Thursday, 22 November 2012

Power up your networking skills - workshop

The First Arab Regional Conference on Family P...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If your resolution is to get out more....

If you need to develop your confidence as a networker...


Are you a networking virgin?
Do you loath the thought of it?
Are you keen to start but not sure how?
What is networking?
How do successful networkers do it?
Is it critical to career success?
Are you just wishing you did not have to?

If you are asking those questions but don't have the answers then this workshop is for you!
22 January, Central London, afternoon and at a bargain price.

By the end of the session you will have a strategy which will be comfortable to you, you will have
  • developed your own unique approach to extending your network- not everyone subscribes to the philosophy of 'Never Eat Alone'  - work out what will work for you
  • planned your strategy on how to extend your contact list - the more 'weak ties' you have the better your chances of finding the information or opportunities you want
  • developed and practised your elevator pitch - in other words know what it is you want others to know and how to say it
  • learned how to change your mindset, what's holding you back? how can you develop a positive mindset towards this strategy?
  • integrated social media into your strategy- does one have to tweet? blog? poke? put oneself onto the www?
Come and learn these techniques and find new confidence in your strategy.
A special half day workshop for networking innocents or the reluctant networker. Only  £125

contact me on
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Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Top 10 irritating things on a cv

Let’s face it, Recruiters and HR Managers get a hard time.  The industry battles with bad press and a perception that it’s all about fees for recruiters or handing out tissues for the HR teams. Not exactly! It’s more like a plate-spinning marathon, especially when you’re juggling a deluge of candidate applications against a vacancy wish list.  Some of these candidate CVs and applications can range from entertaining to frustrating to downright baffling.
ISV Software asked the Recruitment and HR industry to share the most irritating things you see on CVs. Here are the Top 10 responses:

1.       Spelling and Grammar Errors – this shows lack of attention and time spent on the document. Favourites include a candidate who had worked at ‘Goldman Sucks’ and another who interacted well with ‘steakholders’. Although it’s worth mentioning that a few spelling errors crept into the responses. Whether intentionally or not we should perhaps check ourselves before pointing the finger.
 2.       Clich├ęd phrases that add nothing of value – how many candidates have “excellent interpersonal skills”, are “people-friendly” or “work well on their own and as part of a team”? Righty-ho, them and everyone else I’m afraid.
 3.       Too much personal information – Views on the inclusion of date of birth, marital status, religious beliefs etc. varied across cultures. Certainly in the UK, Canada and the US it is illegal to ask for this information. Candidates however, may be unaware of the legislation and it is the norm in some countries to include personal information, even detailing their height and weight. It’s worth bearing in mind that the candidate’s cultural background will influence what they do and don’t include  on their CV. From a recruitment consultant’s point of view though, it’s all information that needs deleting before the CV can be submitted to the client.
Keeping personal information in mind, another big bug-bear is the weird and wonderful email addresses that candidates think it’s appropriate to include!

 4.       Obscure formatting – different fonts, large blocks of text, varied line spacing… Not only does this make the CV look like a ‘cut and paste’ job, it makes it difficult to extract the relevant information.
 5.       Irrelevant information or experience – an engineer applying for a procurement role, a graduate applying to be Head of Department… why? If there are relevant skills, the CV should be tailored to highlight these. Instead you’re often left searching for the information.
 6.       Dear Sir - or Mr when you’re a woman and vice versa. This was even more contentious when the candidate has access to your name. Even worse when the application mentions the wrong role or incorrect company name.
 7.       Photos – again, this varied depending on global location but photos are a definite no-no for UK recruiters. Particularly candidate’s holiday snaps, provocative pictures or group photos including the family pet!
 8.       Churn out that job spec - candidates who solely list their duties without adding quantifiable achievements or their contribution make the job so much harder.
 9.       Generic cover notes – a template cover letter or email taken from the internet. You’ve seen them before and they get pretty tiresome. Plus they sometimes make you wonder if the candidate has read the job spec at all!
 10.   Keep it short – lengthy CVs are a real turn off especially since there is so much guidance outlining that  2 pages is ideal. The extreme mentioned was a 7 page CV followed by a series of voicemails and social media requests. There’s persistent and then there’s stalking!

Honourable mention should also go to hobbies that are irrelevant (reading, socialising, watching their child’s football team) and personal statements that incorporate much of the above especially from the candidate that is ‘perfect for the job’. If only it were that simple!

Thanks to Amanda Davies at ISV for compiling the list!

If you want help to make sure that your CV avoids these errors and hits the correct spot, makes the right impression and communicates your achievements and skills contact Mary Hope..

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Friday, 2 November 2012

Assessment Centres -10 tips for group exercises/discussions

Group exercises can vary enormously from:
1. A single sentence or question:'Discuss how you would increase sales in a new area'. This can be thrown into the group and then them left to debate the topic. Assessors are looking at the level of debate and the interaction between people.

2. Exercises where you are all given information that needs to be discussed eg 'Read the following and then discuss, as a group, which depot should be closed to maximise savings but maintain efficiency' . Same as above: who conributes?, what sorts of things do they say? who listens? who has ideas? who is positive?

3. You might get that sort of question where you have actually been given different sorts of information!

4. You might get information but be asked to play a particular role, so in the one above one person might be asked to be the FD and another the HR manager. Each will have some info about their role's priorities. In this scenario you are expected to argue your corner.

5. The observers might want someone to win this task or they may just want to see how you react with others. 

6. Think carefully about volunteering to be the Chair of the group, you would have great power but if you don't have authority it can highlight your lack of influence. Leadership is not necessarily shown in that way.  It's the same with being a 'scribe', that can give you power but it can also marginalise you if you are standing at a flip chart.  

7.Get talking early, research shows that if you don’t contribute in the first few minutes of a meeting you can become invisible. So be present from the start and get a contribution in early. It does not have to be earth shattering, just ask a question, ask someone to repeat something, seek clarification or repeat an idea. 

8. People will generally be quite polite to each other, on their best behaviour and interrupting is not good manners. Wait for a space and then deliver well thought out constructive comments.  

9.  Laugh at other people's jokes, disagree politely and only after saying something like 'that is really interesting but had you thought of....'

10. Be the person they would want to work with.. that's what selection exercises are about, finding out if they can work with you.

For more information, support and advice on being successful in your career

Monday, 29 October 2012

Principles of Success

MBI: Patrick W. Jordan
MBI: Patrick W. Jordan (Photo credit: Cedim News)
Patrick W Jordan has distilled the essence of 200 self help books into one short and readable little book! And here they are the five steps to achievement, happiness and fulfillment.

  1. Take responsibility - only you are responsible form your life - don't blame others
  2. Set goals - know what you want and set out to get there
  3. Be positive- surround yourself with optimism and be positive
  4. Persevere intelligently - don't give up at the first obstacle but do give up the unrealistic
  5. Connect with others - empathise, treat others well, forgive and learn form others

    Sounds really easy? And all this is achievable - get the book, get a coach and you can find achievement, happiness and fulfillment.
Life and career coaching is available from and from

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Lessons for your next interview from Dragon’s Den, can you do the interview numbers?

Presentation-quality budgets.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Watching Dragons Den, there are a number of points when you can see that the Dragons lose interest. One of the critical ones is when they start exploring the numbers. Sometimes the reason they don’t invest is that the numbers just don’t stack up. There is no profit to be had. Another reason they don’t invest is that people don’t know their numbers. Or are confused about the numbers and what they mean. Over and over, under the pressure of the interview, people lose the plot about their costs, revenues and profits.

When you think about it, that makes perfect sense, the Dragons are putting their personal money into someone elses’s business. If that person does not know the difference between, turnover, profit, and margin then why would anyone have confidence in the individual’s ability to increase margin, build turnover and deliver profit? Knowing the numbers is critical to success in the Den, and critical in giving the Dragons confidence in the entrepreneur.

Can you see where I am going with this? All senior roles have budgets, some of them very big budgets; interviewers need to be sure that the candidates can handle those  budgets and that they will be good with the money. The challenge for the interviewer is how to assess that.  It is one of the most difficult areas of skill to really test. Numerical reasoning tests can test arithmetic, but that is not the whole answer. Commercial reasoning tests can test the ability of a candidate to think commercially (understand turnover, margin and profit but not deliver it). Questions in interview tend to be bland and relate to ‘how do you ensure you don’t  overspend?’, ‘how do you deliver increased productivity?’, ‘ tell us what you have done to deliver savings/reduce costs?’. Ok those questions will get you some information about whether the person understands processes.

How can you, as a candidate, give the interviewers confidence that you are good with money?
It starts in the Cv and application: if you don’t talk the language of numbers then you are missing a trick. You need to shown in your Cv that you know the cost and value of everything. You need to demonstrate that you know and understand the metrics of performance.

In your interview you should not wait for the interviewer to ask about money, budgets or revenues, you should be talking naturally about your income, your expenditure and your costs. By knowing and talking confidently about those things you are demonstrating that you think about the financial implications of all your activity. Once you do that, you give the interviewers confidence that you will pay attention to those things.
What is it that makes the difference between someone who is a good financial manager and someone who is not? Being able to see the patterns in the numbers, being able to project. to identify and spot trends all make someone good at managing the money. But, I think one of the absolute key things is that good financial managers pay close attention to the numbers.
 If you talk about the money and know your numbers you can convince the interviews that you are one of those people who pay attention to money, and that you can do all those things you need to do to balance the books or turn the profit. If you think money, talk money and build confidence that you are good with money.

For more career advice and interview support go to
Mary Hope is an experienced senior recruiter and career coach.

budget (Photo credit: The Survival Woman)
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Thursday, 11 October 2012

Ensure fairness in your restructuring processes

I was interested to see in an article in the Housing press, that there is a thought that BME middle managers lose out in restructuring.  If they can get into middle management in the first place, what is happening in the internal competitions?  The implication of the article is that the sector is not giving these candidates fair treatment. The article then goes on to talk about the lack of BME representation in the top 50 most influential people in housing.
 As the top 50 was dominated by politicians the two issues should surely not be conflated. The politicians and civil servants (David Cameron, Mervyn King, Eric Pickles, Iain Duncan Smith, Fiona Reynolds) in the list are actually in housing more by chance than choice and owe the sector nothing for their elevation to senior levels of influence in policy making.
I am not disputing the veracity of either piece of research but suggest that the two issues should be tackled separately. In the case of internal re-structures, I really believe that organisations need to do much more to take ‘the luck of the day’ out of their re-organisation procedures. Just because Tribunals accept interview processes as fair does not mean they are the best way to choose managers. We all know that interviews favour the extroverts and the articulate. They favour those that are well versed in the art of being interviewed. For that reason I deliver ‘selection preparation’  training sessions for staff, either in groups or one to one. I advocate objective testing and line manager’s references. And I advocate that all these sources are given equal weighting in the selection decision by an independent panel.
And if the sector is concerned that BME candidates are failing in these processes, use the powers of positive action to make sure that those candidates are given additional training and coaching to get through the selection process. If they can improve their interview skills we may see more people get through the selection process to be an MP and onto that list of influencers in housing.

Friday, 28 September 2012

How to be interviewed.. 8 different types of interview

In the rich and varied  tapestry that is my life,  as well as career coaching, I do recruitment interviewing and experience what it is like to interview job applicants. And often what I experience is a real mismatch between what people appear to have done (on their CV etc) and how they perform in interview.

I wonder how they prepare for their interview and what they actually think the purpose of the exchange is.
First you need to understand what kind of interview you are having. Ask if it is not clear from the invitation. this is a guide to the main interview types you might encounter. They may be one on one, they may have two or three people interviewing at the same time. 

If it is a competence based interview or a behavioural interview you need to be able to describe your achievements and the way that you have overcome challenges and difficulties in detail. You will be asked to 'tell me about a time when...' The interviewer wants to hear about what you do, about how you achieve things. They want to hear about the way you operate. So your preparation needs to focus on unpicking the things  you do, making those things you 'just do' explicit. You need to understand how you influence others, manage your team and achieve results.

If you are having a technical interview then the emphasis is less about style and more about knowledge. The interviewer wants to know what you know and what you are able to do. You are likely to get asked about your opinions of 'hot topics', you will be asked 'how you would ensure...'. You will be asked about what you would do. The interviewer may well ask you to substantiate your opinion or the theoretical answer by an example. You need to know your stuff, you need to be able to evidence that you really understand what is happening in your trade and what is coming over the horizon. The difficulty of answering these questions orally means that some organisations, such as Judicial Appointments Commission,  will set written tests to see which candidates have the best knowledge. At a more practical level you may be asked to complete a relevant task or exercise which mimics the job. 

The critical incident interview is a mix of both of the above, you will be given a scenario and asked how you would respond. If the incident is relevant to the job, then your technical knowledge and behaviours are being tested at the same time. So in an HR interview your might be asked what you would do if a manager phoned you and said they had sacked someone they had caught stealing. Your ability to understand the legalities of this and your style in dealing with the manager are being tested. 

The bio-data or biographical  interview is one where the interviewer will take you through your biography and seek to understand your motivations and drivers. they will ask you what you learned, felt and what motivated you to do what you did. Whilst this interview is exploring your experience and precisely what you did, how much responsibility you had, it is seeking to understand what makes you tick.

The stress interview. Another way of testing you out is to deliberately put you under pressure in a stress test. This rather contrived and manipulative way of relating to candidates seeks to see how you will re-act under pressure. 

The phone interview. Phone interviews can be brief or they can be the substitute for a face to face interview. the short version could be a quick interview to see if you meet some key criteria. They may want to check out your ability to travel to the location, your salary expectations and your motivations. Often these interviews are used to screen out candidates who don't have the required interpersonal skills, diction, verbal ability etc. It is so easy to apply for jobs online that employers use this device to check out that you are really interested in the role and do have the relevant experience.

The video interview. This is a recent innovation and is growing in popularity, especially in high volume recruitment where interpersonal skills/appearance matter. You will be invited to submit your videoed response to either standard questions that the computer will give you, or in some cases you may be asked to submit a 60 second video saying why you want the job. You will usually be given an opportunity to practice answering and employers can watch your answers when they choose to. 

The lunch interview or as I call it, trial by knife and fork. An employer may want to give you an opportunity to meet key stakeholders of the role, or the team you will manage or the colleagues you will work with. It is probably not possible to know whether this is part of the formal selection process or not. I have been involved where all participants have had to talk to all guests and then the guests score the candidate or asked for an opinion. On other occasions the guests go away without having an influence on the process. Never do anything but take this sort of occasion as an opportunity to launch the charm offensive. And you do that best by listening.

Whatever type of interview you are having you must prepare and you must, must, must think about what your audience want to hear you talk about. Which experiences, which opinions and what key stories you need to tell them. What will impress? What is most relevant to the audience? the answer to my question, what is the purpose of the exchange is - to convince and persuade the interviewers that you can do their job. So think about what they will want you to do and tell them about similar things that you have already done.. that is what will win you the role.

For more interview tips and techniques visit  and discover how to turbo-charge your interview confidence!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Put up your fences -Setting Boundaries at Work

"Good fences make good neighbours."
– Old Proverb
Fences allow you to protect what's valuable to you. They also allow you to control who and what enters your space.
In the workplace, setting boundaries helps establish a productive work environment. You – and everyone you work with – have different values, needs, and beliefs about what's right. These differences can lead to conflict, resentment, anger, anxiety, and stress.
Does your colleague like last-minute deadlines and working under pressure, but you like to plan ahead and have everything finished early? You can do things your colleague's way (and end up stressed) – or you can recognize what you need to be effective, and then ask for it.
Do you have a colleague who yells and screams when she's under stress? Does this behaviour upset you? Then you owe it to yourself to say something to her, so that she understands the negative impact she's having on other people.
This is called managing your boundaries. It's an assertive and responsible way to make sure others respect your needs, while you respect theirs.
By taking the time to understand and map your boundaries, you will.
  • Be able to say no to requests that conflict with your needs.
  • Better understand how to deal with conflict, directly and assertively.
  • Increase your personal sense of empowerment.
Boundary management is essentially a three-step process:
  1. Becoming aware of your needs.
  2. Setting your boundaries.
  3. Monitoring your boundaries.
Step One: Become Aware of Your Needs
  • Do you sometimes doubt that you have a right to ensure your needs are met?
  • Do you avoid speaking up for yourself on a regular basis, and do you let things go, and not react to bad situations?
  • Do you tend to avoid conflict? Do you let others have their way or make decisions for you?
  • Do you agree to do things that you really don't want to do – and later regret it?
These are all signs that you don't actively try to have your needs met – and that you haven't established your boundaries.
Some of us seem to have the persistent and questionable belief that to get along with others, we need to give much more than we take. We may think that asking for what we want is selfish, that it's not good team behaviour. So we may say things like "Whatever you choose will be great!" and we may agree to do things we don't want to do, and shouldn't have to do.
This is a great strategy for avoiding conflict and confrontation with others. Unfortunately, it can create a destructive conflict inside of you. You can build up anger and tension – because you give away your power and you're not getting what you need. Eventually, this tension and anger can become too great, and you won't be able to tolerate it anymore.
It's far better to become aware of what you need, and then to develop strategies to ensure that your needs are met appropriately.
Whether or not you acknowledge your needs, they're often met anyway – though not necessarily in a good way. For example, if you need structure and you're not getting it, you might create charts and graphs and schedules for everything – but your team mates may hate this. If you need to be liked, you might avoid conflict at all costs – but this could allow people to make poor decisions. It's not constructive to try to satisfy your needs in this way – and it may lead to much greater problems in the long run.
The most obvious way to become aware of your needs is to think of times when you felt angry, tense, or resentful – or times when you were embarrassed by your reaction to something. These can be signs that your needs were not met.
Remember when you experienced these feelings and had these reactions, and ask yourself these questions:
  • What need or value was not honoured by others?
  • What did you really want?
Then complete the following phrases:
  • I have a right to ask for ________, because I need ________.
  • It's OK to protect my time by________, because I need ________.
  • I will not allow others to________, because I need ________.
Step Two: Set Your Boundaries
When you understand what you need to be happy, that's only the first part of the process. You must also let others know what you need. Your colleagues, peers, and friends can't always figure this out on their own. You have to tell them (and remind them) of your needs and your boundaries.
Follow these guidelines:
  • Be assertive – Communicate assertively. Tell people what you need, and work with them to reach solutions that can satisfy everyone. Without assertiveness, you risk allowing other people's needs to come first.
  • Learn to say no, when appropriate – If you say yes to everything, you risk not having enough time to do anything properly. You also risk not working on the things that are truly important. Use an urgent/important sift to determine your priorities and understand your roles and responsibilities.
  • Use effective time management – A big part of setting boundaries is making time for your work and time for personal interests. When you put all your energy into only one thing, you risk burning out and not enjoying life. With good time management, you can get things done more efficiently.  . This can help you work less and play more!
  • Focus on your objectives – Getting what you want takes commitment. Setting boundaries isn't always easy, so maintain a strong focus on your overall objectives.Good goal setting Strategies will help you achieve this.
Step Three: Monitor Your Boundaries
When you start to set boundaries, it will help you enjoy an immediate sense of empowerment and control. It's a great feeling – knowing that you can ask for what you need, and then get it.
It's also important that boundaries are not completely fixed or unchangeable: Sometimes life needs a certain amount of flexibility. Rigid, inflexible boundaries may get in the way of your needs – because your needs can change, depending on the situation.
If you're very disciplined with your time, this likely improves your productivity. But if a project needs you to work well with a colleague, you may not want to end your meeting with him at the scheduled time if you need to build that relationship.
Make sure the boundaries you set are appropriate, and be willing to make changes, depending on the situation.
Also, keep in mind that while you may set up an imaginary fence around you, this doesn't mean that you don't have any responsibility for what happens outside your boundaries. You can say no when you're asked to take on more work, but you can still help find someone else to do that work. You can delegate a task to someone, but you're still responsible for the outcome.
Remember, boundaries are a way to help you work more effectively with others. They're not meant to keep you completely separate and apart from others. 

Thanks to Mind Tools 

For more great careers advice and support on how to get paid more, promoted faster and feel more satisfied go to

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