Interview Tips

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How to write a CV

Posted by | 2014-02-10 | Interview Tips

What is a CV?

Curriculum Vitae: an outline of a person’s educational and professional history.
A CV is the most flexible and convenient way to make applications.
A CV is a marketing document.
There is no “one best way” to construct a CV.

What information should a CV include?

Personal details
Normally these would be your name, address, date of birth telephone number and email.

Education and qualifications
Your degree subject and university.

Work experience

  • Use action words such as developed, planned and organised.
  • Even bar or restaurant will involve working in a team, providing a quality service to customers, and dealing tactfully with complaints. Don’t mention the routine, non-people tasks(cleaning the tables) unless you are applying for a casual summer job in a restaurant or similar.
  • Try to relate the skills to the job. A finance job will involve numeracy, analytical and problem solving skills so focus on these whereas for a marketing role you would place a bit more more emphasis on persuading and negotiating skills.
  • All of my work experiences have involved working within a team-based culture. This involved planning, organisation, coordination and commitment e.g., in retail, this ensured daily sales targets were met, a fair distribution of tasks and effective communication amongst all staff members.

Keep this section short and to the point.

The usual ones to mention are languages (good conversational English, basic Afrikaans), computing (e.g. “good working knowledge of MS Access and Excel, Protel, Fidelio, Galileo etc, plus basic web page design skills” and driving (“full current clean driving licence”).

Many employers don’t check references at the application stage so unless the vacancy specifically requests referees it’s fine to omit this section completely if you are running short of space or to say “References are available on request.”

How long should a CV be?

2 – 3 pages

If you can summarise your career history comfortably on a single side, this is fine and has advantages when you are making speculative applications and need to put yourself across concisely. However, you should not leave out important items, or crowd your text too closely together in order to fit it onto that single side.

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Preparing for an interview

Posted by | 2014-02-10 | Interview Tips

Top ten most common mistakes made at a job interview:

  1. Failing to ask for the job
  2. Failing to set yourself apart from other candidates
  3. “Winging” the interview
  4. Trying to be all things to all people
  5. Concentrating too much on what you want
  6. Inadequate research about a potential employer
  7. Not showing enough interest or enthusiasm
  8. Lacking humor, warmth or personality
  9. Over explaining why you lost your last job
  10. Conveying that you’re not over it.

Most common tips about interviewing:

  1. Be ready to briefly describe your experience
  2. Review your qualifications for the job
  3. Have a specific job in mind
  4. Learn about the organisation

5 Questions most likely to be asked:

  1. Tell me about yourself
  2. Why did you leave your last job
  3. What do you know about the company
  4. Why do you want to work for us
  5. Tell me about your experience at …….


Common nonverbal mistakes made at a job interview:

  1. 21% – playing with hair
  2. 47% – having little or no knowledge of the company is the most common mistake job seekers make during interviews
  3. 67% – failure to make eye contact
  4. 38% – lack of smile
  5. 33% – bad posture
  6. 21% – crossing arms over their chest
  7. 9% – using too many hand gestures
  8. 26% – handshake that is too weak
  9. 33% – fidgeting too much

Statistics show that meeting new people the impact is:

  1. 7% – from what we actually say
  2. 38% – the quality of our voice grammar and overall confidence
  3. 55% – the way we dress, act and walk through the door
Comments Off on Telephone interview tips

Telephone interview tips

Posted by | 2014-01-28 | Interview Tips

The telephone interview is a crucial first step to getting on the short list. In Part 1, we covered 5 Tips to prepare. Now, are you ready when that phone rings?

Comparable to a sales professional who “qualifies” a prospect to determine whether he or she is a good fit for the product (and worth spending more time with), in a phone interview the employer is “qualifying” you and determining whether you are a good fit for the position being offered (therefore deciding whether to spend more time with you in a face-to-face interview).

Here are some tips to maximize success during the phone interview.

1. Manage expectations. Here’s what they want to know:

You meet basic qualifications for the job
Your answers are consistent with information on your résumé or application
You understand the position and have asked appropriate questions
You have expressed not only interest—but enthusiasm—for the position
2. Gather your dashboard data. You should have your resume/stories and the job description/posting handy, as well as the caller’s name, title, company and all related contact information for follow-up. Go ahead and ask for any contact information you still need. It shows you’re on the ball and focused on details.
3. Listen as though you can’t see. You will not have the benefit of visual clues (body language; eye contact). Try closing your eyes to block out any distractions. It will help you tune in and really listen to the caller. Another trick is to silently repeat a few sentences that the interviewer says (don’t do this for more than a minute or two). This silent-echo technique will help you focus on what’s being said. Remove background noises before the call—kids, phones, music and outside noises.
4. Tune in to how you sound. Because you don’t have the advantage of face-to-face visual clues like smiling, eye contact or nodding your head to show you are listening, use an occasional “I see” or “I understand” or “Go on” to indicate that you’re listening carefully. If you need a moment to think of an answer, that’s okay. But instead of having dead air, say something like, “That’s an interesting question.” Pay attention to how you come across.
Try recording your voice on the call to hear what others hear. Listen for pitch, volume and attitude. Try smiling when you talk to add enthusiasm and friendliness to your voice.
Monitor your pace. Think about shortening the length of your responses a bit for phone interviews. If you tend to be a talker, pull back so that you don’t dominate the conversation. Having a stopwatch or 2-minute hourglass in front of you might help.

5. Be prepared for their questions; and with your own.
Anticipate some of the frequently asked questions in phone interviews:

1. What are the top duties you perform in your current/most recent position?

2. What types of decisions do you frequently make in your current/most recent position? How do you go about making them?

3. How many years of experience do you have with _______ (the type of product/service you’ll be providing if hired for this job)?

4. How would you describe your ideal work environment?

5. Why are you leaving your current employer? Or Why did you leave your last employer?

6. What do you know about (or expect from) this position?

7. What do you know about our company?

8. How does this position fit into your long-term career plans? OR Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?

9. Why are you the best candidate for this position?

10. When would you be available?

11. Is the salary range for the position within your acceptable range?

12. What questions do you have?

You probably won’t have time to ask many questions in a phone interview, as the interviewer is often more interested in confirming facts than establishing a relationship. However, there are a few key questions that will help you understanding the position:
1. How would you describe the ideal candidate for this position?

2. What are the top-priority projects or initiatives for this position in the next 30 days? 60 days? 90 days?

3. How does this position fit into the company’s long-term plans?

Note that there are NO questions about salary or benefits. At this stage, you want to focus on how you can contribute value to the organization. Listen carefully to the interviewer’s description of the company and the position. Continue to think in terms of “it’s about them; not me”.

6. Use your SMART Stories. Have your SMART Stories internalized and on hand. Interviewers will be impressed with concise and specific responses to questions. Make sure you cover the “R” in SMART – providing results will definitely set you apart from your competition. It answers the metrics of the “So what?” and “Make me care!” thoughts in each interviewer’s mind.
7. Anticipate surprise. You may be asked unexpected questions, or even be asked to participate in a role-play. If you need a moment to think on your feet, fill in the gap by repeating some of the interviewer’s instructions. For example, “Sure; let me review the scenario so that I’m clear on what you’re describing.” And then repeat a few of the steps.
8. Take notes. Note-taking helps you remember the specifics of your conversation and helps you come across as a great listener. Bonus: When you get to the subsequent face-to-face interview, bringing up important points from your prior notes continues to create a great impression that you’re motivated, in control and engaged.
9. Grab an opportunity to move to the next phase. When the interviewer asks a particularly important question, respond with a request for a face-to-face meeting. “That’s an important question, and one that I could answer more fully in person.” And if appropriate, “I have some interesting information that addresses that matter. Is it possible to set up a meeting on Wednesday or Thursday?”

If this type of opportunity does not present itself, make sure and close with a thank-you. Interviewers are typically busy people with a full plate. Thank the interviewer for taking time from a hectic schedule to speak with you. And ask with confidence what next steps will be, say that you are excited about moving forward. And of course, don’t forget to send both an email and hand-written thank-you note.

Any telephone conversation with a networking contact, recruiter or employer should be considered an interview. Remember the mantra, “It’s about them, not me.” Translation: think from the employer’s perspective and filter every situation with the question, “What does the employer need from me as a candidate and how can I meet their needs?” This focus on what the employer needs is the secret to being less self-conscious and more relaxed through the phone interview—and overall screening process. It’s a conversation and collaboration—not an interrogation! Here’s to you getting on the short list!

9 SMART Tips for a Successful Telephone Interview Part 2: During the Call

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Interview Questions you must prepare for.

Posted by | 2014-01-28 | Interview Tips

No two situations are ever exactly the same, but as a general guide, these are the types of questions that could come up in a typical interview.

1. Why don’t you tell me about yourself?

This question, often the interview opener, has a crucial objective: to see how you handle yourself in unstructured situations. The recruiter wants to see how articulate you are, how confident you are, and generally what type of impression you would make on the people with whom you come into contact on the job. The recruiter also wants to learn about the trajectory of your career and to get a sense of what you think is important and what has caused you to perform well.

Most candidates find this question a difficult one to answer. However, the upside is that this question offers an opportunity to describe yourself positively and focus the interview on your strengths. Be prepared to deal with it.

There are many ways to respond to this question correctly and just one wrong way: by asking, “What do you want to know?” You need to develop a good answer to this question, practice it, and be able to deliver it with poise and confidence.

The right response is twofold: focus on what interests the interviewer, and highlight your most important accomplishments.

Focus on what interests the interviewer

Do not dwell on your personal history–that is not why you are there. Start with your most recent employment and explain why you are well qualified for the position. The key to all successful interviewing is to match your qualifications to what the interviewer is looking for. You want to be selling what the buyer is buying.

Highlight Important Accomplishments

Have a story ready that illustrates your best professional qualities. For example, if you tell an interviewer that people describe you as creative, provide a brief story that shows how you have been creative in achieving your goals.

Stories are powerful and are what people remember most.

A good interviewee will memorize a 60-second commercial that clearly demonstrates why he or she is the best person for the job.

2. How long have you been with your current (or former) employer?

This is a hot-button question if your résumé reflects considerable job-hopping. Excellent performers tend to stay in their jobs at least three to five years. They implement course corrections, bring in new resources, and, in general, learn how to survive–that’s why they are valued by prospective employers.

If your résumé reflects jobs with companies that were acquired, moved, closed, or downsized, it is still viewed as a job-hopper’s history. Volunteer and go to events where hiring authorities may be found. Ratchet up your networking to include anything that exposes you to hiring authorities who can get past your tenure issue because now they know you. Your networking efforts have never been so important.

3. What is your greatest weakness?

An impressive and confident response shows that the candidate has prepared for the question, has done serious self-reflection, and can admit responsibility and accept constructive criticism. Sincerely give an honest answer (but not a long one), be confident in the fact that this weakness does not make you any less of a great candidate, and show that you are working on this weakness and tell the recruiter how.

4. Tell me about a situation where you did not get along with a superior.

The wrong answer to this hot-button question is, “I’ve been very fortunate and have never worked for someone I didn’t get along with.”

Everyone has had situations where he or she disagreed with a boss, and saying that you haven’t forces the recruiter to question your integrity. Also, it can send out a signal that the candidate is not seasoned enough or hasn’t been in situations that require him or her to develop a tough skin or deal with confrontation.

It’s natural for people to have differing opinions. When this has occurred in the past, you could explain that you presented your reasons and openly listened to other opinions as well.

5. Describe a situation where you were part of a failed project.

If you can’t discuss a failure or mistake, the recruiter might conclude that you don’t possess the depth of experience necessary to do the job. The recruiter is not looking for perfection. He or she is trying better to understand your level of responsibility, your decision-making process, and your ability to recover from a mistake, as well as what you learned from the experience and if you can take responsibility for your mistakes.

Respond that you’d like to think that you have learned something valuable from every mistake you have made. Then have a brief story ready with a specific illustration.

It should conclude on a positive note, with a concrete statement about what you learned and how it benefited the company.

6. What are your strengths?

Describe two or three skills you have that are relevant to the job. Avoid clichés or generalities; offer specific evidence. Describe new ways these skills could be put to use in the position you are being considered for.

7. How do you explain your job success?

Be candid without sounding arrogant. Mention observations other people have made about your work strengths or talents.

8. What do you do when you are not working?

The more senior the position, the more important it is to know about the candidate’s qualities that will impact his or her leadership style: is the person well adjusted and happy, or is he or she a company zealot?

Discuss hobbies or pursuits that interest you, such as sports, clubs, cultural activities, and favorite things to read.

Avoid dwelling on any political or religious activities that may create conflict with those of the interviewer.

9. Why did you leave your last position?

At high levels, issues that relate to personality and temperament become more important than they might otherwise. The recruiter wants to know if you will fit in with the client company. The recruiter may also be fishing for signs of conflict that indicate a potential personality problem.

Be honest and straightforward, but do not dwell on any conflict that may have occurred. Highlight positive developments that resulted from your departure, whether it was that you accepted a more challenging position or learned an important lesson that helped you to be happier in your next job.

10. Why do you want to work in this industry?

Think of a story to tell about how you first became interested in this type of work. Point out any similarities between the job you’re interviewing for and your current job. Provide proof that you aren’t simply shopping in this interview. Make your passion for your work a theme that you allude to continually throughout the interview.

Adapted from Heads: Business Lessons from an Executive Search Pioneer by Russell S. Reynolds, Jr., with Carol E. Curtis, ©2012, McGraw-Hill Professional; reprinted with permission of the publisher.