How to land your dream job


There seemed no reason why she should get the internship. They needed someone with admin, online and sales experience and Lee Geldenhuys (25) hardly had any of these hard skills listed on her CV. But she nonetheless got her dream internship at online store and has since become an invaluable permanent member of staff.

'She was incredibly motivated and passionate from the start '

“We took Lee on as an intern a year ago to help out with administration and growing our social presence. Her studies and work environment were the polar opposite of what we do, but we got a good feeling from her and it paid off in spades,” says Hello Pretty cofounder Adeline Levescot.

“She was incredibly motivated and passionate from the start and she’s been an integral part of getting us to where we are today.”

In Hello Pretty’s initial job listing it was made quite clear to prospective applicants that the right personality and passion were paramount. So while an impressive skills set once might have landed you a job Lee’s case is a good example of how companies are increasingly look at personality to find the perfect fit for new roles.

The so-called “soft skills” that are important to them include traits such as dependability, punctuality, commitment, self-motivation, being a team player and having a positive attitude.

“If I receive 60 applications for a senior position and about 20 probably meet the qualification and experience check, then you have to decide out of these who meets the culture of the client,” says Lee-Anne Curtis-Cox, a recruitment advisor at Evolution Recruitment in Cape Town. Food giant Nando’s is another example of a company that looks at soft skills before hiring – it has five core values it looks for in new staff: pride, passion, courage, integrity and family. “We look for these attributes first before exploring a candidate’s technical skills or experience,” says Nando’s SA chief executive officer (CEO) Geoff Whyte.

'Companies are using social media platforms either to search for candidates or to do basic background checks'
Increasingly recruiters and employers are  taking to social media to scan potential employees. According to a US 2012 CareerBuilder survey, about 40 per cent of employers were already checking potential employees’ social media at that stage. Sixty-five per cent wanted to see if candidates presented themselves professionally, 51 per cent wanted to see if they were a good fit for the company culture, 51 per cent wanted to learn more about their qualifications and 35 per cent wanted to see if they were well-rounded people. Communication and creativity were also looked at. This global trend is much the same in South Africa. “Companies are definitely using social media platforms either to search for candidates or to do basic background checks on potential employees,” says Curtis-Cox. Samantha-Leigh Harper, a director at career specialist company Nu Beginnings in  Cape Town, says larger organisations are more active on LinkedIn with job boards and more and more recruitment companies are using Facebook to scan potential employees. “Pictures and statuses can tell you a lot about a person,” she says. It would for example be detrimental to your image to post selfies of being drunk or talk about how you hate your job.

Nail your job interview with this list of what to do and what to avoid


  • Prepare a list of specific questions to ask, says Belinda Gentle, executive search and selection specialist at Gallant Recruitment in Gauteng. “For  example, if it’s an IT-related job, you could ask what operating systems they run, how many users there are or more generally, what the career  progression of the post is.”
  • Be specific about your skills and have anecdotes prepared to illustrate how you handle various situations. For example, don’t just mention that you’re

    good at sales, tell them a story where you were successful in closing a big deal. Use the buzzwords in the job spec and see if you can match your truthful answers to include them.

  • Research common interview questions and then, using your personal skills and experience, practise with a close friend or family member how you would truthfully and enthusiastically answer the questions.
  • Show and tell. If you’ve edited a magazine or have a portfolio, bring it along.


  • Never use an interview to find out about the company’s basic products and services. Rather research this in advance.
  • Switch off your cellphone – it’s disrespectful and can really interrupt an interview, says Samantha-Leigh Harper, director at career specialist company Nu Beginnings.
  • Always dress appropriately. Stay away from sloppy and casual; aim for more formal. Find out about the culture of the company and dress accordingly, adding your own twist.
  • Don’t ask about salary. Discussing salary first can come across as arrogant and you might seem presumptuous about being offered the job. There’s nothing more offputting than a candidate who spends the whole interviewing laying down demands, says Belinda Gentle of Gallant Recruitment.
  • Never badmouth your previous employer, colleagues or recruitment agent. This shows you blame other people and don’t take responsibility for your own situation or the consequences of your actions, Gentle says.

7 soft skills worth working on

Job website’s director of  recruiting, Mike Steinerd, lists these as key soft skills valued by employers:

  • Being a good team player and leader
  • Flexibility
  • Effective communication, including being a good listener
  • Problem-solving in unexpected situations
  • Accepting feedback and applying lessons learnt
  • Confidence
  • Creativity

Get hired online!

Use these tips to improve your online profiles so recruiters or potential employees are able to find you and get in touch with you online. 

  • Set up a free LinkedIn profile, including a picture, so prospective employers have easy access to your professional details.
  • Have both a personal and professional page on Facebook and link it to things such as your CV, portfolio, a blog or any other information potential employers might find useful.
  • Post a status update or tweet your excitement about that upcoming interview. “As you post content you tell a story,” says Lauren Woolf, chief marketing and talent officer at Ogilvy & Mather SA. “Storytelling has a magical quality of forging connections between people. It’s what brings you to the attention of others and holds their attention. Ask yourself: if your potential employer googles you, how will they react?”
  • Clean up your Facebook profile. Get rid of any defamatory language or images.
  • Post your CV on Pinterest.
  • Follow organisations and news sites in the industry you’re passionate about. Share them to show potential employees you’re interested and up to date with trends.
  • Check yourself out. Google your name to see what comes up and change all your online presence accordingly.

-- Kim Arendse

Extra sources:,,, americasjobexchange .com, careerbuilder .com,,,,,,,

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Show Comments ()