Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 42 – Capitalising on the successes

We would like to say welcome to all our new registrants and readers of this edition of Information Overload; it is a pleasure to have you with us. Thank you in advance for forwarding on this edition to interested friends and colleagues, your consideration is most appreciated.

This month we take a look at job applications, and how you can make your application stand out.

Remember, we are always on the look out for new topics, so if there is anything you would like to see us cover we would love to hear from you, just send me an email to If you would like to read any of the back issues or the main edition of Information Overload you can find these on our web site – Whilst you are there, you might like to check out the provisional programme for IEA’s Inaugural Seminar on Electronic Document and Records Management Systems – EDRMS: Local People, Local Knowledge. We have persuaded local people with international experience to give us their time and expertise in such diverse areas such as Working out the Return on Investment; Why Marketing is the forgotten phase, and Change & Innovation, along with case studies of successful EDRMS implementations, planning and legal implications. We are expecting to receive the registration brochure from the printers shortly, but you can register your interest on our web site. 

Lorraine Bradshaw
Marketing Coordinator

In this issue we will look at:
• What is working for you?
• What not to wear!
• What to say, What not to say
• First things first
• A Thought to ponder

What is working for you?

Do you know what is working for you? If you do, then keep on doing it, you don’t need my help. But if your results are a little haphazard chances are you are focusing your energy on what is going wrong rather than capitalising on your successes. Whilst this can be applied to almost any area of your life, we are going to focus specifically on job applications.

Unless you are extremely lucky, finding your next position can be a time consuming occupation. Yes I did say occupation. If you are out of work, then looking for work is your occupation, and you should focus your energy and attention on doing the work required day in, day out to achieve your goal of finding that perfect job.

Are you the kind of person who has no trouble at all getting to the job interview stage? If you are, then congratulations you are more successful than you know. The question is – what are you not doing when you get to the interview that is stopping you from getting the job that is on offer.

First of all let me say, that in some cases “you” may not be the problem. The organisation may have decided to re-structure in which case the position may no longer be available, or they may have had an internal candidate lined up all along. If you receive a thanks but no thanks letter after the interview, please telephone them and find out why you didn’t get the job that was on offer. And make some notes, because it is only by asking the right questions that you can work out what you need to do differently next time.

A constructive critique of your performance on the day is a great way of finding out what went well and obviously what didn’t. It is only by asking the right kind of questions that you can find out how to improve on your chances of success next time around.

What not to wear!

Perhaps one of the most overlooked factors in the process of attending an interview is what you looked like on the day. Did you “fit in” with their idea of a successful candidate? I am not referring to body image per se, rather the total image that you presented on the day of the interview.

What were the interviewers wearing? Did you see any other members of staff? What were they wearing? Now have a good look at the outfit that you chose to wear to the interview. Did it match the organisations expectations of a successful candidate? Before you say that you are perfectly entitled to wear what you want to an interview, and I am all for individuality in a person’s choice of clothes, some things are expected.

Whilst some of these may sound like we are stating the obvious – sometimes it is the little things that we overlook that can make the difference in the end.

Clothes should be clean and pressed. Wearing the same outfit that you wore to the pub last night is not a good idea as the fibres retain odours, especially smoke. If you are a smoker, you may not be able to “smell” in the same way as a non-smoker – so ask a friend to give you their opinion – what do they see when they “see” you dressed in your clothes? What do you “smell” like?

Hair should be clean and brushed. If you need your hair cutting or the roots re-touching, consider having it done a couple of days before the interview.
If you wear make-up make sure it hasn’t smudged. When meeting a prospective employer for the first time, understated is probably best, and that also goes for nail polish and perfume or cologne.

Hygiene – this one is particularly emotive. If you are going to the interview during the day it is probably a good idea not to go the gym beforehand, and if you do, please make sure you shower before getting dressed!! If you enjoy spicy food, then it may also be a good idea to clean your teeth before going. There is nothing more off putting than garlic or spinach in someone’s teeth.
So what should you wear to an interview? Well that depends on the organisation you are applying to. But standard business wear is the easiest. Until you know the culture of the organisation, then it is better to err on the side of caution.

Words: What to say, What not to say
Are your words letting you down? Do you get to the interview and forget who you are and what you have ever done in your working life? If that sounds like you, don’t worry you are not alone. Being interviewed is similar to public speaking, if you are not comfortable standing up in front of a crowd, chances are you will also dislike going to an interview. The reasons why are many, but in a significant number of cases, it is because you are really not sure about the topic you are presenting to your audience. 

If you were confident about your topic, you would be able to speak for hours on the subject, you would be able to give examples, you would be eloquent and memorable. So how come most people are not able to talk about themselves in a professional setting? Is it a case of not wanting to blow your own trumpet, or are you simply not confident in your abilities?
In order to feel comfortable with your skills and abilities you need to spend some time getting to know yourself. Have a good look at your CV. This document should contain all the important facts about your professional life. If you haven’t read it in a while, now is the time to do it. What successes did you have? What examples can you give to a new employer – they are going to want to know why you are the best person for the job. The reason why you had to answer all those selection criteria is to find out how well you handled a situation, so they can see how well you would handle a similar situation in the future. 

And talking of the selection criteria, re-read this more than once as this is what the questions will be based upon in the interview. Make a note of the answers that you gave, then using your CV – decide if there are any other examples that explain the task or situation better than the one you gave in the document. 

Finally take some time and re-read the job application package. This contains vital information relating to the organisation, the position on offer and the people you will be working with. With this information in mind, can you answer the questions differently? 

When you are formulating your answers, bear in mind the STAR method. State the Situation or Task that you faced, Give the Actions that you took, and the Results that you achieved.
And remember to have a couple of questions ready to ask the panel. Good questions include:
• What do you like most about working for this organisation? (Remember, you are also interviewing them)
• When will a decision be made?

First things first
But what happens if you are struggling to get to the interview stage? It is all very well having the right clothes sorted out, but if you can’t impress someone on paper, then you are not going to be doing it in person.
If you did not make it to the interview stage of an application process, you should consider telephoning the organisation to ask them for some feedback.
Again, please bear in mind that you and your application may not have been the problem, especially if the organisation has gone through a re-structure. The position may no longer be available.
However, it will come as no shock to you to find that the reason most people don’t reach the interview stage is that they failed to apply for the position properly.
• Follow the instructions very carefully. The information contained in the application package is there for you to ensure you reach their preferred standard.
• Include everything that they have asked, even if it sounds ridiculous. If they ask you to send in 3 unbound copies you know you will be facing 3 people on the interview panel, and they are trying to save paper by getting you to send in the requisite number.
• Your CV does not tell the employer what they need to know. If you do not give sufficient information in your CV to support your claims for experience in a particular area, you will quickly hit the thanks but no thanks pile.
• Your covering letter does not give enough information for the employer to know which position you are applying for. If you are applying to a large corporation, then you will need to state position, department and job number on the covering letter so that your application goes into the correct pile.
• Your application contains spelling and grammatical errors – one is considered an oversight, two or more will normally rule you out of the application process. Consider the question on the subject of “attention to detail”, if the position you are applying for needs skills and ability in this particular area, then you have proven that you do not have good “attention to detail” as you claim in your answer.
• You have not answered all the questions. Please bear in mind that the short list of candidates will be drawn from those people who have answered all the Essential selection criteria, and most if not all of the Desirable categories too.
• Your statement addressing the selection criteria does not give the potential employer sufficient information as to why you should be considered for the position. Give examples, and give sufficient information to back your claims.
• Your application was submitted late.

Applying for a position is a time consuming process. Remember, if you don’t spend the time preparing your application, the job is likely to go to someone who has.

Good luck with your future applications. And if you would like any further assistance, The 2nd edition of IEA’s book – The First 4 Minutes: Understanding the Selection and Interview Process will be available shortly.

A Thought to Ponder
“What’s really important in life? Sitting on the beach? Looking at the television eight hours a day? I think we have to appreciate that we’re alive for only a limited period of time, and we’ll spend most of our lives working. That being the case, I believe one of the most important priorities is to do whatever we do as well as we can. We should take pride in that.”
Victor Kermit Kiam (1926 -)
American corporate executive