The 10 Worst Interview Techniques Ever - Parts 1 & 2

  • By Rebecca Guy
  • 02 Aug, 2017

The 10 Worst Interview Techniques Ever - 1 & 2

There is no doubt that interviews are absolutely integral to the recruitment process, however, badly organised interview procedures or inferior techniques can put off the best candidates from accepting positions, or lead to a poor decision being made, and the wrong candidate hired.

Johnson Underwood have come across many terrible interview techniques over the years and we’ve put our 10 favourites into a list. Remember, these are our favourite bad techniques, we do not condone using these!

We’re releasing our top 10 over the whole month so without further ado, here are numbers 1 and 2.

1.     If You Were An ‘X’ What ‘X’ Would You Be?

As an interviewer, these questions might sound like they are going to give you a psychological insight into the candidate’s personality but in reality, you are going to interpret their answer in the way you think it means, which is unhelpful as everyone has different perspectives. Questions like this can cause candidates to worry, overthink and take a long time to answer on a question that is purely subjective and not really relevant to the job role.

For example:

·        If you were a box of chocolates, which flavour would you be?

This is a great example of a bad question because people definitely have favourite chocolates and, despite not wanting to, they will probably subconsciously judge a candidate if they choose the interviewers least favourite chocolate.

·        If you were an animal what animal would you be?

One person may think that a Lion represents a strong, respected leadership related personality but another may think a Lion represents a lazy, unmotivated personality, and decide that that person will just coast by on the back of the hard work of the Lionesses in your team.

·        If you were a Muppet, which one would be you be?

Someone may think the character Animal represents a vibrant, teamwork related personality and be thinking about the way Animal often brings the Muppets together, however another person may think Animal is a loose cannon; someone prone to flare-ups and abandoning the team when the going gets tough.

You may be interested to know if a candidate will merge into the dynamic of the team, but instead of asking them to compare their personality traits to a vegetable, animal or mineral, why not ask them to give an actual example of a time they demonstrated great teamwork or overcame a problem in a team environment? This kind of example based question is more likely to give you a picture of how they will actually behave with others.

2.     Off-hand Remarks That Are Really Trick Questions

This kind of technique is used to test all sorts of characteristics about a candidate and could be considered as useful but is more likely to be viewed as sneaky and underhanded. Putting someone in a position where they should make decisions or answer questions based on wrong or little information, and then judging their answer based on the extra knowledge you have is not going to teach you anything. Sure, in many cases, people will have to make decisions without the full picture, but it would be better to ask them to give you an example of an actual situation, and get a full answer that you can ask follow-up questions to instead of putting them on the spot.

For example:

·        Interviewer apologises for state of disrepair in the car park and when the candidate says, “Oh that’s ok, it’s no problem” the interviewer judges that answer negatively because there is nothing wrong with the carpark. In this instance, the interviewer has decided that the candidate is not observant enough because they think the candidate should have noticed the car park was fine and the question was a trick one.

In reality, the candidate is probably not thinking about how great/bad the car park looks, and is more focused on getting parked and into the building on time or they might actually think the car park looks rubbish and are just being polite. Either way, throwing an offhanded remark in and judging the answer, is not a fair way to measure a candidates’ worth, a better way would be to ask them to give an example of when they have to had complete complex tasks, paid a lot of attention to detail or assess someone’s skills.

What do you think about these techniques, have you ever experienced them as a candidate or interviewer? Let us know in the comments below and stand-by for the next 2 techniques!

Rebecca Guy is the Business Development Coordinator at Johnson Underwood. She has had a super varied career so far and a wealth of knowledge and great advice for candidates and recruiters. You can follow her on Twitter @rebeccahguy .

JU Blog

By Rebecca Guy 12 Dec, 2017

Transferable skills refer to the strengths and attributes a candidate has, that are not role-specific but are valuable for the diverse ways they can be used across different roles, departments and industries. Transferable skills are also known as portable or soft skills and differ from, what are known as, hard skills, because soft skills can be developed outside of a professional environment and are just as valuable in one industry, as the next. Hard skills however, are more likely to be developed for the purpose of work and generally do not transfer well into other roles.

For example: a hard skill may be having specialist knowledge of wildlife photography but having excellent soft skills in communication with customers and staff would just as relevant in a retail store or restaurant as a photography studio. The photographer in this example, may have developed those excellent communication skills over a few years, different jobs or even a volunteering position.

Because of the fluid nature of transferable skills, it is possible to see that they are particularly helpful for candidates who do not have much work experience, or are switching careers. Graduates, especially, increasingly need to prove they are ready for work after university but face problems when they have a degree but no work experience. For someone who is switching from one career to the next, your valuable transferable skills might help you get your foot in the door if you can prove you are an asset, despite a lack of the specific hard skills required for the role.

Employers look for both hard skills and soft skills in a potential employee and a CV is the perfect starting point to demonstrate that you, as a candidate, are proficient in both types of skills. Most job descriptions will list the soft skills they employer would like to see so next it is just down to the candidate to prove they’ve got them.

Transferable skills really benefit from the STAR treatment (Situation, Task, Action and Result), as they demonstrate your skills best when you can explain a bit about the scenario in which you used the skills, but because they may not be exactly relevant to the role you’re applying to, explaining the results of your actions helps cement your skills.

In this blog series, we’re going to look at 7 of the most important transferable skills and provide some examples of how to get them, and how they can be used in different jobs.

  • Teamwork
  • Time Management and Organisation
  • Communication and Interpersonal Skills
  • Problem Solving and Initiative
  • Customer Service
  • Information Technology
  • Leadership

Today we’ll be looking at….

Leadership

When you think of leadership, do you think that only team leaders, managers and other senior staff need those skills? Then you may be surprised that leadership skills are a highly sought after quality of any employee, whether they will be going into a role as an actual leader, or not. As this series has been focused on transferable skills, this post will look at the transferable elements of leadership skills for employees who are not applying for management roles, as there are some differences.

For example, employers may want to know if you have experience with people management, coaching, line managing, disciplinaries and monitoring staff absences and behaviour if you were applying for a team leader or supervisor type role. However, for a more junior role, there are leadership qualities that are considered valuable, and if you demonstrate them, it may put you ahead of other candidates. Some employers will even put them down as desirable abilities in the job specification; such as “Demonstrated leadership abilities and experience” which shows the candidate that that employer prizes leadership qualities in their employees. There are of course, different leadership styles and some people are too demanding, authoritative and disrespectful of the people they lead which may help get the job done, but doesn’t make them a good leader.

Some good leadership traits could include experience in the following areas:

  • Planning and delivering
  • Adaptability and flexibility with change
  • A drive to learn and improve
  • Building confidence and motivating yourself and others

If you cannot think of when you did any of those at work, or you do not have much work experience, then have a think of when could you have demonstrated leadership skills outside of work. For example:

  • Captain of a sports team or club leader
  • Planning big parties or community events
  • Taking the lead on a university or college project

How do these become good leadership skills examples and what if you do not have any?

It’s can be difficult to gain leadership skills without actually being in a position of leadership, but we have included the above examples because it is possible to gain those skills in a team environment and they can used to demonstrate your potential leadership abilities in an interview or CV.

  • Planning and delivering

The ability to plan and deliver projects successfully, even small ones, demonstrates that you can think strategically and make decisions that acknowledge consequences and outcomes. It may require delegation, managing a schedule and working to achieve a specific outcome.

  •  Adaptability and flexibility with change

Along with successfully planning and delivering work; leaders should be adept at reacting positively to change and being able to navigate themselves, and others, through transformations, problems and alterations to the norm. These don’t have to be huge revolutions but should demonstrate an understanding of positively handling change.

  •  A drive to learn and improve

A good leader demonstrates that they can take responsibility for their work and professional development; that they take their job seriously and want to learn, be it from mistakes or through new processes. Leaders are motivated staff who want to excel, and drive their company to success so employers find this quality very desirable in employees outside of formal leadership roles.

  •  Building confidence and motivating yourself and others

Confidence is an important quality for leaders because it makes other people feel secure and motivates others to achieve more. For example; a Checkout Assistant who is confident with the refund policy and how to handle complaints will be sought after by colleagues with upset customers as the customers will feel better dealing with someone who seems like they know what they are talking about. The colleagues might be less inclined to ask a Team Leader for help with an upset customer, if the Team Leader is timid and can’t handle getting shouted at by customers calmly. With a strong role-model to follow, employees become more confident and are motivated to take more responsibility themselves.

  •  Captain of a sports team or club leader

This might involve motivating others to achieve a team goal or target that includes coordinating them to learn from mistakes and improve techniques

  • Planning big parties or community events

Planning and delivering an event should involve some strategic thinking and the ability to be flexible when problems arise.

  •  Taking the lead on a university or college project

Organising a group to start and finish a graded project could involve taking the responsibility of handling schedules, delegating workloads and motivating people to improve their contributions for the benefit of the group.

If you have not had the opportunity to learn or demonstrate these skills, but you want to; consider joining a sports club, society, social group or volunteer to build them.

Here are some key points on how to give the best answers to a leadership skills related question:

  • Stick to STAR format answers and give examples with results that focus on your achievement
  • Mention the specific skills you use that are also in the job specification, as this highlights that you understand what you are talking about, and that you can deliver what the role requires
  • Include examples where actual leaders, such as Team Leaders or Managers, have supported what you have done and given you good feedback on your leadership abilities.

Do you have any nightmare leadership skills examples or advice for a strong answer? We’d love to hear from you, leave comments below or share on your Facebook or Twitter!

By Rebecca Guy 13 Nov, 2017

Transferable skills refer to the strengths and attributes a candidate has, that are not role-specific but are valuable for the diverse ways they can be used across different roles, departments and industries. Transferable skills are also known as portable or soft skills and differ from, what are known as, hard skills, because soft skills can be developed outside of a professional environment and are just as valuable in one industry, as the next. Hard skills however, are more likely to be developed for the purpose of work and generally do not transfer well into other roles.

For example: a hard skill may be having specialist knowledge of wildlife photography but having excellent soft skills in communication with customers and staff would just as relevant in a retail store or restaurant as a photography studio. The photographer in this example, may have developed those excellent communication skills over a few years, different jobs or even a volunteering position.

Because of the fluid nature of transferable skills, it is possible to see that they are particularly helpful for candidates who do not have much work experience, or are switching careers. Graduates, especially, increasingly need to prove they are ready for work after university but face problems when they have a degree but no work experience. For someone who is switching from one career to the next, your valuable transferable skills might help you get your foot in the door if you can prove you are an asset, despite a lack of the specific hard skills required for the role.

Employers look for both hard skills and soft skills in a potential employee and a CV is the perfect starting point to demonstrate that you, as a candidate, are proficient in both types of skills. Most job descriptions will list the soft skills they employer would like to see so next it is just down to the candidate to prove they’ve got them.

Transferable skills really benefit from the STAR treatment (Situation, Task, Action and Result), as they demonstrate your skills best when you can explain a bit about the scenario in which you used the skills, but because they may not be exactly relevant to the role you’re applying to, explaining the results of your actions helps cement your skills.

In this blog series, we’re going to look at 7 of the most important transferable skills and provide some examples of how to get them, and how they can be used in different jobs.

  • Teamwork
  • Time Management and Organisation
  • Communication and Interpersonal Skills
  • Problem Solving and Initiative
  • Customer Service
  • Information Technology
  • Leadership

Today we’ll be looking at….

Information Technology

IT is hard to avoid nowadays as it is used in the most basic of roles, as well as more complex and demanding work. Even if you are not applying for roles that involve sitting at a computer all day, there is no doubt that IT has crept into almost every role, from using electronic point of sales systems or clocking in systems for shifts, to creating spreadsheets and managing several shared calendars and email accounts. IT skills can definitely be taught as a ‘hard skill’ that can only be applied in certain roles, such as coding, but once you understand how to use Outlook, for example, in one role, you can transfer that to any role you move to that uses Outlook.

For example, employers may want to know if you understand, and have experience in, the following IT activities:

  • Using emails and calendar software
  • Understanding how the internet works
  • Knowing how to stay safe online
  • Can use documents and databases
  • Can adapt and learn new IT related products or procedures
  • Can use equipment such as printers and telephones

If you cannot think of when you did any of those at work, or you do not have much work experience, then have a think of when could you have demonstrated information technology skills outside of work. For example:

  • Using emails for personal use
  • Troubleshooting your own IT issues
  • Teaching someone else how to use something

How do these become good time information technology skills examples?

Being comfortable with, and adapting to new, technology is integral to employers, who need to know that you can do the ‘hard skill’ of the job, without needing to be trained on what they might consider to be basic IT skills. They need to be confident that an employee won’t panic or give up when something breaks or a new technology is introduced and that employees feel at ease communicating through technology without training. Emails, internet based phone systems, multi-use printer machines and computer programmes have become so helpful to businesses that it is hard to find a company that does not use them, and if a new employee starts a job, unless it is an IT role, being trained on how to do the job correctly usually won’t include basic IT as employers will expect you to be competent at that already.

What if you do not have any?

It is difficult to fake having good IT skills but easier to be open-minded and flexible about learning the skills and the best way to increase your IT skill level is by practicing them. Dependent on your experience with technology you could be better at using IT than you think. For example, my first interaction with internet connected multi-use printers/fax/photocopiers came at university and I have ended up using them many times in offices since, but it was helpful that I already learnt how to use them. University is also a great time to learn better internet based researching techniques, send emails frequently, submit work electronically and manage an online calendar.

Troubleshooting IT issues, or helping someone with an IT problem outside of a work environment is still troubleshooting and training, if done successfully, and there is no reason why someone with a low level of IT experience, can’t refer to that success on their CV.

Another option, if your skills are very low and you don’t have access to personal IT already, go to your local library and ask for help finding free courses or how to access tutorials online. You will find that library staff are happy to talk you through basics like turning on, and operating, a computer and will show you how to access and search You Tube for videos on thousands of subjects. All you need is a piece of paper and pen to make notes, then you can practice what you learn on the library computers. They might even offer a free course themselves that you can sign up for and you can use information you already have, such as your household budget to learn programmes like Excel that require data input. You can also ask a technically savvy friend to take you through a few things they might use at work or volunteer somewhere where they will give you training on how to use equipment like a till in a charity shop.

We’ve already looked at some instances of when good information technology skills are used, let’s look at them in more detail.

  • Using emails and calendar software

Sending emails to colleagues and customers is the cornerstone of many roles as it has become one of the main ways to communicate with people however most email systems are similar so once you have learnt how to use one, it is fairly easy to transfer that skill onto a different system. Similarly, with electronic calendars, which are used so that your colleagues can see your schedule too, managing and accessing them is important but they are not very different from each other.

  • Understanding how the internet works

The internet contains so much information it is actually hard to locate exactly what you need to know sometimes, especially if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. Without going into too much technical detail, employers want staff who understand how internet search engines work, what the difference is between email web-clients and email programmes and how the internet can be used as a professional and helpful work tool, not an exciting distraction.

  • Knowing how to stay safe online

Using the internet however, is fraught with issues and concerns that workplaces take very seriously, and employers often expect staff to have a basic understanding of how to stay safe online, and how to protect confidential information, even if they then offer official or informal training on top of that. Make sure you understand the risks with using the internet and how to treat electronic information and data with care and responsibility as employers want to be able to trust staff with the information they handle.

  • Can use documents and databases

Almost every role will require employees to be able to type on a keyboard and many will also require typed information to be presented into word documents as reports or notes which will require an understanding of how to create and save documents on computers or cloud based technology. In addition, employees may need to use databases frequently, to input or find information on and though these can differ wildly in design, they basic principles behind them can be similar. This varies across sectors however; different Relational Databases may be fairly similar, but they are different from Hierarchical Databases and Object-Orientated Databases for example.

  • Can adapt and learn new IT related products or procedures

One of the best transferable skills people can have is the ability to be flexible (which is further discussed in our Problem Solving and Time Management blogs) so demonstrating you can adapt and learn when new IT products or procedures are implemented is a fantastic quality. Even if you are not familiar with the new equipment or programme, employers prefer staff who are open-minded to learning something new and positive about its benefits.

  • Can use equipment such as printers and telephones

IT doesn’t just mean computers; printers, telephones, shredders, laminating machines and all sorts of other workplace equipment have had technology upgrades over the last decade so if you have been out of work for a while, or not come across these kinds of apparatus before, it might be difficult to learn how they all work and what they are used for. The first rule here is not to panic, just ask someone to show you how it works, or make a note of the make and model and look up how to use it on the internet!

  • Using emails for personal use

If you have a personal email account that you use then you probably have the basic functions for using work emails down, you just need to be aware that work based ones will often encompass, additional graphics, web-links, diary management, contacts and task lists too, as well as perhaps having more than one email account to manage and other people having access to all the information. The other difference is making sure you use professional language in your work emails and accept that there may be strict company rules on what you can use emails for.

  • Troubleshooting your own IT issues

If you have ever used technology, no doubt at some point it broke, and you were faced with finding someone who could help you fix it through taking it back to the shop, sending it off for repair, or you used your problem-solving skills to work out what the problem was and fix it. If you then find out it definitely needs to be sent off, then you do that, but your first port of call was to see if you could work out the issue yourself. This is a fantastic quality to have as employers want staff who understand that the printer has probably stopped working because it has run out of paper, and then change the paper themselves when they confirm it, not abandon the printer and hope someone else deals with it, or call IT support unnecessarily.

  • Teaching someone else how to use something

If you are comfortable enough with technology that you feel confident showing someone else how to use it then those situations can be used as slightly stronger examples for demonstrating your IT skills. Examples are always preferred when you can discuss not only how you use IT, but that you are capable of training others on how to use it too and this is because it shows that you are more than confident in your own abilities and might be a good team player which are fab qualities for an employee to have.

Here are some key points on how to give the best answers to an information technology skills related question:

  • Don’t exaggerate your skills; if you are perfect for a job in every other aspect but maybe aren’t quite an advanced Excel user yet, don’t say that you are one and hope to “wing it”. Instead, be upfront and give examples of how you are capable of learning quickly and rising to challenges.
  • Be prepared to demonstrate your IT skills to the interview panel; if good typing skills are an essential part of the role, you may be given an assessment to demonstrate your level. Get in some practice on the IT skills mentioned in the job description before you go to the interview so you are more prepared and relaxed.
  • Mention any training you have had, whether it’s formal or informal, and how you have implemented it.
  • Think about the language you use carefully; if you are really good at IT, don’t talk down to your interview panel, over use technical jargon or talk derogatively about people who are not at the same level as you.
  • The internet is full of answers but a good place to start is by using the Which? Computing Helpdesk (you have to be a member but it is free) who can help with a variety of IT topics. If this is too much you could start by buying one of the “ For Dummies ” books which are fantastic at breaking complex information down into easy to understand parts and can help you from step one.
  • You can also read this list of basic IT skills you might need, and for which jobs by Career Tool Belt .

Do you have any nightmare information technology skills experiences or advice for a strong answer? We’d love to hear from you, leave comments below or share on your Facebook or Twitter!

By Rebecca Guy 07 Nov, 2017

Transferable skills refer to the strengths and attributes a candidate has, that are not role-specific but are valuable for the diverse ways they can be used across different roles, departments and industries. Transferable skills are also known as portable or soft skills and differ from, what are known as, hard skills, because soft skills can be developed outside of a professional environment and are just as valuable in one industry, as the next. Hard skills however, are more likely to be developed for the purpose of work and generally do not transfer well into other roles.

For example: a hard skill may be having specialist knowledge of wildlife photography but having excellent soft skills in communication with customers and staff would just as relevant in a retail store or restaurant as a photography studio. The photographer in this example, may have developed those excellent communication skills over a few years, different jobs or even a volunteering position.

Because of the fluid nature of transferable skills, it is possible to see that they are particularly helpful for candidates who do not have much work experience, or are switching careers. Graduates, especially, increasingly need to prove they are ready for work after university but face problems when they have a degree but no work experience. For someone who is switching from one career to the next, your valuable transferable skills might help you get your foot in the door if you can prove you are an asset, despite a lack of the specific hard skills required for the role.

Employers look for both hard skills and soft skills in a potential employee and a CV is the perfect starting point to demonstrate that you, as a candidate, are proficient in both types of skills. Most job descriptions will list the soft skills they employer would like to see so next it is just down to the candidate to prove they’ve got them.

Transferable skills really benefit from the STAR treatment (Situation, Task, Action and Result), as they demonstrate your skills best when you can explain a bit about the scenario in which you used the skills, but because they may not be exactly relevant to the role you’re applying to, explaining the results of your actions helps cement your skills.

In this blog series, we’re going to look at 7 of the most important transferable skills and provide some examples of how to get them, and how they can be used in different jobs.

  • Teamwork
  • Time Management and Organisation
  • Communication and Interpersonal Skills
  • Problem Solving and Initiative
  • Customer Service
  • Information Technology
  • Leadership

Today we’ll be looking at….

Customer Service

This topic is a bit of an anomaly as customer service can definitely be considered a “hard skill” and something you only learn by being in specifically customer facing roles, however I’ve included it in this series because customer services skills can be transferred from one role to another, even if they are very different roles and this is often because the customer service goes alongside the main “hard skill” of the job role. For example; an airline Flight Attendant that is trained in both excellent customer service and managing their routine flight-related tasks, should be able to transfer those customer service skills across to working in a hardware store, as they will be expected to deliver excellent customer service still, but their knowledge will have to change to hardware products, instead of in-flight procedures.

For example, employers may want to know if you have skills in the following areas of customer service:

  • Attentiveness
  • Confidence
  • Complaint Handling
  • Friendliness
  • Product Knowledge

I’ve highlighted 5 key areas in my list but really, the number of different facets to customer service is extremely extensive, and to help, The Balance has created a list you can view here .

If you cannot think of when you did any of those at work, or you do not have much work experience, then have a think of when you have been on the receiving end of excellent customer service, or even demonstrated some in general. For example:

  • Being helped, or helping someone else
  • Getting or giving directions
  • Complaining or being complained to

How do these become good customer service skills examples?

Without customers, most business would not exist so although a business doesn’t necessarily need to dedicate a whole department to customer service, employers do want to know that their customers are being looked after and treated with respect by their employees. This goes beyond just greeting someone with a smile; it means really listening to customers and understanding the best ways to help in a variety of situations as a representative of the company. It can vary from working on a shop floor to discussing stock requirements with potential suppliers, in all situations you are dealing with customers who will form an opinion of the business, based on your customer service skills, and the management will always want it to be a good opinion.

What if you do not have any?

If you’ve never worked somewhere you have had to demonstrate customer service skills, you might not realise that you have used your customer service skills in your general day-to-day life. How do you handle difficult situations? How do you handle a complaint? Are you an optimistic and polite person? Answer this question:

If someone complained about a slice of cake you made for a village fete, would you…

a.      Smush it in their face and tell them to get over it

b.    Apologise and give them a free slice without question

c.      Ask them to explain what the problem is, then take appropriate action

The best customer service action is C. By asking the customer what the problem is, you can find out what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again which a, provides a better service for future customers and b, means you can find out if it was actually something you did.

Let’s say in this situation, they misread the label and thought their chocolate cake was funny tasting and off-looking because it was actually carrot cake! In which case you can explain the problem, check the cakes are labelled correctly, apologise if they were wrong, swap the cake round and laugh about the situation with a customer who now has their chocolate cake.

We’ve already looked at some instances of when good customer service skills are used, let’s look at them in more detail.

  • Attentiveness

Don’t wait for a customer to come to you for help, or make yourself look busy hoping no customers bother you, being attentive means making yourself approachable and demonstrating that you are happy to drop everything and help them which you can do by asking customers if they would like help before they ask it. It involves reading body language, understanding your customers demographics and desires so you can anticipate their needs and that will lead to giving them a better experience.

  • Confidence

Confidence is not just about whether you can handle an aggressive complainer, but demonstrating you are sure about your abilities and product or service knowledge. Confidence comes across as very reassuring, so even if you don’t know an answer, as long as you know where to find it and have no trouble being up-front with the customer about that, they will be pleased with your service.

  • Friendliness

Regardless of the nature of your interaction with a customer, be it on the phone or face-to-face, making the customer feel welcome is very important as it makes the customer feel valued. Engaging positively with a customer by smiling, listening, speaking politely and making sure your body language matches what you’re saying, will enhance the customers experience and relationship with your company. Customers want to know that you care and are on their side regardless of outcome; naturally if you manage to give them the outcome they seek then all the better. Honesty and being sincere are also key; “have a nice day” is super when truly meant and customers can tell the difference when friendliness is forced.

  • Product Knowledge

Understanding the product or service you are representing or selling to customers is extremely important as it builds trust between you and the customer, and gives the impression that the company trains its employees well. Being able to help someone find something on a shop floor, or knowing where to find information quickly, gives the customer a much better experience than if the employee doesn’t know where/what anything is or where to find help. Even more important, is if you know your product or service well, when something has run out, you are able to recommend a good alternative straight away which will reinforce the customer’s impression of your training and how helpful the company is in general.

  • Complaint Handling

Sometimes you will find yourself in a situation where a customer is unhappy with a product or service and they want you to do something about it. They might not be aggressive of course, complaints come in many shapes and sizes, but they can almost always be dealt with through fantastic customer service, using a combination of methodologies, confidence, friendliness, and product knowledge. A methodology is usually a diagram, chart or process that has some guidance for handling a complaint, in an easy to understand format. Look some up and find one that makes sense to you, and if you don’t have customer service experience to rely on in an interview, you can use the methodology to discuss how you would approach the situation.

  • Being helped, or helping someone else, getting or giving directions, complaining or being complained to

When you’ve asked for help in a shop or asked a stranger for directions, have you been impressed or disappointed with the service/answer you received; how would you do it differently? Have you ever overheard someone wish they knew where something was in a shop and you’ve explained where it was? How have you had your complaint handled, was it to your satisfaction? If you’ve been the person who has helped others in these situations, and if helping them made you feel good, customer service is right up your street.

Here are some key points on how to give the best answers to a customer service skills related question:

Try to use real examples, if you can’t, back up your answers with the method you would use

  • Describe your emotional attachment to providing good customer service; if helping people is what gets you up in the morning, tell them!
  • If you have had training, talk about it and give evidence that you use it
  • Mention any positive feedback you received from customers or colleagues
  • The best examples will include times you have demonstrated excellent customer service skills whilst under pressure or in a difficult situation.
  • Similarly, employers will want to know about times you went above and beyond the average level of service, to give a really fantastic service.

Do you have any nightmare communication and interpersonal skills examples or advice for a strong answer? We’d love to hear from you, leave comments below or share on Facebook or Twitter!

By Rebecca Guy 19 Oct, 2017

Transferable skills refer to the strengths and attributes a candidate has, that are not role-specific but are valuable for the diverse ways they can be used across different roles, departments and industries. Transferable skills are also known as portable or soft skills and differ from, what are known as, hard skills, because soft skills can be developed outside of a professional environment and are just as valuable in one industry, as the next. Hard skills however, are more likely to be developed for the purpose of work and generally do not transfer well into other roles.

For example: a hard skill may be having specialist knowledge of wildlife photography but having excellent soft skills in communication with customers and staff would just as relevant in a retail store or restaurant as a photography studio. The photographer in this example, may have developed those excellent communication skills over a few years, different jobs or even a volunteering position.

Because of the fluid nature of transferable skills, it is possible to see that they are particularly helpful for candidates who do not have much work experience, or are switching careers. Graduates, especially, increasingly need to prove they are ready for work after university but face problems when they have a degree but no work experience. For someone who is switching from one career to the next, your valuable transferable skills might help you get your foot in the door if you can prove you are an asset, despite a lack of the specific hard skills required for the role.

Employers look for both hard skills and soft skills in a potential employee and a CV is the perfect starting point to demonstrate that you, as a candidate, are proficient in both types of skills. Most job descriptions will list the soft skills they employer would like to see so next it is just down to the candidate to prove they’ve got them.

Transferable skills really benefit from the STAR treatment (Situation, Task, Action and Result), as they demonstrate your skills best when you can explain a bit about the scenario in which you used the skills, but because they may not be exactly relevant to the role you’re applying to, explaining the results of your actions helps cement your skills.

In this blog series, we’re going to look at 7 of the most important transferable skills and provide some examples of how to get them, and how they can be used in different jobs.

  • Teamwork
  • Time Management and Organisation
  • Communication and Interpersonal Skills
  • Problem Solving and Initiative
  • Customer Service
  • Information Technology
  • Leadership

Today we’ll be looking at…

Problem Solving and Initiative

Problem solving and demonstrating initiative are important skills to have in a workplace, they can be independent of each other for some situations but often, also go hand in hand with each other. Problem solving involves analysing and finding solutions to situations, sometimes with an element of creativity and inventiveness. This relates to taking initiative, either because you are able to assess and work on problems independently and successfully, without being asked, or by predicting an issue and coming up with control measures before it happens. With this in mind, you can see why the two can be interwoven.

For example, employers may want to know if you have experience in the following areas:

  • Thinking and acting autonomously
  • Solving a complex problem
  • Thinking “outside the box” or creatively when a problem arises
  • Tackling a problem with confidence
  • Analysing and evaluating situations and results
  • Using a process to approach a situation
  • Anticipating obstacles and planning for them
  • Being flexible under pressure

If you cannot think of when you did any of those at work, or you do not have much work experience, then have a think of when could you have demonstrated Problem Solving and Initiative skills outside of work. For example:

  • Planning a long journey
  • Working with technology or machinery
  • Writing an analytical essay
  • Planning an event
  • Playing a strategic game

How do these become good time Problem Solving and Initiative skills examples?

No matter what job you get, employers are always busy and they want to trust their staff are capable of handling problems when they arise, without having to ask for help or panicking. Depending on how senior a member of staff is, this expectation will extend to their level of seniority, so although some roles will require staff to tackle a small problem, they may have to pass a larger problem onto their team leader or supervisor to deal with. Regardless of how big a problem is, being able to anticipate, rectify and evaluate it will ensure it does not happen again, or the business can be more prepared for it so it has less of an impact next time. Problem solving and initiative skills help prevent resources being wasted, mistakes being made and losing customer satisfaction, ultimately saving the business from losing money and damaging their reputation. The range of problems workplaces face can vary dramatically and cannot always be fixed, however employees want to know their staff know what to do in the event of an issue occurring, whether they can fix it or not, and this is where demonstrating you have those skills comes into play.

What if you do not have any?

We use these skills every day, whether it is using our initiative to get a better deal on broadband or figuring out why a printer is broken and fixing it. You might volunteer at events and solve problems that attendees have asked for help with, had to write an essay that required you to provide a solution to a problem, performed in a stage play that went wrong and you had to improvise a way of fixing it. If you really think about it, you may be surprised to find that you use these skills often and can easily find examples of when you have come across a problem, and instead of ignoring it, you have demonstrated level-headedness, initiative and analysis to solve it.

It may be difficult to relate these every day occurrences of problem solving and initiative to a role you are applying for however, so let’s look at the instances we’ve mentioned in this blog already and expand on them a little.

  • Thinking and acting autonomously

Encountering a problem by yourself and taking care of it without the need for help or clarification

  • Solving a complex problem

The ability to find solutions to multi-faceted issues or helping someone else solve a problem they cannot do alone

  • Thinking “outside the box” or creatively when a problem arises

Some problems will require a solution that is not straightforward or conventional and a unique solution can sometimes be the best course of action.

  • Tackling a problem with confidence

Even if you are unsure how to fix the issue, demonstrate that you will not shy away from it and will do what you can to help, and learn.

  • Analysing and evaluating situations and results

Analytical skills are important to help fix a problem however employers also want to see that you can evaluate the situation and problem after it has happened, to help make sure it does not happen again

  • Using a process to approach a situation

To back up examples you give, you can discuss the methods you use for problem solving and if you have a particular process you use to start with, it demonstrates that you are used to approaching these kinds of situations.

  • Anticipating obstacles and planning for them

When starting a new project, incorporating plans on how to deal with problems that may arise, or alternative plans as a back-up, will help if those issues do crop up. Even if they do not happen, the fact that you have planned for them gives an impression of commitment to success and the ability to recognise a problem.

  • Being flexible under pressure

Reacting positively to unexpected changes or problems arising demonstrates you have a good work ethic and it also shows you are more likely to calmly work through the pressurised situation that comes with the problem, as well as accept or implement change at short notice.

  • Planning a long journey

Including alternative routes and back-up plans if something goes wrong. For example; what you will do if you miss you flight because of traffic, have you budgeted for an extra hotel stay?

  • Working with technology or machinery

Troubleshooting issues by eliminating possibilities and working solutions out yourself. For example; turning it off and on again!

  • Writing an analytical essay

Drawing conclusions and suggesting recommendations based on the information you have gathered for the essay. For example; in a university or school essay.

  • Planning and running an event

Identifying risks and creating back-up plans before the event and then dealing with any issues that pop up during the event. For example; planning for bad weather in an outdoor event or how you dealt with the speakers breaking at a community dance.

  • Playing a strategic game

Some board and computer games require players to plan strategies, solve puzzles, negotiate with others and make decisions carefully. For example; role-playing adventure, group games

Here are some key points on how to give the best answers to a Problem Solving and Initiative skills related question:

  • Use real examples
  • Relate them to the job you are applying for
  • Include back-ups and alternatives you planned
  • Use this opportunity to add in that you have excellent communication skills and back this up with explaining how you check understanding and communicate with clarity when dealing with a problem and solution
  • Mention the positive feedback/results you got from your examples
  • Include how others implemented your solutions or asked you for training

Do you have any nightmare Problem Solving and Initiative skills examples or advice for a strong answer? We’d love to hear from you, leave comments below or share on your Facebook or Twitter!

By Rebecca Guy 04 Oct, 2017

Transferable skills refer to the strengths and attributes a candidate has, that are not role-specific but are valuable for the diverse ways they can be used across different roles, departments and industries. Transferable skills are also known as portable or soft skills and differ from, what are known as, hard skills, because soft skills can be developed outside of a professional environment and are just as valuable in one industry, as the next. Hard skills however, are more likely to be developed for the purpose of work and generally do not transfer well into other roles.

For example: a hard skill may be having specialist knowledge of wildlife photography but having excellent soft skills in communication with customers and staff would just as relevant in a retail store or restaurant as a photography studio. The photographer in this example, may have developed those excellent communication skills over a few years, different jobs or even a volunteering position.

Because of the fluid nature of transferable skills, it is possible to see that they are particularly helpful for candidates who do not have much work experience, or are switching careers. Graduates, especially, increasingly need to prove they are ready for work after university but face problems when they have a degree but no work experience. For someone who is switching from one career to the next, your valuable transferable skills might help you get your foot in the door if you can prove you are an asset, despite a lack of the specific hard skills required for the role.

Employers look for both hard skills and soft skills in a potential employee and a CV is the perfect starting point to demonstrate that you, as a candidate, are proficient in both types of skills. Most job descriptions will list the soft skills they employer would like to see so next it is just down to the candidate to prove they’ve got them.

Transferable skills really benefit from the STAR treatment (Situation, Task, Action and Result), as they demonstrate your skills best when you can explain a bit about the scenario in which you used the skills, but because they may not be exactly relevant to the role you’re applying to, explaining the results of your actions helps cement your skills.

In this blog series, we’re going to look at 7 of the most important transferable skills and provide some examples of how to get them, and how they can be used in different jobs.

1.    Teamwork

2.    Time Management and Organisation

3.    Communication and Interpersonal Skills

4.    Problem Solving and Initiative

5.    Customer Service

6.    Information Technology

7.    Leadership


Today we'll be looking at...

3. Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Communication and Interpersonal Skills are important to demonstrate to employers because it gives them an example of how you will communicate with, and interact around your colleagues and customers. Communication skills cover a wide variety of attributes a person may have, including their verbal, non-verbal and listening skills. Interpersonal skills are more to do with how a person acts with others and is related to how we display our personalities, manners and social skills.

For example, employers may want to know if you have experience in the following areas:

  • Speaking to groups
  • Resolving conflicts, or differences of opinion between people
  • Handling complaints successfully in a volunteering position
  • Assisting people willingly
  • Influencing people
  • Writing a report or expressing other information clearly in written, numerical or other (e.g. giving directions with descriptors or hand signals) form
  • Breaking complex information down
  • Training others
  • Writing professional emails
  • Active listening
  • Being a good team player
  • Displaying empathy and concern
  • Communicating with sensitivity

Can you pick out which ones are communication and which ones are interpersonal skills? It’s difficult because the two, so often, go hand-in-hand with each other. When researching this blog, it became clear that many people think interpersonal skills are a part of communication skills, and others think that communication skills are part of interpersonal skills so it’s easy to see why, when filling out a CV, or answering a question, it’s difficult to think of examples when you have demonstrated them!

If you cannot think of when you did any of those at work, or you do not have much work experience, then have a think of when could you have successfully demonstrated communication and interpersonal skills outside of work. For example:

  • Giving a presentation to your class
  • Explaining a complex or sensitive problem to someone
  • Handling conflict or diffusing a situation in public
  • Giving instructions to others
  • Working as a good team player in a sport, group or hobby activity
  • Complaint handling

How do these become good communication and interpersonal skills examples?

As we’ve discussed, employers ask about communication and interpersonal skills because they want to know how well you will get on with your co-workers and customer. 

They may ask questions such as: “what do you think is key to effective communication?” which indicates they want to know what your communication methods are like, and whether they are successful, so to answer this question, you would want to explain how you communicate with people, and give an example with a positive outcome. E.g. 

“I use several ways to communicate messages with others, depending on the situation. I may rely on speaking with an individual, ensuring I am actively listening to their words and that my stance is demonstrating my interest. I would ask for clarification and agreement on points to showcase that I am involved in the conversation and relay information back to them to confirm understanding. When I have had to explain technical information to a colleague I have asked how they best learn new processes before giving them the information, then I will tailor what I need to say to suit them. That might mean preparing for the conversation by drawing a diagram, or taking a little extra time to allow them to make notes. This way has proven to be very effective as my colleagues gave my manager good feedback about the way I explain information and she suggested I take on a training role more often.”

What if you do not have any?

For someone who may not have been in a job before, or taken a long career break. It may be difficult to think of relevant examples to these sorts of questions. The key task here is to be prepared for a few varieties of related questions and try to keep your answers relevant. If you have related experience from a job in the past, try and include a recent example to back it up, similarly, if you have a relevant example that is not work-related (perhaps it’s from university), add in how you would relate it to a work environment. For example, you may be asked “can you tell me about a time you persuaded someone to your way of thinking?” In this instance, the employer wants to know how you handle conflicting opinions, your negotiating techniques or even how you would behave in a meeting with others. Remember that the kind of job you are applying for may be able to direct your answer even further, such as, if you were applying for a sales job, you might want to focus on your negotiating skills in your answer. If you have never had a sales job before, think back to when trying to get a new quote for your household bills or new phone contract. How did you explain your preferences to the supplier? How did you bring down the price? What was the outcome? Then explain how you would use those skills as the sales person to relate the example to the job you are applying for.

We’ve already looked at some instances of when good communication and interpersonal skills are used, let’s look at how the different skills can interlace with each other from the examples above:

  • Giving a presentation to your class
    • Speaking to groups
    • Breaking complex information down
    • Being a good team player (if it’s a group presentation)
  • Explaining a complex or sensitive problem to someone
    • Writing a report or expressing other information clearly in written, numerical or other (e.g. giving directions with descriptors or hand signals) form
    • Displaying empathy and concern
    • Communicating with sensitivity
    • Assisting people willingly
  • Handling conflict or diffusing a situation in public
    • Resolving conflicts, or differences of opinion between people
    • Displaying empathy and concern
    • Communicating with sensitivity
    • Influencing people
  • Giving instructions to others
    • Influencing people
    • Writing professional emails
    • Active listening
  • Working as a good team player in a sport, group or hobby activity
    • Assisting people willingly
  • Complaint handling
    • Resolving conflicts, or differences of opinion between people
    • Handling complaints successfully in a volunteering position

Non-verbal communication and general interpersonal skills are a lot to do with body language, tone of voice and attention, which you can demonstrate in your actual interview and will back up your CV and answers to interview questions. Have a read through the list below for some ideas on how to demonstrate excellent non-verbal communication and general interpersonal skills:

  • Shake hands with the interviewers
  • Demonstrate active listening
  • Keep eye contact with all the interviewers
  • Dress smartly and be well groomed
  • Don’t chew gum or bring food or drink to the interview (apart from water)
  • Arrive on time
  • Be polite to everyone you meet in the company
  • Smile and try to be relaxed
  • Think before you speak, evidence your enthusiasm for the job in the way you talk
  • Do not talk derogatively about previous employers, colleagues or situations
  • Behave interested and engaged with the interview process

Here are some key points on how to give the best answers to a communication and interpersonal skills related question:

  • Listen to, or read, the question carefully, what communication or interpersonal skills do they want you to refer to?
  • Include the context and outcome when you give your example; did you achieve what you set out to do? What did you learn?
  • Demonstrate your communication and interpersonal skills throughout the interview process, including on telephone conversations and emails.

Do you have any nightmare communication and interpersonal skills examples or advice for a strong answer? We’d love to hear from you, leave comments below or share on your Facebook or Twitter!

 

By Rebecca Guy 12 Sep, 2017

Transferable skills refer to the strengths and attributes a candidate has, that are not role-specific but are valuable for the diverse ways they can be used across different roles, departments and industries. Transferable skills are also known as portable or soft skills and differ from, what are known as, hard skills, because soft skills can be developed outside of a professional environment and are just as valuable in one industry, as the next. Hard skills however, are more likely to be developed for the purpose of work and generally do not transfer well into other roles.

For example: a hard skill may be having specialist knowledge of wildlife photography but having excellent soft skills in communication with customers and staff would just as relevant in a retail store or restaurant as a photography studio. The photographer in this example, may have developed those excellent communication skills over a few years, different jobs or even a volunteering position.

Because of the fluid nature of transferable skills, it is possible to see that they are particularly helpful for candidates who do not have much work experience, or are switching careers. Graduates, especially, increasingly need to prove they are ready for work after university but face problems when they have a degree but no work experience. For someone who is switching from one career to the next, your valuable transferable skills might help you get your foot in the door if you can prove you are an asset, despite a lack of the specific hard skills required for the role.

Employers look for both hard skills and soft skills in a potential employee and a CV is the perfect starting point to demonstrate that you, as a candidate, are proficient in both types of skills. Most job descriptions will list the soft skills they employer would like to see so next it is just down to the candidate to prove they’ve got them.

Transferable skills really benefit from the STAR treatment (Situation, Task, Action and Result), as they demonstrate your skills best when you can explain a bit about the scenario in which you used the skills, but because they may not be exactly relevant to the role you’re applying to, explaining the results of your actions helps cement your skills.

In this blog series, we’re going to look at 7 of the most important transferable skills and provide some examples of how to get them, and how they can be used in different jobs.

1.    Teamwork

2.    Time Management and Organisation

3.    Communication and Interpersonal Skills

4.    Problem Solving and Initiative

5.    Customer Service

6.    Information Technology

7.    Leadership

Today we'll be looking at...

2.    Time Management and Organisation

Both these transferable skills are important for an employer to know their employees have; it gives them confidence to know their staff will be able to work to deadlines and handle pressure which are elements of almost every job you can think of. Being able to demonstrate you have both these skills is important but even more important, is demonstrating that you can use both, together, to be the most effective and efficient worker you can be. This does not just mean being able to finish tasks on time however, it means being able to plan well, overcome obstacles, progress satisfactorily and meet standards as an employee.

For example, employers may want to know if you have experience in the following areas:

  • Managing short and long-term tasks successfully
  • Meeting urgent and lengthier deadlines
  • Being proactive rather than reactive
  • Adjusting your workload, making compromises and contingency plans
  • Working to particular specifications and allocation of resources

If you cannot think of when you did any of those at work, or you do not have much work experience, then have a think of when could you have demonstrated time management and organisation skills outside of work. For example:

  • Projects
  • Education
  • Hobby
  • Community events

How do these become good time management and organisation examples?

Employers want to know you will be able to find information when they ask for it and that you are able to demonstrate an understanding of the difference between urgent, important, non-urgent and non-important tasks so they can trust you with your workload. As they are transferable skills, you should be able to give a few examples in your CV or interview, so that it gives the employer a well-rounded view of how you manage work.

For example, if an employer asks you to tell them about a time you successfully navigated through a difficult project, they are looking for answers that include how adept you are at adapting to changes or problems during a planned assignment. They will also want to know how you organise your time on the project, how it fits in with other tasks you have and how you have planned contingencies in order to finish the project on time and successfully.

They might also ask you to tell them about a time you have had multiple deadlines to meet; in this instance, they want to know how you schedule and prioritise your tasks so that you can meet targets within timeframes, and to the correct standard.

Another technique is to give you an Administrative (or Filing) Test; this can involve tasks such as demonstrating you can use shared calendars in Outlook or prioritise a work-related to-do list.

What if you do not have any?

If you feel that you have not had the kind of experiences that have required you to use time management and organisation skills, you are possibly overlooking something in your life, outside of work, that you can use! Activities like successfully managing a household, children and budget, developing and delivering a school project, organising a fundraising event or even organising a hen/stag party could be good examples if you have no professional related ones. Activities that demonstrate you can work to a deadline, overcome problems, liaise with other people and have a successful outcome are all relevant but it is important to make sure you then relate it to how you would work in the role you’re applying for.

We’ve already looked at some instances of when good time management and organisation skills are used, let’s look at them in more detail:

·        Managing short and long-term tasks successfully

o  E.g. Demonstrating your understanding for responding to emails in a reasonable timeframe and researching the answer for an enquiry over several days

·        Meeting urgent and lengthier deadlines

o  E.g. Understanding the different way to handle an important enquiry from your manager and a six-month research project

·        Being proactive rather than reactive

o  E.g. Anticipating problems you may encounter and putting strategies in place that can help deal with them if they do arise

·        Adjusting your workload, making compromises and contingency plans

o  E.g. Ability to take on additional tasks, understand their new priority in relation to your current tasks and what tactics you would use to cope with them

·        Working to particular specifications and allocation of resources

o  E.g. Ability to work within guidelines such as a budget or time-constraint, or to be bound by a certain number of staff or supplies

·        Projects

o  E.g. Starting a DIY project at home such as building a patio area before the summer or decorating a room for a new baby that is due

·        Education

o  E.g. Working on several assignments at once that all have deadlines at the end of term, and getting good grades for them

·        Hobby

o  E.g. Organising the materials, cost and time for knitting scarves for friends as Christmas presents

·        Community events

o  E.g. Finding a space to hold an event for a local church, organising the way it would be paid for and being responsible for collecting the donations that will pay for it

Here are some key points on how to give the best answers to a time management and organisation related question:

·        Listen to, or read, the question carefully, what aspects of time management and organisation do they want to know about?

·        Include the goals and outcome when you give your example; did you achieve what you set out to do? What did you learn?

·        If you have any strategies or tactics you use to organise your time, including them in your answer will help back up your example. Skills You Need has a great article on Time Management that shows the Priority Matrix; a fantastic strategy for prioritising.

Do you have any nightmare time management and organisation examples or advice for a strong answer? We’d love to hear from you, leave comments below or share on your Facebook or Twitter!

By Rebecca Guy 06 Sep, 2017

Transferable skills refer to the strengths and attributes a candidate has, that are not role-specific but are valuable for the diverse ways they can be used across different roles, departments and industries. Transferable skills are also known as portable or soft skills and differ from, what are known as, hard skills, because soft skills can be developed outside of a professional environment and are just as valuable in one industry, as the next. Hard skills however, are more likely to be developed for the purpose of work and generally do not transfer well into other roles.

For example, a hard skill may be having specialist knowledge of wildlife photography but having excellent soft skills in communication with customers and staff would just as relevant in a retail store or restaurant as a photography studio. The photographer in this example, may have developed those excellent communication skills over a few years, different jobs or even a volunteering position.

Because of the fluid nature of transferable skills, it is possible to see that they are particularly helpful for candidates who do not have much work experience, or are switching careers. Graduates, especially, need to prove they are ready for work after university but face problems when they have a degree but no work experience. For someone who is switching from one career to the next, your valuable transferable skills might help you get your foot in the door if you can prove you are an asset, despite a lack of the specific hard skills required for the role.

Employers look for both hard skills and soft skills in a potential employee and a CV is the perfect starting point to demonstrate that you, as a candidate, are proficient in both types of skills. Most job descriptions will list the soft skills the employer would like to see so next it is just down to the candidate to prove they’ve got them.

Transferable skills really benefit from the STAR treatment (Situation, Task, Action and Result), as they demonstrate your skills best when you can explain a bit about the scenario in which you used the skills, but also, because your example may not be exactly relevant to the role you’re applying to, explaining the results of your actions helps cement your skills.

In this blog series, we’re going to look at 7 of the most important transferable skills, provide some examples of how to get them and look at why they are important.

1.    Teamwork

2.    Time Management and Organisation

3.    Communication and Interpersonal Skills

4.    Problem Solving and Initiative

5.    Customer Service

6.    Information Technology

7.    Leadership


Today we'll be looking at...

1.     Teamwork

There are many, many jobs that require working with people as part of a team; whether it is because you all work in the same department, create a project together or interact with customers as a shop floor team. Demonstrating your ability to work as part of a team gives a prospective employer, a good indication of how well you will work with their existing employees, and, as good team adds value to an organisation, employers know it is important to employ staff with this vital transferable skill.

The interview or CV is a window for the employer to see what candidates can offer as a good team-worker and what experience they have had meeting team goals but the fab part about teamwork is you can gain this skill from all sorts of non-work-related activities as well as professional ones.

For example, employers may want to know if you have experience in the following areas of teamwork:

  • Carrying out an agreed task that contributes to team success
  • Sharing ideas and information with your team, making sure you listen and take other’s ideas on board too
  • Working well with people with a wide range of diversity
  • Inspiring colleagues and giving constructive feedback, as well as receiving it gracefully
  • Tackling problems as part of a group, contributing to the problem solving with the whole team
  • Working on a group project such as a presentation or report, including what you did to ensure success and what you learnt from the project

If you cannot think of when you did any of those at work, or you do not have much work experience, then have a think of when could you have worked as part of a team outside of work. For example:

  • Sports
  • Social clubs
  • Extra-curricular activities
  • Projects

How do these become good teamwork examples?

What makes someone a valuable team-worker is their ability to work with others and contribute an important part of the success of different goals so it is important to use examples where you have taken an active role in the success of the team.

What kind of example you use also depends on what kind of role you are applying for, for example, if you are applying for a role in leadership, you would want to use examples of when your leadership skills contributed to the success of the team.

Although some job descriptions will just list ‘teamwork’ as a skill, some will have more specific requirements so it is important you read the job description and person specification carefully. For example, some roles might require working in a creative team that works closely with a budgeting team so in those instances you might want to use examples of teamwork when you have had to diplomatically mediate between people or handle meeting different types of goal.

What if you do not have any?

If you worry that you do not have any experience of teamwork and you think it is affecting your ability to get a job than the best thing to do is create some opportunities to work as part of a team. You could join a social, youth or sports group that uses teams, volunteer at a local community centre or organise a fundraising group with friends.

At work, you could ask to be involved in a group project or suggest one to your lecturers or teachers so others get a chance to develop their teamwork skills too.

We’ve already looked at some instances of when good teamwork skills are used; let’s look at them in more detail.

  • Carrying out an agreed task that contributes to team success. E.g. Researching what you agreed to, to a good standard and in time for the deadline
  • Sharing ideas and information with your team, making sure you listen and take other’s ideas on board too. E.g. Share a proposal but when someone else has a similar idea, constructively discuss how you can make them both work and accept if theirs is a better plan
  • Working well with people with a wide range of diversity. E.g. Acknowledging new ways of working and points of view that differ from yours
  • Inspiring colleagues and giving constructive feedback, as well as receiving it gracefully. E.g. Complimenting colleagues on a good job and giving feedback in a discreet and helpful manner or passing your suggestions onto the group leader if there is one
  • Tackling problems as part of a group, contributing to the problem solving with the whole team. E.g. When you encounter an issue, discuss it with the group and agree actions before taking them so everyone is informed
  • Working on a group project such as a presentation or report. E.g. Including what you did to ensure success and what you learnt from the project
  • Sports - e.g. Being part of a football team working with a coach to create and accomplish a plan for winning a certain amount of games in a season
  • Social clubs - e.g. Working with your fellow Girl Guides or Scouts to follow an orienteering map from one location to another
  • Extra-curricular activities - e.g. Taking part in setting up a fundraising bazaar at a local community centre
  • Projects - e.g. Creating a group presentation with other students or creating a collaborative report as part of a group

Here are some key points on how to give the best answers to a teamwork related question:

  • Keep it recent

Unless you really do not have any other examples, the more recent the better.

  • Keep it relevant

This is more important than recent; if you have an older example that relates to the role, it is usually better to use that, than a more recent one that is less relevant.

  • Keep it short

Don’t get caught in the trap of waffling about annoying colleagues or team members who didn’t pull their weight. Unless it is relevant, don’t go into too much detail about the project, hobby or problem either – stay focused on the question.

  • End it positively

Always try to end with a positive outcome such as good feedback or a promotion. Failing that, end it with what you learnt from the experience and how it has improved your teamwork skills.

Teamwork is not just being part of a team because your teacher put you in that group, it is about taking ownership for the groups success and doing what you can to be an equal, but equally valuable member of the team.




Do you have any nightmare teamwork examples or advice for a great answer? We’d love to hear from you, leave comments below or share on your Facebook or Twitter!




By Rebecca Guy 31 Aug, 2017

There is no doubt that interviews are absolutely integral to the recruitment process, however a badly organised interview process or inferior techniques can put off the best candidates from accepting positions, or lead to a poor decision being made, and the wrong candidate hired.

Johnson Underwood have come across many terrible interview techniques over the years and we’ve put our 10 favourites into a list. Remember, these are our favourite bad techniques, we do not condone using these!

We’re releasing our top 10 over the whole month so without further ado, here are numbers 9 and 10.

9.     Questions based on weaknesses

This question relates to number 6 in this list as it is another technique that puts the interviewer in a position of power over their candidates, makes the candidates feel uneasy and more nervous, and doesn’t give boundaries for when the question is answered or not.

For example:

·        Tell me about your greatest weakness

It is most important to find out a candidate’s strengths that relate to the job role and how they will bring value to your company, it is less important to find out how they may have mucked up in the past. Candidates do not want to talk about how they may have had problems in some areas of their previous roles and it turns the interview atmosphere negative, especially if they are talking about personal issues that they feel unable to fix. The idea of this question is to find out if the candidate lacks a skill or personality trait that will make them unsuitable for the role but what you really should be asking, is if they are willing to train and learn new skills, or if they can give an example of a time when they had a problem, but overcame it in a productive and positive way. Give them the instructions to not focus too much on the problem, when answering, but instead, demonstrate your interest in how they overcame or solved the issue. That will give you a better idea of their personality and skills at solving their weaknesses, which is much better than them just listing a weakness.

·        Tell me about your worst mistake

When this question is asked, the interviewer is hoping to find out how the candidate solved the mistake and moved on, however such a negatively worded question can often throw the candidate off balance and they may end up talking more about the mistake and what was to blame, then focusing on the problem-solving side. They might not even give you an example related to work. So, just ask them the same question but worded differently. Ask them to tell you about a time they worked as a team, or an individual, to overcome a big issue at work, how they approached the problem and what they did to solve it or work through it and ask them to include any lessons learned. Asking a specific question will get you a specific answer and will ensure the atmosphere of the interview stays positive.

10.     Being A Bad Interviewer

This may not seem like a technique you would expect any interviewer to employ but I’m sure most people can recall a bad interview and put it down to the interviewer not knowing what they were doing, or using a flawed technique. There is a difference between an interviewer who has had no training and is trying their best, and one who does not think interviewing is a skill that needs to be worked on and thinks the candidate needs to do the work. Just because you are not the candidate, does not mean you can do/say whatever you fancy, you are representing your company to a potential employee after all, and a bad interviewer can put a fantastic candidate off accepting a job offer. Even a small company should ensure that their interviewer has had some sort of guidance or training on how to interview properly, otherwise candidates will perceive the interviewer and their technique as inferior to other companies they have interviewed at.

For example:

·        Lack of preparation

A lack of preparation makes the interviewer look lazy and uninterested in recruiting or representing their company. This is especially evident if they have not prepared their questions properly, or do not take notes of what the candidate is saying; as the candidates know that not only is it difficult to remember exactly what was said but that also, if an interviewer asks different questions to different candidates, there is no fair competition between the candidates and that gives a very negative image of the company.

·        Relying on candidates to do all the work

Whether it is down to a lack of preparation or not, many interviewers believe that the candidate should demonstrate how much they want the job during the interview and will deliberately act nonchalant, quiet or passive throughout the interview so the candidate has control over how long they talk or how they should behave. This is not a sensible way to get the best answers or behaviour from a candidate and puts more emphasis on elements of the interview such as time and physicality than discussion and showcasing. If you want to know how the candidate reacts when you shake hands, initiate the handshake when they arrive and if you want to know the real answer to a question, ask them one with a clear objective and help them stay on track by engaging with them if they start to ramble.

·        Bad behaviour

Used as an intimidation method, this technique of interviewing demonstrates nothing but a showcase of power, a lack of preparation or a lack of commitment on the interviews and company’s behalf. Chewing gum/eating, getting up or leaving the room, answering a phone or message, yawning, dressing scruffily, asking inappropriate questions, making judgemental comments, not reading the CV and not knowing the job description are all examples of what not to do as an interviewer.  

To finish, as we have discussed the worst interview techniques, I must mention that asking unlawful questions, is not just a terrible technique but can land a company in a lot of trouble. It’s another reason why training your interviewers is so important; they should never be asking questions that could lead to discrimination such as:

·        Are you planning on having any children?

·        What religion do you follow?

·        Do you have any medical conditions?

More information about discrimination during recruitment can be found here.

There will always be a need to improve and change the techniques that are used in interviewing but it’s safe to say that there are four key points to take into account when planning to interview.

1.    The interview technique will allow for specific and relevant questions to be asked, with emphasis given on encouraging the candidate to give examples as well as an overview

2.    Each interview will be well prepared, planned and as similar for each candidate as possible

3.    The interviewer should have had some training

4.    The atmosphere should be positive and welcoming for the candidate

 

What do you think about these techniques, have you ever experienced them as a candidate or interviewer? Which one do you think is the worst? Let us know in the comments below!

 

By Rebecca Guy 18 Aug, 2017

There is no doubt that interviews are absolutely integral to the recruitment process, however a badly organised interview process or inferior techniques can put off the best candidates from accepting positions, or lead to a poor decision being made, and the wrong candidate hired.

Johnson Underwood have come across many terrible interview techniques over the years and we’ve put our 10 favourites into a list. Remember, these are our favourite bad techniques, we do not condone using these!

We’re releasing our top 10 over the whole month so without further ado, here are numbers 7 and 8.

7.     Asking Irrelevant Questions

This technique is so engrained into interviewing styles that it is easily mistaken for being essential when really, what does knowing that information actually gain? It could be said that many of the questions addressed so far in this blog, could be considered irrelevant but I’ve chosen the following three as specific examples.

·        Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

This question can be seen as irrelevant because the interviewer really does not need to know where you see yourself in 5 years time. It might seem like they want to know if you plan to stay with the company for a long time, but it is well known by now, that candidates will lie if it thinks they will get the job, so how is asking this question really going to help assess their staying power? You can get a general idea of how long they have stayed at other jobs by looking at their CV, but ultimately, you want to employ the right person who can do the job now, and, if you want them to stay for a long time, that’s up to you as an employer, to nurture and support them in their role so they have the satisfaction and loyalty they require to stay for a long time.

·        Tell me about yourself

 Asking relevant questions and paying attention to the CV should give you all you need to know about a candidate in order to decide if they are able to do the job you’re advertising. If you want to know more about their work personality, ask them questions that will give them the opportunity to talk about their achievements, experiences of teamwork and perhaps break the ice by asking them to talk about one of the hobbies they’ve listed on their CV, making sure that you let them know it’s not an official question. However, asking such a broad, open ended question about a candidate just gives the impression that the interviewer will be judging them and they also won’t know when to stop talking, how will they know when is the question answered?

·        Who do you most admire and why?

Again, this is a personality related question and the interviewer will be judging the candidate on their response. It’s unlikely that the interviewer will relate the answer to work ethics and more likely, relate it to their own personal preferences. There are three main issues with this question and they occur because the interviewer may have unconscious, or conscious, bias.

o  They won’t know who the person is, that the candidate has mentioned, will be embarrassed, and therefore making them less likely to like the candidate

o  They will fiercely dislike the person and judge the candidate as having bad taste

o  They will fiercely like the person and judge the candidate as having better taste than other candidates

Of course, this won’t always happen, the interviewer may be completely neutral and not judge the candidate’s person of choice at all, in which case, why ask the question? You could ask the candidate if they have anyone in the industry that they particularly admire, or have they got a favourite product that is relevant to the role but even then, you are toeing a thin line regarding personal preference and doubt as to what constitutes the right answer.

8.     No questions

With all the issues surrounding the different lines of questioning that have already been mentioned in this blog, you can be forgiven for deciding not to ask any questions at all, and simply observe candidates in action. This is, however, an ill-advised technique as questions give candidates the opportunity to discuss their actions and the reasons behind them.

For example:

·        Observing a group of candidates interact with each other in a problem-solving situation will lead to a number of judgements made about each candidate. By not inviting them to answer your questions about the role they took in the scenario, you are taking a risk that you make an incorrect assumption or misunderstood a great technique that makes them a highly valuable candidate, as something else and you discount them.

By not asking questions you are not giving candidates an opportunity to address your observations of their actions and demonstrating the full range of their skills and knowledge.

What do you think about these techniques, have you ever experienced them as a candidate or interviewer? Let us know in the comments below and stand-by for the next 2 techniques!

By Rebecca Guy 11 Aug, 2017

There is no doubt that interviews are absolutely integral to the recruitment process, however a badly organised interview process or inferior techniques can put off the best candidates from accepting positions, or lead to a poor decision being made, and the wrong candidate hired.

Johnson Underwood have come across many terrible interview techniques over the years and we’ve put our 10 favourites into a list. Remember, these are our favourite bad techniques, we do not condone using these!

We’re releasing our top 10 over the whole month so without further ado, here are numbers 5 and 6.

5.     Plants/spies

Similarly, to asking trick questions, this can come across as a handy way of finding out information about a candidate that normal questioning doesn’t, but is really quite an underhanded way of treating someone and doesn’t necessarily give a truthful picture of what the candidate is like. Asking a person to behave in a certain way towards, or around, a candidate, or observing the candidate without them knowing, and then judging the candidate on their behaviour could be considered unfair, and unethical, and it completely falls down when it comes to perceptions.

For example:

·        You have a nervous candidate arriving and they speak to the Receptionist who gives them details of what to do if there is a fire, possibly a security ID and will ask the candidate to wait, or direct them where they need to go. This candidate is probably nervous and thinking a lot about the interview, so any sullenness or agitation could probably be put down to nerves but in reality, the Receptionist has had a long, tiring day, mistake the nerves as rudeness and tells the interview panel that they thought the candidate was rude, which in turn affects their decision making.

·        A staff member walks through the waiting area and drops some paperwork on the floor near the candidate, then stoops down to pick it up, judging the candidate for not helping pick the paperwork up and reports back to the panel that the candidate is lazy and not very thoughtful. In reality, the candidate could have medical condition that prevents them standing up or moving quickly, they have not noticed the situation because they are doing some last minute mental preparation for their interview, or maybe they don’t want to come across as interfering, after all, they don’t know how the staff member may react if they start picking up sensitive documents.

·        A candidate arrives at an unmanned reception, signs in and waits for someone to collect them and whilst they are waiting, the interview panel are watching them or recording them to watch later. Any action the candidate takes whilst they are being observed is judged on and goes towards whether they will be considered for the role or not. This includes adjusting their hair or clothes, pushing the pull door or pressing the wrong buttons a few times and without them even knowing, they are unfairly being judged as vain or incapable of simple tasks which is in no way demonstrative of their actual ability to do a role.

I’m sure by now, you can see what I mean by how subjective and dangerous this technique is. If the interview panel have asked a staff member to judge the candidate’s behaviour and they take offence to anything the candidate says or does, they could be jeopardising the image that candidate has worked hard to present to the interview panel. Staff may be trained to interact with customers but they are not necessarily trained to interview and assess candidate’s personalities based on how many times the candidate says thank-you or asks to use the facilities and it puts the candidate at a disadvantage they are not aware of, sometimes before their interview has even begun!

6.     Acting like an evil overlord

A popular technique in interviewing is for an interviewer to assert their power and superiority by asking questions that are designed to make the candidate feel small, powerless and more nervous than before. A good interviewer wants their candidates to feel like their experience is important and that they are treated well by their potential employers, a bad interviewer will do what they can to demean their candidates and make them grovel for the job.

For example:

·        Tell me why you think you are better than anyone else we’ve interviewed?

For starters, the candidate is not going to have any idea what makes them better than the other candidates because they do not know them, so the only possible outcome from this question is that the candidate should try and reiterate every single point they’ve already made on their CV and in the interview, hoping at least one of them won’t have been mentioned by any of the other candidates. This does not seem like a productive use of interviewing time when all of that information is already available to the interviewer and only seems to serve the enjoyment of the person who asked it, as they watch each candidate squirm.

·        What would your last boss say about you?

A candidates last boss could have been a racist, misogynist or the world’s loveliest person, either way, finding out what past employers think about your candidates is what references are for. If you ask a candidate, they will either feel like they have to lie and say that their boss thought they were wonderful, when in reality they did not get on, or they will talk about how well they worked together and risk being thought of as a liar anyway.

All this technique achieves is ego building and doesn’t really reap the same benefits as asking the candidate to give examples of when they’ve excelled at something, or achieved an award or recognition for their work or relationships with colleagues.

What do you think about these techniques, have you ever experienced them as a candidate or interviewer? Let us know in the comments below and stand-by for the next 2 techniques!

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