Blue Light Leavers Blog


Focus on Behavioural Skills in the Interview Process

During this podcast episode of Blue Light Leavers, Andy Labrum interviews Ian Towell, a Senior Manager at Tesco PLC. If you're a police officer, or working in law enforcement thinking of starting a new career, you’re in the right place. Welcome to the Blue Light Leavers! In this episode, Ian shares valuable information about how to prepare for interviews in the public sector. Importantly, Ian talks about the importance of behavioural skills and being your authentic self. Ian reminds us that the private sector is looking for skills that you have, as a police officer or first respondent. Focus on behavioural skills in the interview process, so the interviewer can really know who you are!

Focus on Behavioural Skills in the Interview Process

In this interview, Ian Towell talks about the four key behavioural skills that they look for in Tesco. Talks about the recruitment process, and how to prepare your CV. As well as which skills the private sector is looking for, specifically for police officers. Keep reading, or listen to the podcast here.

Who is Ian and what does he do at Tesco?

Ian has been working for Tesco for 14 years. The majority of his career was spent looking at returns and refunds. In the last year or so, he transitioned into how they use customer information for quality control. Ian's team listens to customers regarding the products Tesco offers, and work internally with technical teams to improve outputs. Currently, Ian leads a team of 9 people, and a total team of about 60 people. The vast majority taken on in the last 6 months or so. All dedicated to improving customer experience.

What are the key attributes and skills that got you to this position?

According to Ian, there are four aspects that you need to try to be successful in the private sector. Ideally, if you have all four, then the sky is the limit.

  1. High level of intelligence, specifically your educational qualifications.
  2. Ability to collaborate, and network with others. Especially important in big organizations
  3. Problem solving skills, and common sense to see problems from other people’s perspectives
  4. Work Ethic. Ian has always been conscious that he's not the most intellectual person, but he does network well with others, has a lot of common sense, and a strong work ethic.

"In Tesco, it's hard to land anything significant without interacting with lots of people in the business".

Let your behavioural experiences shine in the interview process

While the CV writing aspect is really important. Once you’ve got your foot through the door and can talk to someone, it's much less about the technical aspects. The interview process is about teasing out behavioural experiences, rather than technical aspects. It all depends what position you’re filling.

Tesco tries to focus on 5 elements

  1. Collaboration - Can you interact well with others?
  2. Empathy - Can you put yourself in other people’s shoes, either the customer or internal stakeholders?
  3. Resilience  - Do you have the ability to react quickly to deal with situations under pressure?
  4. Responsiveness - How quickly can you handle different situations?
  5. Innovation  - What is your ability to see opportunities from different aspects?

What do you look for in a CV?

We assess if the applicant can solve problems, develop networks and show that they can work cross-functionally across different divisions. All depends on the role we're looking for. We are looking if you will fit with the rest of the team. Will the applicant build bridges for the future? Need to make sure the business is collaborative, then you’ll deliver quicker. We are also looking for behavioural skills.

What are performance reviews based on?

While the task you deliver is important, it's equally important how you deliver.  If you don't deliver in the right away, there's an impact. For example, if you're not developing the right networks and not showing empathy, then your end of year reviews will not be very strong. Resiliency is what we're looking for. It’s not just about delivering the end result.

There's a mentoring culture. Those people that do want to improve, want to identify mentors that they don't work with. But, there's people around the business that will help tease out the behavioural skills. 

What are the challenges for showing that you have suitable experience as a police officer?

There are tons of suitable experience for ex police officers, or military personnel. For example, one guy from the military has very high standards, process driven, and a very good communicator. Other people demonstrate similar attributes that come from the police. You can see from his background and the way he approaches the job in the current business that he’s in. There’s a real benefit; clarity of thought, clarity of process, which you don't always get from people who don’t work in such tough environments. Certainly, someone from the military or the blue light organization will really be able to shine their experiences in the private sector.

"So many variable roles, and you match your CV to that role. You want to be pulling out resiliency, work under pressure, quick, clear, important communication and not overly communicative. There’s definitely a benefit for the interview process to pull out those skills"

Do organization's have a formal interview process?

It varies. There’s an interview pack. It’s quite regimented. The practical reality is in advance to that meeting, you're pulling out packs that are relevant to the position. The interview process will talk about technical. However, it’s much more about behavioural skills instead of technical skills. Prepare for interviews with your behaviour skills, like being responsive, taking initiative and resilient. These are the things that tick the boxes from an employable point of view.

Should you de-police your experience? 

According to Ian, the answer is NO! If you’ve been in a police, fire or ambulance environment, then it’s natural that you will use those scenarios. You don't have to de-police your experience. Instead, you just have to demonstrate your behavioural experiences. Don’t try to find different experiences, rather use your past experiences with the police force to help you. The person who interviews you, knows that's your background. If they had any issues with that, then you probably wouldn't have made it through to the interview stage. Don't try to de-police it. Be massively proud, and talk about examples in a positive way.

According to Ian, 

"If you see a role that you think you can fit, and more importantly, you want to do it, and you think you can add value, then just apply. If they don't want you, then you wont advance"

Focus on Behavioural Skills in the Interview Process: Be Authentic 

There is a need to be authentic. You cant change your background. Be proud of it. Call out examples that are relevant and true to who you are. That is being authentic. The big part of going through interviews, they want to understand who the real you is. The more you can be authentic, the more it will work in your favour.  Be sure to focus on behavioural skills in the interview process.

Is the private sector cut throat? Is there lots of pressure? What are the benefits of working with the private sector?

Ian's experience of working for large retailers has been good. There is lots of emphasis on culture. The organization is always looking for ways for efficiency and how to do things differently. It's a fast moving environment, and highly customer focused. Just the nature of work is always changing. We see that even as consumers. Businesses need to change and adapt accordingly. It creates a sense of vulnerability. It does make people more focused on doing a good job, and puts more emphasis on people showing good leadership skills. If you are looking for how to change, to improve and be more productive, then you will go far.

How do you evidence your skills and attributes?

Be confident in your own background. If you’ve done a great role historically, be confident about who you are and what you’ve delivered in the past. Don't be afraid that they won't be highly sought after in the private sector, it's not true. Both private and public have similar skills that are sought after in the private sector. Be confident in your own skills, and embrace change. Focus on behavioural skills in the interview process, and you can't go wrong.

Want to connect to Ian? Ian is on LinkedIn. Send Ian a request on LinkedIn here.