‘My advice for nailing an interview’: from a top HR Resource Assistant

No matter where you are in your job search, you likely have some questions (and maybe some anxiety) about the interview process and what lies ahead. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

We caught up with Sophie Connelly, a Resource Assistant in Time Inc.‘s HR department, who shared some inside information about how to stand out from the crowd.

Here’s what Sophie had to say about do’s and don’ts on your CV, how to follow up after an interview and what it means when you don’t hear back straight away.

1. What makes some CVs stand out from all the rest? 

Personality and creativity. Depending on the role and company that you are applying to, always ensure that you tailor your CV to suit the position. Recruiters receive a high volume of applications each day, so it is essential that you make your CV stand out. Play around with the format and design.

Another way to make your CV is engaging is to make sure that it reads well. Display your relevant and most recent experience at the top of your CV and keep it brief. You can describe your experience in more detail in your covering letter.

2. What was the best one you ever saw and what made it special?

The best CV I received was for a graphic design position. The applicant had created a board game-style CV, which really demonstrated their skills and creativity, yet the content was still clear and easy to read. Of course, I wouldn’t advise doing this if you are looking to join the corporate fields of law or finance for example!

Image via Imgur

A creative CV sent to an advertising agency. Image via Imgur

3. What is a major deal breaker on a CV or covering letter?

The biggest deal breaker in my opinion is attention to detail. I’ve received many applications that address the wrong company, and mistakes like this would suggest that not much thought has gone into your application.

Another example would be to always ensure that you follow the application guidelines. A job advert that asks for additional information or requests that an extra task is completed in your application is common in journalism, as well as other sectors. Not including these extra tasks would show that you haven’t paid much attention to the role profile.

4. How often should someone follow up about a prospective job without driving you nuts?

This would really depend on how far into the recruitment process you are. I would suggest waiting at least a week to follow up on an initial application, to give the recruiter the time to screen and review your CV and then shortlist for the next round.

If you have interviewed for a vacancy and the recruiter has not specified a timescale of when you may be contacted, then politely send them a follow up email and don’t be afraid to ask when you would be likely to hear back regarding an outcome.

Applying for a new job can be stressful and time consuming and we totally get this, however always bear with us and remember to be polite when requesting an update!

5. What are your top interview tips?

Always research the company well beforehand. It will show that you are enthusiastic about the role and the business. Take a good look at their website and research any recent news stories or articles.

Dress the part. Ensuring that you understand the culture of the company is important. For example, media companies will expect a smart/casual look. Corporate businesses will have a more formal dress code. If in doubt – just ask!

Always have good questions prepared. Even if your questions have been covered during the interview, think about aspects of the role that may not have been discussed.

Lastly, be yourself! One of the main things that interviewers will be looking for as well as experience is cultural fit, so relax and find common ground with your interviewer. Interviews don’t have to be a scary experience, but also don’t be afraid to admit that you are nervous.

6. What are the most common mistakes people make in interviews?

One mistake that is often made is speaking negatively about past positions and/or managers. If you have left a previous role on bad terms, then try and put a positive spin on why you came to a decision to leave that company.

7. If someone doesn’t have a lot of relevant experience, is it possible for them to still get the job? What can they do to stand out?

This would really depend on the type of position that you are applying to. One thing I would say is to be realistic when looking at vacancies. Do you have enough experience or relevant and transferable skills to carry out the duties that are outlined in the job description?

If you are recent graduate that has little or no experience at all, then emphasise your achievements and any relevant interests that you have outside of work, such as blogging or designing.

Plenty of companies offer great career progression and training on the job. Reach out to the recruitment or HR team for advice if you are unsure, and they will be able to provide you with clear guidelines of what they are looking for.

8. If someone has been through a few rounds of interviews, but still hasn’t heard any news either way, is no news a bad sign? What are the reasons it could be taking a while to hear back?

I wouldn’t say that no news is necessarily a bad sign, however don’t be afraid to check in with your interviewer.

One reason that there may be a delay in them coming back to you is that the team are still carrying out interviews and haven’t yet come to a decision. Always send a follow up email after your interview, thanking them for their time and explain that you are still very keen on the role.

9. Any other advice or top tips for applicants (particularly recent graduates)?

Don’t give up on your search! You may be rejected a few times before you find your perfect role, but make that experience work for you. Learn from your mistakes and it will help you excel in future interviews.

Now what?