Being boring will never cut it in an HR interview

The rules of engagement are quite different for a candidate to impress

Gulf News

Anyone who has run a business, large or small, knows the frustration and disappointment you feel when an appointment didn’t work out and you have to let someone go.

Apart from the unsettling effect this can have, and the time you’ll need to invest to find a replacement, there’s that nagging concern that you got it wrong once and you really can’t afford to make the same mistake again.

Every company or organisation has its own HR procedures and we all go to great lengths to screen candidates before making an appointment. But what are the safeguards to make sure the right individual gets the job?

Recruitment and HR experts love to tell us that there are around 10 key qualities to look out for when interviewing candidates for a key position.

These usually start with communication skills, and include positive attitude, ability to blend in to your team, flexibility, dependability, integrity, creativity, strong organisational skills, intelligence, and an outlook that the job is helping them achieve a career goal, and not just a means to a pay cheque.

For me, one of the best ways to judge a candidate is on how well they have prepared for the interview, and how much time and effort they’ve taken to get to know the company they’re talking to.

The individual who shows knowledge about my company and displays an eagerness to know more gets my attention. And while that’s not enough on its own to secure the job, it can be big factor.

When you are expanding quickly and interviewing as many people as I have, it’s important to have a thorough recruitment process in place to make sure only the best get through to the actual interview stage.

Most of the people I see have already proved their technical ability and displayed their hard skills, first being interviewed by the HR manager over the phone, next being seen by a principal consultant and, finally, going through a two-day assessment process which cuts people at the halfway stage.

So, by the time I see them they’ve already shown that they have what it takes to do the job, and the final part of the procedure is to assess whether they’ll actually fit in to the team and deliver.

I need to be sure that not only will they get on with the people in the organisation but that they’ll bring something a little bit different. There are various ways that they can stand out from the rest. It might be as simple as the tie they wear, or the fact that they’ve taken the trouble to find out something about myself, as I’ll do with them.

People I interview are often surprised by how much I know about them. I take the trouble to find out because, if you do, you can discover some common ground — maybe which football team they support or which other sport they play or watch — and use that to find out more about them and their personality.

Above everything else, I want people to be honest, especially when I ask them what their biggest weakness is. Anyone who answers that they work too hard doesn’t score high with me.

If a candidate wants to impress someone like me during an interview, they’d better come up with something better than that. We all have weaknesses, so I want to hear what theirs are.

Nobody’s perfect, and those who pretend that they are will be more likely to disappoint further down the road.

I look for someone who makes me remember them. Anyone preparing for an interview should spend a good deal of time thinking about that and be ready to give good, convincing and honest answers so they stand out from the rest.

I carry the same ideas forward when we’re pitching for new business and suddenly I’m on the other end of the interview.

If I can find some common ground to begin with, that can make a big difference so I always go into new business meetings armed with as much knowledge as a can get on the people I’m meeting and how their business works. I’ll always spend time trying to find some common ground before each business meeting.

Whether you’re interviewing for a job, or being interviewed, there are always benefits in finding a personal connection with the people on the other side of the table.

The writer is Head of PA Consulting Group, Middle East and North Africa. All opinions expressed are his own.