The ultimate guide to job interview preparation

As you might imagine, we’re often asked for advice on how best to prepare for interviews. The truth is that there is no ‘secret’ to being good at interviews, but there are a few things you can do to give yourself the best possible chance of success. This, then is our ultimate guide to job interview preparation.

Review your CV
I know, of course, you know your CV inside and out, you wrote it! But try to look it at from a different angle, with the eyes of the business you are interviewing with. What was it that caught their eye? Your experience? Qualifications?

How does your listed experience match up with the job? What examples can you prepare of both the hard (technical) skills and soft (interpersonal) aspects of the role?

You need to show the interview panel that you are not only right for the role, but also right for the company. Gather as much information as you can, it’s all useful – have a look at the company website, press releases, social media and anything else you can find. Walking into an interview with a good overview of the company will give you confidence and your research might help you with point 3 below…

Prepare questions
An interview is always a two way process. You are interviewing the business just as much as they are interviewing you. It’s imperative that you have some questions prepared to ask. It’s not uncommon for you to be judged on the questions you ask, so use them wisely! Not having any may put a question mark over your preparation, intelligence or worse, suggest that you have no independent thought process.

There are hundreds of questions you could ask, but try to keep them relevant and topical – what do you really want to know about the organisation? Avoid questions about salary, benefits or anything that has no relevance to the role or organisation.

Dress for success
It’s been said that first impressions last a lifetime, so make yours a good one! It doesn’t matter what the dress code in the company you’re interviewing is it’s always best to go smart . Remember it’s not just about clothes, consider your overall appearance. Keep your hair neat and polish your shoes!

Positive visualisation and reinforcement
This practice is common amongst athletes, both elite and those who do it for fun. Interviews are no different. Imagine yourself sitting in front of the hiring manager in a relaxed, calm and positive manner. If you do this often enough it will become a reality meaning you’ll be genuinely cool, calm and collected on the day.

Pack your bags!
The evening before, get all your stuff ready. Your outfit, directions, phone numbers, preparation notes, pad, paper, pen, a spare copy of your CV and anything extra that you have been asked to bring. This means you won’t be dashing madly about on the morning of your interview.

The night before… sleep well!
By this point you’ll be fully prepared. You’ve done your research, prepared your most stunning examples of your work, thought up some questions for the interview panel and your confidence is sky high after all the positive visualisations. The night before you should try and do something which will take your mind off of the interview. Exercise is normally the best thing. Before you go to bed, set an alarm (or 2!) and make sure you have plenty of time in the morning so you don’t need to rush.

You won’t get every job that you interview for, but that doesn’t mean that you are rubbish at your job or at interviews in general. Sometimes you won’t be right for the organisation or they won’t be right for you. However, you can increase your chances of success by making sure you are fully prepared.

Talent attraction in the digital age

You’ve got to innovate just to stand still

Be under no illusions, your competitors are out there looking at ways to engage the talent that will give them a competitive advantage over you. For as long as I can remember reading annual global CEO surveys recruitment and retention rank consistently as a top ten priority. In fact, in the most recent PwC annual global CEO survey, 72% of CEOs are concerned about the availability of skills. The war for talent is still being waged and isn’t going away anytime soon.

Consider the pace of change in the recruitment world, not so long ago you’d place an advert in a paper, await replies in the form of covering letters and CVs and, with a bit of luck hire the best of those applicants. Then along came on-line job boards, company websites, Google PPC campaigns and of course LinkedIn. Problem solved. Everyone in one (or two) place(s) ready and waiting to be offered their next job. However, it didn’t quite stop there (that’d be far too easy). Others have also become a portal to recruitment – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, Instagram, Stack Overflow, GitHub to mention just a few. Combine those with a growing list of niche recruitment websites. In a nutshell, in just 20 years, recruiting has gone from being similar to buying a local raffle ticket to entering the Euromillions. Yes, the prize has gone up but so have the odds of winning it. And when there are so many places your candidates are potentially hanging out in, how do you beat your competitors and how do you stay ahead?

At the same time, there has been a seismic shift in how potential employees look for their next role. ‘Look’ being the operative word. Many now don’t expect to ‘look’ and are waiting for the next role to come-a-knocking.

So how do you differentiate yourself from the competition? Well let’s look at what some others have done. From the 2015 winner of the Personnel Today innovation in recruitment award, Virgin Money for their brilliantly unique campaign, to the cryptic puzzles posted by GCHQ, to IKEA adding ‘career instructions’ into their flat packs. All started from the same position, they knew what they were looking for, where to find them and crucially how to engage them. Now, the majority of these award winning recruitment innovations in recent years seem to follow a trend: large, well-established organisations (with a healthy recruitment budget). Well what about the other 95% of businesses in the UK (i.e. SMEs) that perhaps have a more modest budget? How do you use innovative recruitment methods to benefit your organisation? What are the lessons you can learn?

Consider your own company, where are the skill shortages now and in the future? Do you understand your target audience, do you know where they hang out and crucially how to engage with them? How do you go about creating your own talent pool?

In my own career, I have recruited for a huge variety of roles (from CFOs to Librarians) and locations (from London to the Falkland Islands) in all sectors and can safely say that there is no ‘right way’ to attract the right candidates. But throughout this experience I have learned there are common themes you can apply to your approach.

  • Build a talent pool, identify your target audience and engage with them
  • Broaden your horizons, LinkedIn is not the only (and may be a totally inappropriate) place to look
  • Build your employer brand, what does it stand for and what are you selling?
  • Ensure key stakeholders in your company are on board and share the same message on their social media channels
  • Consistency is key. What are the chances your dream candidate just happens to be looking to change role in the window you are hiring?

Innovation for you doesn’t require you to be a holder of a multi-million pound budget or to totally re-invent the wheel. Innovation can be simply defined as a new idea, method or plan and so by simply improving the current recruitment practices in your organisation you can make a large impact on your company’s ability to attract the talent your business needs. So put those ‘bleeding edge’ ideas on the backburner and focus on what will make a difference to your business. Here are my suggestions to improve your recruitment strategy:

  • Make it ludicrously easy for candidates to apply, think social media profiles
  • The rise and rise of digital video – what insight can you give to the role / your company by way of video?
  • Internal referral networks – are you using them to their full capacity?
  • Enhance the candidate experience, Tripadvisor has a cousin called Glassdoor and you really don’t want poor ratings there
  • Don’t underestimate power of speed and agility in winning the candidate race

Given the pace of change and the opportunities it has thrown up to engage with your target audience I’m not going to make a great proclamation that ‘the CV is dead, long live the CV’. All I know is that in another 2, 5, 10 years from now the next latest and greatest thing will have come along and we’ll have to again innovate to – what sometimes feels like – stand still.


Salary Survey 2017

I am delighted to introduce the third annual TFPL and Sue Hill Knowledge & Information Management Salary Survey.

I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about the preceding publications. Both Hiring Managers and Human Resource teams have used the guides to benchmark their compensation competitiveness within the industry, whilst for candidates coming on to the job market it gives them a better insight into what remuneration they can expect. However, there is always room for improvement and I believe with this year’s survey we’ve delivered it. Aside from a redesign in the survey question format, we’ve partnered with the IRMS to gain a wider response and insight into the information world. This is particularly timely given that GDPR is looming ever larger on every company’s horizon. The role of Data Protection & Privacy Expert has never been discussed at such length by so many people before.

At the time of the last publication, Brexit had just been voted for. Its effects on employment within the industry have been varied. Whilst we haven’t seen the wide-scale meltdown as predicted pre-Brexit by some, there has been some impact on our largest multinational clients with time to hire extending and additional sign offs being sought. Unless we see an incredible upset at the General Election, it looks very much like we are exiting the Single Market and turning the tap off to straightforward access to European talent. If this happens without big changes to the current sponsorship system, there will be major impacts on the hiring plans for some in the industry, especially those who hire large numbers of researchers. It will be interesting to see how this loss of access to a huge talent pool (and therefore increasing skill shortages) will affect salaries over the coming years.

I hope that you find this guide insightful, I look forward to receiving your feedback. On behalf of TFPL and Sue Hill, I would like to thank the IRMS and their members for working in partnership with us and of course to everyone who has taken the time to input into this year’s salary survey.

Download the 2017 Salary Survey

Lunchtime lecture: Bringing ghost data back from the dead

How do we protect the corporate memory within an organisation? How do we turn hindsight into foresight? What corporate knowledge gap has been created as a result of digitisation? How can we prevent this happening again? And do we really understand the scale and impact of this issue?

These questions formed a lecture and discussion on Friday afternoon last week at the Open Data Institute for their Friday lunchtime lecture series #ODIFridays. Today’s session – Bringing Ghost Data back from the Dead. The lecture was given to us by Michael Weatherburn of Imperial College, who also works as a consultant with clients to unlock and optimise high-value corporate knowledge.

It’s hard to argue that we don’t live in an increasingly digital world but it is worth remembering that most organisations started digitising back in 2005, so many of them don’t know what they were doing beyond 10 years ago. If you think that 2005 wasn’t that long ago to put it into context, this time 12 years ago George W Bush and Tony Blair were in power, London was awarded the Olympic Games, YouTube was founded, the annoying, yet incredibly catchy Crazy Frog spent four weeks at number 1 in the charts, President Donald Trump married his current wife Melania and I was in Year 9 at secondary school…

Considering the changes we have experienced since then it might not come as a shock to think that the technology used to digitise back then isn’t as useful as it once was. Michael made an excellent point that technology has changed so much since that there has been a degradation of data which has led to real problems. Such as, CDs are no longer widely used and only have a lifespan of 10 years roughly, PDFs and other programmes are updating so frequently that older files can’t be accessed. More needs to be done to preserve this data for the corporate memory. And what about that information from 15, 20, 30 years plus- where is that? This leads to data incompleteness. And how do we access it when so many people are only taught how to research using digital and online methods?

One particular quote from Friday which stuck with me was “If it’s not on the internet it doesn’t exist”. Whilst not strictly true, how many of us can honestly say we would know where else to look and if we did, would we really bother? Thinking about the difficulty this can cause organisations looking for data pre-2005 is very interesting. This is where the importance of paper records comes in and access to pre-digital records from the British Library and Bodleian Library and the importance of archivists, records managers, librarians and knowledge professionals in preserving data, making it accessible and helping to avoid a knowledge gap.

During an equally fascinating questions section, the conversation covered legislation, data protection, open data formats, XML and the importance of keeping some paper records- or as someone pointed out carving it in stone like the Egyptians- still the most effective way to preserve information.

The #ODIFridays lecture gave me so much to think about that I’m in danger of writing an essay rather than a blog post… but don’t take my word for it, the seminar was live-streamed on twitter and can be found here:

As we were talking about #makingdatagreatagain (hat-tip to Michael for an outstanding opening line!) on the walk back to the office, something that came to mind was the preservation of social media and the digital history of the Obama administration. How timely that this piece was tweeted  by The White House, providing a really nice insight into how we might start preserving data like this: .

Out with the old, in with the new, or How to find a job in 2017

For some 2016 has been a stellar year, a year to be proud of. For others 2016 has been a year to forget. Wherever you fall on this continuum is irrelevant for what happens next, because a new year means new challenges and new possibilities. For all of us the focus should be 2017, a new year. What will that mean for you?

If 2017 means a new job then start things off on the right track. Begin early, don’t prevaricate, don’t find yourself with an hour to go before the deadline for your dream job and a CV which you haven’t looked at in years.

Here’s my advice:


What have you done? What skills do you have? Why are you looking for a change?


Once you know where you’ve been and why you’re looking, you can work out what you are aiming for.


Once your direction is set and course laid out, you can engage (sorry I couldn’t resist a Star Trek homage when I saw one). What must you do to get where you want to go? What skills, experience and qualifications are you lacking? What connections do you need to make or, perhaps, refresh through some active networking? Also consider the nuts and bolts: how regularly does the type of job you want come up? Where are the jobs advertised? How and when will you carve out the time to look for them?


This part is specific to you: do you need a new qualification, to join a group, to engage with your network, to update your CV? Whatever your planning told you to do next, work out when and how this can be done. Allot time for it. Book courses or events, and manage the process effectively.

All that is left is to start. Embrace the process, be positive, be rigorous, but most importantly be true to yourself and your aspirations.

Good luck and have a great 2017!

Who’s on the cover? Or, the sinfulness of cover letters

Recently a colleague asked me for my thoughts on cover letters and what I thought the pitfalls or Big Sins are when drafting one. This phrase struck me as odd because in my mind there is just one sin when it comes to cover letters and that is the mistake of assuming that one size fits all. It doesn’t! Then I thought, why are we approaching this subject so negatively, so instead of talking about bad practice relating to cover letters, and believe me I have seen many examples, let’s instead focus on how to write a good cover letter.

First of all, follow instructions. If you have been asked to write a cover letter to accompany your application are there any more instructions such as ‘explain why you have applied for this job’, or ‘in no more than 30 words …’, or ‘state where you saw the job advertised’? If there aren’t then no problem, but give yourself the best chance of success by following instructions.

Secondly, unless instructed otherwise, keep it to one page. The intention is to demonstrate that you can identify and deliver key information succinctly and effectively, so don’t cheat by reducing the font size and increasing your margins. Make it as easy as possible for the reader to pull out the details they are looking for, so work out what those are likely to be and then trust your judgement, rather than taking a kitchen sink approach.

This leads us to the question, what should I say? Unless instructed to the contrary, it is good practice to pick something like three key dimensions of the job you are applying for then write a separate paragraph summarising (again resist the kitchen sink) your relevant experience. You could do this by giving an example of a situation or a specific achievement highlighting your skills and expertise.

The cover letter is also a good opportunity to demonstrate a little of what you know about the organisation you are applying to, as well as to give a sense of what drives you by explaining briefly why you have applied for the job. For instance ‘I am drawn to working in a training-oriented role within an organisation that values effective user engagement, as your Student Satisfaction Survey suggests you do so well.’ This shows not only that you have done your research (brownie points), but also what a good match you are with the organisation’s broader values.

And that’s it. Don’t get caught up in the detail, write no more extensively than I have done here.

First Salary Survey for the UK Market Research industry

The first complete salary survey specifically targeting the UK Market Research industry has been released by Sue Hill Recruitment (SHR), a market leading recruitment consultancy.

We’re delighted  to be able to release the first complete salary survey for the industry. As a leading recruitment specialist in this space SHR is ideally placed to conduct a salary survey on this scale. We are often asked for our advice on salaries, by both employers and candidates, and we hope this will prove to be a useful resource for market research professionals across the board.

The survey covers the full range of agency and client-side roles across all sectors and enables the benchmarking of salaries by location. This is the first time this information has been collated and presented together in the UK for the market research, insight and analysis industry.

Download the salary survey here!

Or request a hard copy by contacting me on or 020 7378 5469.

Showing off some lovely libraries

You may have noticed that we have a bit of a new-look on the homepage this week. We’ve changed some of our main images to show off some of the lovely libraries we work with.

We’d like to say a big thank you to the The Library of Birmingham and photographer Christian Richters for the image of their RIBA award-winning library.

An equally big thank you goes to King’s College, London for the use of the image of the splendid Maughan Library (which will always have a special place in my heart as it opened the same year I started my undergraduate degree there).

If you’d like see to see your library (or archive, or other exciting workplace) on our homepage, we’re happy to take requests. Just send the details over to me ( and let us know who to credit the image to.

Sue Hill and TFPL Salary Survey 2016-17

2016 has been quite an eventful year so far and early indications are that 2017 will bring more of the same. It’s an interesting time to be releasing a salary survey, poised as we are on the brink of what will probably be some major changes to the UK economy in the post-Brexit world. With so much uncertainty in the air, it will be the knowledge and information professionals we’ll turn to for answers.

Once again, our salary survey covers information-related roles across all sectors and enables salary bench-marking by discipline and location as well as sector. We’ve made a few improvements since last year in response to your feedback – please let us know what you think by emailing

Download the 2016-17 salary survey here!

Introducing – 95 Aldwych

Our new address looks rather good we think.
We think our new address looks rather good.

September is traditionally the start of the academic year – and despite having been out of full time education for more years than I care to admit, I still think of it as a time to buy stationery, crack out a new notebook and pen and head to the library.

This year, I’ve got that urge even more than usual as SHR, TFPL and ILX Recruitment have left Borough Towers behind and moved into 95 Aldwych, just over the road from my alma mater King’s College, London. In fact, I very nearly went into the university instead of work this morning. If I remember rightly it was metaphysics at 10am on a Monday (though the timetable may have changed).

Fortunately I recollected myself and joined the rest of the team in time to claim my desk. We’re all looking forward to getting out to visit our candidates and clients here and getting to know the area a bit better – do feel free to share any local recommendations with us!

We’re hoping to be able to invite you all over for a ‘housewarming’ at some point soon – but for the moment we’re still busy assembling furniture and rediscovering things in boxes.

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