getting a job is not a matter of luck; it is a matter of effort.
I have interviewed over 100 people. We have received over 400 applications. But we didn’t call everyone for an interview. I have learned some of the reasons why we called some of them and why we didn’t call the rest.
I have never looked or applied for a full-time job, but I started applying for internships since my very first semester of college when I was only 18 years old. I have to say I always got called to an interview, and I always got THE internship position I wanted the most. I did internships in 5 different countries and even got to work with the president. So now I want to share some of the things I have learned, and hopefully, you can get your foot in the door and get the internship or job you’ve always wanted.
The advice I will give is from the “startup CEO” perspective that has no HR team to do the hiring process. We are a very early stage startup but we have received about 400 applications from people wanting to be an intern or tutor in our company. I have to do the work, read applications, check CVs, interview, and select candidates. Here are 5 things I care about and the reasons some people stand out and some don’t.
1. I don’t care about your CV
There are so many templates nowadays that I can never really judge someone’s skills, experience, or talent only through a CV. To me, CVs are a very old-school way of recruiting. Sometimes I do look at people’s CV and I care about how organized their ideas are, if they have typos or misspellings and if they have ever done volunteer work. Let me explain why:
If they have typos or misspellings, that tells me that the person is not detail-oriented, and is probably mediocre or unprofessional. I don’t want to work with someone like that. I want someone who has asked their friends to review their CV. Someone who has triple-checked their work before applying for a job.
If the CV has a lot of extra words, I won’t read it because that means the person is not good at summarizing their thoughts. I need someone that can get straight to the point and won’t be wasting time with a lot of blah blah blah or fancy words.
Volunteer work is a plus. That to me means they are kind enough to help others. I don’t want to work with people that are too selfish to share their knowledge or time with others. For me, doing volunteer work means that the person has found other ways to spend their free time besides partying or watching Netflix.
2. I never check applications that come through other platforms
In Taiwan, there are several platforms where you can see job postings: Facebook, Linked In, 104, Yourator, Glassdoor, you name it. Yes! We do post our job openings there but we never really check those applications. Why? Because I think people there are not applying for the job because of the company, they are applying for the job position. Do you get it?
If you don’t, that means you’re probably one of them. Let me give you an example: If we have an internship position for “Social Media Manager”, I am pretty sure there will be 20 more companies with that same position, which makes it very easy for someone looking for an internship to just “click” and apply to the 21 companies at the same time (including ours) and wait for her/his luck. They sit there waiting for one of those 21 companies to call them for an interview and that is just SO WRONG. That is just being lazy.
I don’t want people working with me for the position; I want people to join our company because of our mission, vision, and long-term goals. So, if you see that a company has a job opening DO NOT just send a generic application, it won’t work. Instead, find a company that you like and send them a message explaining why you like the company, why you want to work there, and why you are the best candidate. Don’t send your CV through the job-matching platform. Find the company’s email and send your CV directly. Find someone else that works there through LinkedIn and message that person directly. Show how much you want to be there.
I have met people that message the CEO directly through LinkedIn and get the job. I have met people that attend an event just to get to know someone that works at the company they want to work at, get their business card, create a friendship, apply and then get the job. I think people don’t understand that getting a job is not a matter of luck; it is a matter of effort.
3. I like people that have new skills and maybe they do not have the skills I was looking for.
You know that skills can be taught, skills can be self-learned, and that nobody was born with skills. That is the magic of people that are willing to learn. If you understand that your willingness to learn is one of your most valuable assets, you already have half of the job done. I will tell you a story that I have told many many many times to other people.
Last year we were recruiting new interns for our company. We were looking for junior or senior university students with specific skills. Suddenly we received an application from a 17-year old that had just graduated from high school. I loved the initiative because it reminded me of the first time I applied for an internship in Nepal (with 0 experience). I was 18 years old and about to finish my very first semester of college.
We invited him for an interview. If I remember correctly he didn’t have a CV. Usually, our interns need to give a presentation in front of others. Everyone had to present their previous experience or projects, share what their goals in the company are, and what they think they can help with in the future. When he started his presentation, he was probably more nervous than anybody else. All the experience he had was back in high school: being a top student in his class, volunteering in many extracurricular activities, and the best part was that he brought a sample of a blog he wrote for our website. He said that he believed that he was good at copywriting and that he wanted to take the lead in writing blogs.
None of the other potential interns did something similar. He obviously got the position! We had to write a letter of authorization, because of his age he wasn’t allowed to work with us without his parent’s signature. (If you are brave enough, age is just a number!)
The months went by and he got along with the rest of the interns, and a month and a half later he asked if he could make a brand new website for the company. He had been learning how to write better blogs that could “boost our SEO” (something he didn’t even know before he started his internship with us) and he said we needed to change our website’s host in order to see results. We let him try and he spent at least two weeks watching YouTube tutorials until he learned how to do a new website from scratch. Now he is probably not even 20 years old, and he already got a second internship and people are willing to pay him to build websites as a freelancer.
I am not sure if every company or startup is willing to welcome people that don’t have much experience, but from my perspective, people that show their desire to learn are the most valuable candidates of all! You don’t need to sell only your current skills, you need to sell your willingness to try and learn new things.
4. I care about your why, so send a cover letter even if you’re not asked to.
This is very similar to tip #2, but I think it is so important that I will add a bit more to this. From my perspective, understanding the reason why you want to join the company is so important. The people we usually recruit are the ones that share something in common with me and the company.
I will definitely read someone’s cover letter before reading someone’s CV. I would also check if the cover letter is just a generic cover letter from Google or if the words are honest and sincere. I care about cover letters because it is what tells me the most about a candidate. Cover letters help people have a clearer idea of why you want to work at the company, why you are the best candidate, what your expectations are, and what value you can bring to the company. I see cover letters almost as a shortcut to an interview. If someone sends a nicely written cover letter, their chances to get an interview are 125% higher.
5. Who is your social media persona?
Believe it or not, people will check your social media before interviewing you.
Nowadays it is so easy to find “who you are”. We have rejected many tutors' applications just because their social media does not represent a TUTEEMI Tutor. Many companies will check your social media and instantly know you are not what their company represents. What you post on social media represents how you want a stranger to see you. Post wisely.
If the only thing that we can find is parties, drunk photos, almost naked photos, abusive words, or comments… that will be a NO NO. If you are going to be part of a company, you will eventually have to represent it. Your employer cannot take the risk of hiring someone who is not professional enough to carry their company’s name.
I’ve been wanting to write this because many friends of friends will be graduating from university soon. Some are applying to their first internship, some are trying to get a new job. I see so many people making the same mistakes over and over again, if you are not getting a phone call from the job you want... consider these 5 things.
My next blogs will be about CV writing, cover letter writing, what a perfect interview looks like, speaking with confidence, and more… but sometimes I run out of ideas, if you think my tips might be useful please make sure to give me topic ideas (DM my IG @camilasaenz_ or connect with me through LinkedIn) of things you would like me to share with you. If you have questions I’d be happy to answer them too.