3. Managing Performance
Q: Can you share an example of managing poor performance? Think about an occasion when you either turn this poor performance around positively or when you had to manage them out of the business? Take us through step by step what actions you took?
A: Remember when you are sharing examples of people management – if the interviewer works in Human Resources they will be very knowledgeable of the right way of managing performance, disciplinary, grievances etc – so don’t make it up as you go along! In this particularly question interviewers will be looking at how you first identified the cause of the poor performance (disinterest in the task, de-motivated in general, ability or capability issues, issues at home affecting work performance, relationships at work etc.)
The interviewer will be looking for how you diagnosed the problem in the first place, how you assessed whether the person had the necessary tools and resources to do the tasks, how you identify whether they required further training or time to shadow with a competent colleague, or if you re-assign the task to someone else in the team. They’ll also be looking for how you have set clear objectives and kept track of progress against these goals. The absolute last resort is managing a person out of the business and hiring managers will want to know this was the case in your example. If you’ve simply fired someone who was not performing then this action can potentially increase the risk of reputational damage (this is particularly difficult to calculate the cost) or worse increases the risk of legal action for unfair dismissal.
4. Tough Mindedness
Q: Talk us through a time when you had to make or communicate a difficult business decision and how you tackled this?
A: In business it isn’t always about getting people to like you or like the decisions you have to make or communicate. Of course you want your team to respect you professionally and work well together. However, there are going to be times when even you may not like the direction of the company and you’ll need to implement these changes positively and communicate this tough message to the team. Even if you’ve not agreed with the managements decision you’ll need to implement with enthusiasm and interviewers will spot the signs a mile off if you’ve “gone native” – meaning you’ve tried to deflect any responsibility for the decision, you may have even shared your disagreement with the team – this behaviour is not actually going to do you any favours in the interview, particularly if the job you are applying for requires someone to deliver some big changes.
If you are not able to make difficult decisions and communication tough messages with passion and commitment you are likely to have a very disengaged and de-motivated team and your original motive to get the team on your side might actually back fire as they’ll have little respect or commitment to the tasks ahead. Think of a time when you’ve had to make a difficult decision and how you’ve thought through your approach to handling this situation. Interviewers will be looking for how you’ve gathered all the facts before making or communicating a difficult decision, how you’ve understood the rationale for the decision and how you’ve listened to other people involved or impacted by the decision.
5. Commercial Awareness / Business Acumen
Q: Can you tell us about a time when you’ve made a positive commercial decision and how this impacted the profitability or the bottom line (operational costs)?
A: Interviews will be looking for evidence of how you make decisions that impact either the company’s profitability or increased revenue. If the job isn’t a revenue generating position then the interviewer will be looking for evidence of how you have reduced operational costs. To demonstrate commercial awareness you’ll understand and provide evidence of how you’ve managed resources [people, skills, costs, time and budgets etc.]
Interviewers will be interested in your up to date knowledge of the market sector, your knowledge of competitors and customer demands and how you’ve applied this knowledge to the benefit of the organisation. If you are not applying for a revenue generating role then recruiters will be interested in how you have reduced costs or streamlined or automated processes to save time which consequently reduces operational costs. Make sure you understand the company’s competitors and their major challenges in the future – this will not only demonstrate you are commercial aware but shows to the recruiters you have researched the company.