The Job Interview Series:
13 Real Answers From Real HR Professionals
Your first step in the hiring process starts in the HR’s office (or mailbox). While we’ve all been on the other side of the table, it’s always good to have the upper hand when preparing for the first interview.
In this series we interview HR professionals and ask them to share with you some of their tips for acing the interview.
What, in your opinion, makes a first impression at an interview?
It is important to be punctual and neat and tidy in appearance. Introduce yourself in a politely confident manner with a firm, but not too firm handshake if applicable.
Interview dress code. Dress to impress, or decently expressing your personality? What’s acceptable and what’s not?
Opinions vary but any organization I have worked for place great stock in traditional values. I tend to agree; any candidate who does not make a special effort to dress suitably for an interview gives an immediate bad impression, making it more difficult to gain positive ground during the interview.
It is important to research the company culture and the function for which you are being interviewed. For example most, but not all organizations expect their senior employees to dress in collar and jacket. Some organizations may frown upon body piercings or art. A little research beforehand can ensure that your dress code fits in immediately with the expectations of the company.
It is also important not to overdress. Don’t be too flashy, giving the opinion of mercenary tendencies and don’t overdress for the position you are applying for.
As a HR professional, what are the key strengths in your resume?
My loyalty and stability portrayed by my length of service with every company I have worked for.
Continued personal development (Masters Degree awarded in 2013)
My wide and varied international experience.
My exposure to all aspects of HR, ranging from recruitment to performance management to training and development and everything in between.
5 things you would like to instantly see in a candidate.
1. Suitably and neatly dressed and groomed.
2. On time.
3. Confident and forthcoming without being overly so.
4. Good knowledge of the company and the role through prior research
5. Good upright posture during the interview.
5 things you would definitely not like to see in a candidate.
1. Lateness or excuses: If you want the job, ensure that you know how to get to the interview location on time.
2. Tardiness and unpreparedness: You should have researched the role and the company beforehand.
3. Over familiarity: Be professional and respectful in your introduction and interview answers.
4. Sloppiness or inappropriate language: Proper and polite language is a must together with alertness. An over relaxed attitude is an immediate turn off.
5. Questions about salary, benefits or holidays: these are an absolute no no, especially at first interview stage unless the interviewer brings up the subject. There will be plenty of time to discuss these at a later time.
The resume – plain ol’ school or flashy? What kind of resume makes you read it?
Your resume is your initial introduction and is vital. There is an argument for a little creativity and flashiness if the role is a creative or artistic one. For anything else, stick to old school clear and informative.
It is imperative that the recruiter has a solid introduction to you, your background and experience within the first page of your CV.
If I have to scroll through jargon or flip pages to find this basic information, the CV will likely be binned.
“Closing the job interview” – is there such a thing? Can a candidate close the interview, or this ball is always in the recruiter’s field?
I don’t think there is a standard answer to this question. Personally, I always welcome a good solid “Thank you for your time” and “I look forward to hearing from you.”
Polishing up your social profiles before the interview. Useful or not?
Yes: Rightly or wrongly, many recruiters feel that a lot can be learned from your social media page and will probably have a cheeky browse to check you out.
Finding that you have been badmouthing your current or past employers, or engaging in socially undesirable activity is not a good start.
Is there a perfect candidate? 100% match doesn’t exist, where do you compromise?
Perfect candidates do exist but compromises must often be made. These will be most likely be in experience or education.
A candidate may lack the relevant education but will make up for it in experience and visa versa.
One compromise that will never be made is on a candidate’s drive and desire to be offered the position. A lackadaisical attitude is never acceptable.
Having an edge. How can a candidate stand out to you from other candidates with similar background?
In a well formulated and targeted cover letter:
The cover letter is as, if not more important that your CV. It should be addressed to the relevant person where possible and not simply ‘to whom it may concern.’
It must be relevant to the role and the company. Generic cover letters are off putting and a waste of time. They simply serve to demonstrate your lack of work ethic and that you couldn’t be bothered to write a bespoke one.
Overconfident candidates. No-No or Go-Go?
A No-No in my opinion. Confidence is a must but don’t over do it.
Myths about recruiters, true or false 🙂
Like everything else in life, it is impossible to categorize all recruiters in one category. There are good ones, ethical ones, unethical ones, really brilliant ones and of course really bad ones.
They are however invariably very busy people and spend their days and weeks trawling through endless CVs. Remember this when putting your CV together and make it clear, concise and informative from the word go.
Don’t use too much jargon; they have read it all before and have probably invented most of it.
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