Letter of the week: Advice on how to sell yourself

• I refer to your article regarding interview questions which cause
candidates consternation (30 November). It is a pity many employers seem to
want to catch candidates out with difficult questions. I like to think our
company uses such questions to test how candidates respond in a difficult

In our recruitment processes, I would say the HR department tends to ask the
awkward, "touchy-feely" questions which aim to find out about the
person, whereas the managers are generally more keen on job-related questions
in terms of experience and knowledge and so on.

Here are some favourites.

How do you like to be managed? Invokes some interesting reactions as usually
their prospective manager is in front of them.

What irritates you in other people? An excellent way to find out what gets
on their nerves and how they cope. Some candidates are nervous about this one
as they think it may cast a negative light on their personality.

If we offered you the job on Friday, what would you do on Monday? This sorts
out those people who have thought about how they would go about the job when
they got it, and those who are attending for interview sake.

What would you do if you did not agree with your manager’s decision? This
can often make people feel uncomfortable, especially if they are strong-minded.

I would agree that candidates could be better prepared for interview and
show greater enthusiasm. The candidate who has not prepared some sort of
presentation, supplied details of qualifications and achievements etc, or shown
some question preparation, is clearly not the person for the job.

The candidate has only a short time to impress and, while they may have been
able to sell themselves on paper, they are not through the woods.

Writing notes is an excellent way to train the mind, especially if someone
is nervous. I am very impressed if candidates have notes with them – it shows
preparation and commitment.

You refer to three areas in which it has been found that candidates fail to
impress – I agree with all of these. Inappropriate dress, I find, is more a
failure of internal than external candidates – there is nothing wrong with a
suit, shirt, tie and trousers, skirt and blouse or similar. Clean shoes are a

Finally yes, monosyllabic responses are a problem with lot of people. Any
suggestions of getting more out of these people would be greatly welcomed.

So, candidates, beware the killer questions. Don’t panic, take your time and
if you cannot answer, be honest. Dress smartly, don’t be arrogant and answer
questions fully. Prepare for the interview, have questions ready and, most
importantly, sell yourself – you only have one go at it.

Ayshea Christian, MIPD


Banner Business Supplies

Invest to stop corporate killing

• I am stunned that the offence of corporate killing (7 December) is once
again news. Why are businesses still not managing their staffs’ work hours

As a personnel manager for a software company which provides working hours
software, I know that effective management of hours is neither time consuming
nor expensive.

If more companies invested in such a package, the horrendous incidents the
horrendous incidents of stress, neglect and long working hours in the workplace
may be eliminated.

Jenny Shervell

Personnel manager

Smart PeopleTime

Is that question really relevant?

• I don’t have a killer question but I would suggest candidates faced with
one should ask which of the selection criteria it relates to. Good interview
practice suggests such questions are irrelevant and should be avoided. (They
could also be discriminatory).

If the interviewers really want to know if a candidate can think on their
feet, an appropriate question should be designed to test the candidate’s skill
in this area. Alternatively a well-designed group exercise relevant to the job
would determine it.

Organisations allowing poor recruitment practice should be targeted by the
IPD, the EOC and so on to improve their standards rather than having their
practice encouraged by such agencies.

If I were asked an irrelevant question at interview I would challenge it and
if I failed to receive a satisfactory answer I would thank the panel for its
time, say the organisation was not for me and leave.

Laura Hurst, Assistant staff development manager, South Bank University

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