Will Rowe is an expert recruiter with more than twelve years experience building, managing and leading teams of recruitment specialists operating in the IT sector.
Co-founder of Oasis-James Ltd, Will serves clients in the Microsoft Infrastructure, Virtualisation and Cloud Computing space, partnering with some of the most innovative and fast-growing companies on a ‘Retained’, ‘Permanent’ and ‘Interim’ basis.
People often talk about the need to “sell yourself” – just how important is selling when job-hunting?
Sales is fundamentally the most important thing in the recruitment process. If you think about it, the whole purpose of an interview is for a candidate to sell their skills and ‘value’… and vice-versa. If a candidate doesn’t ‘sell’ themselves effectively at interview, the employer won’t want to buy their service.
Equally, what many candidates forget is that it’s a two-way street. The potential employer should be selling their company to the candidate – otherwise, that person won’t be attracted to work for that company.
Just what is it that makes the interview so important?
Well, we all ‘buy people’ within a very short space of time – just a few seconds can be enough to form a first impression. But interviews can last as much as an hour! That’s a lot of time – and so it’s crucial to make the most of the opportunity.
In your experience, what’s the single biggest mistake candidates make at interview?
Making the wrong assumptions about what the interviewer is really looking for. Too many candidates go in assuming the interviewer is looking for X, Y & Z skills. They go ahead and talk about X, Y & Z, only to find out later that the interviewer wasn’t looking for those skills at al! Worse still, what if as a candidate you never find out they weren’t looking for those skills? That’s one of the ways in which recruiters add value – by managing and communicating feedback on the process which you rarely get when applying direct.
Why is it so common for candidates to make the wrong assumptions?
Because job descriptions can lie. Well, that’s maybe putting it a bit strongly – very often, job descriptions can be inaccurate or misleading. Not maliciously, it’s just they don’t always place emphasis on the real needs of the employer.
Er… how come??
Because very often the job description isn’t written by the same person who’s doing the interviewing. Nor are they always written by the person or people who will make the actual decision! Most job descriptions are put together by HR – but sooner or later, other departments are going to get involved in the recruitment process. What HR highlights in the official job description isn’t necessarily the same as what’s most important for the ‘sharp end’ of the business.
So, how can applicants get round this problem?
The most effective way to ‘test’ your assumptions is to ask good questions during the interview. By asking questions you can get to the root of what’s really most important. You can then use that knowledge to ensure you’re selling yourself in the right way.
But candidate’s questions should be left till the end of the interview shouldn’t they?
Not at all – quite the reverse! When I’m coaching candidates for interview, I encourage them to ask questions throughout. Obviously, it’s important to ensure you answer the questions put to you by the interviewer. But it’s also a two-way street. A good interview should be more like a high-level conversation than an ‘interrogation.’
Frankly, no interviewer really wants a candidate just to answer questions, leaving their own questions until the end. That’s not how good conversations work. A one-way approach is boring and makes it more difficult for the interviewer to gauge what you are really like. And that’s often an important part of the interview – getting a sense of what the candidate’s inter-personal skills are like.
So you’re saying so-called ‘soft skills’ really do matter?
Absolutely. It’s not just about knowledge and technical competence. Interviewers need to get a feel for what you’re like working with people and the only way they can really do that is through a conversation.
So often, candidates try to ‘tell’ the employer about their people skills in the summary on the front-page of their CV. You know the usual patter – “I’m an excellent communicator and can work well on my own or within a team. Blah blah…” These are fluffy claims which don’t mean anything – especially since everyone says they’re a good communicator; everyone says they’re good working as part of a team.
Sounds like this is a great way to ‘stand out’ in a competitive job market. What else do you suggest?
Well, the best way to get my attention as a recruiter is to ensure that the CV you send in is tailored to the key requirements outlined in the advert. That means highlighting the key relevant skills or chunks of experience on the front page of your CV.
So, in your summary instead of saying “I’m an excellent communicator blah blah blah” why not write something like: “An expert in this, this and this using X,Y, and Z skills.” Immediately below (remember, this is still on the first page of the CV) you should set out in a bit more detail experience you have which supports the claims you make in the summary. That may not necessarily be your education and first (or most recent) job. Focus on what’s relevant rather than what comes first or last chronologically. If this information matches what I’ve made clear I’m looking for in the advert, then you are guaranteed to get my attention.
**If you like what you’ve read so far, you can read about tips and advice Will has for ‘standing out from the crowd’ in our next eNewsletter – it’s FREE and rest assured we hate spam. Click here for more info!
Which one book would you recommend for job-hunters?
“The Magician’s Way” – it’s all about identifying what we really want and how to get it.
What’s your favourite quote?
“Bad sales people do a lot of talking. Good sales people ask a lot of questions.”
Simon Bucknall was talking to Will Rowe, Founder of Oasis-James.
** Click here to read the rest of the interview – in our FREE eNewsletter. Next edition is due out in time for Jubilee Weekend.
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