Category Archives: resumes

Metrics: If you can’t measure it – don’t mention it

The Peter Drucker phrase “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”  has been around in management training manuals for decades.  With some dissenting views, it is widely accepted if not as a business truism,  certainly as  a useful guideline and management tool.

I’m a big subscriber to that philosophy.

Why "if you can't measure it -don't mention it makes perfect sense".

Why “if you can’t measure it, don’t mention it” makes perfect sense.

Metrics

We are seeing a convergence between the marketing techniques usually associated with entrepreneurs and businesses with individual self promotion (in biz patois Personal Branding,)  with the the same measurable values starting to become applicable. Many balk  at this shift,  feeling that people are becoming commoditized.  But are they really? All this really involves is simply a move from a task and chronology mindset, to a result, achievement and skills focus.

Just as we don’t care about the detail of the business process for any organisation,  we are also starting to expect the same approach on individual resumes and profiles.  We don’t care how smart phones are made. We just want to know what they can do for us. When we  buy jars and tubes of emulsified chemicals from L’Oreal, we buy products that are hopefully going to  magically transform us – even if it’s only in our imagination. We are buying the added value. Why? Because we are worth it.

The management accountant who produces monthly reports and forecasts using Bex Analyser and Excel would be better placed telling us what he used that information for,  rather than describing the detail of the routine task.  If this can be followed with a metric and results so much the better.

If you are “young and dynamic”  I need to know what difference that will make to an organisation. If it means you have just graduated  at the top of your class with the most up to date mathematical models to support faster analysis of business processes at your finger tips. Tell me that.

These are just two conversations I had this week alone.

Need help identifying your transferable skills? Check out the individual coaching programmes

Forget cute, metrics matter!

Very often people are so focused on being cute, zany or idiosyncratic that their message becomes simply verbiage and we have no idea at all what they mean.  I am highly literate so always recognise the individual words,   but sometimes I have no clue what the person actually does in a joined up sentence. “Effective change agent,  crisis manager,  business turn around leader.”  A crisis could be a merger, takeover or a blocked loo.  What sorts of businesses, crises and changes? What were the outcomes? Can this person do that for us, is the over-riding question of any employer.  If it’s not clear and the question has to be asked,  the risk of losing the reader (me) has already increased. I have the attention span of a gnat. And I am slow!

Just as when we buy a lap- top we will want to have some information on the basic features (weight, operating system, colours, memory, hard drive etc)  the main questions will be centred around what value that lap- top can add,  how we can benefit from it and how we can best use it for our own purposes.

Job search processes are no different. If a computer had a “buy this computer”   sign on it, wouldn’t you ask “Why? What will it do for me?”

Candidates are no different.

Personal interests: 10 CV dos and don’ts

There is always much conflicting advice from career experts on what to include on CVs. One of the areas  that has an opinion divide of Grand Canyon proportions, is whether to mention your personal interests and hobbies on your resume and if they can actually make a difference to the selection process.

Hannah Morgan, Career Sherpa says “No one really cares that you enjoy knitting, wine tasting and training for marathons. That is, unless, you are applying for a job in one of those areas. Save the space for more meaningful, work-related information. Have you included professional memberships or volunteer activities?

Stand out with your hobbies on your job search by  exhorts candidates to share their personal interests on their CVs. Why? “ because who you are transfers over to how you work.”

 

personal interests

Personal interests:  10 CV dos and don’ts

Do:  Remember that what is relevant will depend on the company culture and nature of the open position. Not all company cultures or teams look for, welcome or need, the person who does a fitness boot camp at  5.00 am every day before work.

Do:  include some personal interests especially if they can showcase or endorse your professional skills and particularly if  you have achieved some level of excellence or expertise.

Do:  give a range of personal interests which showcase your personality. I think Hannah’s example of a wine tasting,  knitter, who runs marathons could be a potentially interesting character.

Do:  be strategic and highlight those personal interests which could be professionally relevant, but with a balance: team and leadership roles, as well as introverted and extroverted, competitive and non competitive. Depending on the nature of the opening, I would certainly pay attention to someone whose interests were exclusively solitary or exclusively competitive.  Generally personality traits will be identified via any type of testing or assessment process anyway.

If you need help creating  an effective CV or any other career support check out the individual career coaching programmes

Do:  include if you played a sport to a high  or professional level or represented your country in any activity, even if it was some years previously. It demonstrates focus, discipline and energy. Plus skills!

Don’t:  include if you claim to be an international athlete light years before and it looks as if it was 50 pounds ago and walking from the desk to the door will induce a coronary.

Do: be sensitive with regard to any of your interests which might be “hot” issues for others:  certain causes, or political or religious activities fall into that category. It’s impossible to know the personal biases and perceptions of  the reader and interviewer unless they are in the public domain.

Do: share if you are using that skill currently via coaching,  mentoring or volunteering.

Do: if you think your personal interests will be a social ice-breaker and professionally relevant. It is becoming increasingly easy to research interviewers and companies. If the hiring company sponsor an activity which genuinely interests you – include it. I was participating in a search recently where the company sponsored the fine arts and one of the candidates was a serious opera buff. The panel Chair and candidate had a brief aside on Liudmyla Monastyrska‘s  role as Aida.  It was  a clear differentiator in that particular hiring process with a number of equal candidates. Confirmation bias exists.

Don’t: claim to have interests which are not real. If the last book you read was the Spark Notes from a university course, or the last movie you saw was Ghost or your idea of haute cuisine is opening a takeaway carton,  best not to mention them as interests. You could be asked.

I interviewed someone who said they were a “huge tennis fan“, but couldn’t comment on the last Wimbledon final.  As John McEnroe would say “You can’t be serious.

So like any other part of your CV the personal interest section is an opportunity to be strategic.  So I say use it – but wisely!

Why you’re in trouble without an instantly available, current CV

Be_PreparedI have seen two instances today alone where individuals were thrown off-balance because they did not have an easily accessible, up to date CV.

One case didn’t matter  – the other did.

With unemployment at record highs in some regions and opportunities coming and disappearing at record speed,  being prepared is key.

Test: if someone asked you right now to  send in your resumé how long would it take?

[polldaddy poll=7327913]

How did you do?

The world turns in ever strange but increasingly fast circles and the need to have our professional credentials readily available is greater than ever. None of us know when we might have a chance encounter or  an unexpected request to provide a current professional profile. These situations do arise.

What are the best practises?  

  • Keep a copy of your up to date CV on your tablet or smart phone for instant forwarding.
  • Not into gizzmos? Well store a copy in an account that is accessible from any computer: gmail, hotmail,  Google Docs.
  •  A complete and up to date on-line professional profile  with the link committed to memory or added to your business card and email signature. Connect immediately from any device.
  • Carry a hard copy in an envelope in your computer bag or brief case. There are still techno dinosaurs around.

Lesson: You can never be too prepared.

What other suggestions can you make to make your CV readily available?

The CV black hole. A hiring manager says “give me a break!”

One of the consistent comments and causes of distress and frustration for all job seekers, is falling into the candidate  CV black hole of no communication. This might be with executive search and recruitment consultants or  corporate hiring managers.

Automated responses generated by an impersonal CRM system come a close second for most, but in some cases despite their impersonality they can play a role.

Exclusion clauses
Paul told me how it’s becoming increasingly common for job postings to include exclusion text.  ” Only short listed candidates will be contacted ” or “If you have not heard from us within 4 weeks of submitting your CV, please assume that your application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.

He had applied for a number of  positions, one being at a well-known consumer goods company which was his preferred opportunity. When he failed to hear after 4 weeks and attempts to contact the hiring manager were unsuccessful,  he assumed he was not a viable candidate and accepted another offer. Two weeks later he was called for interview.  That job match might have been made in heaven but neither party will now know. Paul is left with a rather poor impression of a company he had previously held in high regard. An  automated holding response could quite easily have been set up to cover this contingency.

Explanation
I asked one Talent Manager in a major industrial organisation, Rebeka, how this situation could arise. She explained with some frustration the nature of her working day which show cases the way her company and most others operate. HR staff cuts were made in 2009 and outsourcing to executive search companies has been reduced to only the most senior positions.

Why the CV black hole exists

Their system, which would be relatively commonplace, runs along these lines:

  • Candidates  upload their CV online line or send them in via email.
  • The recruitment manager responsible for the opening receives that mail or a notification from the ATS  (Applicant Tracking System) system. This will be one of 100′s of similar mails received each day.
  • If the application is viewed by a person it is then filed in an assignment folder,  usually on an in-house data base.  Many resumes will not even get reviewed due to the volume and are cut by ATS software, the recruiters software gatekeeper. Applications with no specific reference will be shunted into another type of non- specific folder, a sub black hole if you will.
  • Only candidates moving forward are contacted.

Not enough hours in a day!

In terms of time management, hiring managers have multiple open positions. If they receive only 10 applications per day and have 5 open positions  (a very conservative estimate) even during a hiring freeze her week typically looks something like this:

  •  250 CVs received  per week
  • 2 minutes taken per CV (including retrieval, reading CV,  only about 10 seconds, then possibly some online research, perhaps forwarding to hiring manager   =  500  minutes =   more than 1 day per week  reading CVs.
  • If 20% of candidates are telephone screened per week that probably accounts for another  17.3 hours = 2 days per week
  • Face to face interviewing and testing,  including travel arrangements, coordinating interviewers and venue confirmation  – minimum 1-2 days per week.
  •  The rest of the time is taken up with status updates and funnel stats for the management committee, reviewing incoming assignments from line managers plus any unsolicited calls which make it past the company or departmental gate keepers.

At a time of high unemployment,  when even individuals in secure employment are looking for change after 3 years of stagnation,  what we are seeing is that most open positions are heavily oversubscribed.

Perhaps exclusion alerts on job postings are better than nothing.

What do you think? 

Resumes: Dazzling or dull?

Career coaches and search consultants spend inordinate amounts of time encouraging job seekers to dazzle and to stand out in the candidate crowd. However there is one area when it’s OK to be the diamond in the rough, unexciting and utilitarian, and when dull is completely OK if not advantageous. That is in the context of resume formatting.

I mention this in every workshop I do, but I am pretty sure as all the  sophisticated CVs flood into my inbox, that most don’t take this seriously! Every job search tool box should include one CV in bog standard, Word format. In my whole, somewhat long career I have never heard anyone suggest that they are seeing a candidate exclusively because of a pretty looking or creatively designed resume.

Why?
Many large organisations retrieve candidates’ CVs from their data bases via A.T.S. (Applicant Tracking Systems) or H.R.I.S. (Human Resource Information Systems) which strip resumes of formatting when the information is imported into their own systems.

Some ATS systems are sophisticated enough to complete this process without difficulty. Others are not. Very often recruiters have to copy/paste information from a CV, into a client template to forward to the HR or hiring manager. I very often replicate contact details and if I have to retrieve those embedded in a header or  PDF format, that only takes time. Others dealing with hundreds of CVs per  day with a wide field of candidates,  have the luxury of not needing to be vigilant.

Additionally, many companies have rigorous anti-virus software which are especially punitive of attachments. I had one client who failed to get any CVs I had sent  in connection with a search for an International Tax Specialist position. We found out that their firewall blocked all mails and documents which included the letters  “cialis”  (a male drug).

Resumes don’t get you jobs – interviews do and  what you need is the opportunity to shine in person.

PDF
In general, although very popular PDF format is not advisable because it’s quite often incompatible with some systems which require additional software to convert back to Word,  or to align with their own company templates. Candidates use PDF because they fear that their CV will be modified. Honestly – no one has time and if it is tweaked it’s usually for their benefit.  Other  bells and whistles which may also cause your CV to slither into the ether are:  graphics  (tables, charts) section divides, columns and even photos.

Think small
Importantly, most CVs are now read on a small screen, frequently a phone, tablet, or laptop,  not even a full size desk top. It’s important that your CV, particularly the top half of Page 1 is very clear and where the punch is packed.  Even then, the reader might be accessing it via a preview or cached version when complex formatting will not produce the best results.

If you do have a story to tell that requires a sexier look or illustrates a more creative side of your personality or career, fear not you still have a number of options.

  • Include your LinkedIn url and use the slide share function in your profile
  • Add a hyper link to your website
  • Take a hard copy of your fancy CV with you to the interview
  • Keep an updated copy of your CV on your phone. You never know when you will need it.

If you need help creating a powerful CV  check out the personal coaching programmes  

The most important goal is for your resume to be easily retrievable. This is when dull not dazzling works in your favour.  Resumes don’t get you jobs – interviews do and  what you need is the opportunity to shine in person.

The new actively passive candidates

According to research carried out by international organisations such as Manpower and Deloitte, there are many indications that after a period of cautiousness brought about by stringent economic times, a high percentage of employees will now be open to new job opportunities. The numbers range from 66% – 84%, but whichever one you take, they are pretty high.

 

Risk averse
The recent recession made those who were fortunate enough to have survived a dramatic downturn, risk averse. The old mantra of ” last in, first out ” played loudly in their ears. Now, with small signs of recovery, people are lifting their heads above the parapet, to step down and are willing to dip a toe gently into the job search water. In the executive search sector we call this category of candidate, “passive candidates”.

This doesn’t mean to say they are “passive ” people. It’s a generic term used to describe job seekers who are in employment, but who are not necessarily actively sending out their resumes , or are advertising themselves on job boards. For many companies, for reasons I sometimes struggle to understand, passive candidates are considered to be more highly desirable prospects. This is why the catch phrase “it’s easier to get a job while in a job“, is so popular and proved a huge frustration to job seekers during the recession, when many good people lost their jobs and were actively looking for employment.

If your organisation want so identify top passive candidates check out the  pages relating to Executive Search and Research. 

Actively passive candidates
Candidates might not be sending out CVs blindly, but there are certainly some very strong smoke signals in the air, with active self- promotion and the raising of visibility to the right people. This doesn’t necessarily suggest lack of focus. For the first time in several years candidates have choice and there is no problem saying that. As someone who makes those calls to candidates every day, very often the opportunity I present may not have occurred to the potential candidate. But receiving that straightforward, time-saving communication of “Thanks, but your opportunity is not in line with my current career plans. Let’s stay in touch.” is also quite acceptable.

Reputation economy
With this upturn, executive search specialists, passive candidates and hiring managers alike should find themselves in stronger positions. But all parties are going to have to up their games , as the sheer volume of possibilities kicks in. For passive candidates this is a critical time as we move towards a reputation economy, where everyone can be researched online.

  • – Make sure your online presence is precise and of high quality content to guarantee that key word searches are accurate. Otherwise you will find yourselves being approached for the wrong type of searches, which will eventually become irritating.
    – No online presence could mean no contact, unless you have a very strong actual network.
    – If you are not open to job opportunities currently, close that option on your LinkedIn profile. This should deter all but the crassest of recruiters.
    – If you are, contact details should be easy to find. Search consultants for the first time in years have a wide choice and if you are hard to reach, they will move on to the next candidate.
    – Make sure all your networking is strategic and you are connecting with hiring decision makers in targeted and researched companies. The right opportunity could be around the corner.
    – Have a polished up to date CV ready to send out at the push of a button. Hiring companies and search consultants no longer have to chase anyone too hard.

It’s great to feel the stirrings of a recovery! Let’s hope it continues!

Staying on message: A job search challenge

How much to share and with whom?
Another confusing area for job seekers is how much information to share in the job search process. This is another topic where every man, woman, child and goldfish has an opinion. Using buzz speak this is about brand alignment, when we are all supposed to produce consistent personal brand content, all the time. Staying on message can be a major challenge.

The irony of course is that any resume you produce might be correctly professional and neutral, but your cyber foot might leave behind yeti size tracks in its wake and you will open your mouth, only to change feet. Understand well, that you will be researched prior to an interview and there is very little room to hide. So how do you stay true to the professional image you’re trying to create, when there are so many ways to check us all out , especially as most of us have multiple interests and are multifaceted?

Staying on message challenges

Here are some issues that have been posed to me

Claiming a passion   There has to be back up. If you say you are passionate about renewable energy – make sure that there is evidence out there somewhere. We do check. So join LinkedIn or local groups and visibly participate. If you have multiple interests and goals then be prepared to explain them. On the other hand I know an accountant who has a fabulous blog on food and restaurants which he writes under a pseudonym, simply because he doesn’t want his employer perceive him as frivolous. In my view he is hiding a key part of who he is, which is a shame. Others have multiple blogs where they write about other areas of interest. Check out Gilly Weinstein a professional coach, who showcases her alternative interests in a blog separate to her professional web site.

Age and birthdate – this is no longer legally required on a resumé, but any recruiter with half a brain can figure it out. There is a double bind here. Withholding can send red alerts that something is amiss – either too old or too young for the position in question. But I suggest that you don’t include it, simply because you may be bypassed by some pre programmed Applicant Tracking Systems. But be proud of who you are and offer metrics that add value. You cannot hide all references to your history on the internet or air brush every photo. If you lie – you will almost certainly be found out.

Religion – unless you are applying to a religious organisation where your affiliation will be meaningful and key, then it would not be necessary to supply this information to a secular organisation.

Home address – I would leave out. There are some strange people in this world and you don’t want them pitching up at your home. Simply stating your city and country should be sufficient

Hobbies – now here I really go against many career pundits. People’s hobbies and past times tell me a lot about a person. They might show energy, committment, discipline, attention to detail, community spirit and many other qualities – so I always look. If your idea of surfing is sitting on a sofa changing channels, I agree that is best omitted. Those interests also have to be current. Unless you were an Olympic medallist , telling an employer of your university sporting achievements is only appropriate for entry-level candidates and possibly one level above. 15 years down the line regretfully they add little value, especially if you are a little soft around the middle.

Marital status – agree not necessary information, although many volunteer it. Do not include photos of yourself with your partner on professional profiles

Children – agree the CV is about you. Ditto about pictures of your children (or pets) on professional profiles

Links to online platforms – if they are relevant to your job application and have a professional content, they can certainly add value, especially a LinkedIn profile URL. It’s also a way of giving more information such as recommendations and a slide share presentation. They show you’re in touch with current technological trends and offer insight into your personality.If your FB status updates are along the lines of ” Yo dude… see you in the pub … ” Then no. Omit. Make sure there are no inappropriate photos online and you are not tagged in anyone else’s. Check your Facebook photo line ups are how you want to be perceived. I was horrified to find I had been tagged in a photo taken two days after I had surgery recently. I looked in pain – probably because I was.

Sexual orientation – this is no one’s business except your own. It is illegal to discriminate on those grounds. If there are any photos of you with partners in cyber space, regardless of orientation, they should be appropriate.

Life objectives – this is now considered to be old school and has been replaced by a career mission statement, so definitely should not be on a CV. At some point any long-term goals can be shared, but I would advise waiting until you know the person you will be sharing that information with. Any general, gentle social icebreakers such as wanting to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, are perhaps best included in the hobbies section, in my book are completely OK.

Online conflict this is a tough one. Healthy debate on even contentious issues I feel is part of life’s rich tapestry. However, anything abusive or defamatory should be avoided. We are now entering an era where individuals are being disciplined or even fired for negative remarks about bosses, employers or team mates on Facebook and Twitter. The difference between this and a real life situation, is that your words will be recorded somewhere… forever. No one knows what happens to deleted material on many of these online platforms.

In today’s social media age it is truthfully difficult to keep anything completely secret – even your weight! The trick is to try to manage your cyber foot print, while remaining true to yourself. In my view this is one of today’s greatest job search challenges. No matter what you leave out, or how professionally neutral any of us are, it is very hard to be constantly on message.

But really how much does that matter?

What do you think?

When length matters

When CV length matters

CV length “The golden rule is that there are no golden rules.” said Mr George Bernard Shaw and nowhere is this more applicable than the job search sector when it comes to CV creation. We loves rules. The sector is heavily populated with books, articles and blogs dealing in absolutes, usually including “always”, ” never” and ” how to” tips. Many people invent these rules, some globally famous, some only famous in their own coffee breaks. Large numbers of rules fizzle out just as soon as they are created, others endure from one decade to another. Yet CV length matters.

Technological change

Back in the day, a hard copy CV was the norm. Today, as the triage of candidate applications increasingly uses sophisticated technology and software, new guidelines are required for job seekers, as old assumptions become outdated. When there is human interaction most of the golden oldie rules are clearly still valid. Although times and technology may change, generally people don’t, so strong basics will always have relevance. Now job search needs to be strategic and flexible and each situation viewed on its merits. That’s why it’s called job search strategy! This doesn’t make the job seekers task any easier, because the answer to any situational question will frequently be “it depends on the circumstances”.

Ideal length

One of the most hotly debated questions is on the ideal length of a CV. That also depends! The two most common situations that job seekers will encounter with regard to their CV are: uploading it electronically on to a company data base, or sending it by email to a central HR department, where it will be subsequently uploaded. At some later time, your opus will eventually be screened by ATS , before a human being ever claps an eye on it. Here keyword-searchable content is mandatory to avoid slipping into, and remaining in, resumé oblivion. The second occasion will be where a CV is emailed or given (printed) to a known contact.

One page CVs

For many years having a one page CV in one’s portfolio was considered to be the major weapon in the arsenal. Where this rule came from I have no idea, but I see many people reducing text to size 8 font and eliminating all margins to cram their career content onto 1 page of A4. Today, when most resumés are read on a screen (even a phone) and are uploaded onto company databases and accessed by keyword searches, resume length takes on a new significance. Short in these cases may not actually be sweet.

Much confusion can be eliminated with a clear understanding that the purpose of a resume is generally considered to be the instrument necessary secure an interview or meeting. The purpose of a meeting is to get the job.

Entry level

This poor group is possibly the most beleaguered of all. College and MBA graduates are very often counselled to ensure their CVs are one page only. This definitely depends. Many individuals in this demographic have significant achievements, have worked in multiple internships or volunteer roles, have gained international scholarships, travelled globally and excelled in extra curricular activities. Those success stories are all worthy of succinct mention with metrics, so don’t worry about spilling over into two pages. However, beware, this is not to be confused with listing mundane activities by rote.

In his new resumé, a client detailed the metrics of a student bar/restaurant job, specifying the nightly headcount, staff managed and the number of covers served per sitting. They were extremely high and it takes special skills to deal with that kind of volume. Sufficiently impressed, a hospitality management company called him for interview and offered him a job. The hiring manager factored that experience into the decision-making process. I have also coached entry-level candidates who have represented their countries on national junior teams or started their own businesses, some with pretty good turnover. They are worthy achievements and speak volumes about their talents, discipline, commitment and energy.

A couple of weeks ago I emailed Lee Cooper , author of the Recruiters Little Black Book who has also penned his own thoughts on the subject. He told me he believed that a one page CV involves a risk:

” .. you end up being considered as lacking in experience / content / depth”

Two pages

For most of the job seeking population a two-page resume would be considered to be a good average in which to show case any skills and achievements. Everyone should be able to do this and the discipline will encourage focused thinking. There should be no need to pad a resumé out with extraneous and repetitive vocabulary. Font size should be 11/12 points, with adequate margins to create enough white space to make it readable. Recruiters take on average 15 seconds read a resumé and focus on the mission statement (quite different from the old-school personal objective) for an estimated 8 seconds.

What about longer?

Some C level executives at the highest levels, worry that two pages may not contain enough information to fully detail an extended career history. Once again this will depend on the circumstances. If the search to fill the position is being managed by an executive search consultant, a two page resumé would be best to score the initial interview. Following that , the executive search consultant will write an extensive brief for the client, based on one or even more detailed interviews and perhaps psychometric testing. However, if the candidate has been approached directly via a contact in his/her network, with a face to face meeting as the first step, then a lengthier CV may be completely acceptable. Clare Ireland, Senior Partner at Hansar International suggests

” .. at a senior level, with some highly complex especially technical careers, a more detailed CV can be helpful.”

In general , the best advice I can give is to assess each situation on an individual basis … not forgetting the real basics: no typos and no lies! And in the words of the wise:

A few strong instincts and a few plain rules suffice us” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Making the cut. How to ace a behavioural interview

Behavioural interviews have always been popular with major international organisations for carrying out in-depth selection processes. Recently however, interest in them seems to have peaked after being popularised by the TV show, The Apprentice just screened in the U.K. The reason I don’t write about this programme is because when I do watch it, for the most part I sit cringing, but also worrying that any potential candidates will take it seriously. Be under no illusion, this is a globally franchised game show where the real heroes are probably the film editors who reduce 100s of hours of material to a dozen hours of slick TV for our entertainment.

In it we have seen candidates lying or being facetious on their application forms, lacking basic knowledge of the company they are interviewing for, having very little idea what their transferable skills are and what they can indeed offer. It’s a miracle that anyone get’s hired at all, which is perhaps why there are rumours of 2 endings being filmed.

Philosophy
Behavioural-based interviewing is promoted as providing a more objective set of facts on which to base hiring decisions, rather than other interviewing methods. Underlying the philosophy is the idea that the most accurate predictor of future added value is either past performance in similar situations , or observable performance in something new. Competence in these circumstances is supposed to be 55 percent predictive of future on-the-job behavior, while traditional interviewing is said to be only 10 percent predictive. So whereas candidates are unlikely to be chasing around global capitals looking for random items to purchase, or running London visitor tours, organisations are becoming increasingly creative in introducing more challenging situations for potential candidates, than the standard interview process.

Assessment Battery
Behavioural interviews can be part of a battery of candidate assessment tools which will also include: personality and aptitude testing, individual assignment ( e.g. making a presentation, analysing a problem, formulating a solution) group assignments and/or group interviews.

One-on-one interview
Some career columnists maintain that behavioural interviews are difficult to prepare for. In part this can be true – especially in any group task where all candidates are being assessed and you won’t know the other team members. However, if you’ve done your discovery work thoroughly, you will know the challenges in your life/career, what you have done to achieve them, the results and the skills required to achieve those results. These will be articulated in your mission statement of your CV and in your elevator soundbites. So not a problem. You will have an arsenal of experiences you can call upon to illustrate as required.

What any organisation is looking for is how you deal with situations, even those with some sort of negative outcome can have value. If you have never dealt with the problem thrown at you, don’t be afraid to say so. Perhaps you have seen someone else in action in the same or similar position (a boss, colleague, family member). Describe what you observed or even describe an experience of your own which required parallel skills. Even take an educated guess.

The behavioral interviewer will delve into specific aspects of your response and probe for greater detail “What were you thinking at that point?” or ” Tell me more ..” or “Lead me through ..” Let’s go back to” if you haven’t done your CARS work properly, or you are a shadow of your own resumé, this is where you risk coming unstuck.

Aptitude/Personality testing.
Increasingly these are sent out by employers and taken on-line and there are always possibilities to have practise runs. There are any number of propriety brands on the market which are used by the major organisations. Many even have their own in-house assessment and testing facilities.

Individual Assignment
Sometimes candidates are asked to come to an interview prepared to deliver a presentation or a project. In other circumstances they will be handed one on arrival and given time to prepare. It could be a sales or marketing pitch, a negotiation or conflict situation, a managerial issue or a business strategy. This will also involve digging deep into your C.A.R.S work and previous experience.

Group Exercise
These are team based exercises and evaluation is made on the basis of the different input of individual team members in exactly the same way as employees collaborate in the workplace. They are constructed/designed to make individual assessment in areas such as decision-making, confidence, strategic analysis or time management . They also illustrate how all group members act within a team environment : who emerges as a leader, who is the strategic thinker, who is the compiler, communication styles and how is conflict handled. Organisations look for skill set and personality diversity, so there is no right or wrong way of doing this. This can be anything from an office based theoretical project ( ” your plane has crashed in the Amazon rain forest, what items would you look for in the wreckage and why?”, to something practical such as building a fence or constructing a Lego project.

Group Interview / Assessment
I am hearing more and more about this particularly at entry-level, where significant numbers of candidates are interviewed simultaneously, as many as 12 -15 at a time where they are asked to deliver their elevator pitch in front of the group , as well as company assessors. In one case it was to camera (it wasn’t a media opening) and in another there was also peer evaluation, almost in the Apprentice way. This was possibly to save organisational time and to test the candidates under pressure. The candidate feedback I received was that it was a challenging experience, with most feeling they didn’t acquit themselves well mainly because of nerves.The organisation which asked not to be named said ” It was a cost and time effective way of identifying the best candidates. We screened 80 candidates in 2 days resulting in a shortlist of 6, who went on to in-depth, one to one interviews. We are delighted with the process“.

It’s perhaps not surprising that the ultimate winner of the 2010 UK Apprentice Stella English at 31, had previous interview experience. Practise makes perfect.

So will you be hired or end up on the cutting room floor?

A plea! Keep job profiles real!

Lost in translation
As both an executive search professional and a career coach, I am frequently bemused how hiring managers and job seekers fail to communicate with each other and misunderstand or even misrepresent themselves in the process. I’m very mindful there is a strong sales role involved, with both parties wanting to present themselves in a positive light, but sometimes things are taken too far. The end result is ill feeling, frustration and lost time for everyone involved in the process. Nowhere is this clearer than in the preparation of, and response to, the job profile.

Over qualification
For the hiring manager the seniority and level of a team can be an in-house status symbol. This is why on some occasions the academic requirements demanded for some positions, would ordinarily be sufficient to split the atom or find a cure for cancer or HIV. MBAs are not essential for all openings! If we are absolutely honest, a number of jobs don’t even require a degree, let alone any post grad qualifications. Provided that literacy, numeracy and social skills are in place as well as any relevant professional experience, the university of life would be just fine. Heaven forbid if the Receptionist should look for a financial instrument in a tool box.

Misnomers
We also have zany, inaccurate or simply incomprehensible job titles, which switch from time to time because they are closely linked to trending buzz words. Some of these are meant to be fun or to give lower level jobs some clout, but they can be misleading. Gallerista (art sales) Head of People or People Officer, ( sounds like something from the Red Army), Nail Technician ( carpenter or beautician?), Strategic Focus Specialist ( thought strategy was focused) , Head of Culture, Bakist (cake maker?) Certified Scrum Master ( rugby team coach?) Managing Co-Ordinator (seems to be a misnomer – do they co-ordinate or manage?) or any bizarre combinations of technician, engineer, specialist, consultant, executive or other words with the ” ist” suffix.

Experience
The same can be said for years and type of experience required. Sometimes I see profiles asking for experience levels which when totalled, would cumulatively take even entry-level candidates to retirement age. Or demanding experience in certain technologies which have only been around for less than the time period required (10 years in social media, some softwares) The reverse also applies, I see ads for experienced interns! Isn’t the whole point of an internship – to gain experience?

Old jokes
There are also all the old recruitment jokes about hiring speak:
fast paced environment = no time to train you.
ability to handle heavy workload = You whine, you’re fired.
some overtime required = some time tonight and in fact, some time every night
flexible compensation package = sometimes we pay you, sometimes we don’t
high level of travel = family life will become a distant memory

Candidates need to get it right too
But the converse can be said for candidates. I posted an ad earlier in the year which clearly stated “fluency in German essential” After being inundated with applications from all corners of the world where the candidates clearly didn’t know a brockwurst from a bratwurst I had to add ” fluency in German mandatory. I will be unable to respond to candidates not meeting this requirement” which did seem a bit rude. Or there was the “social media genius” with 10 LinkedIn connections and 5 tweets to his name, applying for a position as a Social Media Consultant. This is one reason that so many CVs drift into cyber space – they are not on target!

So why don’t we all make life easier for ourselves and just tell it how it really is!

What do you think? Add any crazy things you’ve seen! A prize for the most obscure or off beat!