Taking charge of your career
It’s your career, your life and, your responsibility. The fact that you're reading this shows you are taking steps. It is no secret the world has changed. The days where one job, or even one career, are long gone. Careers now are more fluid, adaptive and require more flexibility. The ‘gig economy’ is changing the way many industries work and advances in technology come thick and fast, disrupting markets, businesses and roles. To stay relevant, you need to keep abreast of technology, focus on skills that can’t be automated and, at times, may need to re-invent yourself.
Continue learning to give yourself an edge - explore industry or trade social media groups, follow industry thought leaders, subscribe to a newsletter or online courses…there are so many ways to keep abreast of what’s happening and stay relevant and informed.
1. Raise your profile
Linked in is the go-to resource as the first step for any recruiter to identify talent or to check candidates’ details. Make sure your profile is up to date and relevant to the roles you are applying for. There are so many online resources which will guide you on shots, language etc -take some time to check them out and make your profile look professional and stand out – your ideal career move may depend on it.
Social media is a double-edged sword. You can build your profile easily by creating or sharing posts, commenting on views and joining industry groups. But avoid rants, inappropriate language and behaviour – these can come back to bite you. It is very common these days for a recruiter or HR personnel to check your social media profiles either before an interview or later during the process.
CV’s - it should go without saying that your CV needs to be up to date and relevant - tailored to highlight your suitability for the roles you are interested in. Unfortunately, we see many every day that aren’t optimised for the role, don’t stand out or worse, are littered with errors and spelling mistakes. It’s a poor first impression that can derail an opportunity before you are even considered. Invest the time or seek professional help – our consultants are happy to help.
References make sure you’ve let your referee know they may receive a call and understand some of the key areas of the role, so they can give examples from their experience. It goes without saying they need to be honest about your abilities…you’ll be found out sooner or later.
2. How to prepare for an interview
Preparation is the key to a successful interview and it’s one thing you can control. Prepare physically and mentally. Sleep well the night before and don’t forget to set an alarm. Put the effort in upfront and not only will it help you relax but your knowledge and preparation will be clear to the interview. Equally, if you haven’t prepared….
Make sure you’ve got a thorough understanding of the role and the company. Read carefully the job description, ensure you understand what’s required. Then, match your skills and experience to fit. But, be honest with yourself. What are your goals? What have been your successes?
Research the company. There’s a huge range of information readily available so there’s really no excuse for poor preparation. The company website, media releases or news, management team, financial performance (annual reports) industry news/newsletters or forums, latest projects or contracts won, industry awards - it’s mostly just a few clicks away.
What are you going to wear? What’s the dress code of the company? It seems straightforward, but it does concern some. Generally overdressed is better than underdressed…you can always take a jacket or tie off if you feel that’s better but get it all out the night before…sounds like school we know but you don’t need to add stress by running around last minute looking for a particular shirt or blouse only to find it in the wash or has a stain.
3. Getting there
There are few things worse than arriving late for an interview, flustered, out of breath…hot and sweaty or dishevelled…blurting out excuses -it’s not a good look. Sure, some things are unavoidable, emergencies, health accidents but barring these, give yourself the best chance. Plan how you’re going to get there, check out google maps; Driving? - how long, where to park?…its worth doing a practice run, public transport how long, how often, where’s the nearest stop or station? Walk? How long? What about the weather forecast …. will it rain? Where’s the building main entrance…what floor/who am I seeing at what time?…What’s my plan B? Whichever way you go, check out the timing and aim to arrive early, give yourself time to take a calming breath and think about the interview. But, if you do encounter an unavoidable situation that’s going to delay you or require a reschedule, call the interviewer as soon as you can- it’s simply common courtesy.
4. Switch on, turn off
Its basic etiquette to turn off your phone before you go into the interview. But, you’d be surprised how many people forget, only to feel embarrassed by a call which interrupts the flow of the interview.
5. Frequently Asked Interview Questions
Every interview is unique but there are several common questions that may be asked. Every good candidate should be prepared to answer a few of these
The icebreaker…” tell me a bit about yourself” This is a great opportunity to get the interview started on a positive note. And, can help separate you from other candidates. Resist the temptation to give your life story. Keep it short and succinct- who you are, any relevant qualifications, skills or strengths that are key to the role you’re applying for. Have a response prepared but be natural.
Why do you want this role? This gives you a chance to talk about some of your strengths and demonstrate some knowledge about the role and the company. The interviewer is looking for some preparation and some knowledge of the company. A candidate that hasn’t bothered to research the company is not a good sign to a recruiter
What are your goals for the future?
Or a variation of this, shows a sense of purpose and ambition. Career planning is well regarded so how would this new role help with your future ambitions?
Where do you want to be in 5 years?
Like the future goals, it's about planning and ambition. Be honest but, be realistic – running Apple or Microsoft is beyond most of us.
What do you know about the company looking to recruit you?
A common question to see whether you’ve done the basic research or, have gone beyond a quick review of the company website while waiting in reception for the interview! Showing you’ve gone a bit deeper demonstrates you are serious about the role.
What are your strengths and weaknesses
How self-aware are you? What are you particularly good at and how would this fit the role requirements? And weaknesses? Everyone has areas they can improve on and self-awareness and a willingness to improve are well regarded.
What do enjoy doing in your spare time?
This is an effort to see how you’ll fit in. Having a life outside work and other interests is a good thing – though if eating pizzas while watching a movie marathon all weekend is your idea of heaven you might want to keep that to yourself. Are you into team sports or prefer solo activities? Are you sociable? Do you have an enquiring mind or like learning new things?
Why should they hire you?
Again, looking for self-awareness. What are you very good at? What experience or personal attributes make you the ideal candidate for this role? It’s a good way to pitch yourself matching your key strengths to the role. Be honest but avoid being boastful.
Can you give me examples of a successful project you’ve been involved in?
Again, be honest but not boastful. You never know who’s connected to who and claiming success for someone else’s work can unravel your credibility very quickly. The interviewer will be trying to understand how you work in a team and are prepared to take responsibility, where did you add value? Did you go above and beyond?
What did you like /dislike about your current or last role?
This helps the interviewer understand the areas you enjoy, and which parts of the role aren’t well suited to you. Try to keep it about the work rather than people and focus more on what you enjoyed, that you believe will be part of the new role.
Why do you want to leave? /did you leave your last role?
Try to stay positive about the fresh opportunities; more responsibility, more challenges or a different experience. Be honest but, avoid bad-mouthing the firm or other employees.
And, the one that often stumps candidates…” Do you have anything you want to ask?”
It’s always good to ask a couple of questions at the end to clarify something that’s been said. Remember while they’re interviewing you, you are also interviewing them- it's your career.
An open-ended question like What’s the company culture like? or why do you like this company? can help build rapport and give you insights that may not be on the website or in the job description. Similarly, why did the vacancy arise? or Is there something missing from the last employee that you are hoping to see from the next person in this role? What were the main challenges the predecessor's face? – these can all offer additional information that’s beneficial to you.
What are the opportunities for progression, training and development?
This signals your ambition and that you are open to learning. It also tells you that the company values its employees.
How and when to address remuneration?
This can be tricky, particularly if you’re not going through a recruiter. You don’t want to come over as only interested in salary rather than the job opportunity but, everyone needs a roof over their heads and to be able to eat. Raising the remuneration can depend on where you found the role. You should broadly know your market value so contact your CGC Consultant* for your market appraisal- you don’t want to waste your time on a role that pays much less than you were on previously…. unless it’s an amazing career step or you’re moving into a new area and need to step back to move forward. What sort of salary is being offered? Is a relaxed way to start the conversation but unless it’s raised by the interviewer, it’s often best left to round 2 of the process.
What are the next steps?
They should tell you at the end of the interview but make sure you know. You need to understand the process, so you know how/when to follow up.
A simple email to thank the interviewer for their time sent promptly after the interview is good practice and, if the date for informing candidates in the next steps has passed, a polite and friendly follow up is well worthwhile. Things may have changed, so find out – you should look keen rather than desperate.