HOW TO BREEZE THROUGH THOSE INTERVIEWS AND NAIL ‘THAT JOB’

So, it’s that time of year when the majority of us venture out to warmer climates on holiday and often re-think their life goals and begin soul-searching. In particular, thoughts may wander to your current job and you may start to consider a different career path, or you could just be stuck in a rut.

Have you just finished university or college and are at the beginning of your job seeking journey? Maybe you’ve had that euphoric moment after quaffing too many mojito’s, realised it Is time to end that dreaded Monday morning feeling once and for all, be gone that awful commute to work each day and no more will you pander to your diva of a manager who, (in everyone’s opinion) cannot manage her way out of a paper bag!

If this sounds familiar then read on ……

As I work within the recruitment / human resources sector, I thought I would share some handy hints and tips, as well as dispelling some of the myths out there on how to secure that perfect job for you.

THE APPLICATION PROCESS

You do have to be realistic and I cannot stress enough about always referring to both the job description (JD) and person specification (PS), which will include both the essential and desirable criteria that the role requires. However, if you fail to meet all the essential criteria regarding qualifications, relevant experience does count.  It does take an awful amount of time to prepare the JD and PS and they both have to be evaluated, so use this as your guide when completing your application form.

Follow instructions, i.e. if the company only accept application forms in the place of a C.V do not send your C.V only (I can guarantee you will not even be short-listed). Ensure you spell check your application form (so many people don’t), if the job role requires accuracy in the role, this will definitely go against you.

Be concise, a recruiter will only read a percentage of your application form (some companies only scan buzz words) so refer to the relevant experience specified on the JD or PS and always try to give a few examples.

Always, save or print off copies of the JD, PS and any other information from the website or recruitment site, the chances are these may not be accessible to you beyond the closing date (and may contain vital information that you should research). Ensure that you leave yourself enough time to forward your application ahead of closing date, i.e. if the closing date states midnight do not leave until the 11th hour to find your internet crashes or you’ve forgotten to prepare a covering letter. A closing date is set for a reason and not many organisations allow candidates to send in applications once this has closed. However, there are a few exceptions so if you do have a genuine reason and you missed the advertisement for your dream job, it may be worth calling the recruiter to see if they will allow a late application.

There is one myth I would like to clear-up; it doesn’t matter when you send in your application form as long as it is prior to the closing date. In accordance with legislation, all applications will be read and processed. The only exception is if the company have experienced a large volume of applications for a particular role so the closing date finishes earlier than advertised.  This disclaimer has to be displayed during the advertising phase so be aware of this.

SENDING YOUR APPLICATION 

Communicating via emails, this does sound obvious but ensure your email address is sensible and refers to your name only. I have witnessed some ‘creative’ email addresses and I would advise to change your name from ‘jigglyjanglyjuicyjenny@abc.com’ to perhaps ‘jsmith@abc.com’ (disclaimer: these are fictitious names and purely used to show an example)! But people do use them and it’s always very intriguing to finally meet Jiggly Jangly Juicy Jenny …… (you get my drift).

Although basic, always use the ‘delivered’ and ‘read’ options in outlook when sending off your application form, there’s nothing worse than hitting send and then worrying if your application has been received at the other end.  Also ensure that your telephone number and email address are correct on your form to that the recruiter can contact you quickly. If you’d rather your present employer didn’t know you are in the midst of applying for jobs, then do not provide your work contact number as an option. Very awkward if you are contacted at work or even worse Nosey Nora from finance picks up your phone and shouts across the office that it’s a recruitment company on the line. Not a good move.

If you have followed the above and have not been successful for an interview and feel you should have been, you can ask for feedback, most companies do provide this. It may help for future applications.

SELECTION FOR INTERVIEW

So, you’ve applied for the job and you now receive a notification inviting you to interview. If this is via email, reply politely and concisely stating you accept and make a note of the date and time (double-check all of the instructions). If there is a task (i.e. preparing a PowerPoint presentation) then ensure you understand this fully and confirm with the company whether you are able to take an encrypted memory stick or if your PowerPoint will need emailing first. Most companies require you to complete some sort of practical task now but don’t worry about this too much and do not let this put you off. It’s surprising the amount of people who receive an invite and then when they learn a task is involved, withdraw their application. The task will be relevant to the role and should be something you are familiar with. It is just another way of the selection board learning more about you.

PLAN YOUR JOURNEY

If you are like me (and have to plan within an inch of life otherwise panic sets in), if your interview venue is local, then trial the journey out beforehand to ascertain how long it takes and if parking is available, what’s the traffic like at the time you’ve been allocated? It’s just one less detail to worry about on the day.

DO YOUR RESEARCH

Do find out bout the company and how your role and department fit into the organisation. You are normally told about this during your interview, but more often than not will get asked about your understanding. It doesn’t mean you have to spend days and days researching and revising, but you should invest some time into learning a little about the organisation.

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS?

Try googling the top 5 questions used at interviews on the net and have a practice at answering them, one of them is bound to be asked. A lot of questions asked now are competency based (which means that they ask you to give examples of how you have dealt with things in previous roles, based on their job specification i.e. if your skill sets match so try to invest a little time into thinking things through b your answers some beforehand, thinking about your own experiences.

DRESSING FOR THE INTERVIEW

It does obviously depend on the job role, however dressing smartly for an interview is generally expected. If you can, try checking out their dress policy on the company’s website. For men, it is normally easier as a suit and tie (in muted colours) is the normal attire. For ladies I feel we can be more creative, the standard black or grey suit and white blouse is a little outdated and not very comfortable if it’s hot or you have to carry out tasks. A dress with jacket is a safe option with smart but understated shoes (that have been polished or re-heeled if necessary). Keep jewelery small and to a minimum and hair neat.

Whatever you decide to wear, make sure you try your interview outfit on a few days prior to the date. It may need to be washed or dry cleaned and if you haven’t worn it for a while, those extra pounds you gained on that two-week cruise in the Med may stop you squeezing into the skirt. If you buy something new, make sure you test it out sitting down, does the hemline ride up showing your thighs?

Don’t forget the shoes, if shoes are new are you going to be crippled by the time you leave the managers office? Try wearing them in first and what about the dreaded squeaky shoe syndrome? I am guilty of this and squeaked my way around one whole floor hoping no-one would hear but cringing with every step.

Cotton Blend Checked Trousers
Design Jersey Pencil Skirt
Pleated Square Neck Midi Dress
Checked Double Breasted Blazer
Slim Leg Trousers
Cotton Blend Checked Trousers
Design Jersey Pencil Skirt
Pleated Square Neck Midi Dress
Checked Double Breasted Blazer
Slim Leg Trousers
Cotton Blend Checked Trousers
Design Jersey Pencil Skirt
Pleated Square Neck Midi Dress
Checked Double Breasted Blazer
Slim Leg Trousers

DOCUMENTATION / ESSENTIALS YOU MAY NEED     

Make sure you have your handbag / wallet packed and organised the night before. Ensure you have spare change for parking and have filled your car up with petrol.  Prepare any interview or presentation material and if you need to take ‘right to work documents’ and certificates as evidence, you’ve already dug out your passport or visa and they are in an appropriate carrying wallet (not stuffed into your back pocket). Water is always handy to carry and obviously don’t forget your phone (that has been charged to the max), but remember to switch it off when you arrive! Google maps can be a life saver! Take a small umbrella if you can, after all we live in England and it’s pointless going to all that effort and then turning up looking like you’ve just walked through a car-wash (backwards).

FOOD ….

Now I know the majority of us get very anxious before an interview but if you can, do try and eat something before the event. Passing out at the end of a presentation might not go down as well as you did, so try and have a little bit of fuel before you get there.

It may also be an idea to stay away from anything too spicy the night before your interview (if you know what I mean), your bowels may not need further encouragement on the day of the interview. Try to stay clear of the garlic as well, this could also leave a lasting impression (but not in a good way).

THE INTERVIEW PROCESS

It’s the day of the interview, you are as prepared as you’ll ever be and managed to eat half a bowl of Cornflakes and a Cappuccino. Make sure you arrive 10 minutes earlier than your allotted time (and don’t forget to have completed a final, final toilet visit). Take a few deep breaths and try not to get too nervous.

Announce your name politely and confidently to the receptionist (after all she or he may have an input). Stand-up to whoever is greeting you and if hand shakes are involved then look the person in the eye and shake their hand firmly, not hard enough to break their wrist but you don’t want something wishy washy either.

By now your heart is probably beating ten to the dozen and you are no doubt in the midst of some chit chat about the journey or how crap the weather has been for April.  Do try to use this time to relax yourself (don’t forget you are been observed by everyone at this point too).

THE INTERIVEW PANEL

During your interview process, do try and relax and watch your body language, don’t lounge about all relaxed and chilled (as if), but sit up straight and if you are an arm thrower or hand waver whilst explaining your answers, then tuck your hands under the table or sit them neatly on your knee. Try and look at all of the interview panel whilst answering questions, not just focusing on one person or the person that is asking the questions. If you do not understand a question, ask politely rather than waffling (they are human too and will account for nerves). If you have the opportunity to ask anything at the end, do ask questions that are appropriate but don’t ask too many and avoid asking about salary or holidays, this can be discussed if you are offered the job, perhaps end with “you have answered everything during the interview process, thank you”.

THE TASK OR PRESENTATION

Try not to let nerves get the better of you during your task or presentation, and do keep a track of the time. If you’ve asked to prepare a 15-minute preparation, make sure it is only 15 minutes. If you have a scenario-based task, don’t get too hung up on the right or wrong answer, the test is normally more about how you would deal with situations.

Remember above all to let your personality shine through, more often than not you will be judged mainly on whether you will fit into their team.

Once the interview programme is complete, remember to shake hands and thank them for inviting you.

SECURING THE JOB

Finally, if you are the most suitable candidate for the role you are the first person the company will contact to offer the job. So, as a rule of thumb if you do not hear anything for a few days you probably haven’t secured the role. Remember if you are unsuccessful on this occasion ask for feedback and try not to be too despondent, treat each interview as a learning experience, there may have been hundreds of applicants for this role and getting to the interview stage was an achievement.

Of course, everyone wants to hear the news “We’d like to offer you the job”. If you are successful, make sure you understand all the terms and conditions, talk this through with your line manager. If you are unsure of company policies, holidays etc. do not be afraid to ask as I’ve learnt that most people do, it doesn’t go against you in anyway and do not worry that you may coming across as demanding. At the end of the day the employer and employee are signing a contract so you have every right to ask questions.

I hope you’ve found this post helpful and can take something useful from it. Good luck out there and I’d love to know how you get on.

Photography: MC

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