An art worth learning
Dec 03 - 09, 2001
Why should we hire you? That was a question recently
asked by an employer to one of the prospective candidates for a position
having a turnaround of approximately 700 applicants (considered low by
all means). Although the applicant did not get an offer, yet he was made
aware of the fierce competition and the need of equipping himself with
the right arsenal to fight the battle at an interview and of getting the
job that he wants. In our case, the applicant was lucky enough to get an
interview at the first place. Otherwise it's a daunting task to get an
interview call these days. Bottomline is that one has to know how to
market oneself. The good news is that it's an art that one can learn.
The tough part is it requires lot of effort and patience. After all as
they say "Master pieces take time".
After analyzing the situation of incoming fresh MBAs
in the practical world and the tight job market, its quite mind-boggling
how the supply and demand equation will balance. Lot of youngsters who
end up doing MBA just because of no other option and because it's a
rather easier way out, are then at the mercy of the ruthless and
merciless job market when doing the hunting. Moreover, the MBA glut as
being created by mushroom growth of low quality MBA programs has further
deteriorated the situation to alarming levels. We are getting quantity
not quality. One reason is that there is no accredating body to date to
standardize the level of business education being disseminated to the
students. A simple test can be a question about basic economics, IRR, or
forecasting, and a fresh MBA would most likely be not in a situation to
The first and foremost question should be why a
student wants to adopt certain course work. What I mean to say is that
there should be a valid justification for you to get into an
Engineering, MBA, Computer Science, or Fashion Designing program. If
that's not the case, you are harming yourself. It's synonymous to
selecting a road for a drive without knowing where that road is heading.
After one has answered the first question, the rest
becomes relatively easy. Your job hunting should start from day one at
your respective program. It is these long-term efforts which shall pay
you handsomely at the time of your graduation. Networking is the most
important thing that a student especially of an MBA program can do. It
basically means socializing with the prime objective of making contacts,
which should pay you in the long run. One easy way to organize your
contacts is to purchase a business card directory and place all
important cards there or develop a simple database in MS Excel or MS
Access. There are two points to this database. One is to keep the
database updating, because if the database or business card directory is
not getting more inputs, this is an indication for you of doing a lousy
job towards networking. Secondly you have to keep in touch with your
previous contacts while making the new one. Just holding the cards will
not do the job, you should be the master as to when to use them. For
networking one should target family friends, trade associations, social
events, etc. You have to have a proactive strategy in this regard.
While at your program, try to develop on your written
and verbal communication skills. Communication is by far the most
important skill that can help you climb the corporate ladder. Andrew
Canregie, the steel king in the U.S., knew little about the manufacture
of steel, yet due to his communication skills became the most important
man in the steel industry. You need to give special attention to a
"Communication course" if one is offered through your program.
Moreover, be active in class participation, group discussions, and class
presentations. Besides this one can always take short courses on the
subject if one feels like. Your written communication will help you get
an interview, and your verbal communication will help you get a job.
During the selection process, the hiring staff does not have ample time
to analyze your technical skills. But, they do have access to your
communication, which they can analyze and make an intelligent guess
about the person they are going to hire. Finally, if you want to know
the importance of it, just pick classifieds of a Sunday daily and go
through the employment adds. You'll get the message pretty strong and
clear. Although it's good to be comfortable in conversing in English yet
one should speak in the language in which one feels comfortable.
Bottomline is, whatever you speak, speak well. The choice of words tells
a lot about your persona to the person on the other side of table.
While applying to different places, you'll find out
that usually there is a requirement of clearing a standardized test.
This test usually will check your General knowledge, English, and
Mathematics. Thus it's important to have a grip on the three. While the
later two one can handle easily (the level do not exceed beyond matric),
for general knowledge, one should screen the latest edition of good
general knowledge book, but more importantly develop a habit of
screening newspapers and latest magazines. All this will not only get
you through the standardized tests, but also will enrich your
personality for discussions and making an impression.
While at your program, you should line up at least
one internship. The main purpose of the internship is not limited to
filling the space in your resume. It allows you to see and experience
the office environment. It also is an excellent chance to figure out
what kind of career would you like to have or whether you really want to
work in certain industry. The big question is how do you get an
internship? Top tier business schools have solid connections and are of
great help for their students to find one. Besides this you have to do
prospecting and walk-ins. By prospecting what I mean is to write to
different institutions asking their help and showing your interest for
an internship. Don't expect to get a diem out of it. You should go for
an exposure rather than money. You can also do the walk-ins, it might
just click and your communication skills shall lead you to a good
internship. If you have family contacts, you can utilize them or your
networking can be beneficial now. Once you have it, make best use of it.
Be proactive and ask lots of questions. Otherwise people would be least
bothered to tell you anything.
You should build up your resume step by step. Your
resume should initially be not more than a page and could go to second
after an experience of 2 years. Your resume should contain your
information efficiently and effectively. It should have different
sections on education, experience, personal, etc. Be creative and do
innovative things to stand out in the crowd. For instance you can have a
section in your resume with a title of "Values offered." I bet
nobody else would have it. From paper type to fonts and to the
vocabulary, everything needs to be taken care of while you are
developing your resume. Furthermore, get appropriate references for your
resume. Your references should know that their name is going to be on
your resume. Preferably provide them with a copy of your resume. The
resume should be with a cover page, which in my view should not contain
more than 5 lines. Introduce yourself and leave enough curiosity in the
reader so that he/she is compelled to read through your resume. Remember
the purpose of a resume is to get an interview. If you are getting
multiple interviews but not the job, that means there's nothing wrong
with your resume, and you need to focus outside the resume. Moreover if
you apply 10 places and don't get any kind of response, there's
something seriously wrong with your resume and you might need to change
your approach. Keep your resume updating and always keep some copies
within your easy access. Opportunity can knock at your door any time.
It's always good to have a look at the resumes of successful people and
benefit from their experiences. Do go through a book or two about resume
writing. Its not a bad option to go over the business writing course
material that you had taken earlier in your course work. Another option
is to get a consulting about how to write winning resumes and cover
Once you've majored in your field of choice, have
done a reasonable internship, have decided the industry in which you
would like to spend an important portion of your life, have developed an
eye-catching resume, and have a maximum possible optimism, you are fully
equipped for hunting the job of your dreams. The methodology of hunting
will entail 7 different activities, which are as follows:
Resuming networking contacts
Encashing the Alumni contacts
Utilizing the University Placement Services (If any)
Employing Head Hunters
Responding to Classifieds (Never miss the Sunday paper)
Marketing Electronically (Market to the world)
Well this is the time to bank on those networking
contacts that you have been developing for a long period of time. Meet
them, talk to them, write to them, and don't ever forget to send copies
of your resume for further placement. Ask them for solid references. You
should also get in touch with alumni who have already landed jobs, and
ask for their favor. Your university or institute might have their
contacts. Utilize them efficiently. All good universities have placement
centers, which attract employees to tap on the good brains. You should
always search all possible help that you can get through your placement
office. You might be able to get your hands on the latest directory of
addresses and contact persons in the corporate world. It's a right time
to compose your visiting card, which can be helpful in many ways.
Headhunters are usually for the placement of
experienced professionals. Yet outstanding fresh comers can also contact
the headhunters to get placed. Usually the employer pays to the
headhunter. If you are asked to pay, please do a check on the headhunter
before you engage any money. In my experience you need to have some
budget for travelling, mailing, and calling. But besides this engage no
money with the conartists who boast of getting the best job for you.
By prospecting I simply mean mailing out in bulk to
good corporate recruiters. Mail contacts typically include a resume and
an application letter. This usually doesn't work, but you might be told
that you have been put in the company's database for future references.
Also some good companies might tell you about when to apply and this way
you might know about the company's management training programs. While
contacting different companies, don't limit yourself to multinationals.
There are goods Pakistani companies out there who can give you head
start. Walkins are another way of trying your luck. This technique
seldom pays. Yet you make new contacts and get to know of a new company
every time you visit one. Personal visits are extremely effective if a
personal contact can set up a visit.
Classified section of Sunday paper is very important
for fresh comers. It always has jobs for the beginners, be it bankers,
marketers, engineers, or IT folks. These advertisements usually ask for
a cover letter (application letter), resume, and a passport size
photograph. Do send an acceptable photograph in professional attire. For
responding to P.O. Box addresses use the U.M.S. facility at the post
offices, as courier services would not be able to serve those addresses.
My personal experience with the classifieds has been excellent. You
probably should get one good response for every 6 to 8 applications that
you send out.
Last but not the least is putting your self in front
of the whole world i.e. placing your resume on the web. This is highly
beneficial for the IT people who should remember that their target
market has no borders, and they are wanted all over the world.
If you think you have done all the above and still
are not getting the interviews, you might want to get career counseling.
The concept of career planning and counseling is rather new and in the
infancy stage in our country, yet its importance cannot be undermined.
There are two options available to you if you want to get counseled. One
is to get counseling through your placement center or the faculty
advisor at your university or institute. The other is to hire the
services of a private counselor. I recommend the later. But make sure
that the counselor should not be asking for huge amount. The best way to
judge him/her is to look at his/her career and make sure that the person
has ample experience in finding jobs and doing counseling. Unfortunately
it will be hard for you to find a proper counselor, but now
professionals in this new field are coming forward. You need to do some
research in order to find a good counselor. The earlier option of
getting the faculty advisor can also pay if the faculty has contacts in
Lets assume that your efforts have borne fruit and
one fine day you get a letter from a corporate recruiter inviting you
for an interview. Then what? Do you have what it takes to come out as a
winner in this game? Well here are some tips.
to know the company: One of the best ways to know about a
company is to talk to the people who work there. Another option is to go
through an annual report of the same concern. You can always search
articles on the same organization on the net as well as in the
newspapers and magazines. Also have an ear on the latest news as given
out on the television programs. Get yourself clear about the nature of
company's business, the products and services the company offers, its
corporate culture and more importantly all the positives or the latest
marketing campaign of the company.
•Its time to test your
verbal/non verbal communication: Everything from the way
you walk, to a nice smile, to the way you sit, and to the way you talk
speak about yourself. As I have mentioned earlier whether you pick Urdu
or English, you should speak it properly. Show that you are confident.
Confident enough that you can get this job and do well in doing it.
•Remember the employer
wants to hire you: A company holds the interview because
it wants to hire excellent people. If you convince yourself that you are
the best and the hiring manager wants to hire you, you'll have a
positive attitude during the interview, and your attitude might
influence the manager to feel good about you.
•Pretend the interview
is your first day at work: Most people behave during the
interview as if it were an interrogation. The employer asks questions
and the candidate gives the answer. Your attitude should be that of an
employee whose there to talk about a new project, rather than the more
obsequious attitude of a candidate who's hoping to get an offer.
When asked to tell about
yourself only talk out the positives:
You don't want to talk against yourself. For instance, if you
have bad scores in matriculation, but good in intermediate, you can tell
something like, Got the basic education upto matric from a certain place
and got 850 marks in F.Sc. with scholarship. Skip all the bad news.
After all the employer wants to hire the success stories, not a person
with blunders or difficulties.
Got an offer? Interview the
company: Till the
employer makes an offer, he/she has the full control over the hiring
process. After the offer is made, the employer partially delivers the
control to the candidate. It's your time now to explore changing the
offer to suit your goals and fully interview the company.
Negotiate.: There's a saying, "You don't get what
you deserve, you get what you negotiate." When finally made an
offer in financial terms, negotiate to the last level. Don't ask
unbelievable things like a 1600 cc vehicle, which is usually entitled to
senior executives. But is there any harm on negotiating an allowance for
daily paper with home delivery and a weekly business magazine. What
about pick and drop facility. What about commitments on the pay raise or
what about the reimbursement of travelling and lodging expenses towards
your interview if they were not initially committed. I think you know
what I mean. Just like building body muscles, you also have to develop
muscles for negotiation and then use them appropriately.
Lets hope now that your interview went really
smashing and you came out with high hopes of either getting the second
interview or a written offer. What should you do now? At this point i.e.
after the interview, write a "Thank You" letter for the person
interviewing you and express your hopes to hear positively from the
interviewer in the near future. This letter should be concise to the
point and should leave a positive image of yours. This one letter might
prove to be the decisive element towards your selection at a specific
If considerable time (30 to 40 days) lapse by, and
you do not hear from the company, you can again write a very short
letter requesting the status of your application. In case you are
selected you'll receive a written offer with all sorts of details. Make
sure you read them all and don't sign any thing blindly. For instance, a
company might ask you to fill a 5 year bond. This kind of commitment
might be good for 1 to 2 years time, but 5 years is a bit more. What I
mean to say is that read between the lines and if you are satisfied,
send a written acceptance of an offer within due time and get ready for
the first day at job.
I sincerely hope that after taking the steps
mentioned above you will probably end up on a job of your dreams. There
will be times when you'll get frustrated but never give up. Remember
that when opportunity meets preparation, its what we call luck. Be
prepared so that you can snatch the opportunity when it comes your way.
Another experience from life is that "Opportunity knocks but
once", so if you are not getting a job with your desired
organization, just don't wait for sometime in the future. You should get
what is currently available to you and then shape your destiny with the
passage of time.
Lastly I want to say that think differently. Do
innovative things to market yourself, rather than going the traditional
way. You got to do something different to stand out in the crowd.
Stretch your imagination and use the potential that you have but you
don't use. Its time that you apply the techniques mentioned above to
market yourself. Its time to wake up and take full control of your
destiny. In the words of Somerset Maugham, "It's a funny thing
about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very
often get it."
Haider Ali Tanveer
The writer is currently working as a Credit Analyst at Saudi Pak
Industrial & Agricultural Investment Company (Pvt.) Limited —