What to expect from the interview process during COVID-19

September 25th, 2020 by

The Coronavirus pandemic has meant changing many of the ways we live and work, and applying for a new job during COVID-19 is among them.

Early in the outbreak – even before the government-imposed lockdown began – we at Alexander Hancock took the decision to minimise face-to-face contact.

That allowed us to protect our staff and to give safe distance to anyone who needed to visit us in person.

However, the interview process is an integral part of getting a new job in COVID-19 just as it is at any other time – so we have continued in-depth interviews with candidates.

So what’s changed since March? Here are some differences you might notice in the interview process during COVID-19, both with your Alexander Hancock recruitment consultant and with any employers who interview you.

COVID-safe interviews

There are several different ways to hold COVID-safe job interviews (or COVID-secure interviews, as they are sometimes called).

One of the main ways is to hold first-round job interviews remotely. You may notice more of your job interviews take place by telephone or videoconferencing in the months to come.

This is beneficial for some candidates in other ways too – you can ‘attend’ more COVID-secure job interviews at times that suit you, as you don’t have to travel in person.

You might feel like your recruitment consultant is holding more in-depth interviews with you over the phone, because we are working hard to make sure we don’t put candidates forward for in-person interviews unless they’re a perfect fit for the job.

Equally, your first-round telephone interview with a prospective employer might feel more probing, but that’s because they too are trying to reduce the number of face-to-face interviews they carry out.

All of this means it’s important to take those initial interviews seriously, even if they’re just a phone call or web chat – they’re your chance to impress and get on to a potentially much shorter shortlist for the next round.

In-person job interviews during COVID-19

If you are asked to attend an in-person job interview during COVID-19, it’s sensible to ask what COVID-secure precautions are in place in the workplace you will need to visit.

For example, you might have to:

  • Sanitise your hands with alcohol gel or wash them with soap on arrival.
  • Wait outside until the interviewer is ready for you.
  • Maintain a minimum physical distance from others inside.
  • Wear a face mask in communal areas or in the interview.
  • Follow other sensible precautions e.g. avoid touching your face and eyes.

Obviously if you have any of the main symptoms of COVID-19, you should not attend an interview in person; however, you could still have interviews by telephone or webcam.

You might want to keep a smart bag or briefcase ready with essential supplies like spare masks, alcohol gel, tissues, hayfever pills, throat lozenges and so on – whatever you need to feel comfortable and safe on your way to, during, and home from the interview.

This year has been challenging and many people are facing unplanned career changes. By doing everything we can to keep the interview process safe and on track, we are helping as many candidates as possible to find the best jobs available in COVID-secure workplaces.

Contact us today to help with your job search!

PA Prep: What to expect day to day in your new PA job

September 6th, 2019 by

The first day at work in any new job can be challenging as you try to learn the ropes as quickly as possible, but when you’re a personal assistant it’s even more important to hit the ground running so you can excel in your role.

Once you’re past that first day, week and month, you’re likely to settle into more of a routine – although of course there will be surprises along the way too.

Here’s our guide to what to expect on the first day as a PA and what is likely to follow on a ‘normal’ day after that…

How to prepare for a PA role

By the time you’re given the job as a PA, it’s likely that you will know exactly who you will be assisting – and you probably met them at the interview stage.

This gives you a great opportunity to do your background research, find out the kinds of appointments and commitments you will need to keep on top of, and start planning a daily schedule.

Make sure you know what tools you would like to use to keep track of things. You might prefer a paper diary or calendar you can easily jot things down on, or an electronic or email-based calendar that triggers automatic reminders – whatever works best for you.

First day as a PA

Your first day is about getting your bearings, and as much as you might want to start at full speed ahead, it’s not always possible to do that.

There’s likely to be certain orientation sessions, whether that’s meeting your managers and colleagues, learning about the company culture, health and safety, and fire evacuation routine, or some other kind of icebreaker or introduction.

But you’ll usually have at least some time to yourself too, and this is your chance to familiarise yourself with your new working environment, any computer equipment and other tools at your disposal, and start your planning.

How to excel quickly

The PA role is all about organisation, so the sooner you can get your plans in order, the better.

You might want to start by drawing up a timetable for regular commitments and available appointments for one-off meetings, interviews and other events.

Even if you’re a natural when it comes to time-keeping, you may also want to set up some reminders so you don’t miss anything important in your first few days.

Day two and beyond…

Congratulations, you survived your first day in a high-stress PA role – now comes the rest of your career!

That planning you already made will prove helpful in the long term, as you settle into a routine of repetitive weekly meetings and other commitments, occasional interviews and one-off events, and ongoing responsibility for timekeeping

A lot of your role may prove to be admin support, from ghost-writing correspondence from your boss, to photocopying spare copies of important documents.

Don’t sweat the small stuff – it’s the bread and butter of the role, and should leave you able to put your attention on making sure your boss never misses an important engagement, no matter how long you are their PA.

If you’re interested in becoming a PA, give us a call today to get started on the road to success!

PA Prep: How to smash the PA interview

August 30th, 2019 by

You’ve landed an interview for that PA role you’ve been chasing – now how do you make sure you get the job?

Like the role itself, a PA interview is well worth preparing for. People say “you only get one chance to make a good first impression” and that’s especially true in interviews, which are usually your one and only shot at getting the job.

Here’s our guide to how to prepare, how to make that first impression, and some of the questions – and ideal answers – you’re likely to face.


How to make a good first impression

Personal assistants have to deal with a lot, from basic admin through to some very stressful timekeeping, so it’s important to appear well organised.

That means being well presented and well prepared for the interview. Arrive in plenty of time, and find a mirror to check yourself in. Have your CV, cover letter and any notes organised and ready in case you need them.

Like any job interview, enter the room confidently, make sure you greet the interviewer and any observers, be formal but friendly, and let them take the lead.


What will you be asked?

Common questions in a PA interview are mostly about organisational skills. You might be asked why you want the job – both why you want to be a PA, and why you want this specific job.

You’ll probably be asked about a specific scenario, for example how you’ll organise your first day in the job, or how you’d handle a particularly busy week’s schedule.

If you’ve made it to the interview stage, you’re more than capable of answering these questions, so don’t panic – often there’s no right or wrong answer, the interviewer just wants to see that you have a train of thought when faced with multiple tasks to juggle.

Expect to be asked about your weaknesses, too. This is something you can prepare in advance – choose something that really is a weakness, but not something that is essential to the PA role, and make sure it’s something you’re already working on improving.


What skills are most important?

It’s good to base your answers around the most important skills for a PA, and these include a logical train of thought, good proficiency with computers, correspondence and all kinds of bookings, and a general aptitude for business admin.

Timekeeping is crucial – so don’t be late for your interview! You can touch on this in your answers too, giving examples of how you carefully plan to be in the right place at the right time, and have alternative ways to get there in case of emergencies.


How to leave a good impression on your interviewer

Don’t blow it at the last minute. Have a parting question to ask – this could be based on something that came up in the interview, or about the long-term future of the role.

Try not to sound too self-serving. A question about long-term prospects can be good, but don’t frame it as a question about promotions and pay rises.

Finally, be sure to thank the interviewer for their time and repeat those ‘first impression’ pleasantries, shaking hands with everyone in the room, plenty of eye contact and smiles, and a confident departure until the door is firmly closed behind you and you know you are out of sight and earshot.


Give us a call if you’d like to hear more about PA opportunities.

Your Interview Timeline

August 23rd, 2019 by

What to do the night before, the morning of, immediately after and 1 week later…

Saying the right things and impressing the interviewers is pretty much a necessary part of getting any position. But many jobs are actually won, and more importantly lost, in the hours before and after the interview has even taken place.


The night before

Confidence comes with knowledge.

In our experience, not being prepared is the number one reason you might not get the job. Yes, you might be the best candidate, but lack of preparation doesn’t go down well and just demonstrates a lack of willingness to put the effort in.

Fortunately, it’s easy enough to get yourself in the best possible position and here are a few of our top tips.

  • Prepare your answers…and your questions.

    Write down any answers to expected questions and rehearse them. It will give you great confidence when the question comes up to know exactly what your answer will be.

    Also, research the company and even the people you will be meeting (it’s easy on Linked-In) and have some great questions prepared. This shows a real level of interest of your part, people love talking about themselves.

  • Practice in the mirror.

    OK, we know this is a bit awkward at first but remember, this is how the interviewer will see you. So, rehearse a few of your answers whilst watching yourself…you’ll be surprised how things look from the other side of the desk.

  • Get to bed.

    Ok, clothes ironed, answers rehearsed and it’s time to get some sleep. Don’t go out clubbing, get to bed at a reasonable time. You don’t want to turn up looking like you need a good kip.


The morning of the big day

  • Get up early.

Make sure you’re not in a rush. You can relax and make a cup of tea whilst you go over your interview answers.

  • Look great.

    This will not only impress the interviewers, but it will give you extra confidence.

  • Leave the house in plenty of time.

    With sat-nav and Google maps at your fingertips there are no excuses for being late. Interviewers hate it and you’ll be starting from a negative position.

  • Be lovely with the receptionist.

    You’ll be surprised who gets to chip-in with their input on who gets the job. So be lovely and engaging with whoever you meet en route to the interview room.

  • Don’t forget your notes.

Make sure you take your notebook and a pen. You can refer to your answers if you forget something and you can write down all their answers to your great questions for reference later.


Immediately After the Interview

Go and get a Costa to calm the nerves and congratulate yourself. If you’ve taken all the steps mentioned above, then we expect your interview to have gone pretty well.

Then, follow up with a nice email to say how much you enjoyed the meeting.

Try not to ask if you’ve got the job here, just demonstrate a willingness to communicate, compliment the company and ask them to let you know if you can provide any more information to further your application.


A week later

It may be just a few days after but it’s important to follow up.

A reasonable amount of time has passed now, and you have every right to ask if you were successful. You might only be looking for a second interview or the job itself, but take the initiative and be proactive.

If you weren’t successful, ask why and if there is anything you can do to change their minds.


We’ll call you

When we sent you to an interview, we’ll make sure to call you before, to make sure you can get to your interview and that you’re prepared. We’ll call you afterwards as well to talk through how you feel it went. We have a great team here and we’re experienced in what will make the difference, so get in touch and we’ll be happy to help. Call on 0161 929 6665.

Types of interviews – Be prepared for all of them!

August 16th, 2019 by

The workplace is changing fast and the stuffy old ways of interviewing can often go by the wayside.

So don’t be surprised if the interview process is a bit different from the norm.


Telephone interview

These are really common nowadays as so many companies recruit remotely. But it can also just be the first stage of a longer interview process, especially if the interviewer is some distance away.

Much of our communication is done visually through body language, but in this case, you’ll be relying solely on your voice.

So be expressive. Alter your tone and pace to make it interesting and here’s our top tip – practice in private first and record your answers on your phone, then play them back.

At first, you might be surprised how awkward you sound, but practice makes perfect.


One-to-one interview

This is the standard and you should be well prepared, both in terms of your punctuality, dress code and your answers. Try and make sure to have a great conversation rather than a robotic questions and answers session.


Group interview

The pressure is off here a little as you’ll be working in a group. But remember, the main objective of the interview team is to see how well you’ll fit into the company team.

So, muck in and make sure you interact with all the other interviewees as well as the existing employees. Try a mix of toeing the line and taking the lead.

A nice tip here though is to ask a specific question to one of the team. This will help them remember you.


Panel interview

The pressure is on here and this can seem pretty daunting but this is actually a great way of speeding up the interview process as the key people can all be in the room at the same time and make a quick decision.

The key here is to make eye contact with everyone and remember their names.

When it comes to answering the questions, it’s courtesy to aim the greater part of your answer at the person who asked the question, but also include the others in proportion. Do this by making eye contact during your answer with those who didn’t ask the question.

Also, try not to fidget, three people can pick up more of your body language than one, so once again, prepare in the mirror and stop any of those quirky twitches to a minimum.


Competency-based interviews

These are more likely to occur in technical interviews, but they can also creep into mainstream jobs such as secretarial positions. It’s not uncommon to be asked to demonstrate your Microsoft abilities such as creating a spreadsheet or a presentation, sometimes against the clock.


Portfolio interviews

A portfolio interview is a meeting where you will be expected to demonstrate examples of your existing work and talents. For example; you might be a graphic designer with a portfolio of creative work you’ve done for existing clients.

Of course, you’ll want to present your work in the best possible light, so as well as having some examples on your laptop or iPad, have some printed out on high-quality materials and leave these with the interviewers.


We can help you prepare

If you get stuck, give our team a call on 0161 929 6665 and we’ll arrange an interview where our skilled advisors will draw the best out of you.


Five of the best questions to ask in an interview

June 21st, 2019 by

Of all the common interview questions, there’s one that you’re likely to be asked no matter what job you’re applying for – and that’s “Any questions?”

You know it’s coming up at the end of your interview and it’s your last chance to leave the room with a good impression, so make it count.

Here are five of the best questions to ask in an interview, to show insight and enthusiasm, without coming across as if you think you’re the interviewer.


1. How does the role develop in the first year?

Show a long-term approach and a willingness to adapt to the changing nature of your role at one month, six months and a year.

It’s inevitable that your job will change in some ways as you complete your initial training, and it’s good to show enthusiasm for this part of the process.

This is also a good open-ended question so the interviewer will have to give you a full and engaged answer, and not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.


2. What is the company culture like?

If it’s not already obvious from the company’s public persona or your time spent there during your interview day, this is another good, open and engaged question to ask.

You’ll also gain valuable insight into the kind of atmosphere you’ll be working in – which might even affect your own decision whether to take the job or not!


3. What is your own experience of working for the company?

Pay some personal attention to your interviewer and build some last-minute rapport by asking them about their own thoughts on the company they work for.

It’s best not to push this one – not all interviewers will feel comfortable having the tables turned on them – but it shows again that you are interested in the long-term company culture and potentially rising through the ranks to conduct interviews yourself in the future.


4. What are the company’s opportunities/challenges right now?

Gauge the current outlook for the company – are they working to overcome significant hurdles right now, or is everything looking rosy?

By asking this, you can also show a willingness to hit the ground running and join in your new team’s efforts to reach a common goal.

You might even have past experience of overcoming similar challenges in other jobs – and this could help to make you seem even more indispensable if your potential new employer is finding it hard to make progress.


5. Do you have everything you need from me?

You have an opportunity to tie up loose ends before you walk out, so it’s worth double checking that the interviewers are satisfied that they have everything they need.

For example, if you were asked to provide a CV, cover letter and references, make sure all of these were received and offer to follow up on providing further references if needed.

Depending on the role, you might also offer to provide proof of professional qualifications, as well as any other useful certificates – such as First Aid or Fire Safety – that you don’t think were mentioned enough in the interview.


Take a look at some other useful tricks, hints and tips to make sure you are prepared for anything, it never hurt to be too prepared!

12 Days of Job Hunting

December 25th, 2016 by

We’ve put together some handy tips to follow in our ’12 days of job hunting’ guide. Read on to learn more.


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