Hi there! Just wanted to say welcome to our Blog. I truly hope you find some nuggets of interest here and I would be delighted to hear your comments!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

“There is nothing as queer as folk” – Small business and team dynamics | People matters

You will be aware that people don’t always get along together, don’t always gel. There is often conflict and clashes of personality and within groups regularly there is confusion about roles and where individuals fit into the overall picture.  Getting your team dynamics right is all important to your success!

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“There is nothing as queer as folk” – Small business and team dynamics | People matters

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An interviewer's perspective - where does it all go wrong?

Having spent much of my working life in roles where I interviewed candidates for jobs: first in an SME, later on Interview Boards for Civil and Public service jobs and to a significant extent while a HR manager as well as some Executive Search Consultancy and numerous recruitment projects since I set up my own business , I think I have a good insight into where jobs interviews most often go wrong.
With the best will in the world it can be very hard to remain objective right throughout an interview process.  Sure a structured, competency-based interview approach can minimise the impact ofsubjectivity, particularly in relation to personal biases, but nevertheless an individual interviewer will always be influenced to a certain extent by their perception of what they see and hear during the interview.
For example, imagine interviewing a candidate for a role where grooming and personal presentation were clearly important and been faced with a guy in dirty overalls and steel-capped boots!  Or a young man turning up to interview for a graduate position in torn jeans and t-shirt.  Or a woman with more make-up on her collar than her face (and that’s really saying something). So yes, physical presentation is important to a point.  That doesn’t mean you need an Armani suit or Jimmy Choos but it does mean clean, smart clothes in good repair.
More importantly is the first impressions you give when you speak to your interviewers.  Arriving 20 minutes late and simply saying “I missed the train” before plonking yourself in the chair and sighing really won’t do you any favours.  These might seem like exaggerated examples but they actually happened.  If you have got the interviewers backs up this early in the interview you really are going to have difficulty recovering the situation.
What else can spell disaster for you?
  • Not listening to the question and going off on some tangent which is clearly your pre-prepared speech
  • Getting into a disagreement with an interviewer about some issue – while it is right to have an opinion and be able to articulate it, you should also know where to draw the line
  • Not thinking through an example before telling the interviewer the story – for example telling how you “gave him a slap” when talking about how you have handled conflict (True example!)
  • Taking claim for something that would clearly not be within your remit – I once interviewed someone who claimed to have been responsible for all outputs that were actually the responsibility of his manager and even his manager’s manager…ouch!  He lost all credibility and got an absolute roasting from the Board…he didn’t get the job!
  • Not knowing what the job or the company is about…are you really interested in the job??
  • Sitting poker-faced throughout the interview – you have to show emotion to show yourmotivation, otherwise how will you get them to “buy into” you?
  • Been unable to process what is happening quickly enough or take cues from your interviewers – it is really important that you recognise when things are going wrong and find a way to turn it around and to know when you are not giving the interviewer what they are looking for
  • Being caught out on a lie…this most often happens when reviewing a CV early in the interview and the only time I have known it to not impact on the outcome was in the Apprentice (UK) where a candidate was found to have lied and got away with it
  • Saying that you have no weakness or that your weakness is too much attention to detail or being a perfectionist – firstly in most instances these would be considered a strength and secondly everyone rolls these out so try being a little more original and truthful!
These are of course not the only things that can go wrong but they are some of the main things that arise.  Well, perhaps I should add just one more:
  • You need to manage your own expectations and be realistic about your ability to do the job.  If you don’t have the experience, competencies and capability to do the job no amount of interview preparation or good interview techniques are going to change the outcome!
So what are my top tips for interviews?
Arrive on-time, well presented and fully prepared.  Listen carefully and communicate clearly. Be truthful and don’t try to be something you are not. Try empathising with your interviewers and understanding what they need to achieve.  And finally, know your own limits (while still reaching for the sky!)

For more in-depth help on preparing for interview and getting that job get our E-book "Tackling the Myths...Interview Guide for Winners" on Amazon for Kindle http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005A7SUDM or in the UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005A7SUDM

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rewarding poor performers - are you guilty? | People matters

Do you reward under-performance? It may sound strange but it is a regular occurence in organisations. And of course the problem is that we don’t think about it as “rewarding” and we certainly don’t consider the impact it has on our high performers.

To access this blog post just click here: Rewarding poor performers - are you guilty? | People matters

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Resolving Workplace Conflict - 10 key steps to getting back on track

Conflict, unresolved, can have a detrimental impact on any business. It undermines relationships, negatively impacts on communications, suppresses innovation, creativity and collaboration and can seriously diminish performance.  The team can suffer, the product or service can suffer and your customer can suffer.  The smaller the business the bigger the impact is likely to be!  Therefore, it is important that you address conflict as soon as you become aware of it. 

Here are the 10 key steps you will need to undertake:

  1. Decide on a mediator (either you, someone else in the business or an experienced external mediator) whom the parties can trust and respect and set up a face-to-face meeting with the parties involved
  2. Set the ground rules - remember things like confidentiality, respecting each other, allowing each other speak without interuption and separating problems from people
  3. Be clear about the objective - usually not to establish blame or fault but to arrive at a solution which is mutually acceptable. This is about establishing a common goal
  4. Establish the facts - getting both to state the issues from their perspective. Listen first, talk second!
  5. Identify the real problem - use questions and probing to get to any underlying issues - often what presents as the problem is really only a symptom so dig deep!
  6. Generate solutions - look to both parties for potential solutions.  Depending on their position these might be quite opposing initially.  As mediator it is your job to get to a point where there is a mutually acceptable solution
  7. Overcome obstacles - often you will need to bring one or each party into a side meeting to get to real truths or to overcome some stumbling block to a solution.  Sometimes it is about helping them see "sense"! It also helps in understanding any deal breakers or "bottom line" positions
  8. Get committment - once a solution has been agreed seek commitment from both parties to an agreed course of action
  9. Set up support - ensure you put in place any structures necessary to support the outcome (often this is just a follow-up review meeting but could include training, coaching, counselling etc)
  10. Be clear about the what if - never leave the mediation session with establishing clearly what the next step is likely to be if parties fail to keep to their commitment
If you are a party to the conflict then resolution can be a little more challenging but is nonetheless achieveable.  For the most part these same rules will apply - the key is to focusing on issues not people, establishing common ground and negotiating a mutually acceptable agreement.  Always seek a win-win situation!

For more information or if you need help in resolving workplace conflict contact me at: jackie@consultingexcellence.ie

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Talking Leadership - What does leadership mean to you

When you think of leaders and leadership what or who do you think about? For many it is Barack Obama, Nelson Mandella or maybe…

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Interviews - what not to wear

Some of you will probably be familiar with the TV show – “What not to wear”. Essentially it is about taking people (admittedly usually women) and showing them why they shouldn’t wear pretty much everything in their wardrobes. More importantly it is about giving them tips on what style, cut colour etc. they should wear and what is appropriate to various situations. Well one of the most important places to get this decision right is at a job interview. 

What you wear at an interview may not be the only deciding factor or technically might not be a factor at all when the interviewers make a decision on who to hire but it is generally accepted that a first impression will be formed within the first 20 seconds of an interview. And first impressions do count! So what should you not wear? Well jeans (and denim skirts) are a definite no! I really don’t care what the job is, jeans are never appropriate attire. They say comfort and casual. They do not say interested, respectful or professional. T-shirts and any type of sports clothes are pretty much out too. The only exception to this might be for women who want to wear a smart t-shirt type top under a good suit. Hawaiian shirts are not a runner either. I am all for adding a bit of colour but there is no need to blind your interviewers! And, what about miniskirts and hot pants? Well if you need me to answer that question are you really up to the job?

For most formal interviews men should wear a proper shirt, with full sleeve, together with a suit and tie. The tie is an opportunity to add a bit of personality but don’t get too carried away. The only exception would be when you are interviewing with an organisation that adopts a much more relaxed approach. Then smart casual might be more suitable. In all cases if in doubt opt for formal attire. For women, interview attire is a little more flexible. Appropriate interview wear can range from trousers suit, skirt suit, dress with jacket, to a more mix and match approach. Again though, colours should be understated. In additions cuts should be tailored and formal and shoes should be neither completely flat or “killer heels”. 

Finding the right balance is often difficult but do remember that you are going for an interview. It is important that you create an impression of professionalism and instil confidence. Try to match your clothes to the company with whom you are interviewing. It may all seem very obvious but you’d be surprised at just how many people don’t dress appropriately for an interview. Don’t forget. Your job is to sell yourself, including your skills, experiences, attributes and personality. So don’t let yourself down. Make sure you know what not to wear for interview! And be one step closer to getting that job. This is just one of the issues I address in my new revised EBook “Tackling the Myths – Interview Guide for Winners” which is available in Pdf from our website or via Amazon Kindle.  For more information http://www.consultingexcellence.ie/main/page_online_shop_ebooks.html

Interviews - When more is less!

So just how much should you say at an interview? Over the years I have interviewed hundreds of candidates for a variety of jobs at every step of the career ladder and I can honestly say that the same "blackspots" arise over and over again. No matter how experienced, educated or indeed old the candidate is!

One such interview "blackspot" is knowing how much to say. Now clearly answering yes, no or I don't know every time the interviewer asks you a question isn't going to get you very far. But neither is it a very good idea to gush words - any words! Why not? Well quite simply you are wasting time. Most importantly your time. Each candidate is usually given more or less the same amount of time for their interview. So it important that you use the time wisely. 

Focus on what you are being asked. If you aren't sure what they are looking for then ask them (the interviewers) to clarify. Pause for a minute if you need to and gather your thoughts into a coherent answer and then go for it. And if you notice the interviewer raising the palm of their hand toward you this is a clear indication that they want you to stop. So don't ignore it because it will frustrate them even more. 

Remember the point about an interview is that you are there to sell yourself, to convince the interviewer that you are right for the job. Be focused, alert and listen carefully. Deliver your responses clearly and with the minimum of "flowery" language. Listen out for the hints and leads in the questions that are being asked and answer accordingly. And if you notice your interviewer looking out the window or "jumping" around in his chair then you've lost him and it really is time to take stock and think about how you can rescue this interview - and you can, really you can.

If you want to learn more about interviews you can purchase our recently updated EBook - "Interview Guide for Winners" available in Pdf from our website and via Amazon Kindle.  For more details go to: http://www.consultingexcellence.ie/main/page_online_shop_online_cv_services.html

CV Basics - Doing it yourself!

Why is it than when the jobs market tightens and the economy starts to look more than a little unstable, everyone thinks that they have to jump through even more hoops to get a job. Well okay, they probably do but that doesn't include creating mad CVs with tons of garish colour and images and fancy fonts. I know that you want your CV to stand out, and like me, every CV / Interview coach worth their salt will be telling you that you will need to if you want to get an interview, but none, I should hope, will be recommending such "extreme" action. That isn't to say that it shouldn't look a little different - it can be eye-catching without being thrashy you know!

Why not? Well quite simply because from a HR Manager's point of view it is very annoying. Unneccesary. Often a nuisance for scanning, printing etc not to mention distracting. The person reading you CV first off will scan it - quickly. Too much formatting and images are not what will help you to get a call for interview.

So what are the basics you need to know? If you are preparaing a CV and
a) You’ve never done it before or
b) You have one but it is really old or
c) It is pretty recent but it doesn’t seem to be doing its job – getting you an interview for your dream job!
Don’t panic! While I am a strong advocate of having your CV polished by a professional ( it is important if you want to stand out and make sure your CV doesn’t end up in the bin), here are some tips for those of you who prefer to go it alone.
One of the main mistakes I believe people make when preparing a CV is to begin with the layout and design. I am not saying that this aspect of your CV isn’t important – it is! – but you need to get the content right first.
So before you do anything else:
Step 1 - Think over your career to date and consider what have been the highlights. What do you consider to have been your greatest achievements? Write them down!
Step 2 - What are your main strengths and key skills? Write them down!
Step 3 – Now look at the job description for the job you want – what are the main requirements? Write them down and look at how they fit with what you have written under Steps 1 & 2
Now you begin to draft your actual CV:
Step 4 – By now you should have some sense of how you can match your skills and experience to the requirements of the job – so depending on the level of job you are applying for you might want to highlight some of your key skills at the top of your CV
Step 5 – Next, starting with your current job, list all your relevant work experience. Make sure to include dates and employers / company name. Give a brief description of your role and set out your responsibilities or main achievements in each case
Step 6 – Include your Educational Qualifications (unlike work experience this should start with your earliest qualification and move to the most recent)
Step 7 – List any other relevant skills, experience or training
Step 8 – List referees or provide a statement regarding the availability of references.
Step 9 – Format – put the information, in that order, into your desired format. There are lots of templates available but please remember to keep it simple. This is a professional sales document so unless you are going for a job in a creative environment you should skip the animation and graphics!
Step 10 - Review the information – have you highlighted / included all achievements or responsibilities which link to the requirements of the job?
Step 11 – Spell check and then check manually for spelling and grammatical errors.
Step 12 – Okay you are nearly done but don’t forget to include your name, address, a telephone number where you can be contacted during business hours and your email address.

That’s it – you have a CV. Now here are some of the things you should avoid:
1. Don’t use too much jargon unless it is relevant to the job
2. Don’t put so much detail on your CV that the reader is bored – you should be stimulating their interest
3. Generally don’t include hobbies and interests – especially if they are lies. Hobbies and interest are unnecessary unless they are relevant to the job – for example being involved in a local community or voluntary group would be relevant for a job in An Garda Siochana, Ambulance Driver, Care Worker or numerous other community related jobs – or they are really interesting and different
4. You do not have to include your Date of Birth, Marital Status or Nationality (although you should ensure that you have the necessary documentation / are permitted to work in the particular country)
5. Don’t have complex formatting – avoid boxes etc as many CVs are scanned and this type of formatting will cause problems
6. Don’t leave time gaps – it raises questions that can easily be avoided
7. Don’t opt for a generic CV – it is important that you tailor your CV to each job application. This will significantly increase your chances of being called for interview
8. Don’t have a CV longer than two or (if you really must) three pages – nobody will read it!

For more information on CVs and CV services contact CV professionals at Consulting Excellence http://www.consultingexcellence.ie/main/page_online_shop_online_cv_services.html

Do you have any tips or comments that you think we've left out?