Friday, 21 October 2011

Thing 21: Apply - some pressure?

Thing 21 is about applying for jobs: both the preparatory work of considering your strengths and weaknesses (which in many ways is the hardest part of the process) as well as putting together a strong application and giving a good account of yourself at interview.

Identifying your strengths

Maria suggests that we consider our strengths and the things we like (or don't like) to do - both at work and in our personal lives. If it's not too wussy/lazy I'm going to postpone this activity for the moment as I want to have a really good think about this (and also I'm not sure I'd want to post my conclusions on a public blog). However, I would like to mention CJ's post on this Thing at 23 Mins in the Library, which discusses how to talk about your strengths/interests and weaknesses/dislikes in such a way that you are explaining the value your strengths add to your work and putting a positive spin on your weaknesses. There are some great ideas in CJ's list which I may well be nicking - er, I mean adapting for my own purposes.

Putting together an application

At the moment my CV is catastrophically out of date, but that's because every job I've applied for in the last five or six years has asked for a completed application form instead - sometimes a hard copy but more often one that's to be completed and submitted online. Because I'm just that sort of person, I print off and keep on file copies of my completed application forms so that I can refer to them in any future applications - often, especially for basic factual information about your education and work history, you can just copy passages from previous forms with minimal tweaking.

And also because I'm that sort of person, I'm very methodical and thorough when completing the application. I examine the essential and desirable criteria in minute detail and make sure I can offer evidence that I fulfil each one - usually I print off a copy of both the job description and person specification, scribble notes next to each point, and then draft and re-draft my application form answers until I'm sure I've covered every point. I try where possible to use the same language and phrases as in the job description and person specification - without appearing as though I'm just mindlessly parroting the employer's words back at them - to make it really obvious that I've addressed all of the criteria in my application.

 Make sure your application ticks all of the boxes
(Picture by adesigna)


There's lots of useful advice about giving good interview in Maria's blogpost and in the links she provides. However, I have a feeling that being an effective and impressive interviewee is something you can only really develop from actually going through the real-life process numerous times - you can't learn and develop the skills just from reading about it. Even practising interviews is of limited value, because you won't be able to replicate that special combination of tummy butterflies, anxiety-induced dry-mouth and worries over practicalities - What shall I wear? How am I travelling to the venue? How firm should my handshake be? Do I accept a coffee or glass of water if they offer one? - created by the real interview situation. Of course, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't spend some time before the interview thinking about the questions you're likely to be asked and what your answers might be - Ned Potter's blog has a comprehensive list of likely questions for an interview for a library role.

What next?

I am not long (two and a half months) into a new job, so I hope I will not be going through the application and interview process for a while yet. I therefore have the luxury of being able to spend the next few weeks or months considering my strengths and weaknesses and updating my CV (I will need to do both of these anyway once I register for and begin Chartership). I also need to consider any gaps in my experience and skills and think of ways to address these - which is where the next Thing comes in...

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