Taking the time to prepare for an interview can mean securing your next dream role – and there’s more to preparing for a job interview than googling a list of common interview questions. You have to make a great first impression, demonstrate your keen appetite for the specific job and display your in-depth knowledge of the company’s service or product you are hoping to work for.
We speak to hiring expert Victoria Stanton, Manager of Walters People Business Support and Credit Management divisions in our London office, who offers her advice on how to prepare for an interview and structure your CV to ensure you stand out amongst the crowd.
1. Should I put all my work experience on my CV? I don’t want it to be too long.
‘This depends on how much work experience you have, both in years and in number of jobs. If you started your career in 1995 and you have had seven jobs since then, it’s better to only include your last four jobs. You don’t want your CV to become too long and your first few jobs probably aren’t as relevant as your last ones. During a job interview, when you are asked to discuss your experience, only mention those jobs that are relevant to the vacancy you applied for’ says Victoria.
2. Do I start my CV with work experience or education?
‘Again, this depends on how much experience you have. If you are looking for your first ‘real job’, it is smart to start with your education and follow with work experience and extracurricular activities. If you have an established career already, your education is less relevant than your work experience. Truth be told, it doesn’t really matter as long as your CV is structured and concise so the recruiter or hiring manager can quickly scan it and find the information they’re looking for.’
3. How do I make my CV stand out?
‘Some people think that, in order to make your CV stand out, you should go crazy with colour schemes, fonts and graphs. The truth is much simpler. If your CV is well-structured, for example with bullet points, and is in chronological order, I’m impressed. It sounds crazy, but a lot of people don’t do this. This makes a CV easy to read and means a recruiter or hiring manager can quickly find the information they are looking for. Of course, you can jazz it up with a nice template, some colour or a photo, but keep it simple. A messy CV is a big no-go. You can also give your CV just that extra touch by tailoring it to the vacancy. For example, you could emphasize the skills you have that are relevant for the specific job in your personality overview.’
4. Is it okay to talk about salary during the first interview?
‘Absolutely! This is something a lot of people are afraid to do, but you shouldn’t. Everybody wants to know their salary before they come to an agreement. If you feel like it’s awkward, try to make the question subtle. For example, instead of asking ‘what am I going to earn’, try ‘Can you give me and insight into what the salary indication for this position would look like?’ or ‘What is the salary range for this kind of role at your company?’. This way, you don’t put the interviewer in an awkward position and you’ll get a clear answer to your question.’
5. How long should I wait for feedback after my interview?
‘There is no set amount of time to wait before asking for feedback. Some companies will call within a day, others have extensive procedures and will call after a week or even longer. The best you can do is ask about the job interview procedure during the interview. Make sure you get a clear idea of how many interviews you will have and when you can expect feedback. Suppose the interviewer tells you they will call you after a week and you haven’t heard anything after day four, it is okay to call them. However, be sure you are curious, but not annoying. If they are clear about how long the process is going to last, there is no real reason to call before that.’
6. Is it okay to ask how many other candidates they’ll interview?
‘Of course, it’s always good to know what you are up against. Many employers won’t have a problem with this question, however, sometimes the interviewer may not want to disclose this information. If this is the case, you should respect their choice.’
7. Should I inform the company about my other interviews?
‘This is up to you. Telling the interviewer you have other interviews can give you two advantages. It shows that you are in demand and it can speed up the process at this current company because you might not be available for much longer. However, if you feel uncomfortable doing this, it’s also okay not to disclose this information.’
8. If I want to apply for two different positions at the same company, how do I present myself?
‘Applying for two positions at the same company can give the impression you are indecisive or care more about the company than the job itself – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Whatever your reasons are, it’s vital that you can properly explain why you are applying for both positions. Also make sure you are well-prepared. Carefully study each job description and relate it specifically to your experiences and skills. Tailor your answers to interview questions specifically to each separate job advert. This will show the interviewer that you are aware of the differences between the positions and gives you a chance to show that you are interested in the job itself.’
9. How do I deal with nerves during a job interview?
‘It all starts with a thorough preparation. Study the job advert, look up information about the company and prepare some answers to difficult questions you might get during the interview. This way, if for example you blank out for a second, you can always fall back on your preparation.
Secondly, remember you are sitting across from another human being. They are looking for a good employee as much as you are looking for a good employer. Focus on having a fun social interaction. If you feel yourself getting nervous during the interview, try to take a few deep breaths and don’t forget to smile. It might feel weird, but fake it till you make it. It really works, trust me.’
10. What are the chances of getting a new job during the Covid-19 crisis?
‘We have definitely experienced a change in the business support and credit management markets. Companies can be reluctant to hire people since they had to make such a quick shift to working from home and are still getting used to the new reality.
During this time, if you are comfortable and secure, I would recommend that you sit tight and rid out the crisis with your current employer. However, there is a slow increase in job openings now. If you are looking for a new job, either because you feel your current position is not safe, your employer has gone under or you are coming to the end of your contract, then revamp your CV and contact an expert to offer help and guidance on job searching and interviewing from home.’