Everyone claims to listen to others; indeed, many people make such a statement and truly believe it. But how often are the complaints you hear about one person from another about their perceived inability to listen? Or, it may simply be an attitude problem. Equally, a lack of skills may be a cause; it’s amazing that we spend so much time teaching kids to speak, yet never to listen!
You might be wondering whether this recruitment blog post is aimed at those being interviewed or the people conducting such interviews. The answer is both. Let’s look first at some of the barriers to effective listening.
What gets in the way of serious listening?
There are two keys areas here: environment and attitude. The first should be dealt with quite easily. When effective online recruitment processes deliver candidates for a face-to-face interview, it should be held in a private place – sight and sound – with no interruptions. Sight is included here because a location where the outside can be seen, and can be seen into, easily distracts as much as any noise factors.
Moving on to attitude, the question could easily be: ‘Where do we begin?’ From the interviewer who doesn’t really want to be undertaking the role, to the individual who is simply seeking answers that confirm their beliefs, feelings or even prejudices, it’s an extremely large ball-park! For the interviewee, often nerves play a part, or an eagerness to be heard making what they consider to be the ‘right’ noises.
Each party to a recruitment interview should have a positive attitude to it, they should appreciate exactly what they want to achieve from it. A joint intent, if you like, is to achieve ‘matching’ – where a candidate for a position fits the bill, and that person sees the organisation as one they are keen to work for. Such an intent places clear responsibilities on both sets of shoulders.
Let’s sweat the small stuff
So far, we have focused on the bigger interview picture, its objectives and processes. Yet, as it progresses, interview listening is equally about recognising the smaller signals that are offered. It’s also worth remembering here that you should listen with your eyes just as much as your ears. Matching the attitude and behaviour to the actual words allows signals to be identified and acted upon.
Using these skills, you can start to identify ‘sort of’ answers – ones that obviously don’t tell the full picture. Here are some examples of phrases that highlight this: ‘I don’t usually…’ ‘Most times I would…’ ‘Well, it’s not normal for us to…’ and even ‘Well, I prefer to…’ If you were a police officer interviewing a suspect, these answers would be the dodgy alibi that needs to be fully checked! In interview situations, this doesn’t mean that people are being obtuse or deliberately misleading; it simply means that there is more of a story still to be told about this area or subject.
A complete post about listening skills in recruitment interview situations could probably be of Old Testament length. This one should help you to set an effective environment to enable listening, and also to be that little bit more aware of what is said – and may not be.
Here’s a controversial statement:
Interviews are scarier for interviewers than interviewees.
Not only do you have the responsibility of structuring the interview, knowing exactly what you want and bringing the best out of a candidate, you have some pretty tough decisions to make at the end of it. Life-changing decisions, in fact.
But, before you go into interviewer meltdown, here are some tips to make sure you are fully prepared for the task ahead.
1. Know your business.
Not just your job.
That moment at the end of every interview when you ask the candidate if they have any questions? Make sure you can answer them. Whatever they may be. What skills does the business need long-term? Be ready to spot talent and think outside the box. They may not be right for this precise role but if you know the entire business inside out, you will be in a position to refer them, develop them and potentially hire someone who has the ability to make an impact in a way you never thought possible. So, re-learn your business in the same way that your potential candidate will be learning it for the first time. And don’t get caught out.
2. The last minute CV print-out.
A cursory glance over a candidate’s CV five minutes before they walk in the room just isn’t going to cut it. Prepare for the interview in the same way your candidate will have. If they knew your name in advance, presume they have researched you on Linkedin (maybe on Facebook too, god forbid) and do the same back. That way you can tailor your questioning to a real understanding of that person, getting the most out of your time together. Remember, you are both on trial here.
3. Start as you mean to go on.
Make the beginning of the interview as positive as possible. Putting your candidate at ease is going to help you analyse their suitability far more easily than if they are stressed or on edge. So start by giving information, rather than with the hard questions. Talk a little about your role, the vacancy, how it fits in with the business as a whole. Make them feel excited about the position and ease them into questions based on your knowledge of their experience. Remember when you’ve been on the other side and make this interview memorable for the right reasons.
4. Be specific.
This is where your knowledge of the candidate’s experience will really come into play. Dig deeper into their CV. What did that project return for the business? How did they create company buy-in for that campaign? A good candidate with a robust CV will relish these opportunities to share their expertise and knowledge. A bad candidate will expose themselves. An easy decision for you.
5. Culture first.
The last thing you want to do is be responsible for bringing in ‘that guy’ to the business. The one that simply doesn’t fit in, is difficult to work with and, no matter how extensive their experience, just never feels part of the team. Leave time in the interview for finding out about the person behind the CV. What do they do out of work? Generic answers won’t do here, do a bit of digging, where were they last weekend? Does that resonate with how your business or department operates? It’s not just about do you like them: will they bring that something extra to your company that it needs? And, from their point of view, will this be an enjoyable place for them to work? Only you can answer that one…
We can help you prepare for the task of interviewing. Just give our team a call and we will talk you through the process from start to finish. Or follow us on twitter for more interviewer insights.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could read the mind of your interviewer?
Until we learn how to do that, being prepared with some of the most commonly asked questions can really set you up for a killer interview. Whilst we don’t recommend a ‘canned’ response to questioning, knowing what could be asked and what you will say will help you feel more confident, and stop you being caught off guard.
These are some of the topics you are more than likely to be quizzed on in job interviews, and how you could respond.
1. What do you know about the company?
This is not an opportunity to demonstrate how good you are at memorising the ‘About’ page on their website. Instead, demonstrate an understanding of the company goals, and how they align with your own. By showing that you understand and appreciate the vision of the business you are already fitting in with their culture, ambition and values. Hiring you should be a no-brainer.
2. Why should we hire you?
Don’t be shy! If you are asked this question you are in luck. It gives you the ultimate springboard to sell yourself, and that is exactly what an interview is all about. You can do the job, you can deliver great results and you can be part of the fabric of the business. This is your chance, don’t waste it.
3. What is your greatest weakness?
Aaaah! The dreaded question! Do you reel of a list of personal afflictions and remain humble or say you’re perfect and high five them on the way out? Finding the middle ground with this question is key. Be prepared with something you are working on. Like: “I have found public speaking challenging in the past but my recent role requires team management and I am finding new ways to develop this skill.” Hired.
4. What are you looking for in a new job?
Read the job specification. And then read it back to them.
5. What do you like to do outside of work?
Bit of advice: get a life. Telling them you like to go out and get pissed every Saturday night is not going to cut it. Think about what makes you tick, and do your research. If you’re fortunate enough to know who is interviewing you before you walk in the room you might find you have something in common. Love camping or languages or maybe you studied art in college? Consider this a first date and be interesting. It’s not just your work ethic they are interested in.
Most of all, have faith in your abilities. They want to meet you so you’re already in the game. It’s up to you to close it down.
Plus, you probably have never been in situation as bad as some of these terrible interviews, check them out here or contact us to find out how to nail the perfect interview.
When an interview goes badly you just know it.
From cringey to awkward to downright hostile we’ve all been locked in a room before that we just can’t wait to escape from. Hopefully you’ve never been in a situation as bad as some of these though. Take comfort in the fact that there is always someone who has messed it up worse than you.
Here are 5 things you should never do in an interview. And yes, they all actually happened. Get ready to hide behind the sofa.
1. Taking a call.
We don’t care if your mum needs you to pick up milk on the way home or if your wife is going into labour. Interviewers see nothing ruder than you picking up the phone halfway through a question. Turn it off and focus on the task in hand. If you’ve got somewhere more important to be then be there instead.
2. Nicknames aren’t cool.
“Hi, I’m Dave but my friends call me Dave The Rave”. Having a personality is cool, having a nickname is not. You are not there to make friends. You may get some smiles in the room but you won’t get the job. Be professional and wait until you’re hired to show your true colours. I’m sure they will give you a new nickname in no time, you party animal you…
3. Don’t cry about it.
If you’re asked a tough question or feel under pressure, for god’s sake, hold it together. Your interviewee is not your therapist. Take a deep breath and open a bottle of wine when you get home. If you break in the interview you’ll never cope in the office. And no matter how nice they are about it, if you start to cry you’ve lost the job. Be strong. It’s not going as badly as you think.
4. Know what you want.
If you fail to prepare you prepare to fail. Cheesy but true. Don’t get the business confused with the competitors you’re interviewing with tomorrow. Don’t act like this meeting has come around unannounced and seriously, don’t forget your interviewer’s name. Being able to demonstrate your planning skills also shows you have passion for the role. Be clear that you are entering this meeting with one objective, to win that dream job.
5. Don’t go over the top.
Have an understanding of the expectations of the interview. You might be able to pull off a killer musical theatre act, but now is not the time to showcase those skills. And yes, we have heard of candidates putting on a performance for their interviewers. Cringe.
The best advice we can give you is to be prepared. You can check out our top tips for planning question responses here. In the meantime, remember the more prepped you are the less likely you are to find yourself in one of these awkward situations.
If you would like to have a chat with your recruitment team on interviews planning, get in touch. Although the musical theatre thing, that was one of ours. Just a warning.
Several recent surveys conducted by CareerBuilder.com have brought to light the severity of this problem for candidates who, perhaps, are unaware of how far reaching potential employers’ checks on the suitability of potential employees now are.
The rise of this “Social Media snooping” has it’s roots in a few different areas including employers becoming more savvy in terms of the type of person they wish to employ and also the fact that the recent recession has made the recruitment market place overcrowded; the knock on effect of which, is that, employers can now afford to be exceptionally picky when taking on new personnel.
As you can see from the headline figures below, there are now a large amount of companies who will use this type of pre-screening and, unfortunately, it will only increase with time.
The Social Media sites most commonly used to check up on candidates are, unsurprisingly, also the most well-known, with Facebook and LinkedIn leading the pack. Whilst it is common sense not to place unprofessional images or posts on LinkedIn it is the other forms of social media where the problems can arise. Unless your Facebook page profile is locked down to “friends only” then that hung-over post about not bothering with work today is seriously going to hamper your career goals.
The best way to avoid losing out on your dream job is, obviously, not to post anything incriminating on any site ever, but if living a monk like online existence is not for you then consider the most searched for activities, which are listed below, as no go areas.
Of course the other side of the coin is that if your online profile shows no sign of untoward behaviour then this can be a real help to you chances. The main reasons companies will take the time to check up on you are as follows.
Although a much rarer occurrence there is always the chance that a potential employers search on your Facebook page will lead to them seeing you in a much more favourable light. The figures below show that it is possible for you Social Media accounts to help you get the job you want.
To conclude, as mentioned earlier in this piece, Companies who are hiring are only ever going to increase their searches of Social Media as time progresses; so holding back on posting anything you wouldn’t want your Grandmother to see is probably the safest thing if you are looking at your next career move.
And a crown to drink his majesty’s health
Date Created/Published: circa 1800
Summary: Ten Guineas Bounty and a crown to drink his Majesty’s Health. Wanted to complete a company in His Majesty’s Fourth or King’s Own Regiment of Infantry……
To Arms! To Arms
Date Created/Published: 1862
Summary: Southern Army recruitment poster; Floyd County, Virginia; War of Northern Aggression.
Destroy the mad brute
Date Created/Published: Dated ca 1917.
Summary: “DESTROY THIS MAD BRUTE – Enlist U.S. Army” is the caption of this World War I propaganda poster for enlistment in the US Army. A dribbling, moustached ape wielding a club bearing the German word “kultur” and wearing a pickelhaube helmet with the word “militarism” is walking onto the shore of America while holding a half-naked woman in his grasp (possibly meant to depict Liberty). This is a US version of an earlier British poster with the same image.
If the cap fits you, join the army to-day
Date Created/Published: London : Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, 1915
Summary: Poster showing a military hat.
Attention! … Canadian Grenadier Guards now recruiting
Date Created/Published: Montreal : Southam Press Limited, [between 1914 and 1918]
Summary: Poster shows two soldiers, in profile, standing at attention.
The Second Artillery 1840-1917 needs 200 real men–Will you be one?
Date Created/Published: Philadelphia : Committee of Public Safety, Department of Military Service, 
Summary: Poster is text only. Forms part of: Willard and Dorothy Straight Collection.
Become a modern day knight
Date Created/Published: 2007
Summary: Shows an Australian army sniper.
As the day draws to a close and people begin to wind down for the evening, a large population of 18 year olds around the country will just be heading out to celebrate or in some cases to drown their sorrows. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ll be well aware that today was A-level results day in the UK. If you’re a fan of the social network twitter you will have noticed it was ablaze with tweets from students, colleges and even the odd celebrity well wisher.
Just incase you’ve missed todays events, here is a roundup of the key stats from the 2013 A Level results…
- The overall A*-E pass rate has risen ever so slightly by 0.1%, with 98.1% of students achieving at least an E grade compared with 98% last year.
- A record 385,910 students had accepted places by this morning
- A total of 26.3% of entries scored an A or A* this year, this is down from 26.6% in 2012 when the pass rate at both grades fell for the first time in more than 20 years.
- 22% of A* grades were in south-east while only 3% were in north-east
- Biology, chemistry and physics accounted for 17.8% of all entries
- In contrast to the above, young people are still turning their backs on modern languages with both French and German entries down again this year – although Spanish bucked the trend.
What should you do if you are offered a job but still have interviews arranged with other employers?
So, you’ve been offered the job! You’re thrilled but you have that niggling doubt in the back of your mind that one of the jobs you have an interview for might be better money or better prospects. What should you do?
- Cancel the interviews and hope the job that you were offered works out ok?
- Turn down the offer you already have and go to the other interviews?
- Hold onto the offer you have and still go to the interviews.
We recommend that you should always keep your options open. Hold onto the offer you have but still go to the other interviews.
- You will be able to find out if they are offering more in terms of money, prospects, training etc
- You will learn more about the company and if you would enjoy working there.
- You will gain more experience in an interview situation.
Then you can cast those doubts out of your mind, weigh up the pros and cons and make a better decision that’s right for you and your future career.
In order to attain a successful job/career, we are encouraged in school and college to go on to extended education once we reach the end of the compulsory learning cycle. Most of us assume we have to obtain excellent results and outstanding grades such as A***** to even be acknowledged by any university! However, it’s not necessarily erudite intelligence of academic subjects that is essential to receiving a place in any high class university these days, with the new courses that have been added to the degree syllabus anybody can work towards a degree. In fact, it’s more about hobbies or interests of individuals this era.
Below are some of the most obscure university degrees of our time…
Ridiculous as it sounds, yes this is a real degree! Her sultry videos and lyrics now carry the potential of academic prowess thanks to New Jersey’s Rutgers University and its “Politicizing Beyonce” course. Students are expected to compare work of authors/activists Alice Walker and Sojourner Truth.
This 12-week sector at Staffordshire University was offered as part of the BA in Sports, Media and Culture, and included topics such as Beck’s ever-evolving hairstyles, his marriage to Posh and his status as ‘the object of many great fantasies.”
At the University of Baltimore a dedicated course allows students to “get ready for a zombie apocalypse” by writing horror scripts, watching zombie flicks and drawing storyboards of their ideal monster movies!
Simpsons and Philosophy
This two-unit class at the University of California at Berkeley examines the cartoon series through the eyes of Nietzsche, Plato and others – asking loaded questions such as what does Homer’s infamous D’oh utterance say about his existential self? And Is Marge’s volumous hair life-affirming or a symbol of the degradation of society?
Arguing With Judge Judy
If you find yourself screaming at the TV at the sheer injustice of Judge Judy, you need to enroll at the University of California, where Arguing With Judge Judy: Popular ‘Logic’ On TV Shows will help you to express your anger. This course examines popular logical fallacies on reality TV shows, examining why the small-screen audiences decide on the concepts of social justice that they do.
Harry Potter and The Age Of Illusion
The Harry Potter and the Age of Illusion module is available as part of the BA in Education Studies at Durham University and preaches a series of 22 lectures and 11 seminars looking at how JK Rowling’s novels reflect prejudice and citizenship in modern society. Students can look at topics such as ‘Muggles and magic: the escape from the treadmill and the recovery of enchantment’ and ‘Gryffindor and Slytherin: prejudice and intolerance.’
This course, offered by George Washington University in the US, picks apart concepts of fatness and obesity through the realm of film, literature, anthropology and history, throwing the “cultural baggage” of overweight people firmly into the spotlight.
Trekkies everywhere will be beaming at the news that Georgetown University offers a course in ‘Philosophy and Star Trek’. Students can attempt to get their most pressing questions answered such as ‘Is time travel possible?’ and ‘could we go back and kill our ancestors?’
The Robin Hood Studies
Embedded within the MA in History at Nottingham University is ‘The Robin Hood Studies Pathway’. Students can learn about the tales and ballads of one of England’s most enduring medieval heroes.
Alfred University in New York offers “Maple Syrup – The Real Thing” as an honors seminar. The class looks into the profession of making maple syrup and how little has changed the production process