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A Little Bit Richer

Our podcast offers bite-sized money management tips. Great for listeners in their twenties and early thirties. 

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Kia: Hey, this is Kia. Landing your dream job brings happiness, long- term career growth, and a better salary, but it can be a tricky thing to get right. Welcome to another episode of A Little Bit Richer, brought to you by my friends at Legal & General. With over 10 years experience in recruitment, and the last four of them at Legal & General in London, Khalifa Mustapha is here to give us lots of practical advice to help you land yourself that perfect job. Welcome, Khalifa.

Khalifa: Thank you. Pleasure to be here, Kia.

Kia: Now, let's get straight into it because I know you are full of the gems that we need to know. So to begin with, how do you get yourself ready for a job that you'd like to go for?

Khalifa: I think preparation is key, first and foremost. Try and do some research in terms of the specific role that you're looking to apply for. If you're able to find the necessary resources, find out why the job is available, if it's a new position, as a replacement position. As much background information about a position that you're interested in.

Kia: I think research is key, just knowing what you need to know about that role. But what about different platforms to have a look at that you can find more information? Like Glassdoor, I know that's a really key one for a lot of people. What about that?

Khalifa: Yeah, Glassdoor is a fantastic tool. You can find reviews from current employees, previous employees, individuals who may have applied for that same company that may not have been successful, what their experiences were like. Or you can find out what the interview process is like for a specific role. How many interviews you might expect. Even you might get a peek behind the curtain and see what type of questions may be asked. LinkedIn is also...

Kia: A really good one.

Khalifa: An invaluable tool. You can do more research about the company, what the company's ethos is, what the brand is. Glassdoor and LinkedIn I would say would be probably your two prominent platforms to do some research.

Kia: What are some things that you should have a look at when it comes to actually the job specifications? Obviously there's a lot of things to consider. I mean, if I go and look for a job, how do I know if I'm qualified for it, right? I can go and apply to be a lawyer, but I have not got a law degree. So what are some of the things that people need to consider when they're looking at roles?

Khalifa: Yeah, I think the most common thing people look at are the requirements. Which is good, but outside of the requirements are the capabilities, the accountabilities, what you'll be doing on a day- to- day basis. So I would say keep an eye the accountabilities and make sure that they align with what you're looking for, because a job title can be very vague or very specific, but it doesn't necessarily give you the entire picture. So keep an eye outside of what the requirements are, but what you're responsible for.

Kia: To follow off the back of that then, where are some good places or sources that people can visit to help you get a good role?

Khalifa: Outside of a specific company's internal or external careers page, which is probably the number one source, I would say LinkedIn is also a relevant platform to look in. You can search in terms of the job title, specific locations. Using the LinkedIn groups tool is extremely beneficial.

A lot of job seekers are able to connect with one another in the specific industry. They're able to visit industry events or keep up to date with rules and regulations within the industry. Again, able to grow your network in that field simply because you might be at an event and you might speak to someone or rub shoulders with someone and you might overhear that this company is hiring.

Some companies don't necessarily always put jobs on their job board until they have the green light from HR, et cetera, but in LinkedIn groups especially, you almost get an inside leg in terms of what might be coming in the pipeline.

Kia: Yeah, I think industry- specific groups that you mentioned on LinkedIn, it's not something that I've considered. I think there's a lot of value that can come from your network.

Khalifa: Definitely.

Kia: I'd say probably about 80% of the jobs that I've gotten have been off the back of knowing people, having conversations, people referred me somewhere, or someone's looking for something and they meet me and offered me a job. So it is always useful to build up that network as well.

Khalifa: Agreed. Your network is invaluable and it's always a good idea to keep that network up to date.

Kia: Absolutely.

Khalifa: Also, setting up job alerts will be extremely beneficial. You can type in the criteria, what your ideal job would be, the location, your desired salary, and as soon as those jobs are posted on the relevant job boards, they'll go to your inbox straight away.

So if a new job is posted, it always helps you to be one of the first people in the queue to try and apply for that role. As a recruiter, I've had jobs that have had 200 plus applications, so a job alert is probably the most basic and primary way in order to do that.

Kia: We've spoken about where we can find the jobs and what we need to research. Now we've picked something, we say, " Right, we want to apply for this." So when you're actually applying for a job, what are some things that you suggest helps someone really stand out in the application process?

Khalifa: My first tip would be to tailor your CV to the job application. If you're able to maybe marry what you've done previously, what you're currently doing to what is expected of you in the job, always try to highlight that towards the top. If there aren't any things you've done previously or currently that match what you'd be expected to do, as long as your requirements are aligned.

A lot of people, they move into jobs, so they might apply for jobs that they feel they hit the brief 10 out of 10. Sometimes you might only have six out of 10 requirements. I wouldn't necessarily say that you wouldn't be suitable for a role, because those six requirements could be absolute essentials as opposed to the four you might be missing, which may be desired.

So I would always say always try and amplify your CV to match the role you're currently applying for. Obviously not to embellish anything. It's quite easy to get found out. A lot of people might be a bit generous with their previous experience, but the recruitment industry people speak, even if we're not necessarily working at the same company. So you don't want to necessarily take yourself out of the running before you give yourself a chance.

Kia: What about when it comes to your cover letter then? Because it could be a bit of a minefield to know what you should do with your cover letter.

Khalifa: I think where a lot of people fall down in terms of cover letters is they might oversell themselves. A cover letter shouldn't be more than I'd say a few paragraphs and only maybe three sentences per paragraph. You want to give just a glimpse in terms of what you've done previously and what you can offer to a company. You don't want to put everything in the cover letter. 

Ideally, a cover letter is an intro to your CV, and your CV should supplement what you say at the job interview. It should just be an introduction to who you are, what you're looking for, what you could potentially bring to not just the role you're interested in but the company you're looking to work for.

Kia: I think that's good to hear. And no one really tells you what should go in a cover letter. So you feel like it's like a pitch. I feel like I'm on Dragons' Den trying to pitch myself, why I'm the perfect person for this role.

Khalifa: Indeed.

Kia: Like you said, it's an introduction. I think that's a good way to look at it. When you put it that way, it feels a lot more manageable and it makes more sense. It's an introduction and your CV will help back that up.

Khalifa: Exactly.

Kia: So I love that. So let's say everyone's taken the incredible tips you've given us so far, right? And now they're invited to the interview.

Khalifa: Nice. That's the hard part.

Kia: That's the hard part. But they've made it. They've gotten to the interview stage.

Khalifa: They've made it. Exactly.

Kia: They've made it there. What would be some of your top tips when it comes to preparing for the interview and then shining on the actual day?

Khalifa: If you're actually called for an interview, you're almost halfway there. One of the biggest tips in terms of preparing for the interview, as I mentioned, research the company you're looking to work for. Prior to the interview, try and do some research. Has the company been in the news recently? Amplify what you know about the company more so than what you can see on the company's website.

I think that gives employers an inside look in terms of this person really not just wants this job but they actually care for the company. 

And it also gives prospective employers a look into who you are as a person. A lot of people, they may feel, " I've matched the job brief, this is my job." They just have to show up. It takes a lot more than that. I've never ever heard of an employer say, " I didn't give this person the job because they know too much about the company." It's always the opposite. They may not have done enough research. They don't know what we stand for.

Outside of that, always get rest the night before the interview. You don't want to go into an interview flustered. Never be late. I think that goes without saying. If it's in a location you're not familiar with, maybe do a trial run. If you're able to go there a day before, just so you know where you're going.

And if it's a virtual interview via Teams or Zoom, make sure your wifi connection is up to scratch. No distractions whatsoever. And always dress appropriately. If you're not sure what the attire may be, because obviously post- pandemic, a lot of interviews have been a little bit more relaxed, utilize your recruiter, asking them as many questions as possible.

Kia: Absolutely. I've had many an interviews where I'm like, oh my gosh, I'm so tense. So what should ideal, if you can control it, what should ideal body language look like?

Khalifa: Ideal body language is... And it's probably easier said than done, but try to be as relaxed as possible. When you're nervous, you tend to speak-

Kia: Very fast. Yes.

Khalifa: ... a lot quicker than you normally would. Exactly. So, breathe. Slow down. One of my biggest tips to a lot of my candidates is if you are offered water at a job interview or something to drink, always accept it, simply because you might encounter a question that you don't necessarily know the answer to straight away. So take a breath, have a sip of water. That gives you slight additional time to think about the answer to the question.

Kia: Yeah, cool.

Khalifa: And also in an interview, one of the most important things to consider is the balance between listening and speaking. You don't want to over- speak, you don't necessarily want to speak too much, and you don't want to under- speak. 

There's a fine line between either overselling yourself or underselling yourself. I've seen it where people who are extremely qualified for a job, they tend to speak themself out of a job. 

So it's a fine balance. The more interviews you attend, the more you'll get used to and understand when to speak and when not to speak.

Don't get me wrong Kia, there's always going to be an element of nerves. I mean, it would be a bit odd if there weren't any nerves. As I mentioned, slow your speech, accept water if offered, and just try and understand that it's not just you trying to sell yourself.

At the same time across the table from you is the interviewer trying to sell the company to you.

Kia: Sometimes it can feel, oh my gosh.

Khalifa: One sided.

Kia: Yeah, it feels very one sided, that I'm pitching myself. But yeah, you're right. They are also trying to convince you that this is a role for you.

Now, I was always told when you go into an interview, when they ask you, " Do you have any questions?" you should always have at least one question in your back pocket ready to pull out to try and impress. From an employer's perspective, what would be some good questions that a candidate could ask when they're in an interview?

Khalifa: Yeah, I agree. I always tell my candidates if possible, ask maybe two or three. One thing an employee doesn't want to see is someone that has no questions. I think that shows a lack of interest in not just the job but the company as a whole. 

One question I always encourage is, " What challenges can I expect to face in the first three to six to 12 months in the role?" That gives you an opportunity to peek behind the curtain in terms of... Everything's not always going to be rosy. So it gives the employer an opportunity to let you know what it's like on the ground once you've started from day one.

A few more questions I would always encourage job seekers to ask is what do they enjoy about working at the company? And a further question to ask is, where can this job lead to in 18 to 24 months? You don't want to be seen as using this specific job as a stepping stone or being seen as being impatient, but you also don't want to be seen as not necessarily motivated. So find out what doors, what avenues this job can open or lead to.

Kia: I think that's really, really useful. Just having those questions, yeah. I think the challenges one is not one that I thought about.

We know that some job applications will have the initial application, then interview, and some of them have two, three, maybe even four rounds of interviews. So what are you, from an employer's perspective, looking for more of in a second interview compared to the first?

Khalifa: In a second interview, I think what most employers would be looking for is how you'll fit in with the company. What's Kia like as a person? What are her interests outside of work and how do those characteristics align with the company's morals? 

So in the second interview, I would always encourage, if you have any extracurricular activities, if you've done any volunteering, that's the time to amplify those qualities or those traits. You've gotten past the first interview, which is mostly technical. Can you do the job? Are you suitable for the job? Now it's, will I feel comfortable having you represent the company? Are you someone that I can see flourishing within this company?

Kia: After you've been to an interview, quite often you're on tenterhooks. You're wondering, have I got it? Have I not? So what's the best way to follow up after you've gone to an interview?

Khalifa: Send an email thanking the interviewers for their time if you have access to their email address. If it has reinforced your desire to work for a specific company, do say that, " I really enjoyed meeting you.

Thank you for your time. After learning more about the role in the company, it's only reinforced my desire to work alongside you in this job." But leave it at that. Don't ask, " When can I hear from you?" You might be one of two interviews. You might be one of 10. So you don't necessarily know what that timeframe looks like.

If you haven't heard in... I'd say if you give it maybe a week, a week and a half, maybe send a gentle email just to say, " Hi, hiring manager. It was a pleasure meeting you. I just wondered if I could potentially expect an update at any point." Just leave it at that. I wouldn't recommend chasing anything beyond that.

If you haven't heard anything in over two or three weeks, then realistically you probably haven't received it, but even still, use that as a learning. I always say there are no negatives in an interview. Even if you don't get the job, you should always receive interview feedback, and in that feedback look for tips where you can apply for the next interview.

Until you have actually been offered a role, you should always continue that job search because you just never know. It's a numbers game. If you apply for just one, realistically, you'll probably be disappointed. So never rest on your laurels.

Kia: Yeah, I agree. And don't let it get you down. Everything is a lesson.

Khalifa: Exactly.

Kia: So if you didn't get this one, get the feedback, implement it so the next one you can improve and get better, and then you will be offered a job role.

Khalifa: Indeed.

Khalifa: Sometimes the next one is the best one.

Kia: Exactly that. Rejection is redirection. I'm coming back with those. We're going back and forth.

Khalifa: Give me a few minutes, I'll have another one for you.

Kia: So I think that is a very positive way to look at it.

Kia: Yeah, you'll have another one. Okay, so let's assume someone's gone through all of these stages and they've actually been offered the job. Amazing. How do you then go about negotiating the salary and the benefits that you feel like you deserve?

Khalifa: In most cases, Kia, it's never a good idea to discuss salary with the actual interviewer or the employer. A lot of companies pay recruiters a handsome fee to take care of their job searches for them, so always try and find out beforehand from your recruiter what a job is paying. If you don't for whatever reason have access to a recruiter, you can utilize a lot of job boards. 

Glassdoor's one, for example. Totaljobs, Indeed, Reed, just off the top of my head. A lot of these websites have salary calculators. So you'd be able to enter the job title, enter the location, and it gives you a rough estimate what to expect from that.

But one thing I would say, Kia, it's not always about salary. Sometimes the wider benefits are much more important than how much you'll take home every month. What's the company's pension like? How much holiday are you offered? Is there a potential bonus plan? Those are the wider perks of a role that I think could potentially go amiss initially. I can't state enough how important a good pension is.

Kia: Important. Very important, pension, yeah.

Khalifa: Exactly. Because we're not going to be in our twenties forever.

Kia: Yeah. We talk about all the time on A Little Bit Richer, pensions are so important.

Khalifa: Exactly.

Kia: Like negotiate holidays, other things, even like learn new skills, you want to learn new language. All the things that you can negotiate that isn't just-

Khalifa: Will they invest in training for you?

Kia: Exactly. Invest in training. It isn't just the monetary value of the salary you're going to get, there is a wider scope that you can have a look at.

Khalifa: Helps you get a little bit richer.

Kia: You are taking my line from me. I'm going to be out of a job soon. Okay. Well, you shared some incredible tips on this podcast, but before we end, I want to ask you, what are your top three tips for landing that fabulous new job?

Khalifa: Top tip will always be research. Research the company. You can never do too much research. Tip two would be flexible. Don't expect to always get the first role you apply for. Always work from a numbers mindset. And third tip I would say is just be positive. 

There are always going to be lessons in life, not just your job search, but things aren't always going to go your way. And the job search specifically, it can be very easy to adopt maybe a negative mindset. " I've been looking for months now and I haven't found anything." But the day you give up, tomorrow is...

Kia: That could be the day.

Khalifa: That could be the day. Exactly.

Kia: Could be the day.

Khalifa: So, research, positivity, and flexibility I think are three keys that will get you far. Not necessarily just in the job search, but in your career will help you flourish.

Kia: Amazing. Thank you so much. I have taken so much. I know our listeners will have too. So Khalifa, thank you for coming to the podcast.

Khalifa: Kia, absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Kia: Great. Thank you, Khalifa. Lots of practical ways people can land the job of their dreams.

Next time, we're getting lots of great advice from financial planner Orann Coyle, who's going to be demystifying financial advice and giving great tips to plan your financial future. I'd love it if you could review the podcast, spread the word, and help others get a little bit richer too. Keep up with the show on TikTok and Instagram at Legal & General. Thank you for listening. See you soon.

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