Interview as an internal candidate…

So the time has come when my 12 month fixed term contract is almost at an end (just over 3 weeks to go to be precise) and I essentially need to be looking for another job.

Now I know that you might be thinking that I have left it too late and potentially I have but I just don’t feel the same level of anxiety about maybe being jobless that I did when I left the Army. Rightly or wrongly I am quietly confident in my own knowledge, experience and ability to believe that I will get a job when I start applying.

 In the mean time the position that I have been employed in for the last 12 months has now been added to the Company headcount but to ensure fair process the job had to be advertised, hence I have essentially had to apply for my own job! So ok, it’s not exactly the same role – there are new responsibilities added into the mix but the bulk of the role is what I’ve been doing for the last 12 months. So, like any other applicant I filled out the application form, revamped my CV and submitted them to my current manager. The deadline passed and thankfully I was invited to an interview.

 Interview day came and strangely I found that I was more nervous than I was for the initial interview. The interview panel consisted of my current team leader, my current supervisor and an employee from Corporate recruiting who I have sat opposite for the last year – all people I know not only professionally but personally and socially. I decided to play it as professionally as I could given that I knew everyone on the panel as friends not only as colleagues. I did the same amount of prep, wrote notes, took all my certificates etc exactly as I did the first time. The interview started a bit tentatively for myself but as I noticed my voice wobble after question number one I kind of just told myself to ‘get a grip’ and that ‘I knew these people and not to panic!’ One of the biggest difficulties I faced came when answering their questions – I knew that my Team Leader and Supervisor know what I’ve been doing for the last 12 months because they have been there doing it with me but you HAVE to act as if they don’t and tell them all the necessary details as if they are total strangers. There was also the reluctance to ‘blow my own trumpet’ about things I’d done to my current Managers for fear of sounding arrogant….but I blew it anyway!! After a few questions I felt myself (and them) relax and the interview began to flow. It lasted an hour and half and I felt relieved when it was over.

 I still haven’t had the outcome of the interview so can’t say it went fantastically, the interview could’ve gone terribly for all I know but I didn’t get that vibe…even if I haven’t got the job I know that I did my best and I just wasn’t the right person for the job.

 Another part of the situation that was bizarre and another first for me was that the only other applicant / interviewee for the position was my best friend in my team and we both knew each other were applying from the off. It wasn’t like in the Army where they keep everything a secret from you and you have to keep it from each other – we had complete transparency. It was initially a bit awkward between us but we’re both grown ups (just about!) and after a little chat one lunch time about it all was normal with us again…The fact that each of us genuinely wanted the other to do well was probably the main reason for that.

 All in all it was quite a unique experience that I’m glad I’ve gone through.

The differences when times get tough!

So my first full year out of the Army started terribly…

 My relationship of 5 years broke down when my Fiancé decided to leave me. I was devastated. If this wasn’t heartbreaking enough that I had lost my partner in life there was now the added pressure that I had also lost my financial partner too and I was one person on a mediocre wage with a lot of financial commitments. Life was suddenly very uncertain…

 There was no option of moving back into the block to cut my outgoings, I had a mortgage which I had to pay or I was going to lose my home. I had a large car that I couldn’t afford to run on my own and had various other outgoings that had to be paid. After the initial shock had passed and I simply had to get a grip of myself and my life! So I sat down and went over my finances with a fine tooth comb – something I thought I had done already to the n’th degree when I had left the Army. However, it’s amazing what you can cut down on when there is no alternative. I found a new mortgage deal, sold my big car and downsized to something more affordable, I changed my energy supplier, cancelled some non-essentials like my gym membership & changed where I shopped. In the space of a few weeks I had gone from not being able to afford my home and everything that came with it to my finances being fully in order with a little to spare for me. Easily the scariest and most sobering few weeks of my life…

 Another thing that I noticed about the breakdown of my relationship was that there was also no endless amount of people around me that were willing to support me and help me drowned my sorrows. Every break up I’ve had in the Military, the people who you live with rally round you for a bit and drag you out partying for a few weeks until you’re back on your feet or deeply immersed in some ridiculous rebound relationship!! I was on my own. Another thing was, with previous break ups whilst in the Army you kind of get a bit of leeway with stuff – people know you inside out, they know you intimately so they know you’re not at your best so cut you a bit of slack if you’re a hungover or a bit grumpy or not at the top of your game professionally. I didn’t want to run this gauntlet on Civvy St though as losing my job would only make things worse so stayed well off the booze and stayed relatively focused and was as professional as I could be given the circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, the people who I work with were fantastically supportive and my boss was amazing but when you leave your place of work to go home on a night, you are on your own – left with only your thoughts and as I stated in another post for someone who has suffered with mental health issues in the past or for anyone who is hurting that is not a good thing.

 So, in lieu of my Military colleagues around me on a night I decided I needed to do something to get me out of the house…something to keep me occupied on an evening. I chose to rejoin my old ladies football team and went training at the local 3G all weather pitch. The first training session was going so well. I was happy, laughing and joking with friends and then I fell over and heard the mother of all cracks from my shoulder. A first responder, an ambulance ride, a long wait in A&E, copious amounts of morphine later I was diagnosed with a Grade 3 fully separated acromioclavicular joint – In short I had smashed my shoulder to smithereens! I was told to expect to be off work for approx 6 weeks and then to possibly expect surgery after that! Another set of worries…Was I entitled to Company sick pay? If so how long was my sick pay entitlement? How do I apply for SSP if it my company sick pay runs out before I can get back to work? In the Forces you are so used to being paid unconditionally for however long you are off that but again this is very different on Civvy Street. I had never felt so much pressure to heal, there was no way I could live on the SSP! In the end it turned out I had a good period of company sick pay so when I returned to work after 5 weeks I hadn’t lost out financially, it was such a relief to get back to work, a real weight lifted from my mind.

 Now you may think that I am complaining about the last 4 months of my life – I’m not. In fact, it’s probably exactly the opposite…The last 4 months have shown me that being as heavily reliant on the Military machine as I was, wasnt a good thing. It has shown me that I am more than capable of sorting out my life even when going through the worst possible time and that with a bit of grit and determination and with the RIGHT support from family and friends you can literally get through anything. It has shown me that I have an inner strength that I never knew I had. It has also taught me that being fit and healthy is paramount and that I need to look after myself a little bit better…so unfortunately for Middleton Park Ladies FC, Im hanging up my boots in search of a less physical non-contact sport!

 So on reflection I initially thought that 2014 wasnt going to be the year for me but now I’m back on my feet financially, officially loved up with an amazing man, almost healed after my accident and now job searching for my perfect role as a stronger, happier & more accomplished person I think its the exact opposite – watch out world cos Lucy is coming to get you!!

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!

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!!