Do you think you’re qualified for a particular job, fit to lead a team, or entitled to a promotion because you have extensive experience and highly developed technical skills? Well, it turns out that while those things are crucial to your professional success, it’s imperative that you also have great soft skills–more commonly known as “people skills.”
“People skills are, in short, the various attributes and competencies that allow one to play well with others,” explains says David Parnell, a legal consultant, communication coach and author. “While on the surface these may be summed up by notions such as ‘likeability,’ or having a ‘good personality,’ when you start to look at what makes one ‘likable,’ for instance, you’ve opened Pandora ‘s Box.” But more often than not, these attributes come in the form of effective, accurate and persuasive communication, he says. Teri Hockett, chief executive of What’s For Work?, a career site for women, agrees. She says: “People skills come down to how people interact with each other, from a verbal and/or non-verbal perspective; they are non-technical in nature. When we think of people skills, words such as personality, empathy, and tonality come to mind.”
1. The ability to relate to others
“Having the ability to relate to others and their position or viewpoint is crucial in business,” Hockett says. “By having a well-rounded personality and set of experiences, it’s usually possible to relate to almost anyone.” Sometimes being able to relate to others simply means that you’re willing to agree to disagree with mutual respect; letting them know you understand their position.
2. Strong communication skills
This is the most fundamental people skill because it encompasses your persona and ability to get along with other colleagues, persuade others to listen to your ideas, and much more, Taylor says. “If you have a gift for the spoken and written word, you will always put your best foot forward. Being articulate is highly prized in today’s workplace, when time is at a premium and technology requires constant communication.”
Parnell says articulation is a very important “people skill.” “Illusory transparency refers to the notion that as we speak to others, we believe that they are of the same mindset as us, and are processing things exactly as we would. Even if this were possible – which it’s not – it would be incredibly challenging because of semantic ambiguity,” he explains. “Universal quantifiers for instance – all, any, every, etc. – are systematic violations of accurate communication in that they are rarely true in a literal sense, and leave significant room for translation. Effective communicators are very careful to understand these systematic violations, and avoid them or accommodate them when necessary.”
3. Patience with others
“If you’re patient with others and can keep a level head in stressful situations, it will definitely be noticed by management and perceived as a very strong asset,” says Amy Hoover, president of Talent Zoo. “When your boss is forced to deal with a situation where people have lost their cool he or she will certainly remember the troublemakers when the next promotion comes available.”
4. The ability to trust others
You can only accelerate your career if you’re trustworthy. “Without it, you can’t get projects done or get cooperation,” Taylor says. “No one can operate in a vacuum for long.”
“Having the ability to place yourself in someone else’s shoes is a key people skill,” says Ryan Kahn, a career coach, founder of The Hired Group, star of MTV’s Hired! and author of Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad. It allows us to create relationships with others, provides insights into people’s motives and allows us to predict responses.
“Offer support, sympathy and feedback in your daily business life,” Taylor suggests. “It will bring you positive emotional returns – part of ‘corporate karma.’” If you contribute to a dehumanized company, both you and your employer will have limited growth potential, she says.
Hockett reminds us that things are not always black and white, and in order to have effective relationships with others we need to show compassion where appropriate. “In a perfect world there would be no hiccups, but life happens and knowing when to show compassion when others face challenges is important.”
6. Active listening skills
Hearing someone and actively listening to them are two different things, Hockett explains. Most people hear someone speak and start to form a response in their mind (or worse, starting talking) before the person finishes what they’re saying. “The key is to actively listen, which takes more time but produces better results. It means you listen without interruption and then take the time to think and form a response before replying. It takes practice, but it pays off.”
Taylor says the axiom “we were given two ears and one mouth” speaks volumes. “Be a good listener and remain sensitive to the needs of your workers and boss. This people skill can be practiced; and once honed, you’ll see the difference in the positive reaction of those around you.”
7. Genuine interest in others
People know when you’re truly interested in them, Kahn says. “If you’re not showing a genuine interest – asking thoughtful questions and considering about their answers – your interaction can actually have an opposite effect to the one intended. Take care to remember names, dates and important life events.”
Being “likable” or having a “good personality” are highly contingent and context dependant attributes, Parnell explains. “Your prison-bound uncle’s personality may not be likeable at the Thanksgiving table, but it may serve him well once incarcerated. Supreme communicators have a keen ability to shift gears when the context calls for it, and a deep well of communication options to choose from. This way, they can respond accordingly to what the current situation requires.”
Taylor agrees. She adds: “If you can bend your own rules and beliefs, you are by definition a ‘good people person.’”
9. Good judgment
Good judgment is a key people skill that comes directly from learning, listening to others and observing the world around you, Kahn says. “It allows you to wisely select friends and associates, determine reactions and responses, and make sound decisions.”
Parnell adds: “Pay attention to your gut – it often has something valuable to say.”
10. The ability to persuade others
There’s a good chance that at some point in your career you’ll have to sell others on your ideas, products or services. Whether you’re up for a promotion, pitching a project, or selling clothing in a retail store, you need to be able to form a strong, convincing argument for why you, or your products, are the very best, or the “right” one.
11. Negotiation skills
Good negotiating skills are beneficial with both internal and external discussions, Hoover says. “Internally, job offers and salary discussions greatly benefit from solid negotiating, as well as when it’s time to pitch a new idea or sway coworkers to your way of thinking. Externally, both vendors and customers often require negotiations and you can really become the hero when you are successful in either scenario.”
12. The ability to keep an open mind
“To create trust and respect in others, people need to know that their point of view and feedback will be considered and used,” Kahn says. Being known as someone who keeps an open mind also makes you more approachable and easier to work with.
13. A great sense of humor
“Who doesn’t enjoy laughing? It’s ‘the great diffuser’ of tension and conflict. If you can jam the system of tension or routine with levity, you will thrive in your job,” Taylor says. “It was once said that ‘nobody ever died of laughter,’ and if you can retain some lightheartedness in your job, you’re likely to get more air time during meetings and overall.”
14. Knowing your audience
Knowing what, how, and when to say things to others is critical. For example, if someone just loss their job, it’s probably not a good idea to talk about your promotion. This seems trivial, but it’s one of the primary reasons why people encounter communication breakdowns with each other, Hockett explains.
The saying, “honesty is the best policy” is not only true, it’s essential in building trust among your colleagues, Taylor says. “Once you lose it, it’s almost impossible to regain.
Kahn agrees and says people want to work with those that they know they can trust. “Honesty is the foundation of any relationship, particularly in business.”
16. Awareness of body language
The importance of body language cannot be emphasized enough, since it makes up the majority of how we communicate with others. “The reality is, we’re communicating with people all the time even when we’re not speaking. Being mindful of what our gestures, expressions, voice, and appearance are communicating can greatly help or harm our people skills,” Hockett says.
17. Proactive problem solving
Work is a series of problem solving situations, but if you’re proactive, you’ll take the pressure off your boss and colleagues, Taylor says. This is a great people skill to have in the workplace.
18. Leadership skills
If you can motivate a team and help those around you do their best work, you’ll be more successful even if you’re not in management, Hoover says.
19. Good manners
“Using ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ goes a long way in the realm of people skills,” Taylor explains. While seemingly obvious, some need little reminders. Keeping a post it with a smile or another icon can remind us that work is more than getting something accomplished, it’s how we get it accomplished.
20. The ability to be supportive and motivate others.
“People want others to believe in them, regardless of how successful they might be. By showing support in the form of encouragement, you can put someone back on track or keep them headed in the right direction,” Hockett explains.
Taylor says: “Not only should you praise and recognize your staff, all the while being accessible and upbeat. You should also be motivational around your boss and colleagues. Employees at all levels want to be around enthusiastic people with drive and high energy.”
“When workers know how to conduct themselves with people sensitivity, their career outlook is much more enhanced,” Taylor says. “Employees who are aware of the ‘human factor’ in the workplace understand how to get things done.” Assuming the work is satisfying, it’s how people feel at work that will determine their loyalty and contributions.
Hockett concludes: “Nowadays many of us live in two worlds, the real and digital one. Make sure that your people skills are consistent across both.”
Your best employees are the people who drive your organization forward – they are more creative, more productive, and bring more value to your organization.
So, keeping them happy must be a priority, because these are the employees that are typically not replaceable.
Here are 10 tips on how you can do that:
1. Know what motivates them
Your best employees are likely intrinsically motivated. That means they are motivated by their work and their outcomes, and not as much by external rewards like money or extra days off.
Sure, those things are nice, but if you really want to get them excited, give them a great project to work on that is in line with their professional interests and the freedom to make it better than you ever thought it could be.
2. Remove the obstacles
The first job of any great boss is to remove obstacles, but this becomes especially important with your best employees.
Think specifically about any political battles and power struggles they may encounter in achieving their goal. It’s not necessarily that they don’t know how to navigate those obstacles, it’s that they consider it to be an incredible waste of time and energy since power struggles shouldn’t get in the way of doing good work.
Take them out of the equation entirely to keep your best employees’ eyes focused on the prize rather than the pain points.
3. Treat them unequally
Yes, you read that correctly. Your best employees are not equal to the rest of your staff, and treating them as such does nothing to help your organization.
When you treat your best employees equally with the rest of your staff, you force them onto the same playing field as your average, or even mediocre, employees. Not only is this incredibly annoying to them (see points 1 and 2), but it also doesn’t take advantage of the value they bring to your organization.
In other words, when you treat them equally, you are literally wasting organizational resources. Think of it as an investment – when you put more resources into your best employee, you’re going to get far more of a return.
4. Involve them
Your best employees understand that there is a bigger picture involved and want to see how their work contributes to it.
So, don’t withhold information. Communicate with them. Involve them in the process. Be transparent.
It will be a big motivator and likely spurn all sorts of additional ideas that might contribute to the bottom line.
5. Be flexible
Being flexible can have a number of different interpretations. Here are just a few:
Don’t force them to always come to the office – let them work remotely.
Don’t force them onto a 9-5 schedule. Let them come in late and work late…or come in early and leave early.
Don’t force them into a stuffy business dress code when it has no impact on their success. A pair of jeans never hurt anyone.
Don’t force them to follow dumb rules and policies. You know which ones we’re talking about here.
Don’t get in the way of their side projects – encourage consulting and freelance as long as it doesn’t get in the way of their work. It’s not that they’re not committed to the job and the company; they likely want to explore a variety of interests and outside work allows them to do that. If you keep them happy, they won’t leave.
In other words, as long as they are being productive and meeting their goals, let them do their thing. You will ultimately get more out of them when they are happy, comfortable, and not being bogged down by red tape.
6. Listen to them
Sometimes, your best employees are just going to need to talk ideas through out loud, or even vent.
Let them. Don’t interrupt. And then show that you value the effort and thought they’re putting into things.
It doesn’t mean you have to act on it, just show them you care enough to listen and understand their perspective.
7. Give them critical feedback
Your best employees are constantly questioning their own work and looking for ways to make it better. So, telling them their work is great all the time isn’t particularly helpful.
When you take the time to give them thoughtful, critical feedback about their work, you are actually showing them that you value them, their effort, and that you want to develop them and help them become better.
8. Don’t waste their time
This point is particularly true for meetings.
Forcing your best employees to leave their work one or several times a day and go sit in a room talking about things that aren’t relevant forces them out of their flow and really cuts into their overall productivity.
Meetings themselves are not the problem. Bad, unorganized, unproductive meetings are the problem.
9. Pay attention to culture
Don’t underestimate the role the social aspect plays in keeping your best employees happy.
They could probably sit in their office all day as an individual contributor and be fine but you can really enhance their working environment by giving them opportunities to work and engage with people that like them and rally as a team.
Not only will they enjoy coming to work more, but the group will collectively push each other to the next level.
10. Give them innovation time
Your best employees need time to experiment and try new things to keep them interested and motivated.
Build it into their schedule. Let them tinker with things that are interesting to them as long as they are meeting their other goals. Denying them can be very de-motivating and if the project doesn’t prove fruitful, they’ll likely abandon it anyway.
This may seem to be counter-productive but look at it this way: Your best employees are likely producing double what your average employees are, so even if you allow them to tinker with a side project for 15-20 percent of their time, they are STILL producing more than your average employee and possibly innovating you to your next big thing.
“Sure, you may never use your phone for actual calls, but if you are applying for a job, you will need to be able to communicate effectively. This trusty guide tells all…”
Picture this: Your phone starts to make a weird noise. It’s not your Whatsapp alert, nor is it the familiar ring of a Snapchat arriving… it’s an incoming call (wtf?!) from an unknown number (how did you find me??)… So what do you do?
It could be a cold-caller
It could be your bank/estate agent/landlord/bill company
It could be a recruiter
It could be an employer
It could be a wrong number
Now, 2 out of 5 of those will be fruitless, so there’s no point making any effort with your phone etiquette, right? But what if it’s not one of those? How can you even tell?
You’re probably job-hunting if reading this, so why on earth would you NOT assume an unknown number will be job-related?
It is this reason why we need to go back to basics, because effectively answering the phone is clearly a problem.
A Graduate’s Guide to answering the phone:
1. Make a good first impression
Always assume an unknown number is a professional call. You literally have nothing to lose if you do so.
“Hi, this is ___ speaking”
The caller knows they’ve reached the right person, and they’ll be impressed by the professional attitude.
“Hello” / “Good morning/afternoon”
Just a simple and polite greeting will also do, allowing the caller to begin by explaining their reason for calling.
You might be shocked, but this is a very common occurrence amongst students and graduates alike. You may not have had experience in answering the phone professionally through work, but now is the time to brush up!
Yes, this really does happen. A phone call is for speaking.
2. Actually listen
“Is this Callum?”
The caller needs to ensure that they have come through to the right person. It could turn out to be a cold-call, but how will you find out unless you listen?
What to respond: “Yes, this is Callum” (in a friendly manner) – that is it.
Do not then interrupt and ask “Who is this?” or “What do you want?” because they are about to tell you. Don’t be so impatient that you can’t politely wait for the caller to introduce themselves, as this comes across as arrogant and rude.
If you actually didn’t hear the caller, then be diplomatic in your questioning such as: “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name. May I ask where you’re calling from?” – much better.
3. Do not answer the phone unless you CAN talk
If you’re too busy to talk, such as on the toilet, playing FIFA or eating an apple, seriously, don’t answer. Let the ‘machine’ catch it, then actually LISTEN to your voicemail to find out what the call was regarding. A caller with a genuine need to speak to you will leave a message with clear instructions on how to call them back. They will probably email you too. If you ignore these messages, and call back saying “Who is this?” this will come across as rude and can seriously affect your chances of employment, especially if the caller is a recruiter or an employer.
If you decide to answer the phone, pay the caller your full attention; turn the TV off, go into a quiet room and stop chatting to your mates. It’s rude when people do it to you, so treat the potentially important call exactly as you’d like to be treated.
– Put the caller on hold.
They will call you back if you need them to, and often they will ask if this is a good time to speak anyway, so be honest.
– Answer: “Will this take long?”
If you really can’t speak, just be polite and explain so – they want to talk to you, so they will make an effort to arrange a better time to speak. But they are not mind-readers.
“How are you doing today?”
It’s not a difficult question, but people still struggle with this one. Again, be polite: “I’m good thank you, how are you?” instead of: “Fine…*silence*…*tumbleweed*…”
5. Do not swear
Recruiters and employers will be assessing your communication skills from the get-go, so bear this in mind. Just like a face-to-face interview, even an initial phone call will be picked apart by the caller; swear words and informal slang will bode well in neither.
6. Do not hide behind emails
If the call is in regards to a job, you will need to be able to speak to someone – either a recruiter or an employer – so there is no point trying to avoid it. If you cannot speak on the phone, there are services available such as live signing via Skype. Do not assume, just explain.
7. Is your voicemail professional?
Like it or not, you will receive important phone calls that you can’t answer, so check that your voicemail is appropriate. Do it right now. If you have one of those annoying ‘I’m-pretending-to-answer-the-phone’ messages, you may just be completely disregarded as a candidate. They’re not funny, and you’re not 13 anymore.
8. Learn the difference between confidence and arrogance
The former denotes ambition, and pride in your achievements in order to sell yourself as a worthy candidate, and then there’s being rude and patronising. Yes, you may have completed a fantastic degree and have certain standards in regards to your next employment steps, but do not let this come across. If you are informed about a job you’re not interested in, then fine, say so politely. But if you jump to conclusions, and assume that an unsolicited phone call about a new job is beneath you, you will get nowhere. And yes, this happens all the time.
This was originally published on Graduate Recruitment Bureau.
Hey, one thing you guys know about me is that I’m all about the low hanging fruit and the cheap laugh. So, when I see that CareerBuilder has published it’s 2016 version of “Employers Share Strangest Interview Mishaps and Biggest Body Language Mistakes,” I’m bout it, bout it.
(Sorry, FMLA compliance nerds, you’ll have to wait for another post).
The 10 strangest things people have done in job interviews
Candidate took a family photo off of interviewer’s desk and put it into her purse.
Candidate started screaming that the interview was taking too long.
Candidate said her main job was being a psychic/medium and tried to read interviewer’s palm, despite interviewer’s attempts to decline the offer.
When asked what her ideal job was, candidate said “painter of bird houses.” (Company was hiring for a data entry clerk.)
Candidate sang her responses to questions.
Candidate put lotion on her feet during the interview.
When asked why he wanted the position, candidate replied, “My wife wants me to get a job.”
Candidate started feeling interviewer’s chest to find a heartbeat so they could “connect heart to heart.”
Candidate had a pet bird in her shirt.
Candidate took phone interview in the bathroom – and flushed.
(I’m shocked that “candidate posed for selfie with interviewer” did not make the list).
(P.S. – I’m sorry about the toilet. I won’t let it happen again. Or, I’ll hit mute).
Body language mistakes that can cost you the job
Hiring managers participating in the CareerBuilder survey had this to say:
Failing to make eye contact — 67 percent;
Failing to smile — 39 percent;
Playing with something on the table — 33 percent;
Having bad posture — 30 percent;
Fidgeting too much in their seats — 30 percent;
Crossing their arms over their chests — 29 percent;
Playing with their hair or touching their faces — 27 percent;
Having a weak handshake — 21 percent;
Using too many hand gestures — 11 percent;
Having a handshake that was too strong — 7 percent.
Five Ways to Ruin a Job Interview
Candidate is caught lying about something — 69 percent;
Candidate answers a cell phone or text during the interview — 68 percent;
Candidate appears arrogant or entitled — 60 percent;
Candidate dresses inappropriately — 50 percent;
Candidate swears — 50 percent.
By Eric B. Meyer
This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.
If you’re not getting exceptional hires, it may be because your traditional interview process is simply not designed to excite them.
Instead of dwelling on the past, a superior alternative is to ask them to solve real problems, and to demonstrate that they are forward-looking and that they have solutions for the future.
Top candidates routinely dislike standard interviews because they find them tedious and predictable. Most interviews are simply not designed to allow a top candidate to show off their capabilities, ideas, and innovation.
As a result, if you are recruiting for a mission-critical job that requires an exceptional hire, you simply cannot afford to bore top candidates with standard interview questions.
The weakness in interview questions
Everyone who has done any reading about interview accuracy already knows that they are typically one of the weakest assessment devices for hiring. In fact my own research has uncovered no less than 30 different problems with standard interviews , and more than 50 different alternatives to standard interviews.
One of the weaknesses is that the interview questions that are typically used focus on historical situations that occurred at another firm. But what you need to know is how this individual will perform now at your firm. That requires getting them to demonstrate how they will solve the problems that they will face in your job.
Most typical questions have already been anticipated and practiced for by the interviewee to the point that their answers are not authentic. So if you’re going to interview top professionals, here are 12 questions to select from that I have found will quickly reveal which one of your exceptional applicants is the very best.
The 12 questions I have provided here are broken into four distinct categories. In this article, they are presented as interview questions, but they can also be provided in a questionnaire format, which can give candidates more time to think, while simultaneously saving some of a hiring manager’s valuable time.
A – Questions relating to identifying, solving real problems
These questions are known as content questions, and they are usually determined to be valid because they actually reflect the content of the job. In addition, they allow the candidate to show off their skills in problems solving. If you agree that the best hires are those who can first identify problems accurately and then are able to solve them, these questions can be effective.
The following three questions work best if you pre-test them on a current top performer to ensure that they can quickly understand the problem and that they can in a short period of time outline a solution to it.
1. How will you identify problems and opportunities on the job? “The best new hires rapidly seek to identify problems that must be quickly addressed in their new job. So, please walk us through the steps of the process that you will actually use during your first weeks to identify the most important current issues/problems, as well as any possible positive opportunities in your new job.”
2. Can you identify the likely problems in this process? “Our employees should be able to quickly identify problems in our existing processes, systems, or products. So please look over this outline of one of our processes and identify the top three areas or points where you predict that serious problems are likely to occur?” (Hand them a single page showing an existing process or system related to this job that you already know to have flaws).
3. Solve a real problem that you will face. “Because we need to know your capability for solving the actual problems you will face in this job, we would like to see how you will go about solving a real problem. “Please walk us through the broad steps that you would take in order to solve this problem that will be on your desk on your first day.” (Then hand them a half sheet with bullet points outlining the existing problem).
B – Questions that show you are forward looking
If your firm operates in a fast-evolving environment, you will need employees who are forward looking and who anticipate and plan for the future. These questions can tell you if your candidate meets those requirements.
4. Forecast the evolution of this job. “Because our jobs constantly change and evolve, being forward-looking is critical if you are to be successful. So please project or forecast at least five different ways that the job you are applying for will likely change and evolve over the next three years as a result of business changes, technology changes, and a faster, more innovative environment.”
5. Forecast the evolution of this industry. “Because we operate in a fast-changing industry, our employees should be forward-looking, and anticipate and plan ahead for those industry changes. So, please tell us how often you sit down and focus on the future of our industry? Next, please forecast and project five trends in our industry and forecast how the top firms will likely have to change over the next three to five years as a result of these business changes, new technology, and the need for increased speed and innovation.”
C – Questions about a candidate’s ability to innovate, adapt, learn
Many times our best hires are those who are rapid continuous learners, those who are adaptable, and those who can innovate. If you want to assess these factors, consider asking these questions.
6. Show us how you would be a continuous learning expert. “Rapid learning is essential in our fast moving company and industry. So please select an important subject matter area in this job where you will need to continuously be on the bleeding edge of knowledge. Then show us in some detail how you will initially learn and then maintain your expert status.” (Alternatively you can ask how they maintained their expert status in their current job).
7. Show us your adaptability when dramatic change is required. “In the fast changing, chaotic, and volatile environment we operate under, everyone and every process should be adaptable. So please show us how you would adapt to this situation that may occur in this job (provide them with a possible major change that requires adaptivity in this job) by walking us through the steps of how you would adapt to it.” (Alternatively you can ask, “Please show us a situation in your current job during the last year that required you to change rapidly and adapt with a completely different approach. Tell us the name of the situation that required this significant adaptiveness and then walk us through the steps of how you and your team successfully adapted.”)
8. Show us how you will innovate. “Our firm is focused on innovation, so we need to know if each new hire has the capability of innovating. So please select a single important area in this job and walk us through the steps as to how you might innovate in that area during your first year?” (As an alternative, you can ask them to select an area in their previous job and then to walk through the steps on how that innovation was created and implemented, and what their role was in each step.)
D – Help us better understand you
Some interview questions that relate to individuals’ competencies or preferences can be improved by requiring the candidate to rank their answers from most important to least important. In order to ensure that you successfully “sell” a top candidate, the most valuable question covers the decision factors that they will use to accept this job.
Other questions where ranked answers are superior in revealing their preferences involve their motivators, their strengths, and the best ways to manage them.
9. List and rank your job acceptance factors. “We know that you have choices, so if we make you an offer, we obviously want it to meet your needs. And that requires knowing what factors that you will use (i.e. pay, job duties, fit with your manager, levels of responsibility, etc.) to determine if ‘our job’ is the right job for you. So if you had a choice between two offers for your next job, please list the top five factors that you would use to evaluate and accept the superior job opportunity. Please list them in their descending order of importance to you.”
10. List and rank your job motivators. “We want to ensure that we provide every employee with the right set of motivators. So please list the top five factors that you have found that best motivate you on the job. Please list them in their descending order of importance to you.”
11. Tell us the most effective approaches for managing you. “We want to ensure that every new employee has the best chance of succeeding. You can help us to reach that goal by highlighting the most effective ways to manage you. For each of these how to manage you factors (i.e. feedback, rewards, closeness of supervision, communications approach, and leadership style preference), please explain to us the most effective approach for optimizing your performance.”
12. List and rank the capabilities that you bring to this job. “It’s important to fully understand the strengths of each new hire and how they match the requirements for the job. So, given the four important categories of knowledge, experience, education, and skills, can you please list in descending order what you have found to be your strongest five capabilities that will make you a top performer in the job?” (As an option, if you are concerned about weaknesses, you can also add this question: “Based on past manager assessments, 360s, and appraisals, what is the top job-related area where you need to improve the most, and what actions are you taking to improve in that area?”)
Hiring managers should be aware that thanks to social media, interview questions are now easily available to the public. That means that if you work for a major firm, candidates can now find the actual interview questions (and the best answers) that were previously asked by hiring managers in any job family at your firm on websites like Glassdoor.
So if you rely on typical interview questions, you will likely get fully rehearsed answers.
In contrast, the questions I have provided here are designed to make rehearsing more difficult. They work best on sophisticated professionals who know how to identify and solve problems. But don’t be surprised that if you ask these in-depth questions to an average candidate, they will respond with a blank look.
Obviously asking good questions is only the first part of the assessment equation; you must also prepare a range of answers from great to weak for each question, so that you know in advance when you hear a great answer. I have developed and used each of these questions professionally over several decades so I can vouch for their effectiveness.
If you use them, you will find like I have that top performers and professionals prefer these types of questions over the mundane “tell-me-about-yourself” questions that they normally get. Whether you use my questions or develop your own, these types of questions are superior because they are focused on 1) real problems, 2) this job, and 3) your firm.
By Dr. John Sullivan his an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions. He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management.
You’ve secured a job interview- that’s great news. So why does it feel as if you’re about to face a firing squad and not an interview panel?
Yet there’s really no mystery in terms of how to ace that interview- the key to success is preparation. Here we consider ten tips for excellent interview preparation.
d out as much as possible about the job and the competencies associated with it. Developing an understanding of the key functions and linking these to your skills and experience will help demonstrate how you match with the job requirements.
2. Check up on the company
Gaining an insight into the essence of the company and its future plans will significantly enhance the confidence you have on interview day.
Knowing where it is positioned within its industry and sector will allow you to couch your answers within the appropriate strategic context. Having the right informationwill also enable you to ask intelligent questions at the interview which demonstrate the breadth of your research.
3. Probe the panel
If you have the names of the interview panel, find out what you can about them and their career histories. Undertaking some basic fact finding will help you angle your answers to suit their particular areas of expertise.
4. Suss out the interview style
Employers nowadays use a variety of approaches at interview to assess potential candidates. These include behavioural, competence, group and case-based interviews.
If there is no specific information on the letter inviting you to attend the interview then contact the company and ask them.
5. Pre-empt questions
Make a list of questions you would expect to be asked, depending on the type of interview and the role being interviewed for.
Common topics include personal strengths and weaknesses, career goals and examples of situations dealt with to date. Prepare draft answers and memorise key points- don’t try to recite the actual answers as this may sound too scripted.
6. Plan what to wear
Select an outfit which matches the style of the employing organisation. Some companies will expect formal business attire which others prefer a more relaxed approach.
Regardless of whether your clothes are traditional or contemporary, they should be clean, ironed and tidy. Hair should also be neat, scent applied sparingly and makeup, if worn, generally subtle.
7. Work out your route
Make a plan of how to get to the interview location and, if possible, carry out a practice journey in advance.
This will ensure there are no hiccups with finding the right building on the day and also allow you to take corrective action if external disruptions occur.
8. Timing is everything
Arriving late for an interview is quite simply unprofessional – so do everything in your power to avoid this happening.
Set multiple alarm calls and build in extra journey time. Aim to arrive at least ten minutes before the interview is scheduled to begin.
9. Take it easy (the night before)
Getting a good night’s sleep can significantly improve your interview performance so make this a serious part of your interview preparation. Avoid excess alcohol and spicy foods- the smell of these may be picked up on by the panel.
10. Think positively – and relax
Remember that this is a great opportunity which moves you one step closer to securing that dream job.
Do whatever works for you to calm those nerves- whether that’s deep breathing exercises, a visit to the gym or even just talking things over with a friend.
Employers decide whether they like a CV or not in less than 60 seconds, new research reveals.
The recent findings from New College of the Humanities (NCH) were discovered after researchers interviewed over 860 recruiters – from 2,000 people – of which 20% said they discard a resumé before getting to the end.
For recent graduates and avid jobseekers, toiling away for months on end to mould a golden CV, some of the findings may point you in the right direction. And if you’re having no luck landing a job – these may be the reasons why.
TOP TEN BOSSES’ BUGBEARS TO AVOID
TYPOS AND GRAMMATICAL ERRORS
Not knowing the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ or ‘there’ and ‘their’ lands you first place in an employer’s ‘nope’ bin.
OVERLY CASUAL TONE
Signing off with ‘cheers’, or including phrases such as ‘you guys’ in a CV leaves a sour taste in the mouths of recruiters. Keep it professional.
USE OF JARGON AND CLICHÉS
You can almost hear the audible sigh of employers around the country as they read another candidate can ‘think outside the box’, and believe ‘perfectionism’ is a weakness. Among the most hated CV phrases are ‘can work independently’, ‘hard worker’ and ‘work well under pressure’. Be specific and articulate what it is exactly that makes you right for the job.
A CV MORE THAN TWO PAGES IN LENGTH
This isn’t always possible; however, if self-promotional fluff is kept to a minimum with the important details clearly laid out first, you’ve more chance in standing out within that miniscule 60-second window.
SNAZZY BORDERS AND BACKGROUNDS
Simplicity is key – let your achievements and experiences do the talking.
WRITING IN THE THIRD PERSON
Always make sure you refer to yourself as ‘I’.
INCLUSION OF CLIP ART OR EMOJIS
Four in ten recruiters hate emojis on a CV, so save the amusing smiley faces for your text messages.
THE USE OF CRINGE-WORTHY QUOTES
Whatever Richard Branson has said in the past about success should stay firmly within motivational sites. Filling up your CV with them says nothing about yourself – which is its whole purpose in the first place.
UNPROFESSIONAL EMAIL ADDRESS
That weird nickname you had in the ‘90s, your favourite Marvel character or an inside joke with a friend. We’ve all got ‘that’ email address – but when an employer sees something coming through from sexyostrich @ hotmail dot com – that CV is going straight into the SPAM folder. Set up a new one for reaching out professionally.
Sorry, Comic Sans. It’s not me, it’s you. With a prospective employer’s CV attention spans at an incredible low – you need a clean, legible, professional-looking font. The font you choose on the role at hand: while serif fonts (Times New Roman) may once have looked respectable, authoritative and reliable, sans-serif fonts (Arial) give a clean, modern, universal look to a CV.
And don’t forget Facebook…
Of course, it’s not just on paper you need to manage your first impression. Sites such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor (not to mention your own personal social media) can all be seen by potential employers.
According to Information Technology Specialist Recruiter Capita IT Resourcing, 38% say no to candidates with inappropriate photos on social media – so clean up your online footprint before you tackle a job-hunt.
David Shindler is founder of the Employability Hub online learning centre, Director of Learning to Leap and widely respected in the industry as an employability expert. David understands the ‘soft’ skills, attitudes and behaviours needed by employers and can help people improve them to get the job they want.
Indiana Logan, a Senior Recruitment Consultant at the Graduate Recruitment Bureau, shares some advice and insider knowledge for graduates looking to get into the world of Recruitment.
1) As a senior recruitment consultant, what are the first things you look for in an applicant when recruiting?
As a graduate recruiter you can receive a huge volume of applications for just one role and so you need to have a clear list of essential skills or experience that are a prerequisite for the role. The first thing I do is briefly scan to see which of these they tick. If they tick most of the boxes then I will usually call them as soon as possible or read further into their CV. Things I look for in their CV are minimum educational requirements, relevant experience, a desire to do the job I am advertising and the ability to work in that location.
From an applicant’s perspective, they can identify this list from the job ad and any information they have about the company. Once you know this it’s all about making it leap off the page in the first ten seconds someone looks at your CV. A great way to make these obvious to someone scanning your CV is to put it at the top so it’s the first thing they read. For example, “Having just graduated from a UK top 10 University with a 2.1 in Economics I am now looking to work for a large multinational corporation within the finance sector in London. My previous internships within this sector have given me a passion for this as a long term career.” Something like this tells me they match what I am looking for before I even read the CV and I am then just looking to the CV details to back this up. Specific and matching information is much better than the usual “I am a confident, motivated, punctual…” which is something your interviewer will be the judge of!
2) What are major CV mistakes you notice when you’re looking for potential candidates?
Clearly stating at the top of the CV they want to work in another sector or job than the one they have applied for is a common mistake. This tells me immediately the role I am recruiting for is their plan b, or c and in this job market that is an immediate turn off. I want candidates who are going to commit to the client and be a long term and beneficial employee and that won’t happen if they have somewhere else they really want to be.
Also, presentation of CVs is very important. If a CV looks bad the implication is that the candidate is bad and they are either too commercially unaware to know how important a CV is or too apathetic about their job search. Some examples of ‘bad presentation’ include shabby formatting which makes it hard to read and follow, bizarre pictures, floral borders, a Graduate CV that covers six pages or just no content at all. Consistent formatting with bold headlines, clear dates and headlines such as achievements, awards, education and duties really helps to find the information I am looking for quickly and efficiently.
3) At the moment, what factors are employers looking for in their potential employees?
They are looking for graduates with a clear focus on their job search. People who know what sector they want to start a career in and can prove their commitment with a good CV and experience portfolio to back it up are attractive to employers. They are also looking for people with a relevant degree, appropriate work experience from the 2nd year of University or Post graduate study and someone with a clear, long term commitment to that role. If you don’t really know what you want to do for a specific job then identify groups of jobs and focus on those such as sales, analytical, charity etc. But don’t expect a good job to be sold to you even if you are a good candidate because there will be someone else in the queue who can demonstrate a burning desire to do that role and who the company knows will commit and work hard.
4) What are the industry secrets to really getting yourself noticed and known?
Call first! Every graduate recruiter gets hundreds of applications for each role they are in charge of. So before you apply, try and call the person who is advertising and introduce yourself. If you make yourself known to them they are more likely to take you forward. Even if you can’t get through they will still get a couple of messages from you and hear your name so they are more likely to flag your application out of interest. If you can’t get through then ask for their direct email and send the CV to them so it doesn’t get lost in the system. Follow it up within 2 days for feedback and be persistent until you get an answer. If they don’t want to interview you then try and get a reason as to why so you know what you need to do or where you are going wrong.
You can also drop them a LinkedIn request after you have spoken to them. Linkedin is king at the moment and should be on every graduates guide of how to get a job. State clearly in your LinkedIn headline who you are and what you want, for example “Edinburgh Economics Graduate with Analytical Banking Internship looking for a Graduate Investment Banking Analytical Scheme in London”. Then add an online CV so employers can really get to know you. I can’t stress enough how important a great LinkedIn profile is. Start linking in with everyone relevant in that industry and hiring managers; don’t be shy to request to add them and explain why in the email. Then start being proactive on the site; join relevant groups and “Like” updates to get noticed.
Be proactive! Don’t just sit there applying and hope the jobs come to you – go out and find the jobs yourself, building up a big network of contacts whilst you do it. Keep track on Excel spread sheets so you are always on top of who you are in contact with, who they work for and what they can offer you.
5) How do you guarantee your CV will make an impression and get you through to the next stage?
Many large recruiters use algorithms to search CVs for content before a human sees them, so mirroring the language they used to advertise the position will make sure your CV gets put forward for review. For example, if they are looking for high achievers then use this exact phrase and pack the buzzwords in so you tick all their boxes. The more relevant words to the job description you have in your CV the more likely your CV will get through.
Even for jobs with small or mid sized employers make sure you use relevant words on your CV as much as possible. This looks great when someone scans your CV as they instantly see all the great qualities they are looking for. Make the language relevant to the role, for example, if it’s a sales position use strong sales focused words like: drive, targets, ambition, success, business, entrepreneur etc. to make your application as suited as possible to the position.
Basically, don’t just be average. Find out what the person recruiting for the job you want is looking for – and then be that person.
6) What are the last, best pieces of advice you can offer as an expert?
Be different and think long term.
Use Linkedin –it is your best friend in a job search and beyond. Don’t just use it to make contacts but also to do your research. Look at experienced people who are doing the job that you want at the moment. See what types of things they have done and achieved and set about gaining similar qualities. Use them as a template for making yourself as desirable to employers as possible.
Another thing is if you get declined from interviews, ask the hiring managers what you would need to do in the next year in order for them to want to interview you for the next intake. If you know what you need to do in order to get into those roles, you can then spend the next 2 years getting that experience and then reapply for those roles, hopefully with a much better chance of getting it since you’ve tailored yourself to their needs. Graduates with a year’s experience in something relevant, even in another sector or not necessarily in London, will usually trump raw graduates even for a graduate role because they have the experience to back them up.
Written by Anna Pitts, The Graduate Recruitment Bureau.
So the festive break is upon us again, and a welcome escape from work for many. But whilst I will always be a fierce proponent for the benefits of time off work, this period of the year can produce an opportunity that many overlook.
We see from survey after survey that many of us are unhappy at work, many of us wish to consider career change, many of us want a better work life balance…. but the fact that work dominates so much of our time – so much of our thinking hours – means that it is necessarily difficult to find the headspace to do anything about it.
So whilst it is important to relax and enjoy the freedoms that Christmas brings, this can be a great time to set yourself some very soft targets to help with your career planning.
Use this time to put some thought into your current career and your future aims. Try and identify what needs to change and why. Is there anything you can do to make your situation better? Or is a new job/career the only real solution?
Get your networks in place
This is still the number one way of finding employment opportunities so make the most of the contacts you have. Be upfront and honest about what you are looking for. Use tools like LinkedIn to grow your networks or to spot useful contacts within key organisations
Dust off your CV
January brings with it a deluge of new job seekers but also of new opportunities. Make sure you are first in line to make the most of these as soon as the New Year begins. Update your CV with your latest skills and experience. Consider restyling it in line with the latest trends and expectations that recruiters have.
January will be over before you know it and February never quite holds the same optimism or impetus for change. So now, amongst all the relaxation, don’t forget to spare a little time also for preparation, and the New Year could be the start of very positive changes.
Merry Christmas everyone.
This was originally published on Momentum Careers Advice