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2013 January

28 Jan


The Interview

January 28, 2013 | By |

This weeks blog has been written by guest blogger Simon Rudland who is currently ‘Waitrose Store Manager of the Year’. As well as being a store manager, Simon looks after marketing for Waitrose in the South-East and regularly interviews people for a variety of positions.

As a follow on from my previous blog ‘Beat the Competition to the job’, guest blogger Simon has shared his ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes of interviewees.

The Interview
I don’t think there is any other aspect of working life which means so much to people as being successful in an interview situation.  In my time interviewing candidates for a number of different levels of management, I’ve been privileged to see prepared, confident and articulate people excel beyond expectations; but I’ve also sadly witnessed the effects of crippling nerves, unbelievable facades and nonsensical drivel that would make even the most hardened professional outwardly cringe.
I’ve often heard it said that the interview process is not ‘fair’ – in that it assesses one’s ability to have refined interview techniques, to be adept at demonstrating the formula that makes for a good candidate, rather than examining one’s real ability to do the job well – and there may be a touch of truth in that.  But I honestly believe that a good interviewer will see through all of the learnt behaviours.  They will be looking for small yet clear signs of the skills and styles that match their requirements, and it may indeed be that the most flippant remark or unconscious action is the one they find most compelling.
Below is a small list I’ve compiled of my personal ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ of interviewees.  These might not necessarily match the rules contained within the interview text books – they are simply my own views – but I do think that there is logic to them that might be worth considering:
Openness – To some degree, everyone puts on a bit of an act for an interview.  Whether that be an act of formality, of overt politeness, of confidence, or of pretending to be someone totally different.  Interviewers therefore spend a lot of mental energy breaking down the barriers that come with the act, and surmising what the candidate is actually like. How would they fit into the existing team? What is their true skill level? How would they cope under the relentless pressure of the job? etc etc. The easier you make that mental job for the interviewer, the more endeared they will be to you.  It’s such a lovely feeling to be able to sit back, relax and listen to a candidate, knowing full well that what I am seeing is the real person, rather than a projection of who they would like to be.
Research – A candidate that has spent time researching the company, the job role and the data, and is able to articulate a personal viewpoint on these things receives a big tick in the box.  I often like it when someone is able to slip in a fact or figure they have researched, even when not directly asked about it (without diverging too much from the question of course), as it shows a level of mental agility as well as commitment.
Someone who can articulate relevant transferable skills – In many instances, it is understandable that a candidate may not have specific evidence of doing the job for which they are interviewing. That is fine – it’s what training is for. The best candidates are able to discuss achievements they have had in previous roles and link the skills they showed then to what is required in the new role.  I know it sounds simple, but I am often surprised at how many people fall into the traps of either (i) talking to death about their wonderful previous successes, without mentioning any relevance to the new role; or (ii) trying to think of examples of what they have done which exactly match the new role, but falling short when it becomes apparent that the experience they claim to have does not truly exist.
Candidates who spend the whole interview telling me why this job is good for them and not why they would be good for the job – This is quickly becoming my biggest pet hate. New graduates are probably the worst for this, especially when it is mixed in with a bit of misplaced arrogance (such as when someone tries to tell me that they have no weaknesses).  Now, it is OK to be ambitious, it is OK to discuss your long term aspirations within the interview, and it’s OK to acknowledge the benefits of having this company/job on your CV in the future.  However, this needs to be balanced with a level of professional integrity, wherein the interviewer must be in no doubt that you will be an asset to the organisation, that you will be fully committed to achieving high results within the new role, and that you will stay for an acceptable length of time.  Mentioning how ‘convenient’ the role is for you, or using the terms ‘stepping stone’ or ‘stop gap’ are a big turn off.
Blaggers – This goes back to the point of ‘openness’ that I mentioned earlier. Sometimes an interviewer may want to see how someone reacts under a bit of pressure, and asking a tough question that is outside the comfort zone of a candidate is one way of doing this.  In response to this, I would much rather have a concise reply, where some effort is made to engage with the question, but where the candidate acknowledges a lack of knowledge or experience, than have someone try to blag their way through and feign competence, when it is clear they have no idea what they are talking about.  Ultimately, if I am interviewing someone for a role I will be managing, either directly or indirectly, I want to be confident that if I ask someone a straightforward question within a working environment, that I will be met with a straight, open and honest response, not a load of nonsense.
Talking pay too soon – I understand that there may be different opinions on this, but here’s mine: Do not bring up the subject of pay in an interview! Save the haggling for when they call you up with an offer.  Now I know that some interviewers may ask about salary expectations as part of the interview (I personally never do), and of course it’s OK to respond as appropriate in that instance; but it’s not a topic that I believe an interviewee should be instigating.  All too often, at the end of an interview, when I ask “Are there any questions you’d like to ask me”  the subject of salary/benefits is the first one to be fired back.  It’s a real shame, as this is an opportunity to ask pertinent questions relating to corporate strategy, expectations of the role, the culture of the organisation etc etc.  There have been times at the end of a good interview when I’ve felt that the conversation has turned sour by the assertiveness that a candidate has displayed towards the topic of salary.  You want an interview to end on a high note, not a tussle of horns, so use the opportunity to discuss a subject that will be mutually engaging.

For more information about interview technique and presentation skills go to

21 Jan


Beat the Competition to the Job!

January 21, 2013 | By |

So, congratulations – you’ve made it to interview stage. Your application form and C.V. have already done a sterling job. However, it’s a buyer’s market. Don’t be the bruised apple hidden in the bargain bin, be the huge, ripe, eye-catching tomato in the front row. 
Finding work is particularly tough in the current climate. More and more candidates are battling for the same job. Here are a few tips which could help improve your chances.
Put yourself in the shoes of your potential employer. Who would you want to take on?
1.    Someone punctual, reliable and looking the part.
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t be late but arrive with time to sit, relax and compose yourself. Turn up looking harassed and edgy and you’ll be marked down before you even start.
Covered in a recent blog (‘Dress to Impress’), I cannot emphasise enough how big an opportunity this is to mark yourself out from the crowd. You should look scrupulously clean and well groomed. Your choice of clothes should look neat, tidy and well put together. Everything about your appearance will speak volumes during your interview. Imagine you have a great skill base and excellent references but you are one of TWO final candidates to be chosen from. If the other candidate is evenly matched with you then things like your appearance could be the clincher. You don’t have to be a supermodel, just someone who can make ‘smart/chic’ look effortless. (ANYONE can with a little effort)
2.    Someone who looks like they mean it.
Body Language is such a powerful tool. Some hiring managers claim they can spot a possible candidate for a job within 30 seconds or less, and while a lot of that has to do with the way you look, it’s also in your body language. Your interviewer/s will be processing things from your posture to your level of eye contact without them even realising it at the time.
Sit up straight and slightly forward. It says you’re taking this seriously and you are seriously interested in the job. Be aware of moving your feet up and down repeatedly in a nervous manner – it’s a sign of boredom, even if you don’t mean it to be.
Smile. It’s an ice-breaker. It’s a way of showing warmth and friendliness. However serious the role, everyone wants to see the human-being they are going to employ.
Be yourself – no point pretending to be someone you aren’t. However what you SHOULD do is have a sure idea of your skills and strengths and practise articulating them.
If you have more than one person interviewing you at once, make sure you briefly address all the people with your gaze and return your attention to the person who has asked you a question.
Your physical gestures should be open and expressive. You want to try to involve the interviewer in what you are saying – remember it is a conversation, not a monologue. Keep palms up and open to suggest honesty, and avoid pointing or banging fists on the table to emphasise a point.
3.    Someone who sounds like they mean it.
The content of the responses is extremely important but the tone and pace of voice is just as important. Your tone of voice sets the atmosphere during an interview. It projects your inner confidence, your authority and the ability to cope.
If you are nervous, often the pitch of your voice can rise.  Take deep breaths when you are not speaking, in through your nose and out through the mouth. This will help calm your nerves and keep your voice grounded.
Be aware of your voice – is it matching your message? If you are excited, allow this emotion through your voice, otherwise people will not believe your words.  
Remember to speak up, don’t mumble and if you stumble over your words, slow down. Use pauses as they are much more powerful than filling the silences with erms!! 
4.    Someone who knows what they’re talking about.
Do your research. CEO’s often tell me that interviewee’s do not know enough about the company they are applying to..Find out as much as you can about the company such as relevant facts and figures. You can then use that information to explain how you can be an asset in your potential role. Not only will it impress, you will feel much more confident about answering questions. At the end of the interview you are likely to get asked the question “do you have any questions for me?” – always have at least one and this is where researching the organisation prior to the interview comes in handy.
5.    Someone who copes well under pressure.
Interviews are stressful. However, with a little practice and the right mind-set you can appear cool and relaxed. Remember, it’s only a job. The people interviewing you are only human too, with their own sets of challenges and real life issues. Use the nerves to your advantage – it can give you that spark and if they are under control it can give your voice more energy giving you more presence.
If you don’t get the job, then you are taking the experience of that particular interview onto the next one. What worked, what didn’t? Nothing is wasted.
For more information about interview technique and presentation skills go to

13 Jan


The Power of a Smile

January 13, 2013 | By |

Why is smiling so important in human interaction?

When people bestow a smile upon is, it feels like a small gift or a compliment, at the very least it is a polite acknowledgement. However, you have been given something. It is social currency. 
When speaking even about the driest subject, a smile makes people warm to you and want to listen to you. If you’re sporting teeth out of a horror movie, closed mouthed smiles with bright eyes can still have impact, so don’t lose heart. Just mean it.
According to writer Marianne LaFrance, author of ‘Lip Service’, women smile more than men. Apparently men with more testosterone smile less than those with less testosterone.  If you’re a grump and try to justify this by thinking it makes you all man, all you’re doing is avoiding wielding your magic smile powers!
A French neurologist, Guillaume-Benjamin-Armand Duchenne, determined that, smiles of genuine happiness or pleasure, utilize muscles around the eyes as well as those around the mouth.  We’re all aware of ‘smiles that fail to reach the eyes’.  In studies, people who view faces with ‘Duchenne’ Smiles, rate them as more intelligent, capable, friendly, attractive, kind and sincere.
Allegedly around 80% of us are able to pull off a fake Duchenne. However, not all smiles need to be mega-wattage; showing a band of perfect veneers and eyes all crinkly and sparkly, to make a positive impression.  Look at Ms Mona Lisa! People have been talking about that smile for centuries!
We all have a range of smiles, some examples:
1.    The ‘Duchenne smile’ which takes over your face because you are too happy to conceal it.
2.    The ‘I think you’re attractive but I am going to keep my smile small and brief, so you don’t know how keen I am’ smile.
3.    The ‘God you’re boring but I know I have to be polite’ smile which is about as sincere as a loan shark.
4.    The ‘I am terrified about the speech I am about to give but if I smile at you all, you’ll be kind to me I know you will!’ smile.
If you want people to think flattering things about you, then practise the Duchenne smile.  As much as you can, THINK HAPPY, then smile. Most people can manage to grin broadly and crinkle their eyes but if there are conflicting messages, such as arm folding or brow furrowing then the recipient won’t be fooled. Feel it and mean it.
Just smile more in general, even if you’re on your own, it will lift your mood.
Smile at people you like and smile at strangers you pass in the street. (Maybe SOME discretion is advised) Above all, smiling humanises you, makes you seem warm, and nicer to be around. Whether you’re in an interview, giving a speech or proposing, a smile can only ever add to the occasion.

For more information about public speaking go to

07 Jan


Tips for the Telephone (Video Blog)

January 7, 2013 | By |

Welcome to my first video blog. I wanted to share some of my tips for more effective telephone communication and what better way than sharing them with you directly! I Hope you find them useful.

For more information about telephone technique and public speaking go to

03 Jan


Dress to Impress

January 3, 2013 | By |

Don’t judge a book by its cover…

Well maybe we shouldn’t but we all do. It’s natural, when we meet someone, our primal instinct kicks in ensuring we assess people for any hint of imminent danger. Whether we’re aware of it or not our eyes see it all and we can make quite instant impressions based on a ton of information being processed unconsciously.

Those times we ‘just get a funny feeling’ about someone is usually because certain indicators we are not consciously aware of are setting off alarm bells in our brains, reminding us to keep the barriers up until we get more information. Maybe once you get to know the person, you realise your concerns were groundless but sometimes you realise you were right all along. However it turns out, what it means, is there was something about the way this person looked or behaved which felt wrong.  YOU have the power of your own first impression. Before you even get to utter your opening words, you are being sussed out. While your physical presentation is only one part of the ‘performance’ it can be immensely beneficial to know how to optimise it and why.

When people use the word POWER dressing, for me in conjures up images of women in bright red jackets with Eighties style shoulder pads. Somehow it doesn’t seem so current. However, how you dress DOES determine how powerful you FEEL, how powerfully you BEHAVE and how powerful you APPEAR. This doesn’t have to translate into something domineering or overbearing. It simply means a sense of rightful confidence that emanates out to the audience.

Dressing powerfully – what does it do? 

  1. Makes you feel confident. It’s also a costume for a role you are undertaking and a reminder of being in character – that character of a brilliantly confident speech giver!
  2. It lets your audience know you are taking yourself and THEM seriously, that they are worthy of the effort. They will be more likely to return the favour and take YOU seriously.
  3. Someone who looks suave/chic/well -presented immediately looks competent and capable. Competent and capable looking people inspire faith and trust. It gives added credence to the things you say.
Dressing powerfully – how to do it? 

  1. As obvious as this might seem, it begins at the most basic level. Good hygiene. Even if you are on a stage away from your audience, poor preparation will eat away at your confidence. Be clean, fresh, and well groomed. Look at you hair. Does it say neat, tidy and organised, or does it say too busy/lazy to do much with it? Ask yourself how you want to be perceived and your answers will tell you what you need to do.
  2. Know your audience. You don’t have to wear a suit to dress powerfully. If you are speaking to a group of teenagers then in order to engage them they need to relate to you. While I don’t suggest wearing low hanging jeans and trainers, find a middle-ground. You need them to take you seriously without alienating them.
  3. Know what works for you. There is no point feeling trussed up like a Christmas turkey. However important your speech might be, you need to feel comfortable to deliver it effectively. Go window shopping, try on different outfits, take photos in the changing room mirror and seek opinions from friends whose style you admire.

Next time you see Barrack Obama making a speech, imagine him unshaven, in a pair of baggy, threadbare pyjama bottoms and a faded T shirt with sweat patches at the arm pits. This man runs America! Makes you realise how just how powerful a suit can be….

For more information about public speaking and presentation skills go to