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Top 10 Tips to ace that interview.

March 21, 2012 2 comments

Interviews take place to give companies a chance to get to know potential candidates and vice versa. Apart from your answers to questions about your domain knowledge, interviewers will also be influenced (consciously and subconsciously) by your demeanour and other factors which are very much in your control.

These are my Top 10 tips to make the right impression at an interview:

  1. Do some research about the company. I’ve had candidates who couldn’t answer the question “What do you know about what our company does?” even though I had explained this to them clearly. As an absolute minimum visit the company website and find out who their biggest competitors are. Also, prepare 2 or 3 questions to ask the interviewer at the end of the interview (do not include CTC related questions at this stage)
  2. Arrive on time. This means don’t be late and don’t be too early! You don’t want the interviewer to feel under pressure because you arrived an hour early. Arriving 5 minutes before the interview is supposed to start is perfect. If you’re visiting the interview venue for the first time, plan your journey in advance. If you’re going to be late, call as soon as you know you’re not going to make it on time and give a new ETA – don’t wait till the scheduled interview time to call, because, given enough notice, interviewers may be able to rearrange their schedule in which case being late won’t work against you quite so much.
  3. Smile. First impressions really do help – when you’re meeting the interviewer for the first time be sure to look him / her in the eye, shake hands and smile. 99% of the time you will get a smile back and this will also help relax you.
  4. Relax. Always keep in mind that interviewers really want to conduct as few interviews as possible – they want you to do well so that they can fill whatever vacancy they have as soon as possible.
  5. Find the right balance between friendliness and formality. Being too friendly will make you seem unprofessional. Being too formal might give the impression that you will not be a good fit with the company (obviously depending on company culture).
  6. Dress appropriately for the interview. Even if company culture allows employees to work in shorts and flip flops, showing up for an interview dressed like that will work against you.
  7. Keep your answers to the point. There is nothing worse than someone who rambles on and on and takes up valuable time either making the same point over and over or moving on to a completely different topic. Also, be honest if you can’t answer a question – guessing the answer or waffling will work against you.
  8. Make sure your line is free at the scheduled time if you have arranged a telephone interview. Also, make sure you are somewhere quiet when on the call.
  9. Keep your language clean. I’m honestly quite surprised that I have to write this and that it even made my Top 10, but you wouldn’t believe the number of candidates who feel it is acceptable to punctuate their points with swear words! This will obviously never work in your favour.
  10. Send a courtesy email to the interviewer the day after your interview. This will make you look professional, interested and will help to keep your application in the interviewer’s mind.

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karl@sevenpillars.in, www.sevenpillars.in

www.twitter.com/sevenpillarshr, www.facebook.com/sevenpillarsworld 

Categories: Uncategorized

Social Cause Twist to SMO

What can you get out of liking pages on Facebook? Up to date information and offers from the company whose page you liked, the chance to interact directly with the company and other fans, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, the chance to win a fantastic prize like an iPad or a weekend away.

There are also, however, companies out there that give a “prize” to someone else in exchange for likes. In other words, for every X likes on a page, the company will give Y to someone in need.

For example, see Dog Bless You who for a certain period of time will gift a guide dog for every 5,000 likes they receive.

Inspired by Dog Bless You, I am now giving a social cause bent to my SMO efforts – for every 500 likes on my Facebook page or 1,000 followers on Twitter, Seven Pillars shall be sponsoring a child’s education for 100 days.

With just 1 or 2 clicks on your mouse, you could be contributing to an improvement in an underprivilidged child’s future. And just by sharing this blog with your friends and colleagues, the impact could be huge!


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Brass Tacks

Have job sites and social networking sites made recruitment easier, faster or cheaper?

There are two ways to consider this question: from the jobseeker’s point of view and from the recruiter’s point of view.

Let’s start with the jobseeker. Until a few short years ago, the only way a jobseeker could hope to have his CV (and therefore availability to change jobs) discovered by potential employers was to register with recruitment consultants. The advent of the internet and the jobsites that came into existence changed this – now jobseekers could upload their CVs online and employers anywhere could search through these for a small fee. Social networking sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook made it even easier for jobseekers to be found – now not only could they upload their CV online and wait for it to be found, they could directly approach potential employers or spread the word that…

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Why was my application rejected?

Recently one of my candidates was rejected by a client on the basis of his CV and a case study he was asked to work on to showcase his abilities. I called the candidate to inform him of this and he took it very badly – suggesting that I had wasted his time and that I hadn’t even bothered to pass his application on to my client. After a while he calmed down a bit and asked me for concrete reasons for the rejection and for copies of all other candidates’ case studies. His logic was that this would all help him improve himself and increase the chance of him performing better in future application processes with other companies. Needless to say, I refused to pass on the other case studies and also was not in a position to explain why he was rejected. This again set him off into a tirade.

Whilst this was a very extreme situation, it serves as a good example to highlight the position recruitment consultants find themselves on a regular basis. The fact of the matter is that unfortunately, for every candidate we place with a client, we have to reject several along the way – sometimes at the very last stage of the recruitment process. When this happens we always inform candidates that they have been rejected, but are not always in a position to tell them why.

It would help if candidates fully understood the relationships involved in recruiting on behalf of a company. The recruiting company is the consultant’s client – not the candidate. Whilst this sounds unfair, candidates must realise that it is not they who are paying the consultant’s fees, but the hiring company. Companies may reject candidates for any number of reasons – because they’re not the right fit with the organisation, because they might be too brash, because they might be over qualified or quite simply because they’re not good enough. After rejecting candidates, it is very rare that companies want to reveal their reasons for the rejection – which means that the consultant cannot do so on their behalf.

From the candidate’s point of view, this doesn’t come across very well. They are usually very interested to find out why they were rejected to a) be given the opportunity to counter any objections and b) to improve themselves. Whilst recruitment consultants fully understand the candidate’s reasoning, they are usually not in a position to help. Therefore, my advice to candidates in this situation is to try not to take these situations personally. Handling rejection in a professional manner will increase your chance of being approached by the same consultant for other, perhaps more suitable, roles.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Your hiring choices…

November 22, 2011 Leave a comment
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We can help

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment
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Do you work to live or live to work?

George Santayana once wrote “There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval.”

I am sure that most people would agree with this quote. The question is how many of these same people really enjoy their work, which can take up over half their waking hours? I would imagine that only a small minority can actually honestly say they do.

Many will be happy that they are working for a particular company (image). Many will be happy with their package, CTC and perks (stability). Others will be happy about the title they have or the fact that they can buy a certain car or house with the money they earn (status). But all of this just means that they enjoy the fruits of their labour rather than the labour itself.

There are many reasons one can end up doing something they don’t enjoy. They might be trying to fulfil someone else’s expectations of them; or they may have been unsure of what they wanted to do when they were younger and then just stuck to the first path they chose. Whatever the reasons, the point is that most people don’t even realise or won’t admit to themselves that they are not happy doing what they do. They are too busy focussing on the next EMI or buying a bigger car.

Very often when interviewing candidates on behalf of my clients, I ask what aspect they enjoy most about their current job. The reason I ask this is to assess the passion they feel for whatever it is they’re doing. Most of the time I get relevant replies, but these replies very rarely come with any conviction or excitement. Many people see work as a necessary activity to allow them to progress in life (they work to live rather than live to work) and even if you ask them what their dream job is they don’t know the answer themselves.

Others know what would make them happy, but feel that they only realised this too late in life. They think that because they have worked in a bank for a few years, for example, that they cannot switch to a career in hospitality. Or that if they started out in the finance department that they cannot switch to marketing. In reality though, this is very possible. It is clearly harder to switch industries or functions than to stay within the same one, but it is certainly not impossible. And if the end result is that you enjoy the hours you work every day, rather than just the couple of hours in the evening at home, then surely it’s worth the effort.

My own career is actually a good example of this. Before starting my HR Consultancy, I worked in hospitality, manufacturing and B2B ecommerce companies in accounting, sales, marketing, business development, project management and CXO roles. By making my previous experience relevant to the next role I managed to turn this diversity into an advantage.

People who truly enjoy the work they do are the luckiest people in the world. If you feel you would be happier doing something else, don’t let anyone discourage you: find a way to make it work!

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First appeared in Vashi Times Jobs and Career on August 6th, 2011

Categories: Uncategorized

Recruiters: mind your candidates’ Ps and Qs…

…and I don’t just mean their manners!

One candidate assessment tool which, in India at least, is not as popular as it perhaps should be is graphology, or handwriting analysis.

The first time I experienced graphology was about four years ago on a personal level. A colleague of mine at that time (and now a close personal friend) called Vijendra, was eyeing the notes I was taking whilst talking to him in a strange way. He saw that I noticed this and explained that he was into graphology and that he could tell a lot about people by how they write. I was extremely sceptical and honestly quite amused by the whole idea and gave him a few pages of old notes of mine to look through, just to see what he would come up with. To cut a long story short I was stunned by the accuracy of what he told me about myself. He told me things there was no way he could have possibly known as I had only met him a couple of times before. Vijendra started with the earliest days of my life and talked me through to the present! He told me about character traits I knew I had and others which, until that time, I wasn’t even aware of myself but later proved to be accurate!

So how can graphology help in candidate assessment?

Graphology can accurately determine many character traits in an individual within a relatively short space of time (a couple of hours) which could otherwise only be determined after working with someone for a significant period of time.

Some of the characteristics which are revealed by handwriting analysis are: attention to detail, ability to work in a team, clarity of thinking, judgement, deductive thinking, leadership qualities, mental agility, honesty, integrity and reliability.

If we examine the alternative methods of trying to establish  these characteristics in candidates, these would be interviews including behavioural interview questions, psychometric testing and reference and background checks. Interview performance can be learnt and practised for – candidates very often know what interviewers are looking for and can deliver this well. The more psychometric tests one sits for, the better their results will get. In the case of reference checks, third parties are more likely to tell you the positives about a candidate rather than the negatives.

Graphology, on the other hand, is very difficult to work around or “get used to”. Your handwriting is what it is and each letter and word can tell a different story: by the way it is written (shape); the pressure used to write it; the steadiness of lines used; its size; space between words; slant and so on.

So, recruiters: do look at handwriting analysis as a viable candidate assessment tool. It is very easy to “test” – just ask some people you know well to give you samples of their writing, or use your own and have a graphologist look at these. Then compare his or her comments with what you already know about the person.

And candidates: the next time a company asks you to send a cover letter or CV in your own handwriting (a practice which is very popular in Germany, for example), beware! You will be opening your soul to the company!

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First appeared in Vashi Times Jobs and Career July 30, 2011

Categories: Uncategorized

Recruiters: Stop covering your butt and start trusting your gut!

Where has trusting your gut feeling gone when making recruitment decisions? Hiring choices are becoming increasingly process-driven and less intuitive. Recruiters rely on educational qualifications, psychometric testing, past experience and reference checks, amongst other things, before making a decision.

Why is this so? Let’s examine whether these tools really do help make better hiring choices or whether they are used to justify bad hires.

Are degrees or qualifications truly required to the extent that one would think looking at job postings? Clearly I am not referring to professions where the correct qualification is indispensable such as medicine, accountancy or law, to name a few. I am also not suggesting that degrees are not worth pursuing. I just wonder why, though, recruiters will sometimes only consider candidates for a sales position if they have an MBA. Can the recruiter explain why the MBA is required for that particular position? Probably not, but at least they can always refer to the candidate’s qualifications later if things go wrong…

The more often you do IQ tests, the higher the score you will achieve even though your IQ is clearly not increasing. Similarly the more psychometric tests candidates sit for, the better they will score. Also, candidates can practise for psychometric tests the way they can for any other type of test. So does scoring well in these tests mean that they will necessarily perform well at their job? No, but at least the recruiter can always refer to the test results later if things go wrong – especially if the tests were conducted by an external agency…

Some recruiters will only look at candidates if they have done exactly the same job elsewhere in the past. So if they need an Asst. Accounts Receivables Manager, they will only look at candidates who already have the same title. They neither look at more junior candidates to see if they are ready for a promotion, nor at an Accounts Payables Clerk who might bring in valuable cross-functional experience. Why not? Because if something goes wrong later, the recruiter can always point out that the candidate had done exactly the same job elsewhere…

And now for my personal favourite: reference checks. 99% of the time, (lazy) recruiters will only call the references that candidates themselves have provided. What is the point?! This is a complete and utter waste of time – no candidate is going to provide anyone as a reference unless they are sure that only good references will be given. But, if something goes wrong later, the recruiter can always refer to the references obtained…

It’s almost as if recruiters are more concerned with covering themselves just in case things go wrong, rather than making a good hire in the first place. What this means is that all too often you end up recruiting the second or third best candidate, because they look the best on paper!

Virgin’s Richard Branson and GE’s Jack Welch both attribute their success to their ability to choose the right people for the right job. And I bet you they were both more interested in their gut feeling than any piece of paper.

Recruiters: click “share” if you dare!

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