Career advice with James Caan

By at home

Whether you’re job-hunting, thinking about a change of career or setting up your own business, sometimes we could all do with a helping hand to point us in the right direction. That’s exactly why we spoke to businessman, entrepreneur and at home‘s very own celebrity guest editor James Caan on getting your foot in the door, sailing through the interview and landing that job you really want…

With over a million young people unemployed and a further 500,000 expecting to lose their jobs as a result of cuts and a possible double-dip in employment over the next few months,  the UK job market has never been tougher. And if you’re looking for a bit of inspiration, motivation or some damn good career advice then you’re in luck because we’ve been on the blower to millionaire businessman James Caan for some top-notch business expertise. 

One of at home‘s celebrity guest editors, James Caan is one of the UK’s most successful and dynamic entrepreneurs, and has been building and selling businesses since 1985. After dropping out of school at sixteen and starting his first business in a Pall Mall broom cupboard, armed with little more than charm and his father’s advice, Caan went on to make his fortune in the recruitment industry and is now worth a whopping £70 million.

at home spoke exclusively to James Caan for his expert advice on making an impression in the interview room…

James Caan’s top interview tips

  1. Have a checklist in mind, so you can go through every single aspect of the way you come across – from clothes, hair, fingernails, to your briefcase or bag, how you shake hands, how you sit. It’s all in the detail.

As soon as you meet your interviewer, work hard to connect with them straight away on a personal level, by finding an ice-breaking remark or question about a photo on their desk or an award on the wall in reception.

  3. Make sure you get in with an early question, ideally one that asks the interviewer to tell you what they consider the key components of the job. This will give you the perfect agenda to present against.

  4. It’s always useful to have something you have prepared in advance – a short presentation, a document, something that demonstrates the quality of the work you do – but don’t oversell it. Let the interviewer discover for themselves how good you are.

  5. During the interview aim to ask the interviewer as many questions about the job and the company as they are asking you. You are trying to maintain a balance of power. The interview should be a two-way dialogue, not an inquisition.
  6. Plan ahead for the standard questions you will always be asked – such as, ‘Why do you want to leave your current employer?’ – so that you don’t need to worry about those and can respond naturally and confidently to any unexpected questions.
  7. Don’t worry unduly about showing nerves: they prove you really want the job. A little dash of self-deprecating humour can help relax the mood.

  8. Be upbeat, friendly, show you would fit in – and maybe send a thank-you note afterwards.
  9. Practise answering killer questions in advance, so you have an original, relevant answer, and try to avoid the trite tactic of asking a question back. Work out what lies behind each question: what does the interviewer really want to know?

If you are fazed, take some time out. The easiest way is to ask if you can use the bathroom, which gives you vital time to reprogramme and reposition yourself, so you can return to the interview back on track.

  11. Ask if you could come in and meet the department before a second interview: the knowledge you’ll gain will make you stronger at the next stage – but don’t lower your guard, especially if you’re invited to a ‘matey’ night out.

  12. Try and get a feel for the company’s culture while you are in the building, and ask questions to find out more about it – you want to know if this a place you feel you could actually enjoy working in.

  13. Don’t forget to get feedback at the end of any interview. There’s a very effective little line you can use when you are being escorted back to the lifts or reception, ‘What’s your gut feeling?’ You’ll always learn something that will be valuable to you.

  14. Keep professional right up until you have left the building. Only relax once you are completely out of sight and out of earshot. You don’t want to blow your chances at the last moment with an unwise remark.

Want more career advice?
If you want more hot business tips straight from the dragon’s mouth, make sure you get your hands on Get The Job You Really Want by James Caan (£12.99, Portfolio Penguin) which is packed full of expert advice on how to find the best employers, getting a foot in the door, thriving in the interview, and closing the deal on a job offer regardless of the state of the job market – make sure you grab your copy now!


Image: Julian Parker/UK Press/Press Association Images

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