I often read forum posts asking for tips on how to land the first job. By experience, I learned that landing that first job is never easy. The process involves countless hours of going over every post in the job board matching your skill set. The job hunt can be both time consuming and frustrating. I was there, and had my taste of rejections despite confidence that I can do the job and I can deliver. But, I slowly learned the ropes.
I am underscoring some useful tips here, in the hope that it will help fellow contractors, especially newbies, at improving their chances in landing a job. (There are also lots of helpful links I included in the Resources page.)
1. Complete and Detailed Profile
I learned that in order to land the first job, I have to market my skills well. I had to take the time to evaluate my abilities, explore my career possibilities, and find out what I am truly passionate about. Just like in the real world when it comes to preparing a resume and application letter, in preparing my profile I have to give enough time completing it and detailing every aspect. Every minute detail of my work experience, be it full time or part time or volunteer work, are all valuable achievements. As Contractors, we should not sell ourselves short just because our professional experience is limited. We have to give prospective Employers a well-rounded view of our skills by including all relevant experience.
Spending enough time in completing our profile gives a positive signal to Employers. Committing our personal time detailing every aspect of our skills, work experience, education and other proficiencies demonstrates our values, work ethics and professionalism. It would show that we are committed to the job and endeavour to complete any task with the end in view of delivering quality output. It will show our willingness to go that extra mile, which is something a lot of Employers look for. In these times of hard economy, most business owners want conscientious workers.
2. Customized Cover Letter
Most Employers prefer customized cover letters. This is their way of initially testing us if we understand their requirements, if we can follow instructions and express ourselves well. They want to assess us if we are capable and ready of helping them build their business or provide the solutions. Hence, it is advisable to submit a carefully crafted cover letter addressing the specific requirements of the Employer as stated in the job post. If we have experience in the same field, highlight it at once and provide a concise background. In my case, I use some phrases in the job details posted by the Employer, as this will show that I took the time to read everything in the post.
3. Be Prepared for Interview
We should respond to interview invitations promptly and thank the Employer for considering us from among many candidates. During an interview, how we present ourselves is often as important as our profile. For maximum impact, we have to pay attention to our tone of “voice”. Be polite and friendly. It is normal to feel nervous, but is should not show. Anticipate the questions that might be asked and be ready with an answer. Knowing exactly what we want to say beforehand will help us express it simply. However, we should keep our responses short, leaving out unnecessary details. Everything we say during the interview process should relate back to our strengths and the results we can deliver. Moreover, we must answer their questions honestly, but without leaving room for doubt. If there are aspects of the job that we have no experience in, it is good to highlight a related job and offer a plan on how to apply it. We should not only focus on our strengths, but also consider our weaknesses in advance. It is also very helpful to have a list of questions to ask the prospective Employer. Often forgotten during an interview is that the Contractor should also interview the Employer. Get to know the Employer a little better, his preferences, his business and the goals he wants to achieve, including relevant matters regarding the job.
Finally, we should not forget that all job interviews are learning curves. Self-analysis can help one to ace the next round and increase the chances of an offer. If we don’t make it to the hire list of that particular Employer, we have to put to mind that there are a lot more looking for a contractor. We have to learn that rejection should not be taken personally. After all, everyone had to apply for their first job at some point.
4. Understand The Employer’s Requirements
When the Employer gives out a link to his/her website, visit the site in order to have an overview of the business. In a single job, there will be numerous candidates fitting into the requirements, but the Employers would also want to make sure that they fit in. Be honest as to the extent of what you can deliver, including your availability and schedule.
5. Don’t Just Tell, Show What You’ve Got
We must be able to remove doubts from the Employer’s mind by highlighting our skills and providing clear evidence of success. A portfolio can be a great capability booster. If you are a writer, let your cover letter speak for you, or you may provide a link to some articles you have submitted. If you’re a programmer or graphics artist, provide a link to your finished product. If you are good at customer service relations or at handling inbound or outbound calls, encourage the Employer to speak to you by phone or skype call as a “test run.”
A word of caution: some prospective employers may require samples before hiring. There are some employers who cancel the job or let the job ad expire without hiring at all, and they keep the sample articles. Imagine getting samples from, say, 50 applicants…for free. Should something like this happen, publish your samples by posting in your blog or other sites that allow you to post the article. If you are a graphics designer, do not submit the sample graphics, rather, post it in your portfolio and invite the prospective employer to take a look at it.
6. Wear the Employer’s Shoes
Personally, I can say that what made my bids successful was the fact that I try to put myself into the Employer’s situation and think of what I want from a contractor. Definitely, a business owner who invests his hard earned money would want a return on his investment. In this case, he would delimit his risks by carefully choosing the right service contractor. It’s like buying a tangible product – we consider all the relevant features and scrutinize the components in order to satisfy us that the product will cater to our particular need and will provide the solution we seek.
As service contractors, we should then package our skill set in such a way that prospective Employers will also decide to go that “extra-mile” to read and check every detail in our profile and decide to hire us after scrutinizing our capabilities, convinced that we are worth it.
To my fellow oDesk contractors……wear the Employer’s shoes….
Read here how I landed my first job on oDesk….