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  1. How do I successfully hire for attitude?

    March 12, 2017 by scrowe

    Most organisations have a solid understanding of the skills a good employee needs to be successful.  But how many companies really understand the attitudes that are important for success in their organisation?  How many hiring managers or recruiters know how to determine whether a candidate’s true attitudes reflect those required to succeed in your business?

    Mark Murphy, in his book “Hiring for Attitude” describes an approach to discovering the attitudes that matter in your organisation and the methods needed to uncover whether a candidate has those attitudes or not.  And the good news is that it can be replicated by all organisations, large and small.

    Below is a brief summary of Murphy’s method.

     1    Define the attitudes that make a difference in your organisation

    The temptation is to write down a long list of traits we want to see in all employees, including for example honesty, reliability integrity etc.  The problem though is that these traits often exist in both successful and unsuccessful employees (there are plenty of honest reliable but unsuccessful employees out there).  They do not help us separate those people that have the best chance of success in your organisation from the others.  We need to find two distinct groups of attitudes, those that only exist in the successful people in your company and those that only appear in the unsuccessful people in your company (the differential characteristics).

    Murphy suggests uncovering these attitudes by questioning the people in your organisation who will have witnessed them.  But the trick is to get very specific examples of and descriptions of the behaviours.  But don’t get fooled by “fuzzy language”.  Descriptions like ‘maintains the highest level of professionalism’ or ‘leads by example’ are open for interpretation.  What you understand as professionalism can be quite different from my definition.  Murphy’s test is to ask yourself ‘could two strangers have observed those behaviours’?

    The output of this phase is a table with two columns, one listing the positive differentiating attitudes (those that exist in successful employees), the other listing the corresponding negative differentiating attitudes (those that exist in employees that do not succeed).

    2    Create Interview Questions that highlight the difference

    Creating these questions is a four-step process:

    Step 1 – Select one of the Characteristics from your table

    Step 2 – Identify a differential situation to highlight characteristic

    Step 3 – Begin the question by asking “could you tell me about a time you …” and insert the differential situation you have identified

    Step 4 – Leave the question hanging

    Seems simple enough.  But simple doesn’t mean easy, finding the right situation takes some effort and usually need you to look back at the examples you were given when you were surveying your colleagues.

    And what does step 4 mean? Murphy explains that too often good behavioural questions are spoiled by leading the candidate to the solution, e.g. “Tell me about a time when you had to adapt to a difficult situation. What did you do?”  Well you have just said that they should adapt to it.  Leave the question hanging means not leading them to the answer.

    3    Creating answer guidelines

    Why do we need answer guidelines?  For two main reasons, to ensure we have a consistent understanding across the organisation and to give interviewers cues to listen for in the interview.

     

    To get the full picture on hiring for attitude please consult Mark Murphy’s 2012 book; Hiring for attitude; a revolutionary approach to recruiting star performers with both tremendous skills and superb attitude.


  2. Talent Pools – Why should I join one?

    March 2, 2017 by scrowe

    In a world where there is growing competition for good staff, talent pools are a great way for companies to develop relationships with potential employees.  They are an important part of an organisation’s employer branding, providing an opportunity for direct two-way communication with potential employees.

    But why should a potential employee sign up?

    A good talent pool is a resource for candidates as well.  A good talent pool will provide information that enables members to get an understanding of what it might be like to work for the company or in the industry supported by the talent pool.  Apart from electronic communication they will often provide networking and educational events.  These opportunities enable members to meet peers as well as potential employers.

    If a candidate is thinking of a change in career direction joining a relevant and active talent pool will put you in touch with people who will be happy to discuss the pros and cons of your proposed new direction.  Through your membership of a talent pool you should be able to determine whether you have the skills and experience necessary to make the change without the pressure of applying for a job.  This also means that you will know where you have to focus your training and development if you want to pursue that change.

    You don’t have to be actively looking for a job to join a talent pool, in fact most members probably aren’t.

    In summary, the benefits of joining a talent pool include:

    • Understanding what skills and experience you need to be eligible for positions you are interested in.
    • Gaining a “feel” for the culture of potential employers
    • Building your network of people who are already working in the industry/job/company that you are interested in.

  3. Why it’s time to take a holiday

    December 13, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Do you feel like you’re not getting things done in the way you’d like to? Like you can’t come up with creative solutions, or focus your energy on a tough task? It doesn’t even feel like it’s simply the Christmas party hangover or the Kris Kringle list you still have to get round to shopping for. You feel… well, worn out. You could really, really use a holiday about now.

    Science is on your side. Research shows that long periods of work without sufficient time to recharge has a negative effect on thinking. When you are worn out, tasks that you used to do quickly and easily become really hard. The temptation is to tell yourself to press on, whereas really you need to give your brain – and your body – a rest.

    We admire and elevate those who work hard, put in long hours and seem able to juggle a million things. To be able to do so is great, up to a point. Nobody can do it forever, and to keep on keeping on leads to burnout, at the expense of your own career and the business’s wellbeing.

    So if leaving it all behind for a week – or more, if you’re lucky – seems stressful, here are some signs you need to listen to your brain’s signals that you need to check out for a while.

    1. You feel less enthusiastic than usual about your job

    Science shows us that tiredness leads to negative mood.  When you are in a negative mind space, not only will you feel you have lost your joy at work, you will be more critical of others and more irritable. Before you lash out or say something you regret, take some time off. If you can use it to spend time in a different place, so much the better. Plan visits to the beach, the mountains or even a park with the kids. Research shows that spending time in a different environment has measurable benefits.

    1. Everybody else is taking time off

    Practically speaking, it can make sense to be away from your desk when everybody else is. Getting things done is difficult when you keep getting email autoreplies and voicemails from your customers and suppliers. Setting your own out of office message (or at least limiting the time you’ll check and respond to messages to once a day, if you must) can give you the time to recharge and get it all in perspective.

    1. You’re running out of good ideas

    You are taking longer to solve problems and to come up with creative solutions. You can see your productivity is dropping, so why not take some free time to fuel energy, creativity and focus. When you come back relaxed and refreshed, you might well find the tasks that seemed insurmountable are quite easy.

    1. You will have time to socialise and meet new people

    Social experiences can be both motivating and a wonderful way of networking. That guy you meet on the beach, the woman on your mountain trek can spark your curiosity about others and what they do, or even lead you to your next collaboration. Get out there and see what happens.

    1. You will have the opportunity to get back to nature

    Instinctively we know we feel calm when we float in the ocean, look out over a valley still covered in morning cloud or walk in a forest. The science behind this feeling tells us that our blood pressure is lowered, our stress hormones drop and our endorphin levels are higher. Surfer Mick Fanning, who has just spent time in remote Alaska after a tough and tragic year, describes it like this: ‘I felt I’d just run out of fire, like I needed to restock the wood’.

    Fanning describes having no phone calls, Instagram or email, allowing him to live in the moment. Leaving work at work is hard, but if you are thinking about it while you are supposedly taking a holiday, the benefits are lessened considerably. So switch off the work devices to make the most of your time off.

    Studies show that performance increases after any break – a few minutes to make a cup of tea is good; a long holiday after a tough year is great. If you’re still not convinced, consider this: Australians had over 100 million annual leave days accrued in 2016, representing a huge cost on the books of employers. These are like a debt to employers. So a holiday will help balance the books as well as balance your mind.

     


  4. What every manager must know about building a great employer brand

    December 6, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Employer branding as a recruitment tool has become too big to ignore. Once the preserve of big consulting firms and global brands, it is now mainstream enough to have a day of its own – 27 April 2017 is World Employer Branding Day.

    Although HR departments and recruiters have been on board with the concept of employer branding for the past 10 years or so, senior leaders have been harder to convince. Now, new ways of measuring the impact of employer branding on the cost of hiring lets managers create a business case for employer branding that will convince even the most hardened CFO that creating a distinctive employer brand is a worthwhile investment.

    What can mangers do today to build an appealing employer brand that will attract the best talent to their business?

    1. Analyse where employer branding fits into your recruitment strategy (because its not the whole story). The best, authentic employer brands are built when HR, management, PR, marketing and employees work together to create a consistent message about what it is like to work for the organisation.

    Make sure that candidates’ experience with your organisation is stellar. Is it easy to apply for a position? Are you communicating effectively with candidates during the process? When a candidate has a bad experience, they will not only not apply for other positions with you, they will also tell others.

    2. Make sure your strategy is not exclusively employer-led. Employees are critical to developing brand image. What your employees communicate with people outside the organisation is far more important than the organisation’s own communications, research has shown. If employer branding is left to the marketing and PR functions only, it is not going to ring true.

    Including the voice of your employees and communicating their experience is vital. Define why people work for your organisation: is it to advance their careers as quickly as possible? To learn and grow? To make a positive difference to the world? An employee referral program can be a valuable part of a company’s recruiting strategy and reinforces your brand.  Knowing what percentage of your employees would recommend you as a great place to work, and why, gives you a good indication of how your brand is perceived right now.

    3. Amplify. Spread your message far and wide with content marketing and other forms of communication. You need to be where your prospective employees are, on social media, at trade fairs, community events, awards ceremonies and in the media. Tell the story of your company. What are you about? What do you stand for? Your vision and mission statements, your blog posts, intranet, public website and social media pages should all reflect the same values and story. This should be true both internally and externally, reinforcing why people want to stay with you as well as attracting them in the first place.

    4. Be real. No organisation is perfect, and no workplace is ideal for everybody. As well as promoting the strengths of your organisation, share the realities. Prospective employees will be more trusting of your employer brand if you are realistic about the work environment. This can be done in a positive way, such as by emphasising that you value work-life balance even if you don’t pay the highest rates in your industry.

    5. Measure. You will convince the bean counters that the strategy works if you have the numbers to back it up. Things to measure and track are number of applicants, cost per hire, quality of hires, retention rate and employee engagement score.

    A strong employer brand enhances the organisation’s brand overall, as well as adding value by building a recruitment pipeline through having a sharp and defined brand message. A strong employer brand  makes recruiting high-quality candidates who will be a good fit with the organisation a reality for every organisation.


  5. Active v passive job candidates: what’s the deal?

    November 30, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Truth or fiction? When you are looking to fill a position you should look for a passive candidate – somebody who is not looking for a new opportunity – because they will be better at their job. Or you should always fill the position with a person who is actively looking for a job because they will be more motivated, ambitious and ready to make a move.

    Many hiring managers and recruiters have passionately held opinions about whether active or passive candidates are best, so we thought we would look at the arguments. Is one ‘better’ than the other? As with most endeavours that combine art and science, as recruiting does, the conclusion seems to be ‘it depends’.

    Here are the rather simplistic arguments made for preferring either active or passive candidates. You can probably come up with a counter-argument for each of them. For a start, active candidate does not mean unemployed candidate; passive candidates are not all uninterested in pursuing an opportunity if the circumstances are right.

    They say you should employ an active candidate because…

    Recruiting them is easier. They are easy to find and ready to start when you need them. Easier and available also means less expensive.

    People who actively look at job opportunities are younger and better educated. Research for Indeed by Harris Polling in the US in 2015 showed that those who ever looked at job opportunities were mostly between 18 and 44, and graduates.

    They are actively looking for a challenge. They are more likely to want to move on because they want to learn, work in a larger organisation or earn more, and an ambitious candidate is more likely to succeed.

    They say you should employ a passive candidate because…

    You won’t have to compete with other employers to get them to work for you. You know that they are not sending out resumes and attending interviews, so negotiating with them will be straightforward. Most likely, you will not have to compete with other offers.

    They won’t inflate their skills or qualifications in their resume. There is no need for them to exaggerate their accomplishments or overstate their education and training, as they are not putting themselves out there.

    They will be loyal and stable employees. If they are not looking, they are engaged and happy in their job, making it more likely that they are a good team player and an all-round great employee.

    SEPARATING FACT FROM FICTION

    None of these arguments stand up under any real inspection. An active candidate might be leaving due to a poor performance review. They might be job-hopping and take any opportunity until the right one comes along, leaving you to repeat the recruitment process not too far down the line. A passive candidate may be a great fit with their current organisation, but a lousy fit with yours, or be hard to convince to consider your organisation, take up days of your time, and then ultimately say no – proving to be no less of a gamble than an active candidate.

    Other models have come up with the idea that there are four categories of active/passive candidates, or a continuum. LinkedIn reports that its 2014 research found that 75% of full time workers internationally consider themselves passive candidates, and about 15% aren’t actually applying for jobs but are preparing to move.

    WHY IT MATTERS

    To find, recruit and hire the best candidate for a particular role is ultimately what is important. Understanding that active and passive candidates are different, motivated and attracted in different ways, means that a single recruitment strategy is unlikely to work for all potential employees out there, ranging from 100% active to 100% passive. Active candidates can be reached through job boards, advertising and a good website; to an extent, they will come looking for you. Passive candidates are harder to reach, and you must go out and find them, wherever it may be, from social media to networking events and referrals.

    In the end, these sure-fire ways to attract both active and passive candidates should be the bedrock of your recruitment strategy:

    • Promote your organisation as a great place to work (and making sure it is one).
    • Run an employee referral program, particularly to connect with passive candidates.
    • Offer video interviews (e.g. Skype), after-hours interview times and flexible, discreet arrangements for discussing the position.
    • Use an executive search practitioner to be on the lookout for senior staff.
    • Create a fast and agile recruiting processes so that good candidates don’t withdraw in frustration.
    • Work with a recruiter who will maximise your sourcing capability and ensure the process keeps moving.

  6. How to create an elevator pitch that takes you to the top

    November 22, 2016 by Alison Hill

    ‘What do you do for a living?’ ‘So, what’s your business all about?’ ‘Tell me about yourself.’ If you’ve ever stumbled over a response to these enquiries, you need to craft yourself an elevator pitch.

    It’s called an elevator pitch because it should take no longer to deliver than the trip in the lift (or elevator, as they say over there) ­from the ground floor to the boardroom ­– about 30 seconds or so.

    In essence, your elevator pitch is a brief, interesting statement about who you are and what you do that makes the recipient care and want to know more. Whatever your purpose, the steps to take to create your elevator pitch are the same.

    Define your goal

    Why do you want to tell people about yourself or your organisation? You might want to make a career move, explain your start-up idea or sell your organisation as a great place to work. You might want to pitch a great idea to an exec, meet like-minded people at a networking event or create interest in your new product. Being clear about what you want to achieve is the first step, because it will shape what you say in your pitch.

    Explain what you do

    This is the simple, most obvious part. ‘My company handles corporate insurance’, or ‘I am a social worker and I work with young people with a disability ’. However, this is only the start. The more interesting part comes next.


    TIP: Don’t use jargon or excessively bureaucratic language. You run the risk of sounding insincere, or of your audience not understanding what it is you do at the end of it.


    Explain how you do it

    To stand out from the other insurers, or social workers, or whatever it is you do – because you will most likely never be the only one – include your ‘unique selling proposition’ or USP, to use some advertising jargon. What makes you different? What is your story about why you do what you do, and how do you do it in a way that makes you unique? This is what will make your audience remember you, so include it in your pitch in a way that is memorable.

    Use words such as ‘I have a knack for…’ or ‘I’m an effective…’ in your USP. They convey your ability and self-confidence without sounding conceited (yes, many of us struggle with that).

    Engage the recipient with a question

    At the end of your 30 or so seconds, have an open-ended question ready for the other person, such as ‘How does that relate to what you do?’ Your pitch can then move into conversation mode. (Unless you really are in a lift, in which case stop there.)


    TIP: Keep some business cards readily accessible so that you can hand them to the person at the end of your pitch or conversation.


    Practise your pitch until it is perfect

    You might well feel a little awkward, but practise saying your pitch out loud. Do it several times over. Time it, and perhaps even record yourself, and make sure it is not too loud. Say it to another person who will give you honest feedback about both your content and your delivery.


    TIP: Be natural in your speech patterns and in the words you choose. Your elevator pitch should be an authentic representation of you. Watch your body language – make sure it reflects what you are saying. Telling people how compassionate you are in a stilted voice with your arms folded will not come across as convincing.


    This is a real example of a suggested pitch: ‘I’m currently working as Human Resources Manager at [insert company]. My supervisors frequently commend me for being able to weigh and consider multiple perspectives and negotiate conflicting perspectives.’ Would you really speak that way? If you would, that’s fine, but if not, rather say something like  ‘My bosses often tell me I’m good at weighing and considering a lot of perspectives  and negotiating in conflicts’.

    Be prepared to tweak your elevator pitch both for the occasion and as your skills and experience evolve. At the end of it, the listener should have a really clear idea of the value you can deliver. Perhaps most importantly, your fire and excitement as you deliver it should be obvious, and infectious. It could just be the 30 seconds that changes your life.


  7. Resilience: not just bouncing back, but bouncing forward

    November 15, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Nothing could be more important than education, experience and training in determining who succeeds, right? Wrong. It turns out that the quality of resilience – the ability to rise above and bounce forward from adversity – is the biggest factor determining success and failure. 

    Josie Thomson, coach, presenter and change leadership expert, explains that when we are faced with adversity, some of us adapt and transform while others do not. If we are able to bounce forward when we have been challenged, we will grow our resilience and increase our chances of success. We can learn to build resilience by using adverse experiences as stepping stones for the future.

    ‘We determine whether an  experience makes us bitter or better’, says Thomson.

    So how can we build the resilience that will make us successful in work and in life? Thomson drew on her own experience as a two-time cancer survivor and on her masters degree in neuroscience to create a strategy involving two things not to do and five things to do to build resilience.

    HOW TO BOUNCE FORWARD: What not to do

    DON’T immediately express your feelings or react just because you feel something. Allowing ourselves to experience the emotion, but not to ‘vent’, builds resilience. We are unlikely to learn a positive lesson if we react in the moment; in fact, we are likely to make the situation worse.  If a colleague is dragging their heels on completing part of a project or your manager is not explaining a vital part of a piece of work clearly, it’s tempting to express your irritation – but that doesn’t mean you should.

    DON’T suppress the feeling either. Doing so elicits the ‘fight or flight’ response in the brain. If you walk into a meeting feeling angry, and a colleague says, ‘how are you?’, instead of answering ‘fine’ when clearly you are not, and this becomes obvious to everybody in the meeting, it is better to say, ‘not too good thanks, but I’m not going to talk about it now’.  Suppressing feelings can cause us to ‘argue with reality’, explains Thomson, and that leads us to suffer rather than to bounce back.

    HOW TO BOUNCE FORWARD: Five things you should do

    You didn’t get the promotion you really wanted, and you want to crawl under your desk in despair. You were depending on a colleague to give you this month’s figures, and they’re not ready for your meeting in 10 minutes time. What would a resilient person do? How can you learn from these apparent disasters?  Here are Thomson’s five tips for what you should do in a situation that threatens to derail you.

    1. Name the feeling. Thomson explains that the brain finds certainty when you label the feeling: ‘I’m frustrated’, for example. This allows you to move on. She warns against rumination, however, stressing that you should name the feeling and then move on.

    2. Reappraise the threatening situation. How we assess a negative event depends a lot on our ‘hard wiring’, which in turn is based on our experience. But, says Thomson, this is not the complete picture; it is only a version of reality based on what you know. ‘Step back and see the whole picture’, she suggests, ‘and ask how you can see this as an opportunity and not a threat.’ For example, if you didn’t get a position you applied for; rather than seeing this as a failure, reappraise it and see it as a step in the right direction that allowed you to practice your interview skills.

    3. Distance yourself. Take a break and put some distance between you and the trigger, and do something to distract yourself, such as going for a short walk. ‘Do something that is both good to you and good for you’, advises Thomson. ‘If it’s a big trigger, observe the 24-hour rule – sleep on it’, she counsels. This gives the ‘threat response’ in your brain and nervous system time to damp down.

    4. Practice calming techniques and mindfulness. Once the preserve of hemp-clad hippies with a penchant for chanting, mindfulness and meditation are becoming more and more mainstream. With good reason – they are scientifically proven to work in reducing stress and anxiety. There are many apps and websites that offer mindfulness meditation instructions and exercises, including Josie Thomson’s own site and Headspace, which offers a free 10-day trial of its app.

    5. Show gratitude and appreciation. Appreciating what we have trains our brain to look for positive messages in everything, a fundamental ingredient for resilience. This can be hard, as it seem our brains are inherently biased towards the negative and being grateful means we are working against our hard-wiring. When we learn to acknowledge this and move on, Thomson says, we can begin to be grateful. ‘ Happy people are not necessarily grateful’, she explains, ‘but grateful people are certainly happier.’

    Josie Thomson’s final message about resilience is this: ‘Pain in life is inevitable. It’s how we learn and grow. Suffering is optional, while growth is intentional.’

     


  8. You have six seconds to make an impact with your résumé. Here’s how

    November 8, 2016 by Alison Hill

    By Alison Hill

    The world of work is changing fast, and the recruitment process is changing with it. A few years back, we reported that employers filter out 90 per cent of all résumés they receive in about 10 seconds. Now new research shows us that recruiters spend only six seconds reviewing an individual résumé. Here’s how to make your résumé grab a recruiter’s attention in this very short time.

    1. An organised layout is essential

    With so little time to make an impact, organising your information clearly is the number one priority. Most recruiters will scan the top third of the page when looking at a résumé, so make sure this area presents a snapshot of your best self. Outline what you can offer in specific terms – your ‘elevator pitch’ – rather than writing about your own career objectives.  Tell the recruiter what you are good at and what you love doing, and explain why you’re qualified to do it. Then summarise your core competencies, using active words such as ‘managed’, ‘initiated’ and ‘exceeded’. Your professional experience is best summarised in bullet points that draw the reader’s eye. One recruiter explained this as ‘bullet point equals bragging point’.

    1. Customise your résumé for each job application

    You may be qualified for a range of positions or be interested in different career options, but a one-size-fits-all approach will generally fit nobody very well. Customise your résumé just as you would your cover letter (please say you do that, don’t you?) so that the information you send is targeted and specific, leaving out everything that is irrelevant to the job description and skills and attributes the employer is looking for. Make sure all information you include is objective fact, rather than your own opinion of yourself. Recruiters want to see what you have done to demonstrate the traits that are important to them. Your opinion that you are a ‘great leader’ doesn’t count – tell the recruiter that your team exceeded its targets and was recognised as the best performing team in the business.

    1. Pay attention to how you write and who you are writing for

    Recruiters read hundreds and hundreds of résumés, so put yourself in their position. The same tired clichés and well-worn phrases are not going to capture their attention, no matter how much they really do apply to you. You’re a ‘hard worker’? Sure you are, but don’t use those words; instead, show that you have met every deadline even when it meant sometimes staying back to do so. We’re all ‘team players’ these days, so find a fresh and original way to express how you pitched in to meet a collective goal even when it wasn’t strictly your job to do so.

    1. Check and re-check your final draft for errors

    Being a good communicator is an almost universal requirement in the workplace today. Don’t undermine your claim to meet this prerequisite by overlooking spelling errors, typos and grammatical mistakes in your résumé. Many recruiters for professional organisations will discard a résumé at the first spelling mistake. Also make sure all your dates and facts add up, and absolutely never, never make up qualifications or positions held (it happens, even the CEO of Yahoo lied about the details of his degree). After all, if you can’t get this important document right, what are the chances your reports will be readable or your instructions clear to others? Have a professional proofreader, or at least somebody with considerable writing experience, read your final draft for errors.

    Using a professional résumé writing service can be helpful. Challenge People Services’ professional consultants with extensive recruitment experience can work with you to ensure your résumé showcases your skills, experience and background and is designed to deliver results.

    See more about our résumé writing service at Challenge People Services.


  9. You can’t ask that! Or can you? Questions to pose and avoid in an interview

    November 1, 2016 by Alison Hill

    When hiring managers interview a candidate for a role, there are plenty of questions they should NOT ask. Some are unhelpful (like the perennial ‘What is your greatest weakness?) and others are just silly (‘Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?’ – yes, that was an actual question asked by a big tech company). Others are breaking the law because they are discriminatory, being irrelevant to the person’s ability to do the job. Here are some questions that may not be asked – and a couple that may – in line with federal and state anti-discrimination laws.

    Employers may not discriminate on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction, social origin, age, medical record, marital or relationship status, impairment, mental, intellectual or psychiatric disability, physical disability, pregnancy, nationality, sexual orientation or trade union activity, writes Nathan Luke of law firm Stacks.

    If employers may not discriminate when hiring, it stands to reason that if they were to ask questions about these matters and a candidate did not get a position, he or she could argue that asking the question was discriminatory. The Australian Human Rights commission or a state-based anti-discrimination board would consider a complaint from the candidate.

    ‘Even if the applicant cannot prove that the answer they gave to your question is the reason they didn’t get the job, they will still have a valid complaint on the basis that you asked the question. Insisting that you simply gave the job to another candidate who was more suitable will not help in your defence’, writes Luke.

    Some attributes are plain to see and no questions need to be asked. A racist interviewer can see immediately if a candidate is of a race or background they reject. Somebody who wants to employ a strong-looking 25-year-old man can rule out others without asking questions. The law cannot entirely protect against bias, conscious or unconscious. But generally, if the answer is irrelevant to the person’s ability to do the job, don’t ask the question in any form.

    DON’T ASK

    How old are you?

    While we are generally well aware of gender and race discrimination, age discrimination is still prevalent, with assumptions that older people have fewer tech skills and are more inflexible (tell that to Bill Gates).

    Are you married? Are you gay? Do you have children?

    You can’t rule a person in our out of a position because of their relationship status or family situation, so don’t ask the question. If you do, the candidate is entitled to assume you placed weight on the answer in making your decision.

    Are you pregnant?

    Making assumptions about a pregnant woman’s ability to do her job is not only unwise, it could be considered discrimination. Sure, it’s difficult to think you may hire a person only to have her take extended leave a few months later, but if she is a good fit for your business hiring her is worthwhile in the long run.

    BUT YOU CAN ASK (OR AT LEAST, YOU CAN IN SOME CIRCUMSTANCES)

    Religious organisations, including religious schools, are exempt from anti-discrimination laws in a range of defined circumstances. The discrimination must be in line with its doctrines, beliefs or principles, and must be reasonably necessary to not offend its followers. So a religious school may ask candidates about their religion and sexual orientation, for example.

    It is legal to ask candidates if they smoke, and to undergo a medical check as a condition of employment. It’s isn’t strictly illegal to ask a candidate at an interview if they have a criminal record, but it’s not the best way to discover this information. Have the recruiter or HR department run a background check if necessary. In general, if the conviction is relevant to the person’s job then it is not discriminatory to ask. So a person interviewing a candidate for a position as a driver is entitled to ask about convictions for driving offences.

    As with most laws, there are exceptions. When a particular attribute may be relevant to the inherent nature of the job, an interviewer may ask a question that would otherwise be discriminatory. An interviewer may ask about disability if it would affect the person’s ability to do the job, such as when filling a job that may involve danger to themself or the public. Asking about physical disability may be relevant for a job as a tree lopper or an ambulance driver, for example, but not for a call centre operator.

    When interviewing candidates, the best course of action is to approach the process with an open mind and treat all candidates fairly. Becoming aware of your unconscious biases and not acting on your conscious ones is not only legally essential, it also might lead you to a star candidate you would otherwise have overlooked. There is plenty of evidence that diverse workplaces perform better, too. That, however, is the topic for another post.

     


  10. Why you should take stock of your transferable skills

    October 18, 2016 by Alison Hill

    It was heartbreaking to read about the despair some workers felt when car makers closed down their factories earlier this month. Workers were on average 50 years old, had spent 20 years working for one company, and felt they did not have the skills to find work elsewhere.

    While it is true that manufacturing in Australia is in decline, everybody has transferable skills – those that are developed across the lifespan in both work and non-work settings. Being able to use those skills in a different setting can open up a host of job opportunities, but first you must identify them and value them as much as a prospective employer might.

    You definitely have transferable skills

    Doing any job involves many skills over and above those required to accomplish core tasks, and some skills are useful in almost every job.  Skills are different to attributes, and the good news is that you can learn and develop them. You may have acquired transferable skills by participating in the health and safety committee in your office, or by being a member of a social committee. Putting on a great Christmas party, for example, could help you into a career in events if you are able to connect the skills you learnt to an employer’s requirements.

    Outside of work, you may have played a sport, or belonged to a school or community organisation, or be involved in a hobby. These will have given you transferable skills that you can bring to the workplace in a new role. Anybody who has kids will know that being a parent teaches many skills, such as patience, perseverance, and negotiation, to name just three. A parent returning to the workforce can name these skills to increase their likelihood of success.

    Some things you might have learnt to do, such as fixing a computer or coding your own website, are technical skills, while others are ‘soft’ skills that will always be in demand, like the ability to communicate well, delegate tasks or resolve conflicts. Whether you have learnt these on the job in another workplace or in your non-working life, they are valuable skills that will give you the edge in any job application.

    Why transferable skills matter

    Your set of transferable skills will help you in different ways at different points in your career. When you are starting out, your time as netball captain or bass player in a band can show your prospective employer that you have good team skills and can co-operate with others. Your part-time job in a supermarket demonstrates that you know about customer service, and even the hours spent playing DOTA will have taught you about teamwork and cooperation.

    For those who are looking to change careers, transferable skills are crucial. Being able to research and analyse, for example, transfers well from an academic job to a range of roles in a commercial enterprise.

    Anybody re-entering the workforce after a break will need to call on their transferable skills as many occupation-based skills will have become obsolete. Even if all the organisation’s billing is now automated or outsourced, the ability to work magic with a spreadsheet still has a range of applications.

    What are your transferable skills?

    Take some time to make a list of your transferable skills and how they can be helpful to you in your future career. Do you know a second or a third language? That can be a huge advantage in today’s globalised workplace. Are you a writer in your spare time? Or are you really good at setting goals and motivating people in your running group?

    Once you have listed them, think about how you can use them. It may be to help you write a good resume, or to identify career opportunities you hadn’t considered. Your list might reveal gaps in your skills that you could address with a short course or on-the-job training.

    When you are applying for a job, the position description will contain a list of the skills the employer is looking for. Match your transferable skills to the requirements of the position, with a specific example. If, for instance, you co-ordinated the fete at your child’s school and you are applying for a role involving project management, link the skills you used to run the event with the requirements to be able to lead a team, communicate and manage risk. Use your cover letter to explain how your transferable skills match the requirements of the job description.

    Here are some of the most in-demand transferable skills. How many do you have?

    Interpersonal skills: relate well to others • motivates others • good at resolving conflict • team player

    Organisational skills: setting and meeting goals • time management • following up • meeting deadlines • planning

    Leadership skills: team building • delegating • innovative • motivating • decision-making • strategic thinking

    Communication skills: presentation • simplifying • writing and editing • persuading • teaching

    You can work at the skills you have and learn new ones, either by informal learning in your free time or with a mentor, or by enrolling in short courses, webinars and workplace learning programs.

    Managers can support their teams by encouraging and sponsoring members to take courses in areas that will both add to their transferable skills and make them more effective team members.

    Document what you learn and how it might transfer into a different role than the one you have now. And be ready to use your transferable skills in a new setting when the time is right.




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