24 per cent) of professionals we surveyed upskill only once per year; 20 per cent do so less, and four per cent never do.

If you would like to upskill more frequently, and we suggest you do if you want to remain a competitive jobseeker, there are time and cost-friendly ways to do it.

Here are some of our recommendations:
  • Put your hand up for new responsibilities and opportunities at work
  • Attend webinars, conferences and seminars that teach specific core skills you need
  • Make the most of informal education including instructional articles, podcasts and videos
  • Work with a mentor
  • Complete a free certification online. Google, Facebook and Hubspot are examples of a handful of numerous big organisations that run certified online courses full of key skills employers need. Insert your new certifications straight into your CV and immediately put your new skills into practice in your current and future jobs. 

5. What is the best way to share examples of my work when applying for jobs – a separate portfolio or combining my CV and portfolio?

Our advice is to keep your portfolio and CV separate. Add links to your online portfolio or other examples of your work throughout the work experience section of your CV to demonstrate your expertise. If you have an online portfolio, add the link under your contact details, along with your LinkedIn profile.

This will help the reader build a better picture of your skills and value. Provided the work you link to highlights the relevancy of your skills for the particular job you’re applying to, it will differentiate you. 

6. What advice do you have for mature-age workers seeking employment?

Firstly, we recommend you regularly update your CV. Think of your CV like a corporate wardrobe. Update it once or twice a year to stop it looking tired. Our free CV template has great guidance on how to produce and lay out your professional summary, achievements, work experience, qualifications and references.

Next, be selective about your work history. If you’ve been in the workforce for 30 or more years, you might need to only include the last 10-20 years of experience. Consider the experience that positions you as most relevant for the job you are applying for. Perhaps your early career history was in another field or unrelated industry? If so, remove it. 

Strike off the years you earned your degrees. This helps pull attention away from your age and pulls focus to your skills and competencies.

Consider temporary work and upskilling. This will strengthen your resume, build your professional networks and broaden your career opportunities.

As research indicates, mature-age workers can encounter ageist barriers to employment in some organisations. Research organisations to discover those that value mature-age workers. 

A significant number of our candidates are reporting they don’t feel confident about finding work because of COVID-19’s impact on the job market. Yet, the reality is that strong opportunities are available as employers return to growth and add to their headcounts. Keeping a positive mindset is vital when you are trying to find a job.

Finally, prioritise your cover letter when applying for jobs. You can overcome a lot of barriers to entry into the workforce right there. Download our cover letter template for great guidance.

7. After some years out of the workforce caring for my children, what advice would you give me when beginning my job search?

If you have a large employment gap because you were a primary parent or caregiver, you should address this on your CV. However, keep this information brief, and remember your CV’s primary purpose is to highlight your professional accomplishments and experience. 

If you managed to join a professional organisation, complete relevant short courses or run a relevant side gig while you raised your family full-time, include this information too.

Also consider temp work and further short courses on your road to re-entering the workforce. They are a great way to bridge gaps on your CV and make a gradual transition back into the workforce.

Another important consideration when job searching in 2021 is to be persistent. As we previously highlighted, if you are unsuccessful with a job application or interview, don’t be afraid to follow up with the hiring manager for feedback. It could make all the difference to finding your dream job.

For more advice on enhancing your career growth and progression this year, browse our career advice

About this author

Tim has worked more than 20 years in the recruitment industry. He began his career with Hays Recruitment in the UK and in 1999 transferred to Australia to establish Hays Construction and Property in Melbourne which is now one of the top performing businesses across the country.

Sitting on the Hays ANZ board since 2012 Tim is responsible for Victoria, ACT and Tasmania and plays a key role in strategic planning for Australia and New Zealand.

Follow Tim on LinkedIn

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