Most Nigerians feel it is near impossible to get an interview at a company without knowing someone in the company or having some sort of connection.
Well, I’m here to say they’re wrong.
Of course, an interview doesn’t guarantee you a job but let’s see what we can do about getting your foot in the door, for starters. The rest is up to you.
Personally, I feel the best way to get an interview is to be proactive. Sure, you could wait for the company to put out a listing and then join the masses or you could just show up and be like “Hey, I’m here. This is what I can do and this is why you should hire me”. Of course, this approach needs to be carried out with caution.
I’ll talk more about that later in this article but we may as well start with the most popular procedure:
Looking at Job Listings
This article is based on purely online listings. I’m sure there are companies that still put available positions in newspapers and stuff but that’s not my area of expertise so I’m just going to skip it.
There are many sites that make it possible for you to see a bunch of companies that have open positions and then you can just apply. Stutern, LinkedIn Jobs, Jobberman e.t.c
So while this is great and all, how do you separate yourself from everyone else applying for the same position? Here’s how:
Step 1: Have an awesome cover letter
A cover letter should be a basic summary of why a company should hire you. This doesn’t mean you should extol your virtues to the highest heavens but you should list all the things that make you a great candidate for the job. It should contain:
- A quick introduction: your name, what you do, how long you’ve been doing it, area of specialization e.t.c
- Your reason for applying for the job: What is it about the position that appeals to you? Do you feel you’re capable of handling the duties and responsibilities?
- Why you want to work with the company: Why this particular organization? Do you believe in their values? Does their vision resonate with you on a personal level?
- What you feel you can bring to the organization: this is where you talk about your passion for your work and how good you are at what you do. Keep the bragging to a minimum, though.
- Basically a summary of your resume. Also include links to your portfolio or online repositories or important things like that.
Note: It’s important to be honest and not exaggerate in your cover letter because they will remember what you said.
A cover letter is basically you shouting “Pick me! Pick me! Aunty, I! Aunty, I”. You want to grab their attention and keep it.
If you’re sending your cover letter as an email, it should inspire them to open your resume and read more about you.
Your cover letter should be between 500 to 1000 words.
Step 2: Update your profile
The good thing about applying for positions online is that your profile is visible to every organization that may be interested in you so you don’t need to edit it for each and everyone.
It is vital that you have an online profile.
Your LinkedIn profile, for example. Just how up-to-date is your account? Do you even have a LinkedIn account? What? You don’t? For shame.
Your profile should include a picture of you looking professional, your skills, interests, certifications, projects, experience and a summary of yourself. Basically, when you’re making a profile, think of yourself as an asset. When you’re done, take a step back and analyse it critically and think “Would I buy me?”
Step 3: Apply
When applying for a job, it’s very important to know why you’re applying for it. If you just want to make a quick buck, that’s fine (you obviously should not make this very obvious but it’s still fine).
If you genuinely admire the company and you want the position with all your heart, that’s even better. Just get out there. Pick positions that appeal to you and things you feel you can do.
I don’t know the demographics but I imagine a lot of you reading this are students. So you’re under no serious constraints like taxes or rent or booking doctor’s appointments by yourself.
For this reason, you have a vast array of choices. So just pick one and get started.
Step 4: Wait
This is my least favorite step, personally.
Some companies are nice enough to tell the duration of time it’ll take for you to get a response but others, not so much.
Personally, I think 2 weeks is the ideal waiting period. If you haven’t heard back from them in 2 weeks, you may as well start applying to other companies.
That’s not to say that you won’t hear back from them at all. It’s just that the longer the time goes on, the slimmer the odds.
Of course, you should never apply to just one company at a time. Eggs in different baskets and all that.
Be On The Look-Out
Join groups and organizations that are affiliated with your career choice. I know a Slack group that has no less than five job postings daily. Whatsapp BCs, Facebook ads, Instagram feed, LinkedIn statuses, etc.
There are many available positions advertised on social media and you should be on the look-out for all of them.
Also, it never hurts to ask. Yeah, I know I said you can get an interview without using connections but if you know someone who works in a company that you’re interested in working in, you can ask them to let you know if there’s ever an available position. No harm in that.
It’s important that people know you’re searching for a job.
I know we all like the “I’m great and everything is fine” persona but if the people around you aren’t even aware of what you’re doing, you’re going to end up with a lot of “Oh yeah, my company was looking for someone to hire a couple of weeks ago but I didn’t think you’d be interested since you’re obviously doing so well.”
This is not to say that you should constantly bombard your friends and acquaintances for possible job openings (believe me, it gets old real quick) but you can just let them be aware.
Here’s another crucial thing: Network!
Get out there and meet people. These are actual events organized for the sole purpose of making connections so you’re not helping yourself by staying home all day and doing nothing.
Now, onto my personal method of getting interviews:
The secret to this method is really the secret to getting most jobs: Be employable!
It’s fine and dandy to want a job but you have to ask yourself: What do I have to offer? What special skills and talents do I have that will prove invaluable to a company? Do I have that je ne sais quoi that separates me from other applicants?
If your answer to these questions is positive, then great! If your answer is like “Eh, not really”, that’s not so great but it doesn’t mean you’re completely unemployable.
It goes without saying that this method should be handled with great tact. Think of it this way, you’re a bull and they’re the china shop. You don’t want to just barrel your way in there and mess everything up. So yeah, be careful. Be very careful.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand, here’s how to be proactive.
- Be Aggressive.
Know what you want and go for it. You have a dream company and you just know you’d be a perfect addition to the team. Then what are you waiting for? Get your stalking skills on. It’s time to find out as much as you can about them. Follow them on all their social media and take an avid interest in all their posts and everything. However, it’s very important that you don’t go overboard with this. Take note of the fact that I mean ‘them’ as in the organization as a whole and not any actual personnel.
Don’t start stalking employees of the company in a bid to get noticed. The only thing you’re going to get is blocked.
And on the very minuscule chance that you actually get the job (after such creepy stalking), do you really want to work in a place where you know all the details about someone’s life. That would make for some awkward water cooler conversations.
Them: Oh, that reminds me of the time I went on holiday to Tahiti five years ago.
You: Haha, I know all about that.
Them: But I’ve never told you this story before.
And then you’ll have to jump out of a window or something.
- Be helpful.
One thing I do is go to the sites of organizations I’m interested in, note down things it seems they need a hand with and then send them a very polite and tactful email.
You don’t want to send “Your User Interface is the worst thing I’ve ever seen in this life and whoever designed it should be jailed and then thrown into a vat of boiling oil” and then end up having an interview with the UI designer, if they decide to call you in. Talk about uncomfortable situations.
You don’t even have to be fishing for an interview but if you do notice something wrong or you have a method they can use to improve, feel free to reach out without expectations of anything. You never know what you’ll get.
Best case scenario:
Thank you so much for your insightful observation on our organisation. We implemented your suggestion and it is literally the best thing to ever happen to us. We’re so indebted to you that we want you to become President of our company with your own office, paid vacations and health insurance.
- Be an asset. At this point, you should have gotten the — hopefully positive — attention of the company in question. Now is the time to strike.
What you do is, send an email along the lines of “Hey, so now that I have your attention, maybe we could talk about making this a more permanent thing. I’ve attached my CV and links to all other important things I’ve done ever so you can see how much you need me in your magnificent organization. Thanks and you’re welcome”
An added benefit of this method is that even if they’re not actively hiring at that moment, in the event that they do decide to hire in the future, they just might remember you.
Now, obviously this may not always work. It has worked for me but I totally understand that it may be completely different for other people.
Of course another important part of applying for jobs is the rejection aspect. But sometimes rejection can be a good thing.
If a company takes the time to send you an email explaining why they won’t be proceeding with your application process, it means your profile was good enough for them to take a deeper look then decide. So you must be doing something right.
Read the feedback deeply and send them an email thanking them for the reply.
That said, I hope you actually learned something from all this and please let me know if you eventually land an interview with any of these methods.
So these are the basics of applying. What to do if you actually do get invited for an interview? Well, that’s a story for another article.