job interviews tips and techniques, sample interview questions and answers, sample interviews letters and templates
Job interviews are easier for interviewers and the interviewees if you plan
and prepare questions and answers, and use proper interviewing techniques.
It's better therefore to focus on 'good' interview questions rather than
'tough' ones. Good interview questions encourage interviewees to think about
themselves and to give the interviewer clear and revealing information as to the
interviewee's needs, capabilities, experience, personality, and suitability for
the job. The best interview questions are therefore the questions which most
help interviewees to reveal their skills, knowledge, attitudes, and feelings to
Much of this guidance also applies to students seeking internships and work experience placements. Effective interview techniques, and the processes surrounding interviews, apply to all situations involving candidate selection, whatever the position and situation.
If interviews make you nervous (as they do to most people), take comfort from the interview story about the wrong Guy, which is also a great lesson for interviewers in the need for good preparation and communication, and why high pressure in interviews doesn't get to the truth, it merely forces people to tell you what you want to hear.
Interviewers and interviewees can maybe take some inspiration for how to handle the interview, and personal and organisational values, from the love and spirituality page, which addresses the increasingly important area of bringing compassion and humanity to work.
See the separate articles on:
job interviews advice and samples for interviewers and interviewees
This job interviews article below includes:
These are samples of questions that interviewers ask interviewees, with suggested ideal answers and reasons and purposes of the questions, to help interviewers and interviewees alike. See also the questions to ask at your job interview for ideas and suggested questions that interviewees should ask the interviewer, which are also extremely important.
There are very many different questions that can be used in job interviews. This page does not attempt to list them all. Instead it seeks to give you an understanding through the examples below and other tips as to what is effective and why, from the standpoint of the interviewer and the interviewee. Therefore, whether you are an interviewer preparing questions to ask, or an interviewee preparing how to give great answers, it is better to read all of this section to help you understand what works best and why, rather than simply select a few 'stock' examples. Having a few 'stock' questions and answers examples will limit your appreciation to just those examples. Instead seek to understand the reasoning that determines successful interviews, and then you will be able to formulate your own questions and answers for any interview situations that you face - whether as an interviewer or an interviewee.
When dealing with questions that put pressure on you or create stress, be confident, credible and constructive (accentuate the positive) in your answers. And make sure you prepare. Stress and pressure questions come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Three commonly used types of pressure questions are those dealing with weakness and failure; blame; and evidence of ability or experience.
weakness and failure questions
"Tell me about your failures....", or "What are your greatest weaknesses......". are the interviewer's equivalent to "Are you still beating your wife?..".
Don't be intimidated by these questions - you don't have to state a failing or a weakness just because the interviewer invites you to.
"I don't generally fail", or "I really can't think of any", are perfectly acceptable answers. Short and sweet, and then wait smiling for the come-back - you'll have demonstrated that you are no mug and no pushover. If you are pressed (as you probably will be), here's your justification answer, or if you wish to appear a little more self-effacing use this as a first response:
"I almost always succeed because plan and manage accordingly. If something's not going right I'll change it until it works. The important thing is to put the necessary checks and contingencies in place that enable me to see if things aren't going to plan, and to make changes when and if necessary....."
"There are some things I'm not so good at, but I'd never say these are weaknesses as such - a weakness is a vulnerability, and I don't consider myself vulnerable. If there's something I can't do or don't know, then I find someone who can do it or does know."
Do you see the positive orientation? Turn it around into a positive every time.
Watch out also for the invitation to rubbish your past job or manager, especially in the form of: "Why did you leave your last job?", or "Why have you had so many jobs?"
The interviewer is not only satisfying curiosity.......... if you say your last boss was an idiot, or all your jobs have been rubbish, you'll be seen as someone who blames others and fails to take responsibility for your own actions and decisions.
Employers want to employ people who take responsibility, have initiative and come up with answers, not problems. Employers do not want to employ people who blame others.
So always express positive reasons and answers when given an opportunity to express the negative. Never blame anyone or anything else.
"I was ready for more challenge", or "Each job offered a better opportunity, which I took", or "I grow and learn quickly and I look for new opportunities", or "I wanted to get as much different experience as quickly as I could before looking for a serious career situation, which is why I'm here."
I great technique for exploiting the blame question trap is to praise your past managers and employers. Generosity is a positive trait, so demonstrate it. Keep your praise and observations credible, realistic and relevant: try to mention attributes that your interviewer and prospective new employer will identify and agree with. This will build association and commonality between you and the interviewer, which is normally vital for successful interview outcomes. They need to see that you think like they do; that you'll fit in.
prove it questions
These can be the toughest of the lot. Good interviewers will press you for evidence if you make a claim. So the answer is - be prepared.
Watch out for closed questions: "Can you do so-and-so?.." , "Have you any experience in such-and-such?..."
These questions invite a yes or no answer and will be about a specific area.
If you give a yes, be prepared to deal with the sucker punch: "Can you give me an example?........"
The request for examples or evidence will stop you in your tracks if you've not prepared or can't back up your answer.
The trick is before the interview to clearly understand the requirements of the job you're being interviewed for. Ask to see the job description, including local parameters if applicable, and any other details that explain the extent and nature of the role. Think about how you can cover each requirement with examples and evidence. Wherever possible use evidence that's quantified and relates to commercial or financial outputs.
Companies are interested in people who understand the notion of maximising return on investment, or return on effort. If your examples and evidence stand up as good cost-effective practice, they'll clock up even more points for you.
Make sure you prepare examples of the relevant capabilities or experience required, so that you're ready for the 'prove it' questions. You can even take papers or evidence material with you to show -having hard evidence, and the fact that you've thought to prepare it, greatly impresses interviewers.
If you don't have the evidence (or personal coverage of a particular requirement), then don't bluff it and say yes when you'd be better off saying, "No, however...."
Use "No, however ..." (and then your solution or suggestion), if asked for something that you simply don't have.
Give an example of where previously you've taken on a responsibility without previous experience or full capability, and made a success, by virtue of using other people's expertise, or fast-tracking your own development or knowledge or ability.
On this point - good preparation should include researching your employer's business, their markets and their competitors. This will help you relate your own experience to theirs, and will show that you have bothered to do the research itself.
In summary, to deal with pressure questions: Keep control. Take time to think for yourself - don't be intimidated or led anywhere you don't want to go. Express every answer in positive terms. And do your preparation.
(This item about stress and pressure interview questions was written for the Sydney Morning Herald, extracts of which appeared in April 2004.)
For interviewers these are powerful and effective questions. These questions make the interviewee tell you how they would approach, handle, deal with, solve, etc., a particular situation, problem, project or challenge that is relevant to the job role in question. The situation could be from the interviewee's past experience, a hypothetical scenario, or a real situation from the interviewing organisation. As the interviewer you should judge the answers objectively. Avoid the temptation to project your own style and feelings into the assessment of whether the answer is good or bad. Look for thoughtfulness, structure, cause and effect rationale, pragmatism. The candidate may not approach the question like you do, but they may have a perfectly effective style and approach to the answer just the same. The answers will indicate the interviewee's approach, methodology, experience and competency in relation to the scenario, to how they get things done, and also the style by which they do it.
From the interviewee's perspective, these questions commonly start with a scenario and a question as to how you as the interviewee would deal with it. Or the question might ask you to give an example of how you have handled a particular situation or challenge in the past. Or the interviewer might ask how you would approach a current situation in their own organisation.
In these cases the interviewer will often judge your answers according to how much they agree with your behavioural approach. The questions may initially seem or be positioned as competency-based, but often the interviewer will be treating this really as a question of behaviour and style.
And as ever, without going to unreasonable lengths your answers should reflect the style expected/preferred/practised by the interviewer/organization. People like people like them.
For instance - a results-driven interviewer, certain high achieving dominant personalities, aspiring MD's, certain ruthless types, will warm to answers with a high results-based orientation (eg '....I focus on what needs to be done to achieve the task, to get the job done, to cut through the red tape and peripherals, ignoring the distractions, etc. Strong incentive, encouragement, clear firm expectations and timescales, deliverables, etc........' - the language of the achiever.
Alternatively, if you find yourself being interviewed by a persuasive, friendly, influential, egocentric type, (lots of sales managers are like this) then frame your answers to mirror that style - '.....I use persuasion, inspiration, leading by example, helping, providing justification, reasons, empathising with the situation and people who are doing the job, motivating according to what works with different people, understanding what makes them tick...' - all that sort of stuff.
HR interviewers are often 'people-types' and will warm to answers that are sensitive, and take strong account of people's feelings, happiness, well-being, sense of fairness and ethics, honesty, integrity, process, accuracy, finishing what's been started, having a proper plan, steady, reliable, dependable, etc. - the language of the fair and the disciplined.
Technical interviewers, eg., MD's who've come up through science, technical, finance disciplines, will warm to answers which demonstrate the use of accuracy, plans, monitoring, clearly stated and understood aims, methods, details, checking, measuring, reporting, analysing.
These are generalisations of course, but generally relevant in most interview situations when you are asked 'How would you ...?'
Obviously be true to yourself where you can. It's a matter of tint and orientation, not changing your colour altogether.
Occasionally you might meet a really good interviewer who is truly objective, in which case mirroring is not so useful - whereas confidence, maturity, integrity, flexibility, compassion, tolerance, pragmatism are, and as such should be demonstrated in the way you answer questions of a balanced mature non-judgemental interviewer.
Interviews can be a bit of a game, so when you see that it is, play it - the more you see subjective judgement and single-track behaviour in the interviewer, then the more advantage there is in mirroring the interviewer's style in your answers.
People like people like them. Which very definitely extends to assessing behaviour-based competency.
Being asked to give a presentation at your interview is a great opportunity for you to shine and stand out from the crowd.
While giving interview presentations can understandably be daunting, a little preparation and thought will enable you to use the situation to great advantage. This is chiefly because giving a presentation offers you a much better platform than is normally available when simply answering an interviewer's questions.
A presentation enables you to showcase your attributes and qualities - and often to research and prepare - way beyond the constraints normally encountered in reacting to conventional interview questions.
So if you are asked to give a presentation - regardless of the time available for preparation - welcome the challenge - be prepared, and make the most of the your chance to show what you can do.
Demonstrating an organizational or strategic interpretation and enthusiasm for the role - showing that you can add value beyond what the employer hopes for - is the key to standing out as a star candidate.
Research, preparation, and freedom to create and deliver a great presentation are the main the ingredients for anyone seeking to make an impact in any situation - and all of these are enabled when you are invited to give an interview presentation.
While the guidelines below are chiefly for interviewees they also help interviewers in creating instructions and a basis for reviewing and assessing presentations given by job candidates at interviews.
When you are asked to give a presentation at an interview you should use whatever time is available to consider the following questions in relation to the employer organization, their market place and how your filling the role can bring them what they need and more.
Here are some strategic questions to consider and resolve as far as possible prior to planning an interview presentation. The scenario is a job vacancy in training, but the principles transfer to any role.
At all times keep this at the back of your mind that unless the vacancy is for a very specific and limited role, then the interview is actually mostly about the recruiting organization and the interviewer(s), not you.
What this means is that you must present yourself in terms that make sense to and match the needs of the organization. Everything you say about yourself must be couched in terms of what it will mean for the employer. There is no point in presenting a glowing picture of yourself and your knowledge, experience, capabilities, etc., in glorious isolation. Instead you must prepare and present everything about yourself so that you are irresistibly relevant to the needs and aims and challenges of the organization.
The interview presentation offers you a wonderful opportunity to do this - to demonstrate that you can enable relevant and effective improvement/achievement for their biggest problems and opportunities, better than any of the other candidates.
Research and understand their issues. Then prepare and and present your own personal added value in relation to their situation.
Here are some more general tips on creating and giving presentations.
Finally some quick ideas for structure, especially when little preparation time is available:
The Rule of Three
The Tell 'Em Rule
(Again, essentially intro, key points, summary.)
Three Big Points
(Especially for surprise presentations when you only have a few minutes to prepare.)
Three big points must address the three biggest outcomes that the organization needs from the new appointment.
While this section essentially gives guidance and tips to interviewees these ideas and principles will also help interviewers.
At job interviews it's as important for you the interviewee to prepare questions to ask the interviewer as it is to prepare answers and readiness for the questions that the interviewer will ask you.
If you are the interviewer, ensure you offer the interviewee the opportunity to ask questions about the job, the management, the organisation and the market within which it operates. The questions that job candidates ask at interview provide valuable insights as to their attitude, maturity, capability and strategic understanding of the role and the organisation, so for interviewers, questions asked by interviewees form a significant and illuminating part of the interview process. Listen to and learn from what interviewees ask you - often the questions that interviewees ask will provide more information to the interviewer than anything you ask them.
As the interviewee, take full advantage of opportunities to ask questions. Asking good well-prepared and researched questions is your chance to demonstrate that you are better than the other candidates, and to show that you have a tremendous capability and understanding and potential, irrespective of what the interviewer asks you.
Preparing and asking great questions at your own job interview dramatically reduces any dependance that you might otherwise have for the interviewer to ask you 'the right questions'. It won't matter if the interviewer doesn't ask good helpful questions, or fails to prompt the sort of discussion that allows you to show how brilliant you are - instead, you can control this area of discussion yourself by asking the interviewer great questions that will make them sit up and realise what an excellent candidate you are.
An helpful although not absolutely essential aspect towards asking the interviewer good questions is good research (which follows later on this page).
A key to asking great questions at your interview is to ask questions that impress the interviewer. Most candidates just ask about routine details that they think they ought to know, or which they think of on the spur of the moment, but which will probably be provided in due course anyway in documentation about terms and conditions. This is meaningless twaddle and to be avoided.
Instead focus on the job priorities and scope, on the organisation and ways to make a difference or an improvement. Try to think strategically like a manager, and for very senior positions, like the CEO. Try to adopt the mind-set of a helpful advisor who needs to ask helpful facilitative questions. Focus on the organisation not on your own needs.
Try to prepare and ask questions that make the interviewer think to themselves, "Wow, that's a good question - this candidate has really thought about the role, and understands the sort of issues we need them to handle/the sort of responsibilities/initiatives we want them to take.."
Aim to ask questions that make the interviewer think, (depending on what the organisation and role requires), "Wow, that's an unusual question - this candidate is special - they are demonstrating to me that they understand people/understand about communications/have great integrity/a strong value system/great humanity/maturity/a good strategic mind/etc, etc."
Think before the interview about what the successful candidate will be like - ask yourself beforehand, what great questions would the successful candidate ask? And then be that person.
When you research the job look into the sort of challenges the organisation is facing, and think how this affects the vacant role. What does the employer need from the successful applicant? How might the role be extended to contribute more to the organisation if the job were performed by a suitably positive and capable person ? (That's you incidentally.) The job advert or job specification might give you some clues. Do your research so that you understand as much as possible about the priorities of the job position, and the organisation and its situation, and then think about the ways that the role could be extended to provide greater support towards achieving organisational challenges.
This sort of background thinking will help you to prepare questions that will seriously impress any interviewer, whatever the role. It is possible also to think of good positive impressive questions just by using what you know of the role and the sort of issues that face modern employers. The point is, you need to think about it and prepare beforehand.
examples of good questions to ask interviewers
These types of questions are certainly appropriate for interviewees to ask an interviewer at an interview for a junior-to-middle ranking role. For more strategic roles and executive responsibilities you'll need to raise the strategic perspective of some of these questions - use your judgement. Remember, the aim is to make the interviewer think (always relative to the role), "Wow, that's a good question.."
In any event adapt the wording and develop alternative questions to suit your own style and the situations concerned.
"Of the main priorities and expectations attached to this role, which ones are well understood and measurable, and which are not?"
"If the CEO/MD/Departmental Manager/you were to name the three most important priorities for this role/the successful candidate to achieve in the first six months, what would they be, and how would they be measured?"
"I'm aware that this market is fast moving/competitive/mature/local/regional/national/international (whatever your research indicates); how is this affecting the strategic priorities and the demands on the role/vacant position?"
"Communications, internal and external, are clearly extremely important in this organisation; what are the related priorities for this role?"
"I've read that you (the employer organisation) face a lot of competition from XYZ (sector, company, whatever); what do you think are the main ways that the successful candidate can help the organisation deal with this threat?"
"Where are the priorities/What are the issues for this role/the successful candidate in terms of maintaining/developing/improving effective inter-departmental relations?"
"What are the priorities and challenges as regards areas for change and improvement facing the department/organisation/team within/connecting/relating to the role?"
"What is the balance of priorities for this role - short-term efficiencies and performance, or longer-term planning and organising?"
"If someone were to come into this role and begin to make a significant impact on culture and morale, what sort of changes would people/you/the management/the board/the CEO want to see most, and how would this be measured?"
"It's normal that most roles are operating considerably below their potential to contribute to strategic change/organisational performance and improvement; what are the expectations in terms of broadening the scope of this role"?
"How might this role positively impact on/contribute to customer relations/organisational development/culture/staff morale/training and development/legislative anticipation/market development/sales development/business retention in ways that it's not done so far?"
"Where do think there might be opportunities for this role to connect with/cooperate with other functions, and what's stopped that happening in the past?"
"What are the vulnerabilities in processes/people/business retention/grow/ technology, ITC systems within the organisation/department that need to be attended to?"
And so on.. You get the idea?
Serious, strategic, thoughtful, facilitative questions. Questions that amaze the interviewer - about things they might not have even considered. In fact the best questions should make the interviewer think, "My God, if this person can have this level of insight, and such a positive enlightened approach at the interview, just imagine what they'll be able to do when they get their feet under the table..."
This sort of positive expansive questioning is not limited to strategic management positions - every job role is potentially strategic - what makes the role strategic is the person doing it, not the job title or status.
And the role can be in any function, any industry, any type of organisation - doesn't matter - every role interfaces in some way or another with people, processes, other departments, customers and suppliers (internal or external), and so has a strategic dimension. recognise the strategic dimension; influence it positively, and you get asked to do it on a wider scale. Asking good questions at a job interview helps the job candidate to demonstrate that they have this potential.
Organisations, and therefore interviewers want to recruit people into all roles who can come in and make a positive difference. By asking well-prepared and thoughtful questions, you can demonstrate that you are one of these people.
Being an advocate of the maxim 'accentuate the positive' I am usually loath to dwell on negative examples, however in this case I make an exception because this is an important no-go area.
Just as it's helpful for interviewees to prepare and ask good questions, so it's helpful also to avoid asking routine questions that waste time and can often be covered more efficiently in some other way (by reading a document for example.)
questions to avoid asking
Contrast the expansive, positive strategic questions above, about job scope and contribution to organisational effectiveness, with this stuff below. Interviewers will generally react negatively (secretly usually) to questions such as the following examples, so unless you are a very junior person going for a very junior role with an employer who has not prepared in advance this type of routine information, avoid asking questions like these at your interview.
Generally speaking these questions suggest to the interviewer that the candidate is mostly interested in what the organisation can give the employee, rather than the other way around. Interviewers want to meet and recruit interviewees who see things in terms of what the employee can do for the organisation.
Find another way to get this sort of information if you really need to know it at the face-to-face interview. Good employers will explain all this to interviewees during the interview or in written terms and conditions, which many employers will send out prior to the interview. As suggested in the tips at the start of this page ask prior to the interview for a copy of the employment terms and conditions or an employee handbook. If they don't have this or can't send it, and you have a burning question about these sort of 'hygiene factors', the best way to approach it is to ask something like:
"What's the best way for me to see the routine details about the employment terms and conditions relating to this role? Do you have a handbook or sample contract for example? I don't want to waste time here going through incidentals..."
By doing this you demonstrate several important things, that:
Of course the job-grade and seniority of the vacancy and the size of the employer organisation will affect the significance and transfer of this sort of information. In an interview with a tiny little company for a junior clerk's position the interviewee can be forgiven for asking these sorts of questions relating to terms and conditions, not least because the company might not be professional or organised enough to have produced a proper handbook or contract, nevertheless, whatever the role and size of employer, the less time spent asking about all this sort of information the better. And certainly avoid the entire area in interviews for professional positions with professional employers, especially in commercially competitive functions and industry sectors.
A final point about questions to ask at interviews when you are the interviewee:
In certain circumstances, especially for sales and commercial roles, there might be an expectation or opportunity for you to 'close' or ask for the job, which is potentially the most powerful question of all to ask.
If you really want the job and can accept an offer there and then, there is often a lot to be gained, and very little to be lost, by asking for the job at the end of the interview, although bear in mind the effect that this tactic has on salary negotiation.
Obviously it's only appropriate in certain situations; notably towards the end of the recruiting process when the interviewers have seen all the candidates, or if the employer has more vacancies than they can easily fill.
Similarly, it's reasonable to ask for a second interview, or to be shortlisted, if that's the next stage in the process.
Persistence and determination are highly valued attributes, logically in sales and selling organisations, but also beyond the sales functions. In fact some job candidates successfully take the method to extremes and simply do not take no for an answer, virtually camping out on the employer's doorstep until they are eventually brought in from the cold and offered the job. The decision-maker, typically an owner-manager or CEO in such situations, is finally forced to concede that if the person wants the job that badly then perhaps they'll be rather a good bet after all. This sort of determination is often associated with loyalty and commitment - and uniqueness - which can all create a compelling case for decision-makers who are attuned to this sort of style, particularly if other candidates are thin on the ground.
While these extremes are not for everyone, anyone is entitled to ask for a job that they really want. Plenty of offers are not made because the interviewer doubts the seriousness or commitment of the interviewer. Asking for the job at least largely rules out that possibility.
Added to which, certain types of managers and directors (the ones who would normally ask for the job at their own interviews for example) respond positively when an interviewee looks them straight in the eye, pauses for dramatic effect, and says earnestly,
"I want this job. Make me the offer and I'll take it here and now."
It's not really a question, it's more of a statement of intent, and lots of decision-makers like to hear it.
As ever having other options - other interviews lined up, or even another offer - is helpful and can add an extra bit of pressure to your push.
If you fancy using the ploy, it's also worth thinking about exactly what you want to say. Decision-makers certainly like to hear that you like their organisation (that you'd not be inclined to be this determined were it any other employer) and that there are one or two compelling reasons for your wanting to do a great job for them, so it's worth thinking about how you might weave a few simple supporting points into your final coup de grace.
An employer or interviewer who is keen on you, who has satisfied they've been through the proper processes, and who knows or believes that you have other options, will sometimes give you the job offer there and then if you ask firmly and professionally for the job. Which of course saves a lot of time for all concerned, so if you feel like asking for the job - any job in fact - the approach is not limited to sales and commercial positions - then go for it.
The best time to negotiate salary is after receiving a job offer, and importantly before you accept a job offer - at the point when the employer clearly wants you for the job, and is keen to have your acceptance of the job offer. Your bargaining power in real terms, and psychologically, is far stronger if you have (or can say that you have) at least one other job offer or option (see the tips on negotiation). A strong stance at this stage is your best chance to provide the recruiting manager the justification to pay you something outside the employer's normal scale.
If there's a very big difference between what is being offered and what you want, say more than 20%, you should raise it as an issue during the interview for discussion later (rather than drop it as a bombshell suddenly when the job offer is made). Do not attempt to resolve a salary issue before receiving a job offer - there's no point. Defer the matter - say you'll need to discuss salary in due course, but that there's obviously no need to do so until and unless the company believes you are the right person for the job. "Let's cross that bridge when we come to it," should be the approach.
A job and package comprise of many different things - unless the difference between what's offered and needed is enormous (in which case the role is simply not appropriate) both sides should look at all of the elements before deciding whether salary is actually an issue or not.
The chances of renegotiating salary after accepting a new job, and certainly after starting a new job, are remote - once you accept the offer you've effectively made the contract, including salary, and thereafter you are subject to the organization's policies, process and natural inertia.
A compromise agreement on salary, in the event that the employer cannot initially employ you at the rate you need, is to agree (in writing) a guaranteed raise, subject to completing a given period of service, say 3 or 6 months. In which case avoid the insertion of 'satisfactory' (describing the period of service) as this can never actually be measured and therefore fails to provide certainty that the raise will be given.
If you are recruiting a person who needs or demands more money or better terms than you can offer, then deal with the matter properly before the candidate accepts the job - changing pay or terms after this is very much more difficult. If you encourage a person to accept pay and terms that are genuinely lower than they deserve or need, by giving a vague assurance of a review sometime in the future, you will raise expectations for something that will be very difficult to deliver, and therefore storing up a big problem for the future.
At second interviews, unsuitable applicants should have been screened out by this stage. For certain jobs a decision will be made to offer the job after the second interviews; recruitments for senior positions may proceed to third interviews.
Second interview questions should be deep and probing about the candidate and the candidate's approach to work. The questions should concern detailed and testing examples and scenarios specific to the particular job, asking how the candidate would deal with them. This is to discover as reliably as possible how the candidate would approach the job, and what type of person they are - the interviewer needs to be sure they will get on with the candidate you and that they will fit in well.
The interviewer should also probe the type of management that the candidate responds to and doesn't, and how the candidate would work with other people and departments, giving specific examples and scenarios.
Tests and practical exercises using actual work material or examples can be used, which enable a practical assessment of the candidate's real style, ability, knowledge and experience.
The candidate can be asked to prepare and give a short presentation about themselves, or how they would approach the job or a particular challenge. This could involve the use of certain equipment and materials, particularly if such ability is to be required in the job.
The interviewer should also try to get to know more about the candidate as a person - to be as sure as possible that this is the right person for the situation; the interview approach should be probing and gaining practical evidence, proof, of suitability.
A good second interview should establish as reliably as possible the candidate's suitability and ability for the specific needs of the job, which includes the work, relationships, aspirations, and personal background.
There is nothing wrong in the candidate asking the organisation prior to the interview what to plan and prepare for in the second interview - interviewers should regard this as a positive sign, and it may help the candidate to give some clear information on what to expect and prepare for.
Certain senior jobs recruitments will involve a lunch or dinner so that the interviewer and other senior managers or executives can see you in relaxed mode. This is an excellent way to discover more about the personality of an applicant.
Group selection (normally a half-day or even whole day) - see below - is a very good alternative to conventional one-to-one interviews after first interview stage. Group selection puts all the candidates together for a series of activities and tasks, which can then be observed by a panel of interviewers. Individuals can be asked to prepare and give presentations, and various other exercises relevant to the job. One-to-one interviews follow later in the day when the group has been reduced in numbers. Group selection takes a lot longer than a conventional second interview and all candidates should be notified as to the process and outline agenda.
interview follow-up letter or email by interviewee
If you are particularly keen to be offered a job and wish to increase your profile and chances of receiving a job offer after attending interview, you can follow up an interview with a letter or email (and then a phone call) to reinforce your commitment and qualities for the job. The sooner the better.
Often jobs are offered to the most passionate and determined applicants, so this should be the feeling that your follow-up should try to convey, without giving the impression of desperation or crawling.
You should seek to focus your follow-up letter or email on the key performance aspects in the role that the interviewer believes are required for the successful applicant.
This type of follow-up enables you to show that you have considered and developed your thinking after the interview (a desirable attribute), and also enables you to re-emphasise your claim to the opportunity, bringing your name to the front of the interviewer's mind again. A good follow-up letter or email also enables you to demonstrate that you are persistent, professional, interested, possess relevant capabilities, recognise what the requirements and priorities are, are keen, and can sell yourself in a determined manner, that probably the other applicants will not do.
Interviewers also respond well to applicants who really like the company, especially if your reasons coincide with the reasons that the interviewer likes the company too, so it can help if your follow-up 'resonates' with the feelings of the interviewer about what is required for the role.
From the interviewer's perspective - if you are an interviewer or decision-maker who receives a good follow-up letter from an enthusiastic interviewee - I recommend you give the applicant extra credit and consideration. They are demonstrating many of the most relevant qualities that you are seeking.
sample follow-up letter from interviewee after interview
Use and adapt this template example to create your own interview follow-up letter or email.
You interviewed me on (date) for the (role) position.
I really want this job, so I'm taking the liberty of re-stating why I think you should choose me:
(then list 3-5 short points which relate your skills, knowledge, experience, achievements, character, attitude, to the results and effects they'll be seeking from the person appointed. It is very important that these points demonstrate that you have clearly understood and can deliver - specific measurable things if possible - what they need for the role, for example:)
You might have seen better qualified applicants, or people with more relevant experience, but when it comes down to it, it's the person with the most passion and determination who is able to make a real difference. I'd urge you to give me the chance to prove I am that person.
You could also follow up the letter/email with a phone call to ask what the interviewer thinks, and if there's anything else that you can do or provide to help the interviewer decide.
Persistence often pays off, especially in roles which require someone who can get results by making things happen, which applies to most roles in business and organisations these days, and certainly all management roles.
When you follow-up your own job interview with passion, determination and expertise, the interviewer sees real evidence of how you can perform in the job itself.
The interview follow-up letter, email and phone call is therefore a great opportunity for you to demonstrate many of your attributes for real, in a way that will raise your profile, re-state your credentials and understanding of the role's requirements, and thereby create a clear separation between you and the other job candidates.
The Group Selection recruitment method (also called recruitment assessment centres or recruitment assessment days) offers several advantages over conventional one-to-one interviewing, which because of the limitations of one-to-one interviews, many interviewers find a very unsatisfactory method in recruitment and selection. Group Selection enables a number of people from the organisation to observe a number of job candidates, as they go through a series of specially designed activities.
Group Selection also offers the recruiting organisation an excellent opportunity to present the company and the job in a very professional way, thus appealing to and attracting the best candidates. Also, the unsuccessful candidates leave the process with a very positive impression of the organisation and the experience as a whole.
Group Selection also enables the the best people to show themselves to be the best, often working on real job-related scenarios, which removes much of the guesswork about people's true abilities. One-to-one interviews tend to favour the 'professional interviewee' types, who present very well, but who might then fail to deliver - 'all mouth and trousers' as the expression has it.
There are very many different ways to structure a group selection or recruitment assessment centre/day. The further group selection ideas below will help expand possibilities for this super process.
Screening interviews are useful in short-listing candidates for group selections. For a senior job group selection, screening interviews and psychometric assessments are recommended to shortlist candidates.
Group selection activities are by far the most reliable way to see what people are really like, provided the process is carefully planned, managed and facilitated. If you'd like advice about Group Selection methods or designing a Group Selection day please get in touch. Here's an outline of the process:
For sales, sales management, and sales training vacancies, the Sales Activator® system is an excellent resource for interviews, recruitment and selection, and group selection methods.
ideas for designing group selection recruitment, graduate assessment days and other assessment centre recruitment days
Many of these principles are important for any sort of recruitment process - not just for group selections. Also, many of the group selection ideas can be adapted and incorporated into traditional recruitment and interview processes.
This process grid illustrates the point. In both cases - conventional interviewing or group selection recruitment - the first step (assessment specification) is crucial. Everything else is built on this. If there is no assessment specification, or if it is flawed, then the event will be flawed and so will the outcomes.
The structure and activities of group selection days are flexible. Keep to the important principles and process above, but other than that try to be innovative and creative, and always aim to ensure that the recruitment process is pleasurable and positively memorable for all job applicants.
When you communicate with and organize job applicants you are continually presented with opportunities to give a powerful and positive impression of your organization. Treat everyone as if they were a customer, and the experience will produce various good outcomes in addition to successful recruitment.
How you design and structure your group selection day depends largely on the recruitment situation and the characteristics or profile - the sort of person - you are seeking: their skills, experience, the demands of the role, the culture of the employer department and organisation, the role's priorities and success measures.
The group selection activities and content ideas below are just examples. They are not attached to specific assessment characteristics, measures or outcomes, which must be identified before deciding on suitable activities.
Your first step is therefore to understand and specify what your needs are and how to measure when someone meets those needs.
Then you can start designing group selection or assessment centre activities and the format of the event, be it a day or a half-day. There are no fixed rules - a half-day is more suitable for junior roles. Very important roles might justify more than a day - or maybe even a weekend.
The best assessment methods are typically built on the best assessment criteria.
This is a simple statement, but a very important principle: You will more reliably find the right person if you first know exactly the sort of person you are seeking, and how to assess that they meet the selection criteria.
Start by asking yourself (and ask other people with interest in the recruitment):
When you understand the gaps or failings in your recruitment, then you know some useful areas to focus on in order to improve your methods.
In addition to filling the gaps and addressing the weaknesses of your current methods you must look at the role(s) being recruited in detail, and establish profiles so you can clearly define (and communicate to others) what you are seeking.
Defining a role or person-specification can be challenging, but approached logically it's possible to define anything.
It's like the 'talent' question - which especially relates to graduate recruitment and young-person recruitment:
How can you to identify, assess and measure 'talent'?
The answer to the sample interview question how do you measure talent? illustrates the main principle: first define what it is - break it down - attach parameters or measures or standards; then you have a basis for assessment or development.
This same principle applies to designing good group selection and assessment centres.
To identify, assess, measure and develop anything you first need to define what it is.
You define something by understanding it and describing it, and breaking it down into elements or component parts: a profile of some sort that is clear and meaningful and usable to those involved.
At its simplest, an assessment specification or personal profile is a checklist, ideally with some measures attached.
So, to run a successful group selection day or recruitment assessment centre, you must first create your assessment specification.
Define and describe the person you need - using as many elements as necessary - and then attach some measures to each element.
Having identified all the criteria that would define a successful new starter for the given role(s), you can then design appropriate and corresponding assessment methods.
This assessment specification can refer to as many perspectives as you need - personality, skills, attitude, experience, values and philosophy, emotional maturity, situation and circumstances - anything relevant to and required by the role and employer.
Some elements of the specification (person profile) will be mandatory ('must have') - others could be optional.
Alternatively decide if each element is 'essential' or 'desirable'.
The skill-sets and training needs analysis templates helps to illustrate this - and will provide a basic format for creating your recruitment assessment specification in the shape of a 'person profile'. You could even use a TNA (training needs analysis) spreadsheet for organizing the assessments and results. The process of assessment according to defined elements is basically the same for recruitment as it is for development appraisals and training needs.
How you structure the person profile or assessment specification is up to you. Ideally it should enables you to attach measures and methods by which to assess whether the measures are met.
Having established your assessment specification (or person profile or checklist and measures), suitably broken down into elements or parts - you can design suitable methods, activities, sessions, etc., which will enable the applicants to demonstrate their capabilities, and for you to assess them objectively - against a proper specification, rather than having to rely on your subjective 'gut instinct'.
You might find the training planning format useful for this, especially to understand the process of analysing a capability and then attaching a method of assessment or development to it. Here is a training planner (xls format), and also as a pdf.
Again, the process of assessment in recruitment is very close to the process of training design assessment and development. All require understanding of the whole person or role, breaking this down into manageable elements, attaching parameters or measures, and then designing activities or methods of assessment or development.
It's worth remembering, because it assessment and development are closely linked, that job applicants attending a good group selection or recruitment assessment will also derive a development benefit from the experience.
We cannot fail to learn and develop when we undertake good assessment activities. Keep this in mind. It will help you to design a high-quality and beneficial event.
ideas, activities, methods and examples for groups selection and recruitment assessment centres
The aim of designing and running a good group selection event - as well as identifying and successfully recruiting the best job candidates for your vacancies - is for all those attending to leave with the feeling that they had a great day, that they learned and developed a lot about themselves, and that you are a wonderful positive employer. Achieve this, and applicants will always look for your vacancies, and they'll tell all their friends too what a fantastically well-organized and positive experience it was - even if they never got the job.
Here are some ideas for creating magnificent, memorable, beneficial and successful group selections and recruitment assessment centre events.
As with the principles above about creating a person profile and assessment specification before deciding on the assessment activities, these ideas are not all restricted to group selections. Many of the concepts are adaptable and transferable to conventional recruitment interviewing processes.
I emphasise again the importance of first creating your assessment specification (selection criteria or person profile or checklist and measures - whatever you call it) before you design your activities.
You must know what you are measuring before you decide how to measure it.
Here are the ideas. You will find many more ideas and methodologies for assessment centres and recruitment group selection days all over this website, especially in the sections dealing with teambuilding, learning styles, personality and profiling systems, appraisals and training needs analysis, and training evaluation.
1. Identify the gap and weaknesses in your existing methods.
Fixing current weaknesses in recruitment - the issues and characteristics that are typically never uncovered - is a great way to start thinking of what activities to put into a group selection event.
How do you know what your current gaps and weaknesses are?
As ever - don't guess. Why guess when you can ask people and find out for certain?
Seek applicant feedback (especially from unsuccessful applicants) as to what skills, capabilities, potential were not exposed or explored by the day's activities, or by conventional interviews.
Additionally, conduct exit interviews especially when new starters leave soon after joining. What mistakes were made? What was missed during the recruitment stage?
Discovering weaknesses with your current methods will help you improve and develop your assessment specification.
When you run any recruitment process you are effectively a supplier, and the applicants are effectively your customers.
You must aim to delight them - to have them leave with a good feeling - that they have been fairly treated. This partly achieved by planning and organizing an interesting, dynamic and developmental experience, but mainly it results from giving people clear opportunities to demonstrate how they can best meet the specification for the job.
By providing a complete process aligned to the full specification, you improve the clarity and justification of your decision-making for the unsuccessful applicants. The unsuccessful then understand better why they did not succeed and are less likely to bear ill will.
Paths cross often. Job applicants are all potential customers. Make friends. Be good and fair to people.
2. Consider that different personalities and learning styles respond in different ways - and so need different ways to demonstrate their capabilities.
Again these principles apply beyond group selections - they apply to conventional interviews too.
Consider that different personalities, communications styles, and learning styles among people will cause some assessment activities to be easier or more advantageous for some people than others.
In the future technology will make it possible to tailor assessment tasks and activities according to individual personality.
How far you can explore this currently will vary according to your resourcefulness and access to modern methods and systems, etc.
At a basic level consider using a VAK or Multiple Intelligences or Kolb assessment at the outset of the day, to enable assessors (and to an extent delegates too) to weigh/allow for individual preferences/personality styles/strengths - and also to demonstrate that you understand that different people have different styles and needs, and that you have done your best to structure a balanced series of activities.
At a more advanced level, technology will increasingly enable us be able to build some sort of 'artificial intelligence' into the day/processes/activities, not only to be able to assess people, but also to assess people in a way that is appropriate for each person's personality and natural preferences. (See the Benziger theory if you want to understand this more about natural preferences.)
3. 'Life-stage theory', emotional balance and maturity (relative to age), are significant factors in the behaviour and effects of people at work.
Explore emotional maturity and 'life-stage' factors among job applicants.
All the skills and experience in the world won't matter if the applicant's emotional foundation is seriously or temporarily impaired or vulnerable. Emotional problems can often appear as force of character, ultra-competitiveness, egocentricity, wit, wackiness, eccentricity, workaholism, etc., which for certain recruitments can be appealing. Be careful. You want someone who will make a difference - but a good difference.
Conversely: genuinely stable, well-balanced and psychologically robust people are an asset to any organization, pretty well regardless of the role, skills, ambition, and natural (personality) style preferences.
Having a good reference point or discussion framework to explore emotional balance and maturity helps avoid being seduced by extreme behaviour, especially if the assessment specification or role requires strength of character, or other characteristics that verge on extreme.
Exuding more testosterone than Genghis Khan on acid might be good for the ratings on the Dragons Den or The Apprentice (I refer to the panel not the contestants), but would you really want to manage someone like that in your organization, never mind the damage they'd do to the good folk around them? Entrepreneurial egomania and organizational employment rarely combine happily.
Having a good reference point for emotional balance and maturity also helps remind us during the recruitment process that life and work are (thank goodness) becoming more civilized. Successful workers, good managers and great leaders these days are civilized and emotionally mature.
People with problems can be very successful entrepreneurs, and they can make a big short-term impact in an organization, but usually they create a lot of fall-out. Emotionally immature people (again this is not necessarily age-related) tend to create mess, casualties, and at some stage need help themselves when problems can no longer be masked. The egocentric entrepreneur will typically create their own passive environment (their equivalent of a padded cell some might say), but such tendencies (often typified by bullying or temper tantrums) are extremely damaging to organizations where there are other concerns like staff, customers and suppliers. You don't need these extreme characters if they come with emotional baggage: they don't possess sufficient reserves to really care about you and their fellow workers. So don't kid yourself that a bit of madness or psychosis can be good for a modern organization; it isn't.
As an aside, this invites a fascinating question: at what point does extreme personality or questionable emotional balance fall within the bounds of disability and equality legislation? Thankfully we have not arrived at the point (yet) where rejecting an applicant for reasons of personality or attitude could be deemed unlawful. No doubt a test-case will arise before too long.
Whatever, however you do it, any group selection should address emotional maturity. I repeat it is not an age thing. It's whether the person is grounded, reasonable, thoughtful, balanced - you know: a grown-up. It's simple but often overlooked.
I value the Erik Erikson model greatly. It provides a super learning and self-awareness discussion framework.
If you are proposing to go into some depth with people ensure the session facilitated by an expert or trained counsellor, appropriate to the personality theory used.
Transactional Analysis is another immensely powerful, helpful and potentially revealing model. There are many wonderful TA practitioners who will be able to help with this aspect - whether from an activities or assessment viewpoint, or both.
If I could do one thing in group selection it would be to explore emotional maturity ('grown-upness' we might say) - because, irrespective of age, in my experience emotional maturity is the greatest attribute for sustaining successful work and contribution to any modern organization.
As the modern age and competitive pressures require organizations and their people to be ever-more self-managing, the 'grown-upness' attribute will become even more significant.
An emotionally mature person will always tend to find solutions and resolve problems - even if they do not have the skills or experience.
Whereas even the most technically skilled and experienced but emotionally immature person is liable, in response to sometimes the weirdest trigger at any unforeseen moment, to implode, explode, rant, rave, suck in unbelievable amounts of management (or boardroom) time, and generally be the biggest recruitment disaster of your career.
You will gather by now that I consider one of the great opportunities at a group selection event is to identify and avoid recruiting emotionally immature people.
Approach the subject with care however. At a simple level simply facilitate a group discussion about emotional maturity and observe people's contributions and reactions.
Seek expert advice and facilitation if you want to go into more depth.
Helpfully emotional balance and maturity links with the next area - integrity and ethics - which is easier to incorporate within group selection and assessment activities.
4. Integrity and ethics - together a crucial factor for sustainable success at work in the modern age.
Integrity, ethics, compassion, humanity are like emotional maturity fundamental to sustainable success in modern organisations.
Therefore find a way to explore these values and philosophical factors somehow at any assessment centre.
Incidentally emotional maturity and ethics, integrity, humanity are linked by the simple concept of consideration for others - the opposite of selfishness and greed, to put it another way. (See the Erikson life stages section if you want to understand this more clearly. And see the note at the end of the next section about reconciling money and ambition with ethics and integrity.)
Of course these factors (ethics, integrity, compassion, etc) are only relevant to your recruitment if the work environment and corporation require and aspire to these things.
If not, then it's unlikely that a well-run group selection is the answer to current challenges.
On a complex level, ethics and integrity can be difficult to measure and judge, but at the level we need to assess, it's simple.
We all basically know the difference between right and wrong - or the difference between a good act and a selfish one - and the difference between the truth and a lie. Telling a lie in order to gain or save business, or to cover up a mistake is not acceptable. This isn't about having a doctorate in morality - it's basic integrity.
Striking exactly the right balance in very difficult questions is not always impossible - there will always be ethical questions for which there is no right answer, usually because the problem is actually rooted way back when someone else got a far simpler decision wrong. Your aim however is not to resolve the wrongs of the world, nor to find new recruits with such a capability. But you do need to determine whether your new recruits are the right side of ethical and truthful given the standards set by your own organization.
Ethics and integrity are crucial in the modern age of work and business, and therefore should be part of modern selection criteria.
Moreover today staff at all levels should know that the organization is honest and ethical, and that the organization expects the same of its people.
Simple methods of addressing and exploring these issues at a group selection assessment day are for example:
N.B. A short note about ambition and money is appropriate: Being competitive and financially ambitious and striving for status and responsibility does not make a person unethical. Wanting to work hard, earn a high salary, achieve status are perfectly normal and natural tendencies in many people (see Maslow's theory for example), and these traits are desirable in many roles. There is a point however at which a person's determination and method of pursuit causes damage, harm, upset or risk to other people or the wider environment, and I suggest that this is when the ethics alarm bells begin to ring.
5. Personality profiling - involve the people - explain and give feedback.
There are many good personality profiling systems available.
Each has a different perspective and value. Some systems are quite similar, especially if based on the same basic psychological theory.
See the personality page for ideas and examples.
Work with a provider or system that will be helpful and constructive to the recruitment process, which means being transparent and inclusive, not secret and aloof, as some systems and providers can be.
Avoid using psychometrics (personality profiling) just for the sake of it.
Always involve the delegates in explaining the system and how it works and what it means. (Remember everyone should leave the event with a positive feeling - that they've learned and developed).
Accentuate the positives. Good systems do not attach 'good' or 'bad' to people's traits.
People are strong in different ways. People approach tasks and responsibilities in different ways. There is not a single 'right' profile.
Used well, psychometrics help us all to see where and how people (including ourselves) can be most effective.
Graphology (hand-writing analysis) makes a fascinating session, and is revealing in many ways. As with any specialised session, ensure you involve a suitably qualified expert to facilitate the session, analysis, feedback and follow-up as appropriate.
Importantly, avoid creating the impression (and of course the reality too) that recruitment decisions are largely based on psychometric testing.
It is sensible to decide before the event the 'weighting' of psychometrics and to convey this to the delegates so they know it's just a part of the picture.
It is not sensible to reject any applicant on the basis of psychometrics alone, and it is daft to give any applicant the impression that this has occurred in their case. (It does happen..)
5. Projects and tasks based on work scenarios enable practical demonstration and evidence of capabilities, style, etc.
You can issue work-related tasks on the day, however you can achieve greater value from issuing practical assignments (formulation of plans, presentations, etc) if you do so a week (or two or three, depending on the situation, the job-role and the timescales) before the actual day of the assessment or group selection.
This increases the range of the task content and the review to a lot more than if the assignment is issued on the day itself.
This also gives the nervous or quieter applicants a fairer opportunity to shine without having to rely totally on the day's 'performance'.
You can relate the assignment task(s) for preparation before the group selection or assessment day and/or on the day to real work situations or not, as appropriate - do whatever helps you best to assess the attributes concerned.
Stipulate the rules - especially if issuing a task in advance of the event - and especially to clarify the situation about seeking support or help for the assignment.
Since much modern work - especially management - is mostly dependent on initiative and resourcefulness and working with others, rather than one's own knowledge or personal ability, do not leap to the assumption that a task must be 'all their own work'.
Whatever you deem it should be, as ever, clarify the expectations; and don't create any rules for which you will be completely unable to assess compliance, or the rule will be meaningless.
6. Extending the tasks ideas - applicants can be asked to engage with existing staff and other people connected with the organization.
You can make the tasks even more real.
You might for example be able to organize exercises or sessions connecting the applicants with staff around the organization.
This enables you to see (and for delegates to experience) real engagement with existing staff.
Many failed recruitments are accompanied by a regret on both sides that "..If only we could have known we were simply not going to get on with each other before accepting/offering the job.."
Who says you cannot get people to engage with potential colleagues as part of the recruitment process? You can if it makes sense.
Incorporating reality and actual involvement - so that exercises deal with real situations and real people - can give rise to other helpful benefits elsewhere in the organization, if it's possible to do this.
Provided it's not seen as an unwanted distraction, existing staff will also enjoy the participative involvement aspect, again if it's possible to organize.
The task doesn't need to be technically demanding if what you are assessing is the 'getalongability' factor, which can be so crucial for team-based roles. Simply, an information-gathering task or quiz about the company can provide an interesting and enjoyable basis for assessing how people actually engage with real colleagues and the real organizational environment.
Feedback from pre-selected staff can also be helpful and can be structured as an adaptation of the 360 appraisal concept.
Involvement and buy-in among existing staff for recruitment decisions - again especially for team-based roles - can be helpful beyond the recruitment itself.
This modern integrated approach can help expose many unknowns that characterize traditional recruitment, in which selection decisions are largely based on hypothetical scenarios and questions. Recruitment becomes less risky the more we work with and observe candidates operating in real situations.
For the more adventurous, you can even extend the engagement to involve customers, suppliers, or even potential customers.
If you want to put a toe in the water why not involve one or two key customers or suppliers in the day?
This level of involvement has positive benefits for company relations too, outside of the recruitment.
Imagine the strengthening of relations with suppliers and customers if the idea were to grow and you were to reciprocate and help each other with assessment days..
7. Other group selection examples and ideas
There are many other aspects and ideas that you can include in a group selection day or event. Above I've focused on the more innovative aspects. There are several basic elements of the day which need to be considered too, briefly summarised here. Again, while this section is mainly focused on group selection assessment events, the principles and many of the ideas also transfer to conventional interview recruitment:
Group selection assessment recruitment events offer dramatically more scope for selling the job, and for finding the right candidate(s).
A group selection event does however require a lot more planning than a one-to-one interview.
You can be very creative when designing group selection recruitment events.
The event reflects on your organisation.
Aim to create a positive experience for people - whether they get the job or not.
The principles and many of the ideas adapt and transfer to conventional interview recruitment.
Whether recruiting through group selection or interviews alone - always ensure you define the requirement very clearly (the person profile, developed into an assessment specification, broken down in to manageable measurable elements) before you design or select your assessment activities and/or interview questions.
Your final selection decision can only ever be as good as your definition of the person you are seeking.
From the interviewer's standpoint when writing to unsuccessful interviewees, it's essential that you do not write anything that could carry a liability for claims of discrimination, libel or defamation of character. If you are the interviewing manager or have the responsibility for sending interviews rejection letters and have any doubt about local policies and laws concerning interviews rejection letters, consult with your HR department before writing and sending job interviews letters to unsuccessful candidates.
Generally the safest kindest way to write an interview rejection letter is to simply say thank you, and to state that the reason for the interviewee not being successful is due to there being better qualified candidates. Below is a sample thank you rejection letter.
See the notes below also relating to more complex and positive rejections of job applications, notably for additional guidance about giving constructive feedback to unsuccessful applicants.
basic sample job interviews rejection letter
Name and address of candidate.
Dear (Mr/Ms/Mrs/Miss Surname)
Thank you for attending the interview (or group selection event) with us on (date) at (location) for the position of (position).
While you presented yourself extremely well and impressed us very much, I regret that we are not on this occasion able to offer you the position, due to there being other better qualified (or more suitably qualified) candidates.
I thank you for the interest and enthusiasm you have shown and wish you all the best for the future.
Best wishes, etc
sample job interviews 'holding' letter
Here's a job interviews 'holding' letter, to be used when the selection decision is delayed for some reason, when it is important to acknowledge and thank the interviewee and keep them informed (and interested) in the position:
Name and address of candidate.
Dear (Mr/Ms/Mrs/Miss Surname)
Thank you for attending the interview (or group selection event) with us on (date) at (location) for the position of (position).
You presented yourself extremely well and impressed us very much, and the interview process is still ongoing. We will be in touch as soon as possible to inform you whether we can offer you the position or not (or when and if we will need to see you again).
I thank you for the interest and enthusiasm you have shown thus far. Should you have any questions meanwhile please let me know.
Best wishes, etc
Here are some further ideas for job applications rejections, sample letters, and especially how to deal with unsuccessful applicants more sympathetically and constructively. Use or adapt these examples and ideas when informing job applicants that they have been unsuccessful in applying for job interviews, or after unsuccessfully attending job interviews (if you are a pioneering manager working outside of the HR department you should agree things first with your HR department).
This is a challenging area that many employers will not be able, or desire, to explore. Which is fine. You'll get around to it when you are good and ready...
First of all, you are not obliged to give a reason for the rejection. It is not a good thing to concoct a reason, not least because people aren't stupid (think back to your own experiences when you've been given a flimsy excuse or reason), and obviously you should avoid writing anything to a job applicant that could be regarded as discriminatory or insulting.
However, you should try to add a positive aspect to rejection letters if you can. It's good to do so, especially when someone has clearly tried their best. It's a wicked world - why not try to make it little kinder. People remember when they have been treated well; they tell their friends, and they'll remember when and if you meet them again one day. What goes around comes around, as they say.
Employers routinely reject people without a care for the rejected person's sensitivities; it's an assumption passed down from manager to successor. "We've always done it that way - why waste time bothering about people?...".
However, a little consideration can help a lot to reduce the demoralizing effect of receiving a rejection letter...
If the application or interview is a good one, but not quite good enough to succeed, it often makes sense to keep the person's details for possible future reference. If you plan to do this then tell the person. It's a positive aspect, albeit within a rejection letter. Having said this, don't just say it for the sake of it.
Particularly forward-thinking employers (and able managers) can offer to give applicants constructive feedback on their unsuccessful applications (and failed interviews too), and this again is an option that you can choose or not, in which case be mindful as ever about potential discrimination and defamatory risks. Postal or telephone feedback is possible, each of which of course have implications for time and control, and costs, for the employer - it's your choice. If you offer feedback ensure it is fair and that you establish a process for identifying a few constructive points, giving them, and recording them, which can quite easily be incorporated into the normal recruitment process and documentation. You will after all have made the rejection on specific grounds, rather than on a whim, in which case, it's a logical step to then communicate these points back to the applicant. One can easily argue that it's only fair to do so. A simple way to do this is to create a simple list of the most common reasons for rejecting people, and to indicate on the list the reason(s) applicable to each person failing to progress.
Giving positive feedback verbally or in writing, outside of a controlled list of reasons, requires a certain level of skill, so that the feedback is not perceived as a criticism, and so that the discussion or communication (whether verbal or a written response) remains adult-to-adult. Written feedback is safer, but verbal feedback is better, if handled well. The risk is that the feedback leads to defence or argument from the recipient, so it's important to accentuate the positive and be objective and factual, for example: "Clearer presentation of your qualifications would have enabled us to make a fuller assessment," or "The application would have stood a better chance if it had been more neatly presented," or "We needed to see more evidence that you understood the communications and relationships requirements of the role."
Here's an example of a feedback template which can be used by managers who perhaps do not possess sufficient ability to work without one.
feedback template example - for use after job application rejection
NB - These are examples of feedback points - amend and add to them to suit your situation.
applicant feedback template example - for use after job application or interview rejection
NB - These are examples of feedback points - amend and add to them to suit your situation.
Giving (one or a few) points of feedback like this keeps the feedback factual, constructive, and provides the person with some helpful pointers for improving applications that they'll make in the future.
Receiving feedback enables you to improve your recruitment and interviews processes. Also, allowing the other person to give some feedback helps them to feel better about their experience, and also leaves them with a much more positive impression about you, instead of remembering you simply as the employer who rejected them.
Giving verbal feedback also provides an excellent opportunity to ask for feedback from the candidate concerning the candidate's experience and feelings about the organisation's recruitment process. Like any feedback about organisational performance this is valuable stuff, so seek it out. It will also lead to a more balanced feedback discussion, allowing the unsuccessful candidate to make some of their own points, which most folk find quite an uplifting and pleasing experience.
In order to offer and give constructive feedback a lot depends on the scale and the size of the business, the people handling the recruitment, the type of jobs being advertised, the type of people applying, the market or trade sector, the employer's attitude towards PR, and not least, how you feel about trying to do good and helping people wherever possible. Aside from simply being a good thing to do for people, a lot of goodwill and positive reactions result from offering and giving good constructive feedback. Unlike most aspects of the recruitment process, you're giving a little bit back, not just taking, rejecting, and leaving people feeling bereft, which is the common application rejection experience.
The employment and recruitment world is a cruel one, so it's good to make it a little happier and more helpful if you can.
Giving constructive feedback to unsuccessful applicants and interviewees is also particularly good to do when dealing with candidates who are already employed within the organisation. This is for obvious reasons, not least: they'll be more likely to stay motivated and feel positive about the organisation; they'll be more likely to present their next application in a better way; and they'll better understand why they didn't succeed on this occasion and hopefully be less likely to blame others for not having succeeded.
See Transactional Analysis - it's a communications and behaviour model that is enormously helpful to handling potentially emotional discussions.
See also exit interviews - it's a different subject and process obviously, but rooted in a similar philosophy: trying to help people where you can.
sample rejection letter for unsuccessful job interview or job applications
(job title) vacancy
Thank you for applying for the vacancy (above/for ....).
(Or - Thank you or attending the interview for the vacancy [above/for ....] on [date].)
I am sorry that on this occasion you have not been successful, (despite presenting yourself very well).
(If you have no objection we will keep your details on file for possible future reference.)
(When we receive a particularly good application that is not successful - as yours is - we offer to give the applicant some constructive feedback about their application, and we would like to make this offer to you. If you'd like this to happen please let us know by (phoning/writing/emailing - as appropriate) and we will be in touch.
I wish you all the best for the future.
Yours sincerely, etc.
See also the guide to exit interviews, with sample exit interviews questions, and tips for interviewers and interviewees.
For interviewers and interviewees, much of the information above in the main job interviews article is relevant to job promotion interviews.
These tips chiefly focus on interviews rather than group selections. Attending group selections for job promotion is a different matter, which I'll comment on briefly now:
Group selection enables the employer's selection panel to observe behaviour and interaction in a group situation. Job promotion candidates in these situations should therefore behave in a way that will impress the selection panel, in areas which the employer logically expects the group selection process or exercise to highlight. Here are the sorts of behaviours that impress when demonstrated by group selection candidates: responsibility, integrity, leadership, maturity, enthusiasm, organisation, planning, creativity, noticing and involving quiet members of the group, calmness under pressure, and particularly discovering and using other people's abilities in order for the team to achieve given tasks.
The remainder of this item concerns job promotion interview situations.
For interviewees, the same principles apply as in new employer job interviews. Interviewers commonly assess interviewees according to their own personal style and approach - people like people like them. For example: friendly people like friendly people; results-driven people like results-driven people; dependable reliable passive people like dependable reliable passive people; and detailed correct people like detailed correct people.
As an interviewer, when interviewing try to see the interviewee according to their own frame of reference not your own - you will make a fairer assessment.
As an interviewee be aware that even the most objective interviewer - even if aided by psychometric job profiles and applicant test results - will always tend to be more attracted to applicants who are like them, rather than applicants who are unlike them; it's human nature.
When as an interviewee you attend promotion interviews, your answers should be orientated to match the style preferences of the interviewer. Try to see things in the way they see them, and express your answers and ideas in language and terms that they will relate to and understand. Don't distort the truth or make claims you cannot substantiate or deliver - show that you understand how your boss and/or the interviewer sees the situation, and how they see that the job needs to be done successfully.
Rebels and mould-breakers are rarely promoted because they are seen as a threat or liability, so if you have rebellious tendencies it's a good idea to tone them down a little for the promotion interview. In the rare case that a distinctly mould-breaking individual is required for the role, such a requirement will be stated, then by all means go for it, all guns blazing.
At promotion interviews, interviewers particularly expect to hear the applicant's practical and cost effective ideas and plans for the new job. As the candidate, be able to demonstrate how well you understand the business and the organization. This requires that you do some research. Avoid the common tendency to think that internal candidates already know what they need to and therefore have a better chance than, for example, an external candidate. If an external candidate has done their research they will impress the interviewer more than an internal candidate who hasn't.
Doing some research - above and beyond your normal sphere of responsibility and operation - demonstrates your potential, and particularly your capability to make a difference in the promoted role, which for most promotions is a strong requirement. If it isn't a requirement then it's a big advantage over another candidate who hasn't thought outside of the box, so to speak.
Doing good imaginative research, especially looking at organisational and departmental threats and opportunities, also enables you to prepare and ask great questions of the interviewer, which regardless of the way the interviewer handles the interview, provides you with a great way to show your potential.
If appropriate, your ideas can be fresh and innovative (especially if the interviewer is innovative and creative themselves), but you must above all be able to demonstrate a clear grasp of 'cause and effect', and the importance of achieving a suitable return on investment or effort.
Promotion almost always involves having responsibility for making decisions about the use of time and resources. Interviewers need to be convinced that you understand how to handle this responsibility - to identify priorities, to focus effort in the right direction, to manage efforts productively - as if you were using your own money.
Demonstrating clear knowledge and interpretation of policies, processes, rules, standards, and a firm and diplomatic style when supervising others, is crucial for promotion into most first-line management or supervisory roles.
Demonstrating an ability to plan, organise and achieve effective implementation (of plans, changes and objectives) is crucial for promotion into most middle-management positions.
Demonstrating an ability to initiate and optimise strategic activities, giving strong return on investment is be crucial for promotion into most senior positions.
Demonstrating huge personal commitment and enthusiasm, together with complete and utter loyalty to your boss and the organization, are always essential factors for successful promotion interviews. Loyalty and commitment are essential. The interviewer must be able to trust you to the extent that they will stake their own reputation on your commitment and ability.
The ability to adapt and be flexible as priorities and circumstances change around you, is also essential for promotion into most supervisory and management roles. Interviewers will not promote children or people with baggage or issues - interviewers promote mature grown-up people. People who will lighten the management burden, not add to it.
It is important to convey convincingly that regardless of the challenges that occur on the way, you will always strive relentlessly to achieve your aims and objectives - and that you will never, ever, ever, let your boss down.
If you really believe it and feel it, look the interviewer in the eye and say: "Give me this opportunity, and I will repay your faith in me to succeed in this job."
As an interviewee it's good to prepare your references in advance, and give the interviewer a list of your referees with names, positions, employers details, and all possible contact details. Try to identify (and agree cooperation in advance from) referees who will be happy to give you a positive reference, and in so doing, who will support your personality, skills, performance and job history claims. Provide as many referees as you need to cover the important aspects of your performance and employment history, plus any specific critical requirements of the new job (accreditation, record, training, vetting, etc). A healthy list of referees would normally be between three and five people. It seems a lot, but it's more impressive than just a couple; it shows you've thought about it beforehand, and it builds in a bit of leeway for when people cannot be contacted or fail to respond quickly for any reason.
Generally the more senior and credible your referees the better. It's perfectly acceptable to list one or two referees from your private life rather than work, especially if they have a job or status that carries important responsibility (councillors, police, etc)
If you know that a particularly significant and favourable referee might be difficult to contact, ask them to provide you with a 'to whom it may concern' open reference letter as to your character and history, signed by them, on letterhead - and preferably use and keep hold of the original copy - ask the interviewer to take a photocopy and give you back the original.
As an employer - employers should always follow up and check successful job interview candidates' references. Not to do so is irresponsible, especially if recruiting for jobs which carry serious responsibilities, such as working with children, disabled people, sensitive data, money, valuables, etc.
You must inform or ask permission from the candidate prior to checking their references.
The extent and depth to which references should be checked depend on the situation and the referees given by the job applicant. Certainly make job offers conditional to satisfactory checking of references, and if as an employer you are not happy about the referees provided then ask for others. Checking references can be a very sensitive area, so care needs to be used. Many referees will not be comfortable providing personal information about a person, not least due to fear of defaming someone and the liabilities concerned. Postal reference checking is an alternative to telephoning, although many referees feel less comfortable effectively making a written record of negative comments, and may be more forthcoming in a telephone conversation.
Refusal by a referee to provide a reference about someone is obviously not a helpful sign, and considerable positive feedback from reliable alternative referees would normally be required to proceed with a job offer following such a response.
Bear in mind also that the referee may have their own agenda. Take care to interpret carefully any personal comments which might stem from personality clash. Try to concentrate on facts with evidenced examples rather than opinions.
References should definitely be checked concerning job-critical areas (relevant to the new job for which serious liabilities might exist if candidate is not telling the truth), as should any areas of suspicion or doubt that cannot be resolved/proven for sure at interview.
And for everyone, irrespective of satisfaction with interview answers, it is important to check some basic facts with past employers to ensure that the candidate has not been telling a pack of lies.
Possible areas to check (a sort of checklist - not a fixed agenda):
Seek local qualified advice from your HR department or advisor if in doubt, and also if you want to use a postal reference checking method, since most HR departments will already have a standard approved document for this purpose.
You'll see various research and general advice concerning what best to wear for job interviews. The sort of clothes, styles, colours, shoes, make-up, accessories, etc., are likely to have the best effect. Standard rules for dress code at interviews are mostly common sense: be smart, coordinated, clean, tidy, relatively under-stated - however you can go further than merely adopting the standard recommendations to wear blue or grey suits, black shoes, white, cream, pale yellow and pastel colours for shirts and blouses; and to avoid black (too funereal - unless your interview is with an undertakers), bow-ties, Elton John specs and deer-stalker hats.
You can take a more sophisticated approach to your choice of dress and style at job interviews.
Your best choice of dress, clothes, colours and style at interview should actually depend on the role and what surrounds it.
For example, blue is thought by many people to represent formal business professionalism, which is fine for 'professional' job opportunities, but a smartly pressed blue business suit and crisp white shirt and tie won't help you much in an interview for a role requiring care and compassion, working outdoors in all weathers, managing down-to-earth labourers, being bubbly and creative, or teaching disaffected kids.
What we wear should be an extension of our personality of course, but also importantly, indicates to the interviewer our ability to recognise what the employment situation and job requires.
No-one ever got a job because of the way they dressed whereas lots of people fail to get jobs because 'something' about their appearance put the interviewer off - maybe just a bit - but enough not to get the job.
Dress in a way that projects you personality, sure, but not to the extent that your appearance is inappropriate to the situation. For adventurous dressers, especially going for jobs that might call for a spark of individuality, it can be a fine judgement. A lot depends on the interviewer too - innovative interviewers in industries that are amenable to flair will respond more positively to people who look different. But process-orientated decision-makers in structured environments will prefer people who look safer. If in doubt err on the safe side.
Employers want people who can do the job - that's a given - but they also badly need people who will 'align' and fit in - people who can 'get the beat' of the organisation and department. Empathy, trust, rapport, are all built on this initial platform, and what you wear and how you style yourself provide a great opportunity to start putting these foundations in place with the interviewer. Your interview dress code and visible styling help you show the interviewer (it's a conscious and unconscious effect) that you understand the organisation's style and how to fit in with it; that you can adapt appropriately to your environment - it's a valuable ability and there's nothing to be achieved by creating doubts in this area.
So when you next prepare for a job interview, try to orientate your choice of clothes and style to that of the employer, and also to the way the interviewer perceives the role. Consider also the type of job and the service sector, and particularly the personality, skills and behaviour that is required in the role: For example is the role mainly extravert or introvert, detailed or conceptual, creative or processing, conforming or innovative, etc., and how does this affect the way you should be styling yourself and dressing for the interview?
If it helps you decide what to wear, think about how the existing employees dress. Does the employer have a conservative attitude and culture regarding dress code, or is the culture more modern and relaxed. It is as unhelpful for you to be dressed too conservatively and professionally as it is to be dressed not professionally enough. Try to get an idea of what people wear in the organisation so that you can reflect, within reason, the tone and style that fits in with the employer and the interviewer's expectations. Do the men wear ties or not? Do the women wear suits? Do they 'dress down' on Fridays? (This is particularly relevant if you happen to go for an interview at their offices on a dress-down Friday, when prior knowledge will help you to tone down a little and avoid sticking out like someone who doesn't fit in because they've not had the sense to find out before-hand.) Go see or ask if this will help you to feel more confident.
On the point of going and seeing, especially if you know very little about the organisation, it's often helpful to get a feel of the place and the people before deciding that the organisation is actually worthy of your talents and commitment. If you live close enough to the organisation's offices or site it makes good sense to visit their reception or sales office as part of your pre-interview research, when you can pick up a few brochures, feel the atmosphere, and form a view of staff attitudes and style, etc. This will also give you a good indication of their dress code, especially if you visit when people are arriving or leaving work. Lunch-time visits are interesting too - at the start of breaks and when people return to work. It's amazing what you can hear and learn sometimes, simply sitting in a busy reception for a few minutes or approaching a reception desk and asking for a brochure.
As regards your own appearance for interviews, consider any jewellery and other bodily adornments too. No-one ever got a job because they wore an outrageously big fat diamond ring, or a nineteen-ounce gold chain over their shirt, but I bet there'll have been plenty of people who've not got jobs because they've erred on the wrong side of this particular judgement.
For the same reason, the number of body piercings displayed at interview is generally inversely proportional to the chances of successfully attracting a job offer, unless the job happens to be in a body piercing studio.
Tattoos are another interesting area. Attitudes to tattoos are certainly more tolerant than twenty years ago: even main board directors these days commonly will be hiding a little dragon or butterfly somewhere intimate on their person, however, given two equally-matched candidates at a job interview or group selection, the one with the short sleeves and naked ladies up each forearm is unlikely to get the nod. Safest bet - especially for customer-facing jobs (literally face-to-face) - is not to show too much tattooed skin at interviews unless you are very confident of yourself indeed.
The reality unfortunately is that most people, including interviewers, will tend to judge you with their eyes, not least because interviewers know that their customers and staff will do too. And, like all business decisions, recruitment decisions reflect on the people making them. Therefore when you are being interviewed the interviewer is not only deciding whether you can do the job, they are also deciding whether choosing you will reflect well or not on their own reputation. The less you challenge this area the more likely they'll feel comfortable deciding in your favour. Use your common sense.
So, if the role and the organisation calls for someone to conform and behave according to strong corporate style and expectations then dress accordingly. If the role and the organisation calls for individuality and fresh ideas then you have more licence to dress more individually, but still beware. It remains that most employers and interviewers, whatever they might say about welcoming fresh blood and challenging new ideas, will always tend to err on the side of caution. Interviewers generally don't knowingly take risks - they prefer safe options - safe non-threatening people, who appear and dress in a safe and non-threatening way.
I'm not saying you've got to become a de-humanised clone for the interview, or that there's no place for individuality, on the contrary actually - you've got to look good (and extremely smart too if it's called for) - and aside from this there certainly is a huge need for individual thought and behaviour and innovation in all organisations - but that's after you've got the job and settled in. You've got to get the job first, and you'll do that most easily by appearing immediately like someone who'll fit in rather well, not by looking like someone who marches to a different tune or has no idea how to adapt to their environment.
Clothes, style, colours, jewellery, hair, like anything else that represents you as the applicant (just as the quality and presentation of your CV for example), should project the 'fit' and congruence between yourself and the employer and the interviewer's requirements for the job, and also show that you can understand different situations and behave accordingly. Individuality is great, but the job interview is not really the best place to start displaying a highly individual dress style, unless the role specifically calls for it, which in truth is very rarely indeed.
Look good, but under-stated. Project yourself and your personality in what you wear, but above all show that you are aware of what's going on around you, and that you can adapt to the situation and present yourself appropriately.
A final note about the importance of researching the employer and their markets and issues before interviews.
First, research can enable the least qualified, least favoured, least likely applicant to succeed and beat off the most likely interview opposition candidates. Doing good relevant research is the singlemost powerful thing you can do to improve your chances of getting the job. It's that important. No research, no views. No views, no value. No value, no job. It's simple: Do your research and apply your experience, capabilities and thoughts in preparation for the interview and you will have good views that will be valued. If you offer good value you'll probably have the job.
Second, the above applies to any organisation or employer with whom you have an interview; any size, any sector, commercial, not-for-profit, even the corner shop. If you want the job - do the bloody research. This is not to say that people who don't do their research don't get jobs, but the fact is that any person who's done good research and thinking will virtually always get the job over someone who has not bothered to.
If you are an external applicant bear in mind that you are likely to be up against at least one good, favoured, known internal applicant, who already knows and understands lot about the organisation. Your aim is to present yourself as a more attractive option than the internal applicant. You will do this by researching the employer organisation so well that you know it better and more incisively and more strategically than the best of the internal applicants. Your objectivity and neutrality, and your external experience, will enable you to see many things that even the best prepared internal job applicants cannot see. Use this opportunity to make a great impression on the interviewer or panel.
If you are being interviewed for an internal job promotion, bear in mind that the best external applicants will be doing all they can to demonstrate that they have a keen knowledge and appreciation of the employer organisation and its markets, etc. If you are complacent and think that you know it all already then you will be bitten on the bum. Someone from the outside will impress the interviewer more than you because they will seem keener, and will be seen by the interviewer to have a fresh pair of eyes too, which can be very appealing to recruiting organisations. When preparing for an internal job promotion interview or groups selection you have a great opportunity to ward off any threats from external well-researched applicants by doing lots of your own research and thinking. This will put you ahead of external applicants because you will also have the internal political and systemic insights that are so difficult for external applicants to discover.
Internal or external job interviews - whatever - do your research.
Doing plenty of good quality creative research on the employer organisation, their history, market sector, products and services, people issues, organisational priorities, strategic challenges, competitors, threats opportunities, challenges, etc., helps enormously to convince an interviewer that your are the applicant who wants and deserves the job more than anyone else.
Imagine you are a strategic advisor - remove yourself from the detail and grind of the job role basics. Go deeper - think about what's going on in the department or organisation at a higher strategic level, or whatever aspect of performance that your capabilities can best understand and influence - think about and be prepared to talk about how you can bring best possible benefit and value to the situation.
Interviewees who possess good knowledge and understanding are able to ask really good questions about the role and the organisation. They can discuss how to develop and improve performance, how to exploit opportunities, diffuse threats, and to help the department and the organisation meet their aims.
You will be asked questions, obviously, many of which will invite you to demonstrate all the fantastic research and thinking that you've done, and the ideas that you have for helping the organisation and its people to perform well and improve.
If the interview is for a customer service or management role particularly, then having some first-hand experience as a customer or prospective customer yourself (if only from the point of view of having made a tentative 'customer enquiry' or requested a brochure) will often provide you with lots of ideas for commenting helpfully on how the organisation performs, and potentially for improving services and quality, or morale or competitive edge - whatever your research and thinking and expertise lead you to conclude. This applies just as much to internal applicants as external interviewees - don't assume you know it all. See things from the outside. See things from the perspective of the customers or clients of the organisation.
All this is part of very necessarily researching the organisation before attending the interview. Interviewers love to meet people who are passionately interested in their business and have taken trouble to do some homework and thinking. If you an external applicant, doing good research before the interview gives you your best opportunity to demonstrate what you can bring to the role, and that this is more than the internal applicants can bring. If you an internal applicant, doing good quality research and meaningful thinking, especially from an outside perspective (no-one else on the inside will be doing much of this I assure you) is your greatest opportunity to surprise and delight the interviewer about your terrific capabilities and potential, and leave them wondering why you weren't promoted a long time ago.
The success rate that people experience when applying for advertised
jobs is on average very low. It's not your fault - it's the process: The
recruitment process is very arbitrary, subjective, and sometimes little more
than a lottery, and often advertised jobs are already destined for an internal
applicant anyway, so the external candidates never have a chance from the
So do something different. Take control of your own destiny.
Why rely wholly on a process that involves inevitable intensive competition and an arbitrary unknown selection method?
Instead be proactive. Use (or adapt) this simple process for getting a job that's just right for you. If you want to continue to apply for advertised jobs, fine, but follow this plan as well; aside from being very effective in its own right, the method will improve your success rate with the advertised jobs too.
First realise that different people suit different jobs and employers, so you need to know yourself and know your market (your market is the types of employers and the industry sectors that need people with your particular capabilities, personality, and aims).
Knowing yourself and what's out there will enable you to understand which employers and jobs will offer you the best fit.
A dream job is one where the fit is right. This sounds simple and obvious but it implies a lot.
Obviously getting the dream job is another story, about which more follows later in this section.
For the time being though, how do you identify what is a potential dream job?
Think deeply and creatively about what will be the best sorts of jobs and employers for you. They might be quite different from what you've habitually believed or been conditioned to think.
Think and act creatively and innovatively on the way you 'package' or yourself - the sort of image and presence you create.
A CV is no longer restricted to hard-copy paper or a digital document.
What about a video CV? What about creating an impressive web presence for yourself?
Being proactive in this way impresses employers and will give you choice. You become the buyer not the seller, because all good employers want innovative proactive impressive people. So become one of these people.
Get to know yourself by seeking feedback from trusted friends. Do some personality tests (there are plenty online now, and free). If you want to go into detail look at the Personality Styles section.
Whatever you do - ensure you know yourself, honestly and objectively - especially all your skills and strengths that will be desirable to employers. Think deeply about your passions, your loves, what you enjoy - these are likely to be or relate to your key strengths and potential. Look at yourself from a deeper and wider perspective than job skills - think about your personality - the situations and challenges you enjoy - the things in life as a whole that you are good at.
Employers of all sorts now want and need people who have characteristics and potential that cannot be represented by mere 'job-skills'.
Employers need people with more important and meaningful qualities; like creativity, humanity, determination, self-reliance, unshakable dependability, passion, compassion, curiosity, belief, integrity, vision, innovation, ethics, and an awareness of the wider world, health and lifestyle, mind and body, diet and fitness, leisure and entertainment, music and the arts, technology, communications, the environment, the natural world, education, society, people, relationships, and cultural diversity, etc.
Look at the Multiple Intelligences theory and do the self-test to prompt some thinking about your fundamental attributes and strengths, and start to see yourself in these wider terms.
List your strengths and dreams using this wider perspective. Not just job-skills - instead: life strengths and passions. You will very quickly see a person emerging who is unique, and able to offer uniquely special qualities to all forward-thinking employers.
And then you'll perhaps begin to imagine all sorts of different types of work that will provide a better fit for what you can do, what you love, and the differences you want to make in life.
Use this new view of yourself to create or improve your CV.
Next, draw up a profile of the sort of work and types of employers that will best fit what you can do, what you love, and where you want to go.
When you've thought carefully and decided where the best fit will be for you, again, be proactive not reactive.
Go find the jobs and openings that fit your strengths that are not advertised.
Use your CV and covering letter to package and market yourself (see the CV section on creating a great proactive CV).
Approach a least 20 of the right sorts of employers that you think will want what you can do. Within reason the more the better: 50 or 100 is obviously better, provided the fit is good and the data is reliable. Marketing is a numbers game - hence the more the better.
Finding these organisations and names and contact details takes some effort, which of course varies according to the types of organisations you want to approach. The internet and the telephone make it relatively easy these days to gather this detail, provided you apply yourself to the task.
You might think of a smarter way to create a list of potential employers in one go - perhaps from the local chamber of commerce, or a trade association, a library, a directory, or another information provider - maybe even a list broker. There are many good list providers that have searchable databases on the internet, and while your requirements are modest, many are happy to help and costs can be very low. I've always found Electric Marketing particularly good, especially for lists and details of large organisations and recently appointed decision-maker contacts. It's possible to buy a list of companies and contacts for upwards of 20p a name.
If you are comfortable using MSExcel or similar, put all the names and addresses into a spreadsheet - a separate column per address line. If you buy a list it will already be in a spreadsheet format. This enables you to run a mailmerge with MSWord and saves a lot of time producing personalised letters. Failing that, no problem - it does not take an age to create 20 letters without mailmerge. Running a mailmerge enables 50 or 100 letters and CV's to be sent easily.
Target your professionally written letter and CV at business-unit manager level - it doesn't matter if you get referred to HR - you've made your mark. 'Business-unit manager level' means the overall manager or boss of the business unit or division or site that you are targeting. These senior people know what openings they have and what they need, and they also have the clout to make things happen. And they'll recognise the strengths in your letter and CV and the approach you have taken. The job title of your target contact (business unit decision-maker) will depend on the types of organisations you are approaching, and this requires some thought and research. Seek advice from a list broker if you use one - they are generally very good at advising the best contacts (job titles) for any given purpose. It's certainly worth sending your letter and CV to more than one contact in large organisations. Some detailed research as to structure and key decision-makers is warranted for any large organisations that you believe could offer you the best fit and opportunities.
Present yourself in your CV and covering letter in terms of what you can do for the organisation or business. See the CV section. This aspect is crucial. It's essential to describe yourself in a way that is immediately and obviously appealing to the reader, which means putting yourself in their shoes and imagining what they particularly need. What are the strategic and organisational priorities that they'll need a new employee to address? What are their criteria regarding style, approach, personality, values, etc., that new employees must possess?
It might be that you have to vary the content of some of the letters so that the approach is tailored suitably for each one or type of your targeted employers. Refer also to the business writing tips, the advertising writing tips and the sales introductory letters. All of these notes contain useful pointers for job seeking. You are after all selling yourself.
You must approach at least 20 organisations because the aim is to get at least two interviews lined up (obviously with different employers or departments). Securing more than one interview is very significant - it puts you in a very strong position. You're doing the buying not the selling. You're the one with the choice now, and most employers will want you all the more if they think you are in demand elsewhere.
The interviews will probably not fall into your lap, although sometimes they do: selecting appropriate target organisations and names of decision-makers, combined with a good CV and covering letter can produce great instant results. For the other organisations who don't respond immediately you'll need to follow up your letters by phone. You will maybe have to send copies. Things get lost, no matter. Be persistent and methodical. Ask the PA's of decision-makers and managers for help rather than try to go around them.
Be persistent. Keep sending letters. Keep notes so you continually improve your understanding of your own personal 'job market'. Keep following up by phone. Keep positive. Refine your list and your letters and your CV as you get a feel for what's working best.
You are managing your own personal marketing campaign and your destiny is in your own hands.
When your letter and CV arrives it is unique and relevant and it's selling you, in terms of what you can do for the organisation. It is not one of a hundred other 'send and hope' applications for an advertised vacancy that's probably going to go to the internal candidate anyway. Your approach is unique, special, and it gets noticed.
Sooner or later you will be offered meetings or interviews. If you follow this process, and the other related guidelines explained on this website, it is inevitable that you will get some positive responses.
You might not actually need or be offered a 'job interview' as such - maybe it will be offered as a 'meeting' or a 'discussion' - it doesn't matter. The aim is to get a meeting or interview with someone, preferably someone who's got a job opening at that time or an overview of several opportunities within the organisation.
Aim to get two or more meetings or interviews. It gives a big boost to your confidence level knowing you've other options, and it has a very positive and helpful effect on the interviewer too. People want people who other people want.
Now you are effectively at the job interview stage, and you must read the various guidance notes about preparing and attending job interviews that are provided on this page. You've completed the most difficult stage of the challenge. You've carved out a unique opportunity for yourself, and whether the opportunity that you'll be discussing is one that is advertised or not, you'll stand out as the leading applicant because of the approach you have taken.
Commonly people who take this proactive marketing route save employers the task of advertising altogether. If your approach and discussions coincide with a vacancy arising then you'll offer an immediate solution that saves the employer weeks of recruitment efforts, management time, and advertising and recruitment agency costs. Alternatively the approach advocated here can often prompt the employer to accelerate plans of one sort or another whereby a role is created specially for you.
All employers need good people. When one comes along, as you will do when you follow this method, many employers will try to find an opportunity to fit, whether they are currently recruiting or not.
This is another advantage of having more than one interview lined up. It adds to the pressure for the employer to make a quick decision and find a slot for you, and also reduces any inclination to advertise the post, for fear of losing you, a star candidate.
Aside from the advantage of anticipating and prompting vacancies and job opportunities rather than waiting for them to appear in the papers or on the internet (like everyone else), you will automatically demonstrate that you possess many of the important attributes that the employer seeks, simply by the way you've conducted your approach and developed the opportunity, for example: initiative, self-reliance, capability to make things happen, to communicate, put a plan together and implement it, etc.
By being proactive and making your own opportunities will make the interview and the whole process much easier for you because you've controlled it, moreover you look like a great fit for the organisation, you've proved you can get things done, and you've avoided most if not all of the competition. And you'll have saved them the hassle of recruiting too.
Anyone can take this approach. All it needs is a bit of thought, research and preparation.
And all you need add is the simple commitment to do it.
So do it.
helpful questions and process for planning job hunting, career advancement, or starting your own business
If you are unclear or frustrated in your efforts to find the right job for yourself, consider these points.
You will be able to plan how to achieve your career aims (similar principles apply for starting your own business or becoming self-employed or freelance) by asking and then answering (yourself) questions like:
If you have skills in selling, marketing, coaching, business management, training, etc., you can approach this question by imagining yourself to be one of your trainees or a client.
In any event, imagine you are advising yourself how to package and market yourself. How to prepare and move yourself into a new situation. Look at the goal planning section.
It's often easier to plan how to achieve personal aims by stepping back and seeing the situation as a stranger would do.
Understand properly where you are, where you want to be, and then plan how to get there. If the step is too great to make in one go (which it probably is if it's too difficult to achieve), break it down into steps or stages. Consider these steps in terms of cause and effect. See the goal planner if you've not already done so.
If you cannot yet meet and exceed the requirements of your ideal employed role (or your target customers/market):
Use goal planning methods. Identify causes and effects. Make a plan and implement it. Start controlling your future, rather than letting it control you.
Think creatively, 'outside of the box'. Challenge your assumptions, and especially your fears and insecurities and worries.
On which point, if you are wondering if self-employment or starting your own business might be better than working for someone else:
Use whatever methods will help you step back and assess your situation objectively.
See also the separate articles and resources on this site, including:
love and spirituality in organisations - interviewers and new starters - anyone - can bring compassion and humanity to work
and the many related materials on the main businessballs website if you are not already there.
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© alan chapman 1995-2008
Peace and survival of life on Earth as we know it are threatened by human activities that lack a commitment to humanitarian values. Destruction of nature and natural resources results from ignorance, greed, and a lack of respect for the Earth's living things... . It is not difficult to forgive destruction in the past, which resulted from ignorance. Today, however, we have access to more information, and it is essential that we re-examine ethically what we have inherited, what we are responsible for, and what we will pass on to coming generations. Clearly this is a pivotal generation... . Our marvels of science and technology are matched if not outweighed by many current tragedies, including human starvation in some parts of the world, and extinction of other life forms... . We have the capability and responsibility. We must act before it is too late. Tenzin Gyatso the fourteenth Dalai Lama.