5 Questions to ask at an interview

So you’ve survived a million and one questions during an interview and the recruiter says, “have you got any questions?” It’s so easy to say “no, I’ve got everything” and rush out of the building as quickly as possible but I think this is a great opportunity to stand out and give yourself an advantage. A great set of questions can sometimes give the recruiter that last bit of assurance that YOU are the right person for the role. It might not be appropriate to ask all of the questions below at every interview so use wisdom. 

1. What is the current dynamics of the team and how do you see me fitting in with them? 
I love this question because you force the recruiter to picture you in the role but it also shows that you are aware that there are people within a team and want to respect the dynamics. It’s also great because in actual fact, you might find that you don’t like the dynamics or demographics of the team and have found out at interview stage and not when you’ve got the job! 

2. What concerns do you have about hiring me? 
If they answer honestly, this gives you a great advantage because you will actually have the opportunity to address any concerns or reservations and potentially turn them around. 

3. If I am successful, what would my first few weeks in the role look like? 
By asking this, you’re showing a real interest in not just getting through the interview, but getting into the role itself. 

4. When can I expect to hear back from you? 
Again, this shows you are interested and keen

5. Lastly, if there’s anything you’re unsure about, now is the time to ask

I hope that helps! Go get your job! 
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How to have a great interview

Oh we all love going to an interview! No? The purpose of this post is to take a lot of the pain out of the interview process. Below are 5 tips that I’ve used during interviews and hope they’ll help you too. 

1. Research the company – the last thing you want is to absolutely ace an interview, then right at the end be asked what you know about the company and blank. Have a look at the company website if they have one and pay attention to the company ethos and any principles they work to. 

2. Dress appropriately – think about the role you are applying for and the tasks you’ll be doing during the assessment process when choosing what to wear. Personally, I have a black polka dot “interview dress”. This isn’t the time to pull out your whole jewellery collection and it goes without saying that clothes should be clean and ironed, shoes clean and hair well groomed – or at least I hope. Ladies, if you struggle wearing heels, don’t embarrass yourself. Opt for low or kitten heels. If you have to wear flats, pointy shoes look more professional than round toe but again, this very much depends on the role you are applying for. When it comes to makeup, don’t cake it on. Enough said. 

3. If offered a drink, always ask for some water. 
Whether I intend to drink it or not, asking for water serves a few purposes
– it gives you a bit of extra time to take in the setting and calm those last minute nerves
– if like me, there are times when your mouth or throat drys up during the interview, a sip of water will be your saviour
– when answering questions, it’s good practice to pause before answering, think, structure the answer in your head and then answer. Having some water during that pause fills in the gap nicely and helps to avoid instances above where your mouth gets dry. 

4. Prepare answers to common questions. 
A lot of recruiters now use competency or behavioural interview questions. These are designed to understand how a candidate deals with certain situations and can often help to further shortlist candidates that on paper, have similar credentials or skills. 
The key to these type of questions is to have a bank of pre-prepared answers that can be adapted for specific questions and be able to give a clear and concise answer. Most recruiters will say in advance what competencies or key behaviours they will be looking for or assessing, but if not, use the person specification as a guide. For example, a competency could be “communication”. I would think about instances in my current or precious roles where I’ve had to communicate difficult decisions, explain something to different audiences or “levels or had to teach something to someone else and create answers using the STARL technique. 
The STAR technique is not a new concept but what it does is enable you to answer a question without waffling or going off on a tangent. Below is a breakdown of what it is. 

S – situation – what was the scenario or issue

T – task – what did you need to do

A – activity or action – what you actually did

R – result – what was the outcome

I like to add an extra bit at the end – “L” for what I learnt from it. 

5. Ask questions – see my post on “Great questions to ask at an interview” 

6. RELAX! – try to focus on your best qualities. If you’re asked about any development areas or weaknesses, don’t be scared to give them but ALWAYS follow up with how you have or are overcoming it and the positive. 

Good luck and happy job hunting! 
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5 tips for an effective C.V. 

So one thing I know I do well is interview, but often the hardest part is getting through the C.V. “sift” so I want to share a few tips that I’ve used to enhance mine over the years. 
At the beginning of the year, I did a volunteering session at a high school in south London where I helped a group of 15 and 16 year olds write their cv. Honestly, I was amazed that a lot of them didn’t know what one was or what the contents were; but let’s face it, a lot of adults don’t either! 

According to our trusted friend, Wikipedia, it’s “a written overview of a person’s experience and other qualifications. In some countries, a C.V. is typically the first item that a potential employer encounters regarding the job seeker and is typically used to screen applicants, often followed by an interview.” So it’s pretty important, yes?! 

Ok, so humour me for a minute: imagine it’s your friends birthday next month. She’s sent out the save the date along with a list of 5 restaurants to choose from and a copy of their menu. Any normal person would check the menu and shortlist the ones where the menu looks appealing and within budget. Think of your C.V. as your menu. Potential employers will pick it up and look for the characteristics that look appealing to them. This brings me on nicely to my first point. 

1. Review and tailor your C.V. every time you apply for a job

Whenever I’ve looked for another role, I always try to get a copy of the “person specification” and the “job specification” and cross check my C.V. against these. There’s no point lying as you’ll often get caught out. But any qualities on these documents that you feel you have and can demonstrate, add them in. 

I.e. 

Job specification – the role will involve complaint handling and resolution 

Person specification – the ideal candidate will have experience dealing with difficult situations 

If any part of your work experience involved dealing with difficult situations or customers, make sure you highlight it. 
If these aren’t available, often a browse on the company’s website will have a section about the types of people they hire and the qualities they look for. 

2. Remove your D.O.B and picture (unless applying for a creative role where you picture is needed). 

Age and race discrimination is illegal but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Give yourself every fighting chance by only including mandatory information. Let your qualities shine through without your age or looks creating an unnecessary barrier

3. Keep it to the point. 

I’m a very wordy person. Trust me, but your C.V. is not the time to test out your 2000 word essay writing skills. You want to sell yourself as best as possible, but recruiters sift through so many C.V.’s and many will admit to just scanning so keep your experience precise and to the point. I’m personally a big fan of bullet points. 

I.e. 

My main duties were:

– Be the named point of contact for a portfolio of large corporate customers

– Identify sales opportunities within the portfolio to grow P & L (profit & loss) 

– Negotiate contract renewals and new customer pricing

– Manage the recruitment and on-boarding of new business

– Offer advice and best practise concerning card scheme rules and fraud 

4. Summarise each role with an achievement. 

Show that you are a high achiever and give them a reason to keep reading. Again, keep it brief and don’t lie. 

I.e.

My main accomplishments at X were:

– Being signed off probation 3 months early and rewarded with a 10% pay rise because of my performance

– Being recognised 3 months in a row as being the top account manager in the region

5. Provide a brief summary at the very beginning. 

As I said above, recruiters often just scan and sometimes only read the first few lines. I think it’s good practise to provide a brief summary at the very beginning so you can get your best qualities across from the absolute get go. 

Mine is too good to share lol so the example below is one I did for a friend: 

– Experienced professional with a successful career in banking and sales 

– High achiever with proven track record of exceeding targets

– Line management experience 

– Confident in coaching and developing others 

– Proactive approach has resulted in outperforming peers

– Possess excellent interpersonal, analytical and organisational skills

– Excel within highly competitive environments 

– Excellent command of the English language 

– Comfortable delivering presentations 

So, I hope somebody finds this useful and good luck with the job hunting! 

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