Category Archives: redundancy

10 killer job interview questions that will knock you out!

It’s unfair to provide you with an encyclopedia of interview questions and expect you to become proficient in their use without overloading you with information. This is not productive, particularly when our objective is to get you to adapt to interviewers and a range of interview questions.

It’s unlikely that memorising answers to 100 interview questions will get you through the interview process. At interviews, you must be able to think clearly and adapt and modify your responses quickly rather than respond verbatim.

The following sample questions will assist you in answering a range of generic interview questions that are not necessarily behaviour based. This list is not meant to be exhaustive and it is likely you will encounter questions not mentioned in this book. The point is that authors of books that detail every question conceivable are doing you a disservice. I am more concerned about your ability to think on your feet, to expect the unexpected, and then to be able to answer that question to the best of your ability.

I know this is easier said than done because it requires composure, confidence, a rational thought process and experience of interviews. However, this can be managed with practice and interview experience. Seek to attend as many interviews as possible to practice your responses and to learn from them each time. You will find that you will grow in confidence with each occasion and become more adaptable at interviews. Practice with friends and family if possible.

Here are 10 killer questions to get you started;

1. What have you been criticised for in the past four years?
Reply: Provide an answer that is not so serious or trivial that it will disqualify you.
‘I offered some ideas I thought were constructive but was told not to rock the boat.’

2. Did you agree or disagree with the criticism and why?
Reply: ‘Agreeing with some of the criticism is a better response than agreeing with none of it at all.’

3. Where would you like to be in five years?
Reply: ‘I’d like to be in your job.’

4. How do you expect to get there?
Reply: Be clear and specific as to how you will meet the requirements and responsibilities to your career plan. Avoid common answers like ‘hard work’ and ‘attending courses’.

5. What would you like to change in this job to make it ideal?
Reply: ‘I don’t think it should be changed, I do think it has to be mastered and that is a challenging and exciting opportunity.’

6. How would you describe the most or least ideal boss you worked for?
Reply: ‘I can adapt to any style, particularly to someone who can give me enough directions, so I have a specific idea of what’s expected from me and then enough restraint not to hover over me every step of the way.’

7. What activities in your position do you enjoy most?
Reply: This question is designed to reveal your dislikes. The interviewer will make reference to the opposite of your answer when describing the activities you enjoy most. The best way to answer this question is think about how the activities you enjoy most can reveal your dislikes. You can do this by simply applying the opposite to your answer. For example, the opposite of ‘being part of a team’ is ‘bad morale’.

8. How would you describe yourself in three adjectives?
Reply: Combine your answer to convey strengths in both ability and personality such as: determined, likable, and successful.

9. How would your subordinates and peers describe you with three adjectives?
Reply: Answer with the same as for question 8 and smile.

10. What would you do if you detected a peer falsifying expense records?
Reply: ‘Report it’.

In my next article I will unleash the next 10 killer questions that will knock you out for six during the interview…

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About your resume…so who are you really?

I often get asked the question, “How much effort should I put into my resume to make it more personal?”

It’s a really good question because there are personal traits about us that get missed in resumes. Too often resumes are written in such a boring and bland manner, focusing solely on high work achievements and strong occupational skills, forgetting to portray who you really are. So who are you really? Everyone has a different side to them and that is what makes us different. Sometimes the workplace culture puts you in an environment where it creates, an artificial you. We are playing a part, trying to fit-in, and modelling to suite the perfect organisational fit. However, does it come naturally to you and if I met you jogging on the beach, is that how you would present yourself…your true self?

There are three events that occur with your resume when applying for a job that may impact on your personal profile;

  1. Not all recruiters care about you personal achievements and some may not even read the last page of your resume where usually your personal achievements, hobbies and other interests are noted
  2. Whether a recruiter will spend time reviewing the personal achievements on your resume will depend on the volume of recruitment they are processing  and the type of job you have applied for
  3. Personal traits come into play further down the track when you are at the shortlist stage and when the hiring manager imposes his views and values around the candidate in trying to determine fit for the organisation.

My approach to resume writing is to note personal high achievements in your resume for a number of reason. They provide a snap shot of who you are outside of work, your values and what you stand for. It may provide an insight into the person that we often don’t see in a controlled workplace culture…who you really are.

Resume

So what are good examples of personal high achievements? They can be a number of things and there is no limit. The only rule to observe is that the personal achievement must be significant enough to get noticed and normally related to a milestone achieved in the community and outside of work.

  • Are you the president or secretary of a successful sporting organisation that competes at the highest level in its code
  • Have you published a book and have achieved status as an author
  • Do you compete at a high level representing your State or Country in sport or any other activity
  • Have you been involved in missionary or voluntary work to support the disadvantaged, whether at home or outside your country
  •  Have you raised money for charity that attracted media attention for your efforts
  • Have you received an honor or merit from Government and been recognized for a significant achievement to the community

There is much more I could add to this list as long as it follows the golden rule that the personal achievement must be significant enough to be noticed. So be creative and don’t be afraid to list your significant personal achievements on your resume. We are not just creatures of our work based environment and organisational cultures but also real people with our own unique personalities, belief systems and values. That’s what makes us who we are.

5 Things to Tell Your Friends about Job Hunting…

 

5 critical success 2

5 critical success factors

Let me provide you with a reality check and a quick snap shot on the fundamentals around job search. Yes, everyone in the career and recruitment game has a theory or a view around the key steps to finding a job.  I have read most of them and I find them to be much the same with slight variations. The following are the foundations mentioned in my book that were developed through my own personal experience.  I can break it down into 5 key critical success factors:

  1. Successful job search skills knowledge
  2. Strong financial management initiatives
  3. Flexible and open career re-assessment
  4. Mental toughness and a strong belief system
  5. Managing your current job.

Successful Job Search Skills Knowledge

Key Success Factor Number 1

Your very first objective when you have lost your job is to get another job. Now that may sound a bit straightforward but it isn’t. To get another job today requires special knowledge and skill.

This is because in most situations, redundancy falls during times of economic slowdown, rising unemployment resulting in fewer jobs and greater competition. Labour economists call this an ‘oversupply of labour’ and this will cause an imbalance in the labour market favouring employers. That’s right – employers can pick and chose whomever they like and they know it. I think that competition is a key word here, because just like any other competitive scenario, nobody remembers who came second.

Your job search knowledge must consist of the following areas of competence:

  1. Ability to tap into the hidden job market
  2. Successful behavioural interview skills
  3. Good letter writing ability with a marketable resume
  4. Strong belief in yourself and mental stamina.

Successful job search skills knowledge is critical and my book focuses heavily on this key area. I have covered all of the above areas of competence in separate chapters so that you can easily move from one key activity to another. Your ability to network with others and perform well at interviews will be paramount.

Your ability to write good covering letters and have a well-written up-to-date resume is equally important.

Strong Financial Management Initiatives

Key Success Factor Number 2

Money management is certainly an area of great stress during redundancy or loss of job. This is because your comfort zone has been taken away from you. The weekly or fortnightly pay you have relied upon is no longer there and you are concerned about where your next pay is coming from. I have seen this scenario cause great stress to people with debts, mortgages, and young families particularly where there is only a single income earner.

I have always felt a correlation with money management and the ability to focus on getting a job. If you can take the pressure of monetary matters away from you for a short time then your ability to focus on job hunting improves significantly. The distraction of money worries does not help you focus on interview performance and getting that job. You may become desperate and make the wrong career move in the name of security. You must focus on managing your money immediately after a job loss and here are 10 financial tips to get you started:

  1. Speak to your bank about lowering your mortgage repayments immediately. You will find that over the years you have probably increased your repayments either deliberately or through interest rate reductions. Pay the minimum amount possible for now and forget about paying your house off sooner. That is not a priority now and you must review your financial objectives.
  2. With your redundancy payment pay-off credit card debt either in part or full and decrease the number of bills and interest you must pay monthly.
  3. Eliminate all unnecessary spending. All those nice things to have such as pay television, domestic servants, magazine subscriptions and memberships should be reviewed.
  4. If you have money tied up in investments such as shares or fixed interest term deposits, withdraw this money either in part or full and create a buffer zone for emergencies. Hold this money in an everyday ‘at call’ account for psychological security. This buffer zone will make you feel more secure and comfortable and allow you to focus on job hunting.
  5. Watch your spending and don’t behave as though you are still employed. This is the toughest part because it involves changing your lifestyle and habits. Holidays, clothes and any other regular purchases such as household items and entertainment expenses must be slashed. Believe me, they are not important now and you will survive until things are back on track again.
  6. Be economical with controllable household utilities expenses such as gas, electricity, telephone and your food budget. I managed to save $150 a month on food for my family by just watching for price specials, comparing prices and being more selective.
  7. Create a strict budget that is achievable and try to work within it. It will help you stick to targets and operate within set budget guidelines.
  8. Apply for social security payments. The money will not be enough to live on but it will stretch your savings further buying you more time for job search.
  9. If your finances become too tight prepare to refinance your home as the last resort. Again, this is not a preferred option but the key to job success is time.
  10. Talk about the prospects of borrowing money from family only if necessary. You will need a very supportive family for this and be prepared to pay them back when you get a job.

Flexible and Open Career Re-Assessment

Key Success Factor Number 3

My advice in this instance is get out of your comfort zone whatever you do! Too many people I have helped in their career transition have hindered their job search prospects by sticking to old beliefs and methods of approach. It has to do with familiarity and what people know best, a type of comfort zone holding you prisoner within an electric fence. Once you have lost your job your life will change from despair to opportunity.

I say this because it’s a perfect opportunity to try something new and different. That’s right, you have nothing to lose now and you can experiment and try new ideas and concepts. Stretch yourself and become excited with the thought that everything you have always dreamed of doing outside your steady and regular job has now arrived. It is time to try to test new ideas, experiment with new concepts or see where your hobbies will take you. I commenced writing my book to keep me busy when I lost my job.

Key success factor 3 is about open career re-assessment. To sit down and analyse your career options carefully rather than focusing on getting back to your regular day job or profession that you have been working for so many years.

It is time for a break and a re-assessment of your career wants and needs. In this book I dedicate a chapter to career options. I recommended that you consider a variety of options such as:

  • Starting your own business or franchise
  • Developing a new concept, idea or invention
  • Consider going back to school and undertaking further studies
  • Develop your hobbies into a potential income source
  • Try a new career in a totally different industry and/or profession
  • Take a sabbatical and enjoy the beautiful pleasures of the world.

Whatever you decide to do, flexibility in thought and total career re-assessment will enable you to increase your options in life. When you are in career transition mode I can easily teach you job search skills and how to apply them, however, your view on life and how you exercise your career options is a thought process that only you can act upon. Life is all about increasing your options and then picking the best one for yourself.

Don’t limit yourself when you lose your job, open yourself to all possibilities and explore your opportunities to their fullest. Would you believe I was motivated to write this book when I was between jobs? I had always wanted to write a book about assisting others achieve better employment prospects but I always thought it too hard and time-consuming.

The truth was that I had never written anything substantial before and just the thought of commencing it made me feel uncomfortable. I had some spare time up my sleeve and I decided to give it a try, each day I wrote two or three pages and my intensity and confidence grew each time. I also enjoyed it immensely and thought about writing as a new career. I reassessed my career options and was willing to try and experience other things, so can you!

Mental Toughness and a Strong Belief System

Key Success Factor Number 4

Losing your job is one of the toughest events that can happen to you in life. All of a sudden your standard of living, prosperity and your perception of yourself is challenged. Not easy thoughts to deal with on a daily basis.

If you have a family with young children and a mortgage like the majority of us, then matters can get worse because others dear to you and reliant upon your steady employment are also affected. There is nothing like coming home to your partner and informing them you no longer have a suitable job and watching their jaw drop all the way to the ground in a split second.

I learned very quickly that being sorry for myself was not going to help me and what had happened in my previous job was over and done with. I could not change the past but I could ensure that the present and future be better managed with a new way of thinking. The best way to get another job is to stay focused and challenged, to be mentally tough. If you cannot do this for yourself then do it for your loved ones who rely on you. Many authors describe this situation of downward spiralling anxiety and depression as ‘learned helplessness’. You believe that no matter what you do, nothing can help you out of your current situation, and that you are destined for doom and failure.

This is not true, learned helplessness will not get you another job, but mental toughness and a strong belief in yourself and your abilities will. All situations are temporary and you are just entering a trough in your life cycle. Soon it will get better and you will enter a resurgent growth stage and rise towards a new peak in your life.

However, you must believe in your abilities strongly because your belief system will control your thoughts and actions. A belief is nothing more than a feeling of certainty about what something means to you. In this book we discuss belief systems in more detail and expose how you can better control your beliefs towards positive thinking. These are beliefs that can help provide you with energy and a form of mental toughness to keep you going in a positive direction.

Managing Your Current Job

Key Success Factor Number 5

I have made it very clear in my book that good jobs are hard to find today and that the oversupply of good candidates ensures that employers have the upper hand at recruitment. This is what we are dealing with in the new millennium and sometimes we may lose sight of this and feel that the grass is greener on the other side.

Working as a professional employee relations practitioner for many years, I have seen many people leave good jobs simply because they were not good at managing or keeping their current employment. I don’t mean that you should give up better opportunities, far from it. I am referring to those who have left their employment in difficult circumstances or were not entirely happy with their workplace circumstances at the time. It is easier for us to lose our composure rather than think a situation through rationally during difficult circumstances.

The grass is not always greener on the other side. All businesses have their political issues, difficult people to get along with and peculiarities that don’t always make sense, and perhaps, some companies are more prone to this than other. The key is to better manage your career and your job whereas you can rationally think through those difficult moments and ensure you continue to maintain positive relationships in the workplace. All things pass in life and sometimes it may be nothing more than a difficult phase the company is going through. If you are being counselled for poor performance, have a hard look at yourself and determine whether there is genuinely room for improvement.

You may find that you can turn it around with a dedicated personal approach and commitment. If someone is making your life miserable focus on better managing others in the workplace and see if you can change the situation by adopting new and different strategies to better manage this person. There are many courses, books and mentors in the workplace that can assist you overcome difficult situations through their own experiences.

How to avoid being swindled at the job interview?

Swindled

Job Interview Swindler

It can happen to the best of professionals. The company representative or recruiter will create an illusion of grandeur unsurpassed with promises they can’t keep. They feed on your hunger to be wanted, loved, and appreciated for every little bit you stand for. And you say to yourself, “my boss does not treat me like this…these guys must be great to work for.” It’s a facade that is well presented and immaculately served to you on a platter in a way that you can not see the rotting truth underneath.

Yes my dear friends, it has happened to me also. Sucked in by the charisma of the moment and the adrenalin rush that overwhelms you straight after. We are taken off to a place, la la land, where we think we’re in such demand that we are now invincible. At this point, we are blindly about to be swindled! The only catch is  your career is at stake and your future prosperity is about to take a nose dive. Oh yes, lets not underestimate the costly mistake you have made by choosing the wrong job,  Your boss turns out to be totally opposite to his projection and profile and is a psycho in waiting with massive mood swings. The organisational culture is sick and suffering from the ravages of primal behavior and fear. You have gotten yourself into a fine mess and your strategy now turns to exiting the business before you are jettisoned yourself.

It did not have to be like this and precautionary action could have been taken prior to accepting the job. There are a number of things you could have done before accepting the job offer as part of your job search routine. It’s about stealth researching and getting underneath the nose of the bullshit you have been told at the interview to find out the truth. Research is more than just reading the annual report or articles in the press. Anyway, most companies pay to be written up well as part of their marketing strategy. You need to go deeper and talk to people in the industry who know the machinations of the company.

Speak to people who understand the industry you are about to enter and their views about the company you are about to join as an employee. You will find out the stuff  between the lines and what is underneath the cracks. What is the leadership team really like and how are their values and behaviors? What about the culture of the workplace and are the employees happy? Has employee turnover been high and why? Do they have a good safety record, and if not, why are people being hurt? Always remember that good companies are judged by the way they behave when things are not going well with an employee, and not just when they are performing magnificently. I say this because we all have our difficult moments in work life and rough patches at times. We are not made perfect and organisations that can help you when the chips are down, and get you back on your feet performing at the right level, are better to work for than those that will spit you out.

Then it gets really tough and you want to find out more about your boss and your bosses boss. We are considering not just their projection and profile but how they manage people in the workplace. What is their management style really like and how do they generally behave in difficult circumstances? What would their direct reports say about them and describe their attributes altogether? Finding this out will be worth its weight in gold as it may prevent you from making a costly career decision later on. Remember, you are making a fundamental decision at an interview. To choose the company you want to work for for many years to come, progress you career and grow your capability during this time.

There is a website you can research company reviews by past and current employees that remain anonymous, at glassdoor.com.au with over 4 million review so far. I wish I had knowledge about his web site previously before accepting job offers. It would have rounded off my research nicely and assisted me before getting swindled at the job interview!

 

The untold truth about the Australian job market…

Do you ever get a feeling, that what is happening around you is very different to what our Government is telling you?

I have friends that are very well qualified and credentialed professionals with an abundance of experience unable to secure work within a reasonable time frame. Yes, they are getting squeezed out of the selection process and left wondering what is really going on with the job market in this country. So I did some research, and found that all is not what it seems to be. The engine room of marketing spin is working overtime in Government circles to tell us a sod story that everything will get better soon.

Collin Twiggs is an Australian market analyst and in his blog, Trading Diaries, he makes an astonishing find, and it all starts in the US.  Recently, US employment has been very topical after two months of poor jobs figures. Employers added 113,000 new jobs, against an expected 185,000, last month compared to a low 75,000 in December 2013. Rather than focus on monthly data, let’s take a long-term view.

Collin Twiggs states that the number of full-time employed as a percentage of total population [red line below] fell dramatically during the GFC, with about 1 in 10 employees losing their jobs. Since then, roughly 1 out of 4 full-time jobs lost has been restored, while the other 3 are still missing (population growth fell from 1.0% to around 0.7% post-GFC, limiting the distortion).

emp-fulltime (1)

Participation rate of employment in the US

Part-time employment — the difference between total employment [green] and full-time employed [red] below — has leveled off since 2000 at roughly 6% of the total population. So loss of full-time positions has not been compensated by a rise in casual work. Both have been affected.

emp-fulltime-total

 

A closer look at the Australian context can be made by reviewing the labour force participation rate. This is a good measure to use for employment strength in the economy because it’s less subject to manipulation by Government. It’s a  measure of the active portion of an economy’s labor force. During the GFC in 2008 the labour force participation rate for all person aged 15+ came to a sudden stop at 65.6%. The participation rate has declined steadily since to 64.7% in July 2014 and this represents almost a 1% decline.

So what has happened to jobs growth and why are we in a period of decline? During the GFC companies got smarter and became conditioned to survival strategies. After all, they had just been through the worst global economic threat since the great depression of the 1930’s. Every time there is blip in the global economy or the US market sneezes we see the ripple effect down under.

During the GFC crisis companies learned to do more with fewer employees. So if you feel stressed out doing the job of 1.5 or 2 people with little or no extra reward, then you’re not alone. It has become common place and it may be the price you have to pay to stay employed. It’s my opinion that ongoing efficiency, rationalization and economies of scales has meant there is limited job creation penciled in for our future economy. The 1% decline in the participation rate may be a signal for worse to come as the trend line points downwards. Alternatively, are we experiencing similar structural job decline to the US, and those percentage of jobs lost since 2008, have simply vanished…never to be seen again?

What if you left a job in difficult circumstances?

This area is one of the most difficult aspects of job search advice. This is because most job search literature does not make any real attempt to cover the topic in any detail. I am certain this is due to the lack of experience of authors and so-called experts in the career development profession. It is one of those topics that unless you have been through it yourself or have seen the unfortunate consequences of it, it is unlikely you are in a position to provide any proper advice.

I want to spend some time on this topic because I feel it is where I can provide the greatest assistance. I also know that people who have left their jobs in difficult circumstances are in a vulnerable position as far as their job search is concerned. This is because employers secretly do not like candidates who are unemployed unless there is a really good reason for it. This adds a lot of pressure to unemployed candidates because not only do they need to win that job and compete with others who are employed but they also need to carefully justify their current state of unemployment.

If there is any solid advice I can give you, it is to look for a job whilst you are still employed. The contradiction here is that people do lose their jobs for many reasons. There are many reasons why people leave their jobs. In some cases it may be in difficult circumstances such as:

  • Redundancy or retrenchment
  • Fall-out with your boss
  • Restructuring of duties
  • Serious misconduct
  • Poor performance
  • Taking a break (sabbatical)
  • Personal issues
  • Health
  • Not an organisational fit.

Whatever the circumstances are, you must not lose faith in your abilities or lose self-confidence. This is easy to do when you leave a job in difficult circumstances because we can be very hard on ourselves. You will go through a process of self-doubt and rejection – questioning constantly your role in having lost your job and what you could have done to redeem the situation or prevent it from happening. Just remember this, once you leave an organisation in difficult circumstances it is over!

No matter what you do now you cannot change what has happened rightly or wrongly. You must leave it be and move on.

The best you can do is learn from your experience. If you have been made redundant for example, then the decision was out of your control and there was probably nothing you could do about it. Don’t blame yourself for decisions you had no influence on. Companies are restructuring all the time today and it is a normal part of business. You will have to come to terms with this and accept it as a part of the working landscape. If your boss has told you that things are not working out because you are not a fit then don’t take it personally.

You may have been good at what you do, however, organisational cultures can be complex and sometimes we can be different for a variety of good reasons.

My friend Daniel was unhappy in his job and decided to make a brave decision and leave his position to look for something else. He resigned his job with nothing to go to. People thought he was mad for doing this but I advised him he was brave for leaving a situation that was not working for him. Daniel had confidence in himself and his abilities and he never gave up on his desire to get another job. With some job search advice and fine-tuning of his resume I was able to assist him in getting another job and guess what? It was a better-paid job in a larger organisation.

His move had paid off for him. I acknowledge his success to be based on self-confidence and letting go of the past. Daniel had also accepted the reality of his current situation and was able to develop a script for interviews that ensured he was able to sell his reasons for leaving to potential employers and employment consultants. Daniel had left in difficult circumstances, however he was able to make it work with a proper job search strategy.