Questions to avoid during an interview

“Do you have any questions?”

By this stage of the interview, the formalities, tough questions and good impressions are over…. right? Well, not exactly! The interview isn’t over, until it’s over (AKA you are out of the door), so what you say, do or ask at this moment of the interview is still being considered.

Here are some questions you should NEVER ask! And some alternatives for those of us who are extremely curious and need some answers.

1. How many hours are involved in this role?

These days, we do have flexibility within our jobs for out-of-office work, and the pleasure of working from home. So, it is understandable you want to know if this position accommodates your lifestyle. But if it hasn’t already been confirmed in the interview or the job advertisement, and it isn’t labeled ‘part-time’, it’s safe to assume you will be working 9-5. Asking about the hours can translate to “I don’t like to work too many hours” or an image of that employee who is always checking the clocking and counting down ‘till home time. 

For an alternative, you could ask:

“What does a normal day in this role look like?”

2. How often do you give promotion opportunities?

It is an important question to ask; obviously career aspirations are an opportunity to move up the corporate latter and grow professionally. However, asking this question (in this way) can be interpreted as you are not happy with the position or the salary of the role you are applying for and want a promotion ASAP. It can also seem like you think you have earned a promotion, which doesn’t set the best image for yourself and your potential future boss. There is an alternative though. Try asking, “Are there opportunities for professional development?” This question appears more professional, thoughtful and highlights your career aspirations and desire to grow in your career.

3.  What is the turnover rate?

A high turnover rate is usually a prime indicator of a problem with the company’s culture and environment. So, obviously wanting to know the turnover rate is a great way to determine what the company is like, and what the company will be like to work for. Yet these types of question can potentially ‘touch a nerve’ with the interviewer. To avoid causing any awkward feelings or pauses within the interview, try asking “How long have you worked here?”, or try, “How long has the team been working here for?” You will get the answer you are looking for without seeming offensive.

These are just a few questions to avoid during the interview process to allow for positive results and potential employment. Keep these in mind and you'll be able to get through the interview from start to finish. Good luck!

 

How to write a perfect cover letter

When applying for jobs, we try to make sure our CV’s are top-notch; documenting every experience we've had professionally, with impeccable references. But what often gets overlooked is the equally-important cover letter.

The cover letter can sometimes feel like a “waste of time”, or a “task”, and because of this there a few of us that have used a template and just fill in the blanks for each application. This seems to be easier and perhaps more time effective, however it is actually hurting us in the long run.

Cover letters are the first point of contact with your potential employer, thus making sure you represent yourself in the best possible way is very important. So, here are some tips and tricks to remember when writing those tricky cover letters.

The Opening

Addressing your cover letter to a specific person is always a great way to open the communication. It shows the company that you are willing to do research and go that extra mile to be professional. If the job advertisement does not include a name, try to find out who the recruitment manager is for the company. If you can’t find the recruiter's name then possibly look to find the head of the company’s department to which you’re applying. Even if you get the name wrong and ‘Sally Small’ doesn’t read your cover letter, using a specific name is much more impressive to the reader than “to whom it may concern”.

The Format

While using a generic cover letter or a template isn’t the best way to impress a potential employer, we at the Institute of Careers like to follow a simple format for cover letters. This ensures our clients are covering all the key (employable) points about themselves. After addressing the cover letter correctly (Dear Sally Smalls), now's your chance to explain to the reader your understanding of the role, the company and why you want to work for them. With so many applications being received, you want to be able to set yourself apart and cut through the chatter. Showing an actual interest and understanding in the company, and their work, is a major tick to a future employer. If you need help or inspiration for something to write in this section try to look on the company’s website or social media accounts. However, remember DO NOT PLAGIARISE. You most likely will not be hired if you copy and paste the company’s information straight into your cover letter. After the opening it’s time to explain your experience and skills. Remember to mention the tasks and responsibilities you undertook at your previous jobs, which have a direct correlation to the requirements of the role you are applying for.

Important details to include when explaining your work history and attributes are:

  • The time you worked in your current or previous role (how long for and how long ago)
  • The company
  • Your role title
  • Your role responsibilities

The Ending

To finish off, a quick summary of your interest in the position and what you think you can bring to the role, the company and the working team is a great way to sign off. Reiterate why you’re right for the position. Then end your cover letter professionally, and personalised:

“Sincerely,

Karen Kat.”

Cover letters can seem like a bit of a drag, but they do in fact serve an important purpose in the recruitment process. To ensure you get that interview, and potentially that job, put your best foot forward and spend a little time on your cover letter. Representing yourself well and showcasing your abilities and professionalism through a cover letter can make a world of difference in the ‘job hunting’ process.

Category: 
Interview, Job Search, Resume

How to make yourself more employable (and stand out from the crowd)

Most people have, at some stage in their careers, been passed over for a job or promotion because the other candidate had that little something extra. There are times when this is unavoidable, but there are also plenty of things that you can do along the way to make sure you are the one who stands out next time an opportunity comes along.

1. Do your research

Have a look at position descriptions for roles or promotions that you might be interested in down the track. Ask yourself honestly which of the boxes you don't tick, or which areas you could become more competent in. You should also take any available opportunities to speak with current, or past direct reports and ask them what areas they think you could work on to move forward in your chosen field.

2. Brush Up Your Skills

If you are currently employed, this is the perfect time to start preparing for your next role. If you think your knowledge in a particular area is below average take some tutorials, do some research or speak to someone who knows more than you. Ask your employer if there is a way you can incorporate this skill into your daily tasks to help you to practise and learn more. If you aren't currently employed these options are still available to you, instead of using the skill at work find other ways to use it on a daily basis. Every extra skill looks great on your resume, and being able to talk about it confidently in an interview can only help your chances.

3. Further Study

Not everyone can take the time out of their career to go back to school and earn another degree, but this doesn't mean you can't add extra qualifications to your CV along the way. There are plenty of TAFEs and online providers who offer short courses which you can fit in around an existing role. Many employers encourage professional development, and may even have a budget to help you out financially. Workshops and training courses offered by your workplace should also be taken advantage of and listed on your resume when relevant. Make sure you remember that all of these little things add up when presenting the best you possible.

4. Perfect Your Resume

You might be perfect for the role, but if your resume isn't up to scratch then you won't even make it to interview stages for many roles. Make sure it looks professional, and contains all details of all relevant skills, experience and education. If you aren't sure how to do this, download our free resume template now or call The Institute of Careers for more advice.

5. Look The Part

Make sure you have at least one nice suit, a crisp white shirt and polished shoes. Practise answering interview questions in front of a mirror. Back up your skills with confidence and good presentation to sell yourself as the complete package and be the most employable you that you can be!

Category: 
Interview, Job Search, Resume

How to Research a Role

One of the most common questions you will find yourself asked in an interview is “What do you know about our company?”. It can sometimes feel awkward telling the interview panel what they already know, but this demonstrates that you are well prepared, and also genuinely interested in the position.

The Position Description

Read the Position Description thoroughly. This is your first insight into the position and has all of the most important information that you need to know. If there are any terms you don't understand make the effort to look each of them up so that you won't be caught off guard in the interview. If you have any questions, make note of them so that you can ask when the opportunity arises. Make sure that you check to see if there is a more detailed Position Description or any other additional information attached to the advertisement.

Human Resources

Many job advertisements will list a phone number for enquiries about the role, and some will even encourage you to call them for a chat before applying. Talking with a real person can help you to understand the workplace culture and how the role fits into the organisation. If you make a good impression this conversation may also help you to stand out from the crowd when shortlisting occurs.

Company website

This is your most valuable resource for understanding the identity that the company wants to present to the public. Read About Us and History sections to find out how the company has evolved. Have a look at Team pages to understand the corporate structure, and possibly research the interview panel. Read any News or Blog pages for ideas on conversation points and questions to bring up during your interview. Values and Mission Statements will also allow you to decide how you would like to present yourself in the interview, you can play up certain elements of your personality and skills that this particular organisation considers desirable, while downplaying others which may be at odds with their culture.

LinkedIn

This social media and networking tool is playing an increasingly large role in bridging the gap between employers and job seekers. Many companies will have a LinkedIn profile for the organisation itself, as well as many of the key players in management and people who may end up being part of your team. You can also see news, profiles and links that the company has posted, which will sometimes be different to their more formal website content, providing a different insight into the public persona of the organisation.

Google Search

It can often be handy to use Google to look into a prospective workplace. The company may have online reviews, be listed in connection with recent news stories, or have a wide range of information detailed on their Wikipedia page. Just remember, if it wasn't posted by an official source it may not necessarily be accurate!

Category: 
Interview, Job Search

Applying sales tips to your job search

In sales there is a series of impulse factors that are used to motivate the potential buyer to take action immediately. When it comes to job-hunting, the kinds of impulse actions you want an employer to take include;

• Opening your email – use impulse factors in the subject line;

• Reading your resume – use impulse factors in your cover letter/career objective;

• Taking action from your resume, i.e. calling you for an interview;

• Offering you work experience and;

• Offering you a job.

To remember the impulse factors, use the acronym G.I.F.T.S

G is for Greed

People are greedy – employers want more money, better staff etc. If you can explain how you can deliver more value to their company, how you can bring in more money, operational efficiencies or just be a really easy staff member to manage, you will be appealing to an employer.

I is for Indifferent

People don’t like to be sold something, they want to make their own decisions. While you can’t go begging them for a job, you do need to lay out the benefits of what you can bring to the company and let them make the smart decision.

F is for Fear of Loss

People are more compelled to make a decision if they think they’ll miss out. If you explain that you are quite progressed with applications with other companies, but you specifically want to work for them, this could be the impulse they need to make a decision to hire you.

T is for The Jones Theory

If the Joneses are doing it, then everyone wants to do it. It’s called keeping up with the Joneses. If you make it sound like no other employer is interested in you, the employer might think there’s something wrong with you and won’t be interested either. On the other hand, if you make it clear that you are highly sought after and have lots of employers chasing you, then you will be more appealing. This includes having lots of LinkedIn contacts.

S is for Sense of Urgency

Impulse can be encouraged by creating a sense of urgency. This particular factor could be applied to interstate jobs, for example. So if you lived in Adelaide but the job you wanted was in Melbourne, you could tell the organisation that you will be in Melbourne for two days and would love to see them briefly, thus creating an impulse and sense of urgency.

The final take home tip from all this is any time you have an interaction with a potential employer, make sure you give them a gift!

Category: 
Job Search