When it comes to applying for jobs, there is a hell of a lot of anxiety. Having recently graduated with my Masters and moved countries, I’ve had a pretty frantic time searching for graduate to intermediate level jobs to get my feet on the ground as fast as possible. However, I’m also in the lucky position of having also been on the other side of the table. From working for a small non-profit during my undergrad, to starting my own small business, I’ve been able to see what it’s like to hire people, and to better understand the challenges employers face. Typically, employers have been managers for a while, and it’s easy to think they have forgotten what it’s like to be in the job hunter’s shoes (especially as a graduate). Many think that employers give job hunters a pretty rough ride, and that for graduates especially, it is unnecessarily hard.

Having fairly recently been in both those situations I can say with confidence that there are a tonne of things that we employers desperately wish job seekers knew and understood. The first of which is that recruiting is a tough situation on our side of the table too. We would LOVE for job seekers to have a better understanding of what we go through, how we operate and why, so that they can make it as easy as possible for us to see that they are the best person to hire.

Knowing the employer perspective

The first thing is to walk a mile in an employer’s shoes. In most countries, the vast majority of businesses are small business. This means that every new hire is a big step and is crucially important to the employer. In a small business or non-profit in particular, it can be a huge decision to hire a new person as each new employee means a significant jump in costs. The demand for an extra person to help with workload often comes far before there is enough money in the bank to guarantee someone a salary.

When hiring, our number one fear is that we’re going to hire a bad employee. Someone that mislead us about their skills, doesn’t do their work, misuses company time or costs us money instead of contributing to our goals and strategies. To get around that, many countries now have legislation that requires a trial period – from 90 days to 6 months or even a year. There is a lot of fear around that – employees are worried that they won’t have a secure job or could be easily dismissed. However, employers don’t take dismissing an employee even close to that lightly. Typically it will take weeks, if not months before a new employee is fully trained up and contributing to the business. Not to mention the huge costs and time involved in hiring in the first place. If you’re replacing someone, they might have given 4 weeks notice, but it can often be more like 8 weeks before you’ve found the right person, another 2-4 weeks to have them fully trained, and if they leave soon after that because they aren’t the right fit or don’t enjoy the work, you’re back to square one. If you have to recruit again straight away, it could effectively be 6 months before you’re actually getting that all-important work done. Trust me, employers don’t want to get rid of you if they can avoid it, even if they are a much larger corporate. Which leads into the first thing employers wish you knew.

  • We want to find the person that’s going to stay

Our number one objective is to find a good, reliable person who is going to stay for a decent amount of time. If we think you’re going to treat this as a stepping stone to get to your next job, we’ll think twice. The trouble is that recruiting is a pretty flawed process to find that person – finding a diamond in the rough based on a 2 page CV, two one hour meetings, and a test is hard work. But we just don’t have the time to meet with hundreds of applicants face to face. The more you know about our perspective and what we look for, the better your chances of us deciding you’re that diamond in the rough.

  • We’re terrified of getting duped

With such limited face-to-face contact, it can seem pretty crazy to hire someone based on a couple of meetings. We’re as worried that you’re lying to us about your experience and skills as you are that the promotion opportunities we’re telling you about are a load of BS. It is becoming increasingly common in all companies big and small to have some kind of ‘test’ built into a recruitment process. For a developer, you might be asked to solve some code problems to ascertain your skills. Writing heavy jobs may ask you to submit a written test assignment, jobs requiring client interactions might ask you to present a hypothetical strategy or solution to the interviewers as though they are clients.

  • We’re most concerned about what can’t be taught

When evaluating a potential employee, often we will come across someone with a great attitude who is super motivated. Maybe they are a young graduate, but they have demonstrated pretty clearly that they can learn quickly and go the extra mile. This might be some past volunteer experience, or a great project example from university. If you can demonstrate you’re a positive, hard working go-getter that’s going to learn fast, that’s far more important than whether you’ve used the right software or worked with in the same industry. The job skills that can be taught, like how to use that software or the specifics of that industry are less important if we are confident you can learn them quickly.

  • Enthusiasm outranks many things

So what is the most important thing we’re looking for? Enthusiasm. If you are excited about the job, willing to learn and have a great attitude, chances are we can teach you the rest! That’s the number one thing an employer wants to see, so long as you don’t oversell it (a big personality can be hard to work with sometimes), it will go a really long way.

Published by Harriet Geoghegan

Harriet is the editor of HVNGRY's School & Work section. Harriet works in digital marketing at an advertising agency in Sydney, Australia. She is passionate about science, technology and all things online, and loves to help see girls helping girls to share knowledge, follow their dreams and get ahead.

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  1. As someone still doing their degree, but anxious about the work market just like every other 20-something year old, there is some great advice here. I like your organization and how you collected all the information in a tidy, factual and calm manner that was easy to read and understand!