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My top 6 interview faux pas

View profile for Shaun Jardine
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I have sat through quite a few interviews in my career. I can say with hand on heart probably only, say, a dozen have been truly really earth shatteringly memorable – interviews where at the end I have thought I must get that person to join my business.

Whilst I have seen some other incredibly great candidates – candidates who absolutely ended up joining my firm, there were many, many – far too many – that resulted in people not getting the role they wanted with us, simply because they made crazy avoidable mistakes, including:

  1. Addressing a letter to “To whom it may concern”. Sometimes these letters are sent addressed to “To whom it may concern” even though the application process might say Deborah Atkins or Shaun Jardine. You haven’t got to be a rocket scientist to work out that Deborah is female and Shaun is male. If you don’t know who the letter should be addressed to, then ring the HR Department and ask them. It might show a bit of initiative.I regard such “To whom it may concern” letters as mass produced and written by someone who is lazy. No interview.
  2. Typing errors in covering letters and CVs. I will search a letter and CV to find them. If the CV talks about the writer having “great attention to detail”, I will point out that there are X many typos.If you can’t be bothered to check a covering letter, then what will the work be like? No interview.
  3. Social media. If you say you are a great fan of social media and don’t tweet, and only have five connections on LinkedIn, then I won’t believe you. If you say you are a fan of social media – expect your social media profiles to be checked out. This might result in some embarrassing questions if you do tweet things at 11.30pm one Saturday night after having consumed a bottle of wine and kebab. It’s not the best time to tweet in my experience. What may appear to be friendly banter between some friends, doesn’t necessarily read the same when it is looked at by a prospective employer. Be conscious of your social media footprint – if you are using this to market yourself to prospective employers, make sure it shows you in the light you want to be seen in.
  4. Prepare for the interview. It never ceases to amaze me, how many people haven’t even looked at our own website or even read the pages of the department of which they are applying to! I remember interviewing one candidate who wanted to work in my Property Management team, only to discover they weren’t even aware we held an annual conference at Warwick University for the property management industry and carried out professional training for the industry recognised body. It was all on our website and blog. I want to see that you know what you are applying for – that you know why you want to work in my firm and that you want it enough to have done some research.No research. No Job offer.
  5. Have some questions. I actually like the fact that when it comes to asking if a candidate has any questions, they open a notebook and list 20 matters that they’ve thought about. It shows they’ve put a bit of thought into the process and they want to ask me about my firm, which is my third baby. I like talking about my baby. I like having to answer intelligent questions that I might be asked about my business. If no one has a question to ask about my baby, then I almost get resentful. What’s up with it? Are you saying I’ve got an ugly child? Have some questions ready. You can’t go wrong if you do. Again – having questions shows how serious you are about the role and my firm. I want people who have the potential to be just as passionate about my third baby as I am – so show your interest and prepare some questions!
  6. Expect to be asked questions, such as “What are your strengths, and what are your weaknesses?” These are not difficult questions. In fact, if you spend any time at all researching on the Internet “questions likely to be asked at an interview”, you will find that these are pretty standard questions. Again, I have asked candidates these questions, even to be faced with “I don’t know”. Other answers including “my biggest weakness is that I am a perfectionist” is a pretty awful answer. If that is your current stock answer, then you need to prepare for a follow up question. I won’t tell you what it is; however, if you do some research on the Internet, there is a great article in the Harvard Business Review, which will give you a steer. Prepare properly for the questions that might be asked of you. If you are not prepared, you will not give the best answer and won’t be able to showcase your skills properly.

We want the best people in our firm – people who are great at what they do, and are as passionate about their work as we are. We want you to be as good a fit for us as we are for you. Making sure you do your research, preparing properly and showing that you want to be at Brethertons, gives us the best opportunity to see if you are the right fit for us, and the best opportunity for us to believe you have given full consideration and research as to whether we are right for you!

I recently went to a conference where Sir Martin Sorrell was speaking. He confirmed that the biggest battle in business at the moment is the “battle for talent”. This means that you have to prepare to go into battle. If this means spending 5, 6, 10 or 24 hours preparing for a job that you want, then it could be time well spent. After all, if you were to join my firm, I would hope to hang on to you until the end of your career if you’re any good. Surely it’s going to be time well spent.

Speaking of people who might want to join Brethertons, we always welcome speculative CVs. We have grown rapidly in the past few years and intend to continue to develop our business. We might not have the job for you right now, but if you have applied and the job comes available next week, then you will be the first people we contact if we think you’re any good. So, all speculative CVs are welcome. I look forward to interviewing you….perhaps!

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