3. Inspired by a generation

Tue, 04/09/2012 - 14:59 -- The Recruiter

This week, the Recruiter has been glued to the television, watching the Paralympics. I was lucky enough to get tickets to see some of the sporting action – truly inspirational.

What really struck me was not what the participants had in common – incredible drive and determination, and huge skill – but how diverse they were. A range of backgrounds, ages, disabilities and genders, their life stories are as interesting as their sporting achievements.

So what’s all that got to do with you and your job search? Well, let’s look at how you might prepare for an interview.

Like the great Paralympians, you need to get in training for the big day. Lots of training before the event will give you the edge on your competition.

Firstly, think about the qualities that you – and only you – possess. Are you able to add up the cost of a shopping trolley’s worth of goods in your head? Excellent at DIY? Able to write a CV whilst looking after excitable children?

How you present these transferable skills at interview is really important. Your adding up – excellent mathematical reasoning; DIY – practical skills, writing and childcare – multi-tasking.

Many interviews nowadays are ‘competency-based’. That means interviewers are looking for you to demonstrate how you meet the skills they are looking for. A typical question: “Give me an example of a time when you displayed teamwork”.

Think about what an interviewer might ask for examples of. These will normally be related to the skills and experience set out in the job description – make sure you read it the night before your interview! You need to be able to tell me what the job involves, not the other way around.

Examples can be from your work experience, or from your home life (such as voluntary work), but don’t make it too personal. You will also want to re-read your application form, to remind yourself what you have said.

So, you’re on the starting blocks, and the day of the interview has arrived. Here are my top tips.

1. Make sure you get there in good time! You ideally want to arrive about 15 minutes before your interview time. Avoid running late – leave plenty of time to get to the interview – arriving early will give you a chance to get an idea of your potential working environment and future colleagues.

If you are running late, always call the interviewer to let them know. Oh, and don’t arrive too early. I’ve had applicants turn up at lunchtime for a 4pm interview. We won’t be able to see you early, and it won’t make you look organised!

2. Dress appropriately. If you have a suit, wear it. If you don’t, wear your smartest clothes. You might wear casual clothes for the job itself, but I want to see that you’ve made an effort – it tells me you care about the job.

3. I always tell my staff – an interview starts the moment you arrive. Be polite to the receptionist, and friendly to anyone who passes by while you wait to be called in (a smile will do!). DON’T listen to your MP3, slouch or talk loudly on your mobile – you’re not at home, and your interviewers will be watching to see how professional you are.

4. Once in the room, be friendly but polite – greet all your interviewers (and shake their hands). Avoid being too casual (‘good morning’ is better than ‘hi’, and don’t EVER call me ‘mate’ in an interview). Always look at the interviewers when they’re talking to you.

5. It’s fine to ask the interviewer to repeat a question, and you don’t need to rush into an answer. Think about those examples. Remember, we’re not trying to catch you out and I will usually prompt people towards the right answer if needed.

6. Always be positive. Don’t talk about ex-colleagues you haven’t liked, or hating your last job. That will make me think you’re potentially difficult as a colleague. If an interviewer tells you about the work you’ll be doing, be positive about that, too.

7. Think of some good questions yourself. I will always ask candidates whether they have any questions for me – and expect them to have at least one. Something like ‘what would a typical day involve?’ is a good one, if you can’t think of any yourself. Don’t forget to ask when you expect to hear from them, and what happens next. Don’t ask if you’ve got the job – no decent interviewer will tell you that straight away!

8. And finally, an interview only ends when you’re out of the building and on your way home. So many interviewees have blown their chances by saying something stupid on their way out (like ‘I can’t really work a computer, you know’) – they are relieved it’s all over, but I’m still listening! Wait until you’re on the bus home before you put in your headphones or call your friends.

Follow these rules, and they might just help you land that dream role. Inspire yourself.

That’s all for this week. Happy job hunting!