Blog, Interview Skills

According to Glassdoor, recruiters on average sort through 250 applications for a job and then narrow down the selection to four to six candidates and review them to select one person for the role — a lot of work on the recruiters’ part! On the candidates’ part, this means far more work. They need to position themselves distinctly to stand out. And after the application, with a lot of luck, they have reached the make-or-break stage of interviews. This first point of contact with recruiters is where applicants need to make the right impression. Here are some tips to remember when facing your recruiter in-person or on the phone for a screening interview.

Look (or Sound) the Part

Get dressed to mean business. Your clothes must reflect the job you are applying for and be pressed to perfection. Shoes must be polished, and your attire should fit you smartly (avoid overly baggy or extremely tight fits). For a phone interview, sounding smart and confident are almost a replacement for your attire. Make sure to have your answers prepared in advance, but while answering, do not make it sound too rote. 

Reach Out to the Recruiter

Reaching out to the recruiter is not as bad as it appears. A career coach recommends doing so because it offers the recruiters a chance to take a shine to you and further consider your candidacy. LinkedIn is a good way to search for the recruiter’s managers and send them messages to connect. Personalized messages are always better than generic ones.

Perform Good Research

Make sure to research the company thoroughly. Scour the website, mission statements, social media accounts, and be prepared to talk about how you can fit in with the company’s goals and culture. Your response to the “five-year plan” question should be relevant to the company’s objectives down the line.

Use the STAR Method

When the interviewer asks the behavioural questions, use the situation, task, action and result format to answer. Describe a situation where you had to solve some problem or achieve something specific. Elaborate on how you achieved the task at hand using particular steps and procedures to attain the result. Try and show how your input brought about some crucial change to the way the company does business.

Ask Questions

Asking the right questions shows that you are serious about working in the company and the role. Not asking any questions shows the opposite. Ask about things like day-to-day tasks in the role, the training and support options, the most challenging aspects of the job, and how you could prove your worth quickly in the company.

Thank You and Follow-Up Emails

An email to say thank you is a must the next day of the interview. In it, reiterate your interest in the position and how you meet the requirements. Moreover, there is no harm in sending a follow-up email after a week or so to ask the recruiter whether they have made a decision, and if they have any feedback on the interview.

Arslan Ahmed | Staff Writer


Blog, Interview Skills

Thomas Edison’s prodigious legacy as an inventor is unparalleled. Although, favour has fallen to his “current war” rival Nikola Tesla in recent years, Edison’s impact on modern innovation is still felt today, often in ways we hardly consider. One such invention was not comprised of wires and coils, but a much more human process: he invented the job interview. 

Getting Hired Before Edison’s Time

Before Edison’s day, getting a job was a family business. To better understand why a job interview was such a novel idea, remember that the first “job” was to find food and shelter.

In ancient Rome, Greece, and Egypt, assigning professions to certain members of society came through apprenticeship, most commonly through family. This tradition continued until the 1800s. If your father was a fletcher, you were likely in training to be one as well. 

During the industrial revolution, when factories were springing up, jobs were plentiful, requiring little more of the applicant than being present. By the 1920s, the workforce had enough college-educated potential employees that those hiring were able to be a little more selective.  

Edison’s Interview

Though scientists may quibble about alternating versus direct current, there’s no question that Edison’s famous invention factory in Menlo Park, New Jersey — where the phonograph was created — was instrumental in modernizing the West. Famous even in his day, Edison would get applications from hundreds of college graduates eager to work in the lab.

Edison, though he had a reputation for being slovenly, had incredibly high standards — most geniuses do. So, he set about composing a list of questions for each potential hire. Some would be skill-oriented, ensuring they had the requisites. Other questions were more arcane — often involving literature or geography (take the test here).

Edison’s test was likely much more difficult than what applicants would face today. Only about seven percent of candidates would pass. 

The Edison Test Makes Headlines

It wasn’t long before newspapers ran with the story. The headline of a 1921 New York Times paper read, “Edison questions stir up a storm.” The interviewees were described as “victims.” The Times was sure to include as many of the questions that a single candidate could remember being asked — all 141 of them.

The test, however, wasn’t derided everywhere. Other captains of industry began composing lists of their own, and of course those who were lucky enough to pass spoke highly of it.

Edison’s test wasn’t the first time someone had ever been asked questions before getting a position — the Woolworth Psychoneurotic Inventory was introduced to the military four years earlier in World War I — it was the first time a job interview was ever considered a trial.

Edison’s demeanour didn’t help. Candidates reported that he paced around the room while firing off the questions, before being quickly told to “leave the air” (go away).

Interestingly, apart from Edison’s gruffness, the complaints from candidates are not dissimilar to objections raised to more esoteric questions today. Larry Page’s brain-twisting, Barbara Walters-esque questions over at Google have often gotten the same negative feedback. Regardless, those curve-ball questions have become part of the norm. Thank, or blame, Edison.

Kenny Hedges | Contributing Writer


Blog, Interview Skills

The lives of the most fascinating people you know are never straight, logical narratives; often, they’re full of cul-de-sacs, random loops, and odd holes. They make for a life well-lived, but they don’t always translate well on a resume.

Gaps in employment can lead an interviewer to assume the worst. If you don’t have an adequate explanation, their minds could turn towards personality problems or illegal activity. With COVID-19 destroying more than 22 million jobs, it’s likely that you’ll have some explaining to do. Here are some ways to address employment gaps on a CV.

Be Aware of Employment Gaps

It’s helpful to familiarize yourself with your own work history before going into the interview — you’d be surprised what you can forget. If there was a period of unemployment in the last ten years that lasted more than six months, that could be viewed as an employment gap. 

Shorter gaps are usually ignored. Employers understand that the market can be difficult, but you should have an explanation ready for anything longer. 

It’s also important that you never try to hide or cover up an employment gap when composing a CV. Employers are used to people trying to hide things and are typically good at spotting them.

Be Honest

Potential employers know, especially in this day and age, that very few people graduate from university and immediately start working. It’s possible the hiring manager had a bit of a strange journey themselves. 

If you’ve gotten to the interview stage, it means that something you included on or with your resume made them interested to meet you. You likely won’t lose the opportunity due to an employment gap, provided you know how to explain it.

Make Explicit What Kind of Gap It Was

There are two kinds of employment gaps: voluntary and involuntary. An involuntary gap could be related to a health crisis, a recession, or anything else beyond your control. Obviously, these are more easily explained. No one would penalize you for having to go in for surgery or taking care of an infirm relative — so long as it is the truth.

Voluntary gaps may seem like they’re harder to explain. This depends often on how much you tell them. Just as you want involuntary gaps to sound empathetic, make the voluntary ones sound empowering. 

Just saying that you chose to leave a position (rather than you were asked to) to focus on an attainable goal (you don’t want to lead them to think you have delusions of grandeur) is an acceptable answer. It also suggests a level of confidence that might impress.

Make the Gap a Non-Issue

If you don’t have an adequate explanation, make it immaterial — “yes, but” in your otherwise impressive life. Yes, you weren’t employed, but you were busy improving and adding skills that make you all that more desirable.

Although the pandemic has made employment gaps more common, the art of dealing with them is still largely unchanged.

Kenny Hedges | Contributing Writer


Blog, Interview Skills

What are creative personality questions, and why are they valuable to employers looking to find the best applicants? As a candidate, you will encounter multiple lines of questioning during interviews, but with the proper preparation, you can learn the formula for a well-structured answer. However, personality-based questions allow interviewees to be fully candid, giving employers the opportunity to bypass rehearsed answers and gauge a more accurate reading of their candidate’s character. 

Traditional interview questions can be problematic for several reasons. They often promote a contrived and overly formal environment, making finding the balance between letting the employer know who you are and upholding a base level of professionalism difficult. Moreover, competency-based questions — a type of questioning designed to test how you would behave in certain workplace scenarios — aren’t always the best indicators of who you are because you can learn how to respond in a standard way. As an example, a question like, “Tell me about yourself,” is actually interview-speak for, “Please reel off a quick summary of your resume so we can see how effectively you condense and relay relevant information.” Personality-based questions aren’t designed to see how well you can navigate interview jargon, but rather they permit you to be honest. 

As the job market is saturated and competitive, creative personality questions have inherited a more significant role. While it may feel next to impossible to make yourself stand out on paper, especially when you’re up against competition that exists predominantly online, early-stage personality-based questions are an opportunity to make yourself heard and help employers pick viable candidates from high volumes of applications. Thus, in many ways, personality-related questions are a candidate and employer’s only shared ally.

Furthermore, personality-based questions create space for interviewers to put a positive spin on a high-pressure scenario. Instead of leading the interviewee down a path of negatively spun questioning like, “Why are you leaving your current position?” which is likely to kick-start a slew of complaints, they might ask, “What are you going to miss about your old job?” Just a simple re-wording, and the candidate is encouraged to be honest and therefore much more likely to reveal valuable information that can be used to judge whether they are a good fit for the company culture. 

Finally, as a candidate, it’s easy to forget you’re not the only one feeling the pressure and that interviews are a two-way street. When the time comes, utilise the opportunity to ask questions. The interviewers have taken the time to get to know you, so it’s mutually beneficial to do the same. Inquire about the company culture and your interviewer’s personal experience with it. Probe into the upward mobility of the role you’re interviewing for and let it be known that your motives for asking such questions are personal and professional growth. After all, it’s just as much about getting to know them as it is them getting to know you.

Rachel Goodman | Contributing Writer