What Makes a Good Candidate?

The job market is as competitive as ever, and when applying for a post you could be up against any number of highly qualified candidates. Sometimes you may think you performed excellently in interview, only to find someone else was offered the job, leaving you asking yourself what sets people apart in a crowd all vying for the same job. Not to worry; we at TM have a great deal of experience in what makes a good candidate, and although requirements of course vary from post to post, there are some golden rules to go by:

  • A good CV

The importance of this cannot be stressed enough. They say first impressions count, and for the vast majority of job applications your CV will be the first thing the employer sees. Luckily for you, some simple superficial tweaks will help you get noticed. Of course the usual advice of making sure everything is clearly presented on one or two sides of A4 applies here, and an additional tip is to place the most important information in the top middle section of the page, where the eye naturally falls first. If you’re stuck, ask someone who has experience in CV selection to take a look at yours and polish it up.

  • Relevant experience

This goes hand in hand with a good CV, and is also extremely variable based on the post you’re applying for. It’s not enough to simply have the experience, you have to know how to present in correctly on your CV and relate it to the job applied for in the interview. If you’re lacking in experience directly relevant to the post, or if it’s your first job, you can consider how your other experience and qualifications taught you transferrable skills that will make you more attractive.

  • Reactivity

Make sure you’re available and responsive when making interview plans. Get email alerts on your phone or make sure you’re by a computer so that you can reply promptly, and if it all possible prioritise the interview over other plans.

  • Presentation

This one is so simple and yet so many can get it wrong! Make sure you’re clean and wearing something simple and professional when you arrive for interview; the level of formality will depend on the company, but as a general rule leave the jeans and t-shirt at home. Also, this isn’t the time to make any bold fashion statements, play it safe with something classic and understated.

  • Good etiquette at interview

This means showing up at the right time, preferably around 5 minutes before the interview is due to start. Don’t worry too much if you’re 5 or 10 minutes late, interviewers understand that problems can arise with transport etc., but under no circumstances should you show up early! It can be quite irritating as your interviewer may well have something planned beforehand. In addition, make sure you remember your basic manners, like standing up to shake your interviewers hand and good eye contact.

These are just some of the simpler steps you take to increase your chances of success when applying for a job, and now you know all of this, why not take a look at our offers and send an application in now? And if you enjoyed this and would like to read more of the same, head over to our blog now.

The Personality Factor

Richard Branson revealed that personality forms the basis of his hiring strategy: “Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality”.  As companies increasingly look to carry out their recruitment internally, more emphasis is being placed on the person behind the CV, while expertise and qualifications are coming in at a close second.

So, what do companies really mean when they say they are looking for personality?  Shane Atchison, the CEO at Possible, expertly sums it up: “Work personality is not the same as regular personality.  It’s not about how you behave at a party, but how you fit into a team”.  Evidence shows that teamwork can increase productivity and improve employee retention, so there is a business aim behind the buzzword ‘personality’ after all!

Personality Profiling…

Yet evaluating a candidate’s personality at the recruitment stage poses a significant complication, since subjectivity can seep into the equation.  In response to this, many organisations make use of psychometric testing to evaluate personality quantitatively.  As part of pre-interview screening, candidates are often asked to sit a variety of online questionnaires asking how they would respond to certain statements, such as “I enjoy meeting new people”.  These answers are then analysed, allowing the company in question to accurately weigh up the candidate’s cultural fit in the organisation.  Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), arguably the most popular personality tool used by around 80% of Fortune 500 companies, claims there are no right answers to the questions and that cheating is not possible.

Alas, if there is no winning technique to tackling these tests, then how can you score more highly in the personality stakes?  Answer: respond honestly to the questions and focus instead on improving your interview performance.

It’s Showtime…

The better your performance in the interview, the more agreeable your personality will seem to your interviewer.  The etymology of ‘performance’, deriving from the 17th Century, means the “action of performing a play”, in other words, a trade that can be practised and polished.  It’s probably common sense, but think of this when preparing for your interview: the more you rehearse prior to curtain-up, the more comfortable you will feel in your role as interviewee.

All in all, bear in mind that you can’t transform your personality and that there would be no point in doing so (you want the company to be a good fit for you too), but with more research and practice you can definitely give a more polished performance.

The Interview… Where First Impressions Are Everything

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33% of bosses know within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether a candidate will get the job[1].  With this limited time frame to make a lasting impression it is essential that you get it right! Most of the key ingredients are obvious however there are some essential “Dos” and “Don’ts” that are often forgotten by candidates:-

 

Physical Appearance

Albeit obvious, candidates should present themselves as neat, tidy, and well-groomed to give a positive image to the employer. It is always better to overdress than under dress as candidates risk showing they are not taking the interview seriously. Cleavage, short skirts and untucked shirts do not give the professional impression that should be conveyed. Moreover, well-fitted clothes are a must because if a candidate is constantly readjusting their outfit they may seem fidgety.

Small ear piercings are acceptable as long as each ear is not too overcrowded and nose piercings can occasionally look smart on the right person. Any large piercings or other facial piercings should be avoided. All visible tattoos should be covered by clothing, hair or jewellery.

Personal hygiene is fundamental and a trait that a good candidate never lacks. Avoid having greasy hair or any dandruff before the interview. Hair should be tidy and away from the face to appear more open.  Smells such as ‘BO’ or cigarettes will immediately put off any employer as a malodorous employee will be unpleasant to work with. It is crucial to wear clean clothes and avoid smoking before an interview. Perfume and aftershave are always a good idea; just be careful it is not too overpowering.

This also applies to breath. The interviewer does not want to know what you had for lunch. Avoid garlic, onions and strong spices. Brush your teeth beforehand and have a strong breath mint of necessary. That said; do not chew gum in the interview as it looks completely unprofessional.

 

Body Language

Wearing a nice smile is crucial for a good first impression. It tells people that you’re an outgoing and intelligent person worth getting to know and conveys confidence and professionalism. Moreover, maintain eye contact with the interviewer when in conversation. A blank stare is a look people naturally adapt when they are trying to distance themselves, which is what a candidate should avoid.

The all-important handshake is a skill that not everyone has mastered. Make sure the handshake is firm and lasts no more than two shakes and should be accompanied by an introduction or expression of gratitude. If seated, always stand up to shake hands and if prone to sweaty hands, keep a handkerchief in a pocket or bag in order to discreetly wipe them beforehand.

 

Communication

Verbally greeting anyone at an interview is important to show respect and politeness. “Bonjour, Madame” or “Good morning” is sufficient and avoid less formal greetings like “ça va?” or “hi”. The most common way to address someone in France is by saying ‘Madame’ or ‘Monsieur’ and never use ‘Mademoiselle’ in the business world.

Most importantly, in France, it is essential to vousvoyer everyone you speak to at an interview. For English speakers this does not come naturally however it is ingrained into French language and culture and is considered extremely rude if the two are confused. Therefore, avoid at all costs referring to anyone as “tu” to maintain the boundaries between personal and professional and avoid offending anyone. 

A candidate’s tone of voice determines 38% of first impressions[2]. Some try to appear confident but overstep the mark with a loud tone of arrogance. On the other hand, a candidate trying to seem respectful and quiet may appear monotone and boring. Talking with a smile changes the tone of voice from monotone to cheery and will always be perceived well.

 

Conclusion

By paying attention to these small details to ensure good presentation, body language and communication skills, you can be sure to put yourself in the best possible light. The key is to play it safe and prepare beforehand, be polite and respectful with a smile to show confidence and gratitude for the opportunity. Remember, you have to make a good first impression to deserve a second.

 

Is Honesty The Best Policy?

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Have you ever lied in an interview or at work? The answer is probably. Basic human instinct is survival… therefore, exaggerating, omitting and embellishing the truth are often used to cut ahead of the rest in order to get hired or promoted. In an ideal world in which career progression were easy, honesty would of course be the best policy. But with youth unemployment at 22.8%[i] in France and promotions harder to come by, how much do you need to lie to survive in the recruitment process or is honesty really the best policy?

 

The CV

 

The first impression an employer gets from a candidate is their CV… it’s sink or swim!  It is not surprising that 53% of CVs contain falsehoods to survive this stage[ii].  These falsehoods may consist of made-up experiences or skills and even stretching dates of employment, resulting in a more employable and impressive candidate. But beware… whitewashing the truth on your CV rather than merely embroidering it is becoming more dangerous. There has been a recent rise in pre-employment screenings caused by the high demand for jobs; now candidates that have lied are being found out in the first round.

 

The Interview

 

The second impression that an employer gets in the recruitment stage comes from the interview. Candidates will primarily be asked about their CV and if they have not been honest they risk getting caught in their own web of lies and botching their interview.  Some questions, however, may require the candidate to exclude information and facts. Common interview advice is to avoid any negativity towards previous jobs. If asked “Why did you leave your previous job?” an honest reply such as “because I hated my boss…” is not an appropriate answer. Omission of the truth can often be essential in order to keep within the professional boundaries of an interview and to ensure a good impression is made.

 

The Workplace

 

Once in the workplace, careful attention must be paid. Lies are regularly used as a safety net to avoid punishment having made an error. Excuses such as “My alarm clock didn’t go off this morning” should be left in the playground as an apology is more effective in these menial cases. In more serious cases lying to cover up fatal errors or to put yourself ahead of anyone else is more treacherous. This can result in chronic lies causing paranoia and insecurities within the workplace until the truth eventually comes out. In fact, 15% of employees in today’s businesses have been caught lying while at work[iii]. Once found out as a liar the employee’s relationships and reputation will be permanently damaged and they risk losing their job.

Most bosses will be appreciative when told the truth rather than a cover up. Honesty is viewed as courageous whereas dishonesty is cowardice. Statistically, employees who told fewer lies had better relationships and smoother interactions within the workplace[iv]. An honest employee’s credibility and integrity speaks for itself, giving that person increased opportunities since the honest employee has proven themselves.  Furthermore, the peace of mind associated with a moral outlook in the office will result in higher productivity and happiness.

The Answer

In conclusion, there is far more to lose than gain from lying. When applying for a job it is understandable to want to present yourself in the most flattering light, especially in the current market. However, honesty is also highly valued and appreciated in the workplace and can be counted on as the best policy. The advice to give would be: Do not have a reason to be dishonest in the first place. Prove yourself to be a great candidate and employee on your own merit rather than lie and risk your reputation and job.

 

 Alternatively, lie your way to the top… just don’t get caught!

The Value of The French Language

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English is the most widespread language in the world and is more widely spoken and written than any other language. As English is now considered the “universal language”, does bilingualism in French have any value in the recruitment process?  The answer is yes.

Being bilingual in French leads to more benefits than just raw human dialogue. It opens a new world of communication skills that are essential in the work place. As the world becomes a seemingly smaller place, the influence of the French language is becoming wider in tandem with the internet and new markets. For candidates in the job market, a grasp of the French language might be what it takes to shine out from the rest as its value is ever increasing.

As the world becomes more socially, economically and technologically connected, competence in languages such as French is increasingly important.  There are a total of around 355 million French speakers worldwide including new markets that are considered economically important in the near future. The French speaking market is eminent and drives up the demand for French speakers in the job market.

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The French language is also opening new doors for international companies that were not considered valuable in the past. Half of the top-10 fastest growing countries in Africa have French as an official language and we can thus expect Africa to be an increasing focus of global trade and international relations.

Moreover, French is the third most used language on the internet ahead of Spanish. The internet has enabled entirely new forms of communication, research and business in recent years and is now considered a ‘basic need’. Bilingual candidates have goldmines of information at their fingertips that would otherwise be inaccessible to those relying on English.

Good communication skills are valued by many employers as “the most important of all life skills” and the candidate who can deal with a customer in their own language will without doubt have an edge. With the graduate job market crowded and a poor economic climate, bilingual communication skills are bordering on essential.  The recipe for successful communication skills is to understand the culture of the country you are doing business with which comes from being bilingual.

A grasp of the culture gives an understanding of acceptable behaviour and ethical differences that should be recognised for any real communication to take place. Miscommunications may have a serious impact on the success of the negotiation process. Whether it is following instructions or perceiving the motives of a client, it is essential in a working environment.

No one can deny the importance of the English language on an international scale however this does not reduce the value of French.  With the expanding Francophone sphere of influence combined with the necessary communication skills that accompany fluency, bilingual candidates shine out ahead of the rest.  The French language is therefore invaluable during the recruitment process and is becoming even more important with global development. Set yourself apart from the rest and learn French.

What is the key to a good first impression?

We all know that the ultimate aim of every interviewee is to make a good impression on the person interviewing them, an impression that will end up landing them the job. So the most important thing in making this great first impression will always be giving appropriate answers to questions asked, asking imaginative and appropriate questions yourself and explaining your suitability to the role, right?

Arguably, the above are not the most important considerations at all. Research shows that one person will form an initial impression of another within 20 to 30 seconds of meeting them. In one study, untrained subjects were shown the first 20 seconds of interview videos and asked to comment on the candidates. On the whole, their reviews were very similar to those given by the actual interviewer, who had spent a whole 20 minute interview with the candidate. This example shows that a first impression really does last.

Before thinking about the day of the interview, it cannot be forgotten that your interviewer will in fact have an impression of you before they even meet you; the one they gain from your CV and cover letter. An impeccably written, clearly structured CV and cover letter are vital. They will give you the opportunity to clearly demonstrate the manner in which you approach work and are your gateway to the real opportunity to give a good impression – the interview.

So now onto the big day. What exactly does an interviewer take into consideration in those first 20 seconds?

The answer to this question can be found by thinking about what exactly happens in the first 20 seconds of meeting an interviewer. Punctuality is of course vital and a lack of it is a sure-fire way to make a bad impression before you’ve even made it through the door. The next step in the process is the way in which you present yourself. The first thing that anyone sees upon meeting you is your overall looks and psychologists say that humans actually make a snap judgement of another person based upon just a quick glance. That is to say; your interviewer may well have formed their very first opinion based entirely on the physical in around two or three seconds. Just what is appropriate attire varies a little depending on the nature of the company where you are interviewing, so make sure to tailor your outfit to suit your interview. As a rule of thumb, a well fitted, tailored business suit does the job nicely. Don’t forget the details; clean and polished shoes, neat hair and personal hygiene are all essential. As much as we might like to think otherwise, books often are judged by their covers, so impeccable presentation is a must.

“The physical” describes much more than just how we present ourselves and the body speaks volumes about how we conduct ourselves. Psychologists claim in fact that 30-40% of human communication is non-verbal, leaving the rest up to the body. Throughout your 20 second opportunity to impress therefore, you should also consider body language, demeanour and mannerisms. Eye contact is important, showing you to be engaged and interested in what your interviewer has to say. Looking away from the interviewer or – even worse – towards the exit, shows your eagerness to escape! If maintaining eye contact makes you nervous, try looking at the bridge of your interviewer’s nose instead to ease the nerves. Posture can also say a lot about a person and slouching or leaning back imply disinterest. Crossing your arms while talking to the interviewer can also make you appear defensive. By nodding occasionally and leaving your hands rested in your lap or on the arms of the chair, you come across as open, interested and at ease.

It might seem that not an awful lot can be done to show your demeanour within 20 seconds of meeting somebody, but that is not the case at all. A smile will help you come across positively both as a person and regarding the job and a good handshake will show your confidence. A good goal in terms of demeanour is to show an air of relaxed (but of course not too relaxed!) professionalism. Relaxation is a difficult thing to fake, so the best tactic is to practice relaxation techniques in advance of the interview and of course to BREATHE!

Another easy way to show your employer how nervous you are is to fidget. Try to avoid playing with your hair, scratching, or shifting in your seat. As well as revealing your nerves, these things will all distract your interviewer from what should be the focus – you!

If you can teach yourself to employ all these techniques for the first 20 seconds, they are also valuable things to consider for the entire interview. So all in all, the aim in the first seconds of your interview should be to start as you mean to go on. Keep calm and above all be yourself and you will set yourself off on the right foot with your employer for the rest of your time with them.

Good Luck!

The Perfect Interview

 

I’m going to start by saying that there is no such thing as a “perfect” interview.

There are only two types of interview: the one that gets you the job and the one that doesn’t. There is no step-by-step guide which can guarantee you success. Granted, that may seem like quite a negative start but you have to be realistic. You cannot get yourself a job through a “quick fix” solution. What you can do is maximize your chances of getting employed by knowing what interviewers like and, sometimes more importantly, what they don’t like. So let’s get started.

You will have all heard the phrase “Location, location, location: the three things that matter in property.” Well preparation, preparation, preparation is the most important thing for an interview. If you want to have any chance of succeeding and impressing your interviewers you have to prepare because (and I promise this will be the last cliché phrase I will throw at you) “failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” But it is most certainly true. If you haven’t prepared, it will become very obvious, very quickly to your interviewer and that means you don’t get the job.

So, what should you do?

First, research the company. Read their mission statement; get to know what they’re about, how they work and learn about some of their history. Think about how you could fit into the company and convey this to your interviewers. This shows them that you are interested and dedicated.

It is also important to prepare an outline of what you are going to say. However, DO NOT over-prepare to the point where you are practically reciting paragraphs you have written. It will be obvious to the interviewer and if you get caught off guard you may crash and burn. Know your strengths and think of possible answers for classic interview questions;

e.g.

  • What are your strengths? (And possibly the more frequently asked, what are your weaknesses?)
  • Why did you leave your previous job? It is very important to know your CV as they will most likely ask you about previous roles you have undertaken
  • Why should we hire you? This is where you can combine your strengths and experience with the research you have done and impress the interviewers

Finally, you want to prepare some questions to ask the interviewer(s) at the end. They will ask you if you have any questions. You want to show them that you are interested in the company. Now, the questions to ask will depend on how the interview has gone and what job you are applying for but, some typical questions which you can ask are:

  • What is the business environment/culture like?
  • What opportunities are there for advancement?
  • What is the dress code?

I would avoid asking about salary straight away as you don’t want to seem too pushy and the interviewer will probably bring it up anyway.

So, there’s a few things you can do before the interview to maximize your chances of success. But what should you do during the interview to make sure you impress the interviewers?

Let’s start with the first impression, as this is one of the most important aspects of any interview and it is very difficult to impress after a bad first impression. Get there on time and if you are running late let the interviewer know. You also want to dress appropriately. In my opinion you should dress like the person who does the job that you want to do in the future. Maybe you want to be a CEO, so dress like one. Looking smart isn’t going to work against you. The handshake is also an important moment in the interview. Give a good, solid handshake, make eye contact and smile. Don’t look at the ground or give a weak handshake as it creates an uncomfortable atmosphere.

Now, once you are in the interview room there are certain things that you want to do to increase your chances. As I have said there is no list of interview tips which you can follow so you are guaranteed a job. However, there are certain things which are essential in any interview which if you don’t do will probably result in you not getting a job.

  • Firstly, maintain eye contact and really listen. You want to respond to everything they are saying effectively.
  • Remember your plan. Pick up on opportunities to impress the interviewer. For example when the interviewer asks what you know about the company, show them that you have done the appropriate leg-work and make it relevant to you and how you would fit in.
  • Be positive. Everyone likes an upbeat person, someone who will get along with the team.

Finally, when closing the interview, end with a handshake and thank the interviewer(s) for their time.

I’m not going to tell you that if you follow this advice that you are going to succeed in your next interview. However, you can most certainly maximize your chances.

Good Luck!

For more tips on how to get employed check out our YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/TMIParis