Monthly Archives: May 2013

Questions to Ask in an Interview

Article by Belinda Fuller

Asking questions in an interview provides an opportunity to find out more about the role and the company, but it also gives you the opportunity to showcase your interest and stand out to the interviewer.

In most interviews, you will be asked if you have any questions. Asking no questions can be viewed in a negative light, so you need to come prepared. You can take a notebook containing questions into the interview if you need to. In fact some recruiters I’ve spoken to like candidates to bring notes to an interview (as well as take notes during the interview). Being equipped like this shows commitment, preparation and organisation skills – all positives for a potential employer.

Don’t worry if your prepared questions get answered during the course of the interview, just say something along the lines of “I did have a list of questions prepared, but thanks very much because you’ve answered all of them. I was interested to hear you talk about XYZ though, so can you tell me a little bit more about the impact that has on this role.”

In terms of the types of questions to ask, it really depends on the role and the company. Make sure you research the company and its competitors otherwise you may come across as uninterested. You may get asked “What do you know about us” or something along those lines, so researching for relevant questions will help you prepare an answer for that question as well.

In terms of your specific questions, view it as an opportunity to find out as much as you can about the company and role. Interviews are two way processes – it’s as much about you deciding if the role is right for you, as it is about the employer deciding if you are right for them. Some ideas to get you started:

  • Show Interest: Do your homework and find out about the company. Devise question(s) that relate to recent news or events. Start your question by saying “I read about XYZ and wanted to find out more.”
  • Training & Development: Ask about the company’s policy on training, development, workshops, seminars, conferences etc.
  • Strategic Plans: Ask about the company’s strategic plan, or better yet, have some idea from your research, and ask how it fits with this role/department.
  • Structure: Ask why the person is leaving the role OR for a newly created role, where has the work come from?
  • Performance Review: Ask about performance review processes, and whether there are any KPIs/targets upon which the role is evaluated. Find out what the role expectations are for the first 6 or 12 months.
  • Next Steps: Ask what will happen next, how long the decision is likely to take and whether you might be required for another interview.

I would strongly suggest not focusing your questions on benefits or hours but rather discuss the company, its strategic focus, general direction and/or competitive environment – and how that impacts the role you are applying for.

Remember, you should try to ask at least a few questions to show that you’ve come prepared and you are interested in the role and company. Listen carefully to the interviewer’s answer(s) and, if possible, devise further question(s) in order to expand.

If you are interested in getting help from an Interview Coach to help increase your success rate at interviews, please see our interview training and interview coaching services.

Do I Really Need a Cover Letter?

Article by Belinda Fuller

As a professional resume writer, I am often asked this question from clients. My experience indicates that many employers will not even consider candidates who do not include a cover letter with their application – it’s your chance to stand out from other applicants – so the answer is always a resounding YES!

Many clients come to us requesting a ‘general’ cover letter that addresses a variety of roles they would like to apply for in the future. Whilst this can be achieved, I can’t stress enough the importance of specifically targeting your cover letter to individual roles. I always advise clients to modify their cover letter to specifically suit each role they apply for and never just reuse the same letter.

It’s important that the recruiter immediately identifies with you as someone who could do their job well. This means you need to spend some time analysing the role you are applying for and matching the requirements to your own skills and experience.

Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be well on your way to making it to the top of the recruiter’s pile:

  1. Be Succinct – clearly and briefly (no more than one A4 page) highlight why you are an ideal candidate. Do take care not to be too brief though. Don’t simply state that you think you’d be great in the role and refer the recruiter to your attached resume. Provide an overview of your background, summarise the relevant parts of your resume, and identify yourself as perfect for the role.
  2. Cross Match Your Skills – Sit down with the job ad and/or position description and go through it in detail – work out where your strengths lie. Make notes on all the areas you’d like to focus on. Your cover letter should highlight applicable skills, experiences, qualifications, achievements, projects and general knowledge, then demonstrate (again briefly) how they match the specific requirements of the role.
  3. Add Value – Take the time to do some research into the company and mention why you would like to work for them – highlight similar roles you’ve held or companies you’ve worked for and how that experience might help you succeed in this role. Make sure you mention relevant achievements or projects.
  4. Request Contact – Always ensure your contact details are prominent on the cover letter and ask for an opportunity to discuss your experience / background further. Make sure you include your email address and mobile phone number at a minimum.

Don’t mention anything in the cover letter that isn’t mentioned in your resume and focus on ‘what’s in it for them’ – the employer needs to feel compelled to shortlist you for the job – so give them a reason to do so. Good luck!

If you are interested in getting assistance from a professional CV Writer to prepare a winning cover letter for your next job application, please see our CV Writing Services.

Getting Started With LinkedIn

Article by Belinda Fuller

Many job seekers come to us unsure about whether or not they need a LinkedIn profile. The fact is, many recruiters and employers now use LinkedIn extensively to source candidates. This includes advertising positions on LinkedIn as well as conducting proactive searches to find passive candidates. As well, many roles don’t even make it to recruiters with LinkedIn networks fulfilling them before they’re even advertised.

LinkedIn is not just useful when searching for a new job – when you join LinkedIn, you’re also gaining access to people, news, updates, and insights that will help you advance your career. You can exchange ideas with others in your industry and easily stay in touch with past colleagues and clients.

Since LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with over 200 million members around the world and more than 3 million members in Australia, we think it’s vital for candidates to have a strong profile written with relevant keywords in mind. Your LinkedIn profile needs to be easy to find by recruiters and interesting enough to get noticed by people within your immediate and extended network.

If you don’t have a profile yet, I suggest you join up. Try to complete as much information as you can – at a minimum ensure you have the following:

  • a photo – professional head and shoulders shot;
  • headline – use all the available characters to create your own personal brand;
  • summary – focus on who you are, what you do, key strengths, and what you offer employers;
  • education – include everything to provide more opportunities for connections;
  • roles – include as many as you can – again this provides opportunities for connections (as well as recommendations) – include specific detail for roles covering at least the past 10 years; and
  • skills & expertise – think broad here and include everything you want to be known for.

A few tips to get you started:

  1. If you’re looking for a new job, use a personal email address to sign up.
  2. Aim to achieve and maintain an ‘All Star strength’ profile – see the ‘profile strength meter’ on the right side of your profile for more information.
  3. Invite contacts to join your network – don’t be afraid to contact all your current and previous colleagues, managers, clients, classmates, friends etc. across all your business networks.
  4. Ask for recommendation(s) for every role held.
  5. Follow companies that interest you.
  6. Always keep your profile up to date.

There’s a whole raft of additional information that can be included in your LinkedIn Profile which is where you can start to add significant value. Join groups and interact with them, add interests, projects you’ve worked on, courses/certifications you’ve achieved, awards you’ve received, language skills, publications you’ve contributed to, articles you’ve written, and information on volunteering and causes where appropriate.

Remember, LinkedIn profiles are different to resumes. The content should be more general, concise and web-friendly. LinkedIn is your opportunity to create your own personal brand, so don’t be afraid to inject some personality.

If you need assistance from a professional LinkedIn Profile Writer to help you create a keyword optimised profile that highlights your strengths and achievements and sets you apart from your competitors, please see our LinkedIn Profile Writing Services.