Recruitment Advice for Businesses & SME’s

As a business owner, at some point you are definitely going to need staff.  Whether you are a sole trader or a limited company, as your business grows, you will need people to assist you with that growth. 

Now there are 2 options that you have to acquire the staff; first you could utilise the services of a recruitment company to do it for you.  Or second, you do it yourself.

If you choose Option 1,ensure you use a reputable recruitment company.  There are definitely benefits to using a reputable recruitment company, such as time, money, legal implications, payrolling of staff etc.  Make sure you hear first hand, from existing satisfied customers of the company you choose.  Do some research around the local area.  Find out the reputations of various companies.  Make sure you meet with someone from that company, and that you buy into them.  People buy from people. Remember a company name is only as good as the person sitting in front of you, promoting the brand.  I’ve worked with lots of companies over a long period of time, and the best I’ve dealt with so far is:

Temp Team UK.  A global organisation with a very local feel.  They are heavily populated in the North of England.  They have a very solid reputation, due to the excellent customer service they provide to both clients, and candidates alike.  If you do decide to utilise the services of a recruitment company then I’d recommend you call them first.  I personally know the MD and Operations Director.  They are genuine, honest, humble people.  There’s not a ‘salesy’ person in sight.  Have a look at their website to find a branch near you

If you choose Option 2, and decide you are going to recruit your own staff, and don’t have an HR department, then I’d suggest you follow these guidelines:

  1. Eligibility Checks – You must ensure that the person you hire is eligible to work in the UK.  Acceptable Identification would be a full UK passport, or a copy of a full A4 birth certificate, (with parents names & occupation), at the time of birth.  This would need to be accompanied with either an NI card, payslip, P45, (must be printed, cannot be hand written), or something from the Inland Revenue, clearly stating the National Insurance number.  If your candidate is non UK, then there are different checks you will need to make.  Candidates from the EU can provide a passport or ID card and can work for a period of time, but they must apply to the Home Office for WRS registration, and you must retain a copy of the WRS form, once it has been returned.  Candidates from outside of the EU, must have a valid working visa, (you can get more in-depth detail on the Home Office website).
  2. Advertising your vacancy – This is really up to you. The job centre is the obvious choice as it is free.   You can go with the local newspaper, (this is normally very pricey), or you can advertise online.  You must be specific in your advert as to what you require in a candidate.  Give clear concise specifications in your advert, detailing information about your company, information about the job role, characteristics of the individual, qualifications expected, hours of work, salary, information on the length of the assignment, whether it be permanent or temporary.  You will also need to give details of how applicants should apply. I.e, via the telephone, email with CV & covering letter, written application etc.  Give as much detail as you possibly can, to ensure you are attracting the best candidates.
  3. CV sifting – This is a task in itself.  It can be very time consuming.  See my earlier blog on ‘How to write a professional CV’, to gain an understanding of what a good CV looks like.  Look for neat, tidy, professional, eye catching CV’s.  The information on the CV must be relevant to the role you have advertised.  They should really be highlighting in their CV, specific points, which you have included into your advert.  If you have advertised for a marketing assistant, and someone sends a CV that gives great detail on PR, or sales, then you know they haven’t taken the time to tailor their CV, to hit the hot spots on your advert, (or that they are not really suitable for the role).  One thing to remember when viewing a CV, you cannot tell how a person will perform, present themselves, act, or demonstrate just how good they are, until you see them face to face.  A CV is a snapshot of that person’s experience. Just a snapshot, you’ll get to know the real person when you meet face to face.  The next step is to pick out the best 5 CV’s, (as a guideline, you may choose more or less), that you feel would suit your business, then you have 2 options.  Option1, invite them in for an interview.  Option 2, give them a call, and go through a first stage telephone interview.  I would always advise that you conduct a telephone interview.  You could spend 10 minutes on the phone and decide if a candidate is unsuitable, or you could spend an hour face to face to come to the same conclusion.  A telephone interview can be a very effective way of actually saving your time, rather than wasting it.
  4. Presentation – Once you have invited your applicants in to see you, the first impression they give you is vital.  The old saying goes “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.  Very true words.  It’s vital that when you see the candidate for the first time, they make a very good first impression.  Watch out for how they are dressed, if they greet you with a smile, the handshake, (see my blog on top 10 interview tips), so you know what to look out for.  Also make sure that you are well presented, greet your applicant with a smile, put them at ease immediately, and offer them a drink.  You are also trying to give a good first impression, as you want the candidate to buy into you.  You want them to do well so it’s important that you do all you can to help them do so.  At this stage you may also want your applicants to sit some form of aptitude test.  There are many available such as Discus Profiling, or Psychometric testing.  It depends on you as a company, and the role you are advertising.  Try Saville & Holdsworth in Surrey.  They are very well known, and can tailor a test just for you, and your business.
  5. Prepare an Interview Structure – This needs to be relevant to the role.  I would prepare 15-20 pertinent questions.  Try and include competency based questions.  For instance, if you are interviewing a Health & Safety Manager you could ask a question such as “Can you tell me a time when safety was compromised on your shift, and how you went about dealing with, and resolving the situation?”  Once they have answered, ask another question about the same subject, such as:  “So what part did you play in that process?  How did you feel?  How did this affect the other members of staff at the time?  What was the end result and how did that impact on the site?  Really dig deep into every question.  One question, could lead to 6 questions about the same topic.  Extract as much information as you can, but ensure the questions you ask, are relevant to your business, and the role the candidate is applying for.  See how well your candidate reacts on the spot.  Are they fazed, nervous or uncomfortable?  Or are they able to react well, be methodical with their answers, and give intelligent answers.
  6. Go through the CV – Have a look at their CV during the interview, (and before).  It’s important that you are also very well prepared.  As an interviewer you should be fully aware of their qualifications, work history, key achievements, hobbies & interests.  By doing this you are showing that you have taken the time to read their CV, and learn as much as you can about the candidate before meeting them.  When going through the CV, talk about each job role that they have had.  Explore the tasks they did, who they worked with, the culture of the organisation, and the reasons for leaving.  Lookout for any negative feedback they may give about previous employers, managers, or colleagues.  This is not a good sign if you hear such feedback.  They are there to give positivity only, and highlight the positive aspects of previous roles, also to demonstrate successes and achievements.  Ensure you go through every part of the CV, making notes as you go, extracting as much information as you can from the candidate.
  7. Listening – I’ve said it before, listening is probably the biggest skill a person can execute, and carry out effectively.  If a candidate constantly interrupts you, then they are not interested in hearing what you have to say.  All the great philosophers, writers, & scholars, over the centuries have written about this.  The person, who appears genuinely interested in what others have to say, will immediately be liked, and win friends.  It’s your interview, you are chairing the meeting.  You are directing the questions.  You will give the candidate the opportunity to speak and present themselves when the time is right.  So look out for interruptions, constant talking, not being able to get a word in.  They have to show that they have the ability to listen, as well as talk!
  8. Questions – Your candidates should be asking you questions during the course of the interview.  They should be intelligent, pertinent questions about the company, the role, the structure, the training, the ethos and the culture.  If you are being asked how many days holiday is offered, or how many breaks are taken each day, then you know they are more interested in what’s in it for them, rather than what’s in it for both parties.  At this point you should know whether or not a rapport has been built between you and the candidate.  You are going to be working with this person, so ask yourself.  Would we work well together?  Would this person fit into our team and the ethos of the company?  There are other things you could introduce into the interview at this stage, such as behavioural questioning or role play.  If you are interviewing a sales candidate, ask them to sell you something.  If you are interviewing an IT candidate, give them a problem to analyze, and solve.  The deeper the level of the interview, the better you will get to know, understand the person, and decide if they are suited to your requirements.
  9. Attitude – You are looking for a candidate that has an excellent attitude.  Attitude is so important.  If your gut feeling tells you that a candidate’s attitude is not quite right, then listen to it, as it is normally bang on the money every time.  Yes they have to have the skills and experience to meet the criteria for the role, but in life attitude is everything.  Qualities such as drive, enthusiasm, belief, ambition, positivity, passion, determination & politeness, all come from within.  Skills can be taught.  Attitude comes from within.  After an hour with a person in a face to face interview, asking the correct questions, and really understanding them, you should gain a fairly good understanding of what kind of attitude that person has.  You may find a candidate who has an excellent attitude, but only meets 8/10 of the criteria required for the role.  Then you may find someone who hits 10/10, but is demanding a higher salary package, who’s attitude you are unsure about.  It’s your choice but I know who I would choose.
  10. Reference Checks – It’s very important that the person you eventually decide to hire is the right person.  Statistics show that the average cost of a recruit today is around £5000.  So you need to get it right first time.  Ask for professional working references, from current or last employer.  If a candidate is reluctant to give you details of their last employer, you have to ask yourself why.  Did they leave under a cloud? Were they dismissed? If so for what reason? Ask for contact names and phone numbers.  Give the previous employer a call, and ask questions about attendance, performance, timekeeping, honesty, attitude etc.  You need to be 100% sure that the candidate you hire is credible.  It will be a very costly exercise if you spend 3 months training the person, then problems start to occur, and they end up leaving you for whatever reason.  So do your checks properly, and protect your investment.
  11. Discrimination - The laws have changed of late, so you need to be very careful what questions you ask an interview candidate.  Since the age discrimination law came into place, you are no longer allowed to ask a person their age.  People should not be putting their date of birth on a CV.  You are also not allowed to ask someone if they are married, have children, what their living arrangements are.  Why?  Because none of it is relevant to whether or not they can perform the job role you have advertised.  So keep your questions specific to the role, the skill set, the experience, the qualifications etc.  You can’t ask personal questions any more.
  12. Contract of Employment – Is essential.  You are both entering into an agreement; therefore a contract needs to be in place.  If you think you can employ someone without a contract of employment in place, then I’m afraid you are mistaken.  Call any employment solicitor, or HR business and they will confirm this.  The contract is there to protect both parties.  It states the conditions of employment.  The contract will include details such as remuneration, hours and place of work, working hours, holiday entitlement.  It will also include company policies such as disciplinary process, notice period, company rules, regulations & expectations.  It’s all down in black & white for both parties to see.  You know where you stand from day one.  So if you do decide to do your own recruitment, and don’t have an HR department, then seek advice from a professional so that both your company, and your candidate are fully protected. 

So there you have it, 2 options.  Use a reputable recruitment company, or recruit your own staff.  Remember that recruitment companies will do all of the above for you, and are heavily regulated by the BIS, (Department for Business Innovation & Skills).  Find out if they are also members of the REC, (Recruitment & Employment Federation). They must comply with all of the above by law, so if you do use a reputable company, you are automatically protected.  They also take away all the tasks I have outlined above, saving you time, energy, and money.  Some firms will offer you a guarantee in the form of a rebate, if anything goes wrong with the candidate.  If you recruit your own staff, then follow the guidelines, and protect your company.

Happy Recruiting!


How to be an effective Public Speaker

One of the biggest fears in today’s society is Public Speaking .  Over the years public speaking has become a bigger, and bigger part of my life.  As you grow older, your confidence increases, and you find yourself doing things, you never thought you would.  I’ve sought lots of help and advice along the way, to improve my own level of public speaking.  For this week’s blog, I’m going to share with you some helpful tips and advice, to help you improve your public speaking.  I believe that if you can conquer this fear in life, you can conquer absolutely anything.  If you speak regularly, you will get better, gain confidence, and enjoy something wonderful. 

No matter where you are or what you’re doing in life, at some point, public speaking is going to find you.  If you are in an interview, a business meeting, a sales pitch, a presentation at work, or even at a wedding, you’re going to have to do it.  So you may as well accept it, and be ready for when it happens.

For those of you who hate public speaking, believe me, it can be taught.  Just like learning sales, customer service, IT, or cooking.  You can learn how to be an effective public speaker.  So here a few starter points for you: Enjoy :o)

  1. Breathing - Move your focus to your chest area and breathe deeply.   Slow deep breaths, breathing out for a longer period of time.  Allow your mind to go blank for about 30 seconds. If thoughts jump in gently let them go.   As you continue breathing deeply relax your body, your face, neck, shoulders & legs. Do this for around 30 seconds before you have to speak.  This will relax you and regulate your heartbeat.   Breathing correctly will also regulate the tone, and pitch of your voice.  If you are breathing erratically, your voice could be up and down, therefore highlighting your nervousness to your audience.
  2. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare – This is essential.  Whatever you do, don’t just stand up and hope for the best.  Don’t wing it! Only the most experienced speakers can pull this off, (sometimes).  It’s always better to have a plan, and stick to it.  Know your material, prepare what you are going to say, and know what order you are going to deliver it.  Make sure you know your subject, if you’re really passionate about a certain subject, then this will show, and you’re audience will see.  Always have a good opening line, memorise it over and over, so you know how your speech is going to start.  This will also give you confidence, and settle the pre-speech nerves.
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice – Again, absolutely essential.  If it’s a speech, practice at home, in the car, before you go to sleep.  If it’s a presentation, set it up at the office, run through it.  Get used to the room, and the environment where you will be delivering it.  Go over it and over it again and again, so you know the material by heart.  Statistics tell us that 90% of any speech or presentation is preparation; only 10% is the actual delivery.  So if you are totally prepared, you’ve got a much better chance of nailing it on the day.
  4. Awareness – A very wise lady from America taught me a fantastic technique about how to empty your mind, before standing up and giving a speech.  If your mind is empty before you speak, then you are aware.  You are present to the situation in hand.  If your mind is filled with thoughts, and you are listening to the chatterbox inside your head, then you are not aware, nor present.  If you are listening to the chatterbox inside your head, the one that says “Oh no It’s me next, what if I mess it up?  What if I forget what I’m going to say?  Oh my god, all those eyes are going to be on me”, then you are heading for trouble.  It’s your job to silence the chatterbox. Let those thoughts slowly drift out of your mind.  In order to deliver a great speech, and settle your nerves, you must be able to empty mind of any thoughts, especially any negative thoughts.  If you can do this, then you will be completely focussed on the job in hand, (your speech), as you stand to deliver it.
  5. Butterflies – What are they?  Where do they come from?  Your heart is racing, your palms are sweaty, and your stomach is upside down with the nerves.  Guess what – This is totally normal! You’re not the only person in the world to experience this.  Yes, it happens to us all.  You wouldn’t be human if you did not get nervous before public speaking.  Honest!!  Nerves are part of public speaking, so accept them, and let them be your friend.  Use the nerves and turn them into excitement and adrenalin.  If you follow the breathing exercises in point 1, you will control the nerves. If you follow the awareness technique in point 4, this will reduce the butterflies.  I heard a very apt statement in relation to this point, which I think is fitting here “Teach the butterflies to fly in formation” Meaning follow the steps I have given you, and they will.
  6. It’s about them – Not you.  When you give a speech or presentation, remember, it’s about you conveying a message to your audience.  It’s not about you.  You need to take the focus off yourself, stop putting unnecessary pressure on yourself, and focus on the message you are trying to deliver.  Engage with them, make eye contact, smile.  Show your warmth.  Remember they want you to do well.  Some would say try and get a laugh early on to break the ice.  The important thing is that your audience understands what you are trying to say, and gets something out of the information you have given.
  7. Think Positive – I have mentioned this in all of my blogs.  You must prepare mentally for any public speaking event by planting positivity into your brain, and your neurology.  Say 5 positive things to yourself every night before bed, tell yourself positive things just before you speak.  Never allow yourself to think negative.   Think of the law of attraction, where like attracts like.  If you think negative thoughts, you immediately become a magnet for more negative thoughts.  If you think bad things, guess what come your way.  So choose to think positive and positive things will find their way to you.
  8. Speak often – Once you give your first speech, you will encounter a feeling that you’ve never experienced before.  A massive sense of achievement and positivity running through your body.  Elation, excitement & superior confidence.  It really is the start of something wonderful, so embrace it, and do it again!  The more you speak, the more confident you will become.  The nerves will always be there, but they will be less and less, each time you speak.  Public speaking is a bit like golf.  If you play every day, you achieve a certain level of competence. The more you play, the better you get.  Then if you have a year off, it takes a long time to get back to the standard which you once were.  Public speaking is the same, if you do it often enough, you just keep improving. The more you do it, the more you start to enjoy it.
  9. Other helpful techniques – I’ve done a lot of research on how to improve public speaking over the years.  Other techniques that I’ve come across are:  EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique, a form of meridian tapping created by a chap called Gary Craig.  If you google ‘EFT’ you will be able to find out more.  NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming.  Another way of planting positivity into your sub-concious and neurology.  This was originally discovered by 2 computer programmers in the 1970’s.  With NLP you can lift or remove barriers that you have created that tell you ‘You can’t’.  This helps you achieve the things that your sub-concious has always told you, you couldn’t.  PMA – Present moment awareness technique which I mentioned earlier.  You can find more information about this technique at
  10. Feel the fear – Do it anyway – In life you are constantly going to be faced with challenges.  Some you will be bold to take on, others you will be scared of.  Public speaking is one of those challenges that you will come across along your way.  If you face it, conquer it, and do it, you will be a much more confident person.  You will believe in yourself more and more each day.  You will apply for the job you never thought you could get, you’ll gain that promotion that you never thought you would.  Life is about choices and challenges.  Choose to do the things you hate, and everything else becomes easy.  Challenge yourself constantly and see what is achievable.  Public speaking is the number 1 fear in the world.  Think how you would feel if you conquered it.  Feel the fear & do it anyway.

Confessions of an Interviewer – The all time biggest interview mistakes.

As a Recruiter of almost 15 years, I thought I’d share some of the all time biggest interview mistakes I’ve seen.  The fact is that people do tend to get nervous during an interview situation.  Why?  Because they are out of their comfort zone, doing something out of the norm, maybe something they haven’t done for years.  Even if they have prepared for the interview, there are still things they can say or do on the day, which may go against them.  I’ve encountered some real experiences in my time, so here are just a few to share with you:

1. BO – Yes Body Odour!  Would you believe that an interview candidate would turn up for their interview without being washed properly?  Would you believe they would turn up in clothes that they have worn for a week, or even longer?  I’ve interviewed many candidates with this problem.  The one that sticks in my mind the most was when I was sitting in the office one day, and my nose glands started to twitch.  I looked up and could not see anything out of the ordinary, so carried on working.  The smell got stronger & stronger, until I ventured down to the reception area, to see a candidate waiting for interview in a scruffy old t-shirt & jeans.  Clearly he had brought the eye watering odour in with him.  I asked him to accompany me to an interview room, (bad idea).  I spoke to him very politely and tactfully about the issue, to which he replied, “It’s the drains outside – not me” He was not even aware that it was he, that had stunk the whole office out for the rest of the day!  I gave him a chance to go home and address the problem, to which he did.  He never came back.  So listen up: If you’re going for an interview, shower properly, and put on fresh, clean clothes!

2. Smoker’s Breath – Another horrible thing for an interviewer to endure.  The smell of a smoker’s breath to a non-smoker is indescribable.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to sit and interview a candidate, who had one last fag, before they come in for their all important interview.  They haven’t even tried to hide it, or compensate by having a chewing gum.  So here is a tip for all you smokers.  DON’T have a cigarette just before your interview.  Your breath stinks! 

3. Bad Attitude – Ok so you’re there to make a good impression – right?  Of course you are.  So don’t sit there with an attitude problem.  Don’t give one word answers, or the impression you couldn’t care a less if you get the job or not.  Believe it or not I’ve seen this time and time again.  You’re there to sell yourself, to create that all important great first impression, (after you’ve given a fantastic CV, and smile when you greeted your interviewer).  See my earlier blog on ‘How to create a great first impression’.  So be polite, courteous, happy – look interested, and don’t try and be a smart alec.  Believe me if you do, you won’t get a call back.

4. Over confidence – Now then, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of confidence, in fact even a lot of confidence.  It’s paramount that you are confident.  Confidence is everything in life, especially in interview situations.  However, be careful!  There is a very fine line between confidence and cockiness.  Employers won’t warm to over-confident, or cocky characters.  The show-off, the boaster, the know it all.  You need to be able to show that you have that confidence, without coming across as a bighead.  So reel it in a little, by all means highlight your past successes, but in a humble way, and without ego.  I’ve interviewed candidates who claim to be fantastic sales people, but when asked to define the word ‘sales’, they couldn’t give an answer.  So just take care to get the confidence balance right.

5. Silly answers – I have to tell you about my all time favourite silly answer, I was doing a telephone interview, with a candidate who was applying for a telesales position.  I asked him what would be the ‘3 words’ that would describe him most.  And what did he say?  I bet you’re thinking “Ambitious – confident – enthusiastic” Or “motivated, energetic & positive”  Unfortunately not, his response was a response I never thought I’d hear in my lifetime.  He came out with the unforgettable words “I AM MINT”.  I still laugh about it even to this day.  Think before you speak, rehearse your answers, be ready, and prepared with an intelligent answer every time.

6. Dress sense – A certain situation springs to mind in relation to dress sense.  I telephone interviewed a candidate and she sounded very confident, outgoing, polite.  She had a great attitude, and I had high hopes for her so invited her in to see me for a face to face interview.  I was expecting this smart, dynamic, well presented young lady to walk through the door.  My expectations were slightly incorrect when she turned up in a shell suit, trainers, and fingernails bit down to the wood, so much so that they were actually bleeding.  Biting your fingernails is a definite no-no.  So if you’ve got an interview coming up, get your mitt’s on for a week.  And obviously don’t come in a shell suit or trainers.  Smart business attire at all times if you want to create a good impression!

7. Alcohol – Whatever you do, don’t have a pint before your interview.  Yes people do it believe it or not.  And definitely don’t have a skin full the night before.  It is a known fact that alcohol affects your concentration.  You will not be able to focus properly on the day, therefore reducing your chances of getting the job.  Make sure you have an alcohol free night, and a good night’s sleep. 

8. The Chatterbox – It’s good to talk – Yes?  Yes it is, but only when your interviewer prompts you to do so.  I interviewed a very nice lady once, I introduced myself, and before I could say another thing, she jumped in with “I’ll just give you a little bit background information about myself”.  Twenty minutes later I had to very politely stop her, as she was three quarters of the way through her CV, and I hadn’t written even written her name down on the interview card.  Don’t fly off on a tangent.  Your interviewer wants to control the interview.  Speak only when asked and keep your answers 3 to 4 concise sentences.  Then STOP, and wait until your next opportunity to give a great answer.

9. Lying – If you lie on your CV, you will get caught out at some point.  If you lie in your interview the same will happen.  Honesty really is the best policy.  Keep your CV, and interview answers factual at all times.  One of my candidates went for final interview with a future employer, and was interviewed by 2 people separately.  Unfortunately he gave two very different sets of answers to each interviewer, therefore placing doubt in their minds.  Guess what – He was rejected.  Tell the truth at all times!

10. Don’t Swear – Ok so it’s the job of the interviewer to make you feel at ease, to make you feel relaxed and comfortable at the start of the interview.  But not so comfortable that you think it’s ok to swear.  One of the most common errors during an interview is when a candidate swears!  I interviewed one guy who was working on a temporary basis on a building site.  He had come from an executive property background, but because he was working on a building site, he said the ‘F’ word 4 times during the interview!!  It’s never going to be OK to swear, so just don’t do it.  Even if you think it’s a soft swear word, do yourself a favour and steer clear.  Replace it with a nice word and give yourself every chance of landing that all important, dream job.

11. Don’t slate previous employer’s – Another all time classic that candidates fail on.  Whatever you do, do not say anything negative about your last employer, manager, or work colleagues.  It will automatically go against you.  I interviewed a gentleman who worked in a sports shoe shop.  For 45 minutes he did nothing but name call & disrespect his current manager.  He was so negative about everything to do with his current employment, there was no way he was going to find a new job with that attitude.  Always say something polite and respectful about your current, or previous employment.  Employers don’t want to hear you being negative.


Top Ten Interview Tips

Hello folks, and welcome to this weeks blog.  Over a 15 year period I’ve interviewed in excess of 3000 candidates from a wealth of different sectors, from junior to senior level, factory worker to Sales Director.  IT analyst to Head Chef, all different kinds of individuals with different styles and attitudes.

For this week’s blog I’d like to give you some top tips on creating a great first impression with your interviewer and setting yourself up as one of the top candidates in the running to land that all important job.  It’s a very difficult market at the moment.  You’ve got senior managers with 20 years experience struggling to get back to work after being made redundant.  Really experienced people who are not able to get back on the work ladder, but not quite sure why, or don’t know what they are doing wrong with their job applications.  There are also record numbers of people in the UK unemployed with not as many jobs available as there once was.

If you look at the Newcastle Evening Chronicle which once had over 2000 jobs a week available, I saw a copy last week and there was only 360 jobs in that edition.  So candidates you are going to have to get smart and make you and your application stand out from the crowd.

Here are some tips to get you started, (there will be more to follow weekly in future blogs):

1. Following on from last week’s blog, Is your CV up to scratch?  If it’s not, then it will go in the ‘No’ pile before you know it and you will receive a ‘Thanks but no thanks’ letter.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a professional looking CV.  As I said above, some people don’t know why they are being rejected all the time.  A poor CV is the first reason you will not be offered an interview, (see my earlier blog on how to write a professional CV).  Make sure that you know your CV back to front, there is nothing more embarrassing than being asked a question about your own CV, and being stuck for an answer.  You must know every inch of your CV and be prepared for any question relating to it.

2. Research the company – Prior to your interview do as much research as you can.  Google the company, make notes on their product, service, location, structure, anything you can find.  Go over it again and again so that when you attend the interview, you know all about the company, and you are able to present back to your interviewer, exactly what you know.  Your interviewer will be more than impressed if you have done your homework and you know all about the company.  When I interview a candidate via the telephone, I ask them to prepare exactly what they know about the company and the role they are applying for, prior to the actual face to face interview.  If they turn up on the day and don’t know a thing, I know they have not made the effort to do the research.  On the other hand, If a candidate arrives and he/she has done the research and is able to tell me all about the company and the role, I know they are serious about their application and it is a tick in the box, creating a positive feeling towards the candidate’s application.

3. OK so great news, you’ve been offered an interview! What next?  Dress to Impress!  Have you ever watched Dragon’s Den when someone turns up in a pair of jeans and Peter Jones tears strips off them?  It’s the same for an interview, any interview!  If you are signing up with a recruitment company, they will interview you as professionally as anyone else, (they have to due to legislation and for their own credibility in the industry).  So wear a suit!  Make sure you look and feel great.  I’ve had really good sounding candidates on the telephone, turn up in shell suits, jeans or trainers, and create a poor first impression because they haven’t made an effort to look well presented. 

4 Breathing- Just before you meet your interviewer, it is important that you try and settle your nerves.  Breathing correctly will help you do this.  Take a deep breath, and breathe out slowly through your diaphragm, for as long as you can.  Repeat this as you wait until you feel yourself calm down.  This will also regulate the pitch and tone of your voice.  Nervousness can make your breathing erratic and make the sound of your voice high pitched, so ensure you breathe correctly so that when you start talking, your voice is at the perfect pitch and tone.

5. Meeting your interviewer – The first time you meet your interviewer it is vital that you create a great first impression.  And how do you do this? SMILE!  Dale Carnegie wrote a whole chapter on this in ‘How to win friends and influence people’.  If you smile, they will smile back and bingo, you’re off on the right foot!  The handshake is also very important.  You must give a firm handshake with palms touching, not so hard that you crush your interviewers hand, but not too soft that you give an impression of weakness.  Be careful of a ‘half handshake’ where you only manage to grab the fingers of the other persons hand, again this may mean low self- confidence,  and can be a sign of weakness.  Also try and carry a handkerchief in your pocket so that if your palms are sweaty when you meet your interviewer, you can put your hand in your pocket and dry your palm, just before you shake hands.

6. Eye Contact – As you meet your interviewer ensure you make and maintain eye contact.  If you don’t, again this could be a sign that you are not confident about the interview.  Continue to make eye contact throughout the interview at the appropriate times.  You cannot stare at your interviewer for every second of the interview, but you must use an appropriate amount of eye contact, at the right times.  Focus on the eye/nose section, (also known as the rapport building zone).  I interviewed a gentlemen once who was turned to the side, with his eyes facing the wall for most of the interview.  He barely made any eye contact with me at all.  When I asked him about this at the end of the interview, he wasn’t even aware that he was doing it!

7. Self Confidence- I’ve seen so many candidates, with great experience in the role that they’re applying for, deliver a poor interview on the day, because of low self confidence.  Confidence really is the key to your success!  If you are confident, your interviewer will see this,  and they will have confidence in you also.  They don’t want to hear about why you couldn’t do this or that, your fears or worries.  They want to hear that you CAN! You must maintain a positive approach to your interview and take this job application seriously.  You must tell yourself that you are the best candidate for the role, but above all, you must BELIEVE it!  Take it from me it is a joy to interview a candidate who is self confident.  If you think about it, during your interview you are only talking about yourself.  Who knows you better than you?  That’s right, nobody!  So believe in yourself and portray a confident image.

8. Positive Thinking- During the build up to your interview, make sure you are having positive thoughts.  Remember positive thoughts = positive feelings = positive outcomes.  Negative thoughts = exactly the same, negative outcomes!!  Each morning when you wake up, tell yourself you are the best person for that job.  Say it in your head over and over again.  Then when you go to bed, tell yourself again.  Say it 5 times in your head before you go to sleep, “I am the best candidate for that job, I am confident and will deliver a great interview”  You are planting positive thoughts of confidence and self belief into your sub-conscious.  Just before you meet your interviewer do exactly the same thing.  Whatever you do, don’t allow ANY negative thoughts into your mind.  If a negative thought creeps in, just give it a nudge out with a stronger positive thought.

9 Being a good listener- Yes that’s right, Listening!  You’re probably thinking but I’m here to talk about me, I should be the one doing all the talking, WRONG!  You’re interviewer is the person controlling the interview.  They will have a structure to follow in order to extract as much information about you as they can.  They will give you the opportunity to speak when they say, so use those opportunities wisely.  When asked a question, answer in around 4 or 5 concise sentences.  Don’t go on for 10 or 11 sentences.  Just stick to the facts, again highlighting the positives, then stop.  As an interviewer there is nothing worse than not being able to get a word in edge ways!  Sometimes the interviewer wants to talk so never ever interrupt.  If the interviewer is talking, let them talk, and you listen.  Really listen, don’t just hear, you must digest what is actually being said so that if they fire a question at you, you are ready to give an intelligent, positive answer. 

10. Ask intelligent questions- Prior to the interview, prepare around 4-5 intelligent questions.  Ask some during the interview, but always have at least 3 for the end of the interview.  By intelligent questions I don’t mean “What time is my break?” or “How many days holiday do I get a year?  I mean questions about the role, the company, the training, the infrastructure etc etc.  You need to be genuinely interested in how you are going to fit into the culture of the company.  It needs to be right for you, aswell as for the company.

When your interview is complete, give a firm handshake again and maintain eye contact.  Thank your interviewer for their time, and tell them you look forward to seeing them again soon.  Leave with your head held high knowing you have done everything you could, to land that job!

11.  Ok just like last week here’s a bonus tip.  Body Language – Maintain an open posture.  If you’re sitting with your arms folded or your shoulders dipped, you’re showing signs of discomfort.  Shoulders and back straight, arms by your sides or resting on your knees, square on,  and facing your interviewer.  If they see you having open body language, they should adopt a similar posture and feel comfortable around you, creating a positive start to the interview.


10 top tips to have a Professional CV

The UK Government recently released statistics that there are almost 3 million unemployed in the UK.  Most of which have never had any form of CV help or interview skills training.  My company offers those exact services,  so I will be publishing a free weekly blog to give people hints and tips on how to stay one step ahead of the competition in today’s difficult market.  The market is top heavy with good quality candidates at the moment, and there aren’t that many good jobs available. Therefore it is vital that you are fully prepared when designing your CV,  and attending that all important job interview.

I see CV’s every day of my life and I can tell you that almost all CV’s, (yes almost all CV’s that I see!!), need some form of alteration.  So I’m going to give you some great tips on how to make your CV eye catching, neat, tidy, and above all professional.

Here are my 10 top tips when writing your CV:

  1. Don’t put CV or Curriculum Vitae at the top!  An employer knows what it is, you don’t need to take up valuable space by stating the obvious.
  2. Keep the font universal.  Don’t have different kinds or sizes of fonts on different parts of the CV, it must look fluid.
  3. Don’t make it too long! – A possible future employer normally loses interest or stops reading at about a page and a half so 2 try and keep it to around 2 pages, 3 at an absolute most.
  4. Try and stay away from tables, (unless you’re a Word expert).  Just keep it simple.  No need to complicate things, It just needs to be clear and concise.
  5. You also don’t need to put headings like: Name, Address, D.O.B etc. Again it’s obvious what all of those look like,  so avoid putting them on, (more waste of valuable space).
  6. You don’t need to put anything about your D.O.B or marital status.  You don’t have to put anything about children or living arrangements as an employer is not allowed to ask you those type of questions – They are not relevant to whether or not you can do the job.
  7. Don’t try and be flash with colours and designs, again keep it very simple.  Your CV is a snapshot of what you are going to talk about at the interview.  You need to put enough quality information on your CV to get the employer interested without waffling on and losing their interest.
  8. Stay away from block text, use bullets when detailing information about previous jobs, or education.  Block text looks awful and is an immediate turn off for an employer.
  9. Keep it relevant.  Talk about the stuff that is really important like education, employment history.  Build a strong profile of yourself at the start of the CV,  but make it your own.  Don’t just write what you see on 8 out of 10 CV’s like “I’m hard working, reliable, can work as a team or on my own initiative…….blah blah blah.  It needs to be factual and it needs to come from you, so dig deep, make it interesting,  and highlight your successes.  Employers want to know where you have previously done well, been a high achiever, been promoted,  or made a fantastic sale.
  10. Make sure you tailor your CV to the position you are appling for. If you’re applying for a job in telesales, don’t say you want to work in retail on your CV!  Also have a strong covering letter, again specific to the role you’re applying for.  You could probably have 3 Cv’s and 3 covering letters and just tweak the relevant one for each application.
  11. I know I said there were 10 tips but here is an extra bonus one:  SPELLCHECK your CV!  You would not believe the amount of CV’s I see with poor grammar and spelling.  They will go straight in the shred pile unless they are presented well, maybe even ask a friend to proof read your CV before you start sending it out.

Your CV is that all important first impression to a future employer.  It is VITAL that you get it right.  If you have a CV and are not sure if it is up to scratch, or you’re not getting as many interviews as you’d like, have a look at our  CV Tidy where we can aid you to have a professional CV.