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Set out in this article are ten questions that will get you noticed when you’re going for leadership positions across the sheepmeat or wool industry supply chains, regardless of whether it’s an on-farm role or working in live export, agribusiness or sheepmeat processing.
But firstly, before you can frame any questions, you need to do your homework.
In our experience, most employers are impressed if candidates can demonstrate they have taken the time to explore their potential workplace.
Well-prepared candidates ask implication and impact questions rather than background questions.
A lot of background questions can be uncovered in the media, on the web or via your network. If you persist in asking background questions where the information is reasonably accessible, you are wasting their time, and yours.
You should undertake this research to gain the necessary knowledge so you can properly frame your questions to understand what factors impact on management and their resulting business decisions and, ultimately how they may affect your day-to-day working life.
Accordingly, you should go to lengths to find out as much as you can about the company. You will understand where they sit in the market, what impacts the environment (social/political, local/international) is having, what their company culture is, and if there are any discrepancies between what they preach versus how they deliver.
A question we often have posed to us by clients going for interviews is the area of sensitive issues and whether should they be raised.
Our answer is simple – YES. But your skill and tact are vitally important here.
You should never seek to point-score, however appropriately addressed, your question will give you an indication of how your potential employer is likely to deal with similar issues in the future and you can decide if their style, philosophy and culture fit with yours.
Lets take a couple of sensitive issues and explore them. Once you have thought through the issues, you will be ready to prepare the appropriate questions:
A: Live exports
For many businesses in northern parts of Australia, the whole Animals Australia/PETA issue was highly emotive and stressful, given the severe economic impacts it had on the businesses which were directly or indirectly exposed to the trade. It was an atrocious Government decision. As a result, how best to shift public opinion (here and in Indonesia) became a crafting act for industry.
As a potential manager with a company wholly reliant on live exports, you need to understand the company philosophy around this issue. For example:
Company A is very closed. They strongly believe Animals Australia / PETA is attempting to destroy the industry and is just those liberal/green/lefty urban types who are ruining things for people in the bush. They feel what goes on in Indonesia is their business and has nothing to do with Australia. Do-gooders are ruining the industry. Here is a company that is a fighter and a strong position-taker.
Company B has leaders who are prepared to state publically that they did not in any way condone or support the practices in some Indonesian abattoirs and were prepared to support policies and practices that eliminated sub-standard animal welfare. Here is a company that is looking at finding solutions and not grandstand on this issue, regardless of how much it is hurting.
Culture is a somewhat fuzzy thing and, in many organisations, rarely focused on in a tangible and congruent way.
On one hand, an organisation may say that integrity is very important for them, however should a senior manager give a bribe or unscrupulously obtains information on a competitor, it is often excused or ignored. If exposed, the “pink-elephant-in-the-room” phenomena prevails, and no-one feels brave enough or comfortable to speak about it. As a result, the whisper system takes over and the culture of “say one thing, do another” prevails.
You are now ready to frame your questions…
Your questions should provide you with great insights about your potential employer. They will demonstrate to you how this organisation is prepared to embrace such issues and, as a result, if their values align with yours.
Having done all of the above, you are now ready to frame the best questions for the job interview.
Most often than not at an interview, you are asked if you have any questions – this is your opportunity. If, for some reason, you are not asked we strongly encourage initiating questions, along the lines of…. “if you don’t mind, I do have a few questions.”
We have grouped the questions, below around common themes…….
“What are the one or two things that really drive your results?” (you might like to give a couple of examples such as….. “is it your weaning percentage, scale of operations…?”
“I am curious to know how your staff turnover compares with your competitors, and if it is something you are satisfied with?”
Dealing with issues (along the lines outlined above)
“I expect this to be a pretty sensitive issue, however I am interested to understand how …. was dealt with at the operations level.”
“How would I be expected to deal with ….?”
“What are the standout features of your top performers in this (or similar) role?”
“What are the evaluation and/or performance measures for this role?”
“I believe I am a person who likes to hit the ground running – if I am successful in getting this job, what do you expect me to have achieved within the first three months?”
“I am interested in understanding your professional development policy and if you have any criteria for this position.”
Organisational and team culture
“I am interested to understand how your company values and desired behaviours align and, if out of alignment, how effective you believe you are as an organisation in gaining realignment.”
“Would you describe the link between work and social life within the organisation as strong or weak? And by this I am seeking to understand the extent to which team-members undertake common collective activities outside of work, for example, teaming-up for fund raising, etc?”
The interview process is often the first introduction between yourself and leaders within the organisation. Your CV and references have enabled you to get on the playing field. However to win the game, you need to ensure your performance is not second rate. This is your opportunity to stand out from the rest of the candidates.
Good luck in getting that job!
* David Hanlon is principal of The Right Mind International, a company working with people and their organisations to assist in achieving the results they want – either personally or for their businesses. This is done through a unique approach in improving both their capability (resources) and capacity (will and motivation) to assist in more effective implementation of their strategies. Click here for details.