How To Answer Hard Interview Questions (2nd Edition)
FINDING THAT JOB
While the intention of this book is to provide you with great answers to tough interview questions, it would be remiss of me not to at least touch on the subject of job-hunting. After all, you either need to be actively looking for and applying for jobs or be the subject of a headhunting exercise before you can stun them with your carefully crafted answers!
Job vacancies fall into two camps: those that are advertised and are made available to the public (either the internal population of an organisation or the public at large) and those which are sometimes known as ‘hidden vacancies’ – those which are given to recruitment agencies, headhunters and the like, or those which are not yet advertised but you have made a speculative application for.
Did you know that it has been estimated that only around 15 per cent of available vacancies are actually advertised in newspapers or magazines? Newspaper advertising costs are verging on the prohibitive for many organisations these days. Even small-circulation, provincial newspapers can charge several thousands of pounds for one-off adverts in the ‘situations vacant’ section, so many employers are turning to alternative media such as the Internet. There are many well-known job sites in the UK such as TotalJobs.com, Reed.co.uk, Monster.co.uk etc. Most job sites will also allow you to register your search preferences and then e-mail you when jobs matching your selection criteria are posted.
However, many employers still like to place adverts in specialist publications such as trade and professional magazines in the hope that the specialist readership is more likely to elicit a greater response than the pot luck that is generic press advertising. Choose where you search for your next job carefully.
OK, so you’ve now seen an advert that has caught your eye and you are sure you want to apply. Firstly, does the advert say that applications are to be made by supplying a curriculum vitae plus covering letter or via application form? Lets look at some pointers for dealing with each of these.
Filling in your application form
- Once you receive it, take a copy or two of it to draft your responses. You will want the form that your prospective employer receives to be immaculate and not have any blots, rubouts or scribbles on it!
- Read all the instructions contained upon it carefully and comply with them.
- Do not be tempted to try to put a form through your computer printer and have your typed words line up into the boxes – it will take you forever!
- Never, ever, EVER write in any of the boxes ‘See enclosed CV.’ It is a guaranteed way to have your application rejected. Employers use these forms for a reason; they do not take too kindly to someone who is too lazy to be bothered to fill them in.
- Boxes on application forms tend to be small. Choose your words carefully. If the box simply is not big enough for what you want to tell them, attach a piece of plain paper with your script and refer to it on the form.
- When listing your previous employers, ensure there are no unexplained gaps.
- Try to adopt a positive attitude throughout the form. Stress achievements if you can.
- If you are asked to name referees, ensure that you have sought their permission first, or if you do not want them contacted until you’ve been made an offer, indicate this on the form.
- Once you are happy with your draft, transfer the detail to the original form. Always write application forms in your neatest hand and in black ink for preference as this photocopies well. Never use any other colour except black or blue inks.
- Once you have completed the form, photocopy it for your own records. You may wish to take it to interview with you to refer to.
- Draft a covering letter to go with your form. Keep it brief and always use the term ‘Dear Mr Smith’, or whatever the recruiter’s surname is. Don’t be tempted to use their forename, even if the advert has it on, as this is over-familiar. Never write ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ as it too demonstrates a lack of attention to detail.
I will leave it to you to decide on the style and content of your curriculum vitae. There are many sources which will advise you on these aspects. Here are some brief pointers:
- Use the best paper you can afford.
- Use only white or off-white paper.
- Do not use a fancy hard cover or binder.
- Use a simple font such as Arial and use the same font in your covering letter.
- Never use a generic covering letter. Be specific in its content by bringing out one or two elements of how you match what they are looking for. It is not just a wrapper for your CV!
- Your CV needs to get past that first 30 seconds after the recruiter has picked it up. Imagine yours is just one of 50 or 60 or more applications received. You want your professionalism to stand and not stand out because you’ve used bright yellow paper!
- Stress your achievements in your CV; not simply list your past employers and job titles.
- Comply with any instructions in the adverts such as supplying your current salary – you may wish to do this within your covering letter.
Imagine your delight, constant reader, when two weeks later you receive on lovely headed paper an invite to attend an interview for this potentially wonderful new job! That’s when your hard work really begins. In Chapter 2 I will explore what you need to be thinking about before you actually attend the interview.