Tips and ideas
Some of the simplest things can make a real difference to the outcome of your interview or assessment event. Here are a few tips and ideas that you can use to improve your performance.
With so many people applying for the same job, it's important to get your application right. Once the essential criteria, such as qualifications, degree type and classification, have been met then recruiters will look for reasons to screen people out. This may seem harsh but it's the only way to get to a manageable shortlist. You need to make sure you don't provide them with any reason to reject you at this stage.
- Use a business appropriate email address. If the one you use generally is rude, childish, or possibly offensive, get a new one to use for your applications.
- Check your spelling and punctuation. Write out your applications in Word first to spell check them and then cut and paste back into your application.
- Most companies will decline any candidate who submits an application with poor spelling or doesn't contain basic punctuation such as capitals at the beginning of sentences and full stops at the end.
- Keep to word limits for application questions.
- Companies will use this to assess your ability to express yourself clearly and concisely. If you go over the word limit this may reduce chances even if you meet all of the other criteria.
- Answer the application question that is being asked.
- If they want to know why you are interested in their company, than write about what aspects of the company interest you and link those interests back to you and your skills.
- Apply early; do not wait until the deadline as you may miss out. Many companies have a flexible deadline and as soon as they fill their assessment places they will close the application.
- There is also the view that if you are looking for proactive candidates, those who apply later in the process lack this skill and are more likely to get declined.
It's really important to research the company you are interviewing with. Companies will check and if you haven't put in the effort, it will count against you.
- Look on their corporate website, Google them and read the most recent articles so you are up to date with their activities.
- Give extra focus to the area of the business you are applying for.
- For example, if you are going for a marketing role, think about their brand, competitors and current campaigns. If you are going for an IT role, find out who their technology partners are, what software they use. All of this information is easily available on the Internet.
- Pay particular attention to Mission Statements, company values, programme information and 'About Us' sections on the website, as these can give you some insight into the key drivers of the organisation.
- Ask for information about the event itself. The worst they can say is no and as long as you ask politely, it wont count against you. Information that would be helpful includes;
- What competencies or behaviours will they be assessing?
- Is the interview competency based or will it focus on your CV?
- How many exercises will there be at the event and what are they?
Writing your CV is not a one-off activity. It needs to be updated and amended to deliver the information that is important to each company you apply to.
- Read the job specification carefully and pick out the requirements of the role and then make sure you not only include this in your CV but also make sure it is easy to find.
- For example, if a company is looking for graduates with a 2:1, put your degree classification toward the top of your information. If it is difficult to find or not included, employers will assume that you have not met that criteria.
- Keep the layout simple and easy to read, using bullet points rather than long paragraphs.
- Employers have to read a lot of CVs when they are recruiting and the easier you make it for them to find the information they are looking for the better the chance you will have.
- Make it relevant to the role you are applying for. Ensure that any personal statements you have fit the role and the industry you are applying for, rather than have one so generic that it could apply to any role at any company.
- Recruiters want to know you are interested in their organisation, so make specific links between your interests and their role.
- Check out www.myjobsplace.co.uk for free video CVs that you can direct potential employers to.
- Have a look at Innovate CV www.innovatecv.com to for innovative and easy to use CV templates that you can send out to employers.
Companies use telephone interviews to assess your communication skills as well as basic competencies prior to being invited to a face-to-face interview or assessment event. They will be scored against set criteria and will usually have a set time limit.
- When you book the telephone interview, ask questions to understand the process; how long it will take, who will be calling, what kinds of questions will they ask, as this information will help you prepare.
- Make sure you have a quiet place where you can do the telephone interview without being interrupted.
- Be on time for your phone interview. It may not be as formal as face-to-face interviews but you need to show that you are a professional. Even being 5 minutes late is a big deal and can leave a bad impression.
- Practice answering questions over the phone before you conduct the real interview, as it is a different experience than being interviewed in person.
- Accents can become harder to understand over the phone so speak clearly and make sure you have a pace that makes it easy for the interviewer to capture what you are saying as they will be taking notes.
Psychometric tests are standardised tests that recruiters use to measure different aspects of behaviour and personality. Recruiters use them to ensure that candidates meet benchmarks in key areas, such as numerical or verbal ability and they allow recruiters compare candidates in an objective way.
- Practice, practice, practice! There are a number of sites online where you can take practice tests to help develop your skills and confidence. Two leading sites are for both numerical and verbal aptitude tests are:
- For roles in the financial sector - http://www.efinancialcareers.co.uk/numerical_test.htm
- Read the instructions very carefully. Even if you have done a number of similar tests, there may be slight, but vitally important variations between them. Get clear on exactly what you are being asked to do and how they want you to do it.
- For example, you could sit one test where you rate your answers from best to worst with 1 being best and 5 being worst, in the next test this may get flipped and 1 may mean worst and 5 best.
- If you are taking an on-line test as part of your application, make sure you have the time and the right environment to do your best.
- Most are timed and once started cannot be stopped, so it's vitally important you don't get interrupted.
- Keep calm and remain confident in your own abilities. These tests are meant to be hard, to push you, to give insight to the depth of your abilities. This means that to pass you probably wont need to get everything right, just a percentage, and the benchmark for passing may be lower than you think.
Making a good impression
At assessment events and interviews you are being observed from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave. You need to remember that you are on show at all times and that potentially everything will be taken into consideration.
- Be on time. If you are not sure where you are going then leave yourself plenty of time to get lost. Factor in other issues that might be out of your control as public transport, traffic, poor weather and off site parking, to make sure you are not late.
- Be polite to everyone, from the receptionist who greets you to the other graduates at the event.
- Keep engaged, even during down times.
- Never take out your mobile and make texts or go on apps. Ask questions; be interested in the environment and the other people around you.
- Dress conservatively for most business environments, except for roles in fashion or design where you can get away with a more individual style.
- Bring a watch, even if you don't regularly wear one. At assessment events, many of the tasks are timed and it's important that you are able to keep time and pace yourself appropriately.
- Using your mobile isn't a good alternative as you may not be able to bring it into tests and you always run the risk of a call coming through at a crucial moment. Even if it is on silent it can still be distracting.
- Ask questions that show that you are interested in a career with the company.
- Ask about career progression, future opportunities and development.
- You can ask questions about the hours, salary and benefits such as holidays, but don't let this be the main focus of your questions, otherwise you give the impression that you are just looking for a job rather than a career.
Presentations can really highlight your skills within an assessment event, but they take preparation to make sure you get your information across in a clear concise manner.
- Call ahead to find out if what equipment will be available. Some companies will expect you to do the presentation without using PowerPoint slides so it's best to know before hand what to expect.
- In terms of timing, usually work to the rule of, 1 slide equals 1 minute of talking, so if you have a 10 minutes presentation then no more than 10 slides.
- Make sure you introduce yourself and your topic, do not just launch into the information.
- Talk to the assessors and not the slides, making eye contact throughout.
- Don't rely too much on notes, otherwise you aren't presenting you are just reading a prepared script. Use them for key facts and figures rather than all of your content.
- Ensure that slides or show material are readable. Avoid slides with too much content, inserted spreadsheets with lots of data that can't be seen or text that that is difficult to read.
Interviews are a central part of any assessment event. It is your opportunity to talk about yourself and what you have done in terms of education and work experience.
- Listen to the questions being asked and answer them, rather than the questions you might have prepared in your head.
- Interviewers will be working to a pre-set list of competencies and if you don't answer their questions, they won't get the evidence they need to match you to the role.
- Structure your answers so you describe the situation, then the actions you took and then what was achieved. Include in any learning's you made about yourself or your abilities.
- Be aware of your body position, as this will be assessed as well. Don't hunch over or slump back in the chair. Sit upright; be alert and attentive to what the interviewer is asking.
- Speak clearly and at a reasonable pace. If you speak too fast the interviewer will have difficulty listening to you as they also have to take notes and they may miss important things you have to say.
- Keep your hands either in your lap or on the table. You can use them to make gestures but keep them away from your face as it can be distracting to the interviewer.
- Allow the interviewer to finish speaking before you start to answer and maintain good eye contact while you are listening and speaking.
Companies use role-plays to assess how you work with other people on a one to one basis. There is a huge range of possible scenarios that include working with customers, staff issues, managing a meeting with either internal or external clients.
- Take the role-play seriously. You may not enjoy them but you need to keep in character, as it will generally count against you if you fall out of role.
- Get clear on what your role is. If you are taking a leadership role and you are being asked to solve a problem then don't defer your decision, as the assessors will be looking at how you handle the situation on your own.
- Make sure you introduce yourself and go through the general courtesies, such as asking the person to sit down and clarifying what the situation is.
- Ask questions to understand the issue in full rather than jump straight into solution mode.
- Think about what outcomes you are looking to achieve but be aware that the role player might have an agenda that you are not aware of.
- Summarize any conclusion or outcomes and ask if there is anything more that you can do before you finish.
Group exercises allow assessors insight in to how you interact within a group dynamic. It's not always about leadership, it may be about general team working or ability to influence an outcome, and so you will need to think about the task instructions.
- Take part and engage with the other candidates. If you don't, there will be nothing for the assessors to observe and you will get a low score for the exercise.
- Listen to others and don't talk over people. Don't allow others to drown you out either, and make sure you follow up your ideas if they get lost in the discussion.
- Add in your own ideas as well as build on the input of others.
- Be aware of the goal the group has been set and focus the group if they go off track.
- If you take on the role as a scribe, ensure that you continue to input your own ideas into the group.
- If you challenge someone's ideas then do so in a respectful manner and be careful not to come across as dismissive.
Written exercises can range from in-trays where you have to sort out key issues, to analysis of data or a situation. Treat it like an exam and use all of the exam skills that you have developed over the years while at school and university.
- Be aware of the time you have and set yourself milestones when organizing your answers so you don't get caught short.
- Read through the instructions and the material thoroughly to make sure you understand the outputs required.
- In your answers, don't' just say what you would do but also how you would do it. Make clear the actions you would take and thing about any key steps that need to be followed.
- Think about both short and long term solutions, to show that there is depth to your insights.
- Write clearly. If the assessors can't read your hand writing it doesn't matter how good your answer is you wont get a good mark if they can't understand what you have written.
For more tips and information on how we can help you achieve your career goals contact us today at:
T: 01335 300798