Shift the focus off negative behaviours

Applicants report that they are frequently faced with panels who focus on the negative. Panels ask questions about:

  • Difficult clients
  • Under-performing staff
  • Team conflict
  • Competing stakeholder agendas
  • Demanding colleagues

While there may be some value in exploring these matters they can distort the interview by being one-sided regarding interpersonal skills. They can also create a false impression of what typical encounters are in the job.

If a team is performing well, why focus on under-performance?

Who are difficult clients? If a typical encounter for an IT helpdesk person is a frustrated staff member with minor computer problems, why not explore these encounters rather than couch the question in terms of conflict or difficult clients?

More important in terms of daily interactions, team behaviour, connections, cooperation and staff retention, is what people do to foster a positive working environment, particularly by managers. Rarely do panels ask about how staff:

  • Identify and play to people’s strengths
  • Recognise people’s contributions
  • Reward strong performance
  • Encourage, inspire, motivate, coach and develop.

Managers who don’t do these things are costing heaps in presenteeism, absenteeism, turnover, low morale, inefficiencies, low cooperation.

While dealing with negative behaviours is time consuming and demands special skills, if they are not typical behaviours in the job, why focus on them during a job interview?

I’d be much more interested in how a supervisor or manager was going to develop, motivate and retain staff day in and day out so as to build a productive, enthusiastic team who hung around for a while.

Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.