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Preparing for a performance appraisal interview

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Performance reviews, appraisal interviews, annual reviews – whatever you call them it all boils down to the same thing. Extra work. I used to hate preparing for appraisal interviews with members of my team. Now I really enjoy them. Why? I’ve changed my approach. Rewind 10 years or so: I’d make the appointment, forget about it until I saw it on my schedule for the next day, have a quick think, dig out a few pertinent facts, come up with a few random goals, and off I went.

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What’s changed then? I want to keep my employees in the company. And performance appraisal interviews are important in making sure this happens. So, I use my “5 Keeps” approach:

“If you’re reading this, apologies to those individuals who had to live with how I used to prepare for performance appraisals. I’m probably part of the reason you hate performance appraisal interviews.”

Keep it objective

I’ve finally understood that appraisal interviews don’t work if you see them as an event that happens once a year. How can they? We’re all human and we don’t remember things. We inevitably end up reviewing what the employee did most recently. If that was good, great. If something wasn’t so good, then the employee gets a poor review for the whole period, which is not really fair, is it? Emotions play a role here. It helps to find a way of standing back from what is happening at the time of the interview and look at the whole year objectively.

Keep notes

This may sound a little geeky, but to help with the appraisal interview, I keep a little notebook for each member of my team. I make notes of the little things, feedback from clients, team members, from other members of the management staff. Anything that could be of interest really. This means I don’t have to spend time gathering information before the interview. I have the specific examples I need in front of me. All I need to do at the preparation stage of the appraisal interview then is grab my little book. I schedule time for preparation before the meeting. I align my notes with the appraisal interview form and the self-evaluation form from the employee, and I’m all set for the interview.

Keep the conversation open all year

The thing about my notes is that there is nothing secret in there. Everything has already been shared. When I get good (or bad) feedback from a client, I tell them about it when it happens. When they do something really well, I tell them. When they underperform, I tell them.

Keep it developmental

Too often the focus can be on the operational details. Sure, that’s important for the business, but you can talk about that during the year. The key question is: how can I use this opportunity to make sure that this person is not doing exactly the same thing in exactly the same way this time next year? I want to make sure the focus is on development. I want to make sure goals we set together are motivating and are going to help the person grow. If they grow, we grow.

Keep it fun

Fun? Really? Yes, appraisal interviews are a great opportunity to talk to your employee about them. Do you have much time during the year to really learn about them? Probably not as much as you’d like. Here you’ve got allocated time to hear about how they feel – make the most of it, be encouraging, and enjoy it!

More on performance appraisal interviews

This post is the first of a 4-part series on performance appraisal interviews. Make sure to come back if you’re interested to read more about:

  • Starting a performance appraisal interview
  • Giving opinions and explaining reasons in a performance appraisal interview
  • Summarizing a performance appraisal interview

 

Updating your CV: Quick Tips

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Updating your CV

You may not be looking for new opportunities at the moment, but at some time in your future career you will use it. CV writing in English can be a bit tricky when you don’t keep it up-to-date on a regular basis. Reflecting now on the last 12 months and your successes, while things are still fresh in your memory, will mean your CV is ready when you need it, detailed and with all the important information to make a great impression.

Updating your CV with a purpose

When writing about your responsibilities and achievements, start each sentence with a dynamic verb. These show action and progress over a period of time, and will give the reader the impression of things being done.
Dynamic verbs are rarely used in the Present Simple tense. If you’re writing about activities which are still happening, use the progressive verb+ing. For example:

  • Managing a team of 10 engineers based in Romania and Slovakia.
  • Developing state of the art software for scanning equipment used at Heidelberg training hospital’s head trauma clinic.

If you’re writing about a project which has finished, start each sentence with a dynamic verb in the Past Simple tense. For example:

  • Negotiated contractual deadlines with customers.
  • Organized supply and delivery of system components.

You can make your CV stand out amongst other by using dynamic language.  Take a look at your CV and make some changes to help you get that dream job you have been looking for! Let us know of any specifics questions on writing well when updating your CV in the comments area below.

 

Parental Leave Questions for Human Resources

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What kind of parental leave questions in English can you expect from your company’s employees?

Working in HR and answering employee’s questions can often be difficult, especially when you are dealing with people’s personal lives and their impact on work.  This definitely is the case when it comes to time off due to a new baby being born, or what is known as ‘maternity'(mother) or ‘paternity(father) leave’. Below are some common parental leave questions in English.  The answers may be dependent on your company regulations, but a lot of these are also subject to German laws. It may be a good idea to practice by taking the questions in turns with one person being the employee and one the HR consultant.  This could help your department be better prepared and avoid any difficult situations that may arise.

Common parental leave questions

  • What is the earliest date I can start my maternity leave and the earliest I can finish it?
  • What do I need to do with regards to informing work if my baby comes early or late?
  • Can I extend my parental leave unpaid? What do I need to do?
  • Can I work from home during my maternity leave? Why / Why not?
  • Can I take temporary work somewhere else during my parental leave and do I need to inform the company if I do?
  • What rights does my live-in partner have if he/ she are not the biological parent of the child?
  • What options do I have if I want to work in a temporary position while I am on parental leave?
  • If I work in a temporary different position during my parental leave, is it easy to get my old job back?
  • What is my maternity allowance and is there a maximum rate?
  • Am I entitled to maternity allowance if I am a trainee / a 6 month intern / started work 6 months ago?
  • Do I have to come back to work full-time if that was how I was originally employed? What is the procedure for going part-time?
  • Can both my husband and I apply for parental benefit?
  • What is the situation with parental benefit and having children in preschool or school?
  • What other benefits might I be entitled to during my maternity / parental leave?
  • What options do I have if my job is no longer available when my parental leave is over? (They have closed my location.)

Let us know if you can think of any other parental leave questions that have come up, or suggestions on answers, in the comments area below.  Also, make sure to check out interviewing seminar specifically designed for HR professionals by clicking here.

Job Interviews in English: Using the correct language

Do you have to conduct job interviews in English? Job interview language, and which grammar tense to use, can be tricky at times. Never sure if it’s ‘have worked’ or ‘worked’? Get confused by ‘have done’ and ‘did’?

Job interviews usually involve discussing the experience the applicant can bring to the position. Everyone’s experience is based on events in their lives and some of these are finished and some are not. Below is some information that should help you prepare to conduct job interviews in English.

Job interviews in English: example of an interview conversation

Below is an example of a typical interview conversation.  There are several examples of both tenses being used in parallel in a job interview. Which events are finished and which are ongoing in Ms Brandy’s life?

  1. Good morning Ms Brandy, please have a seat.
  2. Good morning Mr Jones, it’s a pleasure to meet you.
  1. Could you tell me who you work for at the moment?
  2. I work for Frank and Banowitz importers.
  1. How long have you worked for them?
  2. I’ve worked for Frank and Banowitz for the past three years.
  1. And how long have you worked in the marketing department?
  2. I’ve been in the marketing department for the past six months.
  1. You know this job requires a lot of travel. Have you done much traveling for business?
  2. Yes, the job I had before Frank and Banowitz at an insurance company required me to travel monthly.
  1. And why did you leave that position?
  2. I got a more interesting position at Frank and Banowitz.
  1. Have you had any experience in advertising?
  2. Yes, I’ve spent the last few years working part-time as an advertising consultant for schools offering summer language courses.
  1. That’s interesting. How successful have you been?
  2. The school I’ve worked for has had quite a few more registrations as a result of my collaboration.
  1. Very interesting…

Note how the interviewer (1.) asks questions using ‘have you + past participle’, unless he wants to know more about one of Ms Brandy’s experiences.  At that point, he then switches to the past. (‘Why did you leave that position’?). The ‘have you’ questions focus on Ms Brandy’s life experiences which are relevant to the job interview of today. The past question deals with finding out more information on why Ms Brandy left the first job she had. It is an important question, but is about a finished experience for her.

It is a good idea to practice the different tenses used in an interview by analyzing your own CV and writing down questions you would expect to be asked in an interview for your team leader’s position.  Feel free post your answers, or any other questions you might have, in the comments area below and we will get back to you with some feedback.  Make sure to check out how Target Training has helped professionals improve their writing skills at work by clicking here.

Informational Interviews: Questions to Ask

Have you ever had a dream job or a job you really wanted, but didn’t know how to get started in looking for it?  An informational (or information) interview is when someone looking for a job meets with someone else in their target company or industry and asks for career or industry advice, but not directly for a job. An informational interview can be very helpful from both an information and networking perspective.  It’s a great way to get some helpful information and, at the same time, is a chance for the other person to feel like an “expert”.  Even though it should be a somewhat informal meeting, you should come prepared with some relevant questions.  Here are some suggestions to ask the person you meet:

Individual’s experience/current job

  • What would you say are the best steps to take in this career path?
  • What interested you most about this industry and your company?
  • What would you do differently if you were starting over today?
  • What do you see as possible next steps for you? What career expectations do you have in the short and long term?
  • What are you most excited or concerned about regarding this industry/company/career path in the future?
  • What would you do if you were looking for a job tomorrow?
  • What are your main responsibilities?
  • What do you do in a typical day or week? How much time are you in meetings, on telecons, traveling, etc.?

Their company and industry

  • What would you do differently if you were in charge of your company?
  • What do you see as the biggest competitive challenge for your company?
  • What have been your biggest surprises in this area of work?
  • What are the common misconceptions about working in this field?
  • What motivates you to continue on in this company/industry?
  • What worries you about this company/industry?
  • What challenges are there regarding hiring practices in this company/industry?
  • Can you recommend others I can talk to about this field?

 Skills needed

  • What skills have been most critical to your success?
  • What weaknesses in a person’s skill set would make him or her struggle in this company/industry?
  • What are the most valuable skills in your job? Which experiences enabled you to develop these skills?
  • How do you keep your skills current?  What type of training seminars do you attend?  What do you read?  What professional associations do you belong to?

Informational interviews can be a great tool in helping you plan your next career move, and establish a clear and focused career path.  Make sure to check out Target Training’s seminar on interviews as well.  What other good questions or tips have worked well for you?  Let us know in the comments section below.