Your Career, Your Choices

A weekly column for job-seekers By Liam Horan, Sli Nua Careers

Q: “I come from the other side of the fence - I work in HR and sit on interview panels a few times a month. One thing that really galls me is when a candidate communicates with only one or two members of a three-person panel. I’ve seen engineers only properly engage with the engineer on the panel. It always annoys me and turns me against the candidate. Perhaps it is a topic on which you could elaborate?” - DC, email.

A: This doesn’t surprise me.

People are people. We are not automatons. If someone gives off a vibe you don’t like, it is only natural that it will have some influence on your decision.

They might still get the job if they’re miles ahead on the technical and experience sides of the equation – but a failure to interact with all members of the panel could be the deciding factor in a 50:50 call.

Make eye contact with all members of the panel. Be open and warm to all of them. Any of them may have the big shout.

The panellist who does most talking may have least influence. Who knows? Give all of them attention to cover your bets – and to avoid a panellist taking a dislike to you.

Surviving the probe

Competency-based interviews are growing in popularity – we have written about it here previously and our website, Sli Nua Careers, has many useful resources, primarily on the START method we propose for interviews of this nature.

START stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result and Them.

Answers should follow that format. In competency-based interviews, you are asked to give examples of when you displayed a particular competency. Say, resolving conflict.

You tell them the Situation (e.g. “I was managing a team of eight in my last job” );

Then the Task you had to carry out (“two staff members didn’t get on well – my task was to iron out the problem so that it didn’t infect the entire department” );

Then the Action you took (“I met with them individually, I found out what was bothering each of them, and got them to focus on what they could influence and to ignore what they couldn’t” );

Then Result (“They are no longer barking and biting at each other” );

And, then Them, i.e. what you can bring to the new company under this specific competency (“I can bring this ability to resolve conflict and I know that there is potential for conflict here given the fast-moving nature of what you do” ).

In each of the above, you elaborate more than I have done.

An interview panel, having taken delivery of that answer, might seek further information. These are called probing questions and it’s here that you can win – or lose – the interview.

Which brings me to a question I received by email this week – what are typical examples of probing questions?

Here are some:

What were your concerns about this scenario?

Were other people involved? What roles did they fulfil?

How did you feel?

Why did you take this course of action?

How will this experience prepare you for the role you’re now seeking?

How did other people react? How do you know how they reacted? Did you ask them?

wSli Nua Careers (www.SliNuaCareers.com ) have offices in Galway (Patricia Maloney, 091 528883 ), Mayo (Ballinrobe and Claremorris ), Limerick, Tullamore, Sligo, Tralee and Cork. Their services include CV preparation, interview training, job-searching strategies, public speaking and presentation skills, and career direction. For more details, visit www.slinuacareers.com/galway-office

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