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Updated 3rd April, 2020
For the job seeker, the support staff market is more competitive now than at any point over the last 15 years. Yes, there are some very exciting opportunities out there for the experienced PA, but the competition is fierce. It is hard enough getting in front of a recruitment agency, let alone securing an interview for that tantalising PA job in London you’ve seen advertised!
Here’s a useful guide to assist you with your search and hopefully put you ahead of the competition.
Registering with a recruitment agency
Choose your agency carefully – you’ll want to make sure they have the right roles on offer. There’s no point applying to a generic agency if you want a specific role. If you are responding to a specific job advertisement, your cover letter needs to be targeted to the position you are applying for, addressing any prerequisites stated in the text and stating why you feel you are qualified to apply. Read the advert carefully – do you have the specific experience they are looking for? Your CV also needs to be well formatted and ideally two pages in length. There should be no unexplained gaps in the dates and no mistakes.
The initial interview
Remember, first impressions always count. Recruitment consultants tend to follow their intuition and often make an instant judgement. Smart presentation is vital, so pretend that you are seeing an employer and not a consultant. Many people dress more informally when they visit an agency, but it’s preferred to put your best foot forward from start of the recruitment process. Don’t forget a firm hand shake and eye contact when you first meet the recruiter.
Our next piece of advice is to know your CV backwards! A good consultant will question you on every gap in your CV and your reasons for leaving your last position. They also want to know clearly what you are looking for now. For example, are you happy supporting more than one person or do you have a specific location in mind? When asked, be realistic on salary – don’t pitch yourself out of the market. Remember, you can always ask your consultant for their advice.
You can be honest with your consultant. For instance, if you left your last job under a cloud and are worried that it might portray an unfair reflection to a future employer, then a consultant should be able to put you at ease and advise on a suitable explanation for future interviews. Finally, agree a time-frame of contact with your consultant and to what extent you should keep in touch if you don’t hear back from them immediately.
The client interview
Make sure to arrive 10-15 minutes before the interview is scheduled to start, and always take two copies of your CV with you. It is not unknown for the interviewer to leave your CV on his/her desk! The second copy is for you, as you can then refer to it easily. Lastly, let the interviewer lead the meeting!
Have a list of five key attributes that you think set you apart from the competition. Make sure you get all of these across in your meeting. Some examples are as follows:
- A second language – state your proficiency as this could be tested.
- Exceptional MS Office skills or alternative IT skills.
- An ability to handle specific projects from start to finish – give examples.
- Very good secretarial skills – shorthand, fast typing – obviously if relevant to the vacancy.
- Prior industry knowledge.
Show that you have done your research by referring back to the job description or the company’s website where possible.
You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you, so have some good questions of your own prepared. Some examples are as follows:
- Is this a new position? If not, why has it become available? Is there any scope to progress within the role?
- How can I add value in this position beyond what we have already discussed.
Avoid salary discussion at first interview unless the employer brings it up. On leaving, find out the next step and timescales for decisions and further interviews to put your mind ease. Finally, provide feedback to your consultant straight away and proceed to keep them informed with any other interviews you are going on.
With these in mind, we hope you’ll find the interview process seamless and enjoyable! Tiger can help in finding your dream role, get in touch today!