The Career Doctor

Your employment questions answered
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The Independent Online

My company is currently recruiting non fee-earning staff and, as part of my management training programme, I have been asked to do some of the interviewing. I thought this might be fun but now I'm worried as I've been warned I need to be careful what I ask.

My company is currently recruiting non fee-earning staff and, as part of my management training programme, I have been asked to do some of the interviewing. I thought this might be fun but now I'm worried as I've been warned I need to be careful what I ask.

Be afraid - be very afraid. Interviewing has never been easy, although - like sex and driving - no one admits to being bad at it. And the onus is not just on you to select the right candidate, either. Interviewees can often afford to be picky. You'll need to create the right image of your company to get the best one to take the job.

Plan your meeting, greeting and seating arrangements. Offer tea or coffee and break the ice with small talk. Be prepared to give information about your company and the job on offer. Don't judge by first impressions. Ask questions and take the same amount of time with each candidate. Make sure you know the criteria and level of skills and personal qualities needed for the job. Find an expert on legal matters in your company and ask them to go through all the things you must never ask, like "Are you planning to start a family?" etc.

As someone who is new to the team-leader role, I am finding it easy to encourage my group when they've done well, but I avoid criticising individuals when they've screwed up. I don't want to sound bossy, but I don't like being a doormat, either.

Offering critical feedback can be one of the most tricky parts of a manager's role. Only the corporate sadists relish it as an opportunity to score points and humiliate. The rest of us are only too aware of potential outcomes like: 1) becoming less popular with the member of staff concerned, 2) provoking conflict, and 3) making matters far, far worse by being clumsy in our communication.

Remember that criticism must be specific to be constructive. If you use general comments or drop hints you will only confuse your team member. Watch out for the "bad news sandwich" technique, too. This is where you soften the blow by beginning and ending with praise. All very ducky, but the compliments can lead unsuspecting staff to think they can expect a pay rise rather than the ensuing bollocking.

Always take the person to one side to do the dirty business. Be assertive in your tone and body language, and clear in your speech. Be prepared to listen to their comments but keep control of the meeting. Tell them what is wrong and how you would like it to change. Avoid dwelling too much in the past. Keep the focus on forward improvement.

I think my boss is having an affair. The whole office is gossiping about it. Should I let him know what's being said behind his back?

Is he having the affair with you? If not, keep out of his business. I can understand the adultery and the gossiping, as both contain the potential for fun for the participants, but it's your role that worries me. What do you hope to gain out of being the whistle-blower? His eternal gratitude? He will hate you and the others will alienate you. Trust me, no one loves a nark.

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