The world and beyond – Surviving in the economic jungle

Advice, tips and tricks on how to engage with the UK jobs market and commercial environment, from a female executive's perspective

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Guide to #job hunting: 5 most common interview blunders

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Ever wondered why an interview you thought went swimmingly well, ended up failing? Read on – The reasons might be in here!

1. Talking too much

Good communication is about sharing information, so make sure that the conversation works both ways and isn’t all led by you. Listen equally as much as you talk, and allow silence from time to time to gather thoughts, both for you and the interviewer.

Being critical of a past employer also falls into this category. If you have nothing nice to say, rather say nothing at all.

2. Issues with time

If you’re serious about the job you need to show it by giving it your full attention. This means arriving on time (Or preferably, a tiny bit earlier to show you’re keen.) Don’t make other arrangements for directly  after your interview. Clock watching is rude and distracting – It also means you are racing to finish the interview, resulting in a power struggle with the interviewer who might wan to go at a slower pace. At the other extreme, don’t overstay your welcome either. When the interview concludes, say thank you and leave. Hanging around too long can destroy a good interview.

3. Preparation – Or not!

Over preparation is just as bad as not preparing at all. Arriving at an interview not knowing anything about the job or company is a no-brainer. Maximise your chances by researching the job, the company, the interviewers. It proves you are interested, proactive and willing to learn.

But over preparing can also shoot you in the foot, especially if you insist on trailing through extensive presentations or going on at length about what you know about the company. Use the information you have gathered to direct your answers and questions, and go with the flow of the interview.

4. Inappropriate grooming and dress

You can always take the tie off! This falls into the preparation category, but it’s so sad that often, people ruin their chances by not dressing appropriately. My grandmother always said you can never be too tidy – This certainly goes for interviews too. Make sure you know the corporate dress code, and dress accordingly but be very careful for “Business casual”. This can mean jeans in one company, and a loosening of the tie in another. Always ask, and if you’re not sure err on the side of caution and go for a suit. As for personal hygiene and cleanliness: Again, a no-brainer! But you will be surprised how often people get turned down after good job interviews for smelling oddly or looking grubby.

5. Poor listening skills

One mouth, two ears – Use them in that proportion! Not listening to questions properly will mean you are unlikely to answer appropriately. The danger here is assuming you know what the question is before it’s been fully asked. So you may go off at a tangent, leaving the interviewer bemused and you without a job. Taking time to listen opens the door to two-way conversation, and that is what interviews are all about!

Definitive Guide to Job Hunting 22 – Successful Telephone Interviews

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Often, telephone interviews are used at the first stage of recruitment processes – And the selection process can be ruthless! These are usually scheduled in bulk and the interviewers have to wade through many interviews to find the candidates they want to invite for a face to face meeting, so time is usually of the essence. To facilitate this, they would normally use a highly structured approach to get the particular pieces of information from a candidate required to either select or deselect.

Telephone interviews are also often used where there are large distances involved but generally, the rules of engagement are the same.

Always remember that, because there are no opportunities to include body language to build rapport or emphasise strengths, telephone communication is different to personal conversation. The importance of listening and answering concisely are magnified. So are bad communication habits like using continual filler words or veering off the subject, so be careful!

1. Conduct the call in a quiet place

Select a place where you will be uninterrupted for the duration of the call, free from kitchen noises, crying children, barking dogs or noisy televisions or radios. This will help you to hear them clearly, and for them to have a better sound from your side.

2. Preferably use a landline

Mobile service can sometimes be unreliable and you don’t want to lose the connection in mid flow! Landline reception is also generally more reliable for clarity. If you must use your mobile, make sure you are out of the wind and that you have full battery and a good signal.

3. Give your undivided attention

Tone of voice is magnified on the telephone – If you are distracted by documents or a computer screen it will translate in your voice. Also, listen very carefully so that you can give concise and targeted answers.

4. Prepare, prepare!

Review the company website, make notes as the interview continues and have questions ready. Keep your CV and the job spec at hand. Waffle, time lapses or quiet moments are magnified on the telephone so avoid them by preparing properly and maintaining your focus.

5. Sound enthusiastic and well-mannered

Without body language, facial expression or non-verbal signals to rely on, the interviewer will listen out for vocal signs indicating passion, professionalism and enthusiasm. Allow them to get a sense of your personality but never be too casual in your choice of words or tone of voice. Standing up and smiling is a telesales technique that holds true: the smile translates in your voice. On the telephone, it’s not just what you say but how you say it that is magnified, especially if you are not blessed with a melodious speaking voice, perfect diction or flawless accent. Be aware of these, speak slowly and clearly and don’t rabbit on too much once you have answered the question.

6. Closing and Follow up

The same rules count as for normal interviews: Ask about timescales and next steps, and later follow-up with a thank you message. Here, you can summarise the conversation and reinforce our best selling points.

Definitive Guide to Job Hunting 13: Photos in CVs

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Over the several years I have worked in recruitment, the general format and content of CVs have changed dramatically. A relatively recent development is the inclusion of a photograph in the CV.

In Germany, it is highly acceptable (And often expected) to have a photo in the lebenslauf (CV). People get them done professionally and it shows. German pictures are professional, highly corporate and shows the incumbent usually dressed in corporate attire with collar and tie or similar, looking competent, capable and ready for business. A bad photo is not tolerated because it will cost the owner dearly.

I dare say I have not seen the same photo quality here in the UK. The pictures range from corporate and professional, through to wind-swept on a hill-side, in action man mode on a motor cycle, sultry posing with red lipstick, and everything in between. Not to mention the self-taken ones from PC cameras! Job hunting is not a beauty contest, so why on earth would anyone  include a photo on a CV that makes them look like  a pervert in an internet chatroom?

If my customers saw some of these pictures, they would throw the CVs in the bin after picking themselves up from the floor laughing.

So I religiously remove photos from all CVs. Not only because they are at risk of creating totally the wrong impression with the hiring client, but also because they wreck my database. Most recruitment databases are designed to accommodate text documents, and pdfs or large picture files play havoc with the search functions.

My advice to all candidates out there job searching would be never, ever to put their photo on their CV. Finding a job has nothing to do with how you look and everything to do with your skill set and experience. Instead, use the space to maximise your transferable skills and to communicate how you will add value through a concise, sharp personal statement.

The old adage of  “a picture speak a thousand words” does not hold true in this case: Unless you look like Tom Cruise or Angelina Jolie, or work in the entertainment industry, a photo on your CV is a liability.

What information about job hunting and/or redundancy would have helped you at the start of your journey?

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Since writing the short blog series “Definitive Guide to Job Hunting” giving a direct and specific account of how to deal with the current job seeking market, I have been inundated with replies and requests for information.

The blog received over a 1,000 hits in the first few weeks!

This means, to me, that there is a real need for frank and open advice about how to manage a job search in today’s challenging employment market. I am researching the idea to publish as a self-help book, but I want to make sure that the information I offer is not just subjective and from my own point of view.

So if you had the choice, or thinking back about when and how you started looking for our next job: What do you wish you knew? Is there anything that would have made it easier for you, any knowledge that would have simplified and speeded up the process, making it less painful at the same time?

I would welcome your questions and stories. By replying to the blog, sending a quick email to admin@cathyrich.co.uk, responding via LinkedIn or Tweeting (@cathyrecruit) me with your thoughts, your ideas and experiences will tell me about the best subject matter to include, or to blog about.

I look forward to hearing from you!

HireFridayUK – An alternative way to find your next job.

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Don’t miss out! There is a great new place to give yourself exposure as a job seeker, and to make direct contact with hiring employers and progressive recruiters.

HireFridayUK (#HFUK) is here! And its totally free for everyone on Twitter.

For Job Seekers: Every Friday, tweet #HFUK with your job title and location. This will create a feed where Recruiters and Employers can find you.

For agencies, recruiters and employers: Tweet #HFUK with your job title, location and possibly a link to the online job. But no spam please! This is about real jobs, real opportunities and real connections. This creates a feed for potentially suitable  job seekers can find you.

For everyone else: Retweet, retweet, and retweet again! If you know someone looking for a job, tweet about them. If you know of a job going somewhere, tweet about it. This is about making connections and getting dignity back for the work seeker.

Keep track of all the tweets through joining the #HFUK twub, or by following the #HFUK hashtag.

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