Last week, I blogged about how it’s lame when fresh grads say, “I wanna earn $4k!”, with absolutely zero basis. I showed you a specific strategy on how to figure out the job to target, research the market rate, and set your ambitious salary target that’s won’t cause the interviewer to laugh in your face.
But wait – an ambitious salary? How do you justify a salary that’s higher than everyone else? Definitely not in the same way that everyone else is doing, like in this STJobs article:
Yu Lan, 26, a student from Nanyang Technological University, is one of them who thinks that her starting salary should be at least $4,000 as she has “strong analysis skills and trouble-shooting ability”.
On the other hand, 25-year-old Samuel Tan expects to be paid up to $4,000 in starting salary as other jobs he has applied to offer similar payouts. Other reasons cited include “I have the required abilities and good work ethics and experience from my part-time jobs”.
Strong analysis skills and trouble-shooting ability? GOOD WORK ETHICS? That’s like saying, “I have fingernails.” It doesn’t mean anything because everyone else has the exact same qualities.
Today, I’m going to show you how to stop giving lame answers like these and stand out as a top performer – even if you’re a fresh grad with no marketable skills.
Why Most People Are Terrible At Job Interviews
Most people suck at job interviews. But it’s not because we’re less talented or have less experience.
I’ve only been working full-time for a couple of years, but I’ve had the opportunity to interview candidates for a couple of roles. Like any episode of Tanglin on Channel 5, these sessions are always strangely entertaining, yet always leave me wanting to strangle myself.
Here’s how a typical interview would play out:
Interviewer: So, tell me why I should hire you.
Candidate: Well, I have the required abilities and GOOD WORK ETHICS. I also graduated from a good local university. In my internship, I GAINED VALUABLE EXPERIENCE interacting with clients. I’m also responsible and am willing to work hard.
Do you see what the problem is here?
Everything is about “I”! I did this, I have good work ethics, I went to that university.
Well, you know what? Nobody cares.
These are tough words – especially if you’re a millennial who’s been taught since you were a kid that the world should pay attention to your awesomeness.
Your interviewer doesn’t care about you. Your interviewer is a stressed-out manager juggling 5 projects, an overdue report, and has to answer to a VP who’s asking why she’s not meeting her KPIs. She doesn’t care about your “good work ethics”. She cares about whether you can solve her problems.
Most people mistakenly think that interviews are all about THEM. Big mistake. This should take up – at the very most – 30% of the interview. The vast majority of the interview should be about the company and its challenges, and how you can solve them.
But What If You Don’t Have Any Marketable Skills?
All this sounds great in theory, but there’s just one problem. As my man Lin-Manuel Miranda proclaims in my favourite musical In The Heights, “You ain’t got no skills!”.
In other words, most fresh grads have zero marketable skills. C’mon, let’s be honest here. Your degree offers great textbook knowledge, but most graduates don’t work at jobs related to their field of study anyway.
What about that internship you did? Everyone knows that most internships are meaningless. Most interns spend long afternoons staring at their computer screens, waiting for the day to end or for boredom to kill them, whichever comes first.
Interns also usually get assigned menial, repetitive tasks like data entry or filing, yet add absolutely nothing to their skills. (This doesn’t stop them from dressing it up as “conducted research study” or “spearheaded data classification re-org” in their resumes)
But there’s ONE thing you can do that could dramatically increase your chances of success in an interview, even if you have no work experience. Do you know what that is?
The answer: Deeply understanding the company you want to work for.
Imagine walking into an interview room, smiling in the knowledge that you have a deep, deep understanding of what your interviewer cares about. Not only that, but you can also anticipate the kind of questions that she’s going to ask. Compare these two interview scenarios:
Interviewer: So, why do you want to work for this company?
Candidate: Because I’m PASSIONATE about marketing. And since I studied marketing, I want to work for a marketing company. And I have good work ethics, and… hello?
Interviewer: So, why do you want to work for this company?
Candidate: Most marketing agencies are a dime a dozen. But from my research, I noticed that your company does things differently from other agencies. For example, you only serve SME clients in the B2B technology space, an industry that I did a lot of research on in my final year project. From our research, one surprising thing we found was…
Who do you think is more likely to get hired? Who do you think is likely to get paid more?
I love this approach because anyone can do it. It doesn’t matter if you have “no marketable skills”, because employers who hire fresh grads don’t expect you to have 10 years of work experience anyway. Yet, if you can demonstrate that you deeply understand the company and its vision, challenges and barriers, you immediately set yourself apart from everybody else.
And when an interviewer finds a candidate like you who actually understands the job, she will move mountains to get you hired – including negotiating for a higher starting pay.
Most people will read this, nod their heads and go, “Of course! Understanding the company is important!” But I want you to go deeper. How does this translate into real life? What are the concrete steps you can actually take?
I’m not going to give you the answer today. Let me hear your ideas by sending me an email or leaving a comment. I read every one.
Image credit: tedmurphy,