According to a study by Princeton psychologists it only takes a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face. They also discovered that longer exposures don’t significantly alter those impressions; they just reinforce them. A scary thought when you’re about to walk into an interview!

Now interviewers may not make a hiring decision in the blink of an eye, but according to a recent survey by TotalJobs a staggering 19% of them admit to only taking one minute to decide whether they want to hire a candidate or not.

Given our natural tendency as humans to make snap decisions about another person, here’s our guide as to what you should be thinking about to counteract any negative judgement at various stages of that initial appraisal:

In the blink of an eye: appearance
Despite any outrage we may feel at being judged on our outward appearance, if you show up looking sloppy, a potential employer might interpret this as your being disorganised, or might take it as a sign that you don’t take the opportunity seriously.

Instead, aim to dress professionally and appropriately. This does not necessarily mean you have to show up in formal business attire: investigate the company culture to get a sense of the dress code and tailor your look to fit.

In the first 7 seconds: body language
Body language makes up 55% of communication, so before you open your mouth your interviewer may already be drawing some initial conclusions about you based on the firmness of your handshake, the amount of eye contact you make and any nervous gestures you might display.

To avoid being considered evasive, disconnected, or just plain rude, check your posture, avoid crossing your arms, maintain the right level of eye contact and smile.

In the first minute: attitude
Remember, a potential employer is looking to hire you as a person that they might actually have to work with so any indication of a negative attitude will probably ruin your chances from the start. However, you have many opportunities to convey your positive attitude.

From arriving on time, being courteous and friendly from the get go, relaying your enthusiasm for the role and being yourself throughout you’ll convey professionalism, positivity and confidence.

And beyond: Preparation
If you’ve thoroughly prepared for an interview it’ll show in everything you say and do; a lack of preparation will do too and will probably cost you. According to the TotalJobs survey, not showing a thorough understanding of the job you’re applying to is regarded as the biggest mistake you can make.

So make sure you do your research. Look at the company website and social media pages to learn about the overall culture, and go back to the job ad to get a full understanding of the role. Rehearse some frequently asked questions to prevent being caught off-guard.

First impressions are tricky. While many employers might rely on them, they don’t necessarily have to be well-founded. With only limited time to prove yourself during an interview you’ll want to make sure that you get it right from the get-go.

The good news is that you are entirely in charge of the image you present to your interviewer, and with a bit of practice and preparation you can ensure that each second of that first crucial minute and the ones to follow work in your favour.

Reference: Forbes; Telegraph; 4-traders; Association for Psychological Science; Abintegro22 Jun 2017

Resilience might be way down your ‘list of skills to be aware of’ if you are job hunting right now, but it is a vital requirement for modern professionals. With job security and a standard career path less and less attainable across many industries, a capacity to handle uncertainty and adversity has never been more important (or in demand). 

Such is the case that many employers will try to find out about your resilience through interview questions on how you’ve handled stress, pressure and failure in the past. Additionally, job hunting itself can be an incredibly demoralising experience if you let it. Focussing on building your resilience can make all the difference to your inner confidence and success rate across many areas in your life.

This might be easier said than done though – to achieve resilience means possessing the right blend of self-awareness and inner strength, and the flexibility to adapt to changes in circumstances and surroundings. It’s rather like a palm tree: a strong, firmly rooted base supporting an element that’s far more flexible and able to cope with being blown around by different winds.

Here are three key building blocks that can help you towards developing a resilient professional persona:

1. Positivity
Having a positive view of yourself and the world around you is the basis for developing resilience. Pay attention to the messages you send yourself throughout the day. If you find yourself making negative assumptions about yourself or anything around you, consciously switch to a positive thought. With practice this should become automatic. That will keep you grounded, rooted like a tree, and give you the stability you need for a positive mindset.

2. Commitment
Get to know yourself and recognise what is important to you. Have a clear idea of your future aspirations and where you want to go in your career. You need to be willing to commit to your goals and invest in making them happen. Knowing what is important to you and being committed to your goals strengthens you in your core. Don’t forget however, that even the best-laid plans can sometimes go off course or need to be abandoned altogether. Make like a palm tree and allow yourself flexibility to go with the flow when things don’t go to plan.

3. Control
Control means being aware of the situations or areas in your life you can influence as well as recognising those that you can’t. Being able to distinguish between the two will allow you to focus your energy on the things that are most important or achievable. It will give you the flexibility to prioritise your goals and adapt to different circumstances.

Remember that in order to be resilient you also need to be healthy in mind and body so pay attention to your general well-being, take proper breaks, eat well, and look after the relationships that support you. When it comes to resilience it’s about knowing that you can’t stop the waves, but that you can certainly learn how to surf them.

15 Jun 2017
Reference: Abintegro

When you google yourself, what happens? Usually one of four things:

a) It’s exactly as you expected and you are rather pleased with yourself;

b) all the results are nothing to do with you and it appears that, in fact, you don’t exist at all;

c) what does come up has mistakes in it or isn’t up to date;

d) you want to cover your face in shame.

Now imagine a recruiter has just googled your name and come up with the same results as you.

If the answer was a) go to the top of the class. You have nothing to worry about. If it was b), c) or d) fear not! The following tips are here to help you:

For no online presence:
Turn to LinkedIn. Create a profile, with all your relevant professional history and a snappy summary. Then start connecting with friends, colleagues, former colleagues and bosses, old university pals and people relevant to the business area you’re in or interested in. If you’re feeling brave join some LinkedIn groups and start engaging with the community.

In addition to LinkedIn, check out some other social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, or consider creating a personal blog on a website like Tumblr or WordPress.

For a presence with mistakes or that’s incomplete:
Check all your online profiles and make sure all the relevant information is there: recent jobs, interesting accomplishments, examples of your work and contact information. Also ensure that all your different websites and profiles are connected by including links on all of them.

Be diligent in checking for mistakes and keep your profiles up to date. Contact bloggers to ask them to remove or update any incorrect information about you.

For an inappropriate presence:
Start by getting rid of dodgy photos: taking them down or untagging yourself. Even if your privacy settings are right, the person who uploaded the photograph or the other person tagged in it might have theirs wide open.

Think about the image you are trying to project. Start making positive contributions on the right blogs and groups and eventually all the old or offensive stuff will get pushed on to the second search page.

Make sure you check your online presence regularly and take appropriate action.

Reference: Careerealism; Abintegro
07 Jun 2017

Employers are increasingly adopting strengths-based interview techniques to get the most value out of the application process.

These interviews look to understand the kind of things that you enjoy and that interest you. They are designed to stop candidates from feeling like they have to cheat the system or second guess what their interviewer wants to hear.

However, that’s not an excuse to go in cold without any preparation. It’s not about rehearsing perfect answers, but you still want to ensure that you shine in the best possible light. Here are some ways to prepare yourself for a strengths-based interview:

1. Begin with some self-analysis

Start by thinking carefully about what engages you and the kind of tasks and activities you enjoy. While you’ll already have an instinctive sense of the above, you want these ideas to be fresh and clear in your mind. Having this self-awareness will give you the confidence to deal with different types of strengths-based questions and provide fluid responses.

2. Revisit your application

It’s important to be able to link your core qualities and interests to real examples from different areas of your life. Go back to your CV and/ or application form; think about your experiences: was there a course or extracurricular activity that really engaged you? Did you thrive in a particular work placement, were there aspects of a previous role that made you feel positive about yourself and your job?

3. Get to know the company

While the focus is very much on you, there’s no harm in seeking to understand the qualities and values that your prospective employer holds dear. We’re not suggesting you deliberately tailor your answers to these, but it’s useful to see where your values align and the kind of qualities and strengths you should be drawing attention to. It might also help to identify the type of language you should be using to describe your experience.

4. Understand the questions and let them sink in

While every interview is different, it’s useful to have an idea of the kinds of questions you may face. Brace yourself for quite a few questions – it usually takes time to build up a rounded picture of your personality and qualities.

• What type of things are you good at?
• What kind of tasks do you most enjoy doing and why?
• Do you feel more energised at the start of a project or at the end?
• When have you felt most fulfilled?
• What achievements are you most proud of and why?
• What particular aspects of this role do you think you’ll enjoy?

Google ‘strengths based interview questions’ to pick up some more ideas.

Remember, your interviewer is looking for honest and genuine insight, not perfectly scripted answers. Rather than rote learning your responses you could try jotting down a few bullet points or using a spider diagram to brainstorm key ideas or experiences.

At the end of the day strengths based interviews are as much about your helping yourself to determine whether the role is right for you as about the employer uncovering their perfect candidate. Treat it as a mutual learning process, be honest and true to yourself, and you can’t go too far wrong.

Reference: Michael Page; Target Jobs; Assessment Day; Abintegro
31 May 2017
Every now and again the cover letter is declared dead. Whether concluded in the results of a survey or predicted after the rise of a new trend in the world of applications, the cover letter’s demise is often discussed – and sometimes even called for.
However, old habits die hard. For all the advances in technology, emailing and online employee profiles, a covering letter remains an essential component of most job application processes, so be careful before writing it off entirely.

While the style, structure and even method of delivery may have evolved in recent years, there are still plenty of employers who expect to receive a cover letter – or at least a well-crafted covering email – alongside a CV. This is particularly true of smaller businesses, which often employ a more personalised selection process, forgoing the use of standardised application forms, for example.

Some employers may describe the submission of a covering letter as ‘optional’, while others might not ask for one at all. If you have the option to include one, do it; you might miss out on a valuable opportunity to sell yourself and stand out from the competition if you don’t.

A carefully-considered composition can draw attention to your key selling points while outlining your enthusiasm for the role. If nothing else it shows you’re serious enough to have taken time for your application and come up with a persuasive argument for why you should be hired.

That’s not to say the old ways are always the best, however. Recruitment consultants in particular bemoan the overuse of stuffy, lengthy and overly formal cover letters that reveal little about the candidate and their interest in the job. While this might have ticked the boxes circa 1975, in the 21st Century a killer cover letter should look to fulfil the following criteria:

Concise – keep it short – a single page is more than enough
Direct – clearly spell out your suitability and why you want the job, thinking about key words and phrases
Original – make sure the style reflects who you are rather than sticking too rigidly to standardised templates and syntax, but don’t go crazy
Personal – make sure to address the reader by name
Precise – employers value literacy and attention to detail; typos and grammatical errors are a definite turn-off

A cover letter may just seem like another hoop to jump through in your job search, but underestimate it at your peril. At the end of the day employers still want to hire human beings. Being able to give your application this personal touch should be to your advantage.

 

Reference: Recruiter; Inc; USA Today; Abintegro
24 May 2017

Beware, beware the preliminary phone interview. While often disguised as a ”quick chat” or little more than a formality en route to the real thing, it’s really not to be underestimated.

For the hiring manager the call is a chance to whittle down their search to the genuine candidates and to gauge the interest, professionalism, work ethic and expertise of the person behind the CV (as well as their basic intellect and sanity).

With this in mind, you might want to think a little longer about your approach to the call, starting with these handy tips:

1. Right time, right place
How you approach the call will tell your interviewer a lot about your attitude and professionalism. Your listening and comprehension skills will be put to the test so be sure you have good reception and are in a quiet spot clear of distractions.

2. Preparation is key
Your interviewer will have prepped for this call. They expect you to have done the same and to have a good understanding of the organisation and role. Avoid last minute cramming or reading from the company website mid-call.

3. Vet your CV
The information on your CV or resume is really all your interviewer has to go on at this stage and he or she will be alert to any potential warning signs. Put yourself in their shoes and look for any points that may be flagged up.

4. Keep your composure
The manager may well put you under a bit of pressure to see how you cope. The important thing is to not become flustered or be rushed into answering. Listen carefully to what’s being said and really consider the point you want to make before responding.

5. Back and forth is ok
This is a two-way conversation: you’ll be expected to show engagement and to do your share of the talking. Prepare a list of intelligent questions to ask, avoiding the obvious; try to weave these in as you go.

6. It’s not done and dusted
You’re interviewer is likely to have more people to speak to before making a decision on the next round. Rather than leaving it to fate, do what you’d normally do after an interview: drop them a quick email thanking them for their time and reiterating your enthusiasm for the role.

The most important thing in all this is not to lose sight of your core objective – to clinch that all-important face-to-face interview. A quick chat it may be, but the person on the other line needs a reason to take you to the next phase. It’s up to you to provide this.

Reference: The Guardian; US News; Abintegro
10 May 2017

There are a few interview questions out there that make candidates feel particularly nervous. Notorious amongst them is the frequently asked “why should we hire you?”

When a potential employer asks you this question they are trying to find out a few different things: they want to know who you are, what you can bring to the table, and what sets you apart from other candidates. Based on your answers they can get a clear view of whether you possess some of the vital skills and characteristics that they are looking for in their ideal candidate.

Besides enabling the employer to assess your skillset, your answers will also give them an idea of your level of self-awareness and your knowledge and understanding of the position you are trying to fill.

Here are some things to consider when answering the dreaded ‘why you’ question:

1. Who are you
Besides getting a rough understanding of your skills and experience, employers will also be looking to find out more about your personality. This is your chance to highlight some of the key characteristics and assets you think will impress your employer. However, make sure you know what they are looking for first. Before your interview, go back to the job listing, see what characteristics are highlighted or try to deduce relevant assets from the description, and flag the ones you think you possess. Relay these to the interviewer and make a clear connection between the type of person you are and the type of person the role requires.

This is also a great opportunity to convey your enthusiasm about the job. Identifying the things you are passionate about that are relevant to the role conveys genuine interest, which will not go unnoticed.

2. What can you bring to the table
This is the part where you refer to relevant skills and experience, with the emphasis on relevant. Simply drumming up a list of skills you claim to possess won’t impress the interviewer, nor will it offer them with any valuable information about you.

So carefully choose the skills you want to highlight, and make sure you refer back to the job description to show you have a clear understanding of what the job entails. You should also refer to comments made by the employer earlier in the interview. It demonstrates that you are engaged and aware, and will encourage a more relaxed, conversational style interview.

3. What sets you apart from others
With all your reasons for why they should hire you, make sure you provide evidence in the form of anecdotes, detailed examples and past achievements. Be able to tell a good story and show that you’ve really thought it through. What will also set you apart is a clear understanding of what the organisation does: know their culture, their values, their customers, their products and be clear about why you are such a good fit.

Given the amount of information interviewers are looking to get out of this question, having a well-formed and carefully thought-out response at the ready is vital to making a good impression. And the better prepared you are, the less scary answering this question will prove to be.

Reference: Abintegro; Metro; Monster
04 May 2017