Job Interview – Part 2 (The Interview)

The day came of my interview and I had prepped myself to the n’th degree, I was ready!  And to be honest, I was more excited than nervous or worried.  I wanted to show the Company just how good I could be and showcase my skills in the best possible way. 

I set off in good time, I didn’t need to recce my route as I already knew where the interview was being held, (I would’ve done a dry run if I hadn’t been sure of the location).  I arrived at the Company about 20 minutes early and parked up, this gave me chance to read through the interview notes I had made before heading off to the reception to book in. 

I arrived at the Reception and gave the ladies on the desk the biggest smile and warmest hello whilst booking in, these people are often in good positions with Managers and MDs etc so it can’t harm to charm the socks off them.  The intern who came to pick me up to take me to my interviewers got the same treatment. 

After climbing a mammoth amount of stairs (thank god for the sensible shoes!) I arrived at the interview room and with my interview panel…that’s right, an interview panel of 3 people.  They all were Managers of various seniority and after the handshakes and introductions we sat down and got down to business.  I offered them my newest CV, they declined and I took out my notebook and pen to jot things down should I become flustered. 

Each Manager asked me different types of questions.  First set of questions were generic ie Tell me a bit about yourself? Tell me why you left your last job? Then the second set were Competence based questions ie. Tell me about a time you worked in a team? Tell me about a time when you checked your own work? And lastly were the more personal questions ie Why should we employ you? Why do you want to work for us?  Rather than try and baffle them with intricate wording and my wide vocabulary I just spoke to them, in my normal tone using normal English.  One of the questions they did ask was ‘What is my biggest weakness?’  Be as honest as you can without ruling yourself out of the job.  I said that my lack of experience with the Time Management System they use was mine, however, I informed them that I had researched Time Management Systems as part of my Preparation and understood the mechanics of it, therefore turning a negative into a positive.  I managed to get in all the pertinent points that I’d researched into the interview and I knew I would be memorable because of them.  My questions about professional development and the Redundancies went down well too. 

The interview flowed well with no awkward pauses and there were even times when we were laughing together.  When I walked out of the room at the end of the interview I knew it had gone well, I wasn’t arrogant enough to think ‘I’ve got it’ but I knew that I had given myself a really good chance of getting the job.  I was content with the way it had gone and couldn’t think of anything I would change given the chance, if I didn’t get it there was simply a better candidate.  They had informed me they would let me know by the end of the next day if I had been successful. 

As soon as I got home I rang the recruiter to let them know how I thought it had gone and then the wait began, that was probably more of a nervy time than the interview itself to be honest. 

The next day came and I was checking my phone every 5 minutes wondering why the hell they hadn’t phoned me, had I missed their call, had the signal dropped out and it had gone straight to answer phone?  Then the call came about 3pm, I felt sick with anticipation….I made some polite chit chat with the Recruitment Consultant and then he continued to tell me that the Company had been extremely impressed with me at the interview and wanted to offer me the position.

I’d got the job – I was so pleased that all the hard work had paid off, the hours of preparation, slogging away in front of the computer. 

PS  I start on Wednesday!!  🙂

Job Interview – Part 1 (Preparation)

I was called out of the blue by a Recruiter who had seen my CV online at cv-library.co.uk.  He explained that he was recruiting for a vacancy and he would like to put my CV forward to his client.  I asked about the role and he gave me a brief description of what I would be expected to do.  I decided I had good experience of most areas of expertise they were looking for and agreed for him to forward it on. 

A couple of days later I received a call back saying that the Client was interested in me and would like to call me forward for an interview.  I was ecstatic!!  At this point he gave me the details of the Company.  I immediately went online and had a look at both of their Company websites.  An industry leading International engineering firm – I was very impressed. 

I went out and bought a suit from Next, nothing too expensive but it looked good, smart, but the most important thing was I felt comfortable in it.  I bought a nice portfolio from Staples to house all my certificates in so they were presentable should my potential employer ask to see my qualifications.  I also placed an up to date CV in the front of the portfolio and some business cards I’d had made.  Shoes with a sensible heel and a professional looking bag topped off the look. I now had all the material things I needed.  All I had to do now was learn about the Company, learn about the job (especially the things I had no experience in) and practise those interview questions. 

The Company I was interviewing with was huge so I decided to learn a small part about where and when the firm originated and how they started out.  I then looked at what they do now and where they do it but just within the UK.  I also read and learnt their Vision, Mission and Values verbatim.  I would later align these points with my own personal Values & professional Mission when the ‘Why do you want to work for us?’ question if it came up. 

I then googled the Company to find out what else was going on away from the Company specific website.  Here I found out about some Charity/Voluntary work that the Company were doing in the Community and also about some current Redundancies that were taking place on one of their other sites in Daventry.  I would incorporate these finds into my interview to show that I had researched the Company on a wider level.  I printed all the useful information off and made a little interview pack that I could take with me and read over on the day just before going in.  I then re-read and re-read this information until it sunk in. 

Then I practised my interview questions using the STAR method.  This is a good format to use when answering competence based interview questions (ie Please tell me of an occasion where you dealt with conflict in your working environment?) as it helps you avoid rambling and enables you to provide structured, concise, relevant answers. It breaks down as follows: 

  • Situation  (What was the situation?)
  • Task (What needed to be done?)
  • Activity (What did you do?)
  • Result (What was the outcome?) 

I now just needed to put together some relevant questions about the Company that didn’t revolve around money or benefits and I was sorted!  I’d chosen to ask if the Company would support any professional development I wanted to do in the future and also if the Redundancies down South could move to the Huddersfield site.  I’d hope that these questions would show I was ambitious and that I was up to date with current affairs. 

Find out how I got on in my next post…..

The Telephone Interview

The phone interview…It’s no big deal, right? Easiest thing ever as I talk to people all the time on the phone, right? It will be a piece of cake, wont it? How wrong was I?! 

One morning I received a phone call from an unknown number, I always assume it’s a potential employer calling so I answered as clearly and politely as possible.  It turns out its a Recruitment Representative from Jet2 with regards to a vacancy I have applied for.  I couldn’t for the life of me remember the details of the post so I explained it wasn’t the most convenient time and asked them if it was possible to phone back in 10 minutes.  They were more than happy to oblige.  This gave me enough time to whizz upstairs, open up my job application spreadsheet, click onto the link to the role and have a quick read over the job specification.  By the time the Rep called back 10 minutes later I was completely clued up and feeling confident with my notebook and pen at the ready. 

After the initial pleasantries the Rep then got straight to it and started asking me a lot of competence based interview questions…What could I bring to the Role?  How would I rate myself on Excel?  What project work have I done in the past? I was completely unprepared.  I’d not done any prep on the Company or the role and it showed.  I was trying to base my answers on the job spec I had in front of me on the computer screen, trying to tell her what I thought she wanted to hear, it was all a complete bluff.  I could feel myself getting more and more flustered and found myself giving long winded answers that weren’t even relevant to the question – I was quickly talking myself out of the job by waffling!  

Once the realisation hit me that I was letting this amazing opportunity slip away, I somehow found it inside me, mid-telephone call to compose myself and just speak, normally.  I started to give clear, concise and short answers to the questions and even better, I provided examples of times when I’d performed certain tasks.  I was back on track! 

The call ended about 20 minutes later and in the end it had gone well but it was a big wakeup call that perhaps this job searching wasn’t going to be as easy as I had originally thought.  I had very nearly wasted a good chance of getting a job that I was more than qualified and wholly suitable for because I couldn’t get my act together over the phone.  After this event I did a lot of research on commonly used interview questions and pre-planned my answers carefully using examples of each competence to prove I was capable/experienced. 

I was called back a few days later and was informed I had made it through to the next round of screening.  On this occasion I was lucky, very, very lucky but I vowed never to be that unprepared for anything ever again.  The Military talks a lot about the 7 P’s – stick with em!

Applying for Jobs…? Get Organised!!

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The following post is about my experiences of applying for positions and a few things that I have found handy.

In the early days of my Resettlement leave I wasn’t applying for too many jobs, just the ones that I really fancied or a random one that sounded interesting or a role that was a bit of a stab in the dark.  So, as you can imagine it wasn’t too hard to keep a track of what I had on going.  However, as the weeks progressed and I came closer to my discharge date I was applying for more and more jobs and was worried about losing track of my applications.  Could you imagine being contacted for a position by an employer and not having a clue which role they were talking about?!  Not the most  impressive or professional way to start with a potential employer!

So, I decided I needed to be organised and made myself and excel spreadsheet with the details of all the jobs I was applying for.  This information was collated from the initial job advertisement and the receipt of application email normally sent.  My column headings were as follows:

  • Job Title
  • Recruiting Agency/Website
  • Recruiter Contact Details
  • Web Link to the Job (if applicable)
  • Job Reference Number
  • Salary or Hourly Rate
  • Date of Application
  • Current Status of Application

I filled this spreadsheet in religiously as I went along and even went as far as using colour for the status of the application. For example.  Red Cells if it was longer than 6 weeks since application or I had a rejection letter/email, amber cells if I had just applied for the position and green cells if there was some interest from the employer.  This made it then very easy to see where I was at with each individual application and also if the phone rang I could just hop on the computer and be completely happy with which position I was discussing and who I was discussing it with.

I also made a ‘Job Applications’ folder in my Professional email Inbox (you have made a separate professional email account right??) so that I could keep all my applications together.  That way as I needed certain emails they were easily and quickly located and I wasn’t trawling through hundreds of emails to find them with an employer/recruiter hanging on the phone.  And once that application was ‘redded out’ for whatever reason I could delete them.

I found that this system is simple and effective and it proved that it worked when I was called by a Recruitment Representative from Jet2 with regards to a position that I applied for BUT that is a different post all together!

Network, network, network….Professionally!

So I had decided that I was going to leave the Army and many people had said to me ‘Network as much as you can’ when it comes to finding employment.  Well, I kind of knew that but how?!  Did they mean knocking on Companies doors with CV in hand….Well, possibly but this is how I viewed it.  We live in a digital age and employers are so easily accessible these days, how is best to promote yourself to these Companies/Organisations without spending a fortune…? 

So where to start?  The first place I suggest you start is Linked In.  This is a professional networking site where you can connect with people you know professionally.  It is free, it’s very  easy to build a profile if you have a CV concocted already (it will take a little bit of time if not) and all you need to get going is an email address.  Linked In then allows you to give a Employment Title, a personal statement, your employment history and it allows you to showcase any qualification/key skills that you have.  You can also give and receive online recommendations from people you have worked or trained with.   This site also has Groups for like minded people, allows you to follow individual Companies you have an interest in, advertises jobs to suit your profession/location and gives you the opportunity to ‘Update your Status’ to let people know what you have been up to Professionally.  There is also the option to upgrade your account which gives you a lot more access to other peoples profiles, you can see the salary of the jobs advertised and it lets you see (in full) who has looked at your profile.  This website is very, very good and allows you to completely separate your personal and professional life online which is VERY important when job searching these days.  There are tons more benefits to having an account on here and one that I have personally taken advantage of is putting the link to my Linked In account on the top of my CV, therefore allowing future employers see a full, in depth, extended profile of me! 

The next thing is make a professional Twitter profile….Now, I know a lot of people out there have tried Twitter in the past and have said ‘I just don’t get it’ or ‘it’s not for me’ but trust me, there is so much going on, on there at the minute that you simply cannot afford not to have an account.  Like Linked in, its free and all you need is an email to start.  Lots and lots of Companies now advertise jobs via their Twitter accounts as do Recruitment Agencies, you can keep abreast of any recent developments within your chosen profession and you can also follow training providers to see what courses they are running –  I’ve even seen Courses advertised at reduced rates due to lack of attendance.  Take the opportunity on Twitter to advertise yourself by uploading a good head and shoulders profile pic (nobody likes to follow an egg) and write a short, sharp and effective bio.  Also on your bio add a link to your Linked In profile, that way anyone that is interested in what you tweet can then be wowed by your amazing Linked In profile!! 

The next one is Community Sites – These are sites that are run by particular Companies or Organisations for their delegates and clients.  An example of this is as follows:  I am enrolled on a CIPD Human Resources qualification that is being run by a Training Provider called Development Processes Group.  They have a Community site where people that are undertaking their training can come together and chat, blog, share experiences and generally network….I’m sure there will be some discussion about the courses too eventually but it’s a great environment where engaged professionals can come together informally.  A big thing that they hold on these Community sites too are Webinars – Online seminars about a particular subject and you can contribute as much or as little as you like, free, low stress and extremely educational. 

Another thing that I have found useful is to make an about.me profile.  This is just a webpage about you! You can choose your own background, font, colour of text, size of text, upload a picture and write a small bio.  You can imput where you have been educated or trained and also put links on there to websites of your choices.  The main thing I have found this handy for is housing all my professional networking profiles under one roof so to speak as from here people can access my Linked In profile, professional twitter account and my blog.  This one I would say isn’t necessary but is more of a nice to have! Definitely worth a look, especially with the death of the CV looming – be creative and set yourself apart from the crowds! 

Now, just let me stress to you that simply having these profiles is not enough…You have to go on your accounts regularly and be active within groups, conversations and forums.  For example.  One week I didn’t go on my Linked In account at all and I received around 3 views to my profile, the following few weeks I was on there around an hour a day and my profile received over 50 views.  Don’t fear online networking, most platforms have an Android or Apple application which makes it easier to access – make it work for you and as long as you allow time for your Networking you will be successful at it!

www.linkedin.com

www.twitter.com/career_woman

www.about.me/lucysaunders83

 

Recruitment Consultant Interview – Wed 29 May 2013

Approx 6 months before I was due to leave the Forces I started looking at Recruitment Agencies that found work specifically for Human Resources people like me! 

Using the internet I found Agencies local to where I intended to settle that found work for Human Resources professionals.  I sent emails with a detailed covering letter and Generic CV attached to them all and waited for them to get back to me.  After a little while the Companies all got in touch one way or another.  Some gave me brief phone interviews asking my experiences, what I was looking for in a job and just generally getting a feel of who I was and one Agency asked me to go and have an interview. 

I was a little bit nervous before my interview as I didn’t really know what to expect.  I wasn’t sure whether to go suited and booted or just smart/casual but I opted for the smart/casual.  With regards to everything else, I decided to  treat it like a job interview.  I set off in good time to give myself time to get parked and locate the Office.  I arrived about 15mins before my interview which although it was probably a little too early it worked out well as the Receptionist handed me a stack of forms to fill out and he also needed to copy my proof of ID, proof of address and NI Number. 

When the Recruitment Consultant came out I stood, shook her hand and introduced myself.  We then sat down and we started discussing what I was looking for with regards to work.  Full time, Part time, Permanent, Fixed Term etc  This is where you need to be forthright, put all those years of humility and self-deprecation behind you and tell them exactly what you want otherwise they are going to be matching you to jobs that you don’t want to do.  It wastes your time and it wastes their time so it’s best to be as direct as possible right from the off.  The Consultant also asked for a copy of my CV and a list of reference so ensure you have these with you.  I also took my portfolio of Qualification certificates with me should they wish to see them/make copies.  The Consultant was also very interested to hear details of my previous employment i.e. Individual jobs/positions and what the roles and responsibilities entailed which made me thankful I had prepared for this prior to the meeting. 

After being in there for just under an hour the meeting came to an end.  The recruitment consultant seemed extremely happy with me and as I was leaving informed me that she would be marketing me to her clients as a ‘Start Candidate’ due to my Qualifications and Experiences.  I walked out of the Office and I felt fantastic.  After 13 years of only being told you were any good at appraisal time it felt very strange for this stranger to be heaping praise on me, telling me how employable I was and that Companies would be fighting over me it was a very different experience. 

Now that the interview is over I don’t intend for that to be it, to sit back and rest on my laurels.  I plan to phone back weekly so I’m always at the forefront of their thoughts should that perfect position come in!!