Employing staff: Don’t judge a book by its cover: Six key things when interviewing

Interviewing in the public sector

I used to work at a University and when receiving applications and interviewing on panels there were some unseen rules, which were used to sift and also to bar people from being employed.

I am sure that this happens in every sector but, if your face didn’t fit and your CV didn’t press all of the right buttons, (these buttons were always pre-conceived before the applicants were interviewed), then you wouldn’t be selected for a post.

Some of these signifiers included:

  • How you looked: If your shoes were not shined or you did not wear a suit or two-piece or what was perceived as interview clothes, it was frowned upon.
  • Your manner: too pushy was perceived as a sign of obstinacy.
  • The colour or style of your hair: no punks or wacky colours here, please.
  • Whether you had the right experience for the role: always a dubious one.
  • Whether you were more qualified than the panel: or whether you might rise above those selecting in a short period of time.


Getting the right people for the job

In my business today, if I had selected my staff on such criteria I would not have such a well-rounded, dedicated and fun staff team. One has blue hair, another is a Goth with half her head shaved, a further one has been in trouble with the police, another has just experience in the police and no other background, another has no specific experience in our world but has experience far beyond this in a range of other areas in which I have no experience at all.


6 Key things to look out for when selecting a staff.

There are key things which bond us all together to provide a first-class quality service to our customers and this is the most important thing when looking for a cohesive staff team.

So, what are the six things that I look for when employing someone:

  • The unusual answer to the bog-standard question: This is key as I find those that give the stock answer are usually too steady and often easily led.
  • Wear what you are comfortable in and show me your identity and personality: Blue hair and Gothic looks are cool and have a massive effect on the management teams that we work with. At first, people are uncertain but when they see the dynamic personalities and knowledge of the staff they are blown away.
  • Tell the truth: One of my staff said, I don’t have any specific experience in this field but from analysing your website you need someone like me to really drive you forward. She proceeded to tell me why and was so right.
  • Have your own opinion: I love it in an interview when people just say what they think and challenge me. Don’t gush about the services but tell me what you didn’t like as well.
  • Don’t be afraid: People with confidence in an alien environment always impress me. One of my staff on her first day was asked by me alongside the other members of the team to put together two objectives that would carry the business forward. She blew everyone away and she was only 16 on work experience at the time.
  • Be proud of your weaknesses and push your strengths: Too many people say the age-old retort. “I don’t think that I have any weaknesses but I suppose X is a weakness as well as a strength”. Bullshit, everyone has weaknesses and if you can admit to them I would rather employ you than some mealy-mouthed yes person with an ego as big as Tynemouth.


The key to interviewing and selection is to enjoy it. It should not be a chore but many HR departments and their resultant employment structures make this a tedious and boring experience. We need fun and to give everyone a chance to shine otherwise, we will be stuck with the same old boring staff as we usually get.