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5 Tips for Handling a tough job interview

Job interviews can be tough, here are some great tips from our Managing Director Chris Stappard.


Job interviews can be nerve-wracking experiences. You’re competing against other talented individuals for the position, you want to come across as best you can to employers and now the interview is getting more and more difficult. Here, Chris shares his top five tips for surviving a difficult job interview.


We can all feel nervous from time to time when we’re invited for a job interview, and while a small amount of nerves can make you more determined and boost your performance, being overwhelmed by these could hold you back from showing your true potential. But, we know it can be difficult to hold it together when the interview gets tough.


Whether you’re attending an interview for a job in fashion, technology or marketing, it’ll pay to know how you can make a good impression in your interviews. So, here I’ll be sharing my top five tips for handling a tough interview.


Calm your nerves beforehand


Nerves can be the make or break in interviews, either destroying your confidence or pushing you to work hard to overcome them. But, when you think they’ll have a negative impact on your performance, it’s important that you take measures beforehand to calm your nerves.


Take some time to practice your answers to competence questions, and any others you think may be asked. Of course, you can’t always predict what’ll be asked by the interviewers but being equipped with a memorised list of the things you want to get across to them will help you to answer questions that could otherwise be tricky. Going in feeling prepared and well-versed on what you want to say is likely to reduce nervousness and ensure you can be the best you can be.


As well as taking the time to prepare, you should also take enough time to yourself. This could include anything from going for a run on the morning of your interview to doing a yoga class or reading a few chapters of a good book. All of these can help to clear your mind and make you feel calmer.


Dress to impress


First impressions count and dressing in a smart and sophisticated way can be beneficial to both how your employer perceives you and how you see yourself, too. Sloppy, ill-fitting clothing isn’t likely to make you feel motivated or confident and can actually put employers off from hiring you.


Instead, I’d advise that you adhere to a smart and sophisticated dress code. This could mean picking out a crisp white shirt and your best work suit to ensure you look professional.


Use positive body language


Your interviewers can get a better insight into you as a person by monitoring your body language, especially when they ask you tricky questions. But, even if the question has left you feeling stumped, handling it in the right way can win you some serious brownie points with your interviewers. And, your body language can help you out here.


Sitting with a relaxed posture will show that you’re comfortable with your surroundings and exude a sense of confidence. To achieve this, I’d advise you keep your back straight but not stiff, and let your shoulders relax.


To show interest and understanding, consider leaning in slightly when someone is speaking as doing the opposite can signify that you’re disinterested and put you in the bad books with future employers. When it’s your turn to speak, use your hands to incorporate gestures into your conversation — but, be careful not to go too over the top with these!


Most importantly, ensure you’re holding eye contact with your interviewer. This shows that you’re interested and engaged with what they’re saying. However, you’ll need to avoid staring them down as this will come across as unnatural and may make them feel uncomfortable. If there are two interviewers, be sure to give equal amounts of eye contact to each and look at the person who is speaking to you.


Tackle tricky questions with confidence


Your interviewer won’t be trying to catch you out, but they may ask questions that you’re initially unsure of how to answer. These could include questions about your weaknesses that you don’t want to answer wrongly at risk of making yourself sound incompetent or unreliable.


However, your interviewer may also choose to throw some tricky questions in there to explore your knowledge and experience a bit deeper. Of course, trying to prepare for some of these harder questions will be a good idea, but in instances where they come out of the blue, it’s important to remain calm.


Think logically about the question they’re asking and give the answer a go. Even if the answer is wrong, your interviewer is likely to appreciate that you tried.



Ask questions at the end of the job interview


As well as testing your understanding of the industry, interviewers will be looking for evidence that you’re actually interested in the business and the industry that it’s in. While you may have shown this through some of your answers, I’d recommend taking the opportunity at the end of the interview to ask your interviewers some questions back. This could be anything from whether there is any room for progression, to asking them their personal opinions on the job role or for their views on a recent event in the industry. Doing this can help to establish a good rapport which may help to boost you to the top of their shortlist.


Interviews are notoriously nerve-wracking, but with my top five tips you can be prepared for even the trickiest of interviews.


Recruitment – The candidate relationship

The recruitment industry has matured in the past few years but still has a long way to go.

The olden days

I began my career in recruitment in the late 1990’s when candidate care was not even a concern to most consultants. Activity levels were focussed purely on ‘chasing the job’ and picking up as much business as possible.

Finding the right candidate for a role was not based on a consultant’s in depth knowledge of a specific talent pool or on carefully nurtured relationships within a given sector; instead recruiters relied on having the biggest, most comprehensive database of ‘live’ candidates and they hammered the phones for long enough until a sufficient number of potential candidates agreed to have their CVs sent over to the hiring client for consideration. This, in essence was the selection and shortlisting process.

This lazy and haphazard approach does not exactly justify the ‘consultant’ title so over used in the industry does it? Candidates had little perspective on which agencies their CVs were registered with and had few, if any strong links to individual recruiters. This was an industry that saw candidates purely as currency.

Thankfully, things have moved on a little since then. But how much?

Have things improved?

I have been a recruiter for many years. I have also been an in-house hiring manager, recruiting both directly from the market and through recruiters. I have also been a candidate, seeking the advice of agency consultants and applying for roles through recruitment businesses. I have therefore seen this industry from every conceivable angle.

My marks out of 10. 7 at best.

Yes, recruiters these days have a more intelligent, caring and consultative approach to candidate care; they take time to meet candidates, discuss their career aims, their backgrounds and interview styles. However, this relationship often comes to a sudden halt the moment a candidate has been through initial interviews and is deemed not suitable for the role. At this stage in the process, too many recruiters cease all dialogue with the candidate, even to the extent that candidates are forced to approach the hiring company themselves to find out that they are not being progressed to the next stage.

Deliver the bad news and not just the good

This inability, or unwillingness of recruitment ‘professionals’ to deliver bad news and constructive feedback is still prevalent in the industry and is why there is still so much cynicism amongst business leaders and hiring managers around the use of recruiters.

Ask most candidates and indeed hiring managers and the majority will still say that recruiters are a necessary evil rather than a genuine means to adding value to the recruitment process. This needs to change.

The middle man

The recruiter is in the middle of a complex and sensitive process….the candidate seeking a new role and the client looking to hire new talent. Most recruiters gravitate too much towards the hiring client (after all…they pay the bill) and do not invest enough time in the candidate, before, during and after the selection process.

As recruiters, we need to invest long term in our candidate relationships….after all, a lot of these people will be the hiring managers of tomorrow.

North East recruitment firm appoints senior role at Age UK Northumberland

Edward Reed, which specialises in mid to senior management level recruitment for the finance, HR, operations, sales and marketing and IT sectors was appointed by Age UK Northumberland to support the charity through the search and selection process of finding its new chief executive officer.

Chief Executive Officer recruitment
Age UK Northumberland Chief Executive with Edward Reed Recruitment

Age UK Northumberland is the regional branch of the national not-for-profit organisation, Age UK, which is well-known for its work with older people over the age of 50.

Fending off competition from a number of other well-established Newcastle-based recruitment firms to win the primary role on the account, Edward Reed was seen to be the best fit for Age UK Northumberland after they were recommended to the charity’s chair of the board of trustees, Andrew Marsh.

Andrew said:

“Edward Reed was referred to us through a member of the board who had worked with the company previously. Having worked within the not-for-profit sector before, Edward Reed had a strong pre-existing network of contacts and a sound understanding of our target audience.

“Edward Reed’s flexible approach to the recruitment process allowed them to structure themselves around Age UK Northumberland’s timelines without compromising on their quality of service, which was a huge benefit to us.”

The successful candidate appointed to the chief executive role is Helen Mills. With a long history of working in the healthcare sector in various senior management roles, Helen was identified as the ideal candidate for the job following a rigorous interview process, supported by Edward Reed.

Helen said:

“I have always loved working alongside older people. I come from a really close-knit family and spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up, who I deeply admired and respected.

“On hearing about the vacancy at Age UK Northumberland, I actually approached Edward Reed directly to enquire about the role. After speaking with the team there in more detail, I submitted my CV and was subsequently put forward for an interview.

“Throughout the recruitment process, I felt completely supported by Edward Reed. Chris kept me engaged and updated at each stage of the process and I was delighted when he called to offer me the job. I would recommend Edward Reed to anyone.”

Managing director at Edward Reed, Chris Stappard, said:

“We have thoroughly enjoyed working alongside Age UK Northumberland on the appointment of their new CEO. Helen is a great fit for the role and we wish her lots of success in the future.”

To find out more about Edward Reed, visit: www.edwardreed.co.uk.

Recruitment drive at drinks firm with a thirst for growth

When botanical drinks manufacturer Fentimans needed to hire a financial controller to oversee ambitious growth plans, the Hexham-based firm turned to Edward Reed Recruitment to identify the ideal candidate.

Trading since 1905, Fentimans is a household name in artisan soft drinks and mixers, with stockists across the globe. As part of the company’s five-year plan for further expansion, which includes more than tripling its top line by 2020, Fentimans is creating a number of new job roles.

Managing director at Newcastle-based Edward Reed Recruitment, Chris Stappard, said:

“We were approached by Fentimans at the end of 2016 with the task of recruiting a financial controller. This is a new role for Fentimans as they wanted to bring somebody in-house who could manage the day to day financial reporting and support the executive team as they focus on growth and strategy.

“Fentimans were looking specifically for a qualified financial controller who had previous experience of working within the manufacturing industry, so that they could come in and hit the ground running to establish the necessary processes to help drive the business forward.

“After a number of meetings with Fentimans’ chief operating officer, David Charlton, we were confident that we understood the business and we could start our executive search and selection process to find candidates who would not only meet with the criteria for the job role, but would also be a good cultural fit for the business.”

David Charlton added:

“We have very ambitious plans for the growth of the business and we need a strong team in place to help get us there.

“Edward Reed really took the time to get to know and understand our business and provided us with a very strong shortlist of candidates as a result. One of the candidates shone above the rest however and as such, we found our new financial controller.”

The successful candidate, Craig Whitfield, saw the job vacancy advertised on an exclusive, industry-specific job board and contacted Edward Reed directly for more information.

As financial controller, Craig is responsible for monthly reporting and financial forecasting at Fentimans. Craig is also tasked with the optimisation of the company’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and will help to deliver continuous improvement programme efficiencies throughout the business.

“Having worked for a number of large manufacturing companies in the past, I recognised that this was a great opportunity to join a growing business,” Craig said.

“Chris at Edward Reed supported me throughout the recruitment process so I was delighted when he called to offer me the job at Fentimans.”

No Agencies Please

These dreaded 3 words at the bottom of a job advert invariably mean that the company in question has little or no time for recruitment consultancies or worse still, has suffered at the hands of one of the ‘over promise…under achieve’ players in the market

Recruitment consultancy is about matching job seeking candidates with hiring clients. Simple really.

This is a competitive, sales-led environment with a focus on new business relationships, fee negotiation and the continued pressure to deliver results. So, corners are cut, service delivery is compromised and people are let down. Some clients then decide to by-pass recruiters altogether and attempt a direct hire.

Candidates have little or no loyalty to any one recruiter as their expectations are so low. All in all, not a pretty picture

So, guess what I did the other week…I saw an advert for a senior marketing role within an organisation with a strict hands off policy when it comes to the use of recruitment firms. This is a business that has traditionally avoided any long term relationships with recruiters, preferring when necessary to farm out roles that have proved difficult to fill through their own direct hiring methods.

I instinctively knew the right candidate for this position. Not only that but I knew he was only contracting and was therefore more than willing and very able to apply for a permanent role. What to do?

What’s in it for me?

Instead of attempting a blagging call into the client on the back of a strong CV, I called my candidate, told him about the role, where to find the advert online, told him everything I knew about the company and made it very clear that I would not be representing him for this position as the company was going to market directly.

He is now at 2nd stage interview for the role, meaning I will potentially lose a strong candidate from my network and of course there is no financial gain for my referral. So, what’s in it for me?

Firstly, the Head of HR at the company in question has emailed to thank me for the candidate referral and for being ‘refreshingly honest’

My candidate also has a whole new perspective on the candidate/recruiter relationship. He could be moving into a senior management role any day now and if one day he needs to recruit for his team, who is he likely to call first?