Interview Tips

1. Research Earnings Calls, Quarterly Reports & Blog Posts

In today’s world, content is king. Goldman Sachs publishes quarterly reports, Microsoft records its earning calls, and every startup has a blog.

With so much out there, I’m baffled that few of us look past the company’s homepage. It’s like we’re writing an essay on The Odyssey without quoting a single passage from the book.

Example: If you’re interviewing with Google, here’s two ways to answer: “What’s Google’s biggest opportunity in the next 5 years?”

  • Weak: “I think wearable technology will be big because Google Glass and Apple Watch represent a new trend that shows…”
  • Strong: “Call me geeky, but I was listening to Google’s quarterly earnings call and was blown away by the fact that display advertising hit over $5 billion in the past few years. Therefore, I think that…”

Neither answer is wrong, but the latter says much more. It shows you’ve done your homework and give answers rooted in data.

2. Review Common Interview Questions and Prepare Responses

Another key to interview success is preparing responses to expected interview questions. First, inquire as to the type of interview to expect (which you can do by asking your contact person at the organization). Your goal is composing detailed yet concise responses, focusing on specific examples and accomplishments. A good tool for remembering your responses is to put them into story form that you can tell in the interview. No need to memorize responses (in fact, it’s best not to), but at least develop talking points.

3. Look the part

Dress for success! At an interview it is extremely important to look, act and dress professionally as you won’t have a second chance at making a good first impression. Ideally, a business suit should be worn. Clean shoes, clean finger nails and clean well groomed hair are important. If wearing a black or very dark suit, make sure there is no dandruff or specks of fluff on the shoulder.

We can’t overemphasise how important first impressions are. Research has shown that an interviewer has made an impression within the first eight seconds of meeting the person. The remainder of the interview is spent confirming this opinion, or turning this opinion around.

4. Make Good First Impressions — to Everyone You Encounter

A cardinal rule of interviewing: Be polite and offer warm greetings to everyone you meet — from parking attendant or receptionist to the hiring manager. Employers often are curious how job applicants treat staff members — and your job offer could easily be derailed if you’re rude or arrogant to any of the staff.

When it’s time for the interview, keep in mind that first impressions — the ones interviewers make in the first few seconds of greeting you — can make or break an interview. Make a strong first impression by dressing well, arriving early, and when greeting your interviewer, stand, smile, make eye contact, and offer a firm (neither limp and nor bone-crushing) handshake.

Remember that having a positive attitude and expressing enthusiasm for the job and employer are vital in the initial stages of the interview; studies show that hiring managers make critical decisions about job applicants in the first 20 minutes of the interview.

5. Ask Insightful Questions

Studies continually show that employers make a judgment about an applicant’s interest in the job by whether or not the interviewee asks questions. Thus, even if the hiring manager was thorough in his or her discussions about the job opening and what is expected, you must ask a few questions.

The smart job-seeker prepares questions to ask days before the interview, adding any additional queries that might arise from the interview.

6. Sell Yourself Throughout and then Close the Deal

An adage in interviewing says the most qualified applicant is not always the one who is hired — which means the hired candidate is often the job-seeker who does the best job in responding to interview questions and showcasing his or her fit with the job, department, and organization.

Some liken the job interview to a sales call. You are the salesperson — and the product you are selling to the employer is your ability to fill the organization’s needs, solve its problems, propel its success.

Finally, as the interview winds down, ask about the next steps in the process and the timetable the employer expects to use to make a decision about the position. If you are applying for a sales job — or a position requiring equivalent aggressiveness — consider asking for the job at the end of the interview.

7. Email a Personalized Thank You Note

Thank your interviewer within 24 hours of finishing. It not only shows your gratitude, it also combats recency bias if you interviewed early. Not to mention, it opens the door for dialogue even if you don’t get the job. Sometimes, recruiters reach back out on the same email thread months later, mentioning new job opportunities.

Ref: Forbes, Hays Recruiment and Quint Careers

What does the Fair Work Amendments Bill mean for employers?

After spending over a year being considered by Parliament, the first amendments to the Fair Work Act under the current government were passed on November 11.

The Fair Work Amendment Bill was introduced to Parliament on February 27 last year, and the changes finally came into effect on November 27 2015.

However, the amendments to the Act that have been passed are not reflective of the bill in its entirety; in fact, Alice DeBoos, a partner in law firm K&L Gates’ Labour, Employment and Workplace Safety team, refers to the passed bill as “a shadow of its former self”.

“Comprehensive compromises were made to secure the support of the independents in the Senate,” she explained.

“The changes are so limited in nature the field is still wide open for more meaningful reform to come.”

According to DeBoos, perhaps the most important change is the ability to break deadlocks in the negotiation of Greenfields Agreements.

A Greenfields Agreement involves a newly established enterprise, where workers are yet to be employed. These agreements may be either a single-enterprise agreement or a multi-enterprise agreement, and in the absence of employees will be negotiated with unions.

There are also changes to the Fair Work Act restricting protected action ballot orders, and extending unpaid parental leave.

Greenfields Agreements

“Under the new regime, if parties are unable to finalise a Greenfields Agreement within six months of a ‘notified negotiation period’ officially commencing, the employer may apply to the Fair Work Commission to approve the agreement,” DeBoos told HC.

“This is a compromise on the original three month period sought by the Government.”

However, the Fair Work Commission may only approve a Greenfields Agreement if the pay and conditions under the agreement meets prevailing standards.

“The amendment intends to address the prevailing situation, where there is no mechanism to break deadlocks when negotiations reach a stalemate,” DeBoos explained.

“While the intention is worthy and a much sought after right by the construction and resources sector, the requirement for any agreement to meet ‘prevailing industry standards’ will mean that major projects will still be measured against often unreasonably high wages and conditions in place in these sectors.

“It does not present the opportunity for companies to obtain a Greenfields Agreement in circumstances where the deal on offer is designed to undercut what may be paid to workers on similar types of projects and therefore will not prompt significant reform in this sector.”

Protected Action Ballot Orders

Under the Fair Work Amendment Act, unions will be restricted when it comes to initiating protected industrial action in situations where the employer has refused to bargain.

“The amendment essentially overrules previous decisions, which have held that a protected action ballot order may be granted even if the employer has refused to bargain,” DeBoos said.

Now, bargaining will only be permitted to go ahead in this situation in limited circumstances, which include:

  • when bargaining has already commenced
  • when the union has obtained a Majority Support Determination in favour of bargaining

“The practical effect of this amendment is that it creates an extra hurdle for unions wanting to take protected action when bargaining has not started as a result of the employer refusing to bargain,” DeBoos continued.

“The amendment places employers who refuse to bargain in a better position with respect to protected action – although this is likely simply to delay, rather than abolish the risk of protected action.

“In reality, if support amongst the workforce exists for bargaining, the union will readily be able to obtain a Majority Support Determination and then make an application for a protected action ballot.”

Extending Unpaid Parental Leave

According to DeBoos, this is a somewhat simple amendment that is likely to spell the continuation of usual practices for most employers.

“The amendment provides that an employer must not refuse a request for an extension of the period of unpaid parental leave, unless the employer has given the employee a reasonable opportunity to discuss the request,” she told HC.

“The rationale for imposing this requirement is, on the one hand, to help employees balance their work and family commitments and, on the other hand, to help employers maintain skilled workers who have caring responsibilities.”

Next Steps

“Now that this is finally operational, the issue for 2016 is whether the Government will develop an ambitious Industrial Relations reform package to take to the 2016 election, or whether it will approach reform in a piecemeal way by careful dealing, as with the 2015 legislation, with crossbench Senators,” DeBoos said.

“Many of the important elements of this Bill were dropped and never made it finish line.

“It remains to be seen whether these proposals will be revived and have a better chance of success with a different prime minster at the helm of negotiations.”

Ref: HCMag

Laughs, lust and legal action

Laughs, lust and legal action

How to prevent the workplace Christmas party becoming a night to regret.

Everyone looks forward to their workplace Christmas party. It’s a great chance to reflect on the year that was, to show appreciation for colleagues and to unwind. For some people, it’s the only opportunity they have to mingle with and impress people higher up the chain of command. For others, it’s their best change to take to that cute girl or boy in accounting.

However, there is one category of employee for whom this can be the worst time of year – the human resources team. The seemingly innocent workplace Christmas party often creates a perfect storm of opportunities for employees to cause serious harm to employers with long-lasting consequences.

Christmas party nightmares

Consider the following scenarios:

  • During his work’s Christmas party, a middle-level manager tells a director of this company to “f##k off” and then later remarks to others around him that “All those board members and managers are f##ked… One of those mangers in particular, he’s a c##t”.
  • An employee becomes intoxicated during his work’s Christmas party and inappropriately touches four colleagues. He also commits a serious breach of confidentiality by telling another employee she has been unsuccessful in her promotion application.
  • A man, at the end of his work’s Christmas party, follows his female colleagues to a bar saying various things to them including “I’m going to go home and dream about you tonight” and “My  mission tonight is to find out what colour your knickers are.”

The above are actual examples of employee misbehaviour which were subsequently litigated. As you might have guessed, alcohol was at the centre of each instance of misconduct.

So what was the fallout? In each example, the employees eventually either quit of had their employment terminated. The impact was profound and long lasting, not just on the employees committing misconduct, but also on other employees who were exposed to it. Lengthy investigations had to be undertaken, which took up a great deal of HR’s time. Ultimately, one night of bad decisions resulted in some employees never being able to enjoy participating in their workplace in the same way again.

There are several modern challenges which must be considered by those managing their workplace Christmas function.

Challenge #1: Social media

In the pre-internet age, it was unusual for a person’s out-of-work behaviour to be noticed at work. Social media has made it easier for employers to find records of their employees’ extracurricular activities. It has also made it easier for employers’ reputations to be damaged by employee’s online activities. Disgruntled employees now have a broad platform from which to air their views. In one case, it was drawn to a company’s attention that one of its employees had posted on Facebook “I wonder how work can be so f##king useless and mess up my pay again. C##ts are going down tommorrow.” Unsurprisingly, the management found his to be threatening and derogatory and the employee lost his job.

The employee brought an unfair dismissal claim against his employer. However, the employer’s decision to dismiss was upheld. This was despite the face that the employee had posted the comments on Facebook while at home and outside of working hours. According to the court, the fact that the employee’s work colleagues were able to view his abusive Facebook posts was grounds enough justify the employee’s dismissal.

However, the employer still had to deal with the damage done by the employee’s conduct and relevant managers were concerned that their reputations had been damaged by the comments.

It is easy to see the potential damage social media can cause, especially when it is all too easily accessible for employees who have drunk too much at their workplace Christmas party. Any consequential photos or comments which are posted can have significant negative impacts on both the employees making the posts, other colleagues reading the posts and on the employer.

Challenge #2: Where does ‘the workplace’ end?

It is tempting for HR to consider their job to be finished after the music is turned down and the lights are switched off. Unfortunately, it has been found in several cases that employees’ misconduct can still be considered to be within the workplace, even if it occurred outside the four walls of the office.

In one case, a pilot’s misconduct was found to have occurred in ‘the workplace’ after he fondled a female colleague’s breast while in the taxi returning to his employer-provided accommodation. In another case, an employee’s groping of a waitress’ bottom while eating and drinking at a hotel was found to have occurred in ‘the workplace’ as the employer had an established, ongoing relationship with the hotel and regularly booked rooms for its employees there.

An employer cannot assume that ‘the workplace has a narrow definition. Employees and their employer can potentially be held liable for their actions both during official workplace Christmas functions and also in the hours which follow.

Challenge #3: Who should be in charge of the responsible service of alcohol?

Companies often book an external venue for Christmas functions. Usually, when this is the case, part of the agreement between the company and the external venue is that the venue will be responsible for the responsible service of alcohol.

HR should not be fooled into a false sense of security. In a recent case, an employee’s misconduct following a Christmas party was found, in part to have been caused by his employer’s failure to monitor his consumption of alcohol, even though the employer had arranged for the external venue to have this task.

How can you prepare for your Christmas function

The following strategies, while they cannot guarantee an incident-free function, should help minimise the risks.

  • Review your company’s policies to ensure that the expected standard of employees’ behaviour inside and outside ‘the workplace’ is clearly set out and that there is an appropriate and thorough disciplinary procedure in place. The policies should also make it clear that behaviour which may damage the employer’s reputation, even if this behaviour occurs outside the workplace, may still be subject to disciplinary action.
  • Employees must be thoroughly trained in the relevant policies, including disciplinary policy and procedures, particularly the people who are responsible for managing out of hours functions.
  • Ensure that there is some form of monitoring of employee alcohol consumption and behaviour at workplace functions. Don’t leave the responsible service of alcohol and the supervision of your employees at work functions to the venue’s hosts.

Ref: HRMonthly November 2015

Talking heads

Talking heads

Video is being used increasingly by recruiters and candidates who prefer to ‘talk’ directly to an employer.

With unemployment figures high and the battle for quality candidates keen, it pays to stand out from the crowd. A search on YouTube for ‘video resume’ produces more than 500,000 hits. But what has caused this shift and what does it mean for human resource professionals?

There are a range of reasons – one of which is the younger generation’s relationship with technology, says Josh Tolan, CEO of Spark Hire, a video-interviewing platform used by more than 50 organisations worldwide. “Young people are more comfortable being in the public eye, showing who they are. It’s the extrovert and exhibitionist coming out.”

According to Davin D’Silva, recruitment manager, advice and services at Suncorp, technology is changing the recruitment landscape. “Today, technology is facilitating alternative mediums for candidates to provide information about themselves to employers.” Examples include videos, Prezi presentations, resumes built to look like eBay auctions or even a video game.

Integrating video into the recruitment process is making it more efficient and effective, according to Tolan. “It helps employers gain more insight on important personality and non-verbal cues earlier in the process,” he says.

Not surprisingly, those spruiking the technology agree. Benjy Gilman, co-founder at MyInterview, an online video recruitment platform, says: “People have become more tech savvy and therefore have the opportunity to see different mediums to apply for jobs. But employers are also becoming more time poor and are looking for efficiencies wherever possible. Video makes their job a lot easier as it gives them a better picture of whether or not a candidate is the right person for them.”

The video interview

Non-traditional resumes are not the only things changing in the HR industry. Hiring processes are moving more towards digital as well. Commonwealth Bank employs video among a number of techniques to ensure they get to know the person behind the CV. “CVs can only tell part of the picture for the individual, so we spend a great deal of time getting to know a candidate’s personality, skills, and career aspirations in other ways [through video interviewing, assessment centres, psychometric tests and face to face interviewing] to ensure we objectively find the best talent for the role and the organisation.” says James Elliott, general manager, talent strategy and acquisition.

Suncorp has been using video interview technology fora  couple of years now and believes it’s a worthwhile tool to recruit people, especially graduates. “telephone interview scheduling was quite restrictive and time consuming,” says D’Silva. “We get that extra dimension of information that we weren’t getting from a telephone interview. For example, seeing the way they present themselves and identifying their enthusiasm and motivation through their body language.”

For Commonwealth Bank, video interviewing is all about ensuring convenience for the candidate and efficiency for the recruitment team. “The he video interview provides our managers with an enhanced feel for the candidates’ experience, personality and potential,” Elliott says. “It also saves candidates from having to repeat answers to questions when they meet other people later through the recruitment process, as line managers will already have seen their answers to these initial questions.”

Gilmann believes video interviewing is only going to become more accepted as time goes by, so it’s important to jump on board. “Video interviewing will become a standard part of the recruitment process for employers of all sizes due to its affordability, ease of use and effectiveness in sorting applicants.”

The hiring process

Most video recruitment platforms offer different ways to conduct the candidate search. Generally, a video resume is submitted, giving applicants the opportunity to pitch themselves and their skills. There are then two options. The first is a one-way interview where candidates respond to a series of questions presented by the computer. Candidates can complete this in their own time. Alternatively, interviews are conducted live and the recruiter connects directly with the candidate.

As with traditional resumes, there is the potential to use screening software to scan for keywords. D’Silva says the rise of non-traditional resumes and video interviewing is changing the way systems will need to work in the HR industry. “we will have to find efficient ways to capture skills and capability so it searchable in the future,” he says. “However, the greater challenge will be moving away from selecting candidates on previous work experience and assessing candidates on capability and motivation.”

Risk of bias

Bias can occur in any recruitment situation. Is the potential for unconscious or conscious bias that much greater when video is part of the process? Kyle Scott, senior associate at Australian Business Lawyers and Advisors, thinks not.

“I can’t see it increases any legal risks. Most employers will meet the candidate before offering them a job, so getting a video resume doesn’t give you any more information. What it does is bring forward the opportunity to discriminate if someone was so inclined to do so, but it doesn’t give more opportunity to discriminate.”

Where there could be problems is if an employer says they will only accept video resumes, says Scott. “That opens up potential discrimination against people who might not have access to technology, who live in a remote or regional area, or who aren’t tech savvy. That’s alright if it’s a tech job they’re going form buy not if it’s for a cleaner,” Scott says.

“A good recruiter uses the information in front of them and doesn’t get swept up in superficial extras,” D’Silva says. “if you have agreement on the competencies you are looking for in an ideal candidate and assess each person against these, then there shouldn’t be any bias.”

Elliott believes going digital actually helps avoid unconscious bias. “Studies have shown that digital interviewing increases objectivity as [it can be seen that] all candidates are asked the same questions and recruiters are held to account, as the interviews can be reviewed to see if bias has occurred,” he explains.

The way of the future

When it comes to the future of recruitment, most experts agree that technology and peer-to-peer networking will play a major role. According to Gilman, the use of social media in the hiring process is only going to intensify. “Business is becoming more social and recruitment will follow this trend.”

D’Silva agrees. “It’s probably only a matter of time until there’s a technology solution to curate content from out social presence and peer reviews, and turn it into ranking or a compatibility index with employer values and resourcing requirements.”

Ref: HRMonthly November 2015

Career tip of the month

Career tip of the month

Sometimes, you need to get back to basic in order to move forward. Many of today’s most disruptive technologies show that logic in action. Uber makes it simple and easy to catch a ride, Xero empowers just about anyone to run their won business and Airbnb relies on one of the most basic ideas of all 0 sharing.

The same idea should apply to the way businesses train and upskill their employees. It’s been proven that video is one of the most effective tools in education. It improves people’s ability to recall facts and details – as much as 83% over a long period of time, and is more cost effective than many traditional training methods.

Why, then, did businesses spend close to half of their training hours last year delivering instructions in a traditional classroom setting?

It’s time to leave ‘the way it’s always been done’ behind and follow the lead of innovative, agile businesses that simply and improve our day-to-day lives.

Int he on-demand economy, businesses, HR and training leaders must get back to basics when it comes to training. Instead of spending $8 billion on traditional, cumbersome learning management systems, businesses should explore instant, scalable, on-demand solutions that cut through the clutter, enable information to be easily retained and turn training from a burden into an opportunity for improved competency, efficiency, safety and productivity.

Ref: HRMonthly November 2015

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The ARS team have extensive experience providing recruitment and HR consulting services to Australian businesses and jobseekers.