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  • Writer's pictureLilian Chiwera

Should we be structuring interview questions around compassion? That conflict question bothered me!

This last week I happened to be part of an interview panel. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I must say though, that I find interviews hard at times as I’d want to give everyone who applied for the job an opportunity to prove themselves but sadly it doesn’t work like that. What I’m saying is that each & every person who applies for any given job has potential to do well, if the conditions are conducive to staff development. Sadly, for me, this world will always be about competition which I generally dislike, except if it’s in sports or other recreational activities.

So, what do we really expect from our interviewees? Well, depending on the job they’re applying for, questions are selected using set criteria or job specifications. One question that I have found myself asking interviewees on several occasions is: ‘Can you tell us how you would deal with a difficult situation or how you resolve conflict?’ I don’t think I have ever thought through this question carefully before until last week. I started asking myself – well does that mean that this job will involve lots of conflict? Are we indirectly promoting the perpetrators by asking this question or are we accepting that in the world we’re in today and in all workplaces, there will always be conflicts? Are we encouraging these kinds of situations? Perhaps not but I couldn’t help myself thinking along these lines. What if we switched this question to say: Can you tell us how you would promote love, peace, kindness, and compassion in the workplace and avoid nurturing conflict situations? Does this shift us from workplaces where conflict is unavoidable to where everyone is keen to promote peace? Does this shift an individual’s perspective in general? It has certainly shifted my perspective and I don’t think I will ask that question again in an interview.

Language Matters

I have listened to a podcast via #InfectionControlMatters where Claire Kilpatrick discusses the importance of language in #InfectionPrevention. I add that language is so important in all walks of life not just in infection prevention; and it’s no different during job interviews. How people present themselves during an interview can be the difference between them getting or not get a particular job. At the same, if how we phrase our questions during interviews determine individual perspectives when they start a new job, then we probably need a rethink. Wow! This has really challenged my thinking and my language in many aspects of life. I will therefore be minding my language more in future!

Promoting a positive work culture

So how do I shape a positive culture through the way I ask questions or the way I communicate in general? How do I know what to say or how to respond in any given situation? How much detail should I provide? Is my conversation nurturing or discouraging to others? I certainly hope people can help me by giving me feedback where I don’t quite get things right so I can improve and most importantly promote a peaceful, nurturing, compassionate environment where kindness flourishes. In an interview scenario, I will certainly consider how we shape our questions, to promote peace and tranquility in our workplaces. But does this really matter if conflict is inevitable anyway? I think it does! In a world that is increasingly presenting itself with numerous challenges; including those attributable to climate change, love, kindness, and compassion will go a long way.

Embedding love, kindness and compassion in all we do

I have spoken of my desire to make this world a better place, but I acknowledge what an enormous task this is. I think in as much as we say language in generic terms matters, the questions we ask also matter and I feel if we want a better world perhaps, we should be changing our perspectives on how some things have always been said or handled in the past. In this case, I’d love to see that conflict question changed, i.e., if other people have also found themselves asking this question and wondering why they are even asking it in the first place. Does it mean that those people less able to handle conflict can’t get top jobs? Are we going to end up in a situation where we are only promoting tough individuals?’ If that’s the case, then I may as well forget about promotion looool 😊😊! In a world where we’re now promoting compassionomics, we should also be having a think about all our approaches to how we shape recruitment criteria including the interview questions to embrace things that we aspire in our workforce or leaders. Julie Storr is now my best friend, thanks to her for starting to get conversations going around compassion. Yes COMPASSION! I thoroughly enjoyed her recent talk at the annual Infection Prevention Society conference #IP2021 in Liverpool and at another #FIS21 conference in Manchester. You may also want to check out this video on #Compassionomics by Dr Stephen Trzeciak. Everyone needs love, kindness and compassion and everyone whould be making an effort to also exude love, kindness and compassion. I thought I had finished this blog until I saw this YouTube video on Twitter. I’d therefore add this question, how do we model our interview questions and even Trust values around civility, kindness, compassion? How to we ensure it keeps happening in practice? As I always say... let it start with me!

So not so much about #SSIPrevention this time, but I was interviewing for an SSI nurse 😊.

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