What are the warning signs when your personal resilience is starting to be drained? What can you do to reverse the situation and become more adaptable, responsive and resilient? Find out in this short video with Work Horizons partner, Fiona Anderson together with Birmingham Chambers of Commerce.
Finding a new job - public
It’s no surprise that skills shortages is second on the list of concerns for IoD members, with 42 percent of those recently questioned saying it was causing them a major headache. The downside to good job figures is that it makes it harder for organisations to find the talent they need. But are we looking in the right places and is ageism in recruitment, conscious or not, still a factor?
Currently only 64% of people aged 55-64 in the UK are in employment. If we were to increase this by just 20% – matching Sweden’s record on employing older people – it would add about £80bn to the GDP.
Through 20 years’ experience of filling job vacancies, I have found there are many reasons why you overlook this demographic to your disadvantage. Interestingly, small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are taking advantage of this workforce faster than other larger businesses and organisations; they probably recognise the need to be more flexible in both their thinking and the way they operate the business to get the absolute most out of it.
I employ two people over the age of 60; they are never late, never call in sick, always willing to go the extra mile. Older people tend to have better work ethic; they are used to routine and structure, which is something many younger people struggle with. Emotional intelligence is another factor: older people by and large deal well with constructive feedback on their performance and realise it helps with development. Many younger employees have yet to develop that maturity and can often take feedback as criticism. From a practical point of view, older employees are more settled and less likely to be looking for a ‘career move’ – so you get great work and life experience combined with stability. And that’s good for the younger workforce too – they can learn so much from those who have already had their career and are willing to pass on some of their life lessons. Many are happy fulfilling a role less demanding than their actual ability because they don’t want too much stress or pressure – so as an employer you may be able to get great experience for a very competitive salary compared to someone trying to climb the career ladder.
Older people are also in a good place to apply all the skills and knowledge they have acquired over the years to new ventures – we are seeing a definite rise in the end of the older entrepreneur with some embarking on not just their second but their third or fourth career. In fact, the IoD has made proposals to the Government to introduce tax incentives to encourage people in later life to pursue their business ideas and invest in training. This may not be everyone’s first choice but keeping older people connected to the business world through consulting, mentoring, part time employment or even full time employment retains their skills for longer – and that’s a win-win for all of us.
As a former recruitment consultant, I engaged with numerous candidates who had been asked some crazy questions at interview:
“If you were an animal, what animal would you be and why?” or
“If you could take just one thing on to a desert island, what would it be and why?”
I mean, what is the correct answer to such questions?! The interviewer would argue that they wanted to see how well the candidates could think on their feet and that the actual answer they gave was irrelevant. One could argue (and I often did) that if the answer was irrelevant, then why bother asking the question in the first place. Yet there were – and still are – some interviewers who insist on asking such cryptic, needless questions.
During your interview is not the best time to pull someone up on their poor questions, so give some thought to how you might answer. My well-educated guess is that the animal question is to assess your characteristics, while the desert island question is assessing your common sense. But if the interviewers themselves sometimes struggle to know why they ask such questions, you or I have little chance of knowing. Good luck!
Competency based interview questions
Thankfully however, more and more organisations are rethinking the questions they ask candidates at interview. Often interviewers will use a structure of questioning known as competency-based interview questions. They will typically sound something like this:
“Tell me about a time when you demonstrated [insert competency here, e.g. teamwork, problem solving, customer service]. What did you do and what was the result?”
These questions allow the interviewer to assess a number of things:
- What previous experience the candidate possesses in a given competency;
- How they behaved;
- How well they can articulate what they did and
- Whether they achieved results through their actions.
These questions are useful, as they focus on actual examples as opposed to hypothetical situations, unlike the animal and desert island scenarios.
Preparing for a job interview
As a candidate preparing for an interview, start by considering some of the main competencies required by the role you are applying for. If you are feeling brave then ask the organisation what type of interview structure they use. If nothing else, it shows them you want to prepare well for the interview.
Then consider your experiences that could support your answers. The great thing about competency-based interview questions is that, regardless of your background, you can generally answer them successfully.
As an example, let’s imagine they are assessing ‘being target-driven’. If you are a graduate and have only limited work experience, perhaps working in a shop, you can still answer that question. I assume graduates have to achieve certain grades? Particular deadlines? Are these not targets? Of course they are. You may just need to think a little outside the box.
Common competencies that employers look for
Here are a few of the most common competencies that are assessed. Be careful not to commit these so much to memory that you give answers that sound scripted. But do give some thought to how you could answer them based on your own experiences:
- Problem solving
- Dealing with conflict
- Accuracy or attention to detail
- Target driven
- Customer service
You can take valuable lessons from considering competency-based interview structures. Fundamentally, an organisation isn’t particularly bothered about where you worked (they already know this and invited you for interview knowing this). What they want to know from you is how you did what you did, how you made a difference through the work that you did and how you could replicate those skills in a new role with them.
Whatever animal you may be, learning to navigate the jungle is one of the most important skills for interviewing. If you do it well, you can avoid getting stranded on a desert island in the first place. And that is probably the greatest competency of all.
Jackie Handy is director of Runway Global. She supports individuals around the world, equipping them with the tools to accelerate their personal and professional performance.
What could some ‘muppet’ teach me about job interviews?
Good question. Quite a lot potentially.
Here’s how being a bit more of a ‘muppet’ might well help you the next time you’re at an interview:
Let’s consider what this might give you:
- Kermit – listening and leadership
- Miss Piggy – performance
- Gonzo – bravery
- Scooter – enthusiasm
- Statler and Waldorf – self awareness
Let’s think more about each of these characters and what they can teach you potentially about how to succeed at interviews.
Kermit uses active listening skills and a deep empathy for his colleagues. These leadership qualities shine through as he tries to be a role model and explain his vision for how well he’d like each Muppet Show performance to go. Even if the reality is not quite what he expected – usually for reasons outside his control.
Miss Piggy embraces her inner-diva and knows that whatever setbacks there might be “the show must go on!”. As a star performer she knows that rehearsals and perfecting her own personal presentation is all that matters to her audience. When the lights go on and the music starts she’s ready to perform.
Gonzo’s the kind of guy who’s likely to say “give me the right suit and then fire me out of a cannon!” (not to be taken literally in an interview please). He’s brave and has a can-do attitude. Sometimes, even like Gonzo The Great, we need to convince ourselves we’re ready for the job and have confidence in our own ability.
Scooter is boundlessly enthusiastic and clearly demonstrates that he wants to help the team. It’s hard to teach someone to be keen. For this reason employers know that if you’re motivated at interview then you’re more likely to be enthusiastic as an employee.
Statler and Waldorf can perhaps teach us how to be our own best positive critic. Taking a few moments straight after any interview for some self reflection and constructive feedback can be invaluable. We should consider what we learnt and how to do better next time if we’re going to keep the heckling to a minimum – whether it’s real or imagined.
For many people interviews can feel odd and artificial. After all – how many times in our lives are we put in a room with people we probably don’t know and asked to boast about ourselves?
Telling our own stories and showcasing our skills to an audience is about a performance.
So next time you find yourself preparing for a job interview which muppet can help you most?
Me? I might take a bit of all of them.
Claire Jenkins is a specialist in interview technique. She coaches individuals and groups to prepare for job and university interviews by helping individuals to unlock their confidence, secure an impact and then practise what they will say.
Equality and diversity issues at work have attracted considerable press attention recently. We have seen reports of sexual harassment at the men-only Presidents’ Club, and six highly-paid male broadcasters have taken a reduction in salary to redress the gender pay imbalance at the BBC. These are undoubtedly high profile cases, and show the reputational risk of inequality in the workplace. On a more positive note, diversity signals competitive advantage; organisations with greater ethnic and gender diversity at board level and across the workforce report above average profitability (full article).
But what does this all mean for you in your search for meaningful work? This article explores some of the key concepts in equality and diversity, and shows some of the initiatives that proactive employers will have in place to ensure that all employees are supported to participate, develop and progress in an inclusive environment.
First, it’s important to clarify the legal situation. The Equality Act 2010 (more details) legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. It is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of:
- being, or becoming, a transsexual person
- being married or in a civil partnership
- being pregnant or on maternity leave
- race, including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
- religion, belief or lack of religion/belief
- sexual orientation
Employers will have policies and procedures in place to protect employees from discrimination and provide recourse for those who believe they have been treated unfairly. Any organisation can express its commitment to equality and diversity, but the rhetoric and the reality need to be in alignment. Employers who demonstrate a proactive approach to equality and diversity in the workplace will ensure that their systems, processes and culture are equitable, so that employees can be their most empowered, authentic and talented selves at work. There are a multitude of examples of proactive approaches to equality and diversity in the workplace. Consider the following examples:
- The visual and physical landscape: do buildings and facilities meet access requirements and are they easily navigable? How do images of the workplace (on site, websites, publications) speak to the aspiration of a representative workforce?
- Charters, accreditation and indexes: Stonewall (LGBTQ), Working Families, Disability Confident, Athena SWAN (gender in higher education), the NHS Workplace Race Equality Standard. Employers need to devote time and resource to meeting the requirements of external organisations, which demonstrates their commitment.
- Returner programmes and internships (especially in science and technology): these provide a valuable opportunity for anyone who has had time away from the workplace, due to caring responsibilities or illness, for example, to refresh their skills and seek meaningful work.
- Case studies of flexible working: part time, compressed hours, remote working, phased return from parental leave, making the transition from part time back to full time. Employers who are creative and flexible about how and where work is done will be able to harness the talents of a more diverse workforce.
- Diversity champions and staff advocacy networks: consultation and engagement allow members of under-represented groups to share a supportive environment, and provide mechanisms for views to be communicated in a structured way.
- Publication of diversity strategies and data: making this information public allows current and future employees to hold organisations to account for progress against objectives, and contribute to their ongoing fulfilment.
- Commitment to ongoing professional development: a full range of learning opportunities, both formal and informal, that relate to individual and organisational effectiveness, knowledge sharing, problem solving and innovation.
- Case studies of career development and promotion: promotion and progression requires employees and managers alike to articulate, evidence and reward high-performing individuals. Look at the composition of the board, the leadership teams and the representativeness of the workforce – do they reflect a diverse group of individuals? What evidence is there of promoting part time staff? Are there sponsorship programmes for BME or disabled members of staff? Can you see yourself progressing?
This list is not exhaustive, but provides a solid start for you to think about an organisation’s equality and diversity credentials. Finally, think about this: if you were asked at an interview how you would contribute to equality and diversity at work, how would you answer?
This article is designed for you consider a new employer but it is all highly relevant to the one in which you currently employed.
Dr Naomi Irvine specialises in helping individuals to find their voice in complex organisations, focusing on gender empowerment, courageous conversations, personal effectiveness, leadership development, coaching and mentoring.
If you’re trying to put together a CV, you’d be forgiven for being very confused by all the advice and different formats out there. You might also be forgiven for wondering what the point of spending time on your CV is when many companies have an in-house application form.
The best format for your CV
There are many formats you can use for your CV and the one you choose doesn’t matter as much as getting the content right. Having said that, there are a few things to bear in mind.
- Firstly, make sure you don’t pick one with American terminology (unless you’re applying for a job in the US!) as this makes it appear that you don’t pay attention to details.
- Secondly, make sure the font size isn’t too large or too small; size 12 is generally recommended for most documents.
- Thirdly, check how your CV appears to others. If you have used a Word document with a large amount of formatting, it might not display well on a smartphone when opened as an email attachment. One option is to save as a pdf but be aware that recruitment agencies often don’t like CVs in this format.
Your CV is a living document
For those who are unsure of the need for CVs at all, look at it from a different angle. Your CV should not be a static document that is done once and never changed. Your CV is a repository for all your job and educational information, to be used and adapted as needed for all employment or academic applications you make. It then becomes easy to copy and paste information into application forms or cover letters when needed.
If a job advert does ask for a CV, make sure you tailor the information to that specific job. Never just send out the same CV to every employer; adapt the personal profile to suit the job role and showcase in your previous experience the most relevant skills to the role.
Your personal profile
The personal profile section is probably the most important one on your CV and it is usually the most poorly written. The trend seems to be to fill it with buzzwords such as ‘I have excellent communication skills’ and ‘I am ambitious, confident and enthusiastic’. Never just list your skills or qualities in this section without backing them up with evidence. This section should briefly relate your most relevant experience and skills to the position you are applying for and highlight why you are the best choice for the role.
Use the person-specification for the job you are applying for and pick out two or three of the main things they are looking for and demonstrate how you meet or exceed the specification requirements.
Those are just a few things to consider when getting started on your CV and there are many other things you should be aware of. Do make sure you take the time to get it right and ensure your CV isn’t the one going into the reject pile.
Lyn Calver is Managing Director of LC Education & Training. She has spent over fourteen years in the education sector working with individuals and businesses to improve confidence, knowledge and skills. She is also a qualified lecturer.