Category: Recruitment
Verbal Sabotage! Talking your way out of an interview.


A job interview is not a competition to ‘win’ the conversation.

A job interview is a ‘conversation’ between a job applicant and hiring manager/employer which is conducted to evaluate whether the applicant should be hired. It’s a conversation with a ‘purpose’ and not something that can be fully covered in “The 10 Most Common Interview Questions’ that you’ve most likely found online. Performing well in a job interview requires the ability to listen and respond appropriately. It’s not about all the skills you have or all the accomplishments you’ve had throughout your entire career. It’s about that specific job and the unique skills/attributes you have that match the role. Questions will be asked that are unique to that role and many great candidates blow their chances because they never listened to what was really being asked. Instead, they’ve spent 30 minutes in a one-sided conversation and literally talked themselves out of a job.

It’s an even playing field in an interview when it comes down to listening. Someone far less experienced who listens really well and answers the questions concisely will outshine any other candidate who over talks and doesn’t answer the questions properly. And even the most manicured responses can have a major flaw – they’re just too long and the audience has drifted off.

Listening is a more powerful tool than talking

Listening isn’t the same as hearing. Hearing refers to the sounds that you hear. Listening requires focus and means paying attention not only to the story, but how it is told, the use of language and voice, and how the other person uses his or her body. It’s being aware of both verbal and non-verbal messages. Your ability to listen effectively depends on the degree to which you perceive and understand these messages.

In a job interview, take you time to listen to what is being said. If the interviewer asks you to talk them through an example of when you’ve overcome a major challenge on a project, think about an appropriate example and answer the question concisely. Don’t take this as your cue to rattle off your well-rehearsed checklist of skills in the hope you’ll impress them before your time is up. It’s all totally irrelevant if you haven’t answered the question in the first place.

“The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.” – Rachel Naomi Remen

Are you unaware or simply just nervous?

Sometimes candidates are so nervous or absorbed in their own conversation that they fail to notice the interviewer has drifted off. Here are some visual clues that you’ve lost your audience:

  • The interviewer isn’t looking at you, they’re not interjecting or contributing to the conversation. They’re preoccupied doing something else other than listening to you.
  • They don’t notice when you’ve stopped talking and you catch them by surprise when you stop talking.
  • There are long periods where the interviewer doesn’t say anything. This usually means they’ve tuned out and are most likely plotting ways to politely interrupt you. You can bet they’re also crossing their fingers under the table that the answer to “Do you have any more questions?” will be “No”.

Getting the balance right

Let’s concentrate on the basics. Firstly (and most importantly), understand the role you’re interviewing for. Secondly, learn about the company and the people who are interviewing you and thirdly, think of your strongest examples that demonstrate your suitability. The interviewer’s aim is to gauge your fit so really LISTEN to the questions they ask. Great interviewers have subtle ways of extracting details from you by asking very specific questions, usually based around some key performance criteria. If you go off track with your answers (or never actually get ON the track in the first place), it’s impossible for them to obtain the information they need to make an informed decision. You only have 30-45 minutes to showcase your suitability so take the lead from the person asking the questions. You have two ears and one mouth so the obvious balance is to “listen twice as much as you speak”.

Defining your Recruitment Philosophy

OK, so I’m old.  Been doing this for probably way too long. That said, I took the opportunity recently to read over some posts I wrote many years ago.  I was interested to see if my thought process has changed too much over time as the technology has extended and the world has evolved.

I don’t see my role as  “just going to work, hiring people and going home”.  I think people over complicate things to (sometimes) justify their own existence, pad out their “personal brand”, push their agenda or product, or suck up to “Recruiting aficionados”. Please don’t get me started on all those “Social Media is the greatest” conversations!

I’ve been able to break this down to a few key ideals which I believe in when it comes to this profession and what I do.

So what is it?

Dan’s mantra.

  • Recruitment is all about the conversation (medium is irrelevant)
  • Everyone (YES EVERYONE) is hired to solve a business problem
  • Fish where they are
  • Sharing and learning is essential
  • What’s yours?
Anything worthwhile can’t be done alone
Ian, our owner and MD. Ian started IMA back in 2004 and has driven its growth ever since. Ian is always open to new ideas, and sometimes he even takes a few on!

Ian, our owner and MD. Ian started IMA back in 2004 and has driven its growth ever since. Ian is always open to new ideas, and sometimes he even takes a few on!

One of my team had called me buzzing about the wins she’d had that day. Her excitement was infectious. I left the call smiling, only to get another call telling me about another banner day.

I was reminded, yet again, about the importance of surrounding yourself with great people.

Both were relatively recent additions to the team. One had come aboard after we’d been trying to hire her for a long time. The other was an internal promotion, a star who I’d been grooming for the role for over a year.

It highlighted the reason we spend so much time and effort finding talent and then getting them into the right roles. At IMA our whole business relies on our people. That’s probably true for every company, but we work incredibly hard to make sure we find, hire and retain talented people.

A significant portion of my and Archana’s (my peer in Sydney) time is spent on the recruitment process. We meet fortnightly with Dan our GM of recruitment (check out his twitter feed), keep abreast of the pipeline of talent and personally interview everyone before they get a job offer.

We also realise our limitations. Dan is far better at his job than Archana or I. So he has the ability to overrule us when he needs to. Usually we agree, but occasionally we don’t and some of our best people come from Dan’s “Captains picks”.

Dan is also constantly experimenting on our six step recruitment process. He has a dedicated budget for his experiments.

If we are particularly excited about someone will hire them without a role and then work to make one for them. Dan was hired in that way and now he does it with others.

The final piece of the recruitment puzzle is making sure that people are in the right role. This often means hard decisions about people who are struggling, or even performing well but not to the level of excellence required, into a role where they will excel. On occasion that means they leave IMA to find a company where they’re a better fit.

Moving people into the right roles is an area where I’m still working on my own management skills. Over time we have lost some talented people because I didn’t, or couldn’t, move them into the right spot. Sometimes it works out, but I can get better at this.

Too much of today’s society ascribes success to one person. My experience is the opposite. It can’t be done alone and finding great people to share the journey is the best way to make it happen. 

Why Buzzwords lose their value
Ally Lancaster

Working in the recruitment department, Ally is one of our most recent additions to the IMA family. She is a self-confessed perfectionist that has recently formed an addiction to LinkedIn. Ally is eager to learn and is always ready to take on new challenges in and out of the office.

Let me state this right up front.  I am not against buzzwords.

Often they are the most accurate and efficient way of communicating a message. As a leader you need the ability to break things down, simplify and be to the point. Buzzwords, when used correctly do exactly that. They understand that your time is important, and seek to inform and educate you in a precise and powerful manner. Yet as a society we have waged a war against buzzwords. We roll our eyes at ‘strategy’, tune out at ‘synergy’ and stop reading at ‘leadership‘… Still here? The problem does not lie within the words themselves but in the way that we use and receive them.

Buzzwords lose their value when they are used in the wrong context. Knowing your audience is essential for good communication. There is no point throwing in the word of the day if it’s not the right type of language for with whom you’re speaking. Understand the meaning of your chosen word and how it will resonate with your audience.  Choose your words appropriately.

Buzzwords lose their value when they are used without substance. Too often, words are thrown into documents or presentations without good reason. It’s a form of exaggeration, which has unfortunately become commonplace. Exaggeration is a practice that actually devalues our language and makes people less likely to listen to us. If buzzwords are used without substance behind them then there is little point in using them at all. It is essential to make sure your communication is purposeful. Choose your words wisely.

When used correctly, buzzwords effectively communicate meaningful messages but we have become so accustomed to the inappropriate use of them, that we immediately disregard those who use them. I think its time to give buzzwords another chance.

So, for the buzzword user

Ensure you know your audience and pick your words accordingly. Have purpose behind the use of your buzzwords and a sound understanding of their meanings.

And for the buzzword receiver

Before immediately disregarding anyone who uses them, assess whether that word was used in the correct context, and ask yourself if it added value and clarity to their message. You can then thank them for their effective and time saving communication!

Why Buzz Words Aren't So Bad


Recruitment Advertising… Does size really matter?

Screen Shot 2012-10-08 at 11.24.38 AMSo what is it you are after? What is the goal of your Recruitment advertising?  Is it to persuade a tidal wave of applicants to your (insert hyperbolic statement here) role or is it to attract the RIGHT/BEST candidate for your role?

In the last month or so, we started a campaign to find a Sales person for our business and to be honest I was pretty excited about it.  My expectations were high, that the role was so great that we’d be beating applicants back with a stick (I went and got one too), we upgraded our ATS (Applicant Tracking System) to ensure that we didn’t have to manually.

We’d done our planning, we’d mapped out what our ideal candidate looked like (not physically….. promise), where they would come from, the type of experience they would have.  The level of the role meant headhunting would be challenging, as we want to really hire someone with the right attitude, aptitude and ability to build into a star, I didn’t want to recycle someone else’s sales person.  We’d built a new training programme, mentoring process, even devised a new hiring process just for this role.  We are excited (OK maybe it was just me, but…. )

We wrote compelling copy, jazzed it up with videos and some other social media stuff.  Hit go… and sat back waiting for the flood gates to open.  And then……. the flood started.  Not really, but a great journey is started by a single step right? So, I was happy when the trickle started, everything has to start somewhere right?  Surprisingly (for me) it didn’t really advance much past a trickle.

That said, what we did receive were profiles, calls, applications from a good half dozen people, who essentially came straight out of our minds eye (there was a fair amount of chaff too mind you).  Just like a bad 80s movie, these applications essentially came straight from our whiteboard, personifying themselves into our process.

That said, initially, through discussions with the team, there was some disappointment at the volumes (or lack there of) of applications. However, on reflection (even at this early stage), the ads have done their job.  They have attracted THE type of people we wanted.  We are only going to hire one (or two) after all.  Making the question, did they (the ads) work or not? I’m voting YES…. you?

Casting Call for Sales Heros here at IMA

We are throwing out the rule book and trying something different.  IMA is getting into the market for a new sales person, and in the name of avoiding insanity, you know the old credo, “doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result”, well we are trying something different for us.  It will be interesting to see how we go on this journey. 

Keep an eye out for our “Sales Super hero” themed messages! Check here or here or even here

We’ve examined our process for hiring successful sales people, looked at our historical success rate and compared it to experiences with other companies we have worked with historically.  This examination led us to the conclusion that the old “tried and true” methodology doesn’t have a great track record.   We’ve done the headhunt people from our opposition, we’ve hired people we’ve “liked”, we’ve done psyche tests, we’ve done “cold calling” tests, we’ve hired people from recommendations from trusted advisors, and yet our hit rate historically is about breakeven.  Which isn’t really too bad, but we want better! 

So what to do?

It is hard to really define what makes a great sales person in our market, there are lots of contingencies, and what works in one company may well not work in another.  We decided to look at what has worked for us.  We decided to look at the people within our organization who have worked out well, and look at the similarities between them and process in which they joined us.  Sadly, there wasn’t a great connection.  We were either lucky or had worked with the person before in the same or similar capacity (in another life) and really knew what we were getting.

There were a couple of key themes however, when outlining the people and what has made them successful, or shared traits.

  • Tenacity
  • Competitive
  • Involvement
  • Quick learners
  • Rapport builders


How do we look for these in a hiring process?  Will interviews and psyche tests confirm or deny these traits with enough certainty for us to formulate a decision?  I could not really put my hand on my heart and say to the Executive here that anything we had traditionally done would achieve this.  And the process has been expensive.

We decided to do something a little different.  And whilst we cannot guarantee that this will work as well as we hoped, the upside is too big not to try.

One of the best sales people I have seen in the Melbourne market has been someone who was “grown” into the role.  He was essentially “plucked” from the rank and file and given the opportunity to succeed.  I have to say, even though we had our “run ins” professionally, through his attitude, aptitude and down right pig headedness he really was a stand out.

So here at IMA we are about to take a risk.  We’re going to try to grow our own.  We are putting a call out for people across ALL industries who think they are or could be great sales people, who want a career with a successfully growing IT Consulting company, and people who want to be a key contributor to our future growth. (Towards world domination).

On top of a traditional “interview process” (wth our Recruitment team) and a new “non traditional interview” process (an hour long interview with multiple people), we are going to embark on an audition process.  We want to see people in action, in the heat of the moment, thinking on their feet and making things happen.  We are hoping this will take the “guess work” – “gut feel” out of the interview process and remove the perceived “witch-craft” practiced in psyche testing.  The audition process will be a week long process, so we are going to ask people to invest in us as well, although we are committed to paying these short listed people for this week.

We are busily building a complete training programme and mentoring programme for the successful applicant and have committed as an organization to helping this new hero succeed.

I’m excited by this, and I cannot wait to see and share the results and to reveal our new Sales Super Hero to the market!

If this sounds like you, or something you want to do.  Make contact with us.  Call us on the phone (03 8633 7300) call us on Skype (ID: careers.ima) or just send us your resume or a video clip as to why this IS YOU!  (You can also apply via this) If it’s not and you know someone it sounds applicable to, let them know, this will be a fun experience!