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Ask a recruiter: “I get a lot of first interviews for jobs, so there doesn’t seem to be a problem with my CV, but I never make it past that stage, what am I doing wrong?”

Published on: 1 Apr 2020

There will always be occasions when interviewees don’t “click” with interviewers. That is normal, and unavoidable. When you are not progressing to second interview on a number of occasions though, it is worth examining the way you approach interviews in more depth.

Appearance is a sensitive area. After all, it’s your personal style, but it can be a minefield. Just this week I was told that a client objected to a man who came to an interview unshaven. People can be put off by too much jewellery, smells  (of all kinds) and clothes they deem unsuitable. It may seem unfair, but it’s always worth leaving the more flamboyant look for social occasions

Allied to appearance is body language. Being slumped in your seat, arms folded throughout an interview and failure to make eye contact are all reasons I have heard for candidates not making it to the next stage.

Then there is what you say and how you say it. Do the answers you give correspond to the information you have provided on your CV? Are you giving short, monosyllabic replies to questions? Conversely, are you talking at such length that the interviewer’s eyes are glazing over? Are you listening properly and not interrupting the interviewer when they are in full flow?

Attitude is another issue. You may have attended a number of interviews and heard the same question many times. However, you still have to come over as keen, interested and with a real determination to work for that company.

Similarly, even if you have very valid reasons for moving on from your current job, new potential employers don’t want to hear an extended rant about the failings of your current one. You can allude to problems, but be diplomatic.

One area where many people fall down is not asking any meaningful questions either during or at the end of an interview. During an interview, asking questions arising from what someone has said shows you are listening carefully. Also, be armed with three or four prepared questions for the end of the interview, but not “What is the salary?”

My advice is to try a mock interview with a friend or family member who you can trust to be frank with their opinions. Better to know beforehand!

Alistair Attwood is a director of the recruitment consultancy Attwood Baker. They are unique in being the UK’s only specialist HSE recruiter for the construction industry.0208 943 4633