How to being observant in your job hunt can help you get hired.
It's easy to fall into a routine when applying for jobs, meeting employers or even during internships or work placements. But it's well worth it to take the time to observe closely—you will be surprised how many subtle indicators and tips you can pick up which will help you when it comes time to apply, interview, or even in turning that internship into a permanent position.
Knowing what to look for helps. Sometimes it's as simple as body language, sometimes it's as complicated as interpreting office dynamics and reading between the lines of a press release. Spotting and reading these signs can be difficult, but the benefits will help you succeed.
See the bigger picture
Before you interview with a company, even before you apply, you should be reading up on their work and the industry.
The obvious places to start include their website, social media and their careers site—but in order to pick up on the real mechanics of the company and their position in the wider market, it's worth looking deeper.
Use the internet to search for news stories on that particular company. Depending on the organisation, you will get a varied set of results which will may include PR pieces, news items and controversial criticism.
Read as much as you can. Think beyond what the story is saying—is there something larger at work, a bigger picture which emerges as you read through these materials? Maybe the company is making a push to improve its social responsibility, or maybe they are trying to move into new areas of business. This information can be invaluable in helping you figure out how you could fit into the company—and in showing the hiring managers that you can help them meet a need.
Read the company's press releases (nearly all companies have a "press" section on their site) and think about what they are trying to say. PR pieces are a strong indicator of the company's achievements and aims, which are important to know. Keeping an eye on wider industry news will also inform you of their position on the market, which will help you develop and hone your commercial awareness and make you a better hire.
Learn to read body language
They say only seven per cent of communication is verbal—the rest is body language, tone and facial expressions. Pay attention to these things and you can pick up on a lot.
For example, we all know when someone we're talking to is just not buying it, when you're trying to bullshit your mum or the bank. This is the type of hard-earned observational skill can be used help you get or keep a position.
Interviews are a perfect ground for testing out your powers of observation. Take note of body language and other small "tells" to get a read on people's thoughts and feelings. While interviewers often try to remain neutral, they are only human and they will react to what you are saying. If they are crossing their arms or leaning away from you, for example, they are showing you negative signals and you should maybe change tack. If they are unfolding and leaning towards you, it's a positive sign that they are engaged and interested in what you are saying. If you can pay attention to these cues, you will know when you need to adjust your tactics for the next answer.
Reading body language applies to other social situations, as well—take a good look when you are at your next careers fair or at your part-time job. See what you can learn from all the things people don't say.
Observe office dynamics
The work environment can be a complex place when it comes to nonverbal communication. Interpersonal dynamics (the way people relate to one another) will be different at every company, so it is important that you use your powers of observation to get a grasp on things—especially if you are looking to turn your internship into a full time position, or to get a great reference.
One of the most important things to watch for in office environments is how co-workers and higher ranking colleagues relate to one another. Are the bosses are friendly and amiable in their approach, or if are they aloof? Do colleagues take full advantage of the local thirsty Thursdays, or do they go their separate ways as soon as the clock strikes six?
Understanding the dynamics of the office and establishing your own place in that world will help you build stronger connections and networks, which may play heavily in your favour when it comes time for the company to make employment decisions.
You should also play close attention when meeting employers at assessment centres or interviews. Observe how the dynamics work between each of the members of staff running the day and learn what you can about their individual personalities. This will help you make a good impression when the tasks finish and you are left to start conversations with these people over pre-cut sandwiches and quiche.
There is a lot to be learned which can help you with your job hunt if you just stop. Look. And observe. Noticing certain nonverbal communications and learning to read between the lines will provide you with a lot of information to bolster your application approach.