Where do you see yourself in five years? Avoiding interview cliches

“Where do you see yourself in five years time?” is one of the most infamous interview questions, yet it’s difficult to answer without resorting to dreaded cliches like “I just want to be doing something I enjoy”, or “I’m not really sure”.

Why are employers so keen on asking this? Probably because it’s one of those sneaky interview questions to which your answer can reveal much more than you might imagine: from whether you’ve got a solid career plan and know what you want to do, to how well you understand the position you’re applying for and how you define success.

For all these reasons, this question has a tendency of throwing interviewees into panic mode. Here are some pointers on what interviewers really want to hear:

Be ambitious, but realistic

Employers will always be attracted to ambitious candidates – after all, nobody wants an employee who feels apathetic about their job. That said, you need to be realistic in terms of how quickly you can rise through the ranks. For instance, if you say that you want to be leading a team of 20 within three years’ time, and this would only usually happen within a 10-year period in the company you’re talking to, you risk being perceived as a little arrogant and unprepared.

To avoid voicing wildly unrealistic aspirations, do your research. Search the company website and the LinkedIn profiles of current employees before your interview to look for any hints about how long members of staff have taken to progress.

Talk in terms of achievements and responsibilities

Another common mistake candidates make when answering this question is to talk about money or company perks. For example, “I want to be earning £50,000 or more, have a company car and a life-insurance policy.” In the vast majority of careers, perhaps with the exception of recruitment or sales, motivation to make large amounts of money or get company perks isn’t always going to be seen as an attractive quality. It will make an employer think you’re more interested in the things that come with the career they can offer, rather than the career itself.

Instead, your answer should focus on your professional development. Speak in terms of skills you’d like to acquire or ones you’d like to be using, qualifications you’d like to have completed or responsibilities you’d like to have.

Be specific, but flexible

Giving a vague answer to is another familiar faux pas. For example, “I’m not sure, five years is such a long time away. I could see myself working my way up in marketing, but I’m also interested in finance.”

Employers want to know that you know what you want. After all, hiring, training and developing people is an expensive business – if you’re going to leave in six months, your employer will have lost both time and money.

While you certainly shouldn’t lie about your plans, you can be less than candid if you’re considering several career options – only ever speak about your interest in the industry in which the company you’re interviewing with operates.

Although specific aspirations will be well received, rigidity in your ambitions won’t be, so choose your phrasing carefully. Rather than saying, “I need to have been promoted within a maximum of three years and I’ll be really disappointed if I’m not working with high profile clients in five years’ time”, you could say, “I’d like to have more responsibility in the next three to five years, ideally I’d be working on some of this company’s fantastic high profile accounts.” The first answer implies that if the company can’t fulfil your ambitions, you’ll be dissatisfied, while the second answer suggests a little more compliance on your part.

Talk about your professional, rather personal, ambitions

Unless an interviewer specifically asks you to comment on your personal ambitions, the safest option is to avoid mentioning them altogether. Saying that you want to be captain of your local tennis team, to have visited Japan or that you hope to be married with two children may not be well received. Employers want to hear about where you see your work self in five years’ time, anything else is irrelevant and can make you seem unprofessional and ill-prepared.

Emphasise the value you can bring to the organisation

While at first glance the five years question seems like it is probing your ambitions and wants, you should never miss an opportunity in an interview to subtly emphasise what you can do for your potential employer. It can be shrewd to end your answer with something like: “Overall I want to be making a marked difference to X of your company, helping to secure and add to its current reputation as a leader within Y and contributing to the company’s overall growth and success.”

Originally published at: https://jobs.theguardian.com/article/where-do-you-see-yourself-in-five-years-avoiding-interview-cliches/

Does Your CV Pass The 30 Second Speed Test?

There are very many things that can be completed within 30 seconds. You could butter a slice of toast and eat it. You could read an email and reply. You could even run up and down a flight of stairs twice. However, it is a safe bet that most of the big decisions you make in life usually take time and consideration. So, when you think about the importance of a CV, it may be a source of great frustration that most recruiters make a decision on calling someone to interview in less than 30 seconds. That is less time than it takes to read this paragraph.

Even 30 seconds may be overstating it…

In fact, even 30 seconds may be overstating how long is spent on average reading a CV. According to research carried out by The Ladders.com in 2012, the average time spent reading a CV was just 6.25 seconds.  And to think, all those hours spent honing your finely crafted CV! But whether it is 30 seconds or 6, the message is clear: you have only a very short window of opportunity for your CV to work its magic.

A 2-page CV is ideal

Certainly, with just seconds to work with there is clearly no point in writing pages and pages of detail. Giving yourself a 2-page format helps to focus the mind. It gives you a concise framework from which to work with and decide what information to include and what to leave out. With every piece of information, you should ask yourself ‘is this going to positively influence the reader in making a decision on calling me to interview?’. If the answer is not a ‘yes’ you can probably leave it out.

Engage the reader immediately

It is vital to capture the attention of the reader quickly. The first thing a recruiter wants to see is the relevance of your CV. So make sure you position yourself clearly in line with the role being applied for in the Professional Profile at the beginning of your CV. This is why a Professional Profile can be really useful. It can act like an on/off switch. A focused profile that shows your relevance will switch the reader on. A generic profile that is not aligned to the job being applied for may switch the reader off.

Make your CV easy to navigate

Make sure your section headings stand out so that the CV is easy to navigate. Recruiters like to scan the CV so make the information accessible. Use bullet points to help statements stand out and don’t justify the text. There is nothing a time stretched recruiter hates to see more than a big block of black ink. They may read the first line if you are lucky.  And most of the really important information is probably going to be buried deep somewhere within the paragraph block.

So give your CV the 30 second litmus test. If you can read the key parts of your CV in under half a minute, then you might just stand a good chance of catching a potential employers eye.


Originally published at: https://jobs.theguardian.com/article/does-your-cv-pass-the-30-second-speed-test-/

Dealing With A Diverse Work History On Your CV

When hiring managers spend increasingly less time reading CVs, you need to join up the dots for them and quickly demonstrate that you’re a strong candidate. This isn’t too difficult if you’re applying for a similar role or in the same sector, but it’s more challenging if you’ve had a number of different jobs, if you’re changing career, or if you’re going back to a role or sector you previously worked in.

Here are some ways you can make sense of diverse experience:

Tailor your CV to the role

Your CV should not be a list of everything you’ve done. It’s purpose is to position you for the role, so decide what’s most important and delete unimportant details.

You might need to refocus your history to make it more appropriate. For example, if your previous job was in administration, with additional sales responsibilities, and you now want to move into sales, you can write in your experience section “administrative assistant with special responsibility for sales” and highlight your sales work and related achievements over the administration duties.

Focus on the wider themes of your career history

Go beyond the job titles and think about what you have consistently done well throughout your career. Have you always excelled at leading teams, helping people, increasing customer satisfaction, promoting a product or cause, for example? You can use this information to help build your brand and to strengthen your skills section.

By looking back over your career, you can probably find patterns of achievements or types of roles where you’ve made the strongest impact. These patterns help you clarify your brand — the qualities and career strengths that differentiate you and bring value to an organisation. Focus on these strengths when you write your CV and include career achievements that illustrate them.

A one-sentence branding statement under your CV heading (the job title that you’re applying for) and a three to five-sentence career summary or professional profile also help to communicate your brand and immediately appeal to an employer.

Some skills (such as communication, organisation and leadership skills) are useful in all roles. Highlight these, especially if you need to compensate for a sketchy experience section.

This example is a reply to a question on the forums where the poster was asking how someone with a varied career can identify a specialism:

“Separate your skills into different categories; financial and budgetary, marketing and customer service, project management, technical and so on. For each skill area, think of one example to illustrate. What programs are you an expert at in web design? What sort of marketing have you been able to do on a restricted budget? And so on. The job description will give you a good indication of what skills and abilities they most want to see.”

Reorganise your work history

Rather than sticking to a strict reverse chronological sequence listing every job from the most recent to the last, group your experience under different headings. You can divide your career history by functions (marketing or sales, for example), or by industry (publishing or advertising, for example) depending on what’s most important from the job description, or what your strongest selling points are.

If you’ve had a series of short-term jobs — like this person in the forum — you can also group by time-frame.

Here’s a snippet of the advice:

“It’s a good idea to group together related short-term work experience. You can do it by time-frame (grouping together your nine months’ experience) or you could do it by theme. For example, all your copywriting/editing/journalism experience in one section (the first section in your work history, if you’re now applying for communications roles) and all your TV production experience in a different, second section.

“How you slice and dice your work experience is going to depend on what the job you apply for requires, so you can be flexible in how you present this information. Have a look at the job advert and work out what’s most important, then make sure this is prominent on your CV.

“Given that the length of time you spent in these most recent roles has been short, try and focus on what you achieved. Do you have any samples of your work you can point to — such as links to articles and content online? Can you beef up your CV with a couple of testimonials?”

Employers generally want to see reverse chronology, but if you’re returning to a sector you worked in previously, select a couple of achievements from this period and put them in a key achievements or career highlights section before your experience section — without including the dates. It doesn’t hide the fact that your most recent experience isn’t the most relevant, but it does show a successful track record in your targeted industry.

Originally published here: https://jobs.theguardian.com/article/dealing-with-a-diverse-work-history-on-your-cv/

How To Pick Yourself Up When You Don’t Get The Job

You’ve been applying for dozens of jobs with no success and have just got your third rejection email of the week. Picking yourself back up and ploughing on with the job hunt can be tough for even the steeliest of people. Here are some tips from resilience coaches on how to restore confidence after such setbacks, and ultimately prepare yourself for job success.

Remember, stress is caused by how we perceive a situation not the situation itself, says psychotherapist Rebecca Howard. “We could choose to look at the fact that we haven’t got a job yet and it’s our third rejection as a negative – but all that would happen is our mindset would shift into a negative gear and take our resourcefulness and confidence down an unhelpful dead end.”

She advocates the NAC approach – Notice, Accept, Choose – a way of thinking which means we don’t get stuck with negative ruminating thoughts about how good, or not, we think we are.

Notice that you are experiencing thoughts of being fed up, down, angry or whatever it is that you are feeling as a result of the rejections. “In times of stress our thinking tends to polarise in rigid, ‘all or nothing’ positions, seeing everything in black and white,” explains Howard.

“The process of noticing its impact allows you to begin to step outside of it, almost as an observer, and acknowledge what is happening, which in turn releases you from the mind spending endless energy.”

Accept what has happened. Many of us will think, “Why is this happening to me?” but asking a negative question leads to a negative answer, Howard explains. “Acceptance is recognising that as human beings we experience emotions, such as disappointment, and it is pointless fighting them.”

Choose to use the negative energy or stress you are feeling as a result of your setback. Having connected with the motivation behind the stress, you can channel that energy in a positive way by asking, “What can I do right now?” and “How do I do it?”

Andy Cope, author of The Little Book of Emotional Intelligence, suggests that we come equipped with “ordinary magic” – an in-built ability to bounce back from adversity. It all comes down to your “explanatory style”, which is psychology speak for the way you explain to yourself why you’ve experienced an event – be it positive or negative.

If your reaction to a job rejection is, “It’s only a rejection letter, nobody died, let’s learn the lesson and move forward,” you’ve got an optimistic explanatory style. But if your response is to think, “Oh my gosh, rejection. It’s a disaster. I’m so rubbish. There’s no point applying for any more,” your explanatory style is negative. Clearly, the belief generated by your explanatory style directly affects your actions.

But as Cope explains, it’s possible to train your inner voice towards something more positive. He says: “It helps if you can learn to be your own best friend. On job rejections (we’ve all had them) I always tell myself, ‘Crikey, they’ve missed out.’”. Be your own cheerleader and champion and remember that all emotions have positive intent, according to Cope, even negative ones. “Despondency (feeling sorry for yourself) is temporary downtime while you renew your energy for whatever comes next. Which brings me full circle to your inner reserves of ‘ordinary magic’,” he says.

Geetu Bharwaney, author of Emotional Resilience advises speaking to your main supporters and champions in life and asking them what they would do in your shoes, after this job rejection, and follow their advice. “Know the difference between the people in your life who can provide you with intelligent input from those who are likely to impose unrealistic assumptions on you,” she says. Approach the people you respect and whose opinions matter to you. “Some people will tell you it was either the wrong job or the wrong employer, so this action helps you to keep things in perspective.”

Finally, take the time to review your life experiences and achievements so far and make a list of positive “I” statements – things you can do, your strengths and what you are good at. Bharwaney explains: “When you are going to speak to anyone about your challenges, including your close colleagues, remind yourself of at least three of these affirmations, so that you can stay grounded in what you are good at during the dialogue. This will enable you to be your best self despite the current set-back.”


Written by Kirstie Brewer, originally published here:



The Biggest Mistakes That Jobseekers Make

1. If you have spent the last eight hours posting for jobs online, you have wasted seven hours and 50 minutes.

It can be tempting to apply to jobs online. So many positions are listed, and so many appear to be a fit. But while you are hitting the send button, so are 500+ other people. Job postings represent the open market; the jobs everyone gets to see. Most people source their jobs through the hidden job market, the ones where opportunities are shared through close contacts and conversations. Shift your strategy and spend most of your time networking for job leads, and limit your time applying to jobs online.

2. Just because you did it doesn’t mean it belongs on your resume.

Many people’s resumes read like a laundry list of everything they’ve ever done. A resume should be targeted to the needs of an employer and prove where you can add value. The employee recognition award you received for a Y2K conversion back in 1999 probably isn’t going to cut it with an employer in 2016. Instead, tell stories of initiatives you are involved in today that are helping to move your company, industry or profession forward.

3. Don’t tell me about the things you were expected to do; write about the things you did that no one ever dreamed possible. Most resumes describe tasks that hundreds of others perform in their jobs every day. What catches the hiring manager’s attention is the value you brought to that job task. For example, if you are an operations executive, don’t just write that you ran a call center. Instead, explain how you transformed its performance, implemented metrics to improve accountability and the customer experience, or saved money or time.

4. If no one returns your calls requesting a networking meeting, you are leaving the wrong message.

Many people approach their contacts by saying something like, “If you know anyone who is hiring, please let me know.” It’s highly unlikely that your contact knows someone who is hiring for a position with your skill set right now. A better message would be to say, “I’m in a career transition and I would love to pick your brain to learn more about your company, the industry and trends in the profession. I wanted to reach out to you because I trust your opinion and value your advice.” By asking for information rather than a job, you are more likely to get a response and initiate a conversation. Many will be flattered that you asked and will reciprocate with whatever help they can offer.

5. People who don’t think online networking is relevant to their job search will become irrelevant to the hiring managers who think it is.

Many job seekers are still reluctant to create an online digital footprint. But it’s becoming more difficult to substantiate being an expert in your profession when there is no online proof of your thought leadership. LinkedIn will be the social media tool of choice for many professionals — but don’t just create a shell of a profile. Optimize your professional image with proof of your accomplishments via strong stories of success, keywords, the LinkedIn publishing platform, and even case studies and videos if appropriate.

6. People think they should talk in general terms about career successes, but you build trust with interviewers by talking about specifics.

The goal of the interview is to build trust and engagement. This is best done by showcasing stories about business problems you have solved that are relevant to the organization, not by focusing on the typical personality clichés. Telling the interviewer how you influenced the entire senior management team to fund a multimillion-dollar technology upgrade that in turn protected them from a cyber-security breach will be much more memorable than simply telling him you are a good communicator.

7. When hiring managers ask you in an interview what your weakness is, they already know.

The goal is to figure out what they believe is the gap in your candidacy and address it head on. Perhaps you lack experience in a particular industry or don’t have the MBA they say is preferred. Show that while you don’t have a certain qualification, you have other skills that are more relevant and transferable. For example, an HR professional who doesn’t have hospital experience and is interviewing for a role in a hospital can focus on the similarities within the HR function that transcend industries. The candidate who lacks an MBA can show how they’ve solved business problems that are frequently solved by candidates who have the degree.

A job search is like a marathon. You can’t cut corners on the preparation and expect to cross the finish line in record time. Everyone who is in a job search wants the silver bullet. There isn’t one. Job searching, even under the best of circumstances, is a lot of work. Be prepared for a lot of rejection, but also for a lot of kindness and support along the way.


Originally published at forbes.com

How To Write The Perfect Covering Letter

Writing a covering email to accompany your CV

If your CV is attached to the email, then use the main body of the email as your covering letter. Tell the employer how you meet their key requirements so that you can immediately make a good impression and entice them to open the attachment and look at your CV in more detail.

  • In the subject line of the email, list the vacancy title, reference number and where you saw or heard about the vacancy
  • Use the body of the email to convince the recruiter in three to five bullet points that you are the right person for the job
  • Send the CV as an attachment clearly labelled with your name
  • Spell-check before sending the email

Email covering letter template

To: Ann Brown

Subject: Project Manager, ETD, Ref No. 1234 Management Today

Attachment: MWoodProjectManagerCVfeb13.doc

Dear Ann,

I am interested in applying for the above job as I believe my substantial experience in project management combined with my knowledge of the telecommunications sector will be of particular benefit to your organisation.

ABC has an excellent reputation for innovation and having worked on a number of ground-breaking technological projects from the planning to the implementation stage, I believe that I can make a significant contribution to your organisation.

In particular, I have:

  • 10 years’ experience in managing teams of between 5 and 15 people on a variety of complex telecommunications projects
  • An engineering background which gives me the ability to quickly grasp new technical detail and assess implications for operational planning
  • Experience and qualifications in PRINCE2 project management software
  • Superb relationship-building skills enabling project team members to focus on tasks even during challenging times

My CV is attached, providing further information on how my career background meets your requirements. I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you in person to discuss this further.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Mike Wood

Tel: 07777 555 555


CV & Email Checklist

Remember, first impressions are very important. The following is a quick checklist before sending off those emails.
Your CV attachment if sending in Microsoft Word:

• Arial or Times New Roman size 10–12 for body of text and size 14 for headings

• Standard margin lengths

• Bold used sparingly, principally for headings

• No columns or boxes

• No graphics, photos or Jpegs

• No shading

CV attachment if sending as PDF:

• Checked that recipient/website can upload or view these

CV attachment sending from or to a Mac:

• Double-check format to ensure CV is compatible with recipient’s software


  • Has all the spelling and grammar in the email covering letter been double-checked?
  • Have you specified in the Subject Line of your email the vacancy/reference number of the job for which you are applying?
  • Does the email covering letter state why you are a good candidate?
  • Is the covering letter written formally, using full sentences with bullet points to reinforce key selling points?
  • Have you addressed the individual by name, if known, in the covering letter?
  • Have you labelled your CV attachment with your name?
  • Have you created an email address just for job-searching?
  • Have you included your telephone number in the main body of your email to make it easy for people to contact you?


Sourced from: https://jobs.theguardian.com/article/how-to-write-the-perfect-email-covering-letter/

How To Optimise Your CV For An Online Database

Perhaps like thousands of others you have posted your CV onto an online job board. Registration is free and easy, and it almost seems too good to be true. You invest 10 minutes of your time, post your CV, and then sit back and wait for the phone and the emails.

This is a great way to minimise effort and maximise exposure to jobs you might never have heard about. However, if you don’t consider what happens to your CV once you post it online, you might have to wait for a long time for the interview call or miss out on plum jobs.

To improve your chances of success, it is worth knowing what happens to your CV once it lands in the online database , how a job board actually works, and how a recruiter uses this resource to find their candidates. Job boards generally operate by charging recruiters to search the database, that’s why it’s free for you to register. The recruiters will invariably be in a hurry and often under pressure in their candidate search, because the only way a recruiter will get paid, and their company profits, is by placing successful candidates with their clients.

How does a recruiter find my CV?

Recruiters will input combinations of search words to find the exact candidate they are looking for. Their search will be quick depending on how specific their search terms are: the number of CVs returned from a search may vary between just a few and several hundred. If the exact words for the skills, qualifications or experience that they are searching for do not appear on your CV in a narrow search you may never be pulled from the pack, or at best in a wider search you might appear so far down the results list that your recruiter has logged off and gone home before they even get to you.

In practice, a skilled recruiter will typically scan their target job description to look for search terms including the sector, job title alternatives, key skills, specific software packages or the technical, professional or academic qualifications which are essential criteria for the job.

They are looking for as close a match as possible, and will use a technique called Boolean or logical searching to mine the candidate database. Boolean searching uses “operators” which include the terms ‘and’, ‘or’ and ‘not’ to find the candidate with the right combination of keywords in their CV.

You can visualise a Boolean search by imagining a Venn diagram, for instance a Boolean search for engineer and graduate will find all the candidates who overlap in the group in the middle on your diagram, and who are both engineers and graduates. Alternatively a search for engineer or graduate will find all the candidates who have the either of the terms graduate or engineer on their CV.

The important point to remember is that if you don’t have the same terms that the recruiter is using in their Boolean search, you stand no chance.

To illustrate how critical this is in practice as an example, it means listing specific software packages, for instance: Excel or Powerpoint. If you have simply written on your CV, “good knowledge of Microsoft Office”, while clearly the semantics demonstrate that you have the skills required, the Boolean search performed by the recruiter does not have the logic to understand that “Microsoft Office” actually means Excel or Powerpoint. Consequently and disastrously you might be completely missed on a search for someone with Excel or Powerpoint.

Put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes

In order to optimise your CV you need to put yourself in the place of a recruiter, and imagine what search words they might use to find someone just like you for your target job. Don’t presume that because your previous company used one job title, that there’s no other term that could describe it, or that the recruiter will have sufficient knowledge or skill to use the various alternative phrases to describe your job title in their own search. As a rather tenuous but illustrative example, although a recruiter is highly unlikely to be looking for a beverage trading assistant, let us suppose that they were, and that they had only used the exact phrase “beverage trading assistant”. This is your forte, you have years of experience multi-tasking tirelessly in aiding and assisting others to imbibe alcoholic beverages, washing glasses and ejecting those who have become a little too boisterous. You dream endlessly of landing your next beverage trading assistant, and this one is paying £50 per hour. However you have exclusively used the term “bar tender”, and unless you have also peppered your CV with various descriptive terms including the term “beverage trading assistant”, then sadly you will never appear in that particular search, your CV will continue to languish in the depths of the database and your return to the days of working behind a bar will continue to evade you.

My advice is to invest some time now, reappraise your CV for an online job board, think like a search engine and let your CV spiral its way up to its rightful place on the desk of your future employer.

Originally published here: https://jobs.theguardian.com/article/how-to-optimise-your-cv-for-an-online-database/


How To Handle Interview Nerves

For many of us, that initial excitement of getting a job interview is short-lived. The nerves kick in, you start to panic. Here are some tips for reducing the potential of nerves getting the better of you – and how to handle them if they do.

Before the interview…

Do your research and practice
Nerves stem from fear, and in an interview fear is related to being asked something you weren’t prepared for, says Capita Resourcing director Jonathan Bennet: “Research the company and practise talking through your experience over and over again; with your partner, dog or reflection. If you understand the company and can comfortably talk through your career, skills and experience, you’ll feel a lot more relaxed.”

While you may still encounter some curveball questions, anticipating the sorts of questions you may face will be a big help – and working with an experienced recruiter to do this could be useful, adds Bennet. Feeling prepared should help stave off the majority of nerves, and make the whole experience a lot less stressful.

Ask yourself tough questions
A key part of your confidence-enhancing preparation should be to focus in
advance on the worst things you could be asked during the interview, says Michael Dodd, author of Great Answers to Tough Questions at Work. He explains: “To get yourself properly equipped and in the best frame of mind to deal with such questions, prepare by asking yourself what is the best thing you can say on that. This ensures you have your own self-empowering positive agenda that can help you capitalise on the situation and feel good about tough questions they may well throw at you.”

Confidence coach Jo Emerson adds that it’s useful to imagine you at your very best before the interview: “Imagine how you feel when you’re at your best … what do you say? How do you stand? What do you believe about yourself? What tone of voice do you use? Now, practice being this person in the mirror and take him/her into the interview with you.”

Exercise, sleep, hydrate
Ben Barker, a therapist from Total Health Clinics, advises taking regular exercise in the lead up to the interview to burn that excess nervous energy. “While turning up to an interview hot and sweaty is not ideal – taking regular exercise in the lead up before nerve inducing situations can be really helpful. It promotes oxygenation of the blood, boosts endorphins and promotes a good night’s sleep,” he explains.

It might sound obvious, but sleep is important too. “Staying up late and ‘preparing’ for the following day is not a good use of your time. Get a good, restful sleep and you’ll be far more alert the following day,” says Barker. And finally, drink plenty of water to promote tip-top performance.

On the day…

Don’t be rushed
Plan your travel well ahead of time. Tearing through the train station and trying to navigate your way through an unfamiliar place with minutes to spare is sure to make you anxious and heighten those nerves; it could also impact your performance. Naomi Watkins, emotional wellbeing consultant at NW Consultancy, recommends finding where the company is beforehand and time how long it takes to get there and where to park. Building in some time for a 10-minute walk around the block before the interview can help calm the nerves too, as well as mindfulness exercises.

Bennet adds: “If you are already working, book a day or half-day holiday from your current role just in case, rather than hoping you’ll be able to slip away for an hour or two.” Building in some time for a 10-minute walk around the block before the interview can help calm the nerves too.
During the interview…

Have an icebreaker handy
Remember that the interviewer is a person too and could also feel nervous about running the interview. Bennet recommends preparing your own icebreaker to put both of you at ease. “Research the interviewer’s background using tools like LinkedIn and try to find something you have in common or something you can ask them about,” he says. “Something as simple as ‘I see we both studied English at university – how did we end up in accounts?’ or ‘I saw on your company website that you managed the charity cycle ride, how did it go?’ can set a nice tone for the meeting.”

If nerves get the better of you beforehand, try and slow your breathing down, says Barker. Take slow, deep breathes in through your nose and use your diaphragm. Breathing in through your chest can aid the tension you feel, particularly in the neck and shoulders, he explains.

However, any breathing exercises will go to waste if you rush your answers once you’re in the room, adds Benett. “Most people don’t realise that good pauses when speaking aren’t even noticed by the person or people you are talking to,” he explains. He recommends watching some famous speeches by great speakers and looking out for their pauses. “You’ll see that they are completely natural and help the speaker remain in control of their breathing and their general flow. Giving yourself time to think will help avoid a rushed answer and a shaky voice.”

Project confidence
Job applicants should sit in a way which makes them look and feel good and which projects confidence, says Dodd. The key expression to remember is BBC – Bottom at the Back of the Chair. “This, together with having your feet flat on the floor and keeping your arms apart and hands open – showing that you have nothing to hide – helps you look and feel open and confident,” he says. “When you get your body in the right position, and lean ever-so-slightly forward to convey enthusiasm, you project confidence to the selection panel and it also sends a message to your brain that you are feeling confident too.”

Emerson adds: “My number one top tip is to ‘hold the outcome lightly’, by which I mean do your very best and be your very best self in the interview but understand that you can’t affect the outcome. There are other factors involved in an interview process so try to just focus on your bit.”

Originally published at https://jobs.theguardian.com/article/how-to-handle-interview-nerves-/

How To Apply For Your Dream Job, When Your Skills Don’t Meet The Spec

You see your dream job being advertised but you don’t quite match the job specifications listed: should you still apply?

Eighteen-year-old Georgia Goodman faced this scenario last year when she applied for a digital marketing graduate scheme, despite having no university degree. Instead she had three months’ experience in marketing via an apprenticeship.

“I was pleased to be offered an interview and told that, although I wasn’t a graduate, my passion and experience working within the B2B sector is what made my employer change his mind about the position they were advertising,” she explains. Georgia is now a digital marketing assistant at the Nottingham-based company and has been funded to complete a vocational qualification.

“You have to be in it to win it,” says Becky Mossman, a HR director at HireRight. Ambition like Georgia’s is one of the key things that employers look for and as long as it isn’t a wild pipe dream, it’s commendable. “A lot of the time candidates have more skills and experience than they even realise, the struggle is often when it comes to articulating those skills in a meaningful way,” she adds.

“No one candidate is ever actually perfect,” points out Jon Gregory, editor of win-that-job.com. Any shortlist will therefore represent a spread of skills, qualifications and experiences and you could aim to fit on one end of that spread.

Highlight your transferable skills
If you’re short on specifically required qualifications, show that a combination of your other qualifications and experience are at least as good, if not actually better, says Gregory. What else have you done that brings along sufficient relevant experience? Where do you bring something unexpected and potentially very valuable with you to the organisation? It could be a relevant foreign language, or an extra qualification, for example.

Draw from your academic experience as well as your work experience and think about your transferrable skills, says Mohammed Rahman, business development and placements executive at London School of Business and Finance. He says: “As an example, customer service skills are needed in every profession and are important skills to have.”
He adds: “A lot of companies promote opportunities with requirements and would be willing to consider and take on people who do not meet all the criteria but have an open mind regarding how far they are willing to go to train and learn on the job.”

Make a strong case at the start – and don’t be negative
Make a clear, strong case in the introductory summary about your overall suitability, and at all costs, avoid drawing attention to your shortfalls, says Gregory. “One sight of those will switch the reviewer to a negative mindset, reading on only in search of further justification to drop your application into the shredder.” Don’t be deceptive, just selective.

Demonstrate that this is your dream job
“This is the application that has to hit the back of the net, nothing can be standard,” says Mossman. For example, if it’s a creative role, do something big that sets you apart from the field and makes the recruiter question whether the pure job description match is what they really need.

“If it’s really your dream job, then you should be able to make a clear case for why that is, and still come across as completely genuine”, she says. Think carefully about what skills you can bring to the table – they might be from a job you had five years ago, they might be from a sports team or hobby. If they apply, make it clear what you’ve gained from that experience, and why that’s as valuable as the tick box achievements that are on the job description.

Do your research – and remember they will do theirs too
Gregory advises that candidates research deeply into the company before compiling an application or tailoring your CV. “You need to show that you really do understand the role, the challenges, why this role is important to the organisation as a whole and what it is about you that makes you viable to shortlist for interview,” he explains. If you can, speak to the HR people organising the selection process and your potential line manager. The more you can engage in a dialogue with people inside the organisation and breed familiarity, the better.

While you do your research on the company, remember that the company might do research on you too. Perhaps most importantly of all, check your entire online presence to make sure the image you paint in the application is consistent across LinkedIn and your references, warns Mossman. “Otherwise, the hard work of wowing them will all be for nothing. “Employers don’t all admit to checking up on applicants via external channels, but it’s not uncommon for decision makers to use every means available to reassure themselves of their choice,” she explains.

And finally, remember: there are upsides to applying even if you don’t get shortlisted. Rahman says: “Remember, you have nothing to lose. If it is a dream job then it is worth the time invested in applying. It will act as a good testing ground for future opportunities.” Recognise that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain, even if that’s only a list of what you need to work at for next time a role like that comes up.


Written by Kirstie Brewer, Originally published here: https://jobs.theguardian.com/article/how-to-apply-for-your-dream-job-when-your-skills-don-t-meet-the-job-spec/

10 Mistakes To Avoid When Job Seeking

Applying for jobs is often a difficult and demoralising process, but it’s important to stay positive and learn from your mistakes. Here are ten common mistakes you should try to avoid:

1. Passing on responsibility for your job hunt

It’s important that you don’t try and blame others for your job hunting difficulties. Focus on positive action rather than negative thoughts. Brush pessimism to one side and look to the future. What’s happened has happened, but by taking control of the current situation and letting your personality shine through, you will overcome this.

2. Make your job search your sole focus in life

Enjoy family time, eat well and exercise. Leave the house each day, volunteer, learn new skills, meet people and maintain a balance in your life. We all need interaction and variety: often the harder you chase something, the more it eludes you.

3. Take rejection personally

Unfortunately it’s rare to be offered the first job you apply for — it’s just not that easy. So, accept rejection as part of the process and always ask for, and even more importantly learn from, feedback. The job you don’t get helps you next time so always push for feedback and act on it.

4. Search in the same place as others

Surfing the online job boards is an important first port of call in finding a job, but there are also lots of other places you can explore. For example, you could look at recommendations, referrals and professional networks as this market can be less competitive.

5. Fail to deliver a clear message

Employers are interested in where you have added value, not everything you’ve ever done. Make sure they can see the wood from the trees. Think of yourself as a movie trailer and not the whole film – what is it about you that generates enough excitement and interest for an employer to buy a ticket to the main feature?

6. Hide it from the people in your life

Although searching for your next job is a personal experience, don’t try and do it all alone. Share the experience with your loved ones and you’ll be far stronger and more effective in your quest.

7. Apply for every job you come across

This makes you look desperate and you’ll lose focus. Try to take more time on fewer applications and don’t adopt the scatter gun approach. Throwing more mud at the wall won’t lead to more success, just more mess. Nothing puts an employer off more than you not knowing anything about their business or what the role entails and, if you have multiple applications out in the field, keeping track of them all becomes an impossible task.

8. Be afraid to push yourself forward

This is no time to lurk in the shadows. Don’t be afraid to shine, blow your own trumpet and tell people how good you are and what value you can bring to their business. Confidence, not arrogance, is the key here – don’t let your skills and experience be the best kept secret.

9. Forget that times change

If you’ve not been in the job market for a few years, you might have expectations that are unrealistic. It’s easy to think that it’s exactly the same as when you last looked for a position, but times have changed. Take a more enlightened approach and try to gain more understanding of the modern job market and how best to place yourself in it.

10. Take your eye off the competition

Make sure you differentiate yourself from other jobseekers. Instantly falling in line with what the competition is doing will put you at a distinct disadvantage.

Think not only about your skills and experience but also your key achievements. These should be things where you have made a difference and done something out of the ordinary. Your competition is likely to have similar responsibilities but achievements are unique to you. Think about a particular situation, what you did and quantify the outcome or result where possible. This way of thinking and presentation on your CV falls in line with the competency-based interview style of questioning and will help you make an even better impression once you get to interview. Knowledge is power and the more you know about yourself and what makes you different, the better placed you are to attack the job market and find your next position.

Originally published at https://jobs.theguardian.com/article/10-mistakes-to-avoid-when-job-hunting/