Describe yourself

Interviews can be a nerve-racking experience for candidates of all ages and experience levels. After all, there can be a lot riding on the outcome, so it’s important to get it right and be prepared.

One recurring problem area is how to describe yourself at a job interview. This is a task that comes up time after time and can throw candidates off track just as frequently.

Luckily, we’ve put together this handy step-by-step guide to help you handle the pressure and ensure your CV remains at the top of the pile. 


The “tell me about yourself” interview question


One of the standard-issue questions any candidate can expect to hear from their interviewer is the seemingly ever-present line, “tell me about yourself”. Open-ended and deliberately vague, this single utterance can stop any momentum dead in its tracks, crippling any caffeinated confidence you may have gained from that pre-interview coffee. 

However, if you do stumble at this early hurdle, this isn’t a cue for you to exit stage left, abandon ship or drive off the edge of a cliff “Thelma & Louise” style – get a hold of yourself! This is the perfect opportunity to get your interview off to a flying start – if you know how to handle it.


Keep it professional


“So, tell me about yourself…”

While it might be tempting to unleash a verbal recitation of your Tinder profile, it’s important to remember that your interviewer is, in all likelihood, referring to your professional history – so keep the weekend references and pub tales to a minimum.

This does, however, provide the perfect window to shed some light on your previous employment and career achievements thus far. Sell yourself, don’t be modest and be proud of your professional accomplishments: this is the ideal opportunity to tell your would-be employer exactly why YOU are the one for job.


A strong opening


Knowing where to begin can make or break an interview; start off on the wrong path and you could quickly wind up off the beaten track, in the middle of nowhere. Irrelevant ramblings have no place here.

To get the ball rolling, try opening with a notable fact about your work ethic. This is a fool-proof way to get this verbal personal statement off the ground, while it’s also a great line to segue seamlessly into your work history.


Relating your experience to the role


When recounting your previous roles, be sure to include career details that will impress, such as notable achievements and positions of responsibility you may have earned. Facts and figures can provide helpful support, so don’t be afraid to include a stat or two to back up your claims.

Give examples of how you have contributed and made a difference, relating these experiences back to the job you are pursuing. This shows that you understand the role being offered and have the proven ability to excel in that position.


Putting it all together


So, you have the blueprint in mind, now to put it into practice. Luckily, this process can be a lot easier than you may think.

For a salesperson, this could sound something like:

“I truly excel when I’m selling a product I believe in. During my three years as Head of Sales at Chocolate Teapots Ltd, sales of chocolate teapots increased by 40%. Prior to that, I was consistently top salesperson in my team at Inflatable Dartboards Inc, regularly outselling my peers by as much as 180%. I’m really impressed by the products you have and your new ice fireguard is an exciting concept. I’m confident I could use my skills and experience to significantly boost sales of such a great product.”

While the products in that example may have a few minor design flaws, the fact remains: a solid opening line, backed by career facts/stats that are related back to the job at hand can make a great first impression, setting you up for a positive dialogue to follow.


What makes you unique

The “what makes you unique” interview question


Another hallmark of many interviews is the equally bewildering query of “what makes you unique?” An ace up the sleeve for any employer looking to weed out the unsuitable, this question is a common stumbling block for many candidates and can cause even the coolest of heads to feel hot under the collar.

Nevertheless, as the old saying goes, the best defence is a good offence, so be prepared to come out fighting with a great response. “How so?” we hear you ask – read on…

While, on the surface, this very statement can seem somewhat belittling (particularly depending on the tone it’s said/read in), it’s actually a very valid question. Among all the other candidates being considered for the role, just what does make you stand out from the crowd?

Now, to be clear, this isn’t an opportunity to break out a party trick or unveil an ill-advised tattoo (although both of those options would surely qualify as memorable); it’s actually the point of the interview where you can explain, in no uncertain terms, why you’re the top prospect.

Digest the job description and reacquaint yourself with exactly why you applied for the role in the first place. Pinpoint what you bring to the table and why your skills match the task at hand. Again, this is another great point to revisit your past achievements and back up your claims with real-life examples.

Try to highlight your overall compatibility with the role and how your talents can help benefit the company. Simply put, let your interviewer know that, not only are you worth employing, they can’t afford to let you go elsewhere.


The “describe yourself” interview question


As we’ve seen above, interviewers love to hear their interviewees present a verbal personal profile. Not only is it a good way to gauge confidence, it’s also an effective method of testing inaccuracies on a CV. Best of all, it allows the employer a chance to hear a candidate’s own self-assessment, straight from the source.

Another variation on this is the “describe yourself” task. Depending on the industry and the job you are applying for, this is a great opportunity to insert a few choice buzzwords that fit the bill. It may be worth revisiting the original job ad for inspiration; from there you can easily hone in on standout phrases that are integral to the position and relate them back to your own experiences.

Words like “reliable”, “productive” and “flexible” can be music to the ears of an interviewer, conveying a candidate that isn’t afraid of work and can be trusted to get a job done when it needs doing.

Similarly, terms like “professional” and “conscientious” imply that you conduct yourself in a positive manner befitting the workplace, while also painting you as someone that takes pride in their work and will represent a company well.

Additional terms, such as “co-operative”, “friendly” and “sociable” can also serve you well, indicating that you are a team player who can transition well into a team environment. Naturally, these phrases can be particularly useful if you’re applying for a job that involves working closely with others.

However you choose to label yourself, it’s important to remember that there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance; tripping over that line could land you in hot water and quickly turn your interview into a damp squib. Hyperbole and superlatives can backfire dramatically, so use sparingly and only when you can back it up.


Writing

Interview mistakes


Many of the questions and answers above are widely interchangeable, so you should never be at a loss for words. Whichever question your interviewer throws your way, nothing screams “indifference” quite like “I don’t know”, so avoid these fatal three words at all costs. Think of it as the professional equivalent of calling a first date by your ex’s name – it’s an instant turn-off and the chances of a call-back are slim to none.

On the other end of the scale, dishonesty is another interview faux-pas that’s high up on the list. Confidently selling your skills is one thing – fraudulently exaggerating your ability to the point of fiction is another entirely. Lying to your interviewer is inevitably setting yourself up for failure and embarrassment, whether it’s later on in that conversation or further on down the line. 

Finally, it’s also widely agreed that cliché answers are an instant eye-roller at interview. Even if you really are a “team player” that “thinks outside the box”, it may be worth keeping idioms and worn-out phrases at arm’s length. 

That being said, if it means avoiding the dreaded “I don’t know”, don’t be afraid to grab the low-hanging fruit and push the envelope with the odd phrase, if it helps your cause.

For more interview tips and application advice, like Hyper Recruitment Solutions on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

New Year Fireworks

An article published on Buzzfeed last December offered a number of suggestions for job seekers hoping to land their 'dream role' in 2018. The tips were fairly wide-ranging, touching on everything from cleaning up your social media accounts to choosing the right interview clothes.

Even so, we believe that we at Hyper Recruitment Solutions can add a few extra tips to that list for 2019 - if you're serious about getting a new job in the new year, here are 5 more things that you should keep in mind:

1. Ask somebody else to read your CV.

Before you submit your CV to any potential employers, send it to a trusted friend or family member and ask them to give it a quick read-through.

Your proof-reader will hopefully catch any spelling / grammar mistakes that you failed to spot yourself, but more importantly, they'll be able to tell you whether or not the document is a fair representation of your abilities and experiences. They may think you're selling yourself short!

2. Tailor your CV to each job you apply for.

Once you've finished writing your CV, it's easy to just send exactly the same version to every prospective employer. But tweaking your CV each time you send it - tailoring it to the specific role you're applying for - can be a very worthwhile endeavour. You don't have to start from scratch every time you begin a new job application, but you should assess each job description and make sure that your CV is emphasising the right skills and focusing on the most relevant parts of your career history in each case.

3. Eliminate all filler from your cover letter.

When applying for certain jobs, you will be required to accompany your CV with a cover letter that explains why you're applying for the role in question (and what makes you a good fit for it). Your cover letter is a great opportunity to make a glowing first impression, but no matter what you decide to put in this document, it needs to be concise and to-the-point.

Once you've written your cover letter, read back over it and make sure that every single sentence has a reason to be there - if it doesn't add anything to the picture you're trying to paint, delete it! Employers won't enjoy reading a lot of pointless waffle that wastes their precious time, and a shorter, punchier cover letter will likely make more of an impact anyway.

4. Know how you're getting to the interview.

Showing up late for an interview is almost always a surefire way to not get the job. Once you've been told where you're being interviewed, take the time to plan your journey carefully:

  • Will you be walking, driving, or taking public transport?
  • What time will you need to set out in order to arrive on time?
  • Do you have an umbrella in case it rains on the day?
Planning is key if you want to be sure of arriving on time (and not looking too dishevelled when you get there!).

5. Didn't get the job? Ask for feedback.

Even an unsuccessful job application can be valuable if you're able to learn from it and do better next time. If a prospective employer tells you that you didn't get the job, thank them for their time and ask them if they would be willing to provide any feedback. For example:

  • Did your answers leave something to be desired?
  • Could you have dressed more appropriately for the interview?
  • Was it simply a question of experience?
You can't control every aspect of your job application, but constructive feedback can give you a better idea of what employers are looking for and how to present yourself in the best possible way.

Useful links:

What Can Job Interviewers Ask?

The questions you're asked during a job interview should mostly focus on your experience and qualifications. It also gives you and your prospective employer a chance to get to know one another.

What a job interview shouldn't be is an opportunity for the interviewer to ask lots of probing personal questions. In most cases, it's illegal for employers to make hiring decisions based on protected characteristics such as age, race, sexuality, and so on. By extension, it's usually not appropriate to ask about these things in an interview setting.

Sadly, just because it's not allowed doesn't mean that people don't do it. Hyper Recruitment Solutions conducted a survey of 1,000 hiring managers and 1,000 jobseekers, and a stunning 85% of interviewers admitted to asking inappropriate questions in job interviews.

Here's a closer look at some of the subjects that should remain off-limits for interviewers...


Age

Example: What year were you born?

Interviewers are not allowed to ask you your age or date of birth. You also don't have to include this information on your CV if you don't wish to.

55% of the interviewers we surveyed admitted to asking candidates when they were born. 60% stated that they considered this an 'acceptable' question.


Children & Pregnancy

Example: Have you got any plans to start a family?

It's illegal to make hiring decisions based on whether or not the candidate has children and/or plans to have a child in the future. Paid maternity/paternity leave is a right, and employers can't exclude candidates who wish to become parents just because they don't want to grant it. Already being a parent should not be a barrier to getting a job either.

That being said, our survey found that 40% of employers think it's acceptable to ask if a candidate is planning on taking maternity/paternity leave, while 54% find it acceptable to ask whether the candidate has any children already.


Gender & Sexuality

Example: Are you a man or a woman?

Your sexual orientation and gender identity are personal matters that should not have any bearing on your ability to do your job.

In most cases, it is illegal for employers to ask about your sex or your sexuality (although exceptions may be made for positive action schemes, e.g. an initiative to hire more LGBT workers).


Health & Disabilities

Example: Are you physically fit and healthy?

In our survey, 53% of hiring managers admitted to asking the question above. But it's illegal to ask questions about a candidate's health before offering them a job.

Employers in certain industries may require workers to pass a physical exam before starting work. Crucially, though, this should not be part of the recruitment/hiring process - any necessary health checks can only take place once the candidate has been offered the job.


Marital Status & Relationships

Example: Are you in a relationship?

As with gender and sexuality, one's marital status generally has no bearing at all on their suitability for a job. And yet 51% of interviewers we surveyed admitted to asking candidates whether they're married / in a relationship!


Religion

Example: Will you need time off for religious holidays?

It's unlawful to discriminate against someone based on their religious beliefs, so questions about faith should be off-limits at all times during job interviews.

Unfortunately, our survey indicated that just 18% of hiring managers understand that it's illegal to ask questions like 'Will you need time off for religious holidays?' 39% said it was inappropriate, but not illegal, while 43% felt that this question was acceptable.


Where You're From

Example: Where were you born?

Questions like 'Where were you born?' and 'Where's that accent from?' may seem innocuous enough, but again, they're not appropriate for an interview environment. Sadly, a large number of interviewers think these questions are acceptable - for instance, 47% of those surveyed stated that it's acceptable to ask the origin of a candidate's accent.


More useful links from HRS:

Graduate Job Interview

So, you've finally graduated from university and - better still - secured an interview for the dream job that you've been working towards for the last few years. Problem is, you don't really know what to expect or how to prepare yourself for the interview.

Many people think that job interviews are high-pressure situations where a single slip-up can ruin one's chance of success, but with the right preparation, you will be ready for whatever is thrown your way. So don't panic - Hyper Recruitment Solutions are here to help!

Follow our essential graduate interview tips to give yourself the best possible chance of impressing the interviewer and getting the job you want.

Research

  • Learn about the company's history and the work they've done in the past.

  • Find out what the company's goals and values are.

  • Ensure that you understand the role you're applying for (including responsibilities and requirements).

Rehearsing

  • Decide which of your skills and qualities you would like to highlight to the interviewer, and make sure you can prove that you have them (e.g. by mentioning achievements and experiences where you demonstrated those qualities).

  • Find a list of commonly-asked interview questions and write out your own answers in advance.

  • Get someone to ask you questions that you haven't specifically prepared for - this will practice your ability to improvise and bring every answer back to your key skills and qualities.

Appearance

  • Dress smartly and appropriately for the job. If you're struggling to pick an outfit, read our What to Wear guide.

  • Make sure that your clothes are washed, dried and ironed prior to the interview.

  • Ensure that your hair is neat and tidy - get a haircut if necessary.

  • Do not wear excessive make-up or accessories.

Travel

  • Find out where and when the interview will be held.

  • Plan your route and method of travel (walking, driving, or public transport).

  • Set off early and allow plenty of time for delays/traffic.

  • Stay dry! Take a coat and/or umbrella just in case it rains.

Miscellaneous

  • Take an extra copy of your CV so you have the same information in front of you as the interviewer.

  • If necessary, prepare a copy of your certifications and/or examples of past work.

  • Make sure you can provide strong references on request.

We hope these tips will help to put your mind at ease and bring you one step closer to the job of your dreams! If you have any questions or queries regarding your interview, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the HRS team - one of our advisors will be more than happy to help. Good luck!

Further Reading: Why Didn't I Get the Job?

How to prepare for a Job Interview

Now that you've been offered a job interview, it's time to buckle down and prepare for what's ahead.

Many people think they don't need to prepare for a job interview. It's tempting to believe that your qualifications alone will be enough to get you the job, or that the interview is just a way for the employer to get to know you. Though both of these statements are true to an extent, they are certainly not the whole story.

We at Hyper Recruitment Solutions have helped countless candidates to secure their dream jobs, so today we're going to share some of our best tips on how to prepare for a job interview.

The following tips should stand you in very good stead when the time comes to sit down with your potential employer.

Research the company

Researching your potential employer is one of the most important steps when preparing for a job interview. Hopefully, if you've applied for the job, you already know a little bit about the company anyway; nevertheless, read through the company's website, find out what they do, what their values are, their past projects, their future ambitions, and so forth.

The most important things to take note of are as follows:

  • How long has the company been around?
  • How did they get to where they are?
  • Who do they work with?
  • Who are their competitors?
  • What are their company values?
  • What do you like about the company?
This information will also help you to make sure that this is the company you want to be working for.

Google yourself

In much the same way as you've been researching the company, your potential employer will most likely conduct their own research on you. So try to think like the employer. What's the first thing they'll do when they want to find out more about a potential candidate? That's right: Google them!

Google your name and check what comes up. If your Facebook profile shows up, complete with lots of photos from drunken nights out, be sure to check your account's privacy settings. If some unsavoury images of you appear in Google Images, be sure to delete those pictures from the place where you uploaded them.

Likewise, be sure to delete any controversial posts that may have seemed like a funny joke at the time, but could potentially breach company policy if associated with you. You don't want your potential employer to get the wrong opinion of you!

Prepare for the interview questions

Most job interviews come with a standard set of questions. You know the ones: 'what are your weaknesses?', 'where do you see yourself in five years?', 'provide an example of when you lead a team'. A good way to prepare for a job interview is to write out your answers to these questions and revise. If you don't know the standard questions, you should read our blog post about common job interview questions.

A good tip when preparing for these questions is to try and think of unique answers. Your potential employer will most likely ask every candidate these questions, and may therefore have heard many of the same answers over and over again. Think hard about these questions and try to provide an answer that provides your interviewer with an insight into who you are (rather than just another cliché that tells them next to nothing).

Dress sharp

We are often told to not judge a book by its cover, but interviewers only have a limited time with each candidate, and first impressions are incredibly important.

Dressing smart for your job interview not only shows your potential employer that you really care about this job, it can also give you a confidence boost. If you feel like you suit the part and look good, you will feel more at ease during your interview. Confidence is an attractive quality in a situation that usually incites nerves, so prepare for your job interview by making yourself feel more confident.

For more advice on this front, read our blog post about what to wear to a job interview.

Prepare your journey

Our final tip on how to prepare for your job interview is to be on time (early, if possible!) to your interview. If you are late, this is a clear indicator to your potential employer that you don't care enough about the job that's up for grabs.

Plan ahead and prepare your journey. If the company is based somewhere that's not local to you, check your travel times and the traffic rigorously prior to the interview. If you think you may be late, be sure to call ahead and let them know why you will be late. After all, a traffic jam can be forgiven as long as you handle it professionally and reasonably.

Good luck! We hope our tips on how to prepare for a job interview have helped you. If you're still looking for your dream job, you can browse the latest science and technology jobs here.