A successful job interview is a dialogue

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The journey from a job application to a job interview can be a diverse process that starts even when the idea of a new job hasn't crossed your my mind yet. At its finest, the process ends up in a dialogue where the job seeker and the employer can discuss the future position in good agreement. Recruitment professional Kirsi Laine, a work- and organisational psychologist, explores the wonderful and multi-stage world of job search.

Job search is often approached on one's own personal basis. And why not approach like that. Most of us need a job and in that case it is necessary to think about what it could be. But the same goes for employers. Job positions require an employee, and then people think about it mainly from their own starting points. How these two things come together is a more complicated matter.

"Employers should initially identify whether certain types of applicants exist at all.  Sometimes it happens that the application process is opened even though there are no potential doers available," says Kirsi Laine, psychologist and CEO of Master Suomi. 

She starts dismantling the job interviews from the point of view of companies. It's something that doesn't always come to mind when you think about looking for a job. 

"There is also an oversupply for employers, i.e. too many applications may come in, summer jobs as a common example," Laine explains. As a job seeker, it is difficult to approach an overly desired job.

When it seems that the doers and jobs are not coming together, other means are involved. This is the time when recruiters and headhunters specialising in executive search will step in. It is therefore necessary that the job seeker has made themselves discoverable in good time. There are a lot of jobs that can't even be applied for or job ads never show up in a general search. It should come as no surprise that Kirsi Laine recommends Linkedin.

"Anyone interested in looking for a job should sign up there [on Linkedin], that's rule number one," says Laine.

Of course, registering alone is not enough. Since Linkedin is all about the network, it's a good idea to be active there. The more you are able to participate in discussions, the better you will be noticed in the feeds of different people. Some people are careful about growing their networks, but that is not worth it.

"The more contacts you have, the easier it is for recruiters to find you," Laine encourages. 

According to him, some may fear that the current employer suspects that over-enthusiastic communication on Linkedin foreshadows the departure to the next employer. However, it is worth remembering that LinkedIn is a professional network that also keeps its own expertise up-to-date. It is not originally a channel set up for recruitment, although it is an excellent source of information for recruiters. So you should have the courage to communicate and be active. It is the only way to stay up-to-date for the labour market.

Onward from the job advertisement

The most traditional way to take the bait for a future job is to react to an open job advertisement. It starts with the writing of a job application.

"The job application must always be such that the applicant's background and experiences are understandably established. A narrow listing on a CV, i.e. a list of jobs, does not give a sufficient picture," Laine underlines.

According to Laine, there are two schools of thought: while others read the motivation letter and the CV – others only read the CV. So we have to invest in both of them. But if one of you has to choose, according to Laine, the CV takes the win. It's like the facts, i.e. experience and competence, come out more firmly.

The one and the same application should not be used to apply for all jobs. Since jobs and employers are all different, tailoring the application is important. According to Laine, targeted writing is a good way to stand out from the crowd. Negligence is caught, for example, if you try to get by with copy-paste technology. If the application is targeted at the wrong company, it is unlikely that the process will continue.

Before you start writing an application, you must read the job ad carefully. According to Laine, only relevant or important things from one's own background should be highlighted, even if there are other interesting things to tell. Clarity is important.

"In many cases, an outsider does not always make sense of something that is clear to the applicant themselves. Therefore, it is also a good idea to let someone else read your own CV and any applications in advance to ensure that the text is understandable," Laine says.

Anonymous applications are becoming more common. Things like the name, image or gender are no longer obvious parts of modern applications.

"Research shows that robots that analyse applications can even make better and more relevant choices than humans," says Laine, who analyses numerous applications for a living. People are more easily guided by prejudice and stereotypical perceptions. Maintaining objectivity is more difficult for people than it is for artificial intelligence. 

The situation of the applicant is therefore not easy. But job interviews are still taking place and they are still more personal in nature than anonymous applications or applications based only on skills.

"Corona brings new challenges to this, too, as many interviews are conducted remotely, which includes cameras, microphones and other tools. But one thing does not change in the interview situation, namely mastering the dialogue," says Laine.

Towards a successful dialogue

"Many organisations are still asking about stress tolerance,and almost every company thinks that their organisation's work rate and tasks are more demanding than average. In real life, it is less likely that a job like that exists," Laine reveals. Even stress interviews are unpopular these days.

Sometimes it can happen that the interviewer is inexperienced. On the other hand, the applicant's CV may have promised a lot, but real life does not live up to expectations, so the reality is not in sync with the application.

"It is worth telling about your strengths fairly and openly. It's not self-boasting, it's providing information. You tell what you know because the employer cannot know it or guess it", Laine says.

"You should also put your own authentic persona on the line early on. By being yourself you don't have to pretend to be smarter than you actually are," Laine instructs. But the same goes for employers. Sometimes people try to conjure a better picture of the workplace than it is, which means that at the end of the day, both of them can be disappointed.

Therefore, according to Kirsi Laine, the job seeker must also ask question and be active: what kind of culture of activity and discussion there is in the workplace, what kind of colleagues and supervisors run the job. Questions about salary, lunch vouchers and full summer holidays can then be asked in further negotiations. Ideally, a job interview is a dialogue where people try to find common ground.

It is not advisable to get too depressed or care about rejected job applications or interviews.

"In most cases, the choice has been about competence, and not being chosen for the position has not been directly related to the person. Most of the time, the situation is just that someone has had to be chosen out of the good applicants, and the differences are probably really subtle."

Kirsi Laine reveals one last, but very important, instruction:

"It's always worth inquiring afterwards why you didn't get elected. It can provide valuable information for the following job search processes, and perhaps you can express your strengths in a new way or even think about jobs that interest you from a new perspective."

Many employers have noticed that successful applicant experience provides added value and this is actually invested in it. An appreciating and carefully completed recruitment process also helps the job seeker, even if they are not selected this time. Maybe next time the end result will be different.

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