Earlier this week I was invited to join a group called Jobcoach set up by Jobcentre Plus on the business networking site, LinkedIn. The aim of Jobcoach is to bring together a range of professionals from different industries to offer recruitment advice for fellow professionals. graduates and school leavers. There has been lots of great feedback and debate so I thought I would cover some of the topics discussed and make my comments available for readers to view here.
This post will be split into three parts with each section looking at aspects of recruitment from both sides of the interview table. That is, the organisation doing the employing and also the individual searching for a position. First up I want to look at job advertisements themselves.
When advertising a role some organisations use terms such as “Attractive Package” or “Competitive Salary” rather than state what they are prepared to pay. Not stating a salary is done for a variety of reasons but is often so that the employer doesn’t restrict the range and calibre of candidates applying. It also leaves a bit of bargainning power when offering the job. The recruiter is not committed to a set level and asking for applicants to state their salary level in advance certainly helps in the selection process when deciding who to interview.
Personally, I was once caught out by not knowing the salary. I live up in Peterborough, some 80 miles North of London, and I applied for a role in Kent where my wife’s family are from. I expected some reflection in this in the salary with its closeness to the capital but when it came down to it, this simply wasn’t the case. I was interviewed and was offered the job but the salary they were willing to pay was some £500 less than I was on at the time. I took the view that the negatives outweighed the positives so I turned it down.
To avoid this situation it is worth doing some research on salaries for comparable roles in different regions. You can even contact the prospective organisation to show your interest in the role and learn more about the company. Even if you don’t get to learn the salary details you are likely to impress them by your proactiveness. A word of warning: Don’t overdo questions on company benefits at the beginning as they will wonder what your real motives are for applying in the first place.
Your personal presentation is very important but also very dependent on the particular industry you want to work in. Turning up for an interview for role in accountancy in a Monsters of Rock T-Shirt is not going to do you any favours. You have to dress appropriately for the occasion whatever it may be – you wouldn’t go to the opera in Speedos for example, would you. At least I hope you wouldn’t!
Many years ago I applied for a place at an art college and was swayed by my mother insisting I wear a suit for the interview. Suits and art at that level are not a great mix and that day ranked fairly high on my embarrassing moments list for some considerable time afterwards.
Then thre was a time when I went for the postion of magazine designer / editor which means that I potentially had two ways to present myself either smart or casual. A compromise position was to go for a toned down business look of a fashionable suit but with no tie. I didn’t get the job but I did make the final two.
The company I work for at the moment is at the heart of the Internet and more than a little geeky. We have quarterly conferences and jeans and T-Shirts are the order of the day. Those who attend in suits tend to be sales people so people can make assumptions about you without you even having to open your mouth. The key is to find out as much in advance as you can before an interview, ask people in the industry what is acceptable and make a judgement that way.
When we did our last round of interviews for a marketing role, we included a couple of basic written tests which proved very useful. As the successful candidate would be extensively using social media and writing articles and press releases, we wanted to check that they could write strong copy in a pressurised situation.
At an appropriate point in the interview we took a break and set interviewees two tasks. We gave them a basic news story (which happened to be true) and asked them to write two Twitter posts on how they would promote it – an announcement and a follow up. This meant that they had to write concisely, include all the relevant information and present it as clearly as possible. This, incidentally, is a challenge we should all take as it’s not as easy as it sounds and encourages clearer, to the point, writing.
The second test was to write in 100-150 words an article on themselves for the company magazine as if they had already joined the company. The first paragraph was to be a brief overview of their career to date and the second part a quote from them on why they wanted to join the organisation. This was an interesting exercise as they had to really sell themselves.
The results were enlightening and I have no doubt it gave us information that helped us make our final decision. It was in effect a tie-breaker question and one other recruiters should also consider implementing in selecting their staff.
What other methods have you used to help choose the perfect person for your organisation? Do you have any tales of horror interviews or unexpected successes? What tips would you give someone new to the job market?
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