I recently volunteered with Essex Work Skills as they provided Year 11’s at Moulsham High School with mock interview experience. The process included preparing a covering letter and CV followed by a formal 15-20 minute interview and ending with a feedback session.
Remembering back to when I was 16 and incredibly shy and naïve, I would have been very thankful to have had the opportunity of a mock interview rather than just being launched into the world of work without knowing what was expected of me. This therefore became an opportunity for me to help students in an area in which I now have significant experience and hopefully provide them with valuable advice. Not knowing what to expect, I found the process surprisingly encouraging and was very impressed with the quality of the students that I had the pleasure of interviewing.
Whilst reflecting on the process, the same things came up over and over again in terms of the improvements that were needed by the candidates and this matched my current thoughts on recent interviews undertaken for positions for the Practice. I therefore thought I would share my top tips for any students launching into the world of employment for the first time.
Step 1 – the letter / Email
- Avoid using a standard generic letter, make the letter relevant to the company you are writing to, include references in the letter that show you have researched them and know what they are about and how you feel you will fit in.
- Address the letter to an actual person, no Dear Sir/Madam. There is no excuse and it is relatively easy to find out this information, either by ringing the company or using research on the internet.
Step 2 – The CV
- A suggested layout would include Personal Statement, Skills, Education, Work Experience/Job Experience, Hobbies and Interests. Ensure that the actual layout of the CV is well presented and easy to read as this is the first impression of you that a potential employer will see.
- Personal statement should be a well written paragraph that contains the following 3 items, who are you, what can you offer and what are your career goals. Using the job that you are applying for as a reference and don’t be afraid to state why you are looking for a new role if that is the case. Avoid the overuse of “I”.
- Skills should be bullet points but don’t make them too cliché without cross referencing them to other sections of your CV. If Team Working is a skill make sure that your work experience or hobbies/interests link to how this has been achieved.
- Hobbies and Interests should be bullet points and cross referenced to skills that are likely to be helpful for the job you are applying to. For example “Play football for AB Town FC –skills developed include communication and team working” “Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award – skills developed include communication, team working, patience and logical thinking”
Both the letter and CV should be tailored to the job and the company that you are applying for and by investing the time at this stage may improve your chances of getting an interview.
Step 3 – The Interview
- Ensure that you know exactly where you are going, where to park and how to access the company. Don’t get caught out by being late at the last hurdle.
- Look like you have prepared for an interview and not just popped in off the street. Bring a copy of the job description, your CV, a note pad showing questions to consider and points about the company. A mobile phone on the desk doesn’t show the same level of preparation as a pad and pen!
- Always have a couple of questions ready during the interview to ask the interviewer, even if they have covered everything you wanted to know. Good questions I have been asked include “why do you enjoy working at Lambert Chapman?” “what makes Lambert Chapman different to other accountants?” “what is the induction process like and how does it work” and probably the best one that caught me by surprise “what 3 words would your employees use to describe working at Lambert Chapman”.
- Make sure you are prepared for the question “what do you know about our company and the job role we are interviewing for?” and look to provide an answer that shows you have looked beyond the historical facts and link it to how you would fit in. For example a potential candidate that tells me we were formed in 1970 and we provide accountancy and tax services is not as prepared as one that refers to the variety of services that we undertake and the fact that we are focused on providing clients with an all-round service. The first shows me they read our home page the second shows me they have understood our focus.
Following the work with Essex Work Skills I hope that the handful of students I was directly involved with now have a better understanding of the interview process and use my advice to improve their chances of employment.
The process was very rewarding and one that I would be happy to support in the future.
The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the Author and other professionals may express different views. They may not be the views of Lambert Chapman LLP. The material in the article cannot and should not be considered as exhaustive. Professional advice should be sought in connection with any of the issues contained in the article and the implementation of any actions.