Interviews: 5 simple ways to Out Shine your competition

1cdb54bHaving sat though 100s of interviews as an interviewer I find many candidates making simple mistakes. In spite of all the information available on how to present one self in the best light 3 out of 4 candidates still miss out on the simple stuff.

If you are attending an interview here are five tips which will help in outshining your competition. If you expect this to be Rocket science – you might be disappointed – coz it isn’t. A minor change in can smoothen the path to your aspired role.

Be likeable.

I would like to work with people whom I like to have around. Yes there would be that one person whom I would like to have around who gets on my nerves with his criticisms and advice but I so believe in his capabilities, good sense and that he has the companies interests in mind that I totally want to have him around. But he is only one. I don’t have the band width to tolerate more sour pusses around my work place. There has to be a balance. And if I don’t get the vibe that in an interview you are unable to come across as likeable then having you around the office is not a risk I am going to consider.

So I suggest you smile, make eye contact, sit forward on your chair, and be enthusiastic.

You may have solid qualifications but if you don’t seem like an enjoyable person to work with I am probably not going to hire you.

Solid qualifications and experience take you into the door but then so are all the others who have been shortlisted.

Avoid negativity.

That includes having something not very flattering to say about your current or previous employer. Okay so they are bad and that is the reason you want to leave but grow out of that negativity. It is not going to help our organisation any way. Coz this interview is about this firm and your value to this firm. Any other way you look at it might give you only a very skewed picture.

Come to think of it, this being an interview you are displaying your best possible of view of you, and if that comprises of foul mouthing your employer – after a few months you will be a pain to have around.

Now you might feel you are justified responding to a question like why do you want to leave with and answer that berates the employer or your boss or your con-workers. But here too you can be creative in how you frame your response. Be positive be your mojo. Instead of saying that your boss is a nerve wracking micro manager – You could say that you are keen to shoulder more responsibility  and freedom.

On the same lines avoid framing responses in a self negating way. For instance as an HR you haven’t handled a training role- so don’t say I have never handled training. Instead say that you have not managed that role but have trained new hires and created several training manuals. Avoid using the word haven’t or I don’t instead share applicable experience. Human mind especially the tired interviewer mind has a tendency to latch on to negative sound bites and rule you out. Don’t play into their hands.

Don’t Lie.

Even more important don’t get caught. Incase you do remember – “Don’t Lie” I come across resumes which mention experience and when asked to go deeper candidates feign ignorance. It looks bad. Getting your resume shortlisted is not going to help you in getting the job. How you perform during the interview is. So avoid un truths – especially in your resume.

Ask Questions

Ask for the Job. Maybe not right away as you start the interview. Don’t ask for the job upfront. That can be a downer. Instead based on the way the interview progresses ask for it with specifics. Explain the pluses you bring to the table. For instance : I work well with teams, or I enjoy travel or I thrive on unsupervised roles. Ask for the job and share facts to substantiate.

Ask questions that matter to you. Here are a few questions that you could ask. Focus on the role the responsibilities , your reporting is there a clear reporting. As the interview progresses you could go deeper on the reporting style. There is really no limit to the questions that you could ask but keep it relevant to the job role and avoid redundancy. No point is asking something which is available on line – that actually shows lack of preparation.  And a word of caution no when to stop. Observe signals from the interviewer.


Every interviewer likes a brief follow-up note , just saying thanks and acknowledging the time spent. A reference to the discussion during the interview about something specific that was shared a common like or a new technique could be mentioned to create a more complete follow up. After all it is these small meaningful interactions which trigger even the most professional relationships.

These five tips will ensure a small sailing through any interview you face.

Prakash Francis is a Talent Expert based in Bangalore.



Recruiter:Are you biased?

workplace-diversity-RS-770“You must work with people whom you don’t like because a workforce comprised of people who are all best office buddies can be homogeneous, and homogeneity in an organisation breeds failure.”                                               Eric Schmidt – How Google works

A diverse Workplace is a high energy workplace. Diversity in hiring and employment allows for the development of a robust, well-rounded teams that can perform better in v.u.c.a environment.

A high diversity workplace is likely to have more differences of opinions, different view-points getting aired leading to vociferous discussions, raging disagreements but in the end a better product a better service. The biggest hurdle to such a diverse workplace is the very human bias towards sameness and conformity. This bias in recruiters can be detrimental to hiring for a diverse and innovative workplace.

What is recruiter bias? Recruiters have been blamed for a lot of mischief but this is one which is not exclusive to recruiters alone – it is part and parcel to all individuals. As Daniel Kahneman in his Nobel Prize winning book –Thinking Fast and Slow says our default thinking mode Thinks Fast and Jumps to conclusions he calls it the System1 our rational mode is the System2 which is lazy and slow. So by  default we think fast and take quick decisions hence – our tendency towards bias.

But this is the very tendency which needs to be avoided if we want a diverse workforce.

How do you change something so deeply ingrained in the human psyche – something over which you have almost no control. It starts with awareness. Just by being aware that such a bias is affecting our decision making will help us in exercising caution. Leading firms are making it mandatory for all employees in decision making roles to undergo bias training.

Human race is not homogeneous. People from countries that fought wars 20 years ago over religious, cultural, racial differences are now on the same table sharing workspaces. The basic instinct of survival – our lizard brain triggers our bias against people who not from the same pond.Recruiters are no different.

Typically the biases to which the recruiters remain susceptible are the following:

Affinity Bias

“Birds of a feather flock together”.

I am reminded of my dad and this very old saying which he used often. Whenever we kids sided with mom during fights – he would call us birds of the same feather. Sarcastic Offcourse. Nevertheless there is truth in this saying.

As we are so we associate – says Ralph Waldo Emerson. We are most comfortable with people we understand, with whom we share some kind of common linkage. As recruiters we tend to hire people with whom we share some sameness. When we talk of culture fit in companies it helps businesses to run smoothly. It is the same sameness which also is a barrier to diversity, inclusion and innovation.

Confirmation Bias

This is when people have prior beliefs and look for ways to substantiate those beliefs. It is an innate tendency to seek out confirmation for our preconceived notions. An example is in the case of college passed out from. The recruiter might form a favourable or unfavourable opinion purely based on the college of the candidate in question. Once the opinion is created He/she looks for evidence to support that opinion. He/she is giving in to confirmation bias. School can be replaced by village, town, state etc for the confirmation bias to trigger.

Gender Bias

This is one of the strongest biases in the workplace. Multiple experiments have repeatedly proven the unconscious bias we have about men and women. At the workplace males are believed to have better leadership qualities even if research shows otherwise. Even when a woman’s voice is thought to be trustworthy, clear, and comprehensible on its own, her credibility is lowered when her voice is compared to a man’s voice – even if the man’s voice was deemed as not-so-reliable or intelligent on its own. In an  experiment by Harward Business School more than a decade ago, the Heidi/Howard Roizen study showed that when the exact same story was told with different names (Heidi vs Howard), participants said the woman Heidi was selfish and not “the type of person you would want to hire or work for,” while the fictitious Howard came off as appealing.

All in all, when women are compared to men, they lose. And as you can imagine, this kind of “gendered listening” is a huge problem in hiring, as you might assume someone is best for the job, but you’re not really hearing what they’re saying.

Racial Bias

Racial bias remains another strong issue. Candidates with ethnic minority names are less likely to receive a call back on submitting a resume. Many companies shy away from hiring minorities for a more difficult reason. They fear customer pushback.

Whatever be the reasons these prejudices exist. Recruitment plays a crucial role in building a diverse, forward-thinking environment in fact it is the first step. Unfortunately, the hiring process is incredibly vulnerable to the influence of unconscious bias, which can hamper objective decision making and ultimately become a roadblock to the pursuit of diversity.

Hence it is important to take steps to contain this bias.

How do we do that?


Give, devote sufficient time to the hiring process. Avoid quick decisions. Let the decision rest for a few days. This would allow the System 2 of Daniel Kahneman to kick in and give us a better more rational decision. Studies have shown that allowing enough time to do evaluations increases accuracy and reduces any bias. So, allow plenty of time to read interview materials and take notes.

Structured Questions

A set of structured questions asked to all the candidates in the same sequence sets the stage to compare apples with apples and prevents bias. Research has found that structured interviews are more predictive of on-the-job performance.

The idea is to standardize the interview process to make it more fair, objective, and accurate.


Increased accountability reduces the effect of any kind of bias and increases the accuracy of evaluations. Hence a culture/requirement for interview note taking, and evaluators using named forms, and each interviewer selection decision is justified, documented and filed. Here again the google system of using a hiring packet is worth emulating. The Hiring Packet contains all known information about the candidate based on his progress through the interview process. All members of the hiring committee get the exact same information and every decision is based on the same set of data ensuring that there is no room for bias. An important tenet they follow is that only information in the packet is considered, if its not in the packet it doesn’t get considered.

This goes to show to what extent the top firms are willing to go to get the best talent on board. The talent selection process should reflect the vision, value and goals of the firm. The best available talent that helps the organisation to realize its vision should get hired. If individual biases are impacting the hiring process in a negative manner immediate corrective action needs to be taken.

Prakash Francis is a talent expert based in Bangalore.


Interview: How not to Suck when asked “Do You Have any Questions”

6a0133f30ae399970b014e88179ee5970d-piTowards the end of interviews it is the norm for the interviewer to ask “Do you have any questions?”. The common response from candidates is a “ No, not right now” or something to that effect.

Per-se there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with that answer. It seems to be polite, courteous and modest. All good traits to display.

But think about it, why wouldn’t you have any questions?.

You will spend a chunk of your waking time at this place if things work out. Would’nt it be good to have complete clarity on what you will be doing, how you will be doing and maybe even why?

It is an opportunity. Take it.

So, lets get into the details of the Why, What and How to respond to the query “ Do you have any questions”

Lets start with Why?

Why you should have questions to Ask? The benefits are multiple, and the three most important ones are –

  1. These questions help to build clarity on your role, the company, and your boss.Interview is a 2 way process. As you are being interviewed you have an opportunity to evaluate the company environment, and the work. These questions will help you do just and put you in a position to take a more informed decision.
  2. Building rapport with the interviewer is a major objective for any candidate. Rapport happens with engaging conversations and the right questions asked sincerely are the lubricants to ensure a smooth conversation.
  3. The third point is a by-product. Relevant questions will mark you out as a well-prepared and keen candidate, who has done his homework.

Those are the 3 key reasons as to why you should use the opportunity to Ask. Now lets move on to the what?.

What to Ask?

Once there is clarity about the objective of asking questions – deciding on what to ask becomes simple. These questions fall into 3 broad categories

  • Role related.
    • Ask questions to get clarity about the role in case there are areas that you feel have not been thoroughly covered in the earlier part of interview. Sample questions could be –
      • Can you share more about the day to day responsibilities of the position?
      • If I am hired, what would be expected of me in the first 90 days? ..
  • Culture related.
    • We spend a majority of our waking hours at work. You are more likely to enjoy your time at the workplace if you fit into the workculture. You are likely to develop better relationships and be more productive at work. A few sample questions are –
    • Can you share your thoughts about the company culture?
    • What is the culture like?
    • What do you enjoy most about working here?
  • Boss/hiring manager related
    • These would be questions relating to your prospective Boss’s working style, how does he prefer his reports whether email or face to face, or phone. How often does he prefer being reported to. Is he a micromanager or a hands-off chief . A straightforward question to ask would be –
    • How would you describe your working style?

And as he responds you could ask questions to probe further.

These are just a few sample questions to ask, they are not an exhaustive list. You will find enough resources on line which provide such lists. The thing is that with a clear understanding of why you are asking – the what to Ask becomes easy. Infact the best questions come to you as you answer the questions the interviewer asks. So when a question pops up, jot it down in a pad to ask at the end.

What not to Ask?

Just like there are questions that are good to ask, there are also questions to avoid asking. This would be –

  • Question relating to Personal topics, family or last working assignment.
  • Queries about happy hours, non- work activities, lunch and vacation times.
  • Salary is a topic which is best left to the interviewer to bring up.
  • Filler questions. Avoid asking questions for which you can get the response by Googling.
  • Lastly avoid too many questions. And what is too many? If the interviewer is getting restless or is subtly giving indications of the interview being, take the hint. At best 2-3 well thought out questions should be good enough.

That brings us to the How?.

How to Ask?

Let the questions be open ended. For example you could phrase the questions as .. “Can you tell me about …?, “How would you describe ….?. Framing the question in such a manner makes it easier to probe further, thus opening up the conversation. Avoid yes and no questions.

Further, open ended questions set you up for follow up questions. Based on the interviewers response these help you to dig deeper. Follow-up questions give us greater insight, letting us form a clear opinion.

A key aspect about asking questions is waiting for response. A thing to remember is that it is not just about asking questions it is about building conversations. Let the interviewer take his time in responding. Don’t interject or try to fill in the silence in anyway. Get comfortable with silences. And don’t interrupt when the interviewer is speaking. For one it interrupts his train of thought and the other it is disrespectful. Not quite your objective.  deer-in-headlights

Moral of the story is when asked “Do you have any Questions” – don’t be like a dear caught in the headlights. Be prepared with a list and ask 2 to 3 relevant questions. Art of the Ask is in engaging the other person in this case the interviewer. It is about building rapport and getting clarity.

Prakash Francis is a Talent Acquisition expert based in Bangalore.

What is an employee’s most important need?

Self-fulfillment is the most important parameter for candidates considering a switch.

Gallup the global workplace monitor asked employees to indicate attributes they consider when deciding to change their jobs. 60% of a sample of US based employees ticked as most important –  the ability to do their  the best in the job. According to Gallup it effectively means that employees do their best when their roles are seamlessly integrated with their talent (the natural capacity for excellence), skills (what they can do) and knowledge (what they know).

Employees aspire to Self Fulfillment

It comes as no surprise that employees want to reach their full potential. Self actualization is the mantra – as Maslow stated.

For hiring managers the key takeaway from this survey would be to make it clear to candidates that the company values their strengths and their new role will help them to hone those talents, knowledge & skills.

Prakash Francis helps organisations in hiring , developing and engaging talent. He is based in Bangalore.

Manage Your Boss – 2

Manage the BossThe phrase – Manage your Boss might sound unusual or suspicious. You might be thinking that I am pulling a fast one. Hoodwink you. But no. This is the truth. Your success on your Job is dependent on your relationship with your Boss.

And this relationship is  something which you need to take responsibility for.

Fact is most of us do influence or manage the relationship  to some extent – in bits and pieces. But to be effective you might have to delve deeper.

Before we go into the how of it – lets get into the why.

Let me share with you a story –

Many moons ago…. there were two Team  members – Rajesh and Rajan. These members reported to a Boss who had an informal and intuitive style of working. He did not believe in written reports – he was more into informal discussions and Brainstorming.

This Boss moved on to a different job and a new Boss took over.

This new Boss happened to have a more systematic approach. He preferred  written reports and liked to see things written down to ensure follow thrrough.

Rajesh quickly realised that the wind had changed and adapted his style to suit the new Boss. He regularly updated his Boss with mail updates and short written reports. Infact he would send down the agenda to his boss before a meeting – which the new Boss particularly liked. It improved the quality of the meetings and made decision making more effective.

Rajan on the other hand chose to continue with the original informal reporting style. This got him into problems with his Boss.

His Boss felt he was not getting enough information and had to spend a lot of time questioning Rajan about the work he was doing. While Rajan in turn did not like the constant prying .  He did good work and wanted to be respected and accepted for that. During the meetings the boss found it frustrating being unable to take any decisions with lack of clarity and Rajan in turn felt stifled.

After a few months Rajan decided to leave the firm.

Rajan did not realize that he needed to adapt to a different style He just assumed that the earlier Boss’s work style would be continued by the New Boss –

Assumptions they say – are the termites of relationships”.

I hope you realise how a slightly different approach can create an entirely different relationship.

My earlier post  covers this topic in greater detail.

Here is a quick Checklist for Managing your Boss-

Understand him/her

  • Understand his Goals & objectives
  • His/her pressures
  • Strengths Weaknesses & Blind Spots
  • Work style

Assess yourself

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” 

Understand Your Strengths and weaknesses

Your personal style

And how do you respond to authority

Create a relationship that

Fits both your styles and needs

Characterized by mutual expectations


it is worth remembering this quote –

More power than all the success slogans ever penned by human hand

is the realization for every man

that he has but one boss.

That boss is the man –

he – himself.


Look forward to your comments , or you could drop a mail to prakash.francis at



Tips to be a Better Follower/Leader

“He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.”


The best examples of Leadership are found in the Armed forces.Leading soldiers into battle requires a strong, trustworthy and dependable leader. No doubt armed forces present us with exceptional examples of leadership under the most extreme circumstances. A key practice amongst all combat forces is the training aspect in which the obedience of the subordinate to his superior is established as paramount. The Junior officer learns to comply to his chiefs decision without any reservation.

In work life too, the very same concepts apply. To be able to Lead one has to be able to follow and follow well. At times the follower may not have the complete picture and believe the leaders decision to be wrong. He may not understand the logic behind the decision – yet if he is patient, in time he might be able to understand the logic.

Leadership starts with good followership. Men who become leaders too soon – too early end up becoming tyrants – history is replete with many such examples.

iStock_000014793457SmallTo be a good follower here are some ways –


It starts with the decision – the decision to follow. Good followers decide on the Leader they want to follow and then totally embrace that decision. They completely understand what this decision entails. It might mean giving up on other competing leaders and leadership styles. At work your choice is limited to choosing the place of work. Once that is decided – the ability to choose your Boss or superior is quite restricted – almost absent. In such a situation this decision has to be taken to ensure a smooth and effective working relationship.


Obedience is a term which we don’t get to hear in the modern day management lexicon and something which is hard to accept. Perhaps that is because obedience harks back to the days of zamindars and landlords with their fiefdoms – which implied unquestioning obedience. The modern day obedience need not be that case. It is obedience nevertheless. To be a good follower – this might be a necessary criteria. Infact there should a law that someone who can’t obey orders should not be allowed to give orders. If a leader cannot display obedience – he cannot be a good role model for his followers.


When given an assignment, a leader can be sure that the job will get done. Dependability is a key trait and incredibly important.  The litmus test for a follower lies in his dependability. Followers take projects across the finish line. They make things happen.

Self Lead

The ability to be disciplined and to be able to lead oneself can be sited as another of the key requisites of a good team member. A member who imbibes the vision and mission of his superior – is an undeniable asset to any team. They are the most sought after for their Team skills. Such a follower will align himself or herself to the Leaders goals not waiting to be Lead.


Humility as against arrogance is an essential Hall Mark for a good follower. Humility helps one to accept his/her role as a team member. Even if on any given occasion you have done something outstanding or substantial – Instead of trying to garner attention – giving it up to your Boss and let him take the credit makes for an enlightened follower – let the light shine on your Boss for a while. Your turn will come – infact your boss might be forced to return the favour.

These are but a few useful to have traits for the diligent follower. You might have some other traits in mind. Please feel free to share them in the comments or drop a mail to prakash.francis at





Status Quo & Learned Behaviour

What is learned behaviour?

A behaviour or action that is acquired is called learned behaviour. For example children learn to tie their shoes by watching their parents or classmates. Eating with a spoon and fork is another behaviour that happens by watching and practice. There are many such instances which we learn by observing the environment.

Learned behaviours have played a key role in the survival and thriving of our human race. But there is a flipside. They say too much of a good thing can be dangerous and the same goes with these behavioural mechanisms.

We pick up and hold on to behaviours that have outlived their purpose. Theorists call it cultural baggage and organisations are littered with instances of systems and process which continue to be followed – without no apparent reason. The clichéd statement – it has been always done this way – is a key indicator of the existence of learned yet meaningless organisational behaviors.

Let share with you a story which brings out the stark nature of learned behaviours.

Image Courtesy – Google

This is a story of five monkeys – who found themselves in cage 30 ft by 30 ft square and around 15 feet in height. From the ceiling of the cage hangs a big banana bunch. And right under this juicy bunch of bananas is a folding type ladder. The kind you get in the home depot – used for doing work around the house.

So here is the scene – five monkeys, a bunch of bananas and a ladder.

What do you think the monkeys will do?

Only a matter of time one of them climbs the ladder and goes for the bunch.

Right. But here is the twist.

The moment a monkey touches the ladder  – ice cold water sprays on all the monkeys.

This monkey is zapped. Its totally startled – but the bananas are juicy – he goes for another try and – again ice cold water sprays.

Monkeys don’t particularly enjoy being sprayed with cold water. Now all the monkeys are wary. They don’t allow any monkey to move towards the ladder.

After a while another monkey gives in to the temptation and tries to go for the bananas. Immediately the other monkeys pounce on it – and prevent it from touching the ladder.

Pretty soon the monkeys become smart and stop any monkey from moving towards or touching the ladder.

Now we change the setting. The cold water spray goes. One of the monkeys is removed and a new one is introduced. The new one doesn’t know the story. He comes in sees the banana and off he goes. But to his surprise and horror all the other monkeys attack him and beat him up. Things cool off and the monkey makes another attempt – same result – he gets bashed up – and he has learnt his lesson.

Which is that if he tries climbing again he is going to be assaulted.   

Next we remove one more monkey and introduce a new one. The same situation repeats. Infact now even the previous new comer enjoys bashing up this poor fellow. Without knowing why. This is learned Learned behaviour at its best. 

One by one all the original monkeys are replaced with new ones and all the new entrants pick up the rules very quickly. They have no idea why they are beating up the new fellow , despite none of them have ever been sprayed with cold water.

The upshot is that no monkey approaches the ladder. The bananas are safe.

Suppose if we were to ask one one of the monkeys in – monkey language offcourse – as to why they were beating up the fellows who went for the ladder ? what would they reply ?

Any guesses.

The reply would most likely be “because that’s the way it has always been done.”

Perhaps all it needed to break this chain of events was for one of the later monkeys to ask why?.

But I guess that would be asking for too much.

We encounter learned behaviours everyday: processes, procedures, policies, best practices, design patterns, standards, etc. These are behaviors that developed as a result of a certain environmental need.

…but over time the environment changed. But the behaviour continued.

Only by challenging our old assumptions will we ever develop new ideas else it will be Status Quo.