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Mastering the Interview

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Mastering the Interview

There are usually many factors that an employer will consider when placing someone, and while your CV is a crucial first point of contact, and a technical assessment can be a make-or-break moment, some might argue that the first interview is the most important part of the entire process. We strive to give our candidates the best tools to succeed. We are fortunate to gain massive amounts of key insights and data on the recruitment process in our operations and have an ambitious and knowledgeable team with loads of information you can benefit from, so here are some important tips for mastering that first interview! But before we begin, the most pivotal point is to remember you want to make the hiring decision easy and swift for the employer. When too much time passes, so does the chance of you landing that job, it means you did not make enough of an impression to help the potential employers decide. How to counteract this, generally comes down to research and prep. The more ground you cover along with rapport, the quicker and easier it is for a client to know YOU are the candidate they have been looking for. Where possible, prep at least 3 days in advance so you have time to digest what you need to do in order to best portray yourself in the interview. 

1. FIND OUT AS MUCH AS YOU CAN ABOUT YOUR INTERVIEWER(S)

Start off with making sure you know their names and how to pronounce them, there are a few online tools that can help with this, such as Pronounce Names and How to Pronounce.
Understanding where your interviewers sit in relation to the job you are applying for is vital, it will give you a good indication of what you may need to prepare for in an interview. For example, if you have the directors in the call, you are going to need to know numbers, if you were in Sales, it may be your KPIs and achievements in terms of revenue etc.
Take the time to research the company and the team, and thoroughly review their websites (look at their projects, service/product pages, the LinkedIn company page, where they have offices, their latest news and team compliments). Their social profiles are where you will likely gain the most up-to-date info on what they have been up to (given that it’s easier to share a post than write a blog for a website), in fact, looking at your interviewers’ posts on their socials feed is a good conversation starter to find a middle ground, so take advantage of these data points!
The above advice will also help avoid asking any questions that may be easily accessible or obvious, you want to use the time effectively, ask questions that are not obvious, and which will help you gauge the company, its team and that their vision and mission resonates with where you want to be in the next 5 years.
Just like people in a social environment, people love to speak about themselves/their company, so show you have done your groundwork, another attribute employers enjoy is someone who is thinking 5 steps ahead, it means that you are the type of person they want to manage because you don’t require much management, you are self-managed, they can trust you do your due diligence. If you can find out any recent information about impressive achievements or projects take a moment to commend the interviewer/s on them and show them, you are interested in the company and the team. This is easily done through a Google search of the company and its key members (be sure to use the News tab too!) and through viewing their Linkedin and other social media profiles.

2. BACK YOUR CLAIMS

There is nothing wrong with labeling yourself as an expert or professional, you are after all attempting to best showcase why you would be the prime candidate, but like everything you need the evidence to prove this. Keep your track record and achievements on hand and highlight examples of what reinforces your skills and experience, don’t talk yourself into a situation that may seem like you’re being devious about your profile and experience – your future employer wants to know what you can and can’t do. Use your network to support your achievements, and experience and to leverage anything you have to bring to the table in that regard if needed, whether it’s free marketing from a media partner or negotiated discounted rates from a supplier, if it’s good for business it’s relevant! Our best advice here is to take the job description of the role you are interviewing for and cross reference this with your current role. Anticipate what is important and where else you can add value (and how). By doing this you are helping them to assess you best for the role, it also gives you the opportunity to ask the right questions in terms of what else you may need to do or are not sure about. An interview is a two-way street, the more you engage, the more memorable you will be for the interviewers. Remember – YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY CANDIDATE THEY ARE INTERVIEWING – so put your best foot forward.

3. GET THE MODESTY BALANCE RIGHT

It’s important to showcase your skills and achievements, you’re essentially presenting yourself, so you want to have an impressive profile and track record to put forward. It is however important to practice levels of modesty and in doing such showcasing you’re open to growth and constructive criticism. Don’t undersell yourself, be sure to mention what makes you the most attractive candidate and WHY! What makes you unique without giving away any past employer’s IP. Is it that you developed a new concept, optimized how your current employer does things or managed to save the company money or even perhaps make them money due to your actions? What is it about you and what you have tangibly done that makes you an asset? Remember companies want to make or save money at the end of the day, where do you fit in?

4. KEEP IT PROFESSIONAL… EVEN IF IT GOES BADLY

It may not go the way you want; you may find you’re not the right fit even though you are interested in the job, or that it’s not the job/company for you at all, regardless of the outcome be sure to maintain a professional and positive attitude and to remain engaged throughout the process, not only for your reputation but never close the door to future opportunities. Often, it’s about who you know… don’t leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth.
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5. DON’T UNDERMINE YOUR PREVIOUS EMPLOYER OR CLIENTS

There may be a point where you need to discuss reasons for leaving your current or previous job, but everything can be said in a civil way. It doesn’t look good for integrity or loyalty should you slight anyone you’ve worked with before, even if you may see it as justifiable. It’s fairly known that the business world can be small, and you may be uncertain about relationships. Get to know your weaknesses and how best to manage them, it will probably come up in your references!

6. FIGURING OUT YOUR SALARY

While its best to always rather allow the employer to broach the conversation about salary, still come prepared. Take the time to work out your annual salary expectations and how you would want it to be structured. Take into consideration things like tax, benefits and commission it applies to your role. You can use useful online programmes to calculate salary information such as the Sage Salary & Income Tax calculator, Glassdoor Salary Calculator, or the Excel Skills Salary & Income Tax Calculator.
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Be sure to think about your long-term goals here, is a pension fund or medical aid benefits you want, if you’re seeking a role with a commission consider how you would want that to be structured around your KPIs and what percentage of your salary it should ideally be. Remember to also consider your salary increase and inflation rates, if this is a long-term role you should work out what annual growth rate is favourable to you and your employer. Ask yourself, how will having me on their team increase profits for the company, then highlight this to your potential employer. It’s a give and take scenario, but profits for the business is the bottom line of the discussion. You will need to be able to commit and deliver on the KPIs you present to them. You can use programmes such as RaiseGuide to figure out what kind of pay raise you want. But before you start to expect increases, you should be assessing if your current salary and salary expectations are market-related and are valid for your expected increase. We recommend asking your recruiter for guidance and reviewing salary benchmarking sites (like Glassdoor). However – remember to be cognizant of the industry standards relevant to your experience and qualifications. If the discussion on salary increases does come up, then ask the employer about how their performance reviews work/how often they happen and how increases are measured and quantified so that you can think about how best you can increase your salary with them while showcasing your value add.

7. BODY LANGUAGE IS KEY

Non-verbal communication is an important aspect of most interactions. Pay attention to the way you present and carry yourself through the process, and ensure the interviewer knows you are engaged. Should you be applying for a consultancy, development, or managerial position then use this opportunity to showcase your presentation skills, perhaps even get creative with content and statistics if it’s appropriate, BUT first understand what they have done, it never looks good if you pitch an idea they already have. You will need to do some research into this beforehand that will be dependent on your industry, for example if you’re in an engineering or development role familiarise yourself with their latest projects and tech, if you’re in marketing assess their social pages, if you’re in sales look into their recent promotional strategies etc. When it comes to dress, look at the culture of a company, don’t wear slacks if you are going for a corporate company interview and vice versa. Remember – first impressions count!

8. TREAT ONLINE INTERVIEWS AS IF YOU’RE IN OFFICE

The world has changed drastically in the past 3 years, and with it comes a new digital transition in many business operations, including the hiring process. While many employers prefer to meet in person, you may find yourself having a video call for your first interview. It is important to be mindful of the fact that this experience still needs to be professional, maintain engagement as if you were there, do your best to minimize any background distractions and interruptions, ensure your device and connectivity are up to speed, and present yourself as if you would be sitting in the same room. Test all of your equipment well in advance, ensure you have a solid internet connection if it’s an online meeting, and check you have all the necessary software and it is up to date. You can check your internet speed using SpeedTest. ALWAYS look at the camera, try to avoid looking at your reflection no matter how distracting it may be. The essence is to bring “eye-contact” into the new digital age.

9. GET THE INFORMATION YOU NEED

Be sure to spend time thinking about what you want to ask your potential employer, this is your chance to find out more about things like benefits or commission structure, and long-term growth opportunities, whether or not you will be managing people and what leadership skills are required. Get a more detailed outline of what your role will require and what kind of KPIs you will need to fulfill, how do they measure these and your performance, in doing so you may be able to highlight what unique skills you have suited for specific responsibilities. Before you have the interview call your recruiter, get answers to questions they may know so you can enhance your approach to the potential employer, it will allow you to better direct appropriate queries and discussion.

10. COMPANY CULTURE

More and more we discover that personality is a crucial aspect of a company and a particular role, for example people who tend to be more introverted tend to prefer isolated workspaces, while sociable people enjoy an open office etc. Use this opportunity to ask about remote or hybrid options, whether it’s an open office, and what kind of systems they favour in their work activities (i.e. do they use AutoCAD, Python etc.). Think about what tools are non-negotiable for you to do your job best – and what you are familiar with – ask them about it. Find out more about the type of culture and employee engagement your potential employer exercises, if you get to have an interview on-site take a moment to assess the environment and if given the chance make small talk with a current employer to gauge more about the type of team you may be part of.
Three people profiles in circles to represent company culture

11. DON’T BE PUSHY

It could end up being your dream job, but maybe the interview panel seems indecisive or indifferent. Don’t try and push anyone to make a decision, the best thing is to clearly and professionally present yourself and leave the decision up to them, there may be a complicated process involved, but by all means, you are welcome to ask the next steps. Should you not get the job, handle the rejection professionally and civilly, even if this interview was unsuccessful, it still builds up your reputation and confidence. Remember – don’t close the door on future opportunities. The bottom line is that this first interaction can be a dealbreaker or the winning factor in this process, so it’s an important thing to spend time refining and preparing for. Be honest and realistic about what you’re applying. Remember, just attending an interview is a highly beneficial character and profile-building task!

Sean Gibson

Managing Director

“AltGen is all about effecting change, through people. With integrity, and passion”. 

Managing Director and Founder of the AltGen’ Group. Sean has played a pivotal role in steering and leading the vision and mission of AltGen, making AltGen the only highly specialist renewable energy recruitment firm operating within the renewable energy and sustainability space in Africa. Sean oversees the success of the entire group of AltGen companies.

Sean holds a Master of Philosophy in Sustainable Development from Stellenbosch University as well as an Honours degree from Rhodes University

Robert Veith

Sales Director

“Without quality and intelligent effort, there is no success and no reward.”

Joining AltGen in 2014, Robert started as a Recruitment Consultant and has since become our Recruitment Director overseeing the Recruitment and Executive Search division. Robert has extensive experience in securing talent for rare skills in the energy engineering market, including skills to the likes of Power System Engineers, SCADA Engineers, Project Developers and Electrical Engineering skills specific to design.

Through Robert’s leadership, each recruitment team is enabled to focus on their specific area of expertise, ensuring all client hiring needs are met. Through Robert’s years of dedication to sourcing and securing top talent in the industry, he has a wealth of insight into the skills market and provides our clients with a competitive advantage in a scarce skills environment enabling them to effectively execute on some of the most challenging renewable energy projects across Africa. Robert is also responsible for growth of the engineering recruitment team.

Robert holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing Management from UNISA as well as a National Diploma in Electrical Engineering from CPUT.

Lindy Taylor

Business Development & Innovation Director

“The success of an organisation is defined by its people.”

As the Innovation & Business Development Manager, Lindy is responsible for the marketing and business development activities of AltGen. Through her big picture vision, Lindy has enabled AltGen to remain responsive in the cleantech space. She is responsible for engagements with new clients.
 
Lindy initially joined AltGen in 2015 and has grown into being an integral member of the senior management team. She ensures a collaborative approach with clients catering to their custom needs. Her focus is on attaining new clients, as well as handling contractual relationships with new and existing stakeholders.
 
Lindy holds a Bachelor’ Degree in Social Sciences from Rhodes University.

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Chris Roetz

Workforce Management Services: General Manager

“My goal is to deliver exceptional operational performance within AltGen – Northern Cape building on people, energy and sustainability”

Chris Roetz oversees AltGen’s Workforce Management division in the Northern Cape. He is responsible for the successful execution of HR advisory and management services for clients’ utility-scale projects in the region. Currently, Roetz mobilises an outsourced staff complement of over 200 employees. He also steers AltGen’s Solar Works programme in conjunction with his Pofadder based team.

Chris has 20 years of professional experience in an HR and outsourced staffing capacity within the energy environment and holds a National Diploma in Human Resource Management from UNISA.

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Muslim Janoowala

Consulting Services: Senior Consultant & Business Development Lead

“My focus is to be able to do impactful work, being in the front lines of the development sector finding solutions to safe and reliable drinking water, power and sanitation”

Muslim Janoowala drives AltGen’s consulting services arm. Muslim has 10+ years of experience in the renewable energy, water and general engineering space in Eastern Africa and has played an instrumental role in the success of AltGen consulting engagement on the AFD Green Mini-grid Programme in Kenya. His expertise caters to M&E activities, project management, impact analysis and assessments of funded water and renewable energy programmes that “enlighten” and uplift communities in rural Africa.

Muslim holds an MSc in Construction Management from Cass Business School and a Bachelor of Engineering in Architectural Environment Engineering from the University of Nottingham.

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Wiehahn de Jager

Senior Consultant & Team Lead

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”

Wiehahn de Jager has specialist recruitment expertise in the finance sector and has worked on various mandates for large international and national clients on both a retained and contingency basis. Wiehahn has gained an in-depth understanding of the professional skills operating within the capital markets, fin-tech, and green finance space, with a keen focus on talented professionals within the African context. He has a strong track record successfully working on a range of skill levels, from Directors to Analysts, with a special focus on professionals from mid-level up to Corporate Executives.

Wiehahn holds a Bachelor in Law from the University of Stellenbosch.

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Robert Slater

Senior Consultant & Team Lead

“I love to serve people and be the steppingstone between them and their dream job.”

Robert Slater is an expert in the talent acquisition of carbon management, environmental and social governance-related professionals across Africa. Robert has successfully closed mandates for clients who are focused on sourcing skills with experience in climate change, clean cooking, sustainability, and agricultural environments.

Slater cares deeply for people and the planet, he has a Life Coach Training certification from New Insights and volunteers at ON A MISSION, an NPO which enables businesses and individuals to invest in carbon offset projects. He holds an Honours Degree in Environmental Management from UNISA.

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Natascha Marais

Consultant

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. I look for people who want to change the world and introduce them to like-minded companies.”

Natascha Marais is highly skilled when it comes to sourcing those “unicorns” for our clients in the OEM, AI and technology, economic development, and legal spaces.

Natascha has proven experience in identifying and onboarding professionals to the likes of business developers, sales, and account managers as well as technical sales or software developer skills.

Marais holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Law from Pearson Institute.

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