Interview & CV Tips

Interview & CV Tips

Interview & CV Tips


By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”– Benjamin Franklin

Do your research

It goes without saying, that before going into any interview you should know as much as possible about the role, the company and what is sometimes the most important factor, who you’re meeting. All this requires time and research.

Start with the company’s website – learn a little about their history, their products and services, the countries they’re located in, who their partners are, any recent news releases, etc. Then do a search (it’s as simple as www.google.com) on the company and their market – read any other news articles, find out about their competitors, look for any developments in the market that may impact them. If you have a network in that space, put in a few calls, get to know the inside story.

Finally, do some research on the person you’re meeting – their background, any articles they’ve been quoted in, etc. The accessibility of corporate networking sites, such as LinkedIn, means locating personal research has never been easier. However, if you come up short, your Xpand Consultant will be able to provide you with some background information.

Why do you need to do this? It’s simple. You will come across as prepared and knowledgeable. You will be able to ask informed questions and spend precious interview time getting a much deeper perspective on your potential employer. You may pick up a very small bit of information that will enable you to build a high level of rapport with your interviewer. You may even be asked what you know about the company. In summary you don’t necessarily know if or how it will help you but being prepared is the first step towards success.

  • Understand the role

Your Xpand Consultant  will provide you with a thorough understanding of the role you will be going for and its requirements. At any point you feel this has not been forthcoming, ask for more information before the interview. Research is another good avenue to understanding how a role traditionally fits into an organisation. An internet search on similar roles will normally turn up some good information.

If you have a good, basic understanding of the role you will be able to ask informed questions that show that you know what you’re talking about and that allow you to glean more detailed information.

  • Be prepared for behavioural questions

Some Interviewers will use behavioural questioning techniques so it’s always useful to prepare for these. Think about things such as your proudest achievement, your biggest challenge and how you overcame it, a time you bent the rules (without being unethical!), a time you had to resolve a conflict with a customer, etc.

Make sure when answering these types of questions you are very specific about your involvement. Answering the question in broad terms, e.g. “We won a large deal with Yahoo” doesn’t provide the interviewer any valuable information about you and can lead them to think that your involvement was actually minimal.

  • Prepare questions

If you’ve prepared properly, you’ll probably have a number of questions for the interviewer about the role, the company, the future of the company, their capacity for growth and innovations, how your role will add value etc. Try to make them specific, not general ones that everyone shortlisted will also have brought to the table. This is your big chance to differentiate yourself.

It helps to write these questions down. Take them into the interview if you feel you might forget. You are never at a disadvantage for looking prepared and everyone knows nerves play a part. 

A step further than this is to prepare questions that are appropriate for the person you’re interviewing for. As an example you might prepare questions for an HR Manager about career progression, employee retention strategies, training, the culture of the organisation, your potential manager’s management style, etc. You might ask a CEO about strategic growth plans, financial performance, investors, etc.

  • Know where you’re going and arrive early

There’s nothing worse than rushing for an interview or worse, turning up late. Being flustered can throw you right off and it’s very difficult to get back on the front foot after a poor initial impression. We always recommend arriving 10 minutes early. Your Xpand Consultant will inform you if parking is available and provide directions . If you’re going to be late, call Xpand so they can let the client know.

  • Greet the interviewer properly

First impressions are critical and the small things go a long way. It sounds simple, yet it can be easy to forget to shake hands firmly, pronounce names correctly, look them in the eye and SMILE! It’s amazing how easy it is to forget to smile but it goes a long way to creating rapport.

  • Build rapport

Before and after interviews there’s often an awkward moment where you need to engage in small talk. A good technique is to pick up on something small to comment on or ask about. It doesn’t have to be an amazingly insightful comment as conversations usually get started with something pretty mundane and it’s a lot better than awkward silence!

It pays to smile, be courteous and friendly to everyone you meet. You’d be surprised at how many candidates are declined because they were unfriendly to the Receptionist. Conversely it can be surprisingly helpful to have a Receptionist tell your potential Manager how nice you seemed.

Remembering someone’s name is critical – try not to go overboard, but using someone’s name when talking to them is a great rapport building technique. If you find it difficult to remember names, try to concentrate when you meet someone for the first time and repeat their name immediately.

Matching your interviewer’s body language is another valuable technique. Just try some simple things like if they lean forward, you lean forward; or, if they cross their arms, you cross your arms. As an example if the interviewer is leaning forward to engage you and you’re sitting back in your chair with your legs and arms crossed then there’s a fair chance you’re not doing a great job of creating rapport.

  • Ask questions

There’s nothing worse than a candidate who doesn’t have any questions prepared for the end of the interview. Questions show you’ve been listening, that you’re interested, and highlights you know enough about the role to know also what you don’t know.

  • Be enthusiastic and authentic

Employers want to hire people that really want to work for them. Passion and enthusiasm go a long way to ensuring you get offered the role, and on many occasions we are told someone did not get the role because ”they had all the skills, but didn’t seem to really want it”.

Your enthusiasm (or lack of it) can be conveyed in a number of ways such as the questions you ask, your level of energy, how you describe yourself and your goals, etc. The key thing is to have the Interviewer walking away thinking you’re the best person for the role. Once they’ve made that decision in their own mind, you’re in a position of strength at the negotiating table.

  • Ask for feedback

In sales they call this “pre-closing”. At the end of every interview you should ask for feedback and what the next steps will be if you’re successful. For example, ask questions like:

  • “Do you think my background is suitable for the role?”
  • “Is there anything you’re not sure about?”
  • “How do I compare to other Candidates you’ve spoken to?”
  • “Is it likely I’ll be asked back for a second interview?”
  • “What’s the process from here?”
  • “Who makes the final hiring decision?”

We hope these questions help you to prepare for your next big opportunity.

At Xpand we are with you throughout the entire process, so no matter what questions you have – always ask us. It could be what seals the deal. 

  • Your CV is a marketing document. You’re marketing yourself, so make it easy for the reader to understand your key messages. A long, verbose CV probably won’t make the shortlist. Although it’s important to be descriptive enough to convey your core messages. As a rule of thumb, 3 to 5 pages is about right.
  • Try to summarise your story on the first page of your CV (contact details, brief summary, objective, education summary, certifications and career summary). The pages following should hold the detail but it’s important that your first page is compelling enough that the reader wants to continue.
  •  It can be helpful to highlight your objective and be specific about it, e.g. “To work with a leading employment brand, ideally within the digital market, as a hands-on developer with some responsibility for team leading and architecture / design.” You may have a variety of suitable objectives so try to tailor this to the role you’re applying for.
  • If you are applying for a technical role, put your certifications on the front page. It’s important to advertise these.
  • Try not to list everything you’ve had experience with as a skill. Employers are looking for strength in certain areas and listing everything dilutes your areas of strength.
  • Be specific about your experience, e.g. “Complete responsibility for the end to end delivery of a $20M network refresh project” is a lot more descriptive than “Project managed a $20M infrastructure project”.
  • List your achievements. If you’re in sales, be specific about your quota and your achievements towards that quota, e.g. “Achieved $1.2M of $1M GP quota (120%) in 2013”.
  • Use bullet points wherever possible, try to use 1.5 line spacing and a font like Arial or Verdana and try to use consistent formatting of titles, etc. Good formatting makes it a lot easier to quickly read and digest the information in your CV.
  • Be accurate with your dates. Conflicting dates of employment and education raise questions that may result in you not making a shortlist. If they legitimately conflict, explain why.
  • Avoid referring to yourself in the 3rd person, e.g. “Bob has been with XYZ for three years…”. Try to use an impersonal reference, e.g. “Three years experience with XYZ…”.

Finally, please don’t forget to reread your CV checking your grammar and spelling.

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