The Power of Preparation

It is well known that “prior preparation prevents poor performance”, however, newly released research by totaljobs has found that jobseekers are spending an average of £146 preparing for every job interview. Or, to put it bluntly, UK jobseekers are collectively spending a staggering £1.44 billion a year on their hunt for a job they love.

So where are jobseekers splashing the cash? Well, they tell us that on average, £33 goes towards a new outfit, £20 on new shoes, and £26 on transport, meaning that jobseekers are individually spending an average of £852 a year on job interviews. And this average goes up for 16-24 year olds, who spend more than any age group, with up to £167 on every interview.

It’s encouraging to know candidates are keen to look the part. But since looks aren’t everything, it’s unfortunate that jobseekers aren’t doing the same amount of prep in other, arguably more important, areas.

Totaljobs research found that:

  • 27% of jobseekers don’t research the role when preparing for a job interview
  • 60% don’t update their CVs for each role applied for
  • 37% of job seekers don’t research the industry when preparing for a job interview


  • 58% don’t get a good night’s sleep
  • 85% don’t eat well before an interview

It’s hardly surprising that this lack of preparation is causing jobseekers a few challenges. 76% of jobseekers surveyed said they are finding the job hunting process difficult and a huge 81% have job hunting fears. These fears include: not being invited to interview (28%), never finding a new job (16%) and not having the right or enough experience (13%).

What’s encouraging is that, given some expert hints and tips and encouragement in the right direction, so many of these candidates could turn their job prospects around. Acknowledging candidates’ concerns and helping them successfully prepare for interview is core to the #MillionPoundJamie campaign by totaljobs. The idea is to take one jobseeker, Jamie Mudle, and make him the star of a £1,000,000 advertising campaign, with a view to getting him noticed and, helping him find a job he loves.

Industry experts, including body language coach India Ford, have taught Jamie the importance of subconscious signals we give off at interview through our posture, the way we walk, sit, and make eye contact along with our facial expressions and gestures.

Entrepreneur and star of The Apprentice, Claude Littner, also helped hone Jamie’s CV and interview skills – giving him a complete career makeover. What quickly became apparent to Claude during his interview with Jamie was that while he had a lot to offer, it wasn’t being communicated properly in his CV. Claude had to ask the right questions to tease out Jamie’s real attributes and skills, uncovering “a diamond in the rough.”

This has no doubt happened at some point to every recruiter – a terrible CV or bad performance in an interview is usually a deal breaker. However, as we continue to face skills shortages, it’s important to look past candidate nerves and really test for the skills and attributes you want in your next hire.

Three things you can do to help uncover your own Jamie

  1. Prepare

Go into an interview with a pre-prepared list of questions that you will ask each candidate you see for the role. These should be designed to assess capabilities against your specific criteria based on job level, function and skill set required. In addition, consider the kind of person you want to hire for your business culture – their characteristics and capabilities – and prepare questions that assess these areas.  In particular, run through the candidate’s work experience or skills in more detail – ask them to talk through their CV. Often it’s not what’s in the CV that counts as what isn’t, how they approached a particular project for example, and your questioning should bring that out. By giving every candidate the same question set, you can ensure you are interviewing all candidates fairly and aren’t put off by a poorly executed CV or a weak handshake.

  1. Be chatty (and don’t be Claude!)

A good way to help candidates feel at ease is to carry out interviews in an informal, conversational style. This creates a calm environment and is often a great way of uncovering interesting nuggets of information about candidates that they would not normally bring up at interview stage (both positive and negative).

Further to this, offering the candidate tea, coffee or water on arrival immediately breaks the ice and gives them a few minutes to gather their thoughts before the interview begins.

If you are interviewing with another colleague, resist the urge to act as “good cop/bad cop”. This is an outdated approach which only results in confusing and unsettling the candidate – which is not the outcome you want at all.

Equally, we are not suggesting you be over familiar, or excessively positive. You are testing the candidate after all, and will need to put them through their paces to some extent.

In essence, it’s all about being human, and approachable, so that the candidate can be the person they really are. Which after all, is what you want to see.

  1. Give feedback

Whether a candidate is successful or not, they want to hear your feedback after interview. We hear this time and time again when we speak to jobseekers. While it’s challenging to give feedback after every interview due to busy workloads, it goes a long way to help jobseekers hone their interview skills and avoid future mistakes. It’s great practice for your employer brand too, as so few employers give decent feedback to unsuccessful applicants.  Let candidates know what they could have done better or differently and why you didn’t think they were right for the role. Tell them what they did well, too. For all you know, they will be apply again in the future and be perfect for you.

If you’d like to see how Jamie gets on in his mock interview with Claude, you can follow his journey via a new web series:

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