Don’t spend your time worrying about “interview technique” or second guessing your interviewer, telling them what they want to hear. And don’t try and bluff and dodge difficult questions.

Genuine employers with real career opportunities will respect far more those that handle well the unpleasant truth (maybe you were sacked by making a really silly mistake that you would never repeat, or maybe you failed all your A ‘Levels because you hated your school and were in with the wrong group of friends) than somebody who lies or deliberately misleads to hide the truth.

Most interviewers realise that people have problems with their careers and their lives. But what we look for in capable Managers are people who recognise problems, who handle them and deal with them logically and effectively. What we are not looking for are people who refuse to acknowledge that problems exist and try and sweep them under the carpet.

And in any case, if you learn “Interview Technique” and do it very well then they will end up employing the wrong person, do it badly and they will simply be put off you from the start.

Be yourself.

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Understand that in interview situations, as in any other form of communication, when you are asked a question what is genuinely required is an honest response.

Don’t spend your time worrying about “interview technique” or second guessing your interviewer, telling them what they want to hear. Do that very well and they will end up employing the wrong person, do it badly and they will simply be put off you from the start.

Genuine employers with real career opportunities will respect far more those that handle well the unpleasant truth (maybe you were sacked by making a really silly mistake that you would never repeat, or maybe you failed all your A ‘Levels because you hated your school and were in with the wrong group of friends) than somebody who lies or deliberately misleads to hide the truth.

Most interviewers realise that people have problems with their careers and their lives. But what we look for in capable Managers are people who recognise problems, who handle them and deal with them logically and effectively. What we are not looking for are people who refuse to acknowledge that problems exist and try and sweep them under the carpet.

So next time you are in an interview situation, beware of the bull. Talk straight, admit your mistakes and show how you dealt with them positively and you will impress.

You will certainly impress far more than those who tell you they have so much talent that it is difficult to understand why they were not Prime Minister by the age of 35.

But then I have never met Pitt the Younger.

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Sitting where we are, in the middle, we can tell that it is a difficult automotive market.

You get to know the signs – sales managers need to replace key staff quickly, sales staff like to “keep their options open”, senior directors tell you it could be a good time to develop their careers.  Oh, and the honest ones tell you it is hard work.

But there are bright spots, regionally, by franchise, by department.  As a rule though, we know the market is tough. Falling production and falling sales, Brexit, diesel dying – all are conspiring to make people nervous.

And nervous people make bad decisions, or at least different decisions to the ones they make in good times. Which is my message this week – to quote The Hitchikers Guide to The Galaxy “Don’t Panic!”.

Or rather don’t throw away all the good practices you have learnt in rather more benign times, especially when it comes to recruitment.  Because the mistakes you make in haste and under pressure now will only come back to haunt you, and in today’s litigious environment they could cost you a lot.

Take these examples of panic measures from the past couple of weeks, both from reputable, well respected employers.  A manager needed a service advisor quickly, meets a young candidate from a stable background and offers the job almost on the spot, he confirms with an offer letter.  

As soon as notice has been handed in the contract is issued, asking him to break his current contract of a month’s notice and start within a week.  It is made clear that if he cannot agree the offer will be withdrawn.

Another client needs a manger and briefs us on a basic salary – let us say of £50,000.  We put up several candidates, but one in particular we know is strong and emphasise that he is only interested if the offer is indeed the full 50.  Long process, lots of meetings and a call is made to this candidate – would he consider £35-40,000?

You and I know the answer, something unprintable followed by “Why have I wasted the last 3 weeks?”.  The client relents, and offers the full package. Except by now the candidate has lost interest and trust.

In both cases the recruitment was unsuccessful and left both parties feeling aggrieved.  The employers were upset because they felt they had offered what was required and had been rejected – the candidates because they knew there had an attempt to “tuck them up”.

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“I thought it would be easier to look for a new job with time on my hands, so I resigned”

“We had a major policy disagreement, so I resigned”

“I am not prepared to discuss the reasons for leaving as I will not betray my old employer’s confidentiality”

“They discovered that I was looking for another job and sacked me”

Many recruitment consultants, HR Managers and regular interviewers will be smiling at the above. We have heard them all a hundred times and will them again just as often. Sometimes they are true, but you had better be ready to prove it.

Most candidates have nothing to hide, they answer our questions candidly and frankly. With such people we generally have very productive and thoroughly enjoyable meetings, and genuinely feel that we are able to help.

The problem comes with a small percentage who feel that they can bluff their way through any meeting by giving bland and, in their mind, original answers to questions which they would rather you hadn’t asked.

Over the years I have met and interviewed thousands of candidates. During that time I have heard every excuse for dodging a question and the bluffers simply do not impress, they irritate and waste your time. Not only do they waste our time they waste our clients if we put them in front of them.

As a result, we rarely do.

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Lessons learnt in sport, it is a results orientated business after all, can generally translate quite well into business.

For example, Team Sky cycling, and indeed the British Olympic team, have worked on continual improvement for many years. Small incremental gains that put together as a whole give their team a significant advantage. Very transferable.

The concept of team in football, or rugby, the idea of defined, clear roles. The idea of a group of people walking working together towards a common goal. All of these things learnt in sport translate well into business.

And what about lessons learnt in business? I heard the other day that a number of coaches, in this case in rugby, were looking at the way business itself recruits. It was not just enough for them to study athletic performance, fitness levels, playing record. They wanted to look at decision-making, especially under pressure. And to this they were turning to personality profiling.

Now my experience of recruitment in business is mixed. Some companies do it really well, some continue to do it appallingly. In addition the use of personality profiling can, at times, be questionable. Not because the idea of a personality profile is wrong, it is just that candidates can learn how to answer them the way that pleases an audience, and that some tests are way better than others, especially in recruitment terms.

So I wondered really whether personality profiling was the best way to watch people under pressure. After all, the selection process itself is surely pressure enough. Watch people’s decision-making in that environment and it should give you a good idea of how they will cope in a tight game. A game when everything is on the line, just like during the selection process.

I have no idea whether recruitment in sport will change, it will be interesting to see how this is adopted long-term, and whether the ideas stick.

But you cannot deny that it is a two-way street – sport and business are very similar.

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I ran a blog recently about difficult questions in interview. You know the type, they have no right or wrong answer but they make you think. Things like “How many windows are there in London?” or “How many cats are there in Cornwall?”

Unless you are amazingly lucky, and you have just read the stats the night before, you’re going to have to work it out or say “I have no clue”, which is not the answer they are looking for.

Well it turns out, according to a study in Applied Psychology, that the use of such questions actually provides no useful feedback. In fact they are absolutely useless in deciding whether somebody is right for your job or not.

But interestingly, they say much about the interviewer themselves. So they are a useful guide for applicants, because such interviewers tend to be control freaks, and potentially psychopaths. At best narcissists and sadists. In other words they love to see people squirm in discomfort trying to work out how best to answer an impossible question.

So you have been warned. Such gimmicks have very little place in the interview process and provide almost no useful information – learn how to interview properly and you will get much better results.

But they do have their uses, they do say that you are not a great person to work for.

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You have a packed day of interviewing ahead. But unless you are disciplined it will almost certainly over-run, making the company look bad and candidates uncomfortable.

As the interviewer you are the person in control, or should be.  You know how much time you have for each meeting and know exactly what you are looking for.  

You do not need to demonstrate how important or powerful you are to each candidate.  You should enable them to show themselves in the best possible light. But to do this they need your help and will really struggle if you are not in control.

So as you start, now is not the time for you to give him your autobiography, though many do.  If you start to do so, SHUT UP!!!!! (Sending out a job description before should remove the need for too much preamble.)

Give each candidate enough time to deal with the questions you want answers to, and move them on quickly when they get bogged down in some trivia about their early career.

You should know where you want to be at each point of the meeting, and not suddenly find that you’ve run out of time to ask the most important questions at the end.  

Stay in control, stay focused and above give everyone a fair chance.  You owe it to them, they have put themselves out to meet you.

Good luck.

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Recruiting is a difficult task, everybody tells me there is a shortage of talent. But sometimes there are a lot of candidates, and you have to bring several together to interview and compare.

But if you do so over several days or even weeks, how do you prevent yourself from making unfair comparisons between people you have just met to those that you saw say three weeks ago?

It is not easy, in the interviewing world “Absence makes the heart grow less fond”. People you met many weeks ago have faded in your memory, and their impact is no longer as positive. I have no idea why this should be, but let me assure you it is the way the human mind works.

So get yourself a system. I recommend that you mark each candidate on a scale of 5 for at least 5 and maybe 10 attributes or skills. And my scale of five is always the same,

1 = Fail

2 = Less than satisfactory

3 = OK

4 = Good

5 = Fantastic

It is not difficult to understand. If you are perfectly happy with somebody then they score 3, anybody who fails more than one or two of the headings possibly gets excluded from the process. What might those headings be?

It depends what the job entails. Assume it is for a sales executive. Your headings might be

  • First Impressions
  • Communication Skills
  • Appearance
  • Professionalism
  • Persuasiveness
  • Organisation
  • Experience
  • Potential
  • Technical Knowledge
  • Energy

I’m not saying these are the ideal headings to choose for a sales executives, but it gives you something to go on. Are they OK, Good or Very Good for each of those points, or do they disappoint or plain fail to come up to the standard expected?

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Or slightly less subtly, an interviewer might ask “Are you a people person?”

We all want team players. Even in what are relatively selfish, self-interested roles, such as sales, we still want people who can work together.

It all sounds a bit cheesy, but being a team player is really important, especially if you are being interviewed by the HR department. They do not like conflict too much.

So tell them how well you work with other people, how much you contribute to the team effort and add value. How you support your colleagues in their work.

The interviewer will be interested in people who share their knowledge and experience with others, especially if they help them achieve their deadlines and targets. Think about examples that show you were able to work successfully within a team. Explain how you were able to earn the respect of your peers and superiors.

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Or perhaps somebody asks you the slightly more leading “What do you need to earn?”

If you are insecure, a little unsure of yourself and not wanting to upset the interviewer, then you will find this a really difficult conversation to have.

I will make two points to you, what you need to earn and what you expect to earn may be different. And remember in any negotiation it is really difficult to go up in value if you are selling something, you’ll nearly always be coming down. So whatever you say now will be the highest salary you are going to get!

Hopefully you will have arrived at the interview with a fairly good idea of the earnings potential of the role. You clearly want to earn at the top end of the salary bracket, they probably want to offer at the lower end. How do you play it?

Once again, honesty is the best policy. There is no point in wasting everybody’s time if you want double what they are prepared to pay. Some gaps can be bridged, that type of gap won’t be.

Never forget that you are worth it! If you walk through the door knowing exactly what the ‘market value’ of your skills is you will feel more confident. Don’t accept less, unless you have a compelling reason to do so. Consider how important this role is in your career, and whether it is already a significant step up from your earnings potential at the moment. Because even if they get you cheap, it might still be a very good career move.

Don’t be shy when you answer this question – you know your salary requirements. So be convincing, answer in a clear and concise manner that sounds confident and says, ‘Because I’m worth it!’

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