1. Select a Reputable Company – this goes without saying, however when you’re buying online, you need to do your research. Make sure the company you select has a reputable brand. Research their website, and view their Resume writer’s profiles or biographies. Read customer testimonials and evaluate their communication with you once you make your enquiry. If they are not responsive and prompt in that first encounter then don’t expect results down the track.
2. Work With Your Resume Writer – once you’ve engaged a writer, don’t just sit and wait. The process should be collaborative. While the Resume writer has the skills and expertise to write, you have the in depth knowledge of you! You need to be involved in the process from start to finish, providing as much information as you can to give your writer insight into what you’ve achieved in the past so they can craft a Resume that stands out. Your writer also needs to understand the direction you would like to head in so providing them with examples of jobs that appeal to you is also a good idea. Resume Writers can do wonders with your job applications, but they aren’t magicians. Work with them to ensure success.
3. Trust Your Writer – while it is OK to ask for input from colleagues, friends and family, you are paying a professional to write your new Resume and you need to trust them to do a great job. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone say, “my friend had a look at it and said it should include X”. Really? Why didn’t they write your Resume for you? I can’t speak for other companies in the industry, but I know that my colleagues have literally hundreds of years experience between them in recruitment, human resources, and corporate/professional writing roles. They’re the experts and they work with each and every client individually to ensure the best possible outcome.
4. Don’t be Modest – leave your modesty at the door. Resumes that stand out are those that clearly articulate the value the candidate will bring to the hiring company. This means going back to number 1 and working with your Resume writer to bring out all the achievements you’ve made in your career to date. Most people struggle to articulate their own achievements and that’s OK – your writer should be able to help you uncover those nuggets of gold. It’s always valuable to use quantifiable statements, such as dollars, savings, increases, percentages etc., however if that truly isn’t possible, you need to think about other areas where you have excelled – whether you have been promoted, received an award, implemented a new process or improved an outcome. You need to think long and hard about anything you did in your work that made you feel good, that you received good feedback on, or that you still feel proud of.
5. Don’t Focus on the Format – appearance matters and you need to ensure your writer uses a professional looking template, however if you’re focusing too much on the design component of your Resume, you won’t achieve the best results. Content and the order in which your content is presented, is what is most important to ensure your message cuts through. Photos and fancy design components are not necessary to stand out in Australia (unless of course you are a model or actor in which case you do need a photo!).
Remember that the process should be collaborative, but you need to trust your writer to produce the best possible result for you since they are the expert. Have you had any experience with Resume Writing Services? How did you ensure the best possible result?
Are you interested in getting assistance from a professional resume writer to prepare a winning Resume for your next job application? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services.
When I was made redundant several years ago, I had a great job that I loved and a baby on the way. At six months pregnant no one wanted to hire me for similar roles to what I had been doing, so I had to re-think. I’d been planning on taking 12 months maternity leave anyway, so was lucky I had some breathing space to work out what I needed to do. Taking charge of your career and ensuring you do everything in your power to remain competitive is a great New Year resolution but where do you start? Here are 6 tips to help you on the way:
1. Update Your Resume – have a new Resume ready to go and don’t wait until you’re ready to apply. I encounter many clients who come across the perfect job, get approached by a company who wants to see their resume, or even get made redundant out of the blue. They then have to rush the process of updating or creating a new Resume. Update your resume today and make sure you keep it updated for the future.
2. Don’t be Bashful – employers want to know what you’re good at and what you can do for them. It’s no point being self-conscious when you’re talking about yourself. You need to be prepared to discuss your achievements in a way that resonates with potential employers, so they want to hire you. Your achievements don’t always have to all be quantifiable with $ or numbers, but they need to be accomplishments that made a difference to your company’s performance and they need to be clearly articulated in your job application. Make a note every time you achieve something you’re proud of or receive some positive feedback – that way, when you go to update your resume or have an upcoming interview, you’ll have the information on hand.
3. Think About Change – why do you want to change jobs? It’s no point thinking “I don’t like my job, so I’ll get a new one”. Put some thought into the areas that make you unhappy and what you most enjoy doing, then seek out roles and companies that can provide more of the latter.
4. Keep Learning – are you learning new skills in your current role? If you’re not, you need to work out how you can. We all need to continuously learn to ensure solid future career prospects. If your work environment doesn’t provide that opportunity, then you need to take it upon yourself to enrol in courses, take up volunteer work, or offer to take on more (different) tasks and responsibilities in your current role. Learning new skills can also help you take your career in a different direction if that’s what you’re aiming for.
5. Research – even if you are not actively seeking a new job, you should regularly search job sites and other avenues to see what’s out there. As a Resume Consultant, I advise people to mould themselves to the jobs they want to achieve, not where they are right now. By understanding where you want to be in the future, you can take action now to achieve that. This could be taking on new responsibilities and tasks as mentioned in TIP number 4, starting some study or completing short courses, or networking outside of your company to foster relevant contacts. By understanding what companies are looking for in the roles you want to achieve, and ensuring you develop those skills and expertise, you will be better placed to achieve results when the time comes.
6. Build Your Network – use LinkedIn and create a high quality professional profile. Connect with people inside and outside of your current company, interact with others, participate in online forums, share information, answer questions, post links, and follow companies you’d like to work with. You need to build your networks and credibility within those networks because research shows that word of mouth and professional networks are fast becoming one of the primary sources of new hires.
Take action today and every day to ensure your career remains firmly within your control, and more importantly that you are perfectly placed to take advantage of any opportunities as they arise.
Would you like help from a Career Advisor to take charge of your career in 2014? If so, please see our Career Coaching Services.
There have been countless studies and research projects conducted to try to discover the secret to happy employees. In recent years, it has become huge business, as companies recognise the significant benefits that come from achieving a positive workplace with happy employees. Apparently almost every business metric that can be measured (e.g. productivity, profitability, customer satisfaction, absenteeism, safety etc.) can be directly impacted by how happy the employees are. So, it’s in an organisation’s best interests to make sure its employees are happy.
Despite this, many people we speak to are unhappy at work. No matter what the study, happy employees tend to be those that enjoy what they do and feel valued and recognised by their employer as doing a good job. It’s a well known fact that well managed organisations who trust and support their employees to do their jobs are the ones with the happiest employees. However, there are many organisations out there that just aren’t achieving that balance. There are several factors that you have control over. Here are some tips to help you achieve more happiness at work:
1. Avoid negativity – choose to be happy rather than down. Instead of dwelling on negative aspects of your work or things you can’t change, focus on what you like. Avoid negative people, find colleagues you like spending time with and don’t get involved in negative conversations or gossip. Greet and smile at everyone you encounter and you’ll be surprised at how many of your smiles are returned.
2. Do something you like every day – you want to be happy in your work so 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! Identify aspects of your job you love, and skills and interests that inspire you. Think about how you can be even better at what you do. Approach your superior with suggestions on how you might be able to incorporate more of these aspects into your day to day work.
3. Be Organised – arrive a little early so you don’t have a rushed start to your day. Plan your day and only make commitments you can meet. A common cause of unhappiness at work is missed deadlines which causes unnecessary stress and worry. By planning your workload, checking your diary, and making daily ‘to do’ lists, you’ll be less likely to miss deadlines. And make sure you factor in some time for breaks – they’ll re-energise and invigorate you and help you feel more positive.
4. Ask for Feedback – the happiest employees are those that feel their contribution matters. You can’t change what you don’t know, so if you don’t receive regular feedback on your work, ask for it. You could also ask customers and colleagues for feedback as well as your boss. Chances are you know how you’re performing but you just want acknowledgement – it’s a proven driver of workplace happiness.
5. Improve your workspace – think about how your space could be more pleasant. Keep your desk tidy and invest in some accessories to help you stay organised. Personalise your space with photos, flowers, a plant, and positive affirmations – anything that contributes to making you feel happy and positive.
6. Continue to learn and grow – take responsibility for your continuing education and professional development. If your company supports you by paying for courses and giving you time off, take advantage. If they don’t – do it anyway – you are the one with the most to gain from continuing to develop professionally so take charge and make investing in training a priority.
7. Know what’s going on – seek out the information you need to do your job well. Some companies are great at communicating information about the company, department and current projects being worked on – others aren’t so good. If your company is one of the latter then develop your own networks and use them to find out what you need to know.
8. Make plans – if all else fails, it might be time to start thinking about a career move. There’s nothing like planning your exit to make you smile. But don’t compromise your future by not giving your best. If you come across as happy and committed you’ll be more likely to receive a complimentary and positive reference when the time comes.
Remember, you are responsible for your own destiny. If you’re feeling unhappy at work, there are many things you can do to feel more positive and happy.
Are you feeling unhappy in your work? Would you like career advice from a Career Coach to help you plan your next career move? If so, please see our Career Counselling Services.
1. Establish a plan: today’s job market is not only competitive, it’s also very complicated. There are many avenues you need to tap into – including advertised and unadvertised job markets. You need to be organised and you also need to find and apply for all the positions you may be suitable for. A detailed plan will help you do this. See my previous article Winning Job Search Strategies for detailed tips on developing a structured job search strategy.
2. Update your LinkedIn Profile: include comprehensive content and make sure you keep it updated. Recruiters are using LinkedIn more and more to search for candidates, so it’s also important to optimise your profile with keywords, so that you can be easily found. Make sure to include a current professional photo, and try to update every section with as much detail as you can. Many people don’t include a summary, and this is a mistake. Use the summary to introduce yourself – give an overview of your key skills, experience and strengths to provide readers with a sense of who you are and the value you could bring to an organisation. Inject some personality into your LinkedIn profile – it doesn’t need to be as formal as your Resume content. Use LinkedIn to research recruitment consultants and HR managers from companies you’d like to target. Join relevant groups, follow companies you’d like to work for, and connect with others in your industry.
3. Tailor Your Resume and Cover Letter: we strongly recommend writing a customised cover letter for every job you apply for making sure to address as many ‘job requirements’ as you can. We also recommend tailoring your Resume to suit each role. This may simply require a reordering of key skills, highlighting a particular achievement, or de-emphasising points that may not be relevant. Review the job ad, or even better the detailed job description, and ensure that if you have the experience or skills they are asking for, it’s well highlighted and easily understood.
4. Prepare for an Interview: the biggest mistake you can make when searching for a new job is not preparing for the interview. Research the company you are interviewing by reviewing their website and latest news headlines as well as checking their LinkedIn and/or Facebook pages so you know what’s going on in their world right now. Prepare some relevant questions about the company and the role. Ensure you dress appropriately, arrive on time (or a little early), think about the questions they might ask and practice your responses, listen to the interviewer’s questions and answer as succinctly and clearly as possible. See my previous article 5 Things You MUST DO to Prepare for an Interview for more tips.
5. Network: think about who you know and who you might be able to connect with. Let your network know you are seeking new opportunities. Remember there are many different ways to connect with your network so use them all – phone calls, emails, Facebook, LinkedIn, face to face and online networking groups. Seek out relevant professional associations and networking groups – attend seminars and connect with people in your industry.
Remember, today’s job market is highly competitive and complex so you need to be organised and prepared in order to succeed. There are many avenues to pursue, so plan your strategy to make sure no stone is left unturned.
Would you like help from a Career Advisor to develop a winning resume, detailed job search strategy, or update your LinkedIn profile? Perhaps you’d like to get help with your interview preparation. If so, please see our Resume Writing Services, Career Coaching Services and LinkedIn Profile Writing Services.
Branding has long been synonymous with large companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, IBM, Nike, Coca Cola, Amazon and McDonalds – they’re valuable brands whose logos and image are recognised globally. These companies, and others, are all experts at ensuring their prospective customers recognise the value they hold in providing a solution to a problem or in addressing a particular need.
It’s thought that personal branding was first defined when Tom Peters (a leading American writer on business management practices, best known for co-authoring the book titled ‘In Search of Excellence’) wrote an article called “The Brand Called You” in 1997. In this article, he talked about how everyone is a brand with a chance to stand out. Tom Peters is quoted as saying “Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”
Since then, the concept has increased in popularity and in recent years has become even more prominent as the economy has tightened and competition for jobs intensified. A personal brand can be more simply defined as how other people see you – their perspective on what you offer in your field of expertise or what you’re best known for.
Personal branding relies on you having an in depth understanding of your strengths, skills, passions, and values, then using that information to stand out from your competitors. To develop yourself as a brand isn’t easy, especially if you’re not a natural marketer. Start by working out what makes you unique. To build a strong personal brand, you need to get your story straight in terms of what you offer. Think about achievements you have made and the things you do that make you stand out. Do you have any special skills that set you apart? What would your clients, superiors and colleagues think were your key strengths? Put it all together into a comprehensive statement about you – your brand positioning. Then, just like large companies make significant efforts to maintain consistency with their brand messaging across all avenues of communication, you need to do the same.
Here are some tips to help you build your personal brand:
- Use LinkedIn – create a high quality professional profile and keep it updated. Optimise your content for search engines, change your URL to represent the best combination of your first and last name (search on vanity URL for instructions to do this), get as many recommendations and endorsements as you can to build credibility, join groups, participate in discussions, answer questions, interact with your clients and colleagues, post updates and links that position yourself as an expert in your field.
- Network – build and maintain contacts inside and outside of your current company so your brand achieves optimum visibility.
- Start a Blog – it provides a great way to share information as well as initiating two way conversations with your target audience. Write regular, short articles on your area of expertise and promote them through your website and/or social media. Blog articles help people better understand your value – what you’re good at and what you’ve achieved for others and when people like what they read, they usually share it with their own networks.
- Participate in Online Forums – seek out relevant online forums and participate regularly by answering and posting questions. A great way to find forums that are relevant to you is to do an online search for questions you often get asked in your line of work.
- Use Social Media Wisely – especially your personal pages – think about your brand every time you post. Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable seeing in your Resume or on your personal LinkedIn page.
- Be Consistent – make sure your written Resume, Cover Letter and any online content is all consistent with your personal brand.
- Use Twitter – to position yourself as an expert, comment, post, and link to interesting articles or announcements that relate to projects or other aspects of your work, to demonstrate the value your brand offers.
- Keep Up To Date – stay abreast of the latest news in your field and maintain all your social media sites so they are consistent and up to date with all your achievements and current activities.
In today’s competitive job market, you need to start thinking of yourself as a brand and ensure that brand shines through all your communications – including your Resume, your social media and any other online content.
Would you would like help from a Career Coach to identify your unique value and create a professional Resume or online presence? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services, LinkedIn Profile Writing Services and Career Counselling services.
You will usually be asked questions you may find difficult to answer in an interview. We have talked before about taking time to effectively prepare for an interview by researching the company, preparing possible interview questions and practicing appropriate responses. Interview questions vary depending on the role, industry, company culture, seniority, and what’s expected of you. Many recruiters will take the opportunity to incorporate difficult or uncomfortable lines of questioning in order to put you under pressure. How you handle this pressure provides them with a great insight into your true capabilities and if not handled well, may cost you the job.
Whilst these difficult questions can be challenging, they also provide you with an opportunity to demonstrate your suitability for the role, as well as your ability to perform well under stress. If you take the time to prepare for these difficult questions, you’ll be far more confident at the interview.
An important way to prepare answers is by brainstorming situations you’ve been involved in to demonstrate your point. Interviewers often use behavioural based questions which focus on your past behaviour to determine potential future success. These questions can be applied to many different areas and they help the interviewer analyse how you’ve handled situations in the past. We recommend using the S.T.A.R. model (read more about that here) to brainstorm examples and develop suitable responses. I’ve provided six tricky interview questions that are commonly disliked amongst candidates:
1. What is your greatest strength? Many candidates feel uncomfortable talking about themselves in a positive way. You need to remove that barrier and remember this is a job interview. This is your chance to stand out so focus your answer on areas relevant to the role. Talk only about work related strengths and don’t just say (for example) “I’m really organised”. Tailor your response to fit the role and use a specific example that supports your point.
2. What are your weaknesses? Don’t reveal your worst weaknesses – instead prepare two or three minor work-related flaws. There are different approaches to take with this one. You could choose something that doesn’t matter for the role, identify a weakness that could be seen as a positive, or use a fault you are working to improve. The important point is to answer honestly and remain positive. If there is an obvious gap in your experience or knowledge, you could use that as your weakness and address it directly by saying something like “I’m aware of my lack of experience in this industry, so I’ve done some research online and spoken with some of your competitors. I am confident I can learn everything I need to know in a short time frame and quickly become an asset to the organisation.”
3. Why are you leaving your current job? Stay positive and don’t criticise your current or previous boss or company. Talk about new challenges/responsibilities, career progression, long periods in the same role having achieved significant success and the desire to develop new skills/knowledge. If you were made redundant, be honest and up front and say so, something along the lines of “Unfortunately the company had to downsize a number of roles including mine.” Practice your response so you don’t become emotional or stumble over your words – be brief and stay positive.
4. Tell me about a time you missed a deadline? (or something similar where you have to talk about a negative situation). It’s important to clearly explain what happened, then focus on the positives in terms of what you learnt and how you do things differently now. For example, you could talk about how you have improved your prioritisation and time management skills after missing a deadline.
5. Why should we hire you? Don’t just say “Because I’m great at what I do”. Think about your abilities, skills and accomplishments, match those to the job description and focus on why you’re a good fit for the role. Give examples and demonstrate success. Don’t forget to show interest in the company. For example, you could mention something about the opportunity the role offers to further develop some special knowledge you’re particularly interested in.
6. What do you like least about your current job/the people you work with? Again, try to think of something that may not apply to the role you’re applying for. Answer the question, but focus on the positives such as the fact that you stuck with it or learnt something new even though the task may not have matched your strengths. If you are asked specifically about individuals, never be negative – again remain positive and if you can’t think of something in a positive light, you could just say, “I get along with most people, and I don’t usually have problems developing good working relationships with colleagues.”
Remember, there are often no right or wrong answers with interview questions – the recruiter is simply trying to gain insight into the value you can bring to the organisation. No matter what the question, try to tailor your answer to suit the job you are applying for, always answer honestly, and remain upbeat and positive – that way the interviewer will gain a good sense of why you’d be a great fit for the job.
If you would like assistance from a Career Advisor to help you prepare for tricky interview questions and increase your success rate at interviews, please see our Interview Training and Coaching service.
Too much to do, with too little time to do it is an all too common complaint. We all need more time in our day, or so we think, but there are things we can all do to make better use of our time. Here are 10 tips:
1. Diarise everything – block out all your daily commitments in a diary (electronic or paper, whatever suits you) – include work and personal appointments; social engagements; children’s/family activities if they apply; and exercise or down time. You can see at a glance what your day looks like and how much time you’ve got to work with.
2. Track time – spend a day or a week recording what you do each day – then eliminate, delegate and consolidate. Eliminate anything that isn’t productive, delegate where you can, or consolidate tasks – often we do things that may not be 100% necessary.
3. Focus – I’m a big fan of multi-tasking BUT sometimes you need to just focus on one task at a time – try it and I guarantee your results and productivity will improve.
4. Plan your day – check your emails and write a ‘To Do List’ first thing (or last thing) every day. You can set this up as part of your electronic diary, or simply use a pen and paper. The important part is to highlight urgent tasks then plan your day before you start to ‘work’. Prioritising your work this way helps you work more proactively, and there’s something so satisfying about ticking off tasks as you complete them!
5. Establish routines – issues do arise so you need to be flexible, however if you follow set routines most of the time you will be more productive. If you have tasks that have to be completed every day, or most days, try to complete them at the same time.
6. Set time limits – for me, the Pomodoro Technique is fantastic (you can read more about it here). Even if you don’t study this technique, setting time limits for tasks is great for time management. You get stale if you work on the same thing for too long and sometimes coming back to it later helps you see things more clearly. This might sound like a contradiction to number 3 but the idea is that you should complete the task in the ‘time limit’, however don’t beat yourself up if you don’t – simply move onto your next task and feel your energy levels (and productivity) soar. This is also a good strategy for large projects or tasks you procrastinate about – break them into smaller chunks, set time limits, and just get it done.
7. Switch off – you don’t need to always be contactable. Turn your phone off to allow you to work uninterrupted and check/respond to email at certain times. I don’t answer my phone after 5.30pm, however I listen to messages and call back if it is urgent – usually it can wait until morning. Same goes for emails – most people don’t expect an immediate response every time. Closing email to work uninterrupted at certain times throughout the day will also boost your productivity.
8. File things – set up systems and create and follow rules and document naming conventions so you don’t waste time looking for them.
9. Don’t over promise and learn to say no! This can sometimes be difficult in a work situation, but setting realistic deadlines is an important part of good time management so try not to set yourself up for failure.
10. Know when you’re at your best – and take advantage of it. I know my energy levels are at their peak first thing in the morning so I schedule all my complex tasks for then. Work out when your peak is and get the ‘hard stuff’ done. Save the routine tasks for low-energy times.
Just do it! No matter how busy you are, you can always get more organised. Take some time to implement some (or all) of these tips and see if you feel like you have a little more time in your day.
If you have been struggling to find time to get your career on track, you may like to consider getting career advice from one of our experienced Career Coaches. For more information, please see our Career Counselling Services.
As a LinkedIn profile writer, I am aware that many people don’t understand the value of LinkedIn. They believe a copy and paste of their new resume content will suffice as profile content. Whilst this can be a good place to start, it’s not ideal. We always recommend taking the time to work out what you want out of LinkedIn and then optimising your profile to achieve that.
The goal of your resume is to get you an interview – you’re usually responding to a job that has been advertised and there is context in terms of your suitability for the role, past experience and relevant skills. LinkedIn is a bit different in that you could be discovered by someone as suitable for a role that you weren’t actually looking for.
The important thing to remember about LinkedIn is that recruiters and other senior decision makers regularly use LinkedIn to seek out suitable candidates for positions they need to fill. There are more than 1000 corporate customers in Australia paying to market and advertise to LinkedIn members and using LinkedIn’s Talent Services’ products which include:
- LinkedIn Recruiter to enable recruiters to search the membership base in a targeted way;
- LinkedIn Jobs to allow companies to post job ads and automatically target the most relevant candidates using LinkedIn’s matching algorithms and profile data;
- LinkedIn Careers pages which are created by member companies and tailored to showcase their employer brand and culture and ensure the right audience sees it. In addition, “Work With Us”, lets companies advertise on their employees’ profile pages to reinforce the brand with connections – using space that would otherwise carry a generic advertisement.
Your LinkedIn content should be different to your Resume and customised to maximise the opportunity to market you as a potential employee. Here’s a few tips on what’s different to get you started.
1. Tone – LinkedIn is a form of social media, so whilst it should always remain professional, you certainly can (and we recommend you do) inject a little more of your personality. The most important area to do that is in the Summary – this is where you can showcase your success, while creating your value and appealing to the recruiter. Make sure it’s warm and conversational – not too formal or stuffy. Depending on your professional background, you may want to inject a strong sense of your personality or not – that’s up to you but make sure you show your value and what makes you stand out as an ideal candidate.
2. Content – a Resume is a factual, more formal document whereas LinkedIn is more personable and should always be written in the first person. The content is more general since it needs to cater for a broader audience whereas resumes are usually tailored for a specific role or job application.
3. Ease of Reading – LinkedIn profiles need to be ‘web friendly’ – similar to website content, so short paragraphs and concise bullet points should be used – including the Headline (to separate each job title), Summary and Experience sections.
4. SEO – LinkedIn is an online tool and as such is subject to search engine optimisation (SEO). For those not in the know, SEO helps search tools ‘find’ you. If you’re using LinkedIn as a tool for people (whether that be employers, customers or recruiters) to find you, your profile should be optimised for search tools. Select the words you think recruiters will be looking for and use them wisely. Using up all the character limits in various sections may also help boost your profile SEO.
5. Value Add – one of the great things about LinkedIn is the ability to share your successes. By adding links in various sections you can draw people’s attention to different areas you’ve worked or successes you’ve had. You could include links to videos, presentations, publications, articles etc. and interact with others to have conversations. Ask questions, answer questions. Use it to engage your network and you will see the value flow.
If you are planning on using LinkedIn as a job search tool, you need to optimise your profile to ensure the best chance of success. Make sure you stand out from other candidates by highlighting your successes and the value you will bring to an organisation. Inject some personality, engage with the community, build your connections, and ensure your profile is keyword dense for SEO.
If you would like assistance from a LinkedIn Profile Writer to help you build a professional, keyword optimised profile that highlights your strengths and achievements and sets you apart from your competitors, please see our LinkedIn Profile Writing Services.
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.
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.