Monthly Archives: August 2013

10 Common Interview Mistakes

Article by Belinda Fuller

Securing an interview these days can be tough. With increasing numbers of candidates applying for each role, it’s a very competitive market. Recruiters often use the interview to test candidates’ thinking and performance under pressure because people who can think quickly in business are an asset. The bottom line – if you want to succeed in an interview, you need to prepare.

Here are 10 top mistakes to avoid:

1. Arriving late or flustered – research where you’re going and how you’re getting there. If you’re catching public transport, catch the earlier service. If you’re driving, research parking options and, again give yourself some extra time just in case you encounter last minute problems. There is nothing worse than arriving flustered and red faced after running to make it on time or, worse still, arriving late. It really does give a bad first impression.

2. Dressing inappropriately – dress neatly and make sure you are well groomed – no thongs, shorts, t-shirts or revealing outfits. The actual attire may vary depending on the role, so it could be a suit and tie or business casual. Research the company and work out what would be expected.

3. Talking too much – there’s not much worse than a candidate who rambles without really saying anything. Ensure your answers are succinct and to the point. Research common interview questions and practice appropriate answers before hand, so you have an idea of what you might say in response to different questions.

4. Switching off – make sure you remain attentive. Concentrate on the interviewer and the questions they are asking. You only get one chance to impress, so make it count. If you find yourself becoming distracted, make a conscious effort to re-engage with the interviewer. Maintain eye contact, lean forward in your chair and sit up straight – don’t slouch or lean back. This will take more effort and concentration and help you to remain alert.

5. Not knowing your value – in an interview situation, you have to be prepared to talk about yourself. The whole process is about YOU and YOUR suitability for the role. Spend some time brainstorming strengths, weaknesses, recent projects, and accomplishments so when you are asked about yourself, you have something to say. Focus on achievements that you’ve made for your current or past employers and demonstrate how you’ve handled different types of scenarios you’ve encountered.

6. Not preparing for tough questions – you will more than likely get asked some tough questions so it’s a good idea to do some research, then prepare and practice appropriate responses. Questions usually focus on how you’ve handled various scenarios in the past and require clear thinking and succinct responses. There will often be multiple components to the question so try to address each area. Usually in these types of questions, there are no right or wrong answers – they’re designed to give the recruiter an idea of how you can think on your feet, and also a deeper understanding of the value you may bring to the organisation.

7. Not asking questions – this can make you appear uninterested. Research the company and role and put together a list of relevant questions. It’s acceptable to take some notes into the interview with you to refer to if you think you may forget. Ask questions about the role and the company and it will help you stand out as a highly interested candidate.

8. Not researching the company – there is no excuse not to know some facts about the company you are interviewing with. Research the company prior to the interview so when the recruiter asks what you know about the company you can appear interested and informed.

9. Being negative/low on energy
 – no matter how much you disliked your last job, boss or colleagues, this is not the time or place to discuss it. You should never criticise or undermine a past supervisor or company. The recruiter may get the impression that you’d be difficult to work with. Don’t come across as bored and uninterested – make the effort to show your positive and enthusiastic approach.

10. Asking about salary, hours, leave, and entitlements etc. too early – this should wait until at least the end of the interview or even until the recruiter raises it. This could also be raised during the next stage of the interview process.

Remember – you don’t get a second chance to impress at an interview. Be prepared to answer questions about yourself and your past that you may wish to put behind you! Preparation prior to an interview will help you feel more confident and will show in your performance.

If you would like assistance from an Interview Coach to help you prepare for job interviews, to overcome your nerves, build confidence and increase your success rate, please see our Interview Training service.

How to Nail Your Selection Criteria Responses

Article by Belinda Fuller

So, you want to apply for a position that’s asking you to address Selection Criteria. What next? More often than not, government positions will require you to address Selection Criteria. The number of individual criterion will vary from department to department and job to job, but there are usually at least four, sometimes up to 15 or 20. The length of your responses also varies, depending on the specific requirements for the position you are applying for. Some roles specify maximum word counts (usually per response), others specify total page limits for the entire response, while some leave it open. Make sure you take note of any limits, since your application could be rejected based on non-compliance with these specifications. If there are no limits, half to 2/3 A4 page is usually ideal. Although, more senior executive roles may need up to a page.

Here are four simple steps for answering Selection Criteria:

Step 1 – Understand what’s being requested
Read through the Selection Criteria in detail and understand what each one is asking for. The Job / Role Description or Statement of Duties will help you understand what’s required in terms of qualifications, experience and skills and this should help you shape your responses to the Selection Criteria. Take particular note of how the Selection Criteria are worded – you might need to have ‘well developed skills’ or ‘demonstrated capacity’, or ‘experience using’, or ‘knowledge of’ – you need to differentiate these requirements and understand that they all require a different approach. ‘Experience using’ requires a description of how you’ve used something to achieve a particular outcome or result, whereas ‘knowledge of’ needs a demonstration of your knowledge about a particular area.

Step 2 – State your claim
You will generally be required to respond in writing separately to each criterion using an example (or two) to demonstrate how you can claim you have the skill, knowledge or experience. The best way to do this is by providing relevant examples from past roles or study – but first up, you need to state clearly and concisely that you can meet the criterion and give a brief reason why you believe that. For example, “I have proven written and verbal communication skills, further developed in my current role over the past five years, where I have communicated in writing, face to face and over the telephone with a broad range of stakeholders including clients, the general public and senior executives.”

Step 3 – Support your claim
This is the most important part of the process and will usually require specific examples to back up your claim. We recommend using the STAR model to help present your examples in a solid cohesive manner. See my previous article Standing Out With the STAR Model for more detail on what STAR stands for and how to best write examples using this approach. Briefly, you should brainstorm for examples – remembering the specific language used in the Selection Criteria to pick the best ones. Ideally, examples should be recent and relevant. Think of as many as you can, before using STAR to flesh them out and provide the detail. Many clients I talk to can’t initially think of any relevant examples, however once we start talking about projects they’ve worked on or regular tasks/responsibilities, the examples flow. Think creatively, and talk to colleagues or supervisors if you can to generate ideas about what you might be able to use. Don’t forget to summarise and state the benefit/outcome/result of your approach. Provide a brief (one – two sentence) summary on how you feel you will contribute in the area.

Step 4 – Be critical when checking your work
Read over your work and check for spelling and grammatical errors. Be hard on yourself and determine if you’ve used the best possible examples to demonstrate your ability to meet the Selection Criteria. Go back and re-read the wording of each one and make sure you’ve addressed everything it’s asking for. Make sure your responses are accurate and honest – don’t exaggerate or misrepresent your role. Make sure you used positive language; and the examples are clear with no ambiguity regarding your role. If you ‘assisted’ or were ‘involved’ in something, it may be better to think of an example where you can actually say “I did this”. Try to use examples where you can say “I” and talk in the first person. That way there is no uncertainty from the reader that it was you implementing the project, carrying out the work, achieving the goals, or receiving the praise.

Most importantly – give yourself time. This process can be lengthy and you will achieve the best result by thinking through your experience, achievements and successes in order to present the best possible examples. Try not to leave it until the last minute and you will be more likely to succeed.

If you would like assistance from a professional resume writer to prepare Selection Criteria responses that help you get shortlisted, see our Resume, Cover Letter and Selection Criteria writing services.

How to Choose a Job You Love

Article by Belinda Fuller

Finding a job you truly love can be tough. What matters to me in terms of happiness with my work might be completely different to what matters to you, so trying to get a job at the cool company your friend works at might not be a great idea either. You need to find something that suits you – either as a building block for your long term career or as an opportunity you’re going to be comfortable with for now. Considering most of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work, it pays to make sure your next job is great! Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Don’t wait – the majority of people who move on are happy about their decision. If you’re unhappy in your job, make the decision to do something about it and then take action to make it happen. Don’t let your dissatisfaction with your work environment erode the enthusiasm and confidence that you’ll need to find a new one.

2. Focus on what you like rather than focusing on the negatives and the things you dislike about your current job. The goal here is that you want to be happy in your work right? That means avoiding what you don’t like doing will help to a point, BUT you need to be doing more of what you love! Think about the things you like doing and take notice of what you are naturally good at – try to think broadly here and don’t limit your options.

3. Don’t let lack of skills or experience hold you back – you may think you don’t have the right skills or experience to secure your dream job. If you’re looking to change careers altogether, there may be some investment in training and/or education required to make it happen. Don’t be daunted by this task. Break it down into manageable steps and if it means you’ll be happy in your work longer term, it’s worth it. Also, most people have a raft of transferable skills that they underestimate. Consider seeing a Career Counsellor to get an independent perspective. Career Counsellors are trained professionals who can help you find your passion and achieve your full potential in your career. They often use formal assessment tools to better understand where your interests, values and personality traits lie in order to identify the careers, industries and work environment that best suit you. Many people are amazed at the areas uncovered during these sessions.

4. Be realistic about time frames – finding a new job does take time and may take longer than you expect. The perfect job needs to be a two way fit, so having unrealistic expectations in terms of the time it’s going to take can get you down. Give yourself some time to achieve your goal and try to focus on the bigger picture while getting there.

5. Avoid basing decisions on salary and perks – this is difficult I know. Many people base their decisions on salary and/or perks of the job and wouldn’t dream of moving to a new job without a raise. I truly believe this is a mistake. Of course we all need money to live and most of us work to live, not the other way around, however there is a point at which we should say enough is enough. If you work in a highly paid job that you are truly unhappy in, it will take a toll on your health and general wellbeing. What is the point of that in the longer term? Feeling stressed and burnt out on a day to day basis will limit your chances of moving ahead anyway, so working out how much money you really need to live on might help you take a job with less stress and hours and more job satisfaction in the longer term.

If you’ve already lost your job, you may be feeling anxious about securing your next position and feel like you’re not in a position to wait for the perfect job. The period following a redundancy can be stressful, however it can also be a good time to take stock, re-evaluate your career options and look at new avenues to pursue. Start your job search quickly and try to allow yourself some time to achieve the perfect role, rather than becoming desperate and needing to take the first thing that comes along. Read my previous article about Surviving Redundancy for more tips.

Remember, finding the perfect job takes time and effort, you may need to develop some new skills, take some courses or enrol in more formal education along the way. If you’re in a stable job, you don’t have to leave until you’ve secured your next role – but don’t let the bad job you’re in bring you down emotionally to a point where you can’t secure your next role. There are many paths to different careers and jobs and you may benefit by talking to a professional.

If you would like help from a Career Coach to evaluate your options for a new job or if you’d like to better understand the career options that best suit your interests, values and personality, please see our Career Guidance and Career Coaching services.