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Headhunter Insights with Peter Moseley: Job interview do’s and dont’s

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We asked Executive Headhunter, Peter Moseley to share his perspective on how senior level candidates can accelerate their job search.

His responses provide insight into how candidates can create a positive impression to catch a hiring manager’s attention in the job interview.

Peter also reveals some interesting industry findings based on his recent experience headhunting in the construction and manufacturing industries.

Tell us about your role as an Executive Headhunter…

I’ve been headhunting across a number of sectors for approximately eight years. I primarily place senior management to board-level candidates in the retail, construction and health industries. However, being part of a cross-sector headhunting agency means that occasionally I will launch projects in completely new industries which is great for me as I get to unearth new talent. For example, I have recently started working with large-scale retail property developers.

I’ve personally placed over 120 candidates in both retained headhunt and mid-market projects so have had the pleasure of dealing with my fair share of talented candidates. An imperative part of my job is keeping on top of industry and hiring trends to ensure that I can impart up-to-date information and create real value for my candidates and clients.

How can senior level candidates impress a hiring manager?

The vast majority of candidates, if they ask me for advice, will ask me for interview tips. Usually, my advice will be relevant to the opportunity and hiring manager in question, however, I do have a couple of generic interview tips that I’ve recently given out:

Do

  • Practice your storytelling – As more and more recruiters adopt competency-based interviewing you’ll no doubt be asked to reflect on a past experience in your interview. Have a few killers up your sleeve that emphasise your key skills, be articulate and use ERH (Example, Result & in Hindsight) technique for answering.
  • Prepare questions – In-depth questions about the specific role, company or team you are applying to be a part of always goes down well. If you’ve already covered all of the bases just say something along the lines of, ‘This has been a very detailed discussion – my questions have been answered but can I come back to you if I think of anything else?’

Don’t

  • Get defensive – Senior level interviews are designed to probe and test you, after all, you’ve had a successful career so it’s more difficult to find flaws. Stay positive and take responsibility as it will humanise you and go down much better with your interviewers. People make mistakes so take advantage of the situation by explaining how you recovered.
  • Say you’re a ‘perfectionist’ – When asked for a weakness, this won’t wash. Interviewers are aren’t looking for perfectionism, they’re after self-awareness so admit areas where you could improve and how you are going about doing so.
  • Dwell on reasons for leaving – You’ll inevitably get asked why you left previous roles. Never say your last role was boring or that you didn’t get along with your boss. Quickly spin the situation and explain why you didn’t find the role challenging enough with reasons why the role you are applying for suits you more.

What specific sector insights can you share with candidates?

From my point of view, it’s vital to know what’s happening the industries I headhunt in and it should be the same for any senior level candidate. A couple of recent headhunts for a Purchasing Manager and a Project Director for an Engineering firm and Housing Association, respectively, unearthed some interesting industry findings.

I found that senior individuals in housing construction prefer to work for private firms over housing associations due to higher salaries. In my experience, a talent imbalance like this could cause a major talent deficit in Housing Associations. Therefore, I would tell any candidate moving in to their first senior position that it isn’t a bad idea to cut your teeth with a Housing Association before making the jump up to a private firm; unless you already have a way in to a private firm of course.

The manufacturing industry shows a trend of ‘job hopping’ which was initiated by the recession and is seeing many candidates take on a variety of roles in quick succession to develop wider skillsets. Individuals in the industry have witnessed, and suffered, many redundancies over the past six or seven years and so are fighting to be so versatile that organisations will find it difficult to let them go if their department is downsized. If you are looking for your next role in the industry I would advise you to make sure that you’re bringing a Smorgasbord of assets with you.

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Peter Moseley

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