interview questions

New year, new you, new job? (Part two).


Following on from the first installment of New year, new you, new job?, here’s some more advice to help your search for a new job or career that little bit easier…..



Talk to people. Have you heard about the six degrees of separation? Remember that old habit that we used to have of actually chatting to one another? Combine the two and potentially top into a network that exists right in front of you. Tell family, friends and colleagues about career aspirations. It’s possible they know someone - who knows someone - who in turn can point you in the right direction, or may be aware of a potential opportunity.

Register with agencies - lots of them. I always, always advise my clients to cast the net far and wide. Call agencies directly to establish if they can help with your job search - even if you assume they may not be able to represent you. My own experience has taught me that even agencies I believed weren’t relevant had some incredibly valuable opportunities for me.

Credible agencies should invite you in to meet them before representing you. Such a face to face meeting won’t be like a real job interview, but will be formal in its nature, and questions about your work history experience, skills and abilities offers an important opportunity to practice your communication and interviewing skills.

Volunteer work. Volunteer work has been proven, time and time again, to be beneficial for all parties. Learning new skills and getting exposure to valuable workplace experience are just two of the big wins for you personally. And being able to incorporate these skills and experience on your CV can help ensure you are on the radar when submitting your CV to potential employers.

Strike up a conversation. If you have submitted an application, it’s ok to call the Recruitment or HR manager to check that it’s been received, and find out more about the recruitment process. Avoid calling the hiring manager directly (unless there is no HR or Recruitment team), and in the instances where you are being represented by an agency, communicate only with your assigned consultant. To do otherwise would be circumnavigating the official channels. When striking up a conversation directly is appropriate, you benefit from becoming more memorable (as opposed to being simply a name on a CV), and you can also leverage this opportunity to convey your enthusiasm for the vacancy for which you have applied.

Expand your geography or consider a re-location. Could you travel a little further for the right opportunity? In some cases a re-location can open up a world of opportunities. While these options may not be appropriate for you long term, a short term relocate or longer communicate could be an investment in your career.  

Consider more junior posts for long-term gains. You might think that an opportunity is a little too junior for your experience and skills set, or that the salary is lower than you would like, but it could it offer you a platform into bigger and better things. Particularly useful in large organisations with lots of employees, where opportunities for promotion, and exposure to and involvement within exiting projects can be gained. (Such experience may be difficult to gain within SMEs).  

Consider temp or contract work. Short-term assignments of weeks or months can act as platform into greater things. There’s also a chance that temp or contract roles may go permanent. Particularly useful if you are looking to get some experience of a new job/career/industry on your CV.

Add your CV to a career website like Monster. I once hired a colleague through this route. She was immediately available and ended up working in the role less than 10 days after posting her CV! Just ensure that you are familiar with how often you need to refresh/re-post your CV, in order to keep your details at the top of the pile.

Consider returning to academia. This is particularly beneficial for those wishing to change careers, but also for those looking to communicate they are serious about the career in which they currently work – everyone loves a continuous learner! Even if you have enrolled in a course, but are yet to start, you can still reference it on your CV. This can help show you are serious about a career or industry that you may not yet have worked in.

Perfectionism. Just say no!

I recently watched a YouTube video posted by a former employee of a well-known high street fashion brand. Her video, which focused on how to master a retail job interview, provided lots of helpful and insightful advice - how to prepare beforehand, potential interview questions that may arise etc.

 Six minutes in, and attention turns to the dreaded “Tell me about your greatest weakness” question. The viewer is advised that, in order to tackle this question, one must “turn a negative into a positive”.

 So far, so good.

 The viewer is then advised that candidates should respond to that question by stating that they are a “perfectionist” - because you are “basically stating that you spend so much time on things because you want them to be perfect”. Hold that thought. Now, let’s consider why, no matter how well intentioned, this is actually bad advice.

 Spending “so much time on things” could easily be misconstrued as ‘spending far too long on things’. Consider, for a moment, a hypothetical employee, one who keeps working on the job in hand until it’s ‘perfect’. Someone who can’t move on to another task, until the one they’re working on has reached what they believe is the ‘perfect’ standard. Now imagine that, waiting impatiently on the sidelines, is another task. A task which is more important, more pressing and worth more from a commercial perspective. What does the perfectionist do? That’s right, they ignore a task that’s begging for attention in favour of a less important one - at the expense of organisational commercial success.

 This is dangerous from a number of perspectives.

 Perfectionism suggests psychological inflexibility. It implies an inability to differentiate between acceptable, necessary and desirable standards of work delivery. It also indicates a lack of awareness of wider departmental and organisational priorities, AKA an inability to see the bigger picture. And being unable to see the bigger picture is the type of hurdle that stops both internal and external candidates moving into more senior, managerial or strategic positions.

 Sure, consistently delivering a ‘perfect’ standard of work is ideal in an ‘perfect world’, but the world of work doesn’t function like that.  Candidates at interview need to show they understand that work sometimes has to be delivered to differing standards (depending upon, for instance, the wider context of more pressing priorities). This shows awareness of the bigger picture and a healthy level of flexibility. Candidates that demonstrate they understand the fluidity of businesses objectives allow their interviewer to see that actions they take are determined by facts (the head), rather than their desires and urges (the heart).

 In addition to all of this, innate characteristics or traits (like perfectionism) are hard to change - and employers and interviewers know this.  No one runs internal training courses to help remove perfectionist characteristics from your personality. And perfectionist characteristics are only likely to linger on, which means they are likely to continue to impact negatively on the work you do.

 So, when an interviewer asks you about weaknesses, change the semantics. Instead, talk about ‘areas for development’. And change the way you think about your weaknesses. Check out the valuable advice from HR guru The Avid Doer to help you start rethinking and re-framing what your ‘weaknesses’ actually are! And for more intel on answering other, tough, interview questions, take a look at Clear Cut Selection’s blog

Five interview questions a manager will always want answering.

Five interview questions a manager will always want answering.

Mind reading. It’s a skill that few us master. But unlike other skills, it doesn’t improve with time or practice. Luckily, anticipating a managers interview questions during a job interview doesn’t require a crystal ball, you just need some intel from an HR Insider…..