Category Archives: Interviews

A little thanks goes a long way

After Birthday parties, Christmas or any other times of celebration my children sit down and write thank you notes to all those who have sent them a gift.  It’s time-consuming ( they are lucky kids, too often spoiled rotten by doting Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles ) but I think it important that they acknowledge the time and effort people around them have gone to.

This is not a lesson in parenting, nor am I trying to extol my virtues ( there are very few! )  It did however get me thinking of the values of saying thank you and the part that very simple yet enormously valuable expression can play in the job search.

How many of you ever write to say thank you after an interview?  Have you ever considered the value were you to do so?

Think of the impact on your application.  You may be one of three, five, ten invited in.  That process is often protracted ( it ought not to be but invariably is ).  Standing out from the crowd is tough.

Success is in the margins, the small things can make the biggest difference.  We are all human.  Anything that can help you to remain at the forefront of the hiring managers mind is to be recommended.  How long would it take you to write a note to thank your interviewer for their time and to re – affirm, politely, succinctly, your interest in the job?

Even if you have made the decision that this particular post isn’t for you, what impact a short note of thanks?  If another job was to arise in that organisation that is more in line with your ambitions, how would such a note impact your chances of success in a future job application?

It takes a second to say thank you, minutes to write an email to express your thanks.  Think of the potential impact on your job search?  What harm can it do?

Manners cost nothing.  Think about that next time you apply for a job.

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Never knowingly underdressed

A couple of articles over the weekend focused on the decline of the business suit.  One such article on the BBC website highlighted a recent poll of 2,000 British workers by online bank First Direct that “found that only one in 10 employees wears a suit every day, more than a third of staff opt for jeans and only 18% regularly wear a tie”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12418046

This got me to thinking as to the impact of the ever-changing face of workplace attire on the interview process.  Knowing your audience is crucial to interview success.  Doing your homework as to the culture, the people, the environment in to which you are heading is a crucial part of your interview preparation.  So, what to wear?

A simple rule of thumb applies.  You are unlikely to be criticised, to lose out on a job opportunity, for being overdressed.  You are however very likely to be ruled out for being under – dressed ( in every sense of the phrase ).  So don’t hedge your bets.  Once your through the door you have earned the right to sit alongside your colleagues in board shorts and flip-flops if that’s de rigueur.  Until that happens, step up, smarten up, sharpen up.

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How to ace a job interview

Everyone is looking for that nugget of gold, that stellar piece of information that can fundamentally transform your interview technique to become an absolute sure-fire interview winner. I am sorry, there aren’t any, no startling revelations, no lightning bolts.

Like all good things, success at interview is about keeping it simple. Pay attention to the basics, the little things, the details. And repeat. Over and over again, until you are set in to a routine that you know works for you, that gives you confidence, makes you comfortable.

So what are those basics?

I came across this excellent resource, www.howdini.com the site that encourages you to “get yourself a guru”. So what’s there take on the job interview? See for yourself.

Let me know what you think, as always I would love to hear your comments.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Call me old fashioned, but what price a razor?

I have only seen two episodes of this seasons The Apprentice.  The first one and the last one.  I am in no position therefore to comment on the qualities of the participants, (although I do take issue as to whether we really are seeing 16 of Britain’s best business brains).  Nonetheless congratulations to the winner Stella English, she has on the strength of her biography triumphed over much adversity in her life, all credit her.

Call me old-fashioned but what really got me fired up last night was the apparent lack of a razor in The Apprentice house.  All that luxury, no expense spared to give the participants a taste of the high life and yet not so much as a Gillette disposable to be found anywhere.

If you are going along for a job interview, regardless of whether that interview is for a job paying a 6 figure salary or not, have a shave.  Just simply putting on a tie is not enough.  Get a haircut, have a shave, polish your shoes, look the part.  You only get one opportunity to make a good first impression.  Never is this statement more true than in a job interview.

I was struck by the differences in appearance between the male and female participants.  The women were (in my humble opinion!) immaculate.  Smart, polished, ready for business.  They looked serious contenders for a job.

If you have made your millions (or billions), if you are the person making the decision, you have earned the right to appear exactly as you would wish to.  Your impression is already made, your brand already established.

Get through the door and deliver consistently great outcomes.  Make yourself indispensable, then by all means grow a beard.  Sir Alan sports a beard and is always immaculately turned out.  I am not talking about beards.  I am talking about 3 or 4 days of stubble.  Not one of these male candidates had earned the right or made themselves indispensable.    Get a razor boys, have a shave, make a great first impression.  It counts.

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Leave your teeth in and other interview best practice

Our story starts in a meeting room. The situation, an interview, the candidate represented by the Recruitment Agency of which I was a Partner, the client a leading multi – national organisation (Company X).

All started as you might expect. The candidate was met in the reception area, the interviewer and interviewee greeted each other with a firm, business – like friendly handshake and a smile and made polite small talk about the weather and the candidates journey whilst taking the short walk to the meeting room. The candidate waited to be offered a seat (good manners all the way, always a strong start at interview, courtesy ought not to be underestimated on both sides of the interview equation) and promptly sat down. Another employee of company X appeared in the room to offer a drink. Our well-behaved candidate opted for a glass of water (sensible as unlikely to be distracted by a too hot cup of coffee, fraught with all sorts of dangers!). The glass of water was placed on the table in front of the candidate and the interview started the conversation, “right let’s get underway……..”.

“Could you excuse me for one minute” interrupted our superstar, “why of course” came the slightly surprised response. It is here, despite a promising start, that this particular interview and any chance this candidate had of getting the job took a significant turn in the wrong direction.

Our candidate went on to explain to the interviewer that he was having the most awful trouble with his false teeth. In itself not necessarily so bad, he was in some discomfort and wanted to ensure he could focus on the task at hand. However, he proceeded to remove the offending gnashers and place them in the glass of water in front of the interviewer, where they sat for the next 20 minutes (it was a very short interview from this point on) as the focal point of the discussion, whilst our interviewee struggled to answer questions with any clarity of diction!

Suffice to say when feedback was forthcoming post interview our candidate had not been succesful. Feeding back to the candidate concerned was a little difficult, but it was only right to question as to whether he felt his actions had been appropriate for the occasion. Suffice to say he could not see why what he had done had a negative effect on how he was perceived by the interviewer. However he had succeeded in leaving a lasting impression.

I have many other examples of inappropriate interview behaviour fed back to me from a multitude of sources over the years. Examples include the candidate who when asked what the most adventurous thing she had ever done answered “having sex on a beach”. The candidate who when asked to describe his biggest challenge, answered “dealing with a serious hangover after a 24 hour drinking binge on his first day in a new job without anyone having noticed”. Fortunately such events are few and far between.

Interview etiquette is simple. Be clean, well-groomed, smart (invest in some shoe polish, you’ll be surprised as to its impact), polite, well-mannered, courteous, sober. Give intelligent, well thought through, relevant responses to questions and take your time if you need it. And oh yes, leave your teeth in.

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You only have one opportunity for a good first impression, make it count!

Never a truer adage that you only have one opportunity to make a good first impression than in a job interview.  Studies have evidenced someone will have formed judgements about you within four minutes of meeting you and that those judgements will inform their subsequent impressions (known as the Halo effect).  So what can you do to ensure that you maximise those crucial early stages of the interview process?

The truth is none of this is rocket science.  It is however about applying some fundamental principles of simple human behaviour that can make for a successful outcome.

Undeniably we are all nervous when it comes to job interviews.  Take great comfort from the fact that the person on the other side of the table is likely to be as, if not more, nervous than you are.

So what about some practical tips, what is that you can specifically do to ensure maximum impact in such a small time scale?

Number one, make direct eye contact.  It shows you are interested, engaged, focused, ready to do business.  Be careful of fixing a steely stare!  However eye contact evidences an inner confidence and strength that will prove invaluable no matter how nervous you may be feeling inside.

Number two, smile!  This will help with ensuring the eye contact doesn’t end up coming across as the stare of a serial killer!  This should be a genuine, warm smile.  If the person you are meeting does little to provoke such warmth, have something in mind that does!  This will also help to ensure that warmth is reciprocated.

Number three, make a strong introduction.  Specifically, “my name is Lee Cooper, it is a pleasure to meet you”.  The emphasis is on “meet you”.  We all love people who are interested in us.  Making the specific point before the interview is underway that you are interested in the person who has the potential to play a vital role in shaping your future prosperity ought to be obvious.

Number four, a firm handshake.  No vice like grip, this is not an opportunity to evidence the strength of your forearm!  However a firm handshake evidences confidence and strength of character that will be vital to your success.

All of the above cost nothing and yet by investing in them you have the ability to improve your success rate at interview.  Start practicing today.

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The Interview Ice – Breaker

The secret to interview success lies not only in the interview itself, but in the preparation beforehand.  Research is the key.  There is so much easily accessible, readily available information in the public domain and in particular online that it is unforgivable to turn up to interview without having done your homework.  The challenge is as always cutting through the noise, getting the information you need to affect the positive outcome you desire.

You should approach an interview as if it were a business critical sales meeting.  It is the ultimate sales pitch.  Your massive advantage lies in selling a product that nobody knows as well as you do.  It doesn’t matter if you have never sold before or had any formal sales training.  You have had all the training in the product you could possibly have needed since the day you were born.  You are already ahead before you have even begun!  You just have to know how to package the product in a way that best meets your customers needs and indeed your own.  First you have to know your customer.

We all love people who take an interest in us.  First things first find out something about the person you are meeting.  Use Linkedin, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Google, Blogs, whatever tools are at your disposal to understand more about your Interviewer.  You are looking for the IceBreaker, something that can give you a “connection” with the person you are meeting.  Do they support Arsenal, love Fly Fishing, have a lifelong membership to the Bay City Rollers Fan Club, collect stamps, have every single episode of 24 on DVD or have read the complete works of William Shakespeare?

You are looking for an Icebreaker, something that connects you with your audience on that long walk from the reception area.  You are looking to engage with your audience.  Remember the age-old adage that you only get one opportunity to make a good first impression.  Agreed its important that you don’t come across as a Stalker, but a comment such as ” I see from your Tweets you are a big Cricket fan” can open up an early conversation that relaxes you and your customer (the interviewer) and establishes a very different tone to the conversation.  The impact of such a connection should not be underestimated.     We all love to talk about subjects that we are passionate about and you have just left a lasting impression.

You may want to give this more of a business feel.  Review the company website.  Is there a Bio on your interviewer?  Do they feature in any of the company news items or press releases?  Can you gain background information on their career history from Linkedin?  A great question to ask can focus on asking your Interviewer what it was that attracted them to Company X from Company Y?  If they have worked their way through the organisation from a trainee position, you may want to comment on the fact that this is clearly an organisation that offers opportunities and invests in its people.

Remember in most cases the interviewer is as nervous as you are.  Finding that IceBreaker can settle not only your nerves but theirs as well, whilst the interviewer makes a mental note that you are prepared, resourceful, interested, a “people” person and numerous other positive attributes before the process is even under way.

Next time I will talk about the importance of researching the company or organisation you are interviewing with.  For the time being, happy researching, you’ll be amazed just what you can find out!

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