Tips

Need help? Here are some tips for our job applicants in Pietermaritzburg, Durban and the Midlands:

"Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up because they're looking for ideas." Paula Poundstone

Being able to interview well means knowing how to turn answers to every question about yourself into something positive, something that you want the interviewer to know. "My CV speaks for itself". lol! As far as I am concerned, your CV is a dead word on white paper until a bit of your character seeps through! Now, pay attention: Once you've been invited for the interview at our offices, completed the application form, done all our tests (and passed with flying colors!), your CV has been sent to the client and the client has seen you - if you don't phone me straight after the interview to tell me how much you want or don't want the job, I'll be disappointed in you! If my client calls and asks, "What did she say?" and all I can answer is, "We haven't spoken yet", then there will be two people disappointed in you! So this is how it works; after the interview, call, or e-mail me straight away with feedback. Please don't sms me or call repeatedly. From the moment I've sent your CV to the clients, and especially once you've been interviewed by them, I burn! I am in a fever of excitement, anticipating the outcome! I can't wait to hear from the client... Who's been short listed? Are they ready to make an offer? So don't add fuel to the fire with numerous phone calls, sms's and emails! Because, I can't wait to get back to you - as soon as I have some news!

I almost forgot to mention; if you don't state the names of your referees on your CV with at least two of their contact numbers, I'll presume you don't want me to contact anybody, because you won't have good references. Or if you have big gaps between your jobs or haven't worked this whole year and you don't explain it in your covering letter, I might wonder whether you've been in jail or something even worse? I'll toss your CV, because I get so many! So, if you think that I'm coming down hard on you, know that this is just the beginning. The client will be even more exacting!

In conclusion, yes, please, by all means, contact me if you are looking for better prospects, but please, please, make sure to impress me with clarity about who you are and where you want to go and keep in mind all of the above!

 
The closest to perfection a person ever comes is when he fills out a job application form. Stanley J. Randall

In an interview, when asked about your personality strengths, it's soooo not appropriate to say that you are sociable, confident and friendly IF you are sitting with your arms folded inwardly across your chest... (which immediately gives the interviewer the impression that you're perhaps NOT sociable, nor confident or very friendly) There's a really fine line between confidence and arrogance. Rather, if you are asked to describe your major strengths, keep in mind that your body language and gesturing will account for 90% of the information you send out! (and that's HUGE!) Although folding your arms across your body may give you a more secure feeling, in an interview situation, it could be interpreted as being defensive. Your body language may also be suggesting that you are shy, uncomfortable or uninterested, and that's definitely not how you want to come across, is it?! So, sit upright, let your hands lie loosely on your lap, or on the armrests of the chair so that you're still able to support your words with hand gestures. Try not to fidget or cross your arms. List personality traits that are truthful, not just the words which you think the interviewer may want to hear. Give an example of why you think you are confident or friendly. Terms such as 'hard worker, willing to learn, honest and reliable', have become "lost in translation", cliches, threadbare and meaningless - from overuse. So, don't give to the interviewer this list of words you think sound right, rather explain how your genuine qualities apply to you. If you do mention that you are confident, give an example from your present or previous job that illustrates that you are, in fact, this confident person. Daunting but true : Remember, the interviewer is not only listening to what you are saying, they are reading your body language as well as the way you answer the questions. The interviewer has interviewed many other people who have a similar CV to yours and who claim similar personality traits. You need to show something in your personality that makes you stand out as different from the rest. It takes the interviewer only 30 seconds to look at your CV, and about 5 minutes after seeing you to know whether or not you are a candidate he is interested in. That is why what you decide to wear to your interview, and how you behave, needs to be professional. If you are currently in the market for a new job, do some research; there are literally thousands of Internet sites that can be googled - loaded with great advice and suggestions. One more suggestion; become a  Facebook friend of The Head Office Placements!

 

 
TEAMWORK...means never having to take all the blame yourself.

There are a number of things that one should never do in an interview! For instance: when meeting the interviewer, your handshake can say a great deal about you! A limp hand gives the impression that you are so not interested, while a strong arm pump appears over-eager (mental note: we are not looking for arm-wrestler here!). Make your handshake strong and firm, but not excessively so. When in an interview, never sit like you are chilling with your friends in front of the TV! Rather, sit in an upright position, but not like you swallowed a broomstick either. Show interest in what the interviewer is saying, don't look around or fiddle with your hair. The interview only lasts around half an hour to an hour, so give the interviewer your undivided attention. Make sure you answer all the questions asked without hesitating too long to answer, and don't over-elaborate, that can only annoy the interviewer (mental note: Interviewer = NOT the person you want to annoy!). If you are anxious (a normal reaction by the way...), try not to show it. Phrases such as: "Umm", "jaa" and "like" show nervousness. Try to appear calm and confident by avoiding these 'word crashes' at all cost. Don't ever talk negatively about your past or current employers or colleagues, even if it's all true! Disrespecting your boss will put you in a poor light. The interviewer will immediately assume that one day you would talk about them in a similar manner or that you will turn out a trouble-maker in the office. Show the interviewer any research you may have done on the specific job opening and ask questions! Sincere questions demonstrate that you are interested and that you have taken initiative to learn about their company. Conduct yourself in a manner that shows that you are determined to get the job and try to ask intelligent questions about the company. Oh yes, and before you even send your CV, ask yourself the million dollar question: Have you conducted a CV success test? Is it longer than two pages? Have you included comments about your family and hobbies? Have you included the section named "Achievements"? Have you had your CV checked by somebody professional? Professionally typed up CV's are worth gold!  If you want a professionally typed up CV, call Head Office Placements, we'll do it for you!

 

 
The only job where you start at the top, is digging a hole.

When asked why you want to leave your current job, never say: "it's because the money is not enough"! Even though the interviewer might suspect that you are looking for an increase, they sure do not want to hear that, believe me! Focus more on how you want to better your career, or how your current job does not allow you to grow, and then elaborate about the direction you want to grow in! When you say that you are looking for better prospects; what exactly do you mean? This is just a common phrase that people use, but do not fully understand what prospects they are talking about. Never ask about the salary, benefits or commission during the first interview with the company. (If your interview goes well, there will be ample time to negotiate your loot!) Only once you have been shortlisted, start negotiating your package. When negotiating the salary, don't expect them to double your salary or offer you a 50% increase. Remember, 20 % - 25% increase is what most employers will offer. Focus more on why the new job will be perfect for you, how this position will help you achieve your career goals and certainly, how the company would benefit by employing you! For example, employing staff that is fluent in two or three languages is a great benefit to any company in a multilingual society like ours. Not many people can touch type, never mind 90 words per minute! If you are good at figuring out computers - by all means brag about it! Are you an analytical thinker and enjoy solving problems? Thrive on initiating new or cultivating existing relationships? Every company needs a natural born salesman, and if the position is in sales and marketing department, you could be the one! By the way, be sure to mention some of these strengths in you covering letter, if you are applying for a position advertised on The Head Office Placements website. We love to receive CV's which are accompanied with covering letters, matching your qualifications, skills, experience and achievements with our criteria!

 

 
"I don't want to take myself seriously but I want others to." Nina Tsao

Three words: Dress To Impress! Even if your future employer has more chilled attitude - rather send out a signal that you are serious about your career! Never forget the old saying that first impressions last, this is definitely true in a job interview! The first time an interviewer sees you, they pass judgment based on how you look and what you are wearing. That is why it is vital that you dress in a professional manner even if the position you are applying for and the environment is more casual. Use this tip, if you want to look tops! "Everyone should have a good tailored suit in their closet" - it immediately spells professionalism. So if this means opening one or two new accounts to add a few nice new items to your wardrobe, which you can't really afford right now, it may just be worth it! Dress neatly and conservatively. Women may wear dresses, suits or skirts and blouses. Suits and ties or sport coats and trousers are appropriate for men. If you are a guy never wear white socks with black pants and black shoes! Stay away from overly casual attire including jeans, shorts and flip flops and keep your accessories to a minimum. People often come to an interview dressed as if they are on their way to the beach, the mall or even, would you believe... a party! You don't want your sloppiness to signal the fact that you have a frivolous attitude to work, whether it's officially permitted or not. So, neutral colors such as white or grey are recommended, but feel free to add a bit of color to the outfit such as a bright shirt, tie or a scarf, just be careful - too many accessories gives the impression that you are more concerned about your looks than the job. Hats, dangly earrings and giant bags mean over-accessorizing! Ensure your clothing is well-coordinated and not wrinkled or faded. Always remember, you want to draw attention to your skills, not just your appearance, and how you dress reflects your attitude to work. If are currently considering a change of employment, join our group on Facebook and mail us your CV accompanied with a well written covering letter!

 

 
"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one reaches in life as by the obstacles which one has overcome". - Booker T. Washington

Yes, you may be desperately looking for employment, but this answer is definitely not a suitable one. It is important to remember that the interviewer will read between the lines and ascertain that you are not really interested in this position. Saying; "Keep me in mind for anything else" will immediately alert the interviewer that you are either not that keen or that you lack confidence. Preparation is key. Show that you've done your research about the company by positively commenting on their products or services, mission or financial statements and future or current projects. Speak to people who work or have previously worked for them. Have a list of questions to ask about the company. Let the interviewer know that you have carefully thought about where you want to work and will not take just about any job thrown at you. Another great idea is to 'role-play'! If you want to further ensure that you will handle the interview well, ask a friend or family member to interview you. Sit in front of a mirror while "you are being interviewed", so that you can study your body language i.e. eye contact, facial expressions, posture and gestures. Once the interview is done, ask for suggestions on where you could make improvements. Avoid answering "Yes" or "No" to questions asked. Prepare positive and convincing answers to any shortcomings you may have and emphasize on what you have done or are currently doing to improve or to rectify matters. Give examples that emphasize your skills and the outcome, including examples of successful projects you completed at previous companies. Above all, be honest! If there are skeletons in your closet, they will be found! We don't have social security in this country and unemployment is high, so people are having to be innovative! Big companies are cutting off fat and highly skilled people are without jobs. Back up your dreams with reality; learn new skills, keep up with your computer programmes, find your passion, it gives us reason to overcome obstacles! Make notes; refer to them, reflecting on your achievements will supplement your confidence. Looking at your mistakes and analysing where you went wrong, will guide you in how not to make them again!

Drawing up a CV

 
It takes recruiters an average of 30 seconds to view a CV so keep these points in mind to make sure that your CV stands out!
  • Your CV must be typed and set out professionally – handwritten CV’s are a no-no!
  • Your covering letter should make them want to read more, invite you for an interview, not toss your CV out. So, ensure it is brief (about 1 page), simple, accurate and proof-read. Does it show the link between your skills and the employer’s needs?
  • Be honest! Lies on your CV will eventually come out. Highlight your real strengths and career achievements, don’t create false ones.
  • Ensure there are no unexplained employment gaps. Always give reasons for your departure from each company.
  • It is totally unnecessary to include photos of yourself! If you are neat and presentable, they will see this when you meet for an interview. But if you are applying for a frontline position or PRO or something in sales and you happened to have a really good, recent photo of yourself, include it, by all means!
  • Don’t use your CV as a platform to show off your artistic flair ie. no word art, borders, graphics, decorative fonts, highlights or clip art.
  • When e-mailing your CV, it should be in plain MS Word format. PowerPoint presentations, PDF formats and graphic layouts only annoy the recruiter.
  • Avoid sloppy language and bad spelling.
  • Check through your CV carefully before sending it off, or better yet, get a second opinion!
Preparation
  • Research! Inform yourself about the position and the company through their website, reading their financial reports, industry-related articles in the newspaper and speaking to people in the know.
  • Don’t be late!  
  • Take along a neat folder with copies of your CV, certificates, written references, ID, Drivers License, your latest pay slip and a notepad.
Presentation
  • By the time the interviewer walks towards you, an opinion is already being formed. You are judged by your appearance and body language so be neat, clean and professional. Dress for confidence - if you feel good, others will respond to you accordingly. A word of caution: don’t overdress, as the interviewer may become uncomfortable.
  • Avoid using wild nail polish. Your nails should be well-groomed and neat.
  • Don’t overdo it with the accessories i.e. flashy, jingly or facial jewellry!
  • No flip flops or short summer dresses.
  • Leather jackets/pants/skirts are not advisable because they may appear overly casual.
  • Wear a collared shirt and tie at least in the first interview. When wearing black shoes and pants, wear black socks too.
  • Use subtle make-up and avoid hair coming into your face as it becomes a distraction for both you and the interviewer.
  • Briefcases, purses and shoes should all be conservative in colour and in good condition
  • Conservative colours in various shades of blue and grey are the best. Wearing black to the interview could be viewed as too serious.
  • If you do choose to wear black, make sure that there is another colour near your face to soften the look.
  • Brown is still considered questionable as a business colour, and probably should be avoided.
  • Whatever you wear should accent the fact that you are a professional who is ready to get to work at a new job.
The job interview
  • Do not chew gum or smoke just before the job interview.
  • Learn and remember the names of the interviewers then greet him/her with a firm handshake and a smile.
  • Develop a rapport with the interviewer right from the start. Be enthusiastic and honest.
  • Use good manners.
  • Relax and answer each question concisely.
  • Use proper English - avoid slang or swearing.
  • Use body language to show interest – sit up straight, keep comfortable eye contact and avoid fidgeting.
  • Be honest and straightforward. Don’t be shy to ask for time to think about the questions.
  • Ask questions about the position and the organization, but avoid general knowledge questions openly available to the public.
  • Prepare positive and convincing explanations of any shortcomings and emphasize what you have done or are doing to rectify matters.
  • Avoid asking questions about salary and benefits unless you are called for a second interview.
Here are a few questions and suggestions on how to respond to them
  • It is imperative that you always answer your questions in a positive manner rather then negative and give specific examples of your background.
  • When at a job interview this question will be posed to you “Tell me about yourself”, give a brief overview of you family background and schooling than quickly move on to career history focusing on experience and strengths developed.
  • When asked about your goals, its best to stick to short-term & intermediate goals, Eg. To get a job in a growth-oriented company.
  • Why did you leave your last job or why you are leaving” The best way to answer if you are unemployed would be to state your reason in a positive context. If you are employed, focus on what you want in your next job. Never talk negatively about your previous or current boss.
  • When were you most satisfied in your job?” The interviewer uses this to establish what motivates you. If you can relate an example of a job or project when you were excited, the interviewer will get an idea of your preferences.
  •  “What can you do that other candidates can’t?” This will make an assessment of your job experiences, skills and traits so summarize it briefly.
  • What salary are you seeking?” It’s to your advantage if you already have an idea about the range first so be prepared by knowing the market range for similar jobs. Ask them what range they normally pay for someone with your expertise in the company.  
  • Do you have any questions?” Yes, of course! This is your time to demonstrate that you are a serious contender for the post. Don’t ask an array of questions, and think about this before your interview. Here are some to choose from; Who was in this position and why did they leave? What is the staff turnover like? What are you looking for in an employee? What beliefs guide your company? How do you define success? How do you measure performance? How do you describe your management style? How are new employees initiated into your organization? What training and development do you provide? How carefully do you watch your competitors? For Sales Rep positions: What geographical area will I be expected to cover? Who am I in particular expected to call on, companies, industries? Will I deal with some existing clients or only new business? How regularly does one go back to existing clients? What are the targets? Do I get paid commission once a client has signed up or once the client pays?
  • You can't imagine how many interviews end with the candidate responding to this question "oh, but you have already answered all my questions!” It shows that you have either not given the job adequate consideration or that you are lacking in confidence.
In conclusion
  • Politely thank the interviewer when you leave, shake hands and express further interest in the position. If you still want the job, ask for it. Doing so will show your enthusiasm!