JOB APPLICATION INTERVIEW HINTS AND TIPS.

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1 JOB APPLICATION INTERVIEW HINTS AND TIPS. E&TDIG /05

2 JOB APPLICATION INTERVIEW HINTS & TIPS. The first thing to do is to find a training contract with an authorised training organisation. You need to apply in the appropriate format some employers require you to apply online, some prefer you to use an application form (either their own or the Institute s), whilst others prefer a Curriculum Vitae (CV). Whichever method you use to apply, these handy tips and guidelines will help you to maximise your potential and convince a prospective employer you are the right person for the job! STAGE 1 YOUR CURRICULUM VITAE A CV is a summary of your skills and experience, giving all the information about yourself that an employer may need to build up a picture of your character and abilities. It is your chance to shine, and should only contain positive points. As well as the advice below, you may find it helpful to contact a Careers Adviser who could help you with your interview strategy. General principles and guidelines: always be factual and honest in your CV be concise try to keep your CV to no more than two pages of single sided A4 try to focus on aspects of your career, qualifications, skills, etc. that are directly relevant to the particular organisation and job layout your CV neatly, making appropriate use of headings, bullet points, bold, etc. and use a standard font (Times New Roman or Arial) and font size (10 or 12pt). Make sure you check the whole document for spelling mistakes and typing errors. Even better, ask a friend or a Careers Adviser a fresh eye will often spot things you do not use good quality stationery for both your CV and the covering letter. CONTENTS OF YOUR CV Personal/contact details include your full name, date of birth, address, home telephone number, mobile number (if applicable) and address (if applicable). Personal profile/career objectives a short paragraph giving an insight into your personality, your relevant skills and experience, what you have to offer the firm and what you are looking for in your career. This could equally go in a covering letter. Qualifications give details of your formal education. Include relevant dates, establishments and qualifications gained. If you hold any memberships of professional bodies, show these as well. Career/employment history starting with your current or most recent position and working backwards, give details of all your employment. Include dates of employment, organisation, job title, responsibilities, achievements and skills gained. This can include any holiday jobs or work experience you have gained while at school or university. Do not leave any chronological gaps. page 1

3 Skills and experience focus on the skills and experience that are directly relevant to the position for which you are applying. Include technical and computer skills as well as other skills such as team building, interpersonal, project management, etc. Interests include a short list of your interests and activities. This can be used to highlight skills such as teamwork or commitment. References you will be required to submit references at some stage during your application. You may be asked for professional references and/or personal references. In the case of professional references, at least one should be your current or most recent employer, or a university lecturer. You can either include the references with your CV or include a statement such as references available on request. If you do not wish your current employer to be contacted prior to a job offer, make this clear. Remember to check first with your referees that they are happy and willing to provide a reference! COVERING LETTER Always send a covering letter with your CV to ensure it reaches the right person or department, and so they know which position you are applying for. A well written covering letter can make the difference between getting an interview or not. Tailor the letter to the specific job, rather than using a standard version. Format: keep it short and concise use the format of a business letter unless a hand written letter is requested, word processed letters look more professional. Clearly state on the letter the documents attached and the job you are applying for, along with any reference number (as per the advert). Include details such as: where you saw the job advertised when you will be available for interview links between previous jobs and the job you are applying for a couple of points from your CV making you ideal for that particular job with that particular employer. Finally, remember to keep a copy of your covering letter and CV to refer to when preparing for an interview. The employer knows what you said and they will expect you to know too. APPLICATION FORMS Many organisations will require you to complete an online application form or a hard copy. If this is the case, application forms are your only chance to make the right first impression. The following tips will help make the difference. Make rough drafts and keep a copy of any applications. Read the form thoroughly to make sure you understand the instructions for each section. Try to use evidence and specific examples from a range of situations when describing your aptitudes - for example, academic, paid or unpaid work, societies or sports. Always decide exactly what a question is asking before answering it. page 2

4 Never say we - employers want to know about you and you alone. Keep your responses short and to the point - don t waffle, make sure you re answering the question and keep referring back to your core skills. It s ok to use bullet points when you need to write a list. Make the form as neat as possible. If you do need to elaborate, and the form permits it, use separate sheets. Be extremely accurate - few things go down worse with potential employers than a spelling mistake. Use clear, positive language. Your form is likely to be screened for key selection criteria, and the words you use will play an important part in your being considered further. STAGE 2 PREPARING FOR AN INTERVIEW Interviews are notoriously stressful, but they don t have to be. Good preparation for an interview is vital to ensure you feel confident and at ease with yourself. Positive thinking and self belief are the key to a good interview. Reasons employers give for rejecting candidates after interview include: being late and appearing disorganised poor communication skills lack of insight into the organisation or job lack of energy or enthusiasm no clear career aim over familiarity lack of confidence a defensive attitude criticism of school, university or a past employer inappropriate appearance poor references. KEY PREPARATION POINTS Self assessment know your strengths, weaknesses, limitations, achievements and ambitions. There is no room for modesty sell yourself! Know the job familiarise yourself with the job description and the key skills the company are looking for. Think about how your key skills and strengths fit into this. Know the process how many interviews will there be? Will you be required to do any tests eg psychometric are there any examples of these available for you to practise? (if not, try looking on the web for some general examples). Will the interview be conducted with a group of applicants or just you? Contact the firm if necessary to clarify these points. Do some research having up to date and relevant knowledge about the firm and news in the business/accountancy sector will impress. Look on the firm s website, as well as news and business sites for information. Get there in time know where you are going and the time you have to be there. Aim to arrive ten minutes early. If necessary do a dry run to ensure you know how to get there and assess any public transport or parking problems (if applicable). page 3

5 Decide what you re going to wear try to find out how formal the interview will be, and dress accordingly. Make sure that your chosen outfit is comfortable, clean and ironed. First impressions count and your appearance says a lot about your personality. Do not wear excessive jewellery, perfume or loud clothes (ties, socks) anything that may distract the interviewer from what you are saying. Rehearse. However confident you are, it s always worth getting used to hearing yourself answer formal questions in as formal a setting as possible. If your careers service doesn t offer interview practice, you could always get a friend to do it. STAGE 3 THE INTERVIEW Having done all of the above you should arrive at the interview feeling confident and prepared. Keep the following Do s and Don ts of interview etiquette in mind: sit in a comfortable position, do not slouch and do not cross your arms or legs always adopt a professional manner smile! be open and receptive be persuasive and use positive language never indicate that you are desperate for the job sell yourself remember you have been selected for interview from a large number of applicants remain calm and do not rush your answers speak clearly and give full responses to all questions listen to the interviewer remember that an interview should be a two way process relax and be yourself! Answer the questions you ve been asked don t ramble on about everything you know. Don t be afraid of silence take the time to form your responses. This is a sign of a steady, confident mind. Your prospective employer will be looking for particular qualities. They will want to know: why you are attracted to the profession of chartered accountancy whether you have a realistic picture of the profession whether you have a grasp of current business issues and how you keep yourself up to date whether you can relate to a wide range of people, sometimes very different from you. TYPICAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS Tell us about yourself, your recent studies (eg degree), experience? Ensure whichever direction your answer takes it has some relevance to your professional endeavours. Why do you want to become a chartered accountant (ACA)? Emphasize what has attracted you to the career professionalism, responsibility (but do not mention money!) Why have you chosen chartered accountancy over others eg ACCA or CIMA? Show that you have considered all the training options, and are fully informed about the requirements and benefits of ACA. page 4

6 How do you think you will handle studying for the ACA? ACA students must be able to juggle work, studies and a social life show that you have considered this and have accepted that it will be difficult, but a worthwhile challenge. Why do you want to join this organisation/this department (eg audit/tax)? This is where your research comes in cite the company s attributes and successful projects, and why you would like to be a part of this. You should also show knowledge of, and an interest in, the particular department (if relevant). Which story in the financial pages has most captured your interest in the past months? Again, this is where your research is essential! What have been your major achievements? Keep your answer recent and relate it to work where possible eg a successful project, even if this was undertaken at university. Refer to any skills you learnt or developed whilst undertaking this. Hint that your biggest achievements are still to come. What are your strengths? Think about high points from your background and build in a couple of your key personal qualities, such as: pride in your work, reliability, perseverance, adaptability, confidence, leadership skills, team player. What are your weaknesses? Offer minor weaknesses along with how you plan to improve them eg a lack of knowledge in a certain (small) area, but a keen interest in gaining experience in this, along with the ability to pick up skills/knowledge quickly. You could also try using a positive weakness such as sometimes feeling you care too much about your work. YOUR CHANCE TO ASK QUESTIONS At the end of the interview you will be given an opportunity to raise any points that have not been covered. You can use this time to clarify any issues arising from the interview. However, ensure that your questions are short and sharp: Job anything not covered in the recruitment literature you have received first assignments, opportunities for career development and/or secondment, support for training, how are appraisals conducted, amount of travel, size of team. Organisation future plans for development, strategic goals, challenges they are facing including current issues and significant recent developments. Process what happens next. Do not ask about salary/benefits this should be dealt with once you have received an offer. General information that you have already been given it creates the impression you have not been listening or are not really interested in the position. page 5

7 If you cannot attend the interview, eg if you are ill or have decided not to proceed with the application, ensure you inform the firm in plenty of time. ASSESSMENT CENTRES Assessment centres push you a bit further than a first stage interview, and use a different way to monitor how you react to situations. Assessment centres are based around practical exercises where the organisation will be looking to assess your ability to react in both group and one to one situations, which differ from traditional interviews. If you have been invited to an assessment centre as a school leaver, the day may take a slightly different format. You can usually expect a one day event where you ll sit verbal, numerical and logical reasoning tests, probably an interview with a senior member of the firm as well as taking part in group exercises and presentations. Graduates can expect one or two day events where you ll take part in scenarios including: group exercises individual tasks additional interviews psychometric tests in-tray exercises presentations. The result? You can show your skills and abilities, not just your interview technique. And if you don t excel well in one exercise, you have the opportunity to improve in another. Don t get too competitive you need to remain calm and focussed on your strengths. Remember, you re being assessed against the organisation s criteria, not other candidates. Visit your careers service most offer workshops which help you prepare for assessment centres, these may be run by the careers service or even the organisations who are recruiting. If you are still at school, your careers adviser at school may be able to offer some advice about what to expect and how to prepare for an assessment centre. The information you receive from the organisation when they invite you to attend the day may also give you an indication of what to expect. STAGE 4 AFTER THE INTERVIEW On the way home, think objectively about the interview. Did you actually prepare thoroughly as we have suggested? Was there anything you could have done differently or better? While you are waiting to hear how you got on, continue to contact other firms. Keep your options open. If you have a number of opportunities to choose from, you will be in a better position to decide your future. page 6

8 If you are offered the job Congratulations! What do you do now? You may get other offers and you want to be sure this is the right one for you. Remember that you do not have to take the first offer you receive but this can be difficult if the offer is made by phone. In this case you should thank them, and say that you are looking forward to receiving their offer letter. Discuss it with your family or friends and consider: job and training opportunities salary and overtime tuition arrangements holidays pension plan and medical insurance location travel requirements. Do not make the mistake of accepting a position that you are unhappy with. Trust your instincts. How did you feel about the people you met and the surroundings? Ask for some time to consider your decision if necessary. At the same time, however, keep in mind that competition for jobs is fierce in today s tough economy. If you re offered the job and decide not to take it, let the employer know as soon as possible. THERE ARE ALWAYS MORE CANDIDATES THAN JOBS. YOU HAVE DONE WELL TO GET AN INTERVIEW. KEEP TRYING. IF YOU DO NOT GET THE JOB Learn from the experience and use it to help prepare for your next interview. It can be extremely valuable to get some feedback on your interview by telephoning the Recruitment Section of the company concerned but be prepared to hear something you do not like! Practice using mock interviews so that you become more confident and gain further feedback most school and university careers services offer this. Remember this is one of the most important decisions of your life and once you have found the position that is right for you, you will be embarking on a career that offers you the greatest of rewards. Good luck! page 7

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