By Jeremiah Buabeng
Contrary to popular opinion, employers don’t just dole out jobs to people they know or like. And certainly, not to people with a pitiful story. No, not employers who are running organizations that aspire to become leaders in their industries. Every manager worth his salt has clear expectations for the roles in her organization and hires people who have the wherewithal to fill these roles and meet these expectations. So you are not going to get your next job just because you got lucky. Most likely, there is criteria and you must meet it. In What Makes Employers Hire One Person and Not the Other Part 1, I argued strongly that employers consider an applicant’s career experience and achievements before hiring them.
Another important quality that employers consider in their hiring process is skills; what can you do? What are you good at? The skills part of the curriculum vitae is probably the most abused part of the CV. Most people fill it with clichés like “ability to work with little or no supervision”, “ability to work under pressure”, “friendly and able to work in a team” and the most amusing of them all “punctual at work”. Punctuality and regularity is so basic and necessary for every employee that, in my considered opinion, it should not even show up on your CV.
What Do Employers Really Want When It Comes to Skills?
Companies don’t recruit staff merely because they want to fill their organizations with people. Employees are recruited because there is a NEED in the organization that needs to be met and that need is often expressed in a JOB DESCRIPTION. When a company advertises that they need a person to occupy, for instance, the role of Marketing Executive, they spell out specific jobs that this person will do in the company. It is these jobs that require SKILLS to accomplish. Your skills must match with the job description of the advertised role. Therefore, it is required that an applicant possesses and markets these skills before they can get hired.
What are the implications of this?
Foremost is the fact that it is necessary that students, graduates, and professionals commit to continuous skill development. Throughout your stay in school or work, you must lend yourself to activities and programmes that unveil and refine your skills. I talked about this extensively in my article Beating the Competition for Jobs.
Secondly, in crafting your CV, you must ANTICIPATE the job description and match the SKILLS part of your CV to it. This also applies to the interview. This is why you must deliberately tailor your CV to each job opportunity you apply for. You should not have one generic CV that you send to every job application. Similarly, you should not have the same answers that you share at every job interview. The information you give about yourself on your CV and at interviews should be streamlined to suit the role you applied for. If you have a degree in HR and all the skills and accomplishments listed in your CV are only HR-related but you have applied for a Marketing role, you have essentially reduced your chances of been invited for an interview because you don’t fit the role. You must make your CV or interview responses pitch the skills or qualities that you have that makes you suitable for a role in Marketing.
Someone with an Accounting background who is applying for this role may have the ability to develop financial statements but that ability is not relevant to the role they are applying for, so it must not be presented. If you want to present it, pitch it as an extra value that you can offer the employer. It is dessert. It is not the main dish. Because the employer is looking for a Marketing person so tell him what he needs to hear not everything you have. Again, this also applies to the interview. In summary, sell the qualities that makes you fit for the role.
In furtherance of this point, when a company advertises a vacancy for a role and you seek to apply for that role, you must research and identify what the job description is. Then you examine your own life, career and experiences and list specific skills, experiences and achievements that position you well to handle the role and present it in your CV. You must deliberately customize your CV to make a persuasive case for why you deserve to be hired. Researching the role and what it entails will enable you to know how to package yourself to suit that role.
Thirdly, there are two main sets of skills in the world of work; soft skills and hard skills. Soft skills are non-measurable, subjective skills that are not specific to one job or career. Wikipedia defines soft skills as “a combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, character or personality traits, attitudes, career attributes, social intelligence and emotional intelligence quotients, among others, that enable people to navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals with complementing hard skills.” These are the skills that many flood their CVs with; teachability, communication, interpersonal skills, work ethic, team work etc. Mind you, these skills are important. But they are not enough. There are the core or technical skills which often form the chunk of most job descriptions. You need to present those too.
A combination of hard skills and soft skills forms a well-rounded job applicant. While hard skills are quite different from soft skills, together they create a good balance between hard knowledge and interpersonal attributes. You need both; you must acquire them and do well to project them in your CV and interview. If you do a good job on this, you are on your way to getting hired.
Jeremiah Buabeng is an entrepreneur, consultant, trainer, professional speaker, and author. He has trained and/or addressed organizations including Databank, Olam Ghana, Accra City Hotel (Novotel), Vaniado, Letshego, Lesedi Foundation, Axis Suites, Oasis Montessori, Healthstar Group, Lekma Polyclinic, and many more. Jeremiah is a regular resource person at conferences, churches, universities, radio, and television programmes. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.