Of Interest to Private Service Professionals

Interview Tips for Candidates


Congratulations For Getting To This Point

People decide if they like you within two seconds of meeting you. Here is how to make sure your first impression is a good one…

Smile. If you are worried that your smile doesn’t look natural, try standing six inches from a mirror and saying the word “great” in funny voices. This will almost certainly make you smile. The next time you meet someone, think great. A natural smile will form.

Notice eye color. This ensures that you are meeting the other person’s gaze. Poor eye contact suggests you have something to hide. But don’t stare — it may make him/her uncomfortable. Oddly enough, occasionally looking at your hands conveys the impression of active listening.

Use “open” body language. Keep your arms uncrossed and hands unclenched. If you are unsure of what to do with your hands, put them in your back pockets or at your sides.

Point your heart toward the heart of the other person.

Mirror the other person’s gestures and body language. People take an instant liking to those who are similar to themselves. If you meet someone who is loud and talks with his hands, be equally loud and use the same gestures. If the person laughs a lot, do the same.

Ask open-ended questions. Who, what, where, when, why and how questions are conversation starters. Questions beginning with Have you… ?, Are you… ? and Do you… ? are conversation killers. They can be answered with one word — yes or no.

These Are As Important As What You Say

  1. Candidate shows up on time (or calls if running late).
  2. Attire is important – NEVER wear jeans or shorts, low or high cut outfits or “flashy attire”. Dress comfortably and appropriately for the position being applied for, the interview location, and for the climate. Business attire is generally a good all around choice. Low heeled shoes for ladies is a good idea.
    Suggestions for the role could be:
    Manager/Butler – Suit and tie or lady’s business suit if formal home; collared shirt and jacket if less formal
    Housekeeper/Nanny/Laundress – Khaki slacks and white blouse; Knee length skirt and solid color blouse; Jacket if comfortable and climate dictates
    Gardener/Caretaker – Khaki slacks; polo style shirt
  3. Be neatly groomed. Go easy on the make-up, jewelry and scents.
  4. Be sure that you have reviewed the job description/requirements and made a list (and memorized) all the reasons (with examples) for why you would succeed in the job.
  5. You should be able to answer clearly the standard question of “where do you want to be in 3-5 years” or what is your 5 year plan.
  6. Do not speak negatively about previous employers. OK to say it is or was not a good fit. “Employer has a strong personality” is one way to phrase it.
  7. You should be able to clearly and confidently explain your strengths and weaknesses.
  8. You should project a positive “can do/will do” attitude.
  9. Stay focused and answer the questions that are asked. Don’t get overly involved, as the interviewer can always give you a follow up questions. Keep your answers short.
  10. Send a thank you note after the interview or ask your agent to forward a thank you email..
  11. Prepare 3-5 questions to ask related to the role and the future of the position.
  12. If appropriate, express your interest in the job at the end of the interview

It is important that candidates have reasonably good clarity on the following points. Many of the details should have been included in written job descriptions that your agency provided so that the answers to these questions are known prior to the interview or at the latest at the time of accepting a job offer.

  • What is the employers business and how are he / she / they regarded in the community?
  • What does the employer envision as a typical work day and work week?
  • What is the best way to communicate with the employer when on the job- by meeting once a day, voice mail, email, sticky notes? This gives you a sense of the style of the employer.
  • “What irritates you the most in terms of staff behaviors?” (So you get a sense of what is really important to them. It may be that they do not like to be interrupted except in emergencies, perhaps they do not like cooking odors past the kitchen- it can be many things and is a good conversation starter.
  • Who will be the main employer contact?
  • Has there been someone in this position previously? If so- how long, why left etc.
  • If new position, is there a more complete job description or “a typical day” outline?
  • Is there other staff that you can talk to learn more about the position?
  • Who is to be served i.e. the make up of the family including the in house family and any extended family. This tips you off if you are going to be involved with the Boss’s mother in-law living across town.
  • What is the uniform policy / dress code?
  • Vacation days, sick days, policy when one works the holidays, medical and dental benefits, car privileges, moving expense policy etc. Typically compensation and benefits are not topics at a first interview, but make sure these details are clear to you before you hire on.
  • Ask when will I hear back about this position and your interest in me as a candidate?

The interview should be a time to gauge the personality fit, and an opportunity to get additional details.

The Interview- by Steven Ferry http://www.modernbutlers.com

When “scientists” are given exorbitant grants and quoted in papers, it is sometimes for inane studies that have little bearing on reality. One such study looked into how someone conducting a job interview formed his or her impression and image of the applicant: apparently, 55% do so by appearance, 38% by the way he speaks, and only 7% by what he says. I do not know how important or true these claims are. It’s far more useful to follow the procedure outlined here.

Let the employer ask the questions and make the statements, while you sit, listen and observe. Keep your own motion to a minimum, especially any nervous mannerisms. Spot and match the employer’s attitude as much as possible. On a one-to-one basis, you have to eyeball and listen to the employer, and see what he likes or does not like, and then accommodate him or her. You won’t do this if you are busy talking instead of looking and listening. In other words, if you really are a butler and have learned your lessons well, you won’t have any trouble coping with the situation.

The employer will probably provide a job description. Listen, ask questions only to clarify points you really do not grasp, and take notes if needed. Ensure you clearly understand his requirements and your responsibilities; who else is employed and their responsibilities as distinct from yours; and the chain of command in the house.

Usually the salary will be made clear by the agency. If not, only discuss it after you have been accepted. It’s a moot point until then, and can serve to turn off employers if discussed.

One important “don’t” is to avoid bad-mouthing earlier employers; it often signals a bitterness and untrustworthiness to the prospective employer that most prefer not to have in their own home. Whatever openings are made during the interview or afterwards to harp on perceived problems and upsets with earlier employers can easily be skirted around with charitable, or at worst neutrally phrased, statements. There is an old adage you would do well to follow:

“There is so much good in the worst of us
And so much bad in the best of us
That it ill-behooves any of us
To talk about the rest of us.”

Answers to anticipated tough questions should be worked out and drilled in advance, perhaps with a friend, until you know you will not be thrown for a loop when they are asked. “Why did you leave your last job?” might be embarrassing to some, while “How long do you expect to stay on the job, if accepted?” might cause stammering and foot wiggling for others.

In general, if you have gone to the interview with an honest heart, it should be easy enough to answer any tough questions smoothly, as long as you have worked out for yourself what the answer really is. You may need to have the answer pre-packaged into something that, while still being true, is stated in a manner that is acceptable to an employer. “So, why do you want to be a butler? (or P/A, Chef, etc” is a key one to work out for yourself. And if the only answer is “because it pays well,” or “because I like driving your fast cars,” then try a different profession. If you insist on being a butler despite that, then give those reasons-there’s an outside possibility that your honesty may land you the job with some employers after all.

When the interview is concluded, thank the employer (or the employer’s agent) for his or her time, and leave. You will hear back from the agency if you’re accepted, but until you do, keep up the pressure on the other agencies.