Why Being Comfortable in Your Job is Killing Your Career

Having a good job is great, having a job where you feel comfortable and safe is even better. But there is also such a thing as being too comfortable in your job. Why? Well it can be difficult to grow professionally and progress in your career when you are too comfortable in your job.

To excel in your career, you should be willing to explore outside your comfort zone, take risks and do things you typically wouldn’t do. That doesn’t really align with being comfortable in your job though, as that would imply not stretching yourself and not continually learning and growing.

So you’re probably wondering, “how do I know if I’ve become too comfortable in my job?” We’re here to help you figure that out. In this blog, we will be discussing some tell-tale signs that will help you determine if you’ve become too relaxed in your job.

Before we get going, let’s caveat this right at the start to say that the last 12 months have been a nightmare for everyone. People have been furloughed, they’re working part-time, many have lost their jobs, so we’re definitely aware that this is not a typical period of time. However, everything you’re about to read still holds true and perhaps it’s more important now than ever as things start to open up again. Right, let’s get to it!

You’re not learning anymore 

If you are not learning you are not growing. Whilst this may be a bit of a cliché, it’s also true. If you are not learning anything new in your current position, if you are not acquiring new skills, if you find yourself doing the same repetitive and mundane tasks, then as long as you remain in that job there’s a risk that your career will grind to a standstill.

A job should offer more than a monthly payday. It should offer learning and growth opportunities; as well as networking opportunities to connect with other professionals both within and outside your industry. If your job doesn’t offer any of these, then you might want to start looking for other job opportunities.

The job market is cut-throat – now more than ever – and people are constantly upgrading their skills in order to remain relevant and have the necessary skills and qualifications needed in their industry. If you are not upgrading your skills and qualifications then you are likely being left behind – which spells career catastrophe!

Your ambition is on the wane

Are you becoming less enthusiastic about your job? Do you watch the clock on your desk until it’s time to log off? Do you find yourself dreading work days because of how boring your job has become to you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then we have some unfortunate news for you – your ambition might be on the wane.

Now, it’s important to understand that this doesn’t always mean you have become less passionate about your career. Whilst that might be true, it could also mean that your current job no longer inspires or motivates you. It can be difficult to excel in your career when you are not even excited about your job. Your ambition is what keeps you going and pushes you to strive for better as a professional.

As such, your career either plateaus or worse… begins a downward spiral where you are lacking in ambition, inspiration and motivation. No one starts out with the expectation of settling for a mediocre career, but if you become too comfortable in your job with a waning ambition, then having a mediocre career is almost inevitable.

Others are coming up to overtake you

Look at recently employed colleagues. Look at people who were hired after you. Look at who is getting promoted, taking on new responsibilities or being assigned more challenging tasks. If this progression is happening to others while you remain bogged down in your position, still handling the same responsibilities you have always handled, then it is obvious you have been overtaken in the workplace.

Seeing this play out can be terrible as no one would want to see their colleagues getting favoured over them. But then again, when you aren’t learning anything new or at least making an effort to learn new things, then your employers might not see the need to promote you or give you more responsibilities. The point here is that you will be sidelined by your company if your employers do not see the value of your contributions to the growth of the organisation.

When you become too comfortable in your job, you are likely to become complacent and where there is complacency, a drop in performance or productivity is never far behind. Now, it’s not unreasonable for employers to reward their more productive employees over the less productive ones, right? Right! That’s what being too comfortable in your job does to you, it allows you to sit by while others outperform you and consequently overtake you.

Recognise the issues and take action

If you find that any of these scenarios are applicable to your current position, then it goes without saying that you are way too comfortable in your job and it’s killing your career. However, the good news is that regardless of how long you might have been stuck being too comfortable in your job, it’s never too late to steer your career back on track. So how can you do that?

Well first things first, you must acknowledge that being comfortable in your job is detrimental to having a successful career. Unless you recognise and acknowledge the fact that you have a problem in your job, it’s going to be difficult to overcome that hurdle.

The next thing you need to do is determine the particular cause of your problem. Why aren’t you learning new skills or acquiring new qualifications? Why does your job bore you? Why have you become less invested in your current career? Why are your colleagues advancing their careers while you are still stuck in the same position? Ask yourself these questions and while you may not like the answers, it will help you discover where things are amiss and allow you to figure out the best course of action to take to tackle the issue.

Finally, take action. Unless you are deliberate about leaving your comfort zone job-wise, your efforts to advance your career may never yield significant results. Take concrete steps to propel your career. Do not wait to be assigned new responsibilities, seek them out or directly ask for new responsibilities. The more challenging the tasks, the better.

Find out the new skills, certifications and qualifications in your industry, take training courses and acquire new professional certifications to upgrade your skills to ensure you have the skillset needed to be relevant in your industry. Also, do not be afraid to apply for a new job, internally or externally if your current job no longer brings you fulfillment. There is no gain in staying in a job that doesn’t excite you.


Facing Redundancy? Do These 5 Things Today!

This article is all about facing redundancy. If you’re in that position at the moment then first of all you have our sympathies because we know exactly what it feels like. You feel like you’ve been rejected and that you’re not wanted anymore. It’s a horrible situation but the most important thing  is to remain positive. It’s very easy to let negativity creep in and to stand still. We’re not going to let that happen because we’re going to help you to get through this. The quicker you take action, the quicker you will have another job and this can all be a distant memory.

Before we get going, there are loads of free resources on CareerPropeller.com to help you to get another job. As well as articles like this, there is a complete course with 32 modules which takes you from preparation through to attending and following up all types of interview. We’ve put this together based on years of recruitment experience and thousands of interview briefings. Head over to our registration page now to take advantage of this treasure trove of interview and career advice. Right let’s get into this!

Update your CV

The first thing you need to do if you’ve been made redundant is to update your CV. This is a vital step anyway, but it will also kick you into action and make you feel better about things immediately. Make no mistake, taking action leads to taking further action. The very worst thing you can do is to let inaction take hold of you. We’re not saying that you have to work all the hours without taking a break, your mental health is also very important, but not taking action is a mistake because it becomes a habit after a few days and the first few days are critical to your job search. Your mindset should be that this is a temporary setback and you are merely looking for your next opportunity. This is not a permanent situation for you and it will pass, we pinky promise you on thatx, and we all know that pinky promises are unbreakable agreements…

Normally you should have your CV updated regularly because you never know what might happen and it’s always good to have your latest role on there and what you’ve been up to. If you haven’t, don’t worry because today is the day! Remember, we want you to take a really positive attitude to this as well. Don’t think, ‘oh I’m losing my job, I’m getting made redundant and I need to update my CV,’ it’s more like, ‘right I’ve done some amazing things in my career, I’ve got some brilliant achievements and I’m going to start talking about them because my next job is out there now.’ One place to do that is on your CV. Incidentally we will have a short course available on CV writing soon, so look out for that. In the meantime, there are loads of other free resources online where you can find out how to write a CV.

The best CVs I saw when I was in recruitment were from the most senior people, board level executives of big corporate firms, and their CVs were two pages long. Anything other than two pages looks like you’re trying to justify why you should be doing the job you’re applying for, and that you really don’t have the right experience. With two pages maximum you can get everything necessary on there. But what if you’ve been in the market a long time and you have a lot of roles to put down? Earlier roles can be put just as one line and you don’t need to put much detail as they’re probably not directly relevant to your current role. Your ski season in Val D’Isere 15 years ago might have been great, but it won’t do much to get you a job now. Don’t sacrifice space on your CV for these early roles, unless they are directly relevant.

Concentrate on the most relevant and most recent experience and focus on communicating your achievements in those roles. So instead of just describing the role, you have to put some key achievements in there such as, ‘I increased sales in my region by 20% in the first 12 months,’ or, ‘I won the company 15 new accounts in two years.’ If you can also reference what your targets were and your performance against those targets then that’s better still. If you work in purchasing you may say something like, ‘As purchasing manager I saved the company 5 million pounds a year, double my target of 2.5 million pounds. Achievements on your CV are critical when you know it’s going to land in front of a recruiter either internal or external. The average time that a recruiter will look at a CV for is about 20 to 30 seconds and if they don’t see something that catches their eye then they’ll move onto the next CV. The other thing you’re dealing with now is applicant tracking systems that parse your CV into the employer’s system and make matches based on keywords. The end result of this is that you have very little time to grab the attention of a recruiter, even if your CV gets in front of them.

A lot of the advice we give on CareerPropeller.com is aimed at helping you to get in front of a recruiter and then to impress them and to get the job. So the advice we give is tried and tested and we’re coming from the point of view of seasoned recruiters, hiring managers and perhaps most importantly experienced candidates.

The other thing you need to have at the top of your CV is what we call a ‘living paragraph’. This is one paragraph that changes depending on which job you’re going for. Another thing we insist upon is that you must tailor your CV for each opportunity to give yourself the best chance of success. You can write a CV in lots of different ways as there are lots of different facets to what you do in your job. As a purchasing manager, for example, one day you’re doing a supplier review and the next you’re looking at an overall strategy for purchasing, the next you might be hiring new members into your team. The reality is that you do lots of different things and so you need to look at the job spec and tailor your CV to show that you have done the things the employer is looking for. One employer might place more importance on experience building teams rather than formulating strategy, so clearly, you’d play more on your hiring than strategy experience and put more examples in. If it’s the other way round, you’d concentrate more on your strategy achievements. So get your CV updated today and you’re already a long way along the road to a new job.

Update your LinkedIn profile

Number two on our list is to update your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn profiles are like an online CV and are a vital tool in your search for a new role. There are hundreds of millions of users on there and recruitment companies and internal recruiters pay hundreds of pounds a year to use the service to find candidates for themselves and their clients. Updating your LinkedIn profile is another thing you must do as soon as possible. You can specify on there that you’re looking for work, as recruiters will do searches on that basis, and they’ll look for people who have either put keywords in their profile to that effect, or they’ve added a specific field that says they are ‘open to being contacted about jobs.’

The most obvious way is to change your biography at the top where it might say at the moment, ‘I am a learning and development manager’, to then say, ‘I’m looking for a new role in learning and development.’ The main point here is that you need to be visible to recruiters and to appear in their searches. Your profile should include achievements in your jobs as you would put on your CV. These things attract recruiters and encourage them to click that message button.

If you haven’t updated your profile picture in a while then have a look to make sure that it looks professional. Please don’t have pictures of you skiing, working out at the gym or posing with your chinchilla. LinkedIn is a professional networking site and you must put forward a professional image at all times.

Once you have updated your profile, don’t forget to click save and also to look at it from the point of view of a recruiter. Ask yourself the questions, ‘Would I contact this person? What would attract me and what would put me off?’ These are all excellent questions because they’ll help you to get your profile into the best possible shape. As well as being found on LinkedIn, any potential employer you apply to will check you out on social media before offering an interview and the most obvious place they’ll look is LinkedIn. Sort out your LinkedIn profile today.

Sign up with job boards

Number three on our list is to sign up with job boards and upload your latest CV. There are major job boards that we all know, but there may also be more niche job boards for your industry, and these might give you a better hit rate because they are specialised. If you’re already on some job boards it’s important to go and review your profile as it might be that you signed up six years ago and you haven’t looked at it since. Recruiters won’t find you if your profile is out of date so you need to go on there, upload your latest CV and update your profile. You can also tell recruiters what you’re looking for by changing your preferences which again is all about visibility; if you’re not showing up in searches then you won’t be contacted. Remember that we have a job board right here on CareerPropeller.com so please check that out when you’ve finished this article.

One thing you might not realise is that recruiters can access and search the databases of job boards. The job boards charge recruitment companies and internal recruiters to search for candidates so that’s another reason why your CV and profile both need to be up to date. Recruiters will filter searches so they are only looking at the most active and up to date candidates also, so if your profile has not been looked at for a year you may not appear in their search results at all. Your number three priority then is to sign up to job boards and to make sure your profile is accurate and up to date.

Create a list of target companies

Creating a list of target companies that you’d like to work for is a great way to take decisive action in your job search. Let’s just say for example you’re an engineer and you’re in a position at the moment where redundancy is looming on the horizon. Having a list of target companies will help you to put your energy into the right places and will stop you waiting for opportunities to come to you. You’re unlikely to be the only person in this position so there are likely to be others applying for the same jobs. If you have a list of companies then, first of all, you can keep an eye on the careers sites of those companies and sign up for alerts. You also have the opportunity to network with some key people and be first in the queue when opportunities do come up.

To compile your list, look at other companies in your industry that you could most easily move to. These would be companies where your skills will be a good match and you can do the same or a similar job to the one you are doing now. After you’ve listed the companies down, look for the recruitment manager, head of recruitment and the recruitment director so that you can start to create a list of who you’re going to network with. The reason for this is so you’re minimising the times you’re sending out faceless CVs to companies. As we’ve already mentioned, you’re far better off being a known candidate rather than just another unknown candidate. It’s your quickest route to a new job.

Hiring managers and recruiters are looking for reasons to filter people out and to filter people in, so if your CV doesn’t give them enough reasons, then unfortunately, it will just go in the no pile. However, if you’re a known candidate then you’re more likely to be given more of a review. If you’re known and liked then the recruiters will look for reasons to put you in their shortlist.

As well as looking at your own industry, make a list of companies that you would like to work for outside your industry. In these uncertain times, it might be that you need to think a bit more laterally and look at a different industry where you can take your skills. It’s not the easiest route but if your particular sector of the market is very depressed at the moment then this might be another option.

For example the airline sector is on its knees at moment which is awful, but people in that industry have excellent customer service skills, organisational skills and other very attractive experience. It doesn’t mean they can’t come back into that industry because we will come through this and things will pick up again, but just at the moment it might be that people have to look elsewhere.

Start-ups are also a good place to look, particularly in growing sectors. Start-ups need good, experienced people that can roll their sleeves up and get things done, so if you can show that on your CV then a start-up could be an excellent option. Think about yourself as a product trying to find a buyer. It’s the buyers with the money that will pay for your services, so look for companies that have secured funding recently or are known to be on a recruitment drive, find the contacts and start networking. Which brings us on to our next point.

Network with recruiters

Our last action point in this article is, surprise surprise, to start calling recruiters, both internal and external, and to make yourself known to them. Once you’ve got your list of companies you need to start making contact with the relevant people so you’re no longer a faceless CV, you’re a real person who is known to them. Start emailing them, phoning them and connecting with them on LinkedIn. You must make sure that they know who you are and what you’re looking for. This is especially critical with agency recruiters who will see potentially hundreds of CVs every day.

Make contact, introduce yourself and explain that you’re looking for a role. No decent recruiter is going to turn down a conversation with you and it’s the best way to make sure they’ll come to you with relevant opportunities. The reason that recruiters want to talk to good candidates is that internal recruiters are targeted on the number of people they get into jobs and external recruiters are targeted on that but also paid on it. It’s exciting for a recruiter when a good candidate lands on their desk and they think they can place that person. That’s their job and that’s what they get paid for. When you have a good candidate you’re actively looking for opportunities to place them. You can even open doors to a new client with a good candidate.


Let’s recap on this article. First of all, it’s important not to take things personally where redundancy is concerned. Recognise that this is a horrible situation that you’re in but it’s a business decision that your company has taken. Ultimately the company has to survive by reducing headcount due to the virus and the market conditions. They’re simply not making as much money as they were and can’t have the same amount of people on the payroll. We know this sounds brutal and cold, but it’s the reality. Once you realise that, you can stop thinking about it in a personal way, come to terms with it and take action to find something else. That’s the most important thing. What’s done is done and you can’t change that. What you can control is what you do now.

We’re going to get you through this situation so let’s recap on what we’ve covered. Number one, update your CV today. This should have a living paragraph at the top, examples of work you’ve done and what you’ve achieved, and be no more than two pages. CVs that go on for pages and pages won’t be read and you’ll destroy your credibility by producing and sending out such a document. Two pages!

Number two, update your LinkedIn profile. It’s similar to a CV but it’s more like an online or living CV, and it will help you be found by recruiters on LinkedIn. If you’ve updated your profile, and you’re making it clear that you’re available for work then you will be found and offered opportunities.

Number three, sign up with job boards and update your profile on job boards where you already have an account. Upload your latest CV so when recruiters search the job board databases for candidates they’ll find you as an active candidate. If you’re not on the job boards get signed up today. You have got to put yourself out there as much as possible. Remember that you only need one recruiter to find you in order to get a job.

Number four is to create a list of target companies and the key contacts within those companies. These can be either companies in your industry or if your industry is particularly hit by what’s going on at the moment you may need to look to another industry where you can transfer your skills. Some sectors have been very busy over the past few months, such as big retail, so there are opportunities out there.

Number five is to start calling recruiters both internal and external. Find companies that are hiring and go to their internal recruiters to introduce yourself and make sure that you are known to them. If you have the right skills and experience they’ll be pleased to hear from you as it saves them having to go out and find you. This is the same for external or agency recruiters.

So there you have our five points for facing redundancy and taking action to find another job. As we’ve mentioned this is a horrible situation but things will improve and get better. Take action, stay positive and you’ll find that very soon you’re feeling better about things and the opportunities will start to come in. Don’t lose this opportunity to get ahead of the game as once it’s gone, it’s going to be an uphill struggle to recover.

We’re here to help you, so please drop a comment below and remember to sign up for our free content. If you follow our advice you’ll not only find opportunities but you’ll have everything you need to be brilliant in the interviews you will be attending. Good luck, stay strong and never give up!

5 Things You Can Do To Supercharge Your Career Prospects

In this article we’ll look at five quick things you can do to supercharge your career prospects. Doing these five things will make a big difference to both your future career and the job you’re in now. This advice is for people who are looking to get into the workplace, those looking to make a career transition and more generally those who are looking to stand out from the crowd for the right reasons. Let’s get cracking!


The first in our list is networking. We know that strikes fear into the hearts of some people, but networking is very different now to how it used to be. It used to mean going to conferences, meeting up with people, introducing yourself, making small talk and all those things that sometimes you don’t want to do. Networking nowadays is very different, in no small part due to the pandemic. We have social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook amongst other platforms. For business networking, we would suggest two platforms to concentrate on. The first is LinkedIn, without question, and the other one is Twitter.

Let’s start with LinkedIn which is a business social networking platform. You should definitely have a profile on there, and we’ll be writing an article soon on how to write a killer LinkedIn profile to attract the employers that you want to work for. LinkedIn is something you must be on and you’ve got to have a professional profile on there that will attract the right people to you. LinkedIn allows you to build a big network of people you want to work with or work for. You can have up to 30,000 1st line connections on LinkedIn so the possibilities are vast.

Just 15 minutes of focused effort on LinkedIn every day will make a massive difference to your career prospects and to you personally. We’ve all got 15 minutes that we can put aside to do this, so there are no excuses! What you need to do is search in your industry or in an industry you want to work in and find the relevant people you want to connect with. For example, you might want to connect with managing directors, HR directors, or IT directors, depending on what sort of industry you want to work in. The first stage is to find these people and send a connection request. There’s some debate as to whether you need to put a message on the connection request or not. Some people swear by it and some people just send a connection request without a message. On balance it’s probably better to send a message and to make it personal wherever possible.

It’s up to you to come up with a message that you want to use but something along the lines of, ‘I’d like to move into the [fintech] industry and would really value connecting with you, so that I can gain insight into the market,’ would be sufficient. Alternatively, you could try something like, ‘I’m looking to move into the [data analytics] industry, and I’d be really keen to learn any tips from you.’ That sort of message is non-confrontational and you’re asking for their help. People like to help other people. Decent businesspeople know that networks are everything and they will connect if you send a respectful message. You have 200 characters for a connection request, so can write a slightly longer message as required if you like.

If you’re not comfortable with sending a longer message, you could just send a message saying, ‘It would be great to connect,’ but be aware that this is possibly your only chance to connect so a better message will get a better response. You should aim to send 10 – 15 connection requests a day. You don’t want to send too many as LinkedIn will throttle your account if they think you’re spamming people or abusing the platform. You can learn more about LinkedIn’s connection rules here.

Once you’ve made the connection you need to then interact with those people so keep a list of people you’re connecting with. For example, if a post comes up from one of these connections where they’ve shared a bit of insight into their industry, drop a like on the post and a comment. They may remember they’ve connected with you but they may not, so you want to keep your profile fresh in their mind. Don’t go mad with the likes but pick posts that appeal to you and always think about any comment you make, because the original poster, their connections and your connections may see it. When you like and / or comment on a post, people will look at your profile and this is why it matters how you’ve written your profile. We’re going to look at that in another article.

Through connecting and then interacting you can put yourself out there, raise awareness of your profile and let people know that you want to move into a certain industry or that you’re available for work. Your profile also allows you to talk about your achievements and the things you’ve done in your life which will attract the right people to you. Regular activity on LinkedIn will make an enormous difference to your career prospects. If you’re also posting thoughtful pieces about the industry on your profile, then that’s all the better. Producing good content is a powerful way to attract and interact with people.

Twitter is another platform we recommend spending some time on. It’s a much-underused platform in our opinion, yet it provides a valid way to make connections, to interact and eventually to meet businesspeople in real life.

Sometimes you can access people on Twitter that you might struggle with on LinkedIn. Very senior people can dip in and out of LinkedIn and sometimes they won’t respond to messages because they get so many, they get overwhelmed. Here’s a trade secret for you. What we’ve found on Twitter is that some very senior people have Twitter accounts that have hardly any followers. They’re going onto Twitter and posting but they’re not getting much interaction in terms of likes or comments. Here’s where the opportunity lies and the opportunity is big.

If you’ve identified someone on LinkedIn and you’re struggling to connect or to gain any traction with them, search for them on Twitter, see if they’ve got a Twitter account, and follow them there. Once you’ve done that, again, it’s about interaction and building a relationship. Like some of their posts, drop a comment now and again but as with LinkedIn, don’t be spammy and like every single post and certainly don’t immediately say that you’d like to get a job with them or meet for a coffee.

Building relationships take time so drop some insightful comments on their posts, and they will start answering you back. After a while they will probably follow you back which means that you can then send them a direct message. Use this power wisely though. It’s very uncool when someone follows you to immediately direct message them with a pitch. After a while of following each other and liking each other’s content, you could say, ‘we’ve been following each other for a while and I’m really thankful for the insights I’ve gained. Would you have 10 minutes for a phone call as I’m looking to move into your industry?’ They are very likely to say yes because you’ve done the groundwork and built up some trust and goodwill. So network, network, network because time spent doing this is never wasted time.

Read as much as you can about the industry and the key people

Number two on our list is to read. Read books, listen to podcasts, read articles and blogs online every day. Set aside half an hour which is ample time to read a blog or article from somebody you’re interested in. This can lead on to some clever networking because if someone you want to connect with has written an interesting article or they’ve recorded a podcast you can drop them a note to say, ‘Hi [David], I really enjoyed your recent article and wanted to say thanks for the insights. I’d be delighted to connect with you.’

Obviously, you need to have read the article in order to comment, just in case they ask what it was you liked. People appreciate comments and the fact that you’ve taken the time to read the article and say thanks will almost certainly lead to a reply from them to say thanks for the comment, and then they may check out your profile and learn a bit about you. Doing these small things will put you head and shoulders above other candidates. Normally when a CV lands on someone’s desk, the reality is that you’re just another name. You might have an impressive background which definitely helps, but if your CV lands on someone’s desk and they recognise you from LinkedIn then naturally you stand a better chance of being called for interview. It really helps to read widely because you’re going to learn about the people you’re trying to connect with and you’ll learn more about the industry you want to work in at the same time. It’s important to spend half an hour every day so set aside the time and get reading.

Model the behaviours of successful people

Third on our list is to model behaviours. If you’re in an industry or a company and you see someone who’s very successful, there’s a reason for that. It could just be that they’re very disciplined, but there’ll be some things they are doing day in and day out that are making them more successful than others. If you know the person well enough, invite them for a coffee and spend 10 minutes asking them what makes them successful. Find out how they’re hitting target every month, or how they’re winning so much business for the company. Find out what these key behaviours are and then model them, because if they’re successful in that environment and you do similar things in your own way, you will be successful too.

Ask for projects and more responsibility

Number four is to ask for projects and opportunities that will allow you to demonstrate your skills and help you to grow. Your manager might be thinking that you lack enthusiasm for the job or to make progress, when the reality is that you might be absolutely raring to take on more responsibility or run your own project. If you don’t ask then you don’t get and therefore it’s important to ask for opportunities. Is there a project coming up that you could be the project manager for, or is there a project coming up that you could be more involved in?

Putting yourself in that position will be a learning curve but will also mean that you are likely to be asked to do more projects and to take on more responsibility subsequently. It all starts with you asking for the opportunity and then making the most of it.

Be consistent

The final item in our list is to be consistent. Doing the things we’ve discussed once will have no effect, however, the cumulative effect of taking action every day is massive and always leads to results.

To recap, we first looked at networking. Go onto LinkedIn and Twitter every day, follow people you are interested in, interact with them and eventually that will lead to meetings, phone calls and opportunities. Read every single day for half an hour or more if you can make the time. Read books, read blogs, articles, newspapers, trade journals, listen to podcasts whenever you can. This will give you tremendous insight into the companies, people and jobs in the industry in which you want to work.

Modelling behaviours was our third point. Observe and model the behaviours of people who are successful. If you do this, then before you know it, you’ll be sharing in that success. Asking for projects was our fourth item. Ask for opportunities, otherwise people don’t know that you’re keen to take on more responsibility. Put your head above the parapet, take a risk and it will pay dividends to you later down the line.

Our fifth and final point was to be consistent. Do these things every single day and you will rapidly see that you’re making huge progress in your career. The ultimate goal is that you want to get into an industry that fits with your career aspirations, and to learn skills and knowledge from others that will let you thrive once you are there. You’ll also learn discipline and continuing to do these things every day will take you to ever greater heights. Good luck, you can do this!

Why researching the company is so important for job interview success

This article is all about the important topic of researching the company you’re interviewing with, why to research the company, and how to actually go about it and what results you should expect. So why must we research the company? For a start you’ll look unprepared in the interview if you don’t carry out proper research. You must also ask good questions at the end of the interview, which we’ll cover in-depth in another article. Asking good questions can only come from knowing about the company, which means research!

Why is research so important?

Imagine a scenario, a very likely one, where the employer says to you, ‘What do you know about us? What do you know about our company and what we’re doing?’ If you didn’t do your research, how do you think that looks to the interviewer? It looks like you’re not bothered. Who do you think they’re going to offer the job to? The person who looks like they’re not bothered or the person who comes in having fully researched the company? They’ll know exactly what’s been going on, they will have a finger on the pulse having looked at news articles, they’ll know the latest hires at the company, they’ll know the direction of the company. That’s the person who will be offered the role. This article will help to make sure that the person is you.

What sort of research should you do?

An obvious place to start is the company website. You need to go on there in some depth and look at all of the main areas such as the career section, the news section and the ‘about us’ section, where you can look at the board members and other key people at the company. It could be that you see a member of staff on there that you know, and that’s an area of common interest that you can use in the interview. We’ll be writing another article about this soon. It’s really important, where possible, to find common ground with the interviewer because people like to hire people that they feel comfortable with. If you can find common ground with the interviewer, then that’s going to go in your favour.

As well as looking at the main areas of the company website, you’re also looking for any snippets of information that you will be able to use in the interview, whether it’s a news item that’s caught your attention or something else that you can use. All of these things must be noted down on a template, which we’ll come onto shortly.

You should be looking up general news stories about the company as well. You can find these on any search engine by typing the company name and then clicking on ‘news’. You’ll then see a number of news stories about that company. Hopefully most will be positive. If you do find that there’s negative news, be careful about using that in the interview, you don’t want to upset the interviewer. Equally, it could be that if you find there’s loads of negative news you don’t want to go to the interview in the first place or you don’t want to apply to that company. Research should be done as early as possible, ideally before you apply, but certainly when you’ve been called in for interview.

There are other websites where you can find good information such as Glassdoor. On there you’ll find reviews from employees and ex-employees. There’ll be ratings and average salary levels, which are really good information to capture on your template. If there are negative reviews, you’ve got to take those with a pinch of salt because it could be someone who’s a bit disgruntled who’s gone on there and decided to have a bit of a rant. Of course, negative reviews might be valid, but take these in context. You may find that there’s a theme to some of the comments. For example, it might be that lots of people mention working really long hours. If you frame it in the right way then you could work that question into your interview. Of course you must do this in a non-confrontational way, so you’re not making it obvious that you know that lots people are complaining about working hours. It’s important to ask about these types of things if they’re important to you. If you’re someone who’s not into long hours or staying late then maybe it’s not the job for you. You’ve got to get the job that’s right for you and you need to explore these things in the interview in the right way.

What results should you expect from your research?

Firstly, you’re going to be much more informed. You should be able to build a full picture of the company so you can ask those all-important questions towards the end of the interview. You should end up with a template full of the latest news, perhaps their most recent business wins or contract wins, who’s joined the company, who’s left the company and any new products they’re bringing to the market. Through Glassdoor and other similar websites you’ll be able to build good insight from the actual employees of that company also. So, at the end of your research you should end up much better informed going into the interview and, with the ultimate outcome in mind, you will look more credible in front of the interviewer. The end goal of all of your research is to be the most impressive candidate on the day and to get the job. That’s what it’s all about.

How should do you go about capturing your research?

In our ‘Ultimate Interview Course’ we have templates that you can download and use, but equally you can put together a simple template for yourself with different boxes for each section. For example, you should have one for company website news items, one for ‘movers and shakers’, or in other words, who’s joined the company recently and who’s left. You should also have sections for any big wins, employee feedback and other important information that you find. It isn’t necessary to take this template into the interview with you, but it is critical that you use it as one of your preparation sheets. You also need to research the person you are interviewing with and look in detail at the job specification. We also provide templates for those areas of research in our course.

Take responsibility, get a template and get it done!

The final, and most important message in this article is to take responsibility. It is only down to you and it’s your responsibility to prepare properly for your interview. if you haven’t done it, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage to all the other candidates. If you do the research properly, you’ll single yourself out for the right reasons, being prepared, being credible and asking good questions.

You can only do that if you’ve done your research and that means taking responsibility. So remember, for your next interview take responsibility, get a template and get it done! If you have any comments, we’d love to hear them below. Thanks for reading and good luck for your interview!

An interviewer looking confused at an answer

Here’s why it’s not your fault you’re terrible at job interviews

Here's why it's not your fault you're terrible at job interviews

As an opening statement, I truly believe that most interview advice out there is totally unfit for purpose. Most awful of all is the advice you may have received at school. My own ‘careers advice’ at school many years ago was so pointless that I would have been better skipping ‘careers’ lessons and spending that time studying job adverts instead.

An interviewer looking confused at an answer

Over the course of my career, I’ve conducted thousands of interviews, both as a recruiter and a hiring manager. The majority of candidates had so little idea how to prepare for interviews that I ended up coaching them on what to do. Was this because I wanted to help them? Yes and no. At the start I just wanted to stop wasting my own time interviewing people who didn’t understand what an interview was about. Later I realised that my experience of interviews and ability to coach people was really helping them to perform better. I carried on doing this when I was a hiring manager, giving guidance on what I was looking for before the interview. As a result, these interviews were much more productive. I got what I wanted from people without asking stupid questions such as, ‘where do you see yourself in five years’, ugh, and the people I ended up hiring were very capable and went on to be valuable team members.

The sad reality is that most interviews skirt around the real issues, are full of pointless questions and often end up with the wrong person being hired. That has a knock-on effect on the business and the people in the business. Not good. Do an internet search to find out how much a bad hire can cost a business. In the most extreme cases it can ruin a company. There is always a financial cost to a bad hire and interviews are a major factor in bad hiring decisions.

So, onto the point of this article. It really isn’t your fault that you’re terrible at interviews. Most of the advice you’ve received is worthless. I knew no better when I first went out into the job market. I made some terrible decisions and joined companies I never should have joined. I hated those jobs. Hated them. When I look back now I can see that everything happened for a reason, and my suffering (yes really) has given me a unique perspective that I’m using to help you avoid making the mistakes I did. If I’d known then what I know now, and how easy it is to properly prepare for interviews, I could have saved myself a lot of hassle. Onto the advice.

"Choose a job you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life"

An interview is a two-way process

Here’s a headline for you. An interview is a two-way process and you have the right to say, ‘no thanks’. Get that into your head. You can say NO. You need to change the way you think about interviews. I used to think that the power was all with the interviewer, which was totally the wrong way to think about it. You are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you. Once you make this mental shift you’ll look at interviews differently forever. I bet no-one ever told you that though, right? There’s a lot of fear about going into an interview situation, because society dictates that interviews are big scary things where you’re put under the microscope and made to squirm. If you change your perspective then you can take back the power in the interview situation. The first thing is to stop giving the interviewer power over you, remember you can say no at any point. You’re bad at interviews because you think all the power sits with the interviewer. It doesn’t.

Don't be cocky

You’ve probably been told to be confident in an interview. That doesn’t mean you should walk in, throw your CV onto the table and loudly exclaim, ‘Hire me or lose me, your choice!’ That would of course see you thrown into the street, well maybe not literally, but you would fluff the interview before it had even started. What we need here is quiet confidence rather than arrogance. Through preparation and the right mental framing, you can be assured that you’ll walk into the interview with the right air of confidence and the knowledge to back it up.

You’ll not struggle for answers because they’ll be there ready to use following your research and planning. Do you think that an actor sees a script, reads it once and then goes out and wins an Oscar? No, of course they don’t. They’ve done numerous read throughs, rehearsals, practices, they’ve delivered the lines a hundred different ways and then practiced their best version a hundred times more. An interview is in some ways like a performance, you prepare, you rehearse and then you perform. One of the myths about interviews is that your CV and your experience can be enough on their own to get you 80% of the way there. This may have been true years ago, but not now. You can be assured that other people out there are doing their homework, preparing, rehearsing and so must you. All the advice you’ll receive from CareerPropeller.com is to give you quiet confidence, not over confidence. You’re bad at interviews because you haven’t realised that confidence comes from preparation, not ego.

Free Resources To Help You Prepare For An Interview

The interview starts before you enter the building or join the call

If your interview is face to face then you may not have realised that the interview starts well before you enter the building. If your interview is on the phone or online, it starts before you join the call. Why am I saying this? Because it’s true! You never know who you’re sitting next to on the train, driving behind or standing in front of in the queue at the local coffee shop. You must be on your guard from the moment you leave your house to travel to the interview. For online interviews, as soon as you click the join button you’re in the interview. Even if it looks like your PC is taking its time to connect, the audio might already have connected and anything you say can be heard.

Additionally, it’s not an excuse that you don’t know how to use Teams or Zoom. Learn the software beforehand! There are thousands of YouTube videos showing you how. Make sure you’ve tested the platform the interviewer will be using and download any bits of software needed before the interview. Don’t be caught out trying to download software and join a call when the interview has started. We cover these aspects in depth in our interview course on CareerPropeller.com. We leave no stone unturned because we’ve heard the horror stories over many years working with candidates. You’re bad at interviews because no-one ever told you that the interview starts before you enter the building or join the call.

You don't ask for the job

A great recruiter I once worked with told me, ‘an interview is a sale’, and it has always stuck with me. He was 100% correct. An interview is a sale. You are a product and the employer wants to buy a product. They are going to assess lots of products until they find the one that fits. Another great recruiter I worked with told me, ‘this is the only business where the product can say that it doesn’t want to be sold.’ That’s 100% correct too. So an interview is a sale and at the end of the process you have the right to walk away even after the employer has said they want to buy. How powerful is that?

Recognising that an interview is a sales process is critical because again it helps you to shift your thinking away from it being a one-way deal. That said, of course you still have some selling to do. In the most basic terms salespeople understand client needs and then match the features and benefits of their product to meet those needs. What does that mean for you? It means that preparation again is the key to interview success. The employer, or client, has given you a full list of requirements in the form of a job advert or job description. They’ve given you everything you need to be able to walk in and convince them that you’re the person for the job. Yet so many candidates miss this point! You first have to know the difference between a job advert and a job description to be able to prepare properly. We cover these in our course on CareerPropeller.com and provide preparation worksheets which will put you above the competition. We lay out exactly how to use the information the employer has provided and what to do with it to prepare.

What happens at the end of a sales process? The salesperson asks for the business. This means that you must ask for the job. So few people do this it’s unbelievable. If we apply this logic to a sale, it would mean that the salesperson would present their product and then leave the room without asking for the business. That would mean a very short sales career for that person. Interviews are the same. Asking for the job isn’t arrogant or cocky, it’s you demonstrating that you want the job and you’re communicating that to the employer. How do you ask for the job? We cover that in detail in our course, including how to phrase the question and justify why you’re the person for the role. The most important thing is to actually ask for the job, otherwise how does the interviewer know you are keen? You’re bad at interviews because no-one ever told you to ask for the job.

So what next?

At CareerPropeller.com we’re on a mission to connect you with amazing employers and to give you the help and advice you need to get your dream job.

Have you ever wondered how some people just seem to breeze through interviews and get job offers with ease?

Have you racked your brains for ways to stand out from the crowd and beat the competition?

We’ve got courses, articles, videos, downloads and more to help you to do just that. Did we mention it’s all free too?

Seven Minutes To Your Perfect Elevator Pitch

You’ve no doubt heard of the elevator pitch but many people don’t get around to creating their own version of it. If you are a genuine person, it can feel a little contrived to spend time on something you deem to be a glorified sales pitch.

But let’s not overlook that any version of recruitment is selling. It’s matching a skillset well enough with an employment need to spike an interest. So with that in mind, why wouldn’t you want to have a well honed synopsis of yourself at the ready for when the opportunity presents itself?

Keeping it simple – your elevator pitch is a super quick summary of your background and experience. Super quick being the operative words. As the name suggests, the elevator pitch was designed to be your little ‘me speech’ which you can deliver in its entirety in an elevator ride, so 30-60 seconds is your limit.

Admittedly we may not be spending all of our time in lifts, but if you think about how many situations present themselves to you as a chance to share what you do in day to day life, not having a perfectly natural elevator pitch to draw from is a missed opportunity every time.

If you get this right, you’ll feel prepared enough to confidently introduce yourself to business or career connections in a compelling way.

Want to know how you can sound like the next best employee rather than a bimbling Hugh Grant when people ask what you do?

Here are some tips to get you primed and ready…

What Should I Include In My Elevator Pitch?

Remember – no padding! All this needs to be is who you are, what you do and a short recap of how you got there. If you are job hunting, then you share what you’d like to be doing instead of current employment. If you are naturally able to, add some emotion too which highlights that you’d be an invested employee – spark their interest.

Here’s an example…

I recently graduated from university with a degree in communications. I worked as a reporter on the university newspaper and progressed to the role of editor of the arts section. I loved these roles and am looking for a job which will put my journalism skills to work.

You can see how having such a succinct opener gives people the opportunity to strike up a conversation if they wish. That’s all an elevator pitch is. You didn’t sound pushy or needy, you simply offered enough information in a short space of time to introduce yourself properly and confidently.

When Do I Use My Elevator Pitch?

The beauty of capturing yourself in such a short and precise way is that you can deliver this in many formats. In person or online – if people can see a quick snapshot they don’t mind reading to the end of it.

If you are job hunting, you’ll want to be able to use this wherever you possibly can…

  • Career Expos
  • Job Fairs
  • Networking Events
  • Professional Meetings
  • Job Interviews – when asked the “Tell me about yourself” question
  • Linked In – use it as your headline so that all comments are a mini advert
  • Twitter or other Social Media Platforms
  • Whenever asked “What do you do?, Where did you study?” etc

Basically any conversation with the right audience could be a potential connection so be a little more attentive with the people you’re talking to.

Practice Really Does Make Perfect (AND Relaxes You!)

There’s nothing worse than people gushing at you when you ask them what they do. Offputting is an understatement so the more relaxed you can be in delivering your elevator pitch, the more likely you are to engage your recipient.

It’s hard to be relaxed with something unfamiliar though, so make sure you practice this until you can deliver it in a way which sounds totally ‘you’.

If you have close friends you’re comfortable to practice on, rope them in, but if not, try recording yourself either on video or simply on a voice recorder and listen or watch back. Would you employ you if you saw or heard that version?

If the answer is no, keep going until you would. You’ll hone it very quickly but the practice will also help you to learn your pitch too, so if it feels silly, just think of the ££’s that could come your way when you land your perfect job because of a chance meeting at Costa!

We joke, but you really don’t ever know where opportunities are lurking so a great elevator pitch really could be one of the best tools in your job hunting arsenal!

Know Your Audience

Following on from the practice your pitch comment, try to be intuitive about your audience too. Clues such as their age, their dress sense, their job or role will all act as identifiers of how to pitch yourself. Knowing you’re speaking to the head of a technical team would allow you to drop a tiny bit of jargon in to show you know your stuff.

Trying to dazzle the CEO with tech lingo may not be so well received so paying a tiny bit of attention to anything that hints at a shared interest will go a long way in getting you heard.

A little secret too – if you are confident enough to try to make them laugh – don’t hold back. Laughter is unspoken resonance – an instant ‘I like you’ BUT it has to be natural – if you;re usually funny very easily this shouldn’t be excluded. However, if you don’t feel you could carry it off, maybe give the comedy a miss as you risk making an impression for the wrong reasons.

Hopefully, you can see how just a bit of confidence to use your elevator pitch regularly will really spread the word far more easily for you than not being prepared. You’ll be happy to talk about yourself rather than being petrified of being asked what you’re currently doing – particularly if you’re job hunting right now.

We’ve all been there and stuttering your words along with your sweaty palms may not get you off to the best start.

Feel free to share with us how you’re getting on, or your successful elevator pitch stories!

People sat waiting for a job interview

Competency Based Interviews.

Competency Based Interviews.

A blueprint for success, every time

The competency based interview is often approached with trepidation by candidates. The format is very different to less structured interviews and requires a specific approach in order to succeed. It’s probably the only type of interview where answering questions with the right information but in the wrong way can mean failure. This guide is designed to help candidates succeed at the competency based interview by taking steps to prepare beforehand and to remain calm and focused during the interview itself. Read the following guide, practice your approach and you’ll never have to fear this interview format again.

Why do employers use the competency based interview?

This type of interview normally forms part of a wider interview process. It might be conducted over the telephone, or face to face depending on the company. It would usually be accompanied by a less structured interview at some point. Again all this depends on the company and its particular process. I’ve had some senior candidates fail this type of interview and some relatively inexperienced candidates perform excellently. The good news is that anyone can do well if they stick to the methodology.

The competency based interview is designed to assess your ability to do the job you have applied for based on past behaviour. More specifically, it looks at how candidates have performed previously against a set of competencies that are relevant to the job. The CIPD offers the following definition, ‘Competency’ and ‘competencies’ may be defined as the behaviours (and, where appropriate, technical attributes) that individuals must have, or must acquire, to perform effectively at work – that is, the terms focus on the personal attributes or inputs of the individual.’

So, the company interviewing you is trying to assess, based on past performance, whether you exhibit the right behaviours to succeed in the role. Therefore, you must find a way to get across to the interviewer that you have demonstrated the behaviours in real life situations.

A level playing field

As well as giving the company a structured way to assess candidates, it also offers two other things. Firstly, a level playing field, meaning that candidates can shine whatever their experience. Because it looks at behaviours, it works for all experience levels. Whether the candidate is a CEO or someone who has just graduated, everyone can find examples that will allow them to demonstrate the desired behaviours. The second thing the interview style allows, is for anyone to conduct the interview, regardless of their experience or particular approach. This means that large numbers of candidates can be interviewed by many different people in the organisation, and the results can be objectively assessed. As long as the interviewer sticks to the questions and accurately records the responses, candidates can be reassured that any biases held by the interviewer will have no impact on the results.

After the interview, the results are assessed and a score is given for each question, dependin on how much evidence of each behaviour the candidate has offered. If the candidate has not offered any evidence of the behaviour, then the score for that question would likely be zero. If the candidate has shown some evidence, then perhaps a score of one or two would be given and so on. Scores are typically on a scale from zero to four, although this is up to the company to decide and knowing the scoring system shouldn’t change your approach in any case. The scores are then added up to give an overall score for the interview, which can be compared like for like with other candidates. Hopefully you are starting to see that it is possible to score highly in this type of interview, if you follow the correct approach and make sure that you use the methodology to address each question in full.

Preparation is key

In order to shine in a competency based interview, preparation is one of the most important things to consider. You should know the type of interview you are going to be attending beforehand. Ask the company or your recruiter if you don’t know. Whilst you are very unlikely to be given the actual questions, you may be able to find out, or work out, the competencies and behaviours that the interviewer is going to assess. A lot of companies will list the competencies in their job specifications or descriptions. If the competencies are not given, why not try asking for them? A phone call to the company will show professionalism on your part, and demonstrate a diligent approach to your work. You could try saying, ‘In order for the interview to be as productive as possible, could you please forward me a list of the competencies that will be assessed?’ Most candidates won’t do this, so as well as being better prepared for the interview, you’ll also stand out from the crowd for the right reasons. To put this in a work context, would you ever turn up for an important meeting having done zero preparation? Your approach to interviews is a direct indication of your approach to work.

Typical examples of competencies that might be assessed are communication, decision making, resilience and ability to adapt. A quick Google search will bring up several websites with comprehensive lists of competencies and the likely questions that accompany them. If we take ‘working in a team’ as an example, you could be asked, ‘Give me an example of when you played a part in delivering a piece of work to a tight timescale?’ You can see that this question could be applicable to many different situations. A CEO might formulate an answer about a strategic review, whereas a school leaver might talk about working with others to finish a piece of coursework in time for a deadline. Either situation allows the question to be answered fully, using very different examples.

When preparing for the interview, sit down with your CV and think about situations you have faced where you can demonstrate the behaviours for each competency. Everyone can do this regardless of their experience. The important thing is to think about how you behaved in the situation and what the outcomes were.

STAR stories

The best way to ensure that you answer each question fully is to use the STAR methodology. This stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. To answer the question above, you could say, ‘In my final year at university, I had a number of deadlines to meet. One of these was to collaborate with other students to present the findings of a year-long research project into social media in the workplace (situation). My role (task) in the group was to manage the production of the presentation so that it was ready to be delivered by the specific date. I recognised that everyone was busy with other work, so I put together a timetable and assigned tasks to each person, with regular meetings set out to check progress (action). Some people were struggling with their workload, so the meetings were really helpful and allowed us to reallocate some tasks to people who were less busy. Ultimately, the presentation was delivered on time and as a group we were awarded a first for that piece of work (result). This is just one example of how to use the methodology to fully answer the question to the satisfaction of the interviewer. I guarantee that you can think of similar examples from your career, education or even family life.

The interview will feel strange as it won’t have much of a flow to it. You’ll be asked a question, you’ll give an answer; the interviewer will sit quietly and write down your answer in full then ask you another question. This is normal for the interview style so don’t be put off by the silences.

Difficult subjects

Interviewers like to throw in difficult questions now and again, to explore how you react to change and adversity. A good example might be, ‘Tell me about a time when something you undertook went wrong. What did you do and what was the outcome?’ There is nothing to fear from answering the question, if you stick to the plan. Answering these questions can in fact impress upon the interviewer your suitability for the role. Everyone makes mistakes; it’s how they deal with them that’s important. Here you should talk about the situation and your tasks honestly. Describe what happened and what went wrong. From there you can set out the actions you took to turn things around and what the results were. With a bit of thought, it’s possible to turn most negatives into positives. One word of warning here though; don’t use examples that paint you in a bad light. You might think it was noble to stand up to your boss and refuse to do something you were asked to do. Your interviewer however might see you as someone who has a problem with authority. Context is everything and if you can’t get that across then it’s better to use another example.

In summary

Competency based interviews are useful for comparing a large number of candidates in an objective manner. They focus on behaviours, and can be conducted by interviewers with varying skill levels, meaning that you won’t be disadvantaged if you have a less experienced person interviewing you. Your answers will be scored according to how fully you answer the questions. The good news is that if you follow the methodology, you can greatly increase your chances of obtaining a high score.

Preparation is key. Find out if the interview is to be competency based, and ask for the competencies if they are not included in the job specification. Go through your CV and your experience, pull out relevant examples and practice your answers. Use the STAR methodology to formulate a complete answer and remember to cover each part fully.

Don’t be afraid of difficult subjects, prepare for them and have examples to hand where you can demonstrate how you turned adversity into triumph.

Stick to the plan and you’ll impress. Good luck!

Please share any of your experiences with this type of interview below.

A woman and a man talking about business

The first job interview; prepare to succeed

The first job interview; prepare to succeed

Securing a first interview is a major step on your journey to finding a job. The good news is that if you have succeeded in getting an interview, the company is really interested in your profile and your experience. It’s likely that you’ve made the cut from around 300 or more candidates down to perhaps 10 or less. That’s an achievement in itself and you should be encouraged.

In one of our previous posts, ‘Five ways to greatly increase your chances of getting a new job’, we gave an overview of how to prepare for the first interview. This post is the comprehensive guide that we promised to write as a follow up. Follow these steps and you will be better prepared and more confident than most of your competition.

Use a recruiter

You should consider using a good recruiter to help with your job search. Someone who knows the market and the client can give you a real edge over other candidates the company will be meeting. At all stages of the application process, your recruiter will be fighting your corner, giving you advice, preparing you for interviews and offering unique insights into the client and the people you’ll be meeting. Using a bad recruiter could damage your chances however, so you must find someone good. We’ll be posting another blog soon about how to engage with a good recruiter and what you should expect. We’ll also tell you how to spot a bad recruiter.

Find out about the interview process

Is this going to be a two or three stage process? What will this first stage involve? Will it be an informal chat with HR? Will there be online tests? You need to know the answers to all these questions otherwise you could get caught out; leading to a sub-standard performance on the day.

If you are using a recruitment firm then your consultant should give you all this information. If you’re going direct to the employer, you need to ask for this information if it isn’t given to you. Phone up the contact you have at the company and ask them about the process and the different stages. The meeting will be more productive if you have had a proper chance to prepare for it. Any employer who spends valuable time interviewing will be disappointed if the interviewee turns up ill-prepared. On the other hand, a candidate who has researched the company, knows the process and is enthusiastic will be very well received.

Understand the type of interview you will be attending

Depending on the format of the interview, you’ll need to prepare in a specific manner. There are several types of interview. The initial interview could be on the telephone or via Skype. It could be face to face in an office or informally in a coffee shop. It could be with HR, the line manager or a senior director, depending on the company. It may be competency based, it may involve tests; the list goes on. The important thing is that you know what to expect and that you prepare for the interview specifically.

For competency based interviews, see our recent post for a comprehensive guide to preparing for and attending the interview. For all interviews, there are several things you need to do in order to be successful.

Get to know the company

You must research the company fully before attending the interview. This is non-negotiable, you have to do it. Turning up and meeting someone from a company you know nothing about is a complete waste of your time and the time of the person interviewing you. Imagine it from their point of view. They are looking to hire someone and they want that person to be interested in working at the company. If you don’t know what the company is about, the products or services it provides, or where it is going then you will fall flat on your face. I have interviewed people who knew more about the company that I did, and it impressed me greatly. By the same token, I have asked candidates what they knew about the company, and some have looked blankly, others have taken a fairly broad guess. Nothing shines like a prepared and enthusiastic candidate. Do your research.

There are loads of places to look for information. The first would be the company website. Read the ‘About Us’ section and then go on from there. If you are interviewing with a multi-national, then it’s acceptable to have an overview of the main company and in-depth knowledge of the area of the business that you’ll be working in. The news section is also definitely worth looking at. Here you’ll find the latest company developments. Has the company recently won an award, launched a new product or hired a new senior member of staff? News stories are a good source of content for questions you want to ask in the interview. You can generally glean a lot of information from this section of the website so make sure you read plenty of stories, going back at least a few months if not longer.

You need to know the history of the company. With so much consolidation in today’s markets, it may well be that the company has acquired a key competitor, maybe even a company you previously worked for. Read in the wider business press as well. Is the company rumoured to be on the takeover trail, or is it a target for a takeover? Read the relevant industry press also. There are trade publications for every type of business, many of them online. You have to stand out as someone who knows what is going on. This goes for any role you might be applying for, it’s always good to show that you are able to research information, take it in, digest it and form thoughts around it. That is after all what you will be expected to do in your job.

There are other websites to look at also. LinkedIn is a key site on which to conduct research. Look at the profiles of company employees, are they consistent, what do they say about the company? Glassdoor is a site that allows employees to rate their employer, and to leave one positive and one negative comment. Some companies have hundreds of reviews and this is typically down to the size of the organisation; more employees, more reviews. These reviews are very useful for forming an overall opinion of the company, along with your other research. Be aware that some people may have an agenda though. It’s generally easy to spot reviews that are extreme either way, as they stand out from the majority.

You should be able to get a good idea about the company through reading a number of reviews. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask a question about any points that keep coming up. For example, if lots of reviews mention a lack of career progression then ask a question, phrased in the right way, to explore this. Don’t say, ‘Lots of employees on Glassdoor say that the company holds people back.’ Instead, try asking, ‘I noticed during my research on Glassdoor, that some employees mentioned it can take a while to see career progression. Is this a fair reflection?’ It might be that there is a period of time before high potential employees are identified and steered onto a progressive track. Remember that you are interviewing the company as well, and you need to know if something you value might cause an issue if it doesn’t meet with your aspirations.

Get to know the people

The recruiter will tell you who you are meeting. Through LinkedIn you can then do some research into the person to find out who they are and what they have done in their career. You may find that the person previously worked at your current employer, or they went to the same school. These are all common areas of interest and you are bound to find something that you share. Be aware that the other person will see that you have viewed their profile on LinkedIn. If you are uncomfortable with this then you can change your privacy settings, so they only see an overview profile, or you can in fact appear totally anonymous. I think it’s fine to leave the settings as they are, so that the person can see you have viewed them. It shows initiative.

The other benefit of looking at someone on LinkedIn is that there should be a photo. If you know what the person looks like, you can confidently approach them when they come to reception to meet you. If the company is in a large office, sometimes reception is a busy area with lots of people coming and going. Very large buildings often have several companies within. Do you remember the taxi driver Guy Goma who went to the BBC for a job interview and was then interviewed on live TV after he was mistaken for the technology journalist Guy Kewney? Hopefully this won’t happen to you, but every bit of research you do will help the day to go smoothly.


Practice makes perfect. Go through your CV and the job spec. Draw out the key areas and concentrate on these especially. If the role requires a focus on new business wins, then make sure you are well versed on your own new business wins and how you went about securing them. Use the STAR methodology to answer competency based questions, as discussed in our post on competency based interviews.

Get a friend to help you by asking questions on the areas you think will be the most important. Keep practising your answers until you feel comfortable. The more you practice, the better you will come across on the day.

Plan your route

If you have never been to the office before then plan a route so you know you will arrive promptly. You can do this on Google maps, AA Routefinder or of course your satnav. If time allows then carry out a dry run at a similar time of day. It is hugely stressful to be rushing to get to the interview, and you are unlikely to regain your composure until well into the interview itself, which is likely to damage your chances of impressing the interviewer. If you get caught in traffic or your train is cancelled whilst travelling to the interview, phone the company the moment you realise that you can’t make the agreed time. You cannot control everything and the person will understand, as long as you let them know in good time.

If you are driving to the interview then make sure you know where you are going to park. If the company has a car park then you may need to book a visitor space. Research other car parks in the area so you have a back-up should something go wrong. Above all, leave plenty of time to get there. It’s better to sit in a café around the corner for 30 minutes than be running up the road with seconds to spare.

What to wear

This very much depends on the type of company you are going to visit and the role you are applying for. In nearly all cases, business dress is the safest option. It is unlikely that you could be over-dressed for an interview. The exception would perhaps be the creative industries, where a slightly more casual look is acceptable. If you are using a recruiter, ask their advice. If not, phone the company to check.

In summary

Understand the interview process so you know what to expect and how the interview fits into the overall structure. Know the type of interview you’ll be attending, so you can prepare thoroughly. Research the company fully, you need to know what the company does and where it wants to get to, as you’re hoping to be a part of that success. Research the interviewer. Use the information online to give you an edge, find some common ground or come up with killer questions that will impress. Practice, practice, practice. Focus on the key job requirements and practice answering questions around these. Know where you are going for the interview, how you are going to get there and how long it takes. Dress appropriately and if in doubt, go smart.

Good luck with your interview!

Please use the comments section to tell us about your interview experiences, good and bad. Thanks for reading.

So you didn’t get the job, what now?

In our last blog post, ‘Five ways to greatly increase your chances of getting a new job’, we gave you some top tips to help with your job search. This post is about what to do if you don’t get the job. Or more specifically, what NOT to do.

When you’ve put in the effort to find an opportunity, conduct extensive research, attend the interviews and made the decision that this is the role for you, it’s very disappointing if you don’t ultimately get the job. How you act after being given the bad news though is critically important for your future chances of ever getting to meet that employer again. Not only that specific employer, but other potential employers as well. Recruitment professionals change jobs and move to other companies. They also come into contact with lots of other recruiters. Additionally, part of their job is to deal with references. It doesn’t take a huge leap to realise that you need to be professional at ALL stages of the recruitment process, and this includes after the process has finished.

The moment of truth

Imagine the scene. You’ve been waiting a week to hear whether you’ve got the job or not, your friends and family know about it, the tension has been building. The phone rings, you take the call; it’s bad news. You didn’t get the job. How do you react? Probably with disappointment which is understandable. It’s what you say and do next that can really make or break your credibility.

Telling someone they haven’t got the job is not a nice thing to have to do, but it is part of a recruiter’s role. I have finished some conversations with a new found respect for candidates in this situation, and I’ve also mentally decided that I would never again deal with some others. Any decision has been thought out thoroughly, most probably by a number of people, so it isn’t a good idea to tell the recruiter that they are making a mistake, or worse, react with anger or rudeness.

Pen and pad at the ready

You should receive feedback from the employer or the recruitment consultant if you applied through an agency. This should be proper, constructive feedback on why you weren’t successful. You need to write this feedback down, as the phone call and its contents will be a blur afterwards. Ask questions to establish any facts you are not clear on. How did you rate against the person who got the job? What could you have done differently? What areas can you work on to improve your chances in your other interviews? Where there any areas of concern in your background? This phone call is a fantastic opportunity to learn from someone who sees thousands of CVs a year and conducts hundreds of interviews; use it wisely. At the end of the call, thank the person for their time and honesty.

Another key reason for taking a positive approach is that sometimes the new hire doesn’t work out. It happens, and if it does, who do you think the recruiter will call? The person who was polite, who understood the decision and thanked them for their time, or the person who sounded frustrated, angry or aggressively told them they were making a mistake? You know the answer to that question.

There are several other things you could do that you really shouldn’t:

Vent on social media

It is so easy to pick up your phone and tweet your frustration, or put an update on Facebook detailing why the company is making a big mistake. Don’t do it. Once you put something out there, it’s there forever, even if you delete it. You might feel momentarily better, but what happens when your tweet surfaces in front of a recruiter at your next opportunity? Potential employers use your social media presence to assess your suitability. You have to keep this in mind at all times and act professionally. Keep your phone in your pocket and move on.

Apply for the role again through a recruitment agency

Whilst recruitment consultants can make a huge difference to your application, they cannot generally reverse a decision that has already been made. A number of years ago I enthusiastically submitted a candidate for a role only to find that the candidate had already been through the process with that company unsuccessfully. Despite questioning the candidate about the role and the company, assurances were given that this company had not been approached. It causes a lot of issues for all concerned when this happens, and nobody wins, especially not the candidate. Now this could have been an act of desperation on the part of the candidate, or perhaps the person had simply forgotten that they had applied, which goes back to our previous post about keeping a record of all applications. Either way, credibility is lost and it’s unlikely that a future application would be welcomed.

Send in a detailed letter rebuffing the feedback

Whilst you may think that you’re the best person for the role, you have to trust that the company knows what it is doing and has made the best decision for its needs. I have seen candidates put together detailed letters or emails listing the reasons why a miscarriage of justice has occurred, then sending these to the recruiter, the hiring manager or worse the managing director of the company. Even if you think your arguments are valid, taking this approach can only worsen your chances with future opportunities. Even if eloquently put, your letter is still basically saying that the person you are writing to does not know their job, which is never going to be well received. Accept the decision and concentrate your energy on your next opportunity.

Give up

The worst thing you can possibly do is to become disheartened with your job search. It takes sustained effort to get the job you really want and to move forward in your career. Don’t let a knockback dictate the outcome of your efforts. It’s normally just at the point where you feel most demotivated that things start to happen. Don’t quit with the end in sight, keep going and you will get there. The more opportunities you pursue, the quicker you will land a new role. What’s more, you’ll learn loads from the disappointments and rejections which will help you to secure future roles.

To summarise

Losing out on a job is never going to be nice, but you can take the experience and learn from it, or you can let it affect you negatively. Always trust that the company you have applied to knows what it is doing and has made a balanced decision. Write down the feedback you receive, clarify any points you are unsure of, review the feedback and act upon it. Make changes to your CV, tailor your responses to interview questions, or even take a course to fill in a gap in your experience or knowledge. Definitely do not take to social media to rail against the perceived injustice, don’t try to get in through the back door by using a recruiter, don’t write a 50 point list as to why you should have got the job, and most importantly, never, ever give up. Keep going, tweak your approach and you will land the job that is right for you. Please comment below and share your experiences.

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Five ways to greatly increase your chances of getting a new job

When you decide it’s time to move on from your current employer, you probably know that it becomes a job in itself. There’s the research, the applications, dealing with recruiters (both agency and in-house), interviews, offers, negotiations, the list goes on. So how can you make your life, and your job search, easier and less stressful?

  1. Plan your search

When looking for a new role, it’s critical that you have a plan and that you follow it. Going at it half-heartedly or taking a random approach can only lead to frustration, and ultimately a result that you may not be happy with. So, sit down and do your research. Work out which companies you want to work for and why. Identify and contact good recruiters that can give you an edge. Think about any contacts at target companies who can help you. List out your skills and your achievements. Tailor your CV to each role. When you’ve done all that, make sure the information is captured somewhere.

  1. Use a spreadsheet

You’d be surprised how easy it is to get muddled when there are lots of things going on in your search, especially when your current job is demanding and busy. Start a spreadsheet and use it to record all your research, applications and everything else mentioned in point one. Store the spreadsheet in the cloud, so you can access it from anywhere on any device. If someone calls you and you can’t remember the details of the role you applied for, it’s perfectly acceptable to say, ‘can I call you back in five minutes?’ then spend a few minutes looking at your spreadsheet to refresh your memory. If you sound vague or can’t remember applying, it will dent your chances.

  1. Prepare for the interview

There will be a more comprehensive post dedicated to this specific subject soon; in the meantime here’s an overview. If you’re using a recruitment consultant then it goes without saying that you should be the best prepared candidate in the process. If you’re not, then you need to ask your consultant some serious questions. If you’ve applied directly then you need to find out as much as you can before attending the interview. First of all you must research the company and the role fully. This is easier than it has ever been with so much information available online. The company website is an obvious place to look as are news sites, trade publications and review sites such as Glassdoor. You need to understand the company, what it does, what its values are, who are the key people? Look at the other roles the company is recruiting for. What is the company looking to achieve? Research the interviewer as well. Check out their LinkedIn profile, you may find you both worked at the same company previously, or you have a shared interest outside of work.

You need to find out the structure of the interview process and how many stages there are. Again if you’re using a recruiter you should know this. If not then contact the company and ask the question. Is this going to be a competency based interview? Will there be a presentation? Do you need to take anything with you? Hopefully this will have been made clear, but it’s always good to check if you’re unsure.

  1. Impress at the interview

You have prepared for this, so you should be relaxed and upbeat. Some pre-interview nerves are normal so don’t worry. Remember that this company is interested in you, otherwise you wouldn’t be there. In addition, the person you’ll meet actually wants to hire someone so you have as much chance as any other candidate. You already know about things such as eye contact, firm handshake and a smile so we don’t need to cover that. You must be enthusiastic, and this goes back to your research. Being generally enthusiastic is a given. You should be enthusiastic about where the company is going, the latest product launch, or the big win that has just been announced. Your enthusiasm must be about specific things. Be calm, speak slowly and clearly, and consider your responses. The interview will fly by from your point of view, so you must take your time to get your points across in a rational and professional manner.

Before the interview concludes, ask questions. If you don’t you will seem disinterested. You should have questions already prepared and they should be insightful. It’s fine to ask about prospects and future plans, but make them relevant to the company. Instead of asking, ‘what plans does the company have to grow?’ why not try asking, ‘I read that the company is moving into emerging markets. How is this role going to contribute to those efforts?’ Everyone asks the same questions, so you have to stand out. Make sure also to test the water by asking about the next interview stage, or the decision making process, this shows you are interested.

  1. Follow up

There are mixed views on this, but I believe that a friendly follow up email is polite and courteous. Thank the person for their time and say you enjoyed the meeting. That’s all you need to say. Never, ever list the ‘ten reasons’ why you should get the job. The interviewer knows what they are looking for and pushing your views onto them will only weaken your chances. If you’re using a recruiter, then you should phone straight after the interview to give your thoughts. If you feel you missed something out, then your recruiter may be able to drop this into their follow up conversation. Contact the company if you haven’t heard within the given timescale. You’ll probably be looking elsewhere so you need to know where you stand. There’s nothing wrong with dropping your contact a line and asking when things will be resolved. Don’t hassle people though and never call before the date you were given for a decision; that won’t do you any favours.

If you get the job, fantastic, keep in touch and make sure you understand what happens next and whether there is anything you need to do before joining. If you’re unsuccessful, then there are two ways to go, but only one of them is going to enhance your credibility. We’ll cover this in our next blog post. Thanks for reading and good luck with your job search.

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