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How not to stuff up your job interview

Nigel Morris-Cotterill

On 8th November, 2018, I had the opportunity to present to students at Tunku Abdul Rahman University College my guide to success in job interviews. Here it is.

And so onto your first contact with the jobs market. It will usually be via either an employment agent or the personnel department of a company which has advertised either on the internet or in a newspaper, for example.

Let's deal first with employment agents. First, those who call themselves "headhunters" are usually lying. Someone who advertises on behalf of a company and receives and filters applications is not a headhunter. A headhunter is someone who actively researches potential candidates and makes a direct approach to them for a specific position where a fit is considered likely. Headhunters rarely, if ever, advertise the jobs they are looking to fill.

Worse, many of those who say they are headhunters are filling up their day at your expense: they might have found you on a jobs website and contacted you speculatively asking for your CV even though they do not have a job in mind.

Don't ever deal with those: almost universally, what they are doing is padding their workload so that they can tell their client that they have considered x applicants when, in fact, you were never under active consideration at all. Some will call you in for interview.

There are some who are honest and say "we saw your CV and although we don't have anything for you at present, we'd like to meet you as a kind of pre-clearance so that if something comes along we've already go the preliminary stage out of the way." That's fine.. if they pay your expenses. If they don't pay your expenses, they are highly unlikely to be genuine in their approach.

Personnel departments used to be a small office at the end of a corridor. Over decades, they have given themselves grand names, created terminology and buzzwords and have taken over the functions of other departments including, often, training. They often have the nicest offices and the newest, flashiest technology. And they are, often, power hungry and brutal. Hiding behind all their soft words is a large, heavy boot.

Should you be scared of the employment agents and personnel departments? No, you should not. You should simply be aware that what's behind that door is not someone who is on your side. They are, only, on their own side. Employment agents are paid only by results, if you are not what they think their client will accept, they will dump you like a bad date, but with less grace. Personnel departments need to be sold to: they are interested, primarily, in whether you will fit in i.e. not cause disruption amongst the existing workforce or policies and secondly in what you will cost, bearing in mind that cost goes far beyond salary.

Both of them provide the first line of defence of companies against engaging the wrong staff.

In fact, and you should view this as a good thing, it's their job to reject the vast majority of those who apply to join the company.

It's your job to make sure you are in the minority that goes onto the next round.

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