We met a promising candidate called Laura* recently, who was struggling to find the right administrative role, as she had no office experience. This is Laura’s story:
“Having worked with children for the past 7 years, I was ready for a new challenge! I felt I wanted to use my love of organising in an office-based environment but my CV was not office-focused and therefore did not stand out from others to get me shortlisted for an interview. I explained the problem I was finding to Nicki and although she did not have the budget to increase her team at that time, she was able to offer me 6 weeks of work experience at Calibre Candidates. This included training and help with my CV and applications, which opened the door to exactly the kind of roles that I had hoped for.
Wow, the office at Calibre is busy! There were so many aspects of the business I could experience including elements of HR, recruitment, customer service, sales, marketing, administration and reception. I chose to do a combination of reception work and administrative tasks, to broaden my skills and build my confidence. Day to day, I was involved in meeting and greeting visitors to the office, liaising over the phone with clients and candidates and passing on messages, updating the CRM system, drafting advertising, processing and matching prospective candidate CVs for the consultants to follow up on. I now have lots of experience working as part of an administrative team and appreciate first-hand the importance of clear communication. I quickly got used to having to multitask and regularly reprioritise my workload, important skills that can transfer into many different roles. Through dealing with different CV styles, I quickly came to appreciate the layouts most preferred by clients and received coaching in how best to highlight the relevant skills on my own CV!
One of the biggest revelations in my time at the Calibre office, was that so many of my existing skills were ones I could use in an office-based environment. Looking back through my work history, I could identify many times when I had to meet tight deadlines for the children’s reports, worked as part of a team to complete projects and customer service interactions with parents and other professionals. The work experience gave me a much-needed confidence boost in my own ability and experience.
After a few weeks gaining valuable work experience, Nicki my Manager suggested two roles that she thought I would be suitable for, and after chatting them though with me, contacted these clients and promoted me to them over the phone and then forwarded my CV. With even a few weeks of office-based work experience now on my CV, I was offered an interview for both positions and was offered a role within a few days of interview! I would thoroughly recommend considering work experience to anyone finding it a struggle to get an interview. I start at my new role on Monday!”
We loved having Laura as part of our team and wish her the very best in her new role. If you are considering swopping career direction, are a returner to work, are a graduate who would value some commercial office experience on your CV, perhaps looking for a stepping stone in to HR or an office role and want to boost your CV or your confidence, we may consider offering a 6 week placement as a potential route in to your dream job (subject to availability). Please feel free to ring Paula or Nicki on 0118 9882118.
*name changed for data protection
You have perfected your CV, it has been submitted to a prospective employer, AND you have been offered an interview! After the initial excitement, it can feel a little daunting. Luckily, our advice on preparing for an interview may give you a helping hand.
Types of interview
Two of the most common types of interviews are standard interviews and competency based interviews.
Standard interviews tend to consist of questions such as ‘Why do you want to work here?’, ‘Why did you leave your last job?’, ‘How do you cope under pressure?’ and ‘How do you get on with other members of your team?’ Prepare clear answers to these questions and any others you think they may ask. The best candidates are able to give examples to reassure an interviewer.
Competency or criteria-based interviews are designed to allow you to demonstrate your level of competency in key areas of the job vacancy. The interviewer will have identified the key behaviours / criteria required to do the job and will ask you to think of examples from your past experience to demonstrate these. You will not necessarily be warned in advance by an interviewer that this style of questioning will be used, so the best approach is to be prepared anyway with lots of examples of things you’ve done (primarily from your work experience).
Know the dress code
Most interviews require a very smart dress code; suited and booted is the norm. As a general rule, it’s better to be over-dressed than under-dressed, as it shows that you are taking the interview seriously.
Plan your journey in advance
Be certain that you know exactly where the business is. If you are able to do a ‘test run’ to the location it is worth doing so, otherwise make sure you leave plenty of time to get there and have any maps you need to hand. Try and arrive 10 minutes before your interview start time; this way you will arrive calm and collected, ready to impress!
Interviews are a two way street
Interviews are a chance for the Company to get to know you, but they are also a chance for you to get to know them. Listen carefully to any information they give you during your time there, as this will shape your understanding of the organisation and ultimately help you decide if it’s somewhere you could see yourself working. The best advice is not to show any concern on the information during the interview, as this will lead the employer to lose interest. Go away and weight things up in your own time or with the support of your recruitment agency.
Get to know the business
Make sure you have a number of facts about the Company at your disposal, as they are likely to ask what you know. If you can answer this well, they will know you’re serious about this industry and role in particular and are not just applying to anything. Look up the website and read the job description and identify what the employer is looking for in the candidate for this particular role. Lead with examples that cover these qualities or experiences.
Candidates often lose out by looking unfocused. Clients always want candidates to come across as wanting their role, not wanting any role. Even if you are not sure at the first interview stage, think of reasons to convince an interviewer that you specifically want their job.
Prepare examples to answer questions
Make sure you know your CV well, as they may well ask specific questions around what you’ve written in it. Prepare a number of examples or ‘stories’ about your previous experiences which can be adapted to answer a number of questions. This way you won’t feel you need to memorise a script and conversation between you and your interviewer will flow more naturally.
Practice, practice, practice
The more you get your head around the role and answering any questions you think the interviewer may ask, the more confident you will feel and therefore the more confident you will come across to your prospective employer! Sometimes it’s a case of getting used to the sound of your own voice and not being embarrassed to talk about yourself and your story. Practice answering questions out-loud or recording and playing back and try phrasing the same questions slightly differently and answering them accordingly. Don’t learn a script, your interviewer wants to employ a person, not a robot!
Prepare questions to ask
It shows you are keen and have spent time reflecting on the role and the company if you have prepared questions to ask. At some point nearing the end of your interview, the interviewer is likely to ask if you have any questions. Prepare at least 3 in case some of them are answered in the course of your interview and then choose 1 or 2! Good questions to ask can be about training or asking them to describe a typical day.
Equally important to what you say is can they see you in their team in that role. Many candidates forget to smile, often due to nerves, make sure you are smiley and engaging, particularly during the beginning and the end of the interview.