Recently I had the opportunity to address the lecturers and students from the Faculty of Resource Science & Technology, University Malaysia Sarawak on the topic of Employability.
I distill the points that I shared with them here. In order to be attractive to employers, you need to have these:
- Academic competency. All jobs require a minimum form of paper qualification (e.g. an undergraduate degree in the relevant field), the ability to read, write and comprehend instructions as well as basic computer skills (Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint).
- Personal management skills. Simply put, you need to be able to be on time, know how to be suitably dress, possess good hygiene and good manners. Telling your employers that you cannot wake up early in the morning is a surefire way to NOT get you the job.
- These 3 Traits: curiosity, dependability and problem-solving. Most of the questions asked during the interview is to gauge one of these three traits. A learning mind shows that you are not afraid of taking on new, unfamiliar tasks; dependability means you will observe deadlines and can be counted on to complete the tasks assigned to you, while problem-solving is exactly what it says on the tin – how you manage conflict, stress and challenges in order to ensure you can carry out your tasks successfully. Example of such questions are:
- Why do you want this job?
- Why should we hire you?
- What are your proudest achievements?
- What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What is your dream job?
- What are you looking for in this position?
- A good CV. Make sure your CV is clear, complete and correct (no errors, no fake qualifications) — read and re-read to ensure it is error-free and is designed in the best possible way to highlight your key achievements and skills. As a fresh graduate, you may not be able to fill up the “work experience” part, therefore take the trouble to participate in extra-curricular activities, socially-responsible projects or even a part-time job so that you can list down the tasks that you are responsible for and the skills you gained from these activities. There many resources online that you can refer to. Keep it to one page, or two at the most, and make sure it contains these 7 items:
- Personal statement
- Contact details
- Work achievement
- Academic qualifications
- Top skills
- Language proficiency
- A good photo. The best way to do this is to go to a photography store and take it there – it will only cost you RM12 or so. Be sure to tell the photographer that you need it to be taken from the waist up, and try a few positions until you find one that you are happy with. The tricks:
- Wear business attire (business casual is ok i.e. dress shirt, open neck with sportscoat). Keep it neutral but add a pop of colour to stand out. For example, your suit could be blue, but use a green tie (and if you were a girl, use a brightly colored hijab or accessorise with earrings or a tasteful necklace).
- Wear make-up (if you are a girl). If you are not the kind who is comfortable with a full-face make-up, a little bit of powder, blusher and lipstick will do. The idea is to look like a young executive, not a school girl. If you do not wear a hijab, make sure your hair is tidy.
- Find a neutral background. Choose a monochromatic background (white is best) or something non-distracting like a textured wall (don’t choose a wall with a busy wallpaper). Make sure the background is free from photobombers or embarrassing items like laundry that would make you seem unprofessional.