Graduate Interviews: fatal errors and how to avoid them

I’ve been involved in some graduate interviews over the past week and it has reminded me of how refreshing it can be to interview younger people at the start of their careers (Ouch! that makes me sound very old), but also how unprepared graduates can be for a thorough selection process.

It can be tough to secure that first role, so I thought it would be useful to share some of the errors I saw in order to learn from them. So here goes:

  • Finding out about the company on a very superficial level.

Proving that you had a look at the website doesn’t show a real interest in understanding the company. Get beneath the headlines, search for current articles/information and show that you have thought about the information you have read. If you really want to stand out ask a relevant question – not a token one mind!

  • Thinking that having a bit of company information is enough preparation

You have to show that you have read and understood the job description. Prepare the areas where you feel you will face questions from a technical or soft skills perspective. See my previous blogs on Interview Success Tips.

  •  Stating that you will walk in the door and change things for the better.
Companies aren’t looking for you to save the world on your first day. Of course you will add value, however the first step in joining any company is to recognise that there will be a lot to be learned from the existing process and people.

  • Pretending that you know more than you do.
Again be realistic, if you haven’t a specific skill or knowledge in an area where you are being asked questions don’t pretend you do. Highlight similar skills or knowledge or provide examples of where you have quickly acquired same in you past.

Remember it is tough to land that first job but it will happen! Keep going.
If you would like some additional help or guidance in you preparation for interviews or assessment centres call Noreen @ 087 6895857 or Valerie @ 087 2268422.

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Coaching and Mentoring: The same thing really…… aren’t they?

Recently, as I was supporting a client in implementing a structured mentoring programme, it turned out that many of the applicants to the programme really wanted coaching to support their development and not mentoring.

What is the difference I was asked?

A lot has been written in this area, yet many companies use the terms interchangeably and there certainly is a lot of overlap between the two concepts. For example, they are both about creating self awareness and personal development. Both are driven by the learner and lead to a culture where individuals value and take ownership for learning, creativity & problem solving.

So what are we splitting hairs about then?

Before investing in any development intervention it is important to stand back and look at your objectives, what do you hope to achieve both for the individual and the organisation?


In my mind mentoring is a developmental partnership through which a more senior or experienced person shares knowledge, skills, information and perspective to foster the personal and professional growth of another person.

Mentoring is biased in your favor and may include coaching, counselling, advising, networking and facilitation. Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.


Coaching on the other hand is the practice of supporting an individual through the process of achieving a specific role or professional result. The coach asks questions and challenges the coachee to develop their own skills/solutions.

Coaching is supportive yet impartial, focused on the development of specific skills, performance or behaviors.

Please comment with your own views and experiences of Coaching and Mentoring..

If you would like any help in implementing either a coaching or mentoring programme in your organisation contact Noreen ( or Valerie (

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Taking some of the Mystery out of Personality Profiles!

During a recent Interview Skills Coaching session a key question regarding personality profiles came into my mind with full force, “What it it about a simple personality profile that can undermine a candidates confidence and create so much uncertainty in their minds?”

I was coaching a client to help him prepare for an up-coming interview. He was doing great until he discovered that one element of the selection process would involve a personality profile. No matter how reassuring I was or how much I emphasised that it was really just a matter of answering honestly, I found it extremely difficult to get him to shift his focus from worrying about the personality profile and to concentrate on preparing for the interview.

It occurred to me that for a lot of people these tools are unfamiliar and they have no idea what they are attempting to measure. As a result they are fearful that a side to their character will be revealed that they would rather not disclose or, worse still, that they will not be offered the job on the strength of the personality profile alone.

As someone who is fully qualified in the administration and interpretation of such tools I felt that I had a responsibility to take some of the mystery out of them for those of you preparing for interview/assessment centre, etc.

Firstly, a personality profile is what is called a self report tool, it is you describing yourself. There is nothing more sinister underlying it, it is not trying to catch you out in some way!

Secondly a personality profile alone would never be used to make a selection decision. Instead, they would typically be used to inform or add another level of information to the selection process.

Thirdly, it is measuring much the same elements as the interview, whether you are more out-going or shy, more team oriented or self sufficient, etc. However, these profiles are tested for validity and reliability, and so are a more objective method of evaluating personality than using the interview alone. In other words they help make the selection process fairer and less open to the potential unfair biases of interviewers. Yes, they are a good thing!!

Fourthly, it is important to be honest! Most tools have in-built mechanisms to measure the extent to which a person is being honest. If you are trying to create a false impression, it will more than likely be picked up.

Finally, while there is some value in familiarising yourself with the format of personality profiles (see my previous blog on preparing for Assessment Centres) that is the most you can do in terms of preparation, so relax!

Posted in Career Coaching, Personality and Ability Profiling | 2 Comments

Preparing for Assessment Centres : Practice Tests

As more and more organisations are recognising the benefits of adopting more balanced and objective methods of selection, candidates are increasingly being asked to undergo some form of psychometric testing or assessment centre as part of the selection process. Up to 75% of medium to large sized organisations, and 95% of FTSE Top 100 companies are using tests or questionnaires during the recruitment process.

While practicing tests won’t increase your ability it certainly helps your confidence to know what you may experience allowing you to use you time more effectively. We have been involved in designing and facilitating assessment centres for a number of multi-national organisations and have constantly been amazed and disappointed by how underprepared participants are.

We have pulled together some useful links to help you access practice tests and information to improve your chances of success:

Or you could try This site lists nearly 200 links to websites featuring practice and example tests for a very wide range of applications.

If you would like further advice on preparing for success in assessment centres contact Noreen @ 087 6895857 or Valerie @ 087 2268422 or go to

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Getting Noticed: Video CV?

As social media becomes ever more relevant in the search for new job opportunities, some people are becoming very innovative in how they utilise the tools available to them. Have you ever considered creating a video CV? Here is an example of what one person put together…..

What do you think? Please let us know your thoughts on this method of raising your profile for potential employers?

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Ensuring Positive First Impressions

Remember first impressions last!

Here is some practical advice from our recruitment experience of areas where job seekers may not even focus but can be crucial to success in your search for a new job. These are straightforward and you may think they go without saying but in fact many people get them wrong!

Ensuring that your response to that first call/e-mail gets you to the interview:

Phone Calls:
1. Answer the phone as much as possible and be friendly. So many people screen calls and prefer texting. Missing one call could be the last call that you get from a recruiter or HR representative.

2. Make sure you have a personalised message if the call does go to voicemail. Include your name, sound friendly, and thank the person for the call.

3. Return voicemail calls as soon as possible. This shows courtesy for other people’s time and shows interest and politeness on your part.

4. If you have included your home number let the family know that you may be receiving calls from prospective employers. Make sure a note pad and a pen are always available to record important information.

1. Make sure your e-mail address sounds professional, many people provide personal addresses that were created in fun and don’t present a professional image for the person.

2. Many employers now use electronic databases to send invitations, times, location of interviews to jobseekers. If you have provided a personal e-mail address on your CV ensure you check it regularly and respond quickly to any communication.

3. Even though we are all used to using abbreviations & short hand when communicating with friends ensure you are professional in any e-mails you send to a prospective employer.

If you would like to know more about career success go to or call Valerie @ 087 2268422 or Noreen @ 087 6895857

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CV’s: What Employers Don’t Want

Jobseekers, here is some useful data that you may find interesting from the UK Recruitment Body Survey. Avoid these errors to ensure your CV is evaluated positively by employers inundated with CV’s..

Almost a third (32%) of 194 UK employers surveyed claimed they spend one minute or less reviewing a CV, while 14% per cent spend 30 seconds or less. Around a quarter (23%) also said they had uncovered a lie on a CV in the past year.

Employers also said they would be deterred by CVs containing the following:

• large blocks of text that are difficult to read (36%)

• exact text from the job ad pasted into the document – (36%)

• unaccompanied by cover letter – (26%)

• not customised to the role – (25%)

• that is more than three pages– (18%)

• listing an objective instead of a career summary – (17%)

• an unprofessional email address – (16%)

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