One of the most annoying habits recruitment consultants see is after organising a meeting or two between a candidate and a client and then just as we get to the point of negotiation, one or other party goes quiet on this.

Not only does it infuriate us, it makes us look stupid to the other party, who probably think we are not following up and trying to find out what is happening. Let me let you into a little secret. While we earn our money from successfully placing people with our clients, the outcome of a single introduction is not crucial to us. We make our money and our profit from continually trying to put the right people in front of the right clients.

As a result, we will not try to persuade people they are making the biggest mistake of their lives if they turn a job down. We will not try and steer you into a job that is not right for you, nor we will we try and persuade a client that the candidate is the best thing since sliced bread.

So if you phone us up and say no, we are not going to be offended. We might be disappointed, but we will quickly get over it. But what will get up our noses is if you just refuse to answer the phone. Because then you make us look bad and that’s what we cannot stand.

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I am not suggesting you say it with flowers, but many successful interviewees leave their interviewers with a strong impression.  A well-constructed note, even by text or email, leaves something with the other party. It impresses, shows you are professional and above all makes you remembered – most people do not bother.

If you are hopeless at writing such a thing then something along the lines of

“Dear……

Many thanks for your time today and for giving me the opportunity to show what I can do for XYZ Ltd.
 
I really enjoyed our meeting and would love to work with the company.  I believe I can bring the professionalism and focus you need for the role.

I hope I will be successful and look forward to hearing about the next stage in the process.  I would welcome the chance to meet with you again.”

Don’t use the exact words above – adapt it for your needs (besides we have other candidates, it might just look a bit obvious).

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In any interview or conversation only a bore will just talk about themselves.

Treat the conversation as a two-way affair; find out as much about the company as they are trying to find out from you.

The conversation is likely to be more lively, more interesting and, if you are asking sensible, pertinent questions, more flattering to them. Everybody likes people who are interested in their business.

You should also make sure you have some questions to ask at the end, because you will always be invited to.

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Frankly, if anybody is going to ask you such a clichéd question, they should expect a clichéd answer.

Hopefully most interviewers will not ask such a question nowadays, but if they do then understand what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to see if your guard is down, they are trying to catch you unawares and to get you to trip yourself up. Unfortunately, this only really works with people who’ve never been asked the question before. Because once you have, you will hopefully answer it properly.

The best clichéd answers relate back to your strengths.

“People/my partner, my colleagues tell me that I work too hard”
“People tell me I take my responsibilities to seriously”
“I take it personally if we do not achieve what we have set out to do”

This is never a question that I have used, but I have heard some pretty horrendous answers from interviewers and interviewees:

“My boss is an idiot and I lose my temper with him whenever we are in the same room” is not a great answer. Neither is “the Horses” or “Fast Cars”.

This question is bound to be asked at some stage. Prepare an answer now so you are ready. Then take some time to answer so that it does not look prepared, but make sure you answer it in a positive light.

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You are so keen to get that job, so desperate not to upset the interviewer that your first instinct is to agree with everything they say. Which may not always be the best thing to do.

Do not be afraid to disagree if an interviewer says something which you believe is clearly wrong. This is not bad interview technique; it may be done to test you out.

There are two reasons for this – if you do disagree fundamentally, find out now rather than after you have started work. Secondly, saying something outrageous could be to test exactly how much you will stand up for yourself.

Reasoned argument and persuasion is what business is all about. Do not be afraid to pursue it in an interview situation.

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Here is a common problem. You go along and have an exploratory meeting with a new group. They have an exciting opportunity that they wish to discuss with you.

Except when you get back to base a call comes in from your Regional Director. “I hear you’ve been to see XYZ Motors. I need to see you, now” I have seen it happen plenty of times. At MTS we are paranoid about security, making sure that people who are seeing clients for consecutive time-slots do not know each other. Warning candidates if there might be a danger of recognition. But it still happens.

How do you handle it? Most candidates hold their hands up, say it was just exploratory and promise to withdraw from the process. Others view it as sealing their fate, so they make very sure they get the opportunity they have been along for, or continue trying somewhere else. But however you handle it, you need to be prepared.

One note, it is quite difficult for employers to sack you because of this. Obviously if you have only been with the company for less than two years they can ask you to leave for almost any reason, but if you have been with them for a long time, exploring another opportunity probably does not break your contract. Clearly you need legal advice if you fall into this situation, as there may be some very specific circumstances where you might be in trouble, but in general any attempt by the employer to suggest it will affect your career, your promotion or your relationship with them could lead to a claim of unfair dismissal, or even constructive dismissal. So they need to be very careful, even if they are perfectly at liberty to display their displeasure.

In today’s fast flowing employment market, looking for another job is not a crime. Exploring potential career opportunities is quite normal behaviour.  But it will still upset your boss.

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The problem for a number candidates is that they are too desperate to get the job. We see it too often – this is the job of their dreams, they are scared stiff to make a mistake and extremely eager to please.

So while they start off with the best intentions, they are also desperate for the best answer for every scenario. They do their homework thoroughly and make sure they are able to answer every question positively and comprehensively. And just suppose that what they have done before doesn’t fit in quite with the truth. They think that they have to display the right competency or give the right answer, so they maybe bend reality a little. And if there is an answer that they don’t know the answer to, they don’t say so, they just guess, or even worse they make it up.

There is an old truism in recruitment, and I suspect in many other areas of life, that if you tell the truth you never have to remember anything. It is quite a powerful, liberating idea. You will never trip yourself up, you will never have to ask for a copy of your CV from your recruitment consultant, because you can’t remember what you said in it. You will never have to be ready with a quick explanation to hopefully explain away inconsistencies in your story.

And there is another added benefit, the employer will end up employing the real you, rather than the one you wanted to get across. And you know the worst result in all of this? When the recruiter doesn’t like the “you” that you are trying to portray, but would have preferred the regular person.

Tell the truth, it is so much easier when you remember everything.

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Having any online interview is an unnatural situation for many of us, and needs a little practice. One of the most common mistakes, one that I am very used to seeing, is that you tend to look at the picture on screen. Unconsciously that makes you look shifty as you are not looking them straight in the eye.

So when you want to make a particular point strongly, especially at the beginning when you are keen to make a first impression, try looking at the WebCam instead. It has far greater impact. Imagine looking at a newscaster on the television who merely looks at their notes, or reads from a point well below the camera. It doesn’t look great.

The next time you have an online interview, when you want to look impressive look straight at the WebCam, your interviewer will feel that you are looking straight at them and it could make all the difference.

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It’s a big Yes and a big No from me.

It undoubtedly works, but is it good for recruitment? In other words, it can tell you exactly the sort of character you are recruiting (if the candidate has answered the test honestly) but is that information of any use to you at all?

I have often heard that you can produce the ideal profile for a role by examining your own workforce and seeing what works best. You then design a test that will only allow through those who most closely match this profile. And you really can do that, but the big leap is whether that logic is valid.

Let me explain. Supposing I sold you a system that said we can measure every single candidate, find out the profile of the most successful candidates in your organisation and then only recruit people who match or come close to that average profile, then I think you would agree that this sounds promising. I might explain that there is a slight difference between the genders that we can allow for.  So I get the contract, and charging £2000 for every recruitment process that you use.

So far so good, but then I turn up to do my assessment and all I have is a tape measure. Because I can positively demonstrate to you that your most successful candidates in a sales role are between 5 ft 11 and 6 ft 1 . And I could probably decide that the candidates need to be within an inch of those boundaries, maybe 5 ft 10 to 6 ft 2. Females perhaps 5 ft 4 to 5 ft 10. I’ve got something to measure, I have robust data. I can produce a profile and an average around that measure and I can apply it to your most successful people. But I’m not certain any of you would think that that was an effective recruitment tool.

If you did, give me a call. Only £2000 a process, I can probably subcontract the measuring of the candidates to somebody else.

Or rather consider this – online interviews are becoming more and more important. If you are going to present yourself in the best light, think about your lighting.

First impressions really count, and opening up a call to a backlit, dark and murky figure that appears in front of their poorly positioned WebCam does no favours to any candidate. Video calls are surely not new to any of you, and it is not beyond your wit to try a video call with a friend before you go online. It really will make a difference ensuring that the lighting in your room is correct so that your face can be seen and your expressions properly interpreted.

Making a good first impression can often be the difference between another interview or exiting the process. It might take the interviewer slightly longer online, but tests have shown that in the real world a recruiter will make a decision on a prospective candidate in less than 10 seconds of first meeting them. They rarely change their mind after that.

So make sure your setup is right, the lighting is correct and they can see you in the best light.