What I Learned from Hiring for the First Time

Or how to differentiate yourself among internationally-minded team players who are open to learning new things

The struggle
Attempting to make my nearly non-existent business experience look as professional as possible, frantically refreshing my email inbox waiting for employer-to-be to reply, brushing my sweaty palms into my obviously ill-fitted classic style pants before the interview…I was there exactly one and a half year ago — a fresh graduate, trying to land my first corporate gig. In fact, I can still smell the coffee in the interview room that I was too shy to pour myself, afraid that that action would give away how shaky my hands (and my resume, as I thought) were.

Except today, having worked in my first job for a little over a year, I am slowly starting to allow myself to wear pants that fit me and my personality better. As a bonus, I get an opportunity to review job applications and interview people who are after the same kind of luxury.

And even though I can clearly remember the struggle of getting into the corporate world, being on the other side have opened my eyes to one easy fix that might make a huge difference in your application.

The temptation

Lack of relevant experience, especially in this period of your life, may steer you towards claiming to be a good team player, have a global mindset and be open to learning new things. The problem with making these and equally general statements is — everyone in my inbox says they are all of these.

I noticed that, when skimming through applications, my experienced colleagues and I assume that everyone who has gotten through a decent business college most probably can collaborate, knows that different cultures exist and is willing to learn new things. The reason for the latter, let’s be honest, is that learning new things at this point in the career is the only way forward.

Please do

Therefore, whenever you feel tempted to use clichés anywhere in your resume or motivational letter, make sure you get to the bottom of why do these words describe you and what is the value-added attribute that you are trying to portray about yourself.

In other words, try to dig deep and highlight what is true to you.

  • For example, if you are tempted to claim that you are a good team player, ask yourself — what is the trait that only you bring to the table when working in a team? Use examples from your past volunteering, summer work or student assistant experience to identify patterns where you consistently added value in the team by being a resource that was lacking in the situation.

It may turn out, for instance, that you have always been the person who would identify and involve relevant outside people, ideas or tools needed to fulfill the task at hand. You can then go ahead and replace good team playerwith entrepreneurial and resourceful in your application.

  • In the same manner, instead of claiming to be good at learning new things, try and spin this by asking yourself more questions about it. For instance, if you have a spare minute at work or school, what professional areas do you naturally lean toward researching about? Are you going to spend that additional time on looking into interesting data patterns or will you spend it structuring the process for your team’s project management? Why is that particular path interesting or important to you?

Answering these and similar questions will enable you to get to know your natural strengths and areas that you are most motivated to put additional effort in, which in turn will enrich and detail your claim of being open to new things.

  • Lastly, if your fingers itch to type about international mindset anywhere on your application, make sure to clarify what exactly does that mean to you, why is it important and what value exactly would it add in a working environment?

Does it mean that you are well-versed in communicating with different nationalities? So are many people today. Or maybe it means that multi-cultural is so ingrained in you due to past experiences that the thought of working in a homogenous team seems unbearable to you? If the latter is true, why is that? And what does that say about you?

The answer to this question may turn out to be not something you want to use in your application. In the end, if you cannot find a value-added attribute that is uniquely true to you, why would you want to use this as a differentiator in your application?

What will happen

Looking deeper into motivations and values hiding behind your cliché claims on your job application may help you to refine your value proposition as a young professional and stand out from the crowd.

Asking questions and being honest with yourself in the process will make you more self-aware, which in turn will establish you as mature and trustworthy applicant in the eyes of the recruiter.

Last but not least, knowing more about your strengths and values will ease the match-making process between you and your desired employers by ensuring that the company and you both end up with your truly desired and mutually beneficial employment relationship.

Good luck!

To read more of Juras posts, stop by her Medium profile.

Jura Paulauskaite,

International Sales Excellence Junior Project Manager at Scandinavian Tobacco Group 

M.Sc. Brand and Communications Management from Copenhagen Business School

Connect with Jura on LinkedIn 

Best career advice Jura ever received:
“Try to find and understand yourself instead of doing what everyone around you is doing. Be successful on your own terms.”

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