How to prepare for job interviews
PUBLISHED: 10:56 03 February 2017 | UPDATED: 10:56 03 February 2017
If you spent your Christmas thinking ‘This year I’m going to find the job of my dreams,’ this feature is for you!
How do you get the job of your dreams? What are employers looking for? How can you write the best CV? Where do employers go looking for staff? How can you set yourself apart from the crowd? So many questions! We asked Cotswold employers for their advice.
‘Don’t wear a wacky tie’
Charlie Haward is the service desk manager at Gloucester-based Optimising IT. Charlie has vast experience of recruitment in this sector and shares a particular memorable interview she was involved with when she was an Operations Director at a previous company.
How do you look for new staff? Where do you find them?
We tend to use trusted agencies, plus LinkedIn to source new staff.
How do you sort the good from the great applications? How do you read a CV?
I am quite critical when reading a CV and mistakes jump out. Technical roles require a certain set of skills and the first task is to establish that the applicant possesses these. I then look at what roles they have been doing and, more importantly, how they write about these roles. I look for enthusiasm coming through, as opposed to negativity. As a small business, it’s essential that everyone pulls their weight so I’m also looking for indications that the applicant has had personal responsibility for tasks and projects (I find a lot of CVs talk in terms of “we” did this, rather than “I”). I also like to get a sense of the personality of the candidate. Are involved in other activities outside work time?”
Where do you advertise?
The agencies post the roles on the job boards and I share them on our LinkedIn page, asking staff to also share the post to improve reach. I also ask the team to consider any friends or ex-colleagues who could be worth approaching.
What does your business model currently need from new staff?
As a small but growing business, we’re looking for people who can enhance what we offer our clients, through their skills and experience but also through outstanding service and communication.
What are the biggest obstacles you find in recruiting?
The biggest challenge is finding individuals who combine the technical skills and the attitude and ethos we are looking for. Sometimes we have to compromise on the technical skills as these can be taught. Competition from other IT services companies mean we could miss out on the best candidates if we aren’t able to move swiftly enough to interview and make an offer.
How do you ensure you don’t miss potentially brilliant candidates?
We tend to do a phone interview as a first phase, as this only takes 10-15 minutes to establish whether the CV truly reflects the individual (you can potentially miss a real gem through a poorly presented CV). We’re also willing to take on people with less experience and the right attitude over more experienced candidates, as we’ve found that it’s these attributes that set people apart.
In a competitive marketplace, exceptional candidates are often choosing between several offers. We try to get across the company values during the interview and make candidates aware of the personal contribution they would make to our future success. We also have a benefits package that sets us apart from other businesses of our size, offering not just a pension but also private health cover, death in service cover and a profit share scheme.
How can a candidate set themselves apart from the crowd?
An error-free and well laid out CV makes a huge difference to first impressions. At phone interview stage, asking intelligent questions about the business and the role itself (rather than the classic ‘what’s in it for me?’ type questions about training and flexibility – these can come at a later stage). At the face to face interview, arriving promptly and appropriately dressed, and being prepared – knowing their CV inside out and being able to speak articulately about key achievements.
Recruitment needs and success stories
We’re always on the lookout for people to join our team, even when we’re not advertising a role, because we know that we are looking for truly exceptional candidates and they don’t come along all that often! Our recent success stories include recruiting a service desk administrator from an entirely different industry – although he had little IT experience, he had many transferrable skills which mean he’s an asset to the team. We have also recently recruited a younger guy with just a couple of year’s post-university experience but a great attitude and we’re hoping he’ll learn lots and flourish.
What should an interviewee not do at interview?
I’ve come across a few bizarre approaches to interviews over the decade or so that I have been involved in recruiting staff.
One that really sticks out is the candidate who, when I was an Operations Director, at the end of the interview decided to withdraw from being about to shake my hand to turn to my more junior, male, colleague and ask him ‘do you shake girls’ hands?’ Needless to say this didn’t gain him any advantage.
As a technology company we want to recruit individuals who can converse with our clients and not just talk in technical terms. It’s also always off-putting if the candidate turns up wearing anything overtly geeky such as a binary watch or a ‘wacky’ tie.
‘The five star approach to recruiting’
D2M (Design to Market), is a Cheltenham-based specialist innovation company with a passion for helping to develop, prototype, manufacture and protect new concepts. Its design team works closely with chartered attorneys and product marketing experts to offer a complete idea to market service.
Managing director Phil Staunton, gets many approaches from people wanting to work with him and offers advice to candidates: “Like most employers, we start out with a long list of wants. These include having integrity, being teachable/willing to learn, engaged and aware of their environment, self-motivated, enthusiastic, hardworking, technically able, an effective communicator, flexible and thorough.”
D2M uses a star system for measuring candidates. “Each candidate can be given a score from, say, 1-7 on each of the legs of the star,” he explains. “ For a technical designer, we may be willing to compromise on communication skills or them being switched on in favour of their technical competence: technical skills would have a higher weighting.
Once the legs of the star have been defined, candidates should be assessed against each leg. As recruiters, we should have these five attributes in mind when assessing candidates.”
How should a candidate prepare for their interview with D2M? “Learn as much about the company you are applying to before you attend the interview. Understand as much as you can about their business or industry sector so that you can have a conversation with your interviewer rather than just be interviewed.
“The best questions a candidate can ask recruiters are ones that make the recruiter think.”
‘Secure employment and training at Glevum’
Approximately half a million people are employed in the UK security industry, covering jobs from nightclub door people to high level security officers. In 2006 Gloucester-based Glevum Security opened a training academy for its own staff and to meet an expected external demand from other security companies. This meant gaining the necessary awarding bodies accreditation, but it has proved an excellent candidate stream for the company over the last ten years.
Derek Martin is HR and training manager at Glevum. He says: “Having candidates in our training room for four or five days is an ideal application sifting process for us.
“CVs are usually read based on valid license obtainment as it is a legal requirement in our industry, however my own preference is to meet candidates face to face as I honestly believe you gain a better understanding of a person’s attributes, and some have been known to tell the odd fib on a CV.”
“Having built an excellent reputation as a local Gloucestershire company providing professional security and training services, we often find that candidates are drawn to us by recommendation.”
The security industry has a regular turn-over of staff for many reasons: the frequency of contracts, pay rate levels, the flexibility the industry is able to offer, constant availability of work within the industry etc. As a result Glevum recruits almost continually.
“We try to foster an attitude where everyone is important and we value the work they do. After all, our frontline teams are representing the company to our customers,” says Derek.
“Candidates can set themselves apart from the crowd by being prepared when they come for interview. Industry standards require us to screen a candidate’s most recent full five-year employment history before we can confirm permanent employment. Applicants should do their home-work on the company they are asking to employ them and be prepared to demonstrate all that they claim at interview to our operational department management during their probationary employment.”
He goes on: “Always be on time or early. Look smart and dress appropriately for the occasion. Answer questions and try not to waffle. You may be nervous, but it’s the responsibility of the interviewer to try and put you at ease. Celebrate your imperfections and show a desire to improve on your known weaknesses. Be prepared to accept that you may have more to do than you expect to achieve a required improvement level. Never say you were solely responsible for a group task where your input may have been minimal. If you exaggerate your qualifications or abilities, be prepared for any consequences that may follow.”
‘Recruitment drive for Teamwork Selection’
Gloucestershire based employment agency Teamwork Selection is driving forward its recruitment with a year-long advertising campaign on the county’s buses.
The campaign follows a year of change for the firm which has recently seen a total brand refresh, including a new website and office refurbishment.
“We are really excited about this advertising campaign and we’re hoping it will have a big impact across Gloucestershire,” said Juliet Capelastegui, managing director. “We’re continuously recruiting for the county’s top employers and this will hopefully get the message out that we are the place to come in Gloucestershire to find new employment.”
The bus advertising campaign has seen three buses, in Cheltenham, Gloucester and Stroud transformed to include Teamwork Selection branding covering the entire back of the vehicle. The artwork ties in with the firm’s new branding and features a maze design urging Gloucestershire’s residents to “Be Part of It” – meaning the recruitment for the biggest county employers.
Juliet added: “In the run up to Christmas the buses also asked people to get in touch if they are looking for continuous work. The festive season is a particularly busy time for our clients, so it is the perfect time to launch the campaign.”
The buses have been out on the road since the end of October.
‘Skills development and pride top graduate work wish list’
Less than half of graduates feel their job lives up to their expectations, according to new research by the British Army. The key consideration for nearly two thirds (63%) of UK graduates is to secure a role that offers skills and knowledge development, the research found.
The Graduate work wish list also comprises earning a good salary (61%), but almost half of graduates want to work somewhere that gives them the ability to do something they’re proud of and enables them to make a difference to other people’s lives.
While the majority of the UK’s graduate workforce feel mentally challenged by their current role, two fifths want more progression and development opportunities and a third crave more opportunities to learn key skills. In fact, less than half believe their role lives up to their expectations.
The survey supports the British Army’s latest ‘With Heart With Mind’ recruitment campaign. Those training to be Army officers can expect a highly-skilled career that offers world-class leadership training, challenges, and the opportunity to do something that makes a difference.
General Paul Nanson, Commandant of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, said: “Graduates who choose to train as British Army Officers receive world-class opportunities for skills development from the moment they join the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. The officer training programme contributes to an accredited Master’s level pathway and individuals are encouraged to develop themselves by internationally recognised academics, as well as some of the most respected soldiers in the British Army.
“Our support network is second to none, and lasts throughout your career. It can even start while you are at university, with generous bursaries for exceptional talent. British Army Officers are given real opportunities to make a positive difference to the world on a daily basis, whether they serve for a full career or just a few years. That meaningful purpose is something we know today’s new generation of leaders is looking for.”