How to approach a Skype interview

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By Sophie Mackenzie. Congratulations - you have been invited to an interview! But hang on, the interview is to take place via Skype (or Facetime)…so how should you approach it? This is becoming a regular phenomenon in the recruitment world, so if you managed to avoid it thus far, chances are it won’t be long before you have to go through it. As with all interviews, preparation is everything so here are a few tips to ensure that you give the best account of yourself, albeit via the wonders of modern technology! Setting up Firstly you need to be able to accept an invitation to a Skype interview in the first place so get an account set up and ready to go. Also ensure that your user name is professional. Ideally, you will be given a date and time with plenty of notice. If you are asked to conduct a Skype interview at short notice, try to make sure you allow some time to prepare. Prepare your surroundings
  • Choose the venue for your interview carefully – ideally at home, in a quiet room with a door.
  • Get the lighting right and do a test Skype call in advance to check this.
  • Think about what your interviewer will see behind you – a neutral background is ideal with minimal personal belongings in view.
  • Ensure that pets/children/flatmates are being taken care of and know not to interrupt you!
  • Turn any phones to silent.
  • Position your laptop so that the camera is at eye level – a much more flattering angle.
Appearance You could go for the ‘business up top and party below’ approach (shirt and tie from the waist up and boxer shorts from the waist down?!) However, I can envisage issues with this if you have to stand up to deal with a technical issue for instance. Err on the side of caution and dress as you would for a face to face interview. This doesn’t necessarily mean a corporate suit if this is not in keeping with the culture of the company. You should do your research in advance to get this right and if a recruitment consultant is representing you, they should be able to guide you. In short, you should be immaculately groomed, just as you would for a normal interview Do a test run
  • Test your equipment in advance (a good opportunity to Skype your Mum).
  • Ensure you have a strong Broadband connection.
  • Practice looking at the lens rather than looking at yourself in the corner of the screen!
During the interview
  • Remember to smile
  • Practice active listening (nod, “hmm” etc.) so that your interviewer knows that you are listening and that there is no delay.
  • NEVER type on the keyboard during the interview
  • Keep notes of key points or a copy of your CV to hand (just be subtle if you refer to it during the interview)
  • If there are any technical problems, address it with the interviewer and if necessary call them back – don’t try to persevere if you can’t hear them properly.
  • After the interview, you should email your thanks – just as you would for any other interview.
Ultimately, an interview is an interview, irrespective of the medium in which it is conducted and the rest of your preparation should be thorough as for any other interview situation – read some advice here. By employing some of the techniques above, you will hopefully be able to behave naturally and concentrate on getting across your skills, experience and suitability for the role. Good luck! Click here to follow us on LinkedIn  
 

Top ten tips for candidates from Assessment Centre Veterans

By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development. Whenever I brief a candidate that there is an assessment centre in a recruitment process I tend to encounter a range of responses. I use the word ‘range’ pretty loosely as in truth the vast majority of candidates dread an ‘AC’ at worst and are ambivalent at best. Occasionally, when working with sales driven businesses you will encounter candidates that positively live for ‘out of the comfort zone’ experiences. Overall, I think my favourite response is from the AC veterans, the guys who have assessed other candidates, been assessed on multiple occasions and probably helped to write exercises previously. They know how it works, what they need to do and more importantly…how to impress. And yes…sssshhhhhh… some even enjoy the experience!

Here are some tips from AC veterans I have worked with:

  1. Prepare. Ask your recruiter for a copy of the competencies/qualities that are being assessed on the day. There is a good chance that the day will include an interview so you will have a great opportunity to really impress. If you are unable to clarify the competencies then ask for a job description or research the business. For further tips for an interview click here; Top tips for a competency based interview
  2. Get your mind-set right. Sales based candidates can skip to point three…this is not a competition. Most companies use assessment centres because they are looking for multiple candidates and/or because it gives a different insight in to candidate behaviour. If you enter an AC with the belief that you need ‘to win’ there is a good chance this will influence your behaviour in the inevitable group exercise and also social situations. It is better to think about being the best you can be. Also, avoid comparing your performance to your peers on the day. Most AC’s have a benchmark score for passing the day so if you beat everyone else but still do not benchmark you will fail.
  3. You are always being assessed. I have attended numerous ACs where candidates have hit the benchmark score, but in the ‘wash-up’ an assessor has recounted a conversation or observation that has created a negative impression. Avoid taking a cigarette break if you can. If you do take a break be aware any conversation you have is still being assessed. Similarly, if lunch is included be sure to maintain good manners and dare I say it sensible food choices. If an overnight stay is involved – stay clear of the alcohol! Finally, be aware of your body language, do not lean, slouch or invade people’s space. Think about your facial expressions when part of any group conversations or exercises – be positive and smile…a lot!
  4. Network. At the start of the day you should make a note of all the assessors, ideally name and job function. Over the course of the day you should spend time with each individual. It is crucial that you prepare a bank of insightful questions prior to the day. They might be geared towards an HR or Operations Director or other relevant function. Assessors will tend to remember the people that have asked intelligent questions and truly engaged them. It is also worth spending time getting to know the other candidates; there are networking opportunities for the future.
  5. Plan each task. In the heat of the moment it is easy to just launch in to a task. However, it is crucial that you take the time to read all relevant instructions. I assessed an AC last year where 5 individuals in a Group task all failed to read one crucial piece of information which led to them all failing the task. You should plan your time and allow for unexpected changes to the structure of the exercise (normally about ten minutes before you are due to finish!). All exercises are generally designed to put you under pressure to complete within a tight time-frame. Do not panic and importantly, ensure you complete the exercise. Finally, if you are offered various materials you would be wise to use them. An obvious one would be the provision of a flipchart for a presentation. Use it!
  6. Nail the Group exercise. Most candidates hate Group Exercises, often describing them as fake or ‘not a reflection of real life.’ While this may be true they are also remarkably affective at putting candidates under pressure which results in a multitude of interesting behaviours that you would not see in an interview or other exercise. There are a few things you can do to ensure you are perceived positively. Most importantly do not ‘over dominate’ the exercise. Avoid (contrary to popular belief) being the person that writes notes or prepares the flipchart presentation, you will quickly end up being side-lined from the conversation. Use your peers name when addressing them and invite the quieter participants to voice their opinion. Express your own ideas and ask for feedback. Ensure the group is on target to complete the task on time and if required steer the group to complete tasks as required. Finally, stand by the group’s ultimate decision/conclusion. Do not fall in to the trap of criticising other group members if faced with ‘apprentice’ style questions from the assessors.
  7. Do not let one bad exercise ruin your day. Confidence is crucial on an AC day and a single exercise will not usually determine your success or failure. If you perform badly on one exercise you must pick yourself back up and move forward.
  8. Take Psychometric exercises seriously. Psychometrics are being increasingly used in advance of AC days to either highlight areas to explore over the course of the day or to provide additional evidence of capability.
  9. Be positive. Over the course of the day you will have numerous conversations and will experience a range of emotions.  It is important that you remain positive and that you express this. Do not fall in to the trap of making any negative comments about the assessors, the AC, other delegates, current employer, ex-boss or your consultant. I have witnessed numerous candidates ‘de-selecting’ themselves through a flippant remark to the wrong person.

I hope this helps and please share your tenth tip in the comments below or via our Blog page on LinkedIn:

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Top 10 tips for creating 10 great first impressions in the first 10 seconds of an Interview

Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment - Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Recruitment, Search & Selection, Talent Management and Career Development

So you have been successful in securing an interview, you have passed the Telephone Interview with flying colours and you are fully prepared for your first face to face interview. It’s all plain sailing from here right? What can go wrong? Speak to anyone who has ever interviewed and they will tell you that there have been numerous occasions where the interviewee has made the worst possible first impression at the start of the interview and that it was hard work from there on in. Perhaps worst of all, the interviewee is often oblivious to this fact. Here are some basic suggestions to ensure you hit the ground running and that the interviewer is excited, not disappointed, by their first impression of you:

1. Make eye contact immediately. This may seem incredibly obvious. However all too often a nervous candidate will fail to do this. This is the biggest killer for first impressions as it raises a number of sub-conscious doubts including the impression that the person is rude. Look a these tips if you are aware it is a personal weakness and would like some ideas on how to improve.

2. Once you have made eye contact, the next thing the interviewer will often notice is footwear! So, and again this is obvious, ensure you have clean, polished and ideally ‘on-trend’ shoes! If you are interviewing with a fashion or design-led business ensure you are dressed appropriately for their brand. 3. Wear clothing appropriate to the interview. As per the previous point, a poor choice of the right attire can be a killer for first impressions. Without wanting to specifically highlight my own gender’s shortcomings…try to ensure you haven’t picked out a suit you bought 20 years ago! This can create an impression that you are old fashioned and lack attention to detail. Also, it is important that you accessorise appropriately. For women, too much jewellery can be off putting and similarly an eyebrow piercing is probably not going to do you any favours in a corporate interview! It is also vital to dress appropriately for the company culture. For instance, in the Retail sector, we have some clients for whom it is imperative to arrive suited and booted. However, we also have some clients who don’t want to see candidates in a tie and in some cases, a suit would be positively frowned upon as the interviewer themself is likely to be wearing jeans and a fleece. 4. The handshake! Clearly there are a number of cultural complications here. However, in the UK, this is incredibly important. A weak handshake is a real first impression killer. If you are applying for a leadership role this can be one of the most important things that you must get right. However, be careful not to be too firm, as this can imply that you are attempting to assert control. I interviewed for a role with a firm many years ago and received feedback that I had done well but the lady I met was unimpressed by my handshake….I had failed to let them know that I had broken my hand a week before and was in significant pain! My learning from this was to pre-warn people if you have a problem! 5. Greet the person by their name. This can be one of the most psychologically influential actions you can do to create an immediate positive impression Read here if you are sceptical! 6. Greet the person confidently and ask ‘how are you xxx?’ I am always amazed by how little interest an interviewee shows in the interviewer. This is not only a polite question but it also demonstrates a certain degree of emotional intelligence, a quality increasingly sought after in modern leaders. 7. The second question you are likely to be asked (and yes this will generally happen in the first ten seconds) is whether you would like a drink. It is crucial that you accept this offer of hospitality. A refusal can be considered rude in most cultures around the world. As an aside, greet your interviewer with a large energy drink in hand and this really will create a terrible first impression! 8. Smile. A smile can mean lots of things however to put it simply it implies you are social, you like people, they like you, you are confident and you are pleased to be at the interview. 9. The first impression will often start before you have seen the interviewer. Switch off your mobile phone in the reception area and do not be tempted to read emails etc. You will be much more relaxed and will come across as being in control of your personal/working life. As an alternative, take a serious newspaper, appropriate trade magazine with you and ‘be seen’ to be reading this. This will give the impression that you are ‘well read’ and intellectually curious. 10. Interact with other interviewees / receptionist. If you are in an animated conversation with another person when the interviewer enters the reception area their first impression will be that you are confident and sociable. I hope this helps and as always, please add some suggestions to the comments below.
 

Top 10 tips for a successful Telephone Interview

top 10 tips for a successful telephone interview_141915112While we have seen an increase in the use of Skype and other video based technology it would seem that the use of the Telephone Interview is back on the rise. It is an inexpensive method for judging cultural and or behavioural fit and is often the first stage in recruitment processes; Forming the backbone of a labour intensive campaign or quite simply an ‘informal chat’ for a senior executive. It is however, full of pitfalls for candidates. Here are ten easy to follow tips that will ensure you create the best impression possible.

1) Get the Environment right:

Try to avoid conducting the interview in a busy, noisy environment or indeed in your car. A private office where you will not be disturbed is perfect. Too many telephone interviews are interrupted by questions from colleagues, or the barista behind the counter at Starbucks! Ensure you allow enough time for the interview and do not assume it will be a ‘quick ten minutes.’  Use a landline for receiving the call. Poor mobile phone reception is the single biggest reason why many telephone interviews fail to take place. While they are technological wonders, our mobile phones are surprisingly unreliable at the worst possible time when it comes to their most fundamental function; making and receiving calls.

2) Prepare.

This is a fantastic opportunity to have your notes and CV in front of you during the interview. Make sure you summarise your notes focussing on key points to avoid scripted answers.

3) Sit in front of the mirror.

This may seem a little odd but quite simply it will give you an indication of how you are coming across. Do you look animated? Is your head up? Perhaps most importantly are you smiling? If not then try to focus on doing so, this may translate in you feeling more confident and therefore sounding more positive!  Alternatively you could try standing up and walking around. If you are more comfortable walking and talking then ensure you are in the right environment to do this. Many people feel they are more animated when upright and this allows for a greater level of focus.

4) DO NOT actively listen when asked questions.

A common mistake to make, however actively listening in a telephone interview can disrupt flow as you will find the interviewer may stop talking. This can lead to a disjointed and awkward conversation.

5) Ask the interviewer to rephrase or repeat back the question.

If you are slightly uncertain about the question either ask the interviewer to rephrase or indeed paraphrase this back. You should try to avoid doing this repeatedly but it is better to get your answer right first time.

6) Use regular pauses.

Leave healthy pauses after every two or three sentences to allow the interviewer to either drill further down or confirm they have heard enough.

7) Vary your pace, pitch and tone.

It is very difficult to convey energy and empathy over the phone so it is important that you vary your speech. The monotone interview is the bane of all interviewers!

8) Practice a CV run through.

The structure of telephone interviews will often vary but a standard format will be CV based. If you are asked to run through your career history you should qualify how long this should last. Do they want a 30 second elevator pitch or a detailed 30 minute conversation? Either way, plan ahead!

9) Build rapport early on but avoid too many jokes!

As with all interviews first impressions count. Good interviewers will try to break the ice early on. Reciprocate and avoid coming across as ‘cold.’

10) Ask Questions.

Like most interviews you will get a chance to ask questions. If an interviewer has a solid day of telephone interviews you will probably stand out more if you ask an insightful question about the business/role and more importantly about them.

 

I hope this helps and as always feel free to add some suggestions to the comments below.
Jez Styles

 

Top 10 tips for preparing for an Interview

1. Get the basics right! Ensure you know who you are meeting, where you need to be, how you are going to get there and what the dress code is. Matching the company’s expectation regarding image is particularly crucial if you are attending a meeting with a fashion business, but equally don’t turn up ‘suited and booted’ for a meeting with a DIY retailer! Ensure you have relevant contact numbers in your phone should you run in to problems. 2. Who is interviewing you? You can give yourself a real edge in an interview if you have researched the individuals you are meeting. If you have managed to secure an interview there is a good chance you have the experience to do the job so your ‘fit’ becomes critical. You should try to find out a little about the background and personality of the interviewer. This should enable you to build a good level of rapport early on. There is plenty of information available on internet searches and you should utilise your network to fill in the gaps. It is crucial that you fully understand the organisation’s culture, values and long term goals.

3. Know your experience.

Try to ascertain what the structure of the interview will be and prepare accordingly. For instance, most interviews will be ‘competency based’ incorporating structured questions. Typically, you will need to provide specific examples of how you have demonstrated the competencies required for that specific role. This type of interview does call for preparation so that you aren’t left fumbling for decent examples. Write down key examples of how you have dealt with situations relevant to the role, such as, people management or strategic planning. This will help you remember what you have achieved and ensure you analyse exactly what you did to achieve a result. This will really pay off in the pressure of the interview.

4. Prepare insightful questions.

If an interviewer is undecided whether to progress your application, the quality of your questions could swing it your way. Clearly you will want to know about the individual and company you might be joining however avoid basic questions about benefits or working hours. Instead focus on areas that indicate that you have thought deeply about the role and how you might be able to add value. This is an opportunity to demonstrate behaviours that you might not have been able to highlight in the interview. Take a notebook and pen with you and record key information, this will demonstrate a professional and considered approach.

5. Be clear about why you are applying for the job.

In the current environment there is some scepticism about why people change jobs so you need to ensure you do not allow any confusion to arise. Be clear and specific about why you want the job you are interviewing for. This should be positive, regardless of circumstance, and leave the interviewer feeling like you have targeted her/his business specifically. If you have been headhunted…avoid using this as an answer, it can sound a little arrogant!

6. Ensure your Linkedin profile, CV and interview answers are consistent.

If you work in a target focused environment and quote dates and achievements ensure that they match up! It is very easy to become complacent about what you have achieved so it is worth ‘revising’ your career to date. If you state in your opening paragraph on your CV that you have excellent empathy skills you need to demonstrate this throughout your interview in the way you communicate with your interviewers and how you recount experiences from the past. In short, ensure your ‘brand’ is consistent!

7. What will be the most awkward questions you will have to answer?

A good interviewer will spot potential weaknesses in your CV and interview answers as much through what you don’t mention as what you do. If, for example, you have failed to achieve a cost reduction target, ensure you are honest about the reasons why but most importantly talk about what you have learnt from this experience and what you would do differently. Think about your ‘soft spots’ ahead of the interview.

8. Research the business and the industry.

How has the industry changed in recent years, are there any external factors such as government legislation that is likely to make a significant impact? What is the company doing differently, what projects are they involved in? This will give you an opportunity to ask a couple of questions that will demonstrate the quality of your research. Try not to be controversial however  try to indicate you have a rounded view of the macro economic environment.

9. Visit the business.

If you are interviewing with a business with a customer facing offer such as a retailer you should visit several sites. Appraise the business from an employee, customer and competitor perspective. If you have a negative experience, do not be afraid to share this in an interview, however present this constructively as an opportunity to capitalise on.

10. Be yourself.

It is crucial that you do not do or say anything that you are uncomfortable with. Ultimately if you find yourself ‘acting’ there is a high probability that the company or role is the wrong fit for you. You should come across as ‘rounded’ and try to give an overview of what else you are involved in outside of work. Common ground outside of work will often work heavily in your favour. Think about what you are comfortable with sharing ahead of the interview and how it will be interpreted.

Jez Styles