Careers & Training

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The DO’s & DON’Ts of a Job Interview

Posted by | July 7, 2015 | Careers & Training

Do Your Research about the company

It doesn’t matter how much knowledge or experience you have about the position that you are trying to get in a company if you don’t have a clue who the company is or what they do. It is disastrous to enter into an interview and not be able to tell your interviewer what their company is about. How else are you going to tell them why you feel that you would be a good addition to their company?

Remember, during an interview, you are a salesman. You are there to sell yourself to your prospective employer. You want to market yourself in the most interesting way possible. Great preparation for the interview is your best bet. A salesman that is knowledgeable, friendly and positive always gets the close.


First Impressions

  • Look smart and professional. When it comes to dressing to impress, think more traditional than trendy. No Chewing Gum, Sunglasses on head or hats. Men – shave!
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get there — Do not arrive late or feeling flustered.
  • A firm handshake can make one of the best first impressions
  • Try to relax and be yourself.
  • Be confident and engaging, smile and make eye contact.
  • Focus on answering the questions and, if unsure, ask for clarification rather than answering incorrectly.
  • Keep your answers concise and don’t ramble on. Remember, an interviewer has a lot of questions to ask and a limited amount of time in which to ask them.
  • Try to ask a question at the end of the interview. For example you could ask about the team you would be working with or how long the company envisages the recruitment cycle to be.


Additional Tips

1. Market your skills and related experience in the field that you are applying for. Be sure to do it in a way that is positive and not cocky.

2. Researching the company before your interview is a good way to know where you would fit into it. It lets the employer know that you really want to be a part of the company too.

3. Bring your list of questions with you in a folder so that you don’t forget them.

4. You want to describe your weaknesses as strengths. For example, you are not stubborn… you are tenacious.


Do’s and Don’ts

Do’s Don’ts
Arrive on time, or better yet 10 minutes early Be overly aggressive or egotistical
Refer to the interviewer by name Speak about remuneration and benefits
Smile and use a firm handshake not hard Act uninterested in the company or the job
Be alert and act interested throughout Act defensively when questioned about anything
Maintain eye contact at all times. Speak badly about past colleagues or employers
Make all comments in a positive manner Answer with only yes or no
Speak clearly, firmly, and with authority Excuse your bad points about work history
Accept any refreshment offered Excuse yourself halfway through the interview, even if you have to use the bathroom
Promote your strengths Ask for coffee or refreshments and chew gum


Preparation Questions

  • How would you describe yourself?
  • How would your manager describe you?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years’ time? Remember to listen carefully to the time frame that is given as this will determine your goals. Be Realistic. They want to know that you have goals and that you plan to stay with them.
  • What motivates you? Don’t just say money. What are you saving up/using that money for – Remember that every answer you give in an interview reflects on you personally. So make sure it is a good reflection. This can be buying a house, studying further, special schooling for your child, your favourite charity – whatever!
  • Give an example of when you have coped well under pressure at work?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses? (Please don’t claim to have no weaknesses. State an area that you are working on to develop your skill set)
  • What do you know about the Company? Prepare!
  • What do you know about the position you applied or are being interviewed for?
  • Use your previous experience where ever you can. You are so suited to the job so will have lots of appropriate experience. Remember this is your way of “marketing” yourself. Always give a brief description of the situation, your action and the result. NEVER use the answer “WE” it is what “YOU” did that is important.
  • If a friend/spouse goes with you, please ensure they remain in the car or outside and do not accompany you into the building.


Review these 5 questions commonly asked by interviewers and develop your dialogue before the interview starts. Make every interview count! You can’t go back and redo an interview.

Prepare! Prepare! Prepare!

  1. Why do you want to work here?
    Researching the company is key. Get up to date with their latest media coverage. Find out things about them that you love and that resonate with you. Reply using the company’s attributes as you see them. Indicate your belief that this can provide you with a favourable working environment and that such an atmosphere would encourage your best work
  2. What are your salary expectations? Or what is your minimum requirement for compensation?
    Payment. We all want that high number, but don’t want to seem all about the money. It is usually premature to discuss this in the first interview. So if asked, avoid giving specifics about your salary requirements. If you give a figure you will be held to that figure later on leaving no room for negotiation and if your figure is outside of their budget you will scare them off immediately. So rather say that you are looking for a market related salary. Or if you are on a market related salary then you can say that you are looking for a market related increase. And if asked what that is you can say that you believe the market is dictating an 8% to 10% increase. However, if pressured for a minimum figure, here is a quick tip! Some jobs post the minimum annual salary for the position. Avoid using the lowest number because it would appear you question your own value /qualifications. Do your research and try to find what the average salary is for the company or for that kind of position. A Google search should do the trick. Be confident in your abilities and tell them that you have done your research and that you believe you deserve X. This is always option B. Option A is not to divulge a figure.
  3. Why should I hire you?
    This is an opportunity to sell yourself as best you can. Your answer should be short and to the point. The employer is looking for evidence that you can do the job.
  4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? OR Where do you want to be in the future with your career?
    The answer to this question can provide several thoughts for the employer to analyze. For example replying with, “Own my own company,” lets the person know that you don’t expect to remain at the company for a long period of time. Similarly, “I want to be an Equity Analyst” when you are interviewing for a Financial Manager, let’s the person know that their job isn’t where you really want to be and because you cannot become an Equity Analyst in their firm you are again sending a message that you don’t expect to remain at the company for a long period of time. Rather when asked this question be sure to include that you want to learn all aspects of your job in order to enrich your knowledge and be able to move up through the company – their company! Alternatively, highlight the skills you would like to acquire in this period and ask what opportunities exist within the company. Both answers depict dedication and reflect a goal-setter mentality.
  5. What sources are you reading to keep relevant with your field?
    Calling recent grads and experienced employees! What are you reading? If you lack a list of places you visit online or viable publications you subscribe to, you need to begin immediately. By remaining up-to-date in your field, you can be competitive in this struggling job market.
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Posted by | February 20, 2014 | Careers & Training

Choosing a career is one of the most important choices you will make in your life. You will spend an amazing 86 400 hours of your life in your job, so it makes sense that you make an informed choice, so that you can be a happy and productive person.

 Many people have made a career choice that was ill-informed, or not informed at all, maybe due to the fact that they admired somebody else in a similar career, or because they were not informed about career guidance services available. They may also choose a course because their parents told them to do it, or because their friends chose the same course, or for another wrong reason, such as that they will earn much money in the field. They then find the course they are studying uninteresting and drop out, wasting a lot of training money and time in which they could have earned money for themselves. They start out on another course, also uninformed of what the job entails and find themselves experiencing the same problem over again. Many stories can also be told about people in jobs they do not like, who are unproductive and unhappy.

The Department of Labour provides a free of charge career guidance service. If you are unemployed or underemployed (in a job that does not suit you), sign up for careers guidance and receive job preparation advice that will assist you to plan a bright future for yourself!

What is career guidance?

 Career guidance is the process where you are assisted to clarify your career goals, understand your strengths as a person in the work-place and make informed career decisions. The career guidance process uses careers information on occupations, skills, career paths, learning opportunities, labour market trends and conditions, educational programmes and opportunities, educational and training institutions, government and non-government programmes and services, and job opportunities, to help you make a decision.

At Department of Labour you can also obtain employment counseling, which can help you access job and skills training opportunities, and to learn the skills needed to look for and maintain employment, e.g. CV writing and interview skills.

The career guidance service at the Department of Labour involves the following:

Registration as work-seeker on the computerized Employment Services system of South Africa (ESSA), that will make job-matching easier and provide the career counsellors with your skills and experience profile;

  • Identifying career guidance needs
  • Providing you with information on the labour market
  • Exploring your interest fields in the world of work
  • Linking your strongest interest fields in the world of work with careers that you can consider (providing careers information)
  • Providing information on career opportunities and assisting you to choose a suitable career in line with your abilities
  • Providing information on skills development opportunities
  • Providing information on scarce skills that are in demand in the labour market
  • Assisting you to improve your employability through a set of life skills programmes such as job-hunting, work ethics, retrenchment advice, etc.
  • Providing information on topics such as HIV/AIDS, retirement, study skills and the like.

The aim of the career guidance is to place you in a skills development opportunity or career that will be best suited to your own profile.

 What benefits can I get from career guidance?

It has been shown that career guidance can assist as follows:

Career choice is a personal issue, because you will have to live with your choice. Best career results are obtained if people work in an area, which suits their interests and abilities. Career guidance can assist you to know yourself better to make a career choice that suits you best.

  • You will learn to know the labour market and consider all options suitable to you.
  • You can learn about career options you have not considered before, such as co-operatives and small business.
  • Career guidance can assist clients with general knowledge on how to navigate the labour market, such as not to resign from a job before they find another
  • Career guidance can assist you to become upwardly mobile, since it can show to you, which study courses to follow to improve your skills
  • Career guidance can assist you to be more productive and happy in your work
  • Career guidance can assist people such as ex-offenders, parolees and people with disabilities to adjust to the work situation

 Who will assist me?

 The Department of Labour has trained career counsellors that can assist you with the process described above.

What other career advice can I get?

 The career counsellors also has access to many aids for the career guidance process, such as careers information books, a set of life skills programmes that can assist you in different problems you might experience, assistance to start up a small business or co-operative and health and well-being in the work-place. The Department has record of many skills development opportunities such as short skills development programmes, learnerships, apprenticeships and internships and also of job opportunities that already exist in the labour market.

How can I access the career guidance service?

You can find a Career Counsellor in Labour Centres in the major cities and towns. You can go to the nearest Labour Centre and register as work-seeker. Ask the staff member to refer you for career guidance. Make sure to indicate your needs in terms of careers advice very specifically. You can also send any careers-related question via Internet to, stating your address, Province and telephone number and we can assist you via e-mail!

A closing note

Many of our people in South Africa never had the opportunity of having career guidance. Be one of those who make an informed career choice. Learn as much you can of the labour market and opportunities before you make a choice. You can do this through getting assistance from a careers counsellor!

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Posted by | February 10, 2014 | Careers & Training

Difference between university and college

By Thabo Ledimo

When you are right out of high school or had a gap year and now think of studying, you don’t know where to go, is it university or college? This article here to help you decide and kill the misconceptions you’ve heard in the past about these two options of tertiary education.


Universities are adventurous for those who want to take a critical look at their field of study. Universities  provide you with in-depth information and complete theoretical background of your chosen degree. You will be tested on your ability to study the theory and write tests and exams in order to obtain your degree. This is sometimes a disadvantage when you go into the workforce; some universities provide brief practical experience for courses such as medicine, accounting and engineering etc. But if your course does not offer any practical experience, check with your lecturer as universities do have relationships with companies that can offer you experience through internships.

There are other points to focus on when you want to go to a university, one of them being cost and schedules. University is much more expensive in comparison with colleges. You can pay about R 23 000+ per annum to be at a university, this does not include your accommodation, textbooks or your daily meal. At a university a course normally takes about three to four years.

Remember if you are a student at a university, you have to make your own schedule.  On some days you will have four hours of class and on others you will have a free day. This is where prioritization kicks in and time management. Because of the study load that is at university you need to spend most of your time studying the work and preparing for the next class. Not to mention the extra tasks, tests, socializing or getting a part time job to pay your way forward.


In you are eager to get into the work force, but don’t have any practical experience of the work then college is the place for you. Colleges spend most of their time teaching students about how to do it in practice more than how to do it in theory. This is advantageous for a student that would like to get into the market and climb the managerial workforce ladder quickly. Some students might wish that they had a more in-depth/theory angle of the work that they do, but this is where it is up to you to ask your fellow managers and learn the theory from a practical angle.

When it comes to colleges the cost is not as expensive as universities, the duration of your studies is also not that long as a university course. This can be for about six months up to three years. So in college you are looking at about R 8 000 per annum. This does not include text books and accommodation so you will need to seek/raise funds to help you.

The workload of a college is much like a high school, but you have a tight schedule as you are in class from 8am to 4pm daily. This means that have class most of the day and them spent time studying. You might think that this is way too much of your time that you have to spend studying, but as my boarding master told me in matric: “If you have a dream you will be a slave to education”. In this I can boldly say that I oppose Es’ Kia Mphahlele words in a ‘Man Must Live’ when he wrote “… if so much of life could be learned out of books, as his teacher had often impressed upon his mind, then practical problems of life could surely teach him a hundred times more than book”.

Are you an experienced writer that would like to write for us?

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How to develop transferable skills

Posted by | February 5, 2014 | Careers & Training

Transferable skills are competencies you can use in any job; they’re not technical and don’t require any education. There are plenty of benefits to developing skills like these and they can make you stand out from similarly qualified candidates if you’re looking for a promotion or a career move.

Ask yourself what you can do to show you have the following transferable skills:

  • Leadership

Ask for extra responsibility; if you’re able to demonstrate that you can lead other people in your team and get good results then you’re more likely to be considered for management roles. But remember, it’s not just about you; being a good leader means taking others forward with you.

  • Teamwork

Show you’re on board with the rest of the team by working together with them on projects. This means offering assistance before it’s been asked of you and allowing others to advise on your own work.

  • Problem solving

If your department is facing an issue, don’t keep quiet in the background and wait for it to solve itself. Think about possible solutions and propose them to the group, stating how you intend to overcome the problem and why you think your suggestion will work. It’s better to try and resolve issues, even if your solution doesn’t work, than not take any sort of action.

  • Organisation

Prove yourself to be one step ahead at all times so that whenever your manager asks for an update on anything you always know exactly what stage you’re at and when a task will be completed.

  • Communication

Mistakes often happen when there has been poor communication between departments or within a team. Check in with your line managers often and keep email threads relating to your current projects so you can refer back if needed.

  • Self-awareness

This is a skill many people often overlook. Knowing your own capabilities is sometimes difficult, you might lack confidence in your abilities or think you can take on something that turns out to be too much. It’s always good to challenge yourself and learn new things but know your boundaries to avoid problems later.

  • Motivation and enthusiasm

Motivating yourself and those around you is a great skill to have, and a desirable quality in managers. If you’re developing yourself professionally, you find you’re considered more seriously for higher roles if it’s evident you motivate your team.

  • Initiative

Thinking for yourself and confidently making your own decisions shows you take initiative, rather than letting others do half the work for you. Of course, not everyone is in the position to make decisions at work, but if you can try and offer your individual expertise into the process.

  • Flexibility

You might not be considered for a higher level role if you’re very rigid in what tasks you’re willing to do and the hours you’re willing to work. This doesn’t mean you should be putting in hours and hours extra every week and getting nothing back, but if you’re asked to come in early for a meeting or stay late to get work finished, there’s probably a good reason.

Developing transferable skills like these will not only come in use when you’re growing your career, they’ll also be applicable to a role if you decide to start a career in a completely different role.