Preparation is key to success in job interviews

“The modern recruitment process is not a box-ticking exercise”

Preparation is key to success in job interviews

It’s a buoyant labour market, but most employers are prioritising job candidates who are willing to stay with a new firm for the long haul and invest in progressing through its ranks.

That’s according to Denis Casey, group operations director of Euro Executive Recruitment, part of the international AA Europe Recruitment Group which specialises in hiring permanent staff across the construction, accountancy and finance, engineering, IT and HR sectors, as well as for executive-level jobs.

Denis Casey
Denis Casey

Casey, who is based at the company’s offices in Cork — the firm has several offices around Ireland and is a dominant player in the UK, Romania, Croatia, Poland and the Netherlands — comments that there is a particularly strong uplift both in these labour market sectors and in multi-lingual positions within shared services in Cork and across Ireland.

Casey’s statement reflects the current strength of the labour market — recent figures show that the State’s unemployment rate has fallen below five per cent for the first time since the crash and that, in fact, the last time the jobless rate was below 5% was in July 2007.

However, he emphasises, while there is a strong demand for workers, employers generally have a very clear profile for the type of people they want, and that consistency in relation to an employee’s commitment to longevity with a firm, is key:

“Companies want candidates who will come on board and be there for a long period of time, and who see themselves progressing through the company,” he explained.

The initial investment in new employees can be extremely taxing for a business, explains Casey, so although employers are very willing to make that investment, they want to see it result in a long-term commitment by the employee to their company.

“Companies are looking for candidates who will join their workforce with a view to staying with and progressing through the company.

“People can progress up the career ladder quite quickly, once they show true commitment to the organisation and the employers,” explains Casey.

He comments that in his 19 years in the recruitment sector, he has learned that although “good people are always hard to find,” when a company has identified a suitable candidate who is interested in spending a considerable amount of time with a firm, it is generally very willing to encourage that employee to move up through the ranks.

However, if a company sees a lot of ‘hopping around’ on a CV, the employer may not consider such a candidate for interview. And, even if a company is still prepared to interview such a candidate, this type of employment history would put the applicant on ‘the back foot’, he warns.

Emphasising that he is referring here only to permanent employees and not to candidates who work as self-employed contractors and who would normally move around within a particular labour market sector as part of their work, he adds: “The optics of a lot of stop-start with different employers are not good.

The first two months a new person spends in a business is a massive investment of time and resources, and companies want people who will invest in the company in return.

There are increasingly a number of different elements to job interviews, he observes, the first phase in the process commonly being a video or Skype interview: “This is now part of the recruitment process, because the candidates that a business may be looking at can be spread right across Ireland, Europe, the USA, Canada or Australia, for example.”

First impressions count

When a candidate is not on location, then that pivotal first interaction he explains, is usually handled through Skype or a video call.

“This is increasingly common as the first phase of the interview process.”

Candidates are strongly advised to prepare carefully for this first phase, Casey warns: “This IS an interview,” he emphasises, so a candidate should carry out detailed research of the business itself, “learn what type of business it is and understand the job specs for the position he or she is applying for along with the ethics of the business.”

Candidates should ensure that they are very well informed about the business — and, after all, the relevant information, as he points out, is not particularly hard to find:

“Lots of companies will put their policies on their websites, so this is research that needs to be done. You will not get through the first interview if you have not done that first piece of research — it shows buy-in and investment into the proposal.”

Once an employer is happy that a person is a potentially good fit, says Casey, the second interview will be arranged:

We have had clients who will either fly to a European base to meet candidates or bring candidates to their facility or offices to conduct face-to-face interviews

“We have candidates who have come from Australia for interview, for example, and the clients pay for it.”

This is common practice he says, particularly in sectors such as construction, engineering, the life sciences and IT: “We have, for example, flown senior construction staff to Ireland from the Middle East and Australia to be interviewed for a particular role.”

The face-to-face interview is generally much more in-depth: “The first part of the conversation will be about the core skills of the position and confirming that the candidate has the requisite skill-set,” says Casey, who explains that once these matters have been dealt with, the second half of the interview — during which key decisions are usually made — then takes place.

With modern companies, the second half of this interview is very much about a candidate’s ‘personality fit’ in terms of the specific organisation to which he or she is applying, he explains: “It’s very much about a company determining whether a candidate is a good character fit for the business; it’s about ensuring that the person will fit in seamlessly into current structures.

“The company will have a personal profile in mind. Some companies really want to ensure that a candidate will fit with the profile of existing employees in order to be certain that they will transition seamlessly into the workforce.”

This is crucial he observes, pointing out, for example, that the appointment of a highly confrontational individual to a cooperative-minded, team-orientated workforce could potentially result in the long-term loss of valuable employees to a firm.

To this end, some companies employ personality tests, through questionnaire format, as part of their selection process.

“The modern recruitment process is not a box-ticking exercise,” he emphasises.

“Qualifications are just one piece of the pie; it is also very much about personality and the investment that a client believes the candidate is prepared to put into the business in the long term.

“Candidates need to demonstrate they’ve done the research, and that they are committed,” says Casey, who suggests to candidates that a useful strategy is to picture himself or herself already working with this organisation.

Preparation is everything

Be ready to say what you feel you that can bring to this business, he advises.

You need to be prepared. You need to be able to answer that question succinctly and not vaguely.

Think about what you were able to bring to your previous employment, for example, and prepare examples of how you can implement this offering in your new position.

“This means that the company can see, and understand what the applicant has and what they can bring, and the add-ons that they can provide as a new employee.”

Today’s CVs are very streamlined — but for modern employers, it’s not all about work experience and qualifications, he warns.

“Clients want a brief outline of a person’s achievements, their career experience and education profile, particularly their third level qualifications. However, we have seen that companies are also very interested in applicants’ personal interests.

“Work is work, but more modern companies are also keen to ensure employees have active interests outside of work, for example sports and charitable works.

“All of these help to give a profile of what the person is like. It’s a good idea to outline what your interests are outside of work.

“This gives the employer an idea of your personality in terms of hobbies and interests, so this is an important contribution to the overall profile of a potential employee.”

His company, he points out, is in the enviable position of being able, through its European offices, to offer Irish candidates the option of working abroad, while at the same time offering European candidates the option of working in Ireland.

“We would be the only business that has European offices feeding candidates into the Irish market.

“We’re able to bring fresh new candidates to the jobs market in this country, that is, candidates companies have not seen before.”

“This particular aspect of our service has been extremely well received,” he says, adding that next month the firm will meet with a significant number of Irish candidates currently living and working abroad, who are returning to Ireland for the Christmas holiday period, but who are also hoping to find permanent work here:

“We will be meeting any Irish candidates who would like to return home from jobs in the Middle East and the UK, seeking jobs in Ireland — as well as UK citizens seeking work in Ireland because they want to work in the EU and they want to secure a role in a company they feel secure in.”

The opportunities are there, he believes:

If there is a professional Irish candidate in any sector who wishes to return to work in Ireland, there is no reason at this time that he would be unable to secure a role here.

The company’s emphasis on face-to-face meetings with clients and job candidates has served it well, Casey believes.

“Recruitment is not rocket science — it’s about treating people properly, treating people well and treating people with respect.”

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