There’s no great secret to performing well in a job interview – it relies heavily on research, preparation and good interview technique
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Maybe you saw the recent announcement that 2014 saw the highest number of first-class degrees? 20% of graduates ended up with a top grade. This is obviously great news, not only for graduates but also for employers who get to choose from such a talented bunch. However, it’s important not to get too carried away with academic credentials. Of course, a degree is important – in some jobs the grade and subject may be vital. But you mustn’t neglect other great qualities if you want to snap up the best employees. Remember this when you look at your next pile of CVs. Naturally, the candidate’s degree may sit high on the page, but it shouldn’t remain your only focus. Here are five other things you should be looking for:
This is the one chance the candidate has to write in their own ‘voice’ and choose what they want to share with you, so pay great attention. Evaluate their tone, their style, even the length of their statement. Consider what this says about them. What have they focused on? Have they mentioned your company or your industry? Whilst this personal statement should never be viewed in isolation, it is probably your best insight into the person behind the text.
The importance of industry experience has received much attention over recent years – in particular, the fierce debate surrounding unpaid internships. Whilst this is too complicated to discuss here at length, you should acknowledge the effort and dedication that the candidate has gone to in their quest to gain employment in a given industry. At the same time, don’t leap to judgments based on where they gained their experience. Big companies may look impressive, but remember that not all will be able to afford to come to a city to complete a placement. Make sure you look at the kinds of responsibilities they had too - you may find that someone who worked in a local business knows far more about the role than someone with a 2 week stint at a global brand.
Some jobs may require additional qualifications – in that case this section is crucial. However, many will not, and so the worth of these lies in what they may tell you about this person’s commitment. Think about when the candidate studied for them - maybe it was during school or university, but perhaps also they took evening or weekend courses. Either way that shows dedication to an interest. People who have taken the time to become more informed on something that wasn’t a compulsory requirement are undeniably hard working and self-disciplined– and those are qualities you want your employees to have.
Many employers forget to give adequate attention to this. Often, the “hobbies and interests” section is left languishing at the bottom of the CV, lacking any real purpose. It’s not unusual for the candidate’s answers to be only skim read (if that!). But, in fact, this can provide many insights into the person you’re thinking about employing. Look at what they do outside of work. Do they do a whole range of things or just one? Have they volunteered? Have they been involved within any interesting societies? There is no single “ideal” response - you're all looking for something different. But it’s worth recognising the worth of these small details. They are there for a reason and can tell you a lot.
It's easy to focus exclusively on the words on the page of a CV. This is understandable. After all, it’s the easiest way of finding out about a candidate before you call them to interview. But there is another way of discovering more about them: take a look at how their CV is put together. Has the candidate been inventive? Have they been consistent and professional in their design? There is much to be said about a well thought out document – it shows that candidates have been methodical and measured in their approach. It should also give you further evidence that when they tell you that they pay attention to details, they really mean it.
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