CAT | Advice



5 Things You Should Never Say During an Interview

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We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again; interview preparation is essential! Often, we focus on all of the things you should be saying during the interview. In this week’s blog, we’re going to look at some of the things which you should *never* say during an interview.  Had an interview nightmare? Let us know in the comments below!

We get it. Interviews are scary and even the coolest of cucumbers can be subject to a few nerves on the big day. One of the ways nerves can come across is by talking quickly, or perhaps by speaking too much. We’ve all had that feeling when perhaps something hasn’t quite come out as you intended it to! Whereas it’s been said that people who come across well at interview are able to provide quality, meaningful answers in a succinct and considered way.

So as part of your preparation for your next interview, in addition to thinking about the things you do want to get across, take a few minutes to make a note of the following topics or phrases to avoid!

In our opinion, these are the biggest turn-offs for interviewers, and in some cases, could mean the difference between getting the job and not. So, take a deep breath, and read on:

  1. My last job/employer/boss was rubbish

A potential employer does not want to hear negativity towards your previous role. After all, they’ll be wondering if you’ll be saying these things about them next time around and in the worst cases, they could deem you as being emotionally immature.

An interview situation is never the right time to bad mouth or complain (even if it’s true!); some things are better left unsaid. Focus on why it’s right for you to seek a new opportunity.

  1. What’s this job again? What does this company do?

You might have applied for several roles and it is easy to lose track. However, do not walk into any interview without being clear on what the role is. Find the original advert, and/or ask if the company have a job description available.

It’s also essential to have researched the company so you’re prepared for any questions, or even better, you’re able to drop in some of your knowledge while answering the interviewer’s questions.

  1. How much holiday do I get?

It’s definitely something you’d want to know before accepting a job offer, but an interview is not usually the right time to raise questions over holidays or other benefits.  Tread carefully, you don’t want to appear like you’re just there for the pay packet and can’t wait to be jetting off at the earliest opportunity.

  1. I’m not sure what I want to do in the future / I want to be CEO in 5 years

If you’re asked any questions about your long-term plans, the interviewer is going to be looking for someone who sees themselves staying with the company, but also for someone who is realistic about their career aspirations. By sounding unsure, the interviewer might suspect that you’re not going to be committed to the role. By sounding over ambitious, your confidence could be misconceived as arrogance.

  1. A lie!

Last but definitely not least, never ever lie to your interviewer! Honesty is always the best policy. If you know there’s something in your background that you are concerned about (perhaps your school grades or a reason for leaving a job), consider beforehand how you can best overcome this at interview and try to frame in a positive light, for example, by saying what you have learnt from a situation.

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What Does Brexit Mean For EU Citizens

We know that many of our followers are EU citizens living in the UK, and many of you are worried about your future when the UK leaves the EU in March 2019. The UK Government has now released details of the application system for those who wish to remain in the UK after June 2021. Read our latest blog for more information.

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We know that many of our followers are EU citizens, and many of you are worried about your future when the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.

The UK Government has already reached an agreement with the EU, so although the UK will leave the EU on 29 March 2019, nothing will change until 1 January 2021. The Government have announced that a new EU Settlement Scheme will open later this year, where you’ll have until 30 June 2021 to make an application to stay here.

So firstly, it’s important to say that you don’t need to do anything at the moment, you can continue to live and work here with the same rights to public services as you do now.

Anyone who moves here between now and 31 December 2020 will be able to apply for settled status.

Here’s what we know about the scheme so far:

It’s simple!

The system will be very easy to use to use. You will only need to type in personal details, prove your identity and prove you have no serious criminal convictions. The system will verify everything else using employment and benefit records.

It will be cheap to apply

If you have lived in the UK for 5 years, it will cost £65 to apply for ‘Settled Status’, and £32.50 for children under 16. Alternatively, if you already have valid permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain documentation, you’ll be able to exchange it for free.

In addition, your existing close family members (spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner, dependent child or grandchild, and dependent parent or grandparent), will also be eligible for the scheme, even if they’re not currently living in the UK. You will need to apply on behalf of your child.

If you have a child after getting settled status, they will automatically become a British citizen if they’re born in the UK. You will not need to apply for settled status on their behalf.

Pre-Settled Status

If you have not lived in the UK for 5 years when the scheme opens, don’t worry. You will be granted ‘pre-settled status’ which can be swapped for full ‘Settled Status’, using the new system, after 5 years.

You don’t need to do anything now

You do not need to do anything just yet. The scheme will open later this year, and the deadline is 30 June 2021, so you will have plenty of time.  Your application will only be refused on security or fraud grounds, or if you have serious criminal convictions. There will be no limit placed on how many people can successfully apply.

Please note that Irish citizens will not need to apply. Rights for citizens of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland are currently being negotiated.

If you’re currently working for us and would like any further information or guidance, please don’t hesitate to speak to a member of the team who will be glad to help.

We will keep you updated as we learn more about the Brexit process.

You can sign up for email updates and also find more details by visiting the following website:

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Psychometric Testing; How Can You Prepare?

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Psychometric testing, in various forms, has been around for some time. It has been widely used as part of the recruitment process for graduate schemes, but many other employers (particularly larger organisations) are now also introducing a testing element within their onboarding process for all types of roles; from entry-level to executives.

Psychometric testing comes in two forms; ‘competency’ and ‘personality’.


Competency or aptitude tests are similar to a traditional exam, often with multiple choice questions where you are usually marked against a benchmark score or pass rate. The content of the test could depend on the type of role you are applying for, such as numeracy for an accounts role, or a language based test for a marketing role. Some aptitude testing can also be more generalised to look at your skill set as a whole; such as verbal reasoning tests which measure how well you can extract information and analyse the data in order to form conclusions.

The best thing you can do to prepare for a competency test is to practice as much as you can using examples online. There are various free resources available on the internet, which may at least help get you back into an exam mindset, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve been in a test situation!

Our top tip is to make sure you take the time to read the questions carefully. Beware; they can be worded to try and catch you out!


Personality testing is totally different, there is no pass or fail, or even traditional right or wrong answers.  You’ll usually be presented with various statements about how you would feel or act in certain situations and asked to answer by marking on a scale where you would put yourself (i.e. 5 for strongly agree, or 1 for strongly disagree).

Companies use them to find people with the behaviours and attitudes that are necessary to perform the job and who are going to fit into their culture. The idea is to create a completely objective way of comparing people, and to gain insight into some of the personality traits which may be difficult to ascertain through traditional questioning.

In our experience, employers are unlikely to base any recruitment decisions solely on the results of a personality test, and is more often used in conjunction with other methods of selection (such as a face to face interview).

One piece of advice is to avoid missing any questions or selecting a ‘don’t know’ answer. This shows a level of indecisiveness and will not score highly.

The key to these tests is to answer completely honestly. Take time to read the question then go with your gut instinct. If you try and second guess yourself, and answer with what you think they want to hear, the system will show that your answers are not consistent which will go against you. Be yourself! After all, if you’re not a fit for them, then maybe the job isn’t right for you!

Lastly, good luck! We’d love to hear what testing you’ve encountered within a recruitment process, let us know in the comments below.

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How to Ace a Group Interview

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Group interviews are an extremely common part of the recruitment process.  As well as there being multiple candidates to contend with, they’ll often be multiple interviewers too; whose purpose it is to observe and assess from a distance.

Increasingly, many recruiters are ‘surprising’ their candidates with a group interview, to see how prospective employees interact with people they don’t know and how they can work as a team. Whatever the exercise the group is set is irrelevant, it’s not about getting to the right answer; the interviewers are looking at how each individual performs and how they contribute to the team.

We’re very experienced in prepping candidates in group interviews so we’ve come up with our top tips to help you ace your next one.

Before any kind of interview, it is essential to do some research into the company. You never know when the information may come in use and it will demonstrate that you have a genuine interest in the role.

Be Friendly

Try and be as affable as possible when faced with those you are interviewing against. The last thing recruiters are looking for is someone who is confrontational.  Being polite and approachable are qualities that any employer expects from its staff. It may also help you in the interview, chatting to others in the same situation could calm your nerves before the start, whilst also ensuring you have a better understanding of the group dynamic.

During the assessment, including others shows your capacity to build relationships, for example using phrases like ‘I agree with…’ and ‘following on from what… said’ will only help you.


A key skill in group situations is the ability to listen. Lots of people go into these situations being as loud as possible, hoping that by being the dominant voice they will gain more credit when the decision is made. But recruiters are looking for someone with the ability to take on other people’s opinions and make a balanced judgement. By following the conversation and staying engaged you will be able to speak with more purpose. What you say will have more impact, and be more memorable when the interview is analysed.

As an extension to this, don’t be afraid to praise the ideas of the other interviewees. Being able to spot and commend good ideas demonstrates leadership skills, and will show you are able to put the benefit of the group above anything else.

Be Yourself

It may be clichéd, but the most important thing is to be yourself. Trying to be a different person will come across to the interviewers. They might see you as overly loud or trying too hard, and they will quickly spot someone who is being insincere to their colleagues, for example. It is much better to be genuine, having an appreciation of those around you, and ensuring that you’re balanced and respectful.

It might be worth sending a thank you letter, or at least an email to the interviewers the day after. This will help you stand out, particularly if you reference a part of the conversation. It is another way of showing how much you want the role, and standing out from the crowd.

If you have a group interview or think that you may have one soon, we hope that this advice helps you. Let us know how it went in the comments below.


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How to Dress to Impress for an Interview

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We can all agree that interviews are nerve-wracking enough without having to contend with any outfit worries!  First impressions count, and like it or not, your interviewer will form an initial judgement based on how you look, so by following our simple guidance on how to tackle that ‘what to wear?’ conundrum we hope you’re able to feel your best when you step into the interview room!

Whether it’s a formal interview or a relaxed and informal chat, the same consideration and effort should be made when selecting your outfit.   In most cases, it’s unlikely an interview will be the best place to test out the latest fashion trends; aim for a look which is classic, conservative and comfortable.

Even if your new potential employer takes a casual approach to business dress, it’s usually best to stick to professional attire for an interview. If you’re unsure, choose smart over casual; you’re unlikely to be marked down for being too smart.  Or, if you’re still in doubt over the dress code; just ask.

For men, a suit is usually the best option. Your interview suit should fit well and be in a traditional colour (black, navy or grey). A smart suit doesn’t have to cost the earth; there’s plenty of choice on the high street, and look at it as an investment.  A tie is essential, choose something that compliments your suit and shirt, and ensure your shoes are polished for the occasion.  Pay attention to the smaller details; avoid brightly coloured or novelty socks! Aside from your outfit, it’s important to either be clean shaven or have well-groomed facial hair, nails should be clean and trimmed and avoid overdoing the aftershave.  If you do have the go-ahead for a more casual outfit, smart chinos and a shirt will work well.

For women, a tailored dress, skirt or pair of trousers can be elevated by the addition of a tailored blazer. If choosing a skirt or dress, make sure it’s not so fitted that you can’t sit or move around comfortably, and that it’s not too short; especially when you sit down.  If you have to question whether something is inappropriate or too short, it probably is! Stay away from bright colours, animal prints or anything sheer or low-cut.  A classic court shoe, low heeled ankle boot or smart pump are usually the best choices for an interview, ensuring they are clean and smart.  Think about your overall look, including accessories, hair, nails and makeup, avoiding anything too garish or unusual.  Fashion doesn’t have to go out of the window, just think more Kate Middleton than Kim Kardashian.

Whatever you decide to wear, get it ready the night before and make sure you’ve tried it on in advance; the last thing you need is to discover a missing button or broken zip on the morning of the interview which could lead to an outfit malfunction! Whilst your outfit is an expression of your personality, you want to be remembered by the interviewer for the right reasons i.e. why you’re perfect for the job!

Don’t underestimate the impact the right outfit can have on your overall mood and confidence, when you know you look good, you feel good and this can only help you in an interview situation.

If you’d like some more of our interview tips, just follow this link

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5 Top Tips to Give the Best Presentations

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The sight of a PowerPoint presentation is not one that commonly thrills people. It is often met with a groan, tired eyes and a lack of engagement from the audience; as they look at the clock hoping it will finish quickly. However, it doesn’t have to be like this. By changing a few things we can all be giving better presentations; helping the presenter and the audience enjoy, rather than dread the experience.

10-20-30 Rule

This is a really good place to start when you initially begin to write the presentation. This is essentially a guideline to help limit the reading on the screen, and help the audience engage with you. The way it works is…

No more than 10 slides

Last for a maximum of 20 minutes

Have a minimum font size of 30 point

The slides are there to help you present, rather than present for you. If you feel that the audience needs some extra information, give them a handout to follow along and take away at the end.

Have a core message

At the start ensure your audience knows the purpose of the presentation. Have the key points on the first slide, and then again at the end. This will help direct you and the audience and ensure that nobody is in any doubt as to the intention, and they benefit they will get.

Involve the audience

Build rapport with the audience, be quite light-hearted and friendly, potentially use a joke and show them that the tone will be quite relaxed. Ask questions to the audience throughout the presentation to involve them, it’s the easiest way to promote engagement and prevent the presentation stagnating.

Make sure you are engaging

The easiest way to help your presentations is by changing your presentation style. Make sure you talk to the audience, not the screen or a piece of paper. Body language can also help. Try to avoid folding your arms or having your hands in your pockets, for example. Be open and positive, helping to promote this engagement with the audience.


The most important thing you can do is relax and let yourself enjoy it. There is a huge amount of satisfaction from teaching and helping people. Remember that you are in control of the content, pace and tone of everything that is said; use this to ensure you are as comfortable as possible.

If you have a presentation to give, good luck! Let us know how it goes in the comments below.

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How to Declutter Your Workspace and Become More Productive

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Hit a productivity rut? It happens to most of us at some point. Check out the tips in this week’s blog and then take some time to ‘spring clean’ your workspace and get organised. Be sure to let us know in the comments if you try it out!

When you’re busy day in and day out, it doesn’t take long before your desk starts to become buried under a pile of papers / leftover lunch / sticky notes etc.

Don’t underestimate the impact a cluttered and disorganised work area can have on your productivity. Research shows a messy desk can affect the way the brain works, acting as a distraction and even resulting in feelings of frustration.

Commit to making some time, whether it’s a one-off blitz, or a small amount each day, to getting organised and you’ll reap the benefits down the line.

Assess the damage

Look at where you’re at and decide how’s best to tackle it. What do you actually need right now? What can be filed away? What needs to be kept? What can be destroyed? Be as ruthless as you can be (although, be careful not to throw away anything important!).

Organise your desk

A place for everything and everything in its place is your new motto! Keep what’s actually out on your desk to an absolute minimum, i.e. the things you use every day and what you’re currently working on. Trays, stationary pots and magazine holders can all help to keep things in their right place.

Organise your filing

Create systems which are logical and simplistic, and store things in folders or boxes which are clearly labelled. The key is not to overcomplicate; could someone else follow it if you weren’t there? Are you going to be able to sustain it?

Declutter your computer

Decluttering is not limited to paper-based files, the content of your electronic devices matter too! On your laptop or computer, your desktop, hard drive and emails can be sorted into folders and documents re-named to make them easier to find. Delete duplicates and old files to free up storage, and remove any unwanted software or programmes; not only should this save you time it could also improve the performance of your computer too.

Look at the bigger picture

Considering the amount of time we spend at work, it makes sense to create an overall environment which promotes a sense of calm. Factors such as introducing plants into the work area, natural lighting and even what colour the walls are painted can all play a part in making a pleasant atmosphere.

We hope that you’ve found these tips useful, let us know how you get on in the comments box below!

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5 Things You Need To Be Doing During Your Commute

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The morning commute is one of the more bland aspects of the day. Whether it be by car, where much of the time is spent not moving at all or by public transport, where it may be a case of being like sardines for an hour, it can be uncomfortable and stressful. According to the ONS 3.7 million of us are on the move for 2 hours a day, so it makes sense to start using this time more productively, and start looking forward to the journey to and from work.

Start an online course

Quite a radial step to begin with but it’s a great way of taking some time back to do something for yourself! There are thousands of online courses to choose from, to suit whatever you are interested in; whether it’s for your own personal development or something to help you in your career now. Even a journey of an hour each way is enough time to start learning a language or even a degree course via the Open University.

Listen to a podcast

If you don’t have the luxury of a seat, or are conscious of too much screen time, then a podcast could be the answer. People are out there talking about everything you can think of, so searching through some topics you’re interested in will bring up loads of options. You can listen in to a debate, or relax as people discuss the weekend’s football news, and be more knowledgeable at the end of your journey. A top tip is subscribing and turning on automatic downloads, so the latest episodes are ready and waiting.

Plan your day

If you’re feeling productive, you can schedule calls, answer emails or clear your inbox; this can prevent you working late into the night. Alternatively use the time to catch up with friends and family, to prevent you doing this during the day.

Catch-Up TV

If you find yourself prone to binge-watching late at night, then you could start doing this during your commute. Try not to watch anything too emotional in the morning though, you don’t want to be deflated before you start work.

Buy an Audiobook

Listening to an audiobook can be one of the more relaxing ways to spend a commute. By listening, rather than reading, you can give your eyes a rest and let someone else do the hard work. There are a few services out there, who often have free texts, so you can try and see if you like it.

If you are thinking about changing your commuting habits for the better, let us know what works best. Or, if there’s something you find that we haven’t mentioned, tell us all about it in the comments!

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How to Make a Good First Impression in a New Job

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You’ve gone and secured the position of your dream – congratulations! First of all, give yourself a great big pat on the back; especially if you’ve endured a gruelling recruitment process!

Just by knowing that you’ve been selected as the chosen candidate should be a huge confidence boost; your new employer will likely not have made this decision lightly and will want you to succeed in your new role!

Preparation is key

It’s natural that you’ll be feeling nervous as you walk through the door on the first day, so try to alleviate some of these worries by ensuring you’ve done the basic preparation in advance.  Plan your journey, maybe even do a test run during rush hour, and allow some contingency for delays.  Aim to arrive around 5-10 minutes before your start time; not too early and certainly not late. Think about your outfit the night before, ensuring it’s clean and ironed, so you’ve less to think about in the morning.  Check any paperwork you’ve been sent in advance, make sure you read it carefully in case there’s anything you need to bring on your first day.

First impressions count

You’re likely going to be meeting a lot of new people and have a lot of new names and faces to try to remember! Do your best to remember as many as possible, but don’t worry if you have to be reminded a couple of times; people will understand. If in doubt, smile – be friendly to everyone!

If you’re not introduced to someone, take the initiative and go and introduce yourself. Just a simple ‘Hi, I’m Joe and I’ve just started in Accounts’ is sufficient, you don’t want to get a reputation for being the office chatterbox! Your new colleagues will appreciate your efforts.

Remain professional

Just because the interviews are over, don’t let your professionalism go out of the window. Always err on the side of caution when sharing your opinions on controversial topics, do not get involved or comment on any office politics or gossip, avoid oversharing your personal life and do not speak negatively about your past employer.

Use your time wisely

You’re unlikely to be expected to hit the ground running and the first few days might be more about induction and training than getting stuck in to any actual work.  Use this time to observe what’s going on around you, make plenty of notes, and find out the basics (where’s the post tray, stationary cupboard etc.) so you’re organised.  When you are given a task to complete, ensure you understand fully what you’ve been asked to do – and ask questions if you’re not sure – don’t rush through it, it’s better to take your time and do it properly.

Be open minded!

A new job is an opportunity for a fresh start. Leave any expectations from previous jobs or work environments behind and keep an open mind. Watch, listen and take as much as you can in over your first few weeks. Whilst bringing any past experience and knowledge with you can be a huge benefit, be mindful to understand your new employer’s ways and reasons for doing things (even if you’ve done it differently before).  It’s also important to remember that it can take several weeks or months before you really feel at home in your new job, so don’t make a judgment too early on and give it time.

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5 Top Tips for Staff Engagement

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One of the latest key themes in HR and recruitment is how to create and maintain engagement with existing employees. Engagement is a broad term; simplified it is the relationship between an employee and the company they work for. An engaged employee is one who is “fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work”. Many companies find that they struggle to get staff to retain an interest in the affairs of their employer. Here are our top tips for ensuring that your colleagues remain connected and attached to the company:

Produce an engagement survey and act on the results

A survey is often the first step companies take when trying to measure engagement, but it is only as useful as the action taken. The first thing to consider is the format of the survey itself. Shorter surveys, with some open-ended questions, are proven to generate a higher response rate, with more useful answers. Colleagues will appreciate the smaller time commitment and the ability to voice their suggestions in a free format.

You can then identify themes and recurring issues throughout the answers and decide on any remedial action. Crucially, by involving your workforce in the process and giving them a platform to voice their opinions, which are then acted on; they’ll feel valued.

Create a social culture

Participation in events outside of the office is a great way of improving relationships and adds a social aspect to the work environment.  Events, such as a corporate family fun day or taking part in something for charity, have a range of benefits for staff wellbeing and in turn, strengthens their ties to the company.  By seeing their employer and their colleagues in a different setting, can help to build a happier, more productive workforce.

Offer opportunities for growth and development

One of the most common reasons for disengagement from staff is a feeling of being underused and not tested fully in their roles. Ensure you have a process in place, such as appraisals, so individuals can discuss their aspirations and ambitions. Look to expand their job description and responsibilities, and include them in one-off projects to give new experience as and when they arise.

Offer wellness opportunities

Gym memberships and get fit schemes have both been proven to be hugely beneficial. The practice of giving employees the option of free fitness opportunities is well established. It helps to create a culture where the company demonstrates its consideration for their employees’ physical and mental welfare. Healthier staff are happier and more productive, which naturally benefits the working environment.

Reward staff

Rewarding good performance is a simple, and cost-effective, way of driving engagement. It allows staff to feel appreciated and valued by the company and reassures them that good work does not go unnoticed. It doesn’t have to cost the earth and can be done in a lot of different ways. A longer lunch break, a company-wide email or a personal thank you note are just a few of the many ways that people can feel rewarded. Alternatively, a specialist service, such as a rewards and benefits platform like Perkbox (which we offer to all Ambitions staff), where staff can access exclusive discounts and savings, are a great way to improve morale.

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