“Thank for a great experience from the time I walked in the door”

Ellen-Maree Gadd
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Stephen Crowe

Managing Director

Ph: 02 8042 8907

[email protected]


When hiring managers interview a candidate for a role, there are plenty of questions they should NOT ask. Some are unhelpful (like the perennial ‘What is your greatest weakness?) and others are just silly (‘Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?’ – yes, that was an actual question asked by a big tech company). Others are breaking the law because they are discriminatory, being irrelevant to the person’s ability to do the job. Here are some questions that may not be asked – and a couple that may – in line with federal and state anti-discrimination laws.

Employers may not discriminate on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction, social origin, age, medical record, marital or relationship status, impairment, mental, intellectual or psychiatric disability, physical disability, pregnancy, nationality, sexual orientation or trade union activity, writes Nathan Luke of law firm Stacks.

If employers may not discriminate when hiring, it stands to reason that if they were to ask questions about these matters and a candidate did not get a position, he or she could argue that asking the question was discriminatory. The Australian Human Rights commission or a state-based anti-discrimination board would consider a complaint from the candidate.

‘Even if the applicant cannot prove that the answer they gave to your question is the reason they didn’t get the job, they will still have a valid complaint on the basis that you asked the question. Insisting that you simply gave the job to another candidate who was more suitable will not help in your defence’, writes Luke.

Some attributes are plain to see and no questions need to be asked. A racist interviewer can see immediately if a candidate is of a race or background they reject. Somebody who wants to employ a strong-looking 25-year-old man can rule out others without asking questions. The law cannot entirely protect against bias, conscious or unconscious. But generally, if the answer is irrelevant to the person’s ability to do the job, don’t ask the question in any form.


How old are you?

While we are generally well aware of gender and race discrimination, age discrimination is still prevalent, with assumptions that older people have fewer tech skills and are more inflexible (tell that to Bill Gates).

Are you married? Are you gay? Do you have children?

You can’t rule a person in our out of a position because of their relationship status or family situation, so don’t ask the question. If you do, the candidate is entitled to assume you placed weight on the answer in making your decision.

Are you pregnant?

Making assumptions about a pregnant woman’s ability to do her job is not only unwise, it could be considered discrimination. Sure, it’s difficult to think you may hire a person only to have her take extended leave a few months later, but if she is a good fit for your business hiring her is worthwhile in the long run.


Religious organisations, including religious schools, are exempt from anti-discrimination laws in a range of defined circumstances. The discrimination must be in line with its doctrines, beliefs or principles, and must be reasonably necessary to not offend its followers. So a religious school may ask candidates about their religion and sexual orientation, for example.

It is legal to ask candidates if they smoke, and to undergo a medical check as a condition of employment. It’s isn’t strictly illegal to ask a candidate at an interview if they have a criminal record, but it’s not the best way to discover this information. Have the recruiter or HR department run a background check if necessary. In general, if the conviction is relevant to the person’s job then it is not discriminatory to ask. So a person interviewing a candidate for a position as a driver is entitled to ask about convictions for driving offences.

As with most laws, there are exceptions. When a particular attribute may be relevant to the inherent nature of the job, an interviewer may ask a question that would otherwise be discriminatory. An interviewer may ask about disability if it would affect the person’s ability to do the job, such as when filling a job that may involve danger to themself or the public. Asking about physical disability may be relevant for a job as a tree lopper or an ambulance driver, for example, but not for a call centre operator.

When interviewing candidates, the best course of action is to approach the process with an open mind and treat all candidates fairly. Becoming aware of your unconscious biases and not acting on your conscious ones is not only legally essential, it also might lead you to a star candidate you would otherwise have overlooked. There is plenty of evidence that diverse workplaces perform better, too. That, however, is the topic for another post.



From sexual harassment, drug abuse and workplace violence to bullying, rudeness and undermining others, there is a spectrum of dangerous employees, from absolutely toxic to mildly poisonous.

Luckily, toxic people in the workplace are comparatively rare – only about three to five per cent were identified as toxic in a study by hiring software company Cornerstone OnDemand. But their effect is much larger. Toxic behaviour is contagious, and makes others more likely to behave in undesirable ways. It makes good co-workers resign and costs companies financially.

The experts are unanimous: the best way to deal with toxic employees is not to hire them in the first place. The financial costs – not to mention the social and personal costs – are simply too high. A rigorous hiring process using experienced professionals will weed out toxic people most of the time.

Psychological tests are an important part of the hiring process, along with structured interviews and thorough reference checks. Although they are used mainly to test for specific traits that predict success in a particular job, tests also help to weed out toxic people.

‘Psychological assessment is one of the best tools available to select people with a combination of traits and help organisations reduce the risk of hiring toxic people’, explains Steven Booker, Challenge Consulting’s Principal Psychologist. ‘The tests should be well designed and have built-in lie detectors, and must be used together with a competency-based structured interview’.

In a structured interview, each candidate is asked the same questions in the same order, so that they can be compared objectively against set criteria for the job. Interviewers ask competency-based questions to probe how a candidate has responded to a particular situation, based on real-life examples. This gives the candidate the opportunity to explain the reasons for decisions, how they implemented them and what the results were.

There is a range of psychological tests available, from short true-or-false quizzes to intense investigations that take many hours to complete. The good ones will allow the tester to identify the personality traits that will make success in a particular job most likely and show up the traits, or combination of traits, that ring warning bells for toxicity.

One test asks candidates to answer yes or no to 299 different statement, such as ‘You like to entertain guests,’ or ‘It bothers you to have people watch you work.’ The answers are then scored on 10 personality dimensions, such as general activity, restraint, and emotional stability. Another rates 16 personality traits, such as sensitivity and agreeableness, in a 10-minute test. Many tests can found online.

But beware of finding an online personality quiz and giving it to candidates to complete. Dr Arthur H Brayfield, Executive Officer of the American Psychological Association, said that testing ‘…puts a premium upon clinical judgment and professional skill and knowledge and requires the best available knowledge of the situation in which the individual applicant or employee is to perform’.

Make sure that any test is administered by a qualified and experienced organisational psychologist. It’s possible to cheat (although the best tests have built in ‘lie-detectors’) and if anybody will be able to game a personality test, it’s the toxic person who has no fear of others, is cold-blooded and over-confident. Evidence shows that subjects of personality tests will try to give the ‘correct’ answer rather than an honest one.  A trained professional will be able to spot the anomalies and compare the tests with the interview results and reference checks to gain a whole picture of the candidate.

The costs of making the mistake of hiring a toxic person are too large to leave the process to chance or intuition. Evidence shows us that psychological testing, together with the structured competency-based interview, offers employers the best chance of spotting the toxic employee before they wreak havoc and reveal their true cost.


Joy! Your recruitment process is at second interview stage. For job seekers, this means you’re a big step closer to landing the position. If you’re a manager, you’ll soon have a new team member on board and your team working at full strength again. It’s time to celebrate, and also to take a deep breath and look at what the second interview is really all about.

Somewhere around 20% to 50% of candidates who are interviewed are offered a second interview. The second round is a chance for the line manager and senior staff to meet candidates and to ask further questions. Candidates may meet those who’ll be supervising them and working closely with them, and should be able to see where they would be working and meet prospective colleagues.

A word of warning: the person who gets a second interview has not got the job yet. Job seekers should not be complacent, and interviewers should be careful of giving the impression that the second interview is a mere formality.

Jonathan Foxley, Recruitment Manager at Challenge Consulting, explains: ‘Quite often people get ahead of themselves thinking they have it in the bag and that they made a good impression first time round, and that is why they’ve been called back.’ This is particularly the case with those with less experience at interviewing, he says. ‘Often they have impressed, and are eighty per cent of the way there. But then they throw it away by being too sure of themselves and leaving a bad impression second time around.’

If you’re a line manager, you may not have been at the first interview.  You may have been called in to give a second opinion, and feel apprehensive if you are not an experienced interviewer. Preparing yourself and knowing how the interview will be structured will help your decision making. This is your chance to meet and engage with the person you might work closely with.

  • Find out who else will be present. Will there be one or two interviewers, or a panel? What will the role of each interviewer be?
  • If you are new to interviewing, read our Interviewer tips for success.
  • Make sure you are briefed in depth about how candidates went at the first interview. Find out what issues should be followed up, such as any apparent skills weaknesses or lack of knowledge. As the person who knows the job best, do you have specific questions or concerns for each candidate to address?
  • Ask questions that address realistic scenarios in your team. If you ask a competency-based question, you may want to base it on an actual scenario in your team. Make it closely related to the work the person will be expected to do. Ask technical questions if you have concerns about skill levels.
  • Ask strengths-based questions that will highlight what aspects of the work the candidate loves, as this will give you insight into how the person might fit into your team. Strengths-based questions are a good way to get around candidates giving prepared, formulaic responses, and give you better insight into how the person might perform in your team.
  • Find out if there will be psychometric testing of candidates and make sure you are given the results.

If you’ve been called in for a second interview, here are some things you should know.

  • Ask who will be in the interview, what their roles are, and what the format of the interview will be. Remember that some of the people in this round might not be experienced interviewers.
  • You are likely to be interviewed by a person you will actually be working for, and the questions will be more closely related to the work you will be expected to do.
  • You may also be interviewed by more senior employees: your manager’s manger, for example, or even the head of the company in a smaller business.
  • The first interviewer will have briefed the second on any points from your first interview that should be followed up, particularly any areas they are concerned about. Think about parts of the interview than didn’t go so well, and prepare to be asked further questions about them.
  • Think about how the interviewer seemed to respond to you in the first interview. If anything made them look uneasy, you can be sure it will come up again in this interview, so be prepared.
  • The second interview is your chance to ask really good, probing questions. Think about new information you can bring or issues you did not have the chance to raise in the first interview.
  • Research the company even more thoroughly before going in for the second time. Find the interviewer’s profile on LinkedIn and take a look at the company’s profile on Glassdoor. Research the industry if you haven’t already been working in the area.
  • You may be invited on a tour of the organisation’s premises If you’re not, it’s okay to ask to be shown around and to meet employees.
  • You may be asked to take psychometric tests or other assessment tests at this stage. Again, ask if this is the case before you go to the interview, and allow enough time so that you are not stressed about how long the interview and testing may run for.


Interviews are at the core of the hiring process. Whether you are the candidate or the interviewer, preparation is everything.

You’re excited, a bit nervous, and concerned to make the right impression. Here are our tips for getting ready to ace that first interview.


Interviewing people for a role in your team is exciting, and rather daunting at the same time. You’ve narrowed down your list of prospects, or your recruiter has presented you with suitable candidates, and now you are faced with making a choice that will have a significant impact on you and your team for the foreseeable future.

You have the hiring managers’ list of standard questions from HR, but you want to dig deeper than that. You want more than their rehearsed responses to the most commonly asked questions. The key is research and thorough preparation.

The practicalities are often overlooked when you are preparing to interview. Have you booked a suitable meeting room? Have you told the candidates which entrance to use, and how to find your idiosyncratically numbered office?

Here are some other practical matters to see to:

  • Let your reception staff know when candidates will be arriving so that they can greet them and perhaps gather some first impressions.
  • Don’t schedule appointments so close together that candidates meet in the waiting area.
  • Tell candidates where they can park or where the train and bus stations are relative to your premise.
  • Allow enough time between interviews to compare notes with others on the interview panel.
  • Be prepared to hold interviews out of regular hours for candidates who cannot take time out from their present jobs.

Now that you have the nuts and bolts out of the way, what about your preparation for the time you will spend with the candidate? Here are ways to get yourself in the right frame of mind.

Be clear on your goals for each interview – what do you want to assess in each candidate? What will help you decide if the person is the right fit for your team?

If you decide to hold a group interview, select the interview panel, ideally including a person from the organisation’s HR department.

Thoroughly brief everybody who will conduct the interviews. Send them the candidates’ resumes, cover letters and a job description, and tell them your goals for the process. Decide who will ask which questions.

Read each candidate’s resume thoroughly, and prepare specific questions for each candidate, addressing their background, skills and behaviour.

Find a common interest or a shared experience, and use it to open the conversation and set the candidate at ease. Creating rapport in this way will relax them – and you.

For an average first round interview, you will need about five prepared questions. Remember to listen more than you talk. Explain the role and the company briefly at the start, and leave room for the conversation to evolve naturally – you’re not running an inquisition!

Tell the candidates who will be involved in the interview, and their role in the company and the decision-making process.  Remember to send them a job description in time for them to prepare themselves for the interview. Letting the candidate know how you are approaching the hiring process will put them at ease. A relaxed candidate is more likely to reveal their ‘true self’ and perform better, allowing you to better assess their true potential.


When it comes to advice for candidates who are being interviewed, our consultants at Challenge are unanimous about three things:

  • Know your resume inside out. An interviewer will ask you questions on your experience. Identify your most valuable skills and incorporate them into your answers.
  • Research the company – SEEK, Glassdoor and the organisation’s website are great places to start. You should also find out about your interviewer on LinkedIn.
  • Prepare some good, relevant questions to ask your interviewer. These might include, ‘What will my KPIs be, and how do you measure them?’ ‘How can I expect to progress in this role?’ and questions about the organisation’s internal culture (check their vision and mission statements for clues).

These days most interviews will have at least some behavioural questions, so be ready for them.  ‘Have a library of examples at the ready to answer competency based questions’, says Daniele Fischl, Consultant at Challenge. ‘Know your KPIs and how you have performed against them. Identify your unique selling point for this role.’

‘Always dress as you would if you were going to work for the organisation you’re interviewing for’, advises Samantha Gates, Graduate Consultant at Challenge. ‘Make sure you’re well-groomed and look polished.  First impressions always count, so why not make the best first impression you can.’ We’ve written about dressing for work here.

Challenge’s consultants also point out what not to do.  ‘Never ask about salary or bonus schemes in the first interview. This first interview is all about determining your fit for the position and company’, warns Samantha Gates, Graduate Consultant at Challenge.

Other no-no’s include checking your mobile (turn it off!) appearing arrogant, and arriving more than 10 minutes early. Of course you shouldn’t be late either – check your route and transport well in advance. Fischl advises doing a dry run if you can.

Her final words of advice: Be polite to everyone you met going in and out of the building. You never know who you are travelling in a lift with and the receptionist is often asked what their first impressions were.

And good luck. We’d love to hear your interview stories and tips; leave them in the comments section below.




What makes you unique? What is your unique selling proposition? And more importantly, how do you put your proposition forward to employers, colleagues and even clients?

We have all had interviews where we have had to answer the question, ‘Tell me about yourself”, “Why should I hire you over the other candidates applying for this role?”, “What can you offer our organisation over everyone else?’ But how often do we tend to really reflect on the answer to these questions without it just being ‘rehearsed’?

With human nature I tend to think that a lot of the time we focus on the negative aspects of what we do as a means of improvement for the future. And while it is a good thing to learn from our past mistakes, we also need to reflect on our achievements and strengths in order to grow and step up the ladder towards career success.

Our “elevator pitch” should be a concise, compelling introduction that can be communicated in the amount of time it takes someone to ride the elevator.

Not only will having a ‘perfect pitch’ be advantageous for potential employment or even a job promotion, but this will also save you on any awkward moments or situations where someone may start that conversation with, ‘What do you do for a living? What do you like to do in your spare time? What are your goals?’

Laura Katen from the Daily Muse outlines eight very simple steps in how to nail your elevator speech:

1. Start with a Blank Canvas – Take a blank piece of paper and number it from one to 10. Then, fill in the most important bits of information that you want to convey about yourself, your service or product, or your company.

2. Red Pen It – Using a different color pen, edit what you’ve drafted with a critical eye. Eliminate any redundancies, unnecessary or unclear information, and broad business jargon.

3. Pick a Card – Grab five index cards, and label them “Who I Am,” “What I Do,” “How I Do It,” “Why I Do It,” and “Who I Do It For.”

4. Get in Order – Organise the cards in a logical order, making sure the most important information is first. Remember, you often only have a few seconds to communicate with someone. If you get cut off, what would you want her to walk away remembering?

5. Add an Attention-Getter – Add an interesting fact or stat to use at the beginning of your speech. Your goal is to immediately engage someone so that he or she is intrigued and wants to learn more.

6. Practice! – Recite your pitch to close someone who can be objective, and ask for constructive feedback (although we love our friends and families, sometimes they think we can do no wrong!).

7. Record Your Pitch – Once you’ve gotten feedback and honed your pitch even further, record yourself saying it. Really listen to what you’re saying—make sure you’re not repeating words and that you’re sending the message you really want to convey.

8. Ride the Elevator – The next time you ride an elevator (alone), practice your speech.

Now by all means I am not saying next time you are in an elevator to immediately launch into conversation about yourself to a stranger and make it seem like you are bragging about your accomplishments. However, when the opportunity presents itself and the individual asks you an opening question, the tips above should help you deliver yourself in a more confident way.

Don’t be afraid to outline your accomplishments and skills, because they define who we are today just as much as what mistakes and learning curves that you have taken in life. So be proud of what you have achieved!


There has been a lot of talk this week about Latvian Airline, Air Baltic, introducing a scheme to allow travellers to be seated according to their mood. The idea is that passengers can be seated according whether they’d like to work, relax or chat, and even the topic of conversation can be pre-booked online- this really is the future!

This to me, raises some really interesting questions – and let’s face it – concerns. Like for instance, am I allowed to talk to someone for some of the time if I’ve signed up to work? If I get sick of gardening chit chat, can I ignore my fellow passenger for the remainder of my flight? What if the topic is interesting, but I find the individual arrogant, rude and annoying?

All this got me thinking about whether Air Baltic (does that name not conjure up images of freezing aircon and shaking chills?) would not be better matching passengers on personalities and then letting them work it out for themselves.

In last week’s poll, we asked people what they thought of personality tests. 71% of respondents stated that they felt that personality tests were a great way to confirm unique strengths, while 29% concluded that they were a bunch of psychobabble. What was interesting were the reasons that people gave for their dislike of these assessments. In no particular order these were:

  1. Concern that these tests are easy to fake
  2. Bias with regard to age, gender, race or disability
  3. Whether any test really has the capacity to identify how someone will behave
  4. Concern over being pigeon-holed
  5. Whether behaviour is in fact context specific and not stable
  6. Beliefs tests are lazy; interviews, work samples and reference checks can tell more.

All of these points are to my mind extremely valid, and really bring to light the importance of educating all test users and clients as to what tests to use, how the process works and what tests can help to determine.

Choosing a well validated, well researched and reputable personality test is absolutely essential, regardless of the application. Test bias can be dramatically reduced by using the right test and the right interpreter, and most tests have mechanisms to identify respondent faking.

Extensive psychological research into personality testing has shown that tests tend to be modest to good predictors of behaviour, and that they offer very strong predictive power when combined with other assessment tools such as interviews. Tests are not perfect, and even if they were, they are not designed to predict what someone will do at all times in every situation, they depend on the self-awareness of the test taker, and they don’t take account of abilities or experience. It is for this reason that in selection, personality tests should not be used in isolation, but rather as part of a set of assessment methods, usually including interviews and reference checks as a minimum.

However, personality tests can provide an invaluable method of really exploring the strengths and capabilities of respondents, and can provide the insight to help employers identify that all-too-elusive employee-role or employee-organisation ‘fit’. In career guidance, development or counselling, tests can act as a catalyst to help clients really explore their strengths and interests, and help to guide them to a position where they are likely to be happier and more effective.

As seen by the 71% of poll respondents, tests are becoming increasingly more popular, and employers are progressively determining that they are the most effective way of really gauging attitude and probable behaviour.

To my mind, the real challenge for Air Baltic might be to determine a method for effectively matching personalities with one another. In my opinion, this is an area that would merit from more attention in organisational selection scenarios also. Do you consider behavioural styles when selecting people for your organisation, or matching candidates to roles or leaders to subordinates?

Don’t forget, the Ignite Your True Potential Promotion will end on Friday 29th June 2012! You can win a complete Psychometric Package that is all about YOU! PLUS a one-on-one consultation with our organisational psychologist and expert in EQ, total prize value of $1,000. To find out more information, click here.


Wise words from Pulp Fiction’s Jules Winnfield.

We’ve all been there.

You’re interviewing. You read a hundred CVs. You interview a shortlist of candidates. You’re certain you’ve found “the one”. They start in their new role and then … they turn out to be weird, woeful, and just plain wrong.

What happened? How can you have misjudged them so? Is it you?

Despite the sceptics out there, psychometric testing and personality profiling are proven to be the best predictors of potential in the workplace. They can and do play a crucial role in making the right recruitment choices.

To quote from a recent conversation between our Managing Director and a prospective client regarding the value of psych testing, “Everyone’s on their best behaviour in interviews, aren’t they? How do you really know what you’re getting? That’s why even we use psych testing for our own recruitment projects.”

Using an assessment tool that is standardised, validated, reliable and objective, will set you on the right path. For example, our Personality Profile is our most popular psychometric assessment. Why?

Want to know if there’s a match between a candidate’s personality profile and the requirements of the role? Check.

Want to know how someone works in a team? By themselves? Takes direction? Leads? Check, check, check and check.

Our clients love the 15FQ+ Personality Profile. We love it. Faced with a selection of seemingly great candidates, it arms you with objective info to help you choose the right person for the job. No more wasted time or money. Everyone’s happy.