Hints and tips

Hints and tips

Speaking and listening skills  

Even though this sounds simple, speaking and listening is a skill. We sometimes don’t listen to the question being asked and can answer incorrectly or go down a different path. An example of this is when the interviewer says ‘So, tell me a little bit about you.’ In an interview situation, you might think it’s right to respond by talking about your work history and qualifications. However, this question is asking about YOU. Your interviewer wants to hear about your interests, likes/ dislikes, hobbies. Make sure you listen to what is being asked before answering.


Researching the company

Before attending any job interview or completing an application, you need to research the company and familiarise yourself with their mission, values and company strategy. This shows the interviewer you’re interested in the company as you have made the effort to prepare.

Researching the company also benefits you as your can tailor your responses to suit as you know what they’re looking for. This will help you feel more confident if they quiz you on your company knowledge. Furthermore, understanding their values will help you decide whether the company is a good cultural fit.

Researching the job role

You need to have a thorough understanding of the job role you’re applying for and what’s required. It might help speaking to someone in that department who can help explain the role in more detail. Also, work experience can give you a practical insight into different roles, so you know what to expect before applying. This means you will have hands-on experience to talk about in an interview. Remember, you also have the internet at your disposal where you can research any job in depth. Take the time to understand the different responsibilities involved so you can make sure the role is suited to you.


Choosing references

References are extremely important and gives your future employer an insight into your previous work and experience. When it comes to choosing references there are a few key tips you should follow:

  • Choose a credible source – However tempting it may be, employers will not accept family members as references. Ideally this should be a previous/ current employer who can talk about your skills in a working environment. However, if this is your first job and you don’t have a previous employer then you can use a family friend or a teacher/ colleague tutor.
  • Make sure they understand the importance of the reference – Anyone might think they can provide a good reference, but it needs to be someone who can effectively communicate your skills and impress a future employer. They need to be sure that they can talk about you with confidence and convey the relevant information that would help you secure the job post.

How to ask someone to be a reference

You can ask someone to be a reference by phone, email or letter if you’re unable to meet in person. Start by making a list of who you would like to be your references (employers usually ask for two or three) then contact them in order of preference. Make sure you follow the steps below when approaching references for a job application:

  • Give them enough time to respond – Before applying for a job or attending an interview, make sure you give your reference time to review your request and take a look at your CV. This allows them time to prepare their responses should your hiring manager get in touch.
  • Don’t put pressure on them – Be polite when speaking to your reference and don’t put pressure on them to say yes. For example, you might phrase your question ‘Would you feel comfortable providing me with a professional reference?’ This gives them the opportunity to say no if they don’t feel confident.
  • Describe the job you’re applying for – Send your reference a description of the job you want so they can see what skills/ experience are required. This gives them a better understanding of the industry and the position so they can talk to the hiring manager about your most relevant traits.
  • Say thank you – Always remember to be grateful that someone has given you a reference. Send each person a letter or an email thanking them for their contribution and for giving their time to help.

When a company will approach your reference

References are very important, and many HR departments will contact your references during pre-employment screening. That’s why it’s so important to choose your references carefully and make sure you have provided their current contact details. There are a few different times when hiring managers could choose to contact your references:

  • After the first stage of interviews once your future employer has narrowed down the pool of candidates.
  • Once you have been offered the job – subject to a reference check.
  • After they have asked for your permission.


Application forms will usually give you the option to select when is a good time to contact your references. This gives you time to speak to your current boss and hand in your notice.