I want to say thank you to my friend and HR expert Cindy for taking the time to give her views as an HR Manager on some of the key aspects of Resume Writing and Interviewing. For the Trinidadians and those regionally who read this blog, I think you will find it quite refreshing and insightful.

Let's take in the Q & A below:

If a prospective employee comes to an interview not knowing anything about the organization does this hamper his or her chances of success?

Not necessarily, however if you don’t and I had to compare you against someone who took the time to understand my company and industry that came to the interview with an understanding of my challenges as an employer, which way do you think I’m going to sway? The perfunctory scan of the company’s website may not be enough either. Anyone can learn some dates and products/services. I want to see that you have some understanding of my business and possibly how you can contribute to its success.  


What are some of the things a potential employee should never talk about during an interview?

Unfortunately, an interview is not an exact science so this also depends on the interviewer. However steering clear of the compensation discussion and opportunities for time off early on might be a good option not to take. Yes, we must talk about compensation and yes, I know that you have to command your worth but let’s just get to see whether or not you are suitable for the job before we get to that part. Also, I think its common knowledge by now that you should not speak negatively about your current or past employers and your job. I’m not asking you to be fake or to lie about your experience but even the most negative experience has opportunities for learning. Focus on what you learnt in the environment rather than the negatives. 


Can you suggest some body language tips that a prospective employee should know?

This is a good question, because your body language sends silent messages to the person that you are interacting with and can sometimes speak louder than your words. From the time you enter the building you’re being judged. The way you enter an interview room gives a first impression. Walk confidently into the room, don’t shuffle your feet. Give a good, solid handshake. Please don’t squeeze the interviewer’s hand, firm is fine. Sit squarely in your chair. Remember the good posture our parents and teachers tried to drill into us. Do not slouch in your chair. Making eye contact is good but if you stare it can make your interviewer feel uncomfortable. Experts suggest making eye contact, but rotate to other parts of the face periodically. You also want to assure your interviewer that you are listening, so a head nod every now and again may be a good thing. You don’t want to look like a bubble-head doll so don’t overdo here.


What are some core questions you feel a potential employee should prepare and always have an answer for when being interviewed?

Interviewers worth their salt want you to have questions to ask during and at the end of the interview. The routine questions such as the request to describe the role, what are the working hours, etc. won’t cut it here. This is an opportunity for you to shine and show the interviewer that you understand the company’s challenges, how hiring you can help them meet their objectives and show your keen interest in the role. Asking about how your success in the role would be judged and what are the expectations for the first ninety days shows that you can see yourself in the role and you are already thinking of the impact you can make.

On the flip side, while you do not want to come over as robotic and overly prepared in the interview, you do want to prepare for some questions that you know will come. A lot of interviews start with the cliched question “Tell me/us about yourself”. While the question is cliched your response does not have to be. Don’t focus on what the interviewer already knows about you from your resume, actually focus on elements of you that you can tie back to the job and company. Also, the interviewer really does want to get to know you at this point. Remember, they are looking for someone who will fit into their company culture, show them that person is you. Another question that usually stumps persons is “What are your weaknesses/opportunities for growth”. Most persons have the strengths part covered. After all they are trying to sell themselves. However, many persons just have not taken the time to dive deep enough to identify where they can improve. And further to that how they have been actively working to improve in these areas. If you are keenly aware of your strengths and weaknesses, you have a better chance of effectively showing how you can fit into and contribute to a company’s success.


 As a new high/secondary school graduate, what your top 5 tips for acing an interview

Know that even though you do not necessarily have working experience, you do have something to contribute:

  1. Understand that the first step for acing an interview is actually getting one. Make sure your initial communication with the company allows them to see you in a positive light. Make sure your email address is professional. Please no or gazayute$ . Also enlist help to format and check your resume for accuracy, avoid grammatical errors. Try as well to consider the role you are applying for when preparing your cover letter and resume. Don’t be generic.
  2. Now that you have the interview the interviewer will want to know that you are keenly aware of who you are, what your unique skills and strengths are and also what are opportunities for further growth. Apply this to the company and position that you are applying for. That means that you also have to know something about the company and the job. Do some research.
  3. Be confident in the interview. Try not to come over as shy and out of place. Fake it until you make it. You don’t want to be overly boastful but be confident in what you have to offer.
  4. Watch the grammar. We get so caught up these days writing in text on WhatsApp and Facebook that we can get pulled into speaking the same way. Stay away from green verbs and avoid at all costs abbreviations in your speech…
  5. Have a couple questions prepared to ask the interviewer that will show them that you are more than just a recent graduate and that while you are young, your thought process is mature and you have something to contribute.
  6. Bonus tip….. Review your social media accounts and make sure that they do not portray you as a risk to a potential employer. Yes, it is your personal account and yes you are free to post whatever you want, but , prospective employers are going to want to get to know you and more and more they turn to social media to do so. What they see there might not be the whole you but at least you don’t want them to see something that is going to cause them to run for the hills.



Debbie-Ann Jollie is a marketing communications executive with more than 10 years experience creating marketing strategies and promotional campaigns for a diverse array of corporate clients and first time entrepreneurs. 



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