When it comes to job interviews, one of the most important factors is being able to persuade the employer that you have the appropriate skills and experience to be a good candidate for the job. As a result, it’s good practice to draw together as much physical evidence of relevant previous work as possible.
At its simplest level, this is just a case of listing out your past employment to demonstrate your capabilities. However, the difficulty for students and recent graduate is that you may not have a great deal of job experience, so you’re going to need to put in a little effort now to give you a better chance of landing a job in the future.
Here are some tips on building up you evidence stockpile:
Write for your chosen profession
Whether you want to be a games developer, lawyer, music journalist or particle physicist, getting something published that you’ve written for your industry is a good way of demonstrating your knowledge and interest. There is a wide range of publications for every industry and you’ll be surprised how many of them would be happy to feature your thoughts, ideas or stories.
Start by creating a good list of possible publications and hunt down the contact details, which are usually on the contact us page of the website. It’s important to get a good idea of what the publication features before coming up with your own idea for what to write about. Once you have this, you can then craft a request to your contact at the publication, explaining your idea and why it would make for a good addition to the publication. You can’t expect every request to come back with a positive result, but it’s important to keep persevering to get your work published.
This might be a no-brainer, but it’s easy to pass over until the last minute, so try to take some time during the summer to build up your work experience tally. Not only will it give you real experience, but it will also give you an excellent opportunity to get evidence for the work you’ve done and skills you’ve got. Try to think of your time during work experience from this standpoint and keep copies of anything that you’re proud of. It might be a good idea to ask the company if it’s happy for you to do this as a courtesy, but most will just want to help you as much as possible. If your work gets featured online while you’re doing work experience, make sure you keep a record of the URLs to reference during interviews.
This is very similar to work experience, but it could give you a bit more flexibility in terms of what you do and the kind of evidence you can build up. Approaching charities, clubs, events and organisations with an offer to do something that relates to the job you eventually want to get is another great way to build up evidence. If you want to be in marketing, offer to help with their promotional activity; if you want to be a designer, offer to create a poster or flyer; if you want to be a biologist, offer to go in to do a talk on a chosen subject that might be of interest to the people they support etc. Again, keep a record of everything that you do and refer to it in interviews when you’re trying to take your first steps in the working world.
If you’ve already ticked off a number of these, you can take things to the next level by adding video to your evidence log. With smartphones, it’s easier than ever to film yourself or others talking knowledgably about your industry. And with YouTube you can easily post these to the masses and share on social media. It’s not going to be for everyone, but if you’re a confident speaker and you’ve got subjects you’re passionate about then it could be a creative way to evidence your interest and understanding of your industry.
Try to be entertaining, interesting and engaging while filming and don’t forget that if you’re not happy with the initial results, you can always just do another take to get it right.
Create a portfolio
This can either be online or a physical portfolio of your work, but it will act as a strong talking point for your interview. It comes in handy when asked questions about how you might tackle a particular situation, providing you with tangible examples of what you’ve done in the past.
Your portfolio can include any written work you’ve had published for your industry, or if you work in the creative sector then you can include design work, film, apps, games, websites etc. that you’ve worked on in the past.
It’s important to structure your portfolio so that you can easily refer to items without scrambling around, so a tabbed reference could be an option to make it easy to find something specific when you’re being interviewed.
Gerard Harris is the editor of entertainment news and reviews magazine, Tuppence, which has developed a flexible work experience programme to allow budding writers and designers to gain experience, a reference and an online portfolio to evidence their work. Over the last 15 years, Gerard has worked in the digital sector for fashion companies like Office Shoes and UNIQLO, as well as time at other big brands, including Odeon, RAC and Ford.