Corin Woolnough is Resource Manager at Momenta; he leads the team who interviews prospective contractors. We asked him about what he looks for in candidates.
Can you tell us how your interview process works?
An interview with us is designed to run for approximately 30 minutes and aims to understand candidates’ relevant experience, knowledge and aptitude for the role. We have a structured approach which not only probes for knowledge but also some feeling for candidates’ character and personality. This is very important as we need to know if they have the right fit for other clients. We are obviously keen for as many candidates as possible to do well at interviews so we can place them in work and hopefully develop lasting relationships with them for future roles too
What are you looking for when a candidate walks in?
First impressions absolutely count. Candidates must be on time and punctuality is also expected by our clients. Presentation is also essential. People must be dressed appropriately and smartly. We do find that we have to spell this out sometimes, especially for younger applicants; it means suits and ties for men, business dress for women, whether it’s an interview in person or Skype.
What are your tips pre-interview?
It’s so important to do some work beforehand. Some of it sounds obvious but people should plan their journeys to the interview so they don’t get lost or run the risk of being late. Always helps to check the tube or traffic forecasts. Candidates need to have an up to date CV and know it inside out. This means being able to truthfully tell us what experience you have gained – without embellishment or making it up.
We always check and verify the facts, particularly around previous work experience and training, so there is really no point disguising anything – it just wastes everyone’s time. . They should bring the right paperwork, for example passports or certificates. It also makes a difference if they have read the Momenta website and know what we do, the key areas of our business and the work our clients do.
What is your advice for the interview itself?
There’s a lot written about this stage as the market has become so competitive, but if candidates are polite, professional, enthusiastic and well informed they are ahead of the game already.
Being well prepared means they have a good understanding of the role on offer. It is a job interview and we are not a High Street recruitment agency where a role is almost guaranteed after the initial registration. Good communication skills helps in interviews; we don’t want to have to continually prompt for answers. Be succinct in answers.
Positive body language is important and direct eye contact is essential.
A standard question is ‘weaknesses’. Being honest is what works best here. I advise people not to give ‘I’m a workaholic or ‘I’m a perfectionist’ answers. Successful candidates accept areas always need to be developed and will acknowledge a weakness in the past that they have had pointed out and worked on, for example in time management, organisation or wider industry product or knowledge areas.
We have found that sometimes more experienced people need reminding that it's a formal interview even though our interviewers may be younger than them. I suspect as the demographics change in the workplace this sort of situation might occur more often.
What are the common mistakes you have seen people make?
We know that interviews can be nerve wracking. Good interviewers will be looking to put people at ease before the interview itself, in reception or whilst walking to the interview room.
What’s the best thing for candidates to do after the interview?
Candidates can ask about the next stages of the process. They should remain polite, shaking hands upon leaving. If they don’t hear anything in a week they should follow it up (we always endeavour to provide feedback to candidates within a couple of days of their interview)
Any other final advice?
Winning candidates are personable and friendly; they are professional, knowledgeable but not overly confident.
Personally I think being a little nervous is endearing and indeed human. It’s a natural response to the situation. The thing to remember is, ultimately, we are here to help candidates and want to work with them successfully. We wish all our prospective and current associates well in interviews.