Better Business: Prepare to pitch for the perfect job

Recent gloomy employment figures might say otherwise, but that dream job is out there. Tim Sheahan of Printweek looks at how to bag it.

You’re hired” – two words that will trigger a sense of elation in any hard-working interviewee. But in a period when finding a job, let alone your dream job, is incredibly tough, that feeling is proving more elusive than ever. Granted, very few employers are likely to inform you of interview success with quite the same authority as Lord Sugar when he delivers that catchphrase in the popular television show The Apprentice, but ultimately the feeling of clinching that hallowed position is the same.

One man that would know all about this feeling is Bordan Tkachuk, chief executive of Viglen and a long-time associate of Sugar. Tkachuk is a regular interviewer on the show, grilling the young go-getters that have their sights set well and truly on the top. He also heads up the IT products and services provider that the successful candidate from the annual show goes on to work for and earn the much-vaunted six-figure salary.

“Candidates who can refer to a company’s shareholders’ funds, return on capital employed, gearing, net assets and any other key financial indicators show a person who has commercial nous and has really done their homework,” he says. While brushing up on the inner workings of the company you hope to join is indeed valuable, landing your ideal job in 2011 will require you to offer the complete package to your potential employer.

Do your homework

That’s what Annie Clough, human resources manager at Manroland GB, believes. She says there is no secret formula to finding that dream job but, like Tkachuk, is an advocate of organisation. “Great interviews are all about the ‘four Ps’: preparation, practice, presentation and positivity. If you want the job, then firstly, ensure you spend time researching the role, the company and its position in the industry.”

Clough’s advice is particularly pertinent given recent research showing that employment levels have dropped while unemployment has risen. According to the Office for National Statistics, the employment rate for those aged from 16 to 64 for the three months to November 2010 came in at 70.4%, 0.3% lower on the previous quarter. Equally, the unemployment rate during the same period was 7.9%, a 0.2% increase.

However, George Thompson, joint managing director of print recruitment consultancy Harrison Scott Associates, argues that despite rising unemployment, job hunters should still be selective. “First things first – if you want to succeed in work, make sure you apply for a job that is going to make you happy. There is no point in making a total career faux pas and ending up miserable in your job, which can lead to poor productivity, or, worse, having to move on again,” says Thompson. “Yes, we all have to make some compromises, but the job should tick more boxes than not before making that first move of applying for the role,” he adds.

Clough agrees: “The printing sector is one of the largest industries in the UK, yet when you get behind the figures, it’s a tight-knit community with a multitude of industry association and media events to attend – exactly what you need to build your contacts. So, get out there and take advantage of it. The more people you meet, the more others will do your selling for you and, potentially, the more in demand you may be.”

The extra mile

Despite the slight drop in employment levels at the tail-end of 2010, Rebekah Wallis, human resources director at Ricoh UK, says a promising jobs market this year should catalyse job seekers to “go the extra mile” to make themselves more attractive and memorable to potential employers. She echoes Clough and Thompson by encouraging interviewees to be selective, but also to be concise. “In interviews and CVs, get to the point and don’t over-elaborate. Be specific, but remember to be honest,” she says. Wallis is also an advocate of using the power of the internet to up your game. “Raise your profile – use the many tools available to you to make sure you are on the tip of everyone’s tongue and remember – employers will look out for recommendations from their current workforce so get out, network and build your contacts.”

Harrison Scott’s Thompson says one way to tackle this issue in the print industry is to read the trade press. “Companies who are winning large contracts and making sizeable investments in kit are more likely to have career opportunities.” He has a point. In a recent issue, this magazine reported on an acquisition, on another company pushing into the B2 litho market, a director stepping down and one stepping up (to a new role). Additionally, the recruitment pages feature a wealth of positions from customer service account managers to technical support and client services.

Once you’ve applied for that position, ‘research research research’. “Don’t just read the website, but invest a small amount of money in getting the company’s financial profile from Companies House. Find out the names of the key clients your potential employer supplies and research the top three. Think about it, there is nothing more important to that employer than his or her clients and you can be sure he will know what is happening in their world,” adds Thompson.

And it is that level of preparation that will stand you in good stead when that interview finally comes. While the jobs market is still a dog-eat-dog world, it is important to remember that there are roles out there, including that much- desired dream position. Novick concludes: “Clearly there is no silver bullet or magic wand to landing the dream job, but there are very clear processes that can be applied over time to deliver results and, at the very least, improve your chances.”

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