Want a Job? Or a new job? Introduction

Want a Job? Or a new job?
Here’s how to get one!
This document gives some tried and trusted guidance for securing the job you want. It is
offered in good faith, and no responsibility can be accepted by the writer for anything that
does not work out positively for you. You are the only person who can decide what you say
and do. There are no rules here, and nothing which can be considered as advice. What is
included is a selection of options, choices and alternatives for you to consider so that you
can make the best choices for yourself.
First of all, remember that whether you are looking for your first job or just a change, finding
a job is in itself a full-time job, so you have to dedicate yourself to the task. The most
important thing to emphasise is that you are the vital element in the process. You have to be
sure of what you want and what you can offer, before starting the next stage in finding a
new job with a new employer. If you know what you want, it is much easier to find it. On the
other hand, if you do not know what you want, then no job you are offered is going to satisfy
you. Whatever the journey, if there is no destination, then any route will be as good as any
other, and you will be wasting all your time and effort.
In a job search, as in most things, it is vitally important to remember the following guideline:
- in that order
So, take it steady (no need to panic), then decide what are going to do and then do it in the
best way you know.
You do not want “just any old job”. It is very tempting to think that the best thing to do in the
circumstances is to rush out as quickly as possible to get another job - any job. Of course
we all have a need to earn money to keep ourselves and our families eating regularly and to
maintain a roof over our heads. But none of us wants to end up in a job we might hate,
which might be low paid, stressful, allow no time for leisure and pleasure, be too physically
or mentally straining, boring, environmentally damaging, unsocial...... we could go on and on.
What is needed in these circumstances is time. It is always tempting to feel that time is the
enemy. However, if you use your time well, then you can spend your efforts wisely, not
wasting them on wild goose chases, and perhaps even more importantly, put yourself in a
better and more confident position to achieve the best future for yourself.
This means making an effort to assess your own needs and wants, and then going on to
assess skills, successes, preferences and goals. Research the market for possible
openings, and learn how to put yourself in the best possible position and frame of mind to
achieve what you want. Preparing yourself carefully for the essential and important interview
will give you a better chance of success, and avoid the danger that you might find the ideal
job in the first few days - and then mess up the interview due to poor preparation and an
inappropriate mental attitude.
So use the information and opportunity given in this guideline well and remember that if you
remain calm and collected, you will be in a better position to plan how to use the best proven
method or methods of finding a job, and then to carry out the plan efficiently.
The Four Phases
The four phases of the task that you will follow are:
1. Evaluate
– Your needs and wants, and what you can offer.
2. Research
– The job market and potential employers.
3. Market
– Yourself, and your skills and experience.
4. Sell
– Yourself in person at interview.
These four phases hardly overlap at all, so it is important to get near completion on each one
before setting out on the next.
1. Evaluation
The Five-Piece Jigsaw
1. Needs and Wants
2. Goals
3. Skills
4. Motivators/Demotivators
5. Success/Achievements
Putting the Jigsaw Together
2. Research
3. Marketing
1. Your CV
2. How to answer advertisements
3. How to construct your covering/application letter
4. Making telephone calls in support of applications
5. Application Forms
6. How to deal with agencies
7. How to make direct contact
8. How to Network
4. Selling
1. Good and bad things to do before and at interviews
2. Possible Interview questions and how to answer them
3. What can you learn from observing the interviewer’s style?
4. What to do after the interview
5. What to do when you receive an offer
6. Salary Negotiation
7. When you are sure you wish to accept
So let’s start with:
Phase 1: Evaluation
We do this by completing a kind of puzzle that consists of 5 pieces.
You could call it “The
Five-Piece Jigsaw” or “My Future at Work”.
Jigsaw piece number 1 - Needs and Wants
First you need to decide what you want from your new job. So start by listing the tangible
things; e.g., Money, Location, Hours etc., and then the more emotional things; Job
Satisfaction, Challenge, Enjoyment, Colleagues etc. Make your own list and spend enough
time to remember and imagine all the things that having a job can provide. When you have
completed the long list, then make your selection of the ten most desired, in order of
importance. You will return to this list soon. You can also use it as a tool for comparing
alternative potential jobs to see how well they meet your own criteria.
Here are some suggestions of things you might look for:
Facts: Job Description, Industry, Title, Travel/Commuting, Promotion Potential
Company Future, Culture, Autonomy, A Worthwhile Job, Fun
Now make your list of the top 10 for you!
Jigsaw piece number 2 – Goals
What do you want your life to be like in 2 to 5 years time? Think about all aspects;
e.g. Home, Family, Car, Hobbies, General Lifestyle etc., as well as your job. Then ask
yourself three more questions:
What actions will I need to take to get there?
Is this realistic?
How much effort am I prepared to put in to reach my goal?
Each of these supplementary questions might make you go back and re-write the answer to
the first. If you are not being realistic, or if you are not prepared to put in 100% effort to
achieve your goal, then you certainly do need to re-evaluate your goal.
Jigsaw piece number 3 – Skills
Now make an evaluation of your skill levels in the various aspects that might be required at
work. These can be categorised under 4 headings:
Skills related to specific professions, e.g. Accounting, Marketing, Innovating,
Selling, Designing.
Managerial and Leadership
Skills which demand interpersonal work with other people, e.g. Training,
Motivating, Organising, Persuading.
Skills which rely on knowledge of a particular set of abilities, e.g. Calculating,
Computing, Using a Keyboard, Driving, Playing a Musical Instrument, Using Tools.
Skills which require a methodical approach, e.g. Classifying, Managing Money,
Analysing Data, Time Management.
When you have completed the list of your skills under each heading, rate your overall skill
level in each group, evaluating in which category you are Best, Second Best, Third Best and
Least Skilled. You might find that you rate yourself as relatively skilled under two of the
headings and relatively less skilled under the other two. This is a familiar pattern. The other
most common is: One category clearly Best, another clearly Least Good, and the other two
roughly equal in the middle. The positive point is that most jobs require a combination of two
of the skill categories, so therefore a job which uses your preferred category and the best of
the others, would be most likely to allow you to succeed. Once you have identified your
primary skill categories you can focus on jobs that best exploit your skill profile.
Jigsaw piece number 4 - Motivators/Demotivators
What really satisfies you at work?
What really turns you off?
List all the positives and negatives you can think of under the two headings. You will often
find that a Motivator is matched by its opposite or counter in the Demotivator list. Include
things like receiving thanks for doing a good job, as well as the tangible rewards.
Then list your most important 5 from either list.
Jigsaw piece number 5 - Successes/Achievements
Remember any success you have had at work, - anything of which you are proud.
What is a success? A success or achievement is gained on an occasion or in a situation
where something could be improved, and where you did something which led to that
improvement, whether directly or remotely.
Here are some examples of the sorts of successes that a potential employer might wish to
know about.
Identified an area where things were going wrong.
Saw a situation where improvements could be made.
Met a target set by your employer.
Reached a result using fewer resources than previously.
Improved a result using the same resources as before.
Suggested a new way of performing a task.
Improved the efficiency of a process or operation.
Saved money.
Saved time.
Did something original.
Put forward a new idea.
Worked as part of a successful team.
Supported a senior member of the team in his or her goals.
If you find it difficult to remember them, think of all the problems and difficulties you have
faced. Plenty, I'm sure.
Then for each problem, note what you did about it. It does not matter if you did it as a part of
a team, - that in itself is a success. Emphasise your role in the team.
Next summarise the outcome of each action taken. Each outcome can be considered a
success. At this stage make notes only. Selection and wording come later.
So remember:
Try to identify 15 successes, the more the better. This enables you to select the most
relevant for any job you are applying for.
If you are in difficulty, think of words like: Completed, Provided, Progressed, Built , Proposed,
Initiated, Revised, Reduced, Demonstrated , Analysed, and remember all the times when any
of these or similar words have applied to you. Each one you identify should be able to be
developed into a success statement. Remember that achievements need to be quantifiable
by reference to length of experience, frequency or business value in monetary terms.
Putting the jigsaw together
Now you can write the most important sentence you might ever write in your job search:
I want a job which:
takes advantage of my
uses my
satisfies my
gives me my
leads me to my
Write down this sentence in bold letters and keep it somewhere
where you can see it regularly. Remember that you are quite likely
to decide to adjust and modify it as your progress continues.
Having done your Personal Evaluation, you can now move to:
Phase 2: Research
The four main Job Search Methods are:
Advantages: Clear, accessible, certain
Disadvantages: Competitive, possibility of rejection
Action: Find where Job Vacancies are advertised for people like you.
Remember Local, Professional and Specialist Publications and the Internet.
Advantages: Knowledge of market, focus, contacts
Disadvantages: Self interest
Action: Find contact details of all agencies that cover suitable jobs and
industries for you.
Direct Contact
Advantages: Under your control, wide range, selective
Disadvantages: Can waste time, possibility of rejection
Action: Identify companies you would like to work for, and industries
that are relevant to your skill set and aspirations.
Advantages: Low pressure, interest, wide range, support
Disadvantages: Your possible reluctance to get started
Action: List all current and previous contacts who might be willing and able
to give you some advice and assistance. Include family and friends.
These four areas are the places where you can find leads to potential openings. In the next
section we review how to make the most of these leads to help you find the right
You also need to think about what training and qualifications are the necessary, desirable or
appropriate ones required for the job you are seeking. Are there any courses you should
investigate, or any books you should read in order to give yourself the best possible chance
of success in obtaining and succeeding in your new job? If so, see how you can arrange to
develop your own suitability now.
Now we can move to:
Phase 3: Marketing
The most important part of your Marketing is:
1. Your CV
Your CV provides potential employers with all the information you think they should have
about you in order to invite you for interview. This is its prime purpose. You must not expect
your CV to lead to an immediate job offer. You can put your CV together using the elements
identified in the Evaluation Phase. You will probably need several sessions to get your CV
right for you. It is a good idea to get someone else to look over it when you have written it.
Other people will often see things you might have missed and might interpret things
differently form what you intended.
The style of the CV is important. It should be written in the third Person, as if someone else
is describing you and your achievements. The pronoun “I” should therefore not appear. In
fact it is better not to include any pronouns. This makes it somewhat easier for the recipient
to read. To make it easy to read, you should make use of space, and you can add
highlights, bold, italic, appropriate font and possibly colour.
Remember that the recipient of your CV will almost certainly have a large number of them
and will therefore give it only a brief scan on first perusal. He or she will want quickly to
reduce the number to read in detail, so that a manageable interview list can be created – in
most cases, fewer than 10. Assume only a one minute read. The version of your CV which
you send as part of an application should not be longer than two pages. Therefore the order
of items is very important. However, your own version might well include a lot more
information than can be fitted into two pages. Whenever you actually send it however, you
should edit it to fit the shorter format. This can easily be done using any Word Processing
Section 1: Summary
After your name, address and brief contact information, the first thing the reader should see
is a four or five line summary of you as a potential employee. This says what you are, what
you have and what you want. Here is an example:
“A highly experienced administrator, possessing good organisational and interpersonal skills
with computer literacy and information technology capabilities, who is seeking employment
within a progressive company in a varied administrative capacity with the opportunity for
supervisory positions in the future.”
2: Successes/Achievements and Job History
Next you should list your Successes or Achievements. If the most relevant were in the last
job, then you can include them in reverse chronological order under each job. Otherwise
include them in order of relevance to the job. Either order is possible depending upon your
personal preference. All Achievements must be quantified by reference to business value in
monetary terms, by frequency or by length of experience.
Here are some examples of recommended format for Success or Achievement statements:
“Planned and organised annual stock take at a major DIY store over a period of 4 years, as
part of a small team, ensuring the task was completed within the timescale allowed without
disruption to business or customer service.”
“Successfully improved and organised credit control procedures within the export ledger
section, resulting in the identification and recovery of overdue debts, reducing the
outstanding balances by 20% over 18 months.”
“Developed positive and successful relationships with hotel customers and staff, over a
period of three years. The result was a major improvement in the hotel's reputation and
image, and culminated in the receipt of an employee award.”
“Increased sales in the South East area by 25% in a year, through planned telephone
contact and attention, resulting in customer confidence and satisfaction, and 17% profit
“Successfully ran the administration of a dry cleaning business as Company Secretary over
4 years, with a team of 7 staff, setting up an efficient sales office for a customer bank of
“Received, checked and documented over 300 deliveries per week as part of a team,
ensuring correct quantities received, items correctly racked and locations accurately
Here are some good words to use in your success statements. (NB: They are also good
words to include in answers you give to questions raised in your interviews.)
Forward Thinking
Track Record
Self Motivated
Self Starter
Team Working
Team Player
Customer Service
Customer Satisfaction
Client Liaison
First Class
High standard
Smooth running
Action oriented
Business Growth
Bottom line
Business retention
Business like
You then need to list your job history in reverse chronological order, with details for the last
10 years, and summary of earlier years. You should show Company, Industry, Dates and
Job Titles (NB do not list responsibilities. The interviewer is interested in what you achieved,
not what your responsibility was.)
Section 3: Training and Education
After your Achievements and Job History, give brief details of your Training, Education,
and/or Qualifications, particularly those directly relevant to the job you are seeking. Finally
you can give information about Personal Factors (all optional), including Age or Date of Birth,
Marital Status, Family, Health, Driving Licence and Outside Interests.
Consider putting your CV on line through one of the search providers.
2. How to answer advertisements
Read the text carefully (at least twice!)
Select words from the ad to include in your covering letter
Avoid all negatives and shortcomings
Follow the instructions carefully
Find out everything you can about the company
Follow up your letter after about a week by telephone
Emphasise all the positive points you can find
Relate your experience and skills to elements in the ad
3. How to construct your covering or application letter
The letter has three sections, usually a paragraph each:
You (i.e., the Company).
This is restricted to words about the company’s needs and requirements.
We (i.e., the Company and you together).
This starts to relate the company’s requirements to your skills and experience.
I (i.e., You).
This emphasises your suitability for and interest in pursuing the application.
Ensure that none of your paragraphs begins with the word “I”. A paragraph beginning with
“I” gives the impression of self-centredness and makes it look as if you are not at all
interested in the company, and that is the opposite of the impression you want to make. The
letter must be typed and all on 1 page. Personalise it by hand writing “Dear Mr…..” and
signing personally.
This “You, We I” format is one of the most valuable things you can use when writing to,
talking, or telephoning a contact, whether for a job or in selling terms. It is well worth using
regularly. You are, of course, selling when applying for a new job.
Here is a sample of a covering letter
After your address and the Company's Name and address (to a named person):
“Dear Mr. Smith (Handwritten)
Your company's recent publicity in the Wolverhampton Evening Echo indicates an important
and far reaching development in retail marketing in the West Midlands. It seems likely that
you will be setting a trend that others will wish to follow.
(This is the “You” Section.)
In pursuing this new activity, you will be relying on the expertise of your operational staff, and
will no doubt be on the lookout for forward looking individuals who have extensive
experience and track records such as I have, in your industry. Together, it seems possible
that we could advance the customer service aspects of retailing which you are pioneering.
(This is the “We” Section.)
Would it be possible for us to meet and discuss ways in which I might be able to join in the
progressive activities you are currently planning? My own experience and qualifications
include 10 years in front line retail activity with profit responsibility, coupled with full
membership of the Retail Managers' Federation.
(This is the “I” Section.)
If I may, I will telephone you in the next week to see if we might arrange an appointment.
(My CV is attached for your attention.)
Yours sincerely (Hand written)”
There is a temptation to send CVs and covering letters by Email, in which case there will be
no hand written part. However, it less easy to ignore a properly produced letter, enclosed in
a hand written envelope addressed to a named person, than it is to delete an Email. This
certainly seems to be the most effective way to gain attention.
4. Making telephone calls in support of applications
Plan what you intend to say, emphasising the major points by knowing what you
have included on your CV and what you have written in any letters.
Expect to speak to the decision maker.
Always treat receptionists and secretaries as you would if they were the
decision maker. By doing this, you are more likely to get them on your side so
that they will help you get through to the right person.
Know what you offer but do not script the conversation because this will sound
stilted and might lead to your not listening to what is said to you.
Stand up. This is very important, because you sound more business-like and
positive when standing than when sitting.
Smile. You can always hear a smile over the phone, and it sounds positive and
Dress as if you were at an interview. This is just for your benefit. You are more
likely to act and speak in a confident and positive way when in business dress.
5. Application Forms
Application forms are quite different from CVs. A CV is a selling and marketing document
which must not contain any false information, but which does not have to include all details.
An Application Form on the other hand is likely to form the basis of a legal contract. It must
therefore contain the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Any false or missing
information could therefore lead to immediate termination of the contract without notice.
The Application Form is not a selling document. It primarily enables the company to ensure
that their personnel records are up to date and complete, and allows them to cross check
information you give them.
However, you should be sure to make use of the white space on the Form, use additional
sheets to add other relevant information not specifically requested. You might find that items
you have prepared for your CV will fit well into the spaces available.
Attach your CV to the rear of the Application Form, after your covering letter, but do not refer
to it on the Application Form. Application Forms often ask for References. Be sure to ask
permission from any personal referees you include.
6. How to deal with agencies
The most important thing to remember is that the Agency is not primarily in business to help
you. It is there to serve the companies that pay it. So you are important to it, because you
form part of its working assets, but you are not as important as its clients. The Agency’s
prime focus is to find somebody who will be acceptable to the client, so that they can then
get paid their fee.
It follows that whilst you should take notice of the Agency‘s advice, you should make sure
you always remain in charge of the process. If you do this and appreciate their motivations,
then the relationship can be mutually rewarding.
The best way to make contact with Agencies is in person. Make a call on their offices. You
are more likely to be seen and taken seriously in this way. Then remember to keep in touch
with them once you have made contact and left all your details.
7. How to make direct contact
First of all, carry out careful research into potential employers from the locations,
functions or industries of interest to you.
Make telephone calls with the sole purpose of finding the name of the person you
want to speak to.
Once you have a name, you can make your approach using letters in the format
suggested above.
Expect rejection. You will probably receive a number of these, as well as nonresponses.
Follow up with telephone calls using the guidelines given above.
Never get discouraged. Press on in spite of rejections
8. How to network
Start by listing potential and past contacts who might in any way be able to suggest possible
employment opportunities. The best thing is to aim for a very long list of past contacts.
Once you get into the habit of networking and follow the guidelines below, you will find that
you pursue the same principles when having conversations with friends. This is why, as
stated below, you must avoid sounding as if you are selling. Your telephone call with your
contact should focus on asking for advice.
You should try to comply with the following sequence:
Take the pressure off your contact, (who might be afraid you are asking him or her
for a job, when he or she doesn’t have one) by asking about how things are going
in the industry, location, or, if you know him or her well, family.
Avoid asking directly for a job or advice on how to get one. By asking about your
contact’s interests, you will often prompt him or her to ask you similar questions.
This is the trigger that allows you to say that you are looking for a new opportunity.
Now you can ask for advice and information. Ask him or her to give you some
time and possibly even a meeting over coffee to discuss the matter further.
Have your CV and details available and be ready to sell your experience and skills
when asked, but above all avoid being pushy or sounding like a salesperson. Let
the questions come to you as far as possible.
Ask for other contacts, and avoid flattery, and of course, criticism.
Your Marketing should provide you with leads of various strengths, so you can now move to:
Phase 4: Selling
The major part of your Selling effort consists of the Interview. Since the goal of your
Marketing is to produce the opportunity for Interviews, it is vital to prepare your interview
technique, and to put this into practice.
Interviewers exhibit many different characteristics, and it is important to recognise that not all
have been properly trained, or are therefore expert. Whether trained or not, the interviewer
is the person to whom you have to sell yourself.
Interviewers look for three things from the successful candidate, summarised as
Can do,
Wants to do and
Will Fit In
They will want to know if your skills and experience make you capable of doing the job
successfully. They will want to examine your keenness and motivation for the job, and finally
to be satisfied that you are the sort of person who will be able to get on well with existing
members of the company.
It is very important to remember that the purpose of the Interview for you, the candidate, is to
get an offer – which you then can consider and decide if it meets your needs and wants..
When you receive an offer, you still have the responsibility to yourself to ensure you are
satisfied that the job will meet your needs and fit in with the criteria you set yourself in the
Evaluation Phase. You have the option of accepting or rejecting the offer or of attempting to
1. Good and bad things to do before and at interviews
Fail to plan (equals plan to fail!)
Take special care with your appearance
Look unkempt
Decide what information you want to give
Drink alcohol or eat curry beforehand
Prepare and ask relevant questions
Refuse to answer questions
Prepare answers to questions,
expected, unusual, desired
Go into too much detail
Focus on positives
Mention negatives unless
Plan and take care about body language
specifically asked
- Interviewer's as well as yours
Arrive in good time without haste
Listen to the question
Look like a troublemaker
Focus mainly on job related data
Focus on non-work activity
Give direct answers
Give succinct answers
Focus on job content, past, present, future
Speak up
Cover mouth with hand
Speak clearly
Mumble or whisper
Show confidence
Show nervousness
Maintain appropriate eye contact
Wear sunglasses
Check company dress and speech code
Dress inappropriately
Keep it short
Talk in generalisations
Use interviewer’s name
Use the wrong name
Check which name to use
Fight the interviewer verbally
State career and job goals
Be unrealistic
Let personality show
Be an extremist
Be yourself
Paint a false picture
Take chances
Shake hands firmly and courteously
Wet fish handshake, Bone crusher,
Prepare the first few seconds
Aristocrat, Water pump, High Five
Remember they want you to succeed
Be pessimistic
Research the Company, look at their Website
2. Possible Interview questions and how to answer them
A general point is important to emphasise at first: In all answers to interview questions, you
should endeavour to give an example from your experience.
“Tell me something about yourself.”
This is a very important question. It gives the interviewer the opportunity to hear you
speak, to tune in to you voice or accent and to begin to gauge the sort of person you
are. This is best achieved by starting with a question which you can certainly answer,
i.e., about yourself. Restrict your answer to 2 minutes maximum. Cover early
background, education, brief job progression, and finally, in most detail, your last job.
Rehearse this short summary so that it sounds confident and clear.
“What are your career and job goals?”
It is best to start your reply by indicating your real interest in the job on offer. You
should show some interest in progression, but be sure you are realistic and do not
appear over-aggressive. Modest ambition is positive, unrealistic aspirations can be
“What are your strengths?”
Be sure to prepare three of these. They should relate to your achievements and be
something related to you specifically that you can back up with examples of actual
achievement. Avoid claims referring to qualities that almost everyone would claim for
themselves, e.g., reliable, good timekeeper.
“What are your weaknesses?”
Again you should prepare three, but mention only one unless asked for more.
Everybody has weaknesses, and if you claim not to have any then you are exhibiting a
lack of realism and of understanding of your own attributes – itself a weakness. The
statement of the weakness should be followed, without pause, by a description of how
you have identified it, and what you are doing to eliminate it or compensate for it.
“What have been your main successes or achievements at work?”
You know what is on your CV, so you can select the most appropriate two or three
which appear to be most relevant to the job on offer. Be prepared to quantify all
achievements by reference to frequency, length of experience or business value in
monetary terms.
“Tell me about a time when you work was being criticised or you felt things
were going wrong. What happened, and what was the result?”
This is the sort of question which shows you that you have encountered a trained and
experienced interviewer. (Inexperienced interviewers tend to ask questions about
generalisations, such as “What would you do if….?”) This question asks about a
specific incident for you to describe so that you are talking about facts, rather than
giving an answer that you think might be the one you should be expected to give.
Select one or two examples where things did not work out as hoped on the first
attempt, and emphasise what you learned from the incident and how you have
incorporated the learning into your later activities so as to avoid further failure.
“What salary are you expecting?”
The best answer to this question is to indicate that you would expect to be paid the
normal rate for the job the company you are talking to. If they have advertised the
salary then you can simply refer to this. Remember that the time for salary
negotiation comes after an offer has been received, not at the initial interview. If you
have no guidelines to follow from the company, the agency or the advertisement,
then you are best to give an answer similar to the first sentence above. You should
avoid mentioning any figure. You neither want to exclude yourself right at the
beginning of the process by quoting an inappropriate figure, nor to indicate that you
would be willing to accept a lower figure than they would normally offer.
“What do you know about our company?”
The short answer in preparing for this question is to make sure you know something.
Simple research can gain information on this aspect. The internet is the obvious way,
but you can also enquire around the area and amongst friends. If recommended by
an Agency, then they will be able to give you a great deal of information. Give an
answer that shows an intelligent interest in the company’s products, and the sorts of
activities they get involved in.
“What questions would you like to ask me?”
You should avoid any questions about salary, benefits, hours or any other
administrative details, all of which will of necessity be detailed in any letter of offer
you might receive, and are therefore not relevant at the interview stage. Once you
have the offer, if it is not satisfactory, then you must be prepared to turn it down, and
of course you can negotiate. Your questions should focus entirely on the job content
and responsibilities, the company’s plans and products, and information on reporting
lines and assessment of your success in the job. Other questions of this sort might
be suggested by the way the conversation has progressed up to this point.
“What do you most enjoy about work?”
You should start by reflecting the real you. What are the parts of the work you have
done have really given you the most satisfaction. In addition, it is of course a good
idea to select things that might be particularly relevant to the job for which you are
applying. Show real enthusiasm and indicate why you find these aspects particularly
motivating. Jokey answers should be avoided.
“What do you least enjoy about work?”
Here you should focus on the things which contrast with or are the opposite of those
mentioned in the previous question. Whilst indicating that they are not your favourite,
make it clear that you appreciate that every job has its downsides, and that one
simply has to make the most of those parts which are less enjoyable. Once again,
jokey answers are better avoided.
“How would you feel about working for a much younger manager than
This question, as it is worded is only one example of the interviewer’s wish to check
for any age, gender, nationality, racial etc., prejudice on your part. You should be
careful to respond with comments about your understanding of the hierarchy of
business, and the fact that a manager’s skills and experience are the only important
things to be considered in establishing your preparedness to work for that manager.
“Do you think you might be overqualified for this job?”
There is a real sense in which everybody is overqualified for every job. Your skill in
any area represents an overqualification if that area is not required in the job you are
seeking, but does not detract from your ability to do the job in hand. What the
interviewer is seeking here is an indication that, even if the skills and experience
required are of a lower order than those you have been exhibiting in previous jobs,
you will still be capable and prepared to focus entirely on the requirements of the new
job. Even if the new job does not stretch your abilities and experience, will you still be
prepared to give it your full attention? You should therefore make it very clear that
this would be your intention.
“What has been the most difficult task you have ever had to perform at work?”
This is a real opportunity to describe in detail one of your major successes. You can
emphasise the difficulties in order to maximise your part in the solution, so that you
can gain the best advantage from your achievement.
“Why did you leave your last job?”
You should be honest. If you were redundant, there is no reason not to say so. If
you left of your own accord, give the reasons whilst avoiding direct criticism of your
last company, your managers or colleagues. If you were dismissed for misconduct of
any sort, it is best to be open, whilst stating your side of the story clearly and
“How did you get on with your last boss?”
Focus on his or her strengths and abilities and avoid all negative comments.
Emphasise what you were able to learn from your last manager, and indicate how
you intend to use these learnings in your future employment.
“Why have you not found a new job more quickly?”
Outline the process you have been following, and emphasise that you consider it vital
to find the right job for you and not just any job. Be honest about any
disappointments you have had.
“Are you continuing to learn new skills?”
Here the answer has to be “Yes”. Ensure that you are already seeking new
knowledge and experience in order to fit yourself for the next job and for further
advancement within the organisation.
3. What can I learn from observing the interviewer’s style?
If you enter an office and observe the office layout, the interviewer’s dress and body
language, the kinds of questions asked and his or her reaction to your answers, you can
make a better judgment as to how best to conduct yourself and which elements of your
personality to emphasise. Given below are some fairly common examples of the business
styles of people whom you might meet in an interview situation. There are other examples
you could encounter, but recognising these characteristics can help you to relate to the
person you are meeting. The key point is that you will probably do better in the interview, if
you try to adapt your answers to the preferences of the interviewer.
If you were to encounter one of the following four examples, which illustrate the most
frequently met styles, how would that affect how you conduct yourself?
You meet a comfortably dressed interviewer, fitting in with convention. There could
well be photos of family on the desk, certificates, mementoes and photos on wall.
You are offered a cup of coffee, and are asked questions about your home life,
hobbies, background etc., and about how you would feel in certain circumstances.
This interviewer’s time focus seems to be on the past, and he or she tends to make
decisions based on instinct.
Your reaction should be to allow small talk to continue as appropriate. You should
stress the human factors you have encountered in your work. Make it clear that you
are listening. Make eye contact, and see if you can identify some personal
connection with the interviewer, perhaps some similarity of background or activity.
Keep the atmosphere informal. Focus on feelings and instinct, and draw attention to
the past
You meet a neatly dressed, immaculate interviewer, who sits at a very tidy desk.
There is a year planner on wall, together with charts and graphs showing results.
You are asked probing questions on detailed figures and quantities etc. You hear
questions like: “Tell me how this came about”. The interviewer says things such as:
“This is the plan for today”. He or she appears very well organised, and will
sometimes leave silences in the discussion while he digests what you have said.
This person shows a time focus encompassing past, present and future, and
decisions are made based on facts and logic.
Your reaction should be to focus on a chronological scheme for your answers and
descriptions of achievements, etc. You should emphasise the logic of your actions
and progress. Stick to specific facts and analysis, and back up your answers with
numbers wherever possible. Be always businesslike and unambiguous. Give lots of
information and background detail.
You meet an interviewer who appears action oriented. Sleeves are rolled up and tie
loosened, for example. There might be interruptions during the interview, and he or
she will probably deal with them, either on the telephone or in person. There might
also be a delay in starting. The interviewer appears energetic, even pushy. The
desk appears untidy and disorganised. You are likely to be asked questions about
target dates for action, and results achieved etc. This person’s emphasis is on action
and urgency and his or her time focus is the present. Such people are usually very
observant and take in all clues and indications very quickly.
You should present your results first and keep it short, without going into background
or reasoning. Have your facts close to hand with appropriate evidence. Keep to the
point with few background details. Emphasise figures and be sensitive about the
time you are taking. Demonstrate your own keenness on action and results.
You meet an interviewer who is dressed in an individual, and possibly unusual way,
different from the norm for the organisation. There are books and magazines around
the office and on the desk. Articles cut from publications might be visible. You might
see an executive toy on the desk or abstract paintings on the wall. There is likely to
be a bookcase. You will be asked questions about your creativity, innovation and
originality. He or she might ask about your future plans, and probe for the reasons
you took the steps you have taken in the past. This interviewer’s time focus is on the
future, and decisions are made based on insight and a perceived understanding of
likely future developments.
You should keep to your subject, allowing the interviewer to choose when to digress.
Emphasise the philosophy behind your actions, without too much detail. Stress the
long term and place emphasis on original ideas and concepts. Show an awareness
of future trends and possibilities, and show how you are open to new ideas.
NB: For all these styles of response and decision making, it must be remembered that few
people exhibit exclusively one style alone. They, and you, can show variations and
combinations of these descriptions from time to time, so whilst this kind of observation can
be a useful guide, it must be treated with caution.
Have you met people in your experience who seem to fit into one or more of these styles? It
would be useful to spend a while thinking about the people you know or have known and
which styles they represent. What’s more, try a little self-analysis. What is your most
comfortable style? Do you exhibit a combination of two or more?
5. What to do after the interview?
It is a good idea to sit down and review what happened at the interview. How did you come
across? What sort of people did you meet in the organisation. Identify the positive and
negative points, and think how you might have been able to improve them. If you have had
several interviews, analyse any trends that you observe. For example, which unexpected
questions keep appearing, or which questions you do not feel you have answered well? Be
prepared for the possibility of rejection, but retain an optimistic and positive viewpoint. Even
rejection can be used by you to gain experience and to plan your next moves more
successfully. Few people get a job offer following the first interview they attend.
You can send an Email later the same day to express your thanks for the interview, and to
confirm your continued interest in the position and the company. Make a follow up telephone
call a few days after the interview to indicate your enthusiasm for the job and the
organisation, and to get feedback. If your travel expenses have been promised for the
interview, remember to submit them as instructed. Even after rejections, you should keep
applying for interviews. Each one expands your experience. Ask why you were not
selected, and use this feedback to improve your further performance.
6. What to do when you receive an offer?
First of all, take it calmly. Remember the “Calm, Method, Efficiency” guideline at the
beginning of this document. There is a great temptation to jump at the first offer received,
especially if you have been searching for a while. If the offer is in writing with all back up
details, then of course you need to read all the small print carefully. If the offer is verbal
only, then it is usually a good idea to indicate your continued interest and the strong
possibility that you will accept. However, you should hold back from making a firm
commitment at this stage, and request a written confirmation. This will also allow you to
monitor the current situation surrounding other possible openings that you might have been
considering. If you already have a job, make sure you do not resign until you have a new
offer in writing that you wish to accept.
Once you have a written offer, you should ask yourself several questions:
Does the offer match what was discussed at interview?
Does it meet your needs? – Here you should refer to the “I want a job which….”
sentence that you wrote at the end of the 5-piece Jigsaw.
Are you sure you can fulfil the requirements of the job and the company?
Will you be happy with the company’s culture?
7. Salary Negotiation
If you need to negotiate on the salary and terms of an offer, then there are several
guidelines that should be followed:
Firstly, try to delay this discussion as long as possible. The other party is more likely to be
accommodating once they have really made up their minds that they want to employ you,
and when they have become accustomed to the idea of your joining them.
Understand that it is generally a good idea to fit in with the norms and standards of the
company. If you negotiate terms noticeably outside the expected level, then over time there
will be a levelling process and your future adjustments will probably be reduced to bring you
into line. In addition, it is very likely that your new colleagues will find about your special
terms and this might not be good for your relationships with them.
Know your needs - not just your aspirations, but what the essentials are.
Know the market – what is the normal rate for the job you will be doing?
At some point in the negotiation, you will have the opportunity to talk about what you have
been getting in previous employment. This can lead to a discussion which will enable you to
press either for an improvement, for maintenance of your established levels, or for some
mitigation of any suggested reduction from your norms.
8. When you are sure you wish to accept
If everything seems satisfactory, then you might want to discuss it with your family, friends or
network contacts. If you decide to accept the offer, then inform the company verbally and
then formally in writing. Then tie up the loose ends, sign any acceptance letter, and agree a
plan of action for your starting date etc. It is then a good idea to let your network contacts
know. You might need them again later, and you might be able to return the compliment by
helping them at a later date.
Finally, start your new job, and above all make sure you succeed. Now you can celebrate.
…and when you are in your new job, be sure to enjoy it, and to look
as if you really enjoy your job. This always makes it better for your
colleagues, customers, employers….and most importantly YOU!
If you have found this document useful, I shall be more than delighted – and even more so if
you have landed a good job.
No obligation, but I won’t object if you let me know. I might even answer a further question.
Brian Pickering