Was it an employer’s market this year? Will it be a candidates market next year? Well one cannot exist without the other really – it doesn’t matter how skilled and experienced you are if there are no suitable jobs. Equally it doesn’t matter if you are the best company to work for – if there are no suitable candidates to hire your vacancy is staying vacant!
One thing is for sure and of particular interest to you – hiring managers are very demanding these days and that’s set to continue. The person specification (part of the job description) is not getting any lighter on the number of boxes employers want ticked. In fact the majority of hiring managers would rather wait longer to find the “right” candidate than make a decision based on the candidates in the first round. Time to hire stats are most definitely increasing and the number of cancelled vacancies is also on the increase and this indicates hiring managers are not yet ready to compromise on the criteria of the job requirements.
However, I’m still hopeful and positive that 2015 will bring some new and interesting opportunities for job seekers. Here are some factors you can control and ensure you don’t fall short of the basics.
1. Lack of preparation
We (recruiters) talk about this one all the time and still this month we’ve interviewed candidates that have turned up to the interview ill-prepared. I’m not sure of the reasons – perhaps they think they can “wing” it on the day. Perhaps they think they can win the interviewer over with personality alone – a very risky strategy in my opinion. Perhaps they genuinely don’t have time in their busy lives – although, if they cut down on posting on Facebook and Twitter they’d probably gain hours back in the week! Just saying!
My opinions are often formed by feedback I receive from the hiring managers (the decision makers). They are constantly disappointed when candidates haven’t taken the time to read the job description, prepare to provide evidence of meeting the essential criteria of the role and taken time to understand the organisation. Think for a moment how much preparation the hiring managers have had to do before turning up to meet you – screened your CV, then read your CV again to craft some specific / unique CV background questions, prepared the general questions, booked time in their calendar, booked rooms, informed reception and the list goes on.
When you are looking for a job – it’s hopefully going to be a short term activity (although, I know jobs are open for much longer these days). You have to consider and factor in your job search as part of your career plan and commitment. So you’ll need to make some compromises – what are you willing to give up or reduce during this period of time? Watching TV? Social commitments? Hobbies? There are some things I don’t suggest compromising on even short term – your health, getting regular sleep, time to relax and taking regular exercise.
2. No passion or enthusiasm
If you just want a job – apply for a job not a career. Recruiters are realistic and they know not all jobs are going to attract career orientated, passionate and highly engaged individuals – it’s just a job after all and that’s absolutely fine. However, if you are applying for a highly sought after career in a very competitive environment you are going to have to prove your worth, prove your motivation and prove you are the right candidate for the job and the organisation.
Managers are looking for motivated individuals and candidates that can prove they are genuinely interested in the job and organisation. This really goes back to the first point – making sure you’ve done your homework and research. Even in the most difficult job market I’ve turned down opportunities because they just weren’t taking me in the right direction. I know of other business associates that have done the same – they think very carefully how the opportunity will enhance their experience and knowledge and fit with their career or business mission.
If you’ve turned up to interview with the “any job” will do attitude then it’s likely you won’t be called back for second stage. This is a risky strategy because unless there is a shortage of candidates (very rare), then someone else will most definitely get more points during the interview process and land the job.
3. No career path
During the recession I met lots of candidates with no career plan – they said it was too difficult in this challenging economic market. If businesses thought the same and didn’t have a business model or plan then they wouldn’t have a business to worry about for long. Hiring managers will be impressed if you’ve given your career this amount of time, attention and consideration. With a career plan you’ve automatically demonstrated you are ambitious, goal orientated, a self starter and results orientated. All this before you’ve even been asked any interview questions.
Having career goals and a mapped out career plan demonstrates you don’t need to be micro managed in your chosen sector/industry or need a manager motivating you to complete tasks and/or constantly encourage and persuade you to perform in the role. Managers want to hire already motivated individuals. Taking time to map out your career definitely demonstrates you are ready to take action to achieve your goals, and you want to succeed in this field.
4. Too polished or fake
Having worked in the banking sector for six years we would more often than not interview the very polished candidate. The average candidate in the financial services sector is usually very well educated, very confident and extremely professional – all good qualities and characteristics. However, these types of candidates are almost too prepared with the “readymade” examples making it difficult for the recruiter to get to know the real person.
With the “polished” candidate it can be difficult to really understand the real person when that candidate is in “interview mode” – difficult to understand what truly motivates that individual and often they would say what they thought you wanted to hear. Allow some of your personality to shine through and try to communicate genuinely with the interviewer – it’s absolutely okay to be professional and behave as you are expected to do so in an interview. However, don’t be too guarded or closed as this will make it very difficult to understand the real you and understand if you fit right with the corporate culture and fit with the other team members.
5. No specific examples
Put yourself in the hiring manager’s seat for a moment and consider how difficult it truly is to make a judgement (predict the future) about someone’s capability, competency and ability to do a job based on a “chat”. It’s essential for every business that they hire the right people, at the right time, with the right skills, knowledge and experience. So to be able to do this with the highest degree of accuracy they have to have information and evidence to be able to make that critical decision.
Therefore it’s crucial that you take the time to think about times in your career when you have demonstrated a wide range of competencies. Make sure you think about this before the interview – start to think about when you worked well with your colleagues, think about times when you have coped with a high work load and what you did to ensure all the critical deadlines and tasks were complete. Think about times when things didn’t go to plan and what you did to limit the damage or correct before it was too late.
One candidate we met last month didn’t want to be negative during the interview and claimed nothing was a problem and implied she found everything really easy. Unfortunately, this didn’t give the managers any idea how she would cope in a business that was going through constant and fast change – the managers were left with lots of questions, how will she cope when decisions take a little longer to be made? How will she adapt or be flexible to challenges? Will she get frustrated when she cannot change things overnight? Leaving an interviewer with more questions than they went into the interview with is a very poor outcome for the candidate.
6. Using the same example
Only this week we interviewed a candidate that used the same example to answer all the questions. Even with the best and most comprehensive example, you’d be very lucky to get away with using it more than twice during the same interview. It’s not helping the interviewer understand you are not a one trip pony! The interviewer won’t understand how much you can bring to the role if you are telling only one chapter of the story, over and over again.
It’s a good idea to prepare at least 4 or 5 different examples that cover different behavioural competencies. For example, the most common of the behavioural competencies are, planning and organising, team work, communication skills, interpersonal skills and prioritising skills.
7. Not understanding the business
We make a big deal of preparing before the interview however it doesn’t actually take much for you to demonstrate you’ve taken the time to do some research. If you take the time to look at the website (and you should always look at the website) ensure you narrow down the key elements. You won’t be able to read or for that matter remember everything from a well established company website – in fact you are likely to be overwhelmed with pages and information.
The most important thing is to understand what the business does – what makes them different from their competitors. Ensure you know the products and services they provide and the profile of their customers or members. It’s a good idea to view the corporate principles or values – this will help you understand the culture and the ethos of the business. We’d also recommend you read the CEO’s / MD’s speech – this will give you a helicopter view of the organisation, its history, the journey so far and its plans and objectives for the future. This is by far the best and most efficient way of understanding lots of information about the business very quickly.
We hope these points help you in your next interview.
Photo by: Ann Pister