How to get a job: Top bosses share their secrets

By Howard Mustoe
Business reporter

More jobs are being lost as Coronavirus lockdowns hit the economy.

For the jobs that remain, the question is, how to stand out as an applicant?

We ask nine top bosses for their thoughts.

Holly Tucker, founder of Not On The High Street: ‘I want to be wowed’

image copyrightHolly & Co

When you apply for a job with Ms Tucker, founder of online marketplace Not On The High Street, she’s looking for one thing: “Creativity.”

She says: “I want to be wowed by the application, whatever the role. I want to see the care, attention to detail and creativity in their application that I will want to see from them in their job every day.”

She suggests a handwritten letter or an imaginative design as a good starting place.

“Some of my favourite CVs have gone the extra mile and showcased their work within their application and not just told me about it. Are you a video editor? Then send me a video CV. Are you an animator? Animate it! Are you a copywriter? Be bold and rewrite some of the brand’s copy and show them how it should be!”

Jacqueline Gold, chief executive of Ann Summers: ‘Stay connected’

image copyrightGetty Images

Ms Gold says you should keep in touch with people in your industry. If you don’t know anyone in your chosen field, find someone you admire and drop them a line. Get them chatting through bringing up a common interest.

That’s because when she wants to recruit someone, she asks her team who they can recommend.

“If you can stay connected with those people you admire in your current or previous businesses, when they do recruit, they will recommend good people they know,” she says. “Good people know good people.”

She says she understands things are currently very tough.

“This can knock a lot of people’s confidence, this period. Send yourself an email outlining all the things you’ve achieved in your career. Then, when you go to an important meeting or interview, if you can read back this email to yourself that highlights all the things you have done in your career, it’s amazing how powerful that is. It’s a real confidence booster.”

Claire Valoti, vice-president International at Snap Inc: ‘Ask why’

image copyrightSNap

If you keep getting rejection emails, ask them why, says Ms Valoti, a boss at social media company Snap.

“Not everyone is going to give you feedback, but some will. The important thing is to figure out what’s not working and how you can better sell yourself.”

“Be bold,” she says. Ask a recruiter or someone in your industry, since job applications and interviews are things at which you can improve, she recommends.

Robert Walters, chief executive of recruiter Robert Walters: ‘Be confident’

image copyrightDimitri Djuric

“I always look for confidence and strong social and communication skills,” says Mr Walters, who founded his own recruitment firm. “Even in today’s more digital world, business is about face-to-face contact and building relationships.”

If you are struggling to find a job you want, there are other ways of picking up skills, he suggests.

“For me personally, I am also impressed by individuals who are prepared to give up their time when perhaps not working, to help out in the charitable sector, for example, which in tough times desperately needs support.

“A commitment to learning and development is also something I look for.”

Ann Francke, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute: ‘Provide examples’

image copyrightTom Stockill

“I tend to look for people who can provide examples of how they’ve solved critical issues under pressure,” says management supremo Ann Francke. “And occasions where they have gone above and beyond.”

Not everyone will have managed to find work experience in their chosen industry, she says. Her tip is to try “affordable online courses or volunteering” as good alternatives, and to be creative at showing how you’ve picked up skills.

“Managers will be more interested than you might think in a Saturday bartending job, for example, as it indicates experience in customer service, supplier or client handling, and effective teamwork.”

She echoes what many bosses told the BBC about the worst months of 2020: “Of course it is OK to have had an unproductive lockdown – everyone was facing challenges and stresses that were unprecedented in recent memory.” That said, it is not too late to add new skills now, she says.

TS Anil, chief executive of Monzo Bank: ‘Keep busy’

image copyrightMonzo

Researching the company you want to work for and what it may be looking for is a must, says Mr Anil, another common theme in the BBC’s interviews.

“At Monzo, we’re focused on innovating and improving banking for everyone. We want to find people who have the same sense of purpose and drive for what we do. That’s what can make you stand out.”

For those stuck on furlough or shielding, he advocates keeping occupied. “Keeping busy with a hobby or through learning a new skill at this time can be good for your self-worth and mental health.”

Like Ms Valoti at Snap, Mr Anil suggests getting someone to look at your job applications for you. “A fresh set of eyes can really help.”

Simone Rossi, chief executive of energy firm EDF: ‘Research the company’

image copyrightGeoff and Tordis Pagotto

While filling out endless applications can become tedious, it’s unwise to turn your job search into a production line, advises energy boss Mr Rossi.

“Do take the time to personalise each application. Research the company, its goals and objectives, and then demonstrate what you can offer to help them achieve it.

“Hiring managers can often tell a template application that’s been sent to lots of companies.”

Mark Evans, chief executive at phone company O2: ‘Impress us with drive’

image copyrightO2

Mr Evans says that for him, drive is the key thing. If you are at the start of your career, that could be for anything.

“I’m interested in graduates and apprentices who impress us with their drive – and that could be for the environment, engineering, technology or sport.

“So many fields can teach us the positive attributes we need to succeed in our roles – team work, determination, agility and critical thinking. All of this is invaluable experience that companies value.”

Waterstones chief executive James Daunt: ‘Be prepared to start at the bottom’

Mr Daunt says having work experience, even if it is not relevant to the field in which you want to work, is still very important. He suggests a part-time job in a shop or in a pub can he helpful for people new to the workplace, to show their “stamina and work ethic”.

“If you don’t have experience, then you need to get it and that may mean starting at the bottom.

“I put great emphasis on character. Once someone is working for us, we can teach them. We want the raw material we can work with.”

Related Topics

  • UK economy

  • Unemployment in the UK
  • Economics
  • Employment

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