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Jane’s tips on preparing for an interview for a part time HR role

The great news is……it is absolutely no different to an interview for a full time job - you just need to be very clear, honest and straight forward about your boundaries and the level of flexibility you can give when its discussed at interview. Another big surprise is that research shows that interviewers and employers draw conclusions and make decisions about a candidate within the first 60 seconds of meeting someone at interview. I have interviewed hundreds of candidates for jobs as an HR professional and now as a recruiter for Oakleaf’s part time team I interview many people from an agency perspective. So how can all of that combined knowledge and intelligence help you to boost your chances of landing that perfect and elusive part time HR job – you don’t want to blow it now you have got in front of them do you?

So here are my do’s and don’ts:

1. Do your research on the company and the interviewer and the role requirements:

It’s one of the biggest humdingers unsuccessful candidates make at interview: they simply haven’t bothered doing any research into the company they are sitting in the offices of. To be honest I think the employer has a right to be rather insulted if the candidate hasn’t done any homework, so don’t give them a reason to be disappointed in your preparation. An interviewer is looking for reasons to appoint and hire you so try to find out what their current priorities and challenges are, why are they recruiting, what is the company focusing on at the current time, what is the team structure like. Get creative about how to present your knowledge on the company, and think of interesting, thought provoking questions. Any good recruitment agency should have supported you in your research and intelligence gathering also. Remember - FAIL TO PREPARE, PREPARE TO FAIL.

2. Do get your planning and preparation sorted and think who, what, where, when…

If you know who is going to interview you and what the format of the interview is, you can minimise any nerves. Know how to get there and allow plenty of time. Even if your recruiter says it’s going to be an hour long interview allow time either side so you aren’t rushing, late or stressing to get away from the interview when it’s still in full swing. Again, any decent recruiter will prepare you for the event in terms of information for you to know about location, transport links, a map, interview structure, job description, timings.

3. Don’t talk about your kids throughout the interview

A number of our candidates looking for part time work are needing to secure part time working hours because of their childcare commitments. My advice would be that your interviewer doesn’t need to know the specifics of your childcare logistics - you need to focus your thoughts, keep your answers succinct and to the point especially when it comes to explaining the hours you need to work – set out the days and hours you can be in the office and offer flexibility where you can.

4. Do think about areas you are willing to compromise on

Consider whether achieving flexibility to continue in your chosen career, whilst also allowing you to pursue some of your non-work commitments your main goal from this interview process (i.e caring for your children, caring for an elderly parent, doing volunteer work, building a portfolio career, achieving work life balance, prioritising health issues). If it is you might need to compromise and change some of your goalposts and parameters. If the salary isn’t quite what you want it to be, the hours aren’t quite perfect for drop off at school or the location isn’t ideal from the train station but it’s got enough of the core elements of what you seek then maybe you need to have some areas you agree with yourself that you could compromise on before going into the interview.

5. Plan your answers and know your CV (sounds very obvious)

Revisit your CV and know it fluently, explain any gaps or breaks and don’t apologise. This is what your interviewer will be asking questions from. Review the job spec and note the competencies the company will be looking for. Think about projects you’ve been involved in or jobs you’ve had that offer strong examples for you to talk about, know and be proud of your achievements and be prepared to share examples and scenarios that you can talk through confidently.

6. Don’t apologise for wanting flexibility or for taking a career break

Make no apology for seeking flexibility or for career breaks -  the minute you do you de-value your worth and it weakens your situation as a candidate going for this role. Flexibility in the workplace will soon be or is considered the norm in most companies.

7. Leave a lasting impression

Most professionals have been to enough interviews in their lifetime to know that good appearance is essential, as well as lots of eye contact and a relaxed demeanour. Try to smile and use open body language. End the interview on a positive note by shaking hands and saying that you look forward to hearing from them.

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