Job Search


March 25th, 2014

Quintessentially People Managing Director Samuel Martin has interviewed a whole range of people in the past 3 years since QP launched, from the most junior up to CEO level. Here he shares some thoughts on the interview process and the do's and do nots of how to impress a future employer:

How can an applicant make themselves stand out in a positive way at the written application stage of job seeking, aside from having all the relevant qualifications. What is the best way to ensure you get selected for interview?

It's all about your CV - you can come up with some whacky idea to get yourself noticed but all it comes down to is your CV - the most important tool when applying for any job. The fact is agents and employers spend very little time looking at a CV. It's worth investing in a graphic designer to make your CV stand out. CVs that land in my inbox which have been professionally designed always grab my attention - it shows you have taken the time, thought about it properly and clearly care about your career. There are a million websites which can tell you how to write your CV - just remember to keep it short (two pages is fine), don’t waffle, don't write your personal description in the third person (it's obvious you have written it and appears uncomfortable), make sure your key achievements stand out and list any special skills or experience you have (not just confined to the work environment but in your personal life also – do you fly helicopters in your spare time? Do you do some amazing charity work outside of your work? etc etc).

What are three crucial things to remember during a job interview?

1)Apart from the obvious key points like dress smartly etc there are a few other points I think are important. Regardless of your possible dislike for your current or ex-employer, don't demean them or reveal too much about them - even to your agent - or at least re-phrase your dislike for them. Particularly for an agency like Quintessentially People, where all of our clients are either high profile or high net worth and discretion is paramount. It might seem a bit obvious but a great deal of people who have had a problem with their employer reveals this to the agent, and it really doesn't reflect well on either yourself, your professionalism or your maturity - even if it does make your agent laugh. Someone I interviewed a few months ago told me his boss, a high profile politician, sends him out frequently to buy seedy magazines for him. Another told me she covers up for her employer’s affair, and some other candidates have revealed even worse. None of these kind of candidates we want to represent. It might appear funny but a lot of employers wouldn’t agree if you bought that up in an interview to impress them - it shows a lack of judgement by revealing such details. It’s important to remember that agents will only put you forward to their clients if you are going to make them look good too.

2) Think about your weaknesses before you go for the interview. Everyone has weaknesses even if you're Mr or Mrs Perfect - and telling them you don't will give the wrong impression. Think of things such as impatience and turn it into a positive ("I have a tendency to be impatient at work but that's just because I like to get things done quickly and to the best of my ability").

3) The employer will most likely ask you about your life outside of work. When they ask this they usually mean what school you went to, the area you come from and, briefly, your hobbies. You don't need to tell them your favourite restaurant is Nandos or you have a tendency to drink on weekends until you pass out.

What is the better trait in an interview: having an answer for everything or admitting a gap in your experience but showing a willingness to learn?

I wouldn’t say it’s a great thing to have too many gaps in your experience and whether you’re willing to learn or not – anyone can say they are willing to learn, and unless they can prove it from past experience you’re probably going to lose out to the more qualified competition. 

Out of all the people you have interviewed, who is the one person who has stood out more than all the others and why? No need to mention names!

I recently interviewed a guy who was leaving his position as an Aide for a very famous Hollywood actor. He was just one of those rare candidates you know if you put them forward for a position they would get it each and every time. His experience was unrivalled by anyone I had previously seen in his industry, he was at the top of his game, incredibly professional but also very funny, bubbly and articulate, had the looks of a model and at the end of the interview he also gave me a signed photo from the actor with a personal message recommending him, which I thought was a nice touch.

What about advice for people seeking a promotion? How can you push for it without seeming pushy? What are the secrets of giving your own brand as an individual the right PR?

Know your market value. If you don’t, find out. Ask around. Do you really deserve a promotion or are you just being greedy? If you deserve it, why do you deserve it? Have you achieved something great? Have you been there for a number of years in the same role? Once you’ve worked that out and you are ready for the next step, have a meeting with your manager, outline the reasons why (is it just because there is a position vacant or are you ready for a bigger challenge? If it’s the latter, how are you going to prove you’re capable of the challenge?). If they say no and you really do need that more senior position, give me a shout and I’ll find it for you!