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HR Zone Any Answers Digest #6 – Interview skills, competencies, dyslexia


HRZONE Any Answers Digest – Issue 6
Tuesday 30 April 2002

********** THIS WEEK’S TOPICS ***** THIS WEEK’S TOPICS **********
…Recruitment: internal or external?… succession planning…
advantages of diversity… improving interview skills…
competencies… support for dyslexia
********** THIS WEEK’S TOPICS ***** THIS WEEK’S TOPICS **********

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What you asked this fortnight

New questions posted include:

– I’m developing policies for when we recruit just internally and
when we recruit externally. I’d be interested in hearing about
policies and processes that others have in place.
Rachel Withey

– I have to design a Succession Planning Process and am looking
for ideas on best ways of managing succession planning.
Colin William

– Does anyone have a brief game or ice-breaker to illustrate the
advantages of diversity in the workplace?
Philippa Forsyth

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Featured question: Improving interviewing

Q – I was recently involved in interviewing for new staff. Anyone
got any info/tips on how to improve the skills of the
interviewer, (me!), particularly in relation to
paraphrasing/rephrasing questions and clarification of responses.

Question submitted by Ann Marie McKenna

Members’ responses

(edited responses appear – see the site for full responses)

An interview is merely a process to determine suitability, on
both sides, for a particular function or role. To this end, a
series of open and closed questions are asked by the interviewer
to ascertain knowledge, attitude and skill-set of the candidate.
You are also seeking to ensure that you have the right fit, with
respect to your company ethos. It is important that the candidate
satisfies all these areas. It is of equal importance that you, as
the interviewer, have a list of expected answers to all of your

As a general rule, 80 per cent of the interview is responses
from the interviewee. If your questions are ambiguous, the
response will be similar. If you use an example of… ‘so tell
me about your highest achievement in your last company’ this is
a good open question, but the candidate will no doubt be nervous
and may waffle on for 30 minutes!
Clive O’Donnell


Interviewing is the type of activity that you need to actually do
when learning, rather than just read about or watch (a bit like
learning to ride a bike – reading about the theory of balance may
not help much!)… In my experience, the main difficulty new
interviewers have is with getting, detailed evidence of what the
interviewee did or didn’t do. So they rely on impressions
(biases) to make their decisions rather than real information.
Alan Wilson


Two key paraphrasing skills are reflecting back facts and
reflecting back feelings. Facts are easier – repeat back the
factual content, as you understand it. Practice this in all kinds
of situations and it will become easy to do in the stress of an
interview. Feelings are harder and while this is a great skill in
many situations it’s not essential for interviewing. I’d
concentrate on learning to do open and probing questions first.
And questions which ask for specific examples of behaviour.
‘Tell me about a time when you…’. Plan the questions in
Jessica Madge

To read responses in full, go to

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Any Answers Answered:
This fortnight, new responses have been added to the following

Q – I am currently looking to develop a competency based system
for both managing performance and recruitment within a Housing
Association. Does anybody have some examples of different methods
and/or tips to get me started?
Jo Browning

A – Providing you have a framework which is sufficiently indepth
& behavioural in its focus I can’t see a need to have distinct
frameworks. From the fuller set it may then make sense to
categorise the behaviours into ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’.
Connall Platts

A – Integrating different HR processes around a common framework
is one the attractions of competencies. My experience is that
companies can over-engineer theirs, making it difficult for line
managers to use associated processes such as performance
management (so they either don’t use them or use them
incorrectly!). So, tip one is keep it simple (you can always
enhance your model later). Tip two, work out the key values of
the Association and ensure that the competencies you come up with
support the selection and development of people who share those
values. Tip three, make sure that the performance management
process doesn’t just focus on competencies. The competencies
should support the achievement of relevant personal objectives.
Alan Wilson

A – Before you go any further I suggest you try and find anyone
who has made competence frameworks work. The theory does not make
sense and the practicalities very quickly turn it into a
bureaucratic nightmare – lots of activity, no performance
improvement. Competencies have had their day.
Paul Kearns


Q – Can anyone advise of training or support services for
employees with dyslexia problems who feel constrained in terms
of career progression?
Ray Jackson

A – We have an employee who has found working life and prospects
much improved by using a software product called ViaVoice.
Emails, word processing etc etc – almost any input – can be
dictated to the computer and, in turn, the computer can read
back to you.
Christine Grover

A – I would like to suggest your organisation looks at the way it
manages people development and promotion prospects within the
company as well as looking for direct support and ways the
employee can help themselves. Often the job the person is doing
or applying for can be done in a different way enabling the
strengths and skills or the individual to be used to full
Liz McConnell

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