When interviewing answer the person asking the questions

During the interview if there are multiple people in it, always answer the person asking the question.

Trust me, it’s really rude to ask a question and the candidate then answer directing the answer at someone else.

Keep switching eye contact and answering to all of the people in the room but be sure you make it clear who’s question you are answering.

It shows that you care and it shows that you respect the person asking. I know of many people who have missed out on jobs because they didn’t answer directly to the person asking.

So when you’re in the interview ensure you look the person in the eye and answer the question, and ensure it’s the person who asked you the question 🙂

Until next time.

Shipping tasks is important when job hunting

I’m hoping to encourage you to slowly but surely ship stuff when job hunting.

Ship stuff

One trick that separates the amateur job hunter from the professional is the habit of “shipping” stuff.

This means ensuring that each and every day you are shipping something that pushes you towards the end goal. In this instance it’s a new job full of glory and reward, or something like that.

In order to hit your goal you need to break that goal down to a series of tasks and start rattling on through them. This is especially important as you juggle parenting and maybe even your current job too.

The breaking down of tasks can take some time initially though – so carve out an hour or so to really think about what needs to be done. Once you have a list of tasks try not to get overwhelmed as the list may be long. Very long.

Instead, try to create a nice cycle of task completion. Try to do something every day. That way you’ll keep up the momentum and you’ll see results sooner. The smaller the tasks the easier they will be to slip into a few minutes of downtime or when the children are sleeping.

You could ship a new CV, another application, a LinkedIn update, a new blog post, a new interview outfit, a phone call, an email or a new connection on LinkedIn. It doesn’t matter really as long as it’s heading you to your goal.

So go forth and ship stuff. And pretty soon you’ll have that job you’re after.

Until next time

Learn more about remaining relevant and employable as a parent in The Employable Parent Brain book.

What skills do you need to get the job?

To get a new job you often need a new set of skills.

In a nutshell you need to know the skills you need and you need to know the skills and experience you have. The difference between the two is where you should focus your learning.

As simple as that sounds, it’s very rare that people act upon it and hence they have skills gaps which need filling. Once you know what the gap is you can start to put plans in place and a schedule of learning.

The earlier you become aware of the skills you need, the more chance you have of obtaining these skills ready for when you’re job hunting.

Continue reading “What skills do you need to get the job?”

60 Days Proof

A cool trick to make sure your doodles, notes and jots of information make sense, is to make sure everything you write down is 60 days proof.

What this means is that in 60 days time, if you were to reread your writing, it would still make sense.

How often have you found a scrap of paper, or a written note, or a digital note that simply does not make sense?

For example, let’s say you take some notes on a call to your service provider and you’re busy scribbling numbers, dates, people’s names etc. That same day it makes perfect sense. Then 60 days later when the bill is still wrong you can’t make sense of your notes.

60 days proof is a good concept, because it makes you think about each set of notes.

  • Do I need to add some more context to this?
  • Do I need to link these notes to others I have also made (i.e. a series of notes)?
  • Do I need to include some dates and times with these notes?
  • Will I know what these numbers are in 60 days time?
  • Do I need to know what these notes mean in 60 days time?

Until next time

Why you should ask questions in an interview

Definitely ask questions during an interview. In fact, an interview without questions is a wasted opportunity and it can also send the wrong impression.

Not asking questions shows a lack of interest or enthusiasm in the business, the hiring manager and the role.

Surely you have something you want to find out that’s not been covered already?

You may have a pre-defined “question” time or you may have a number of periods during the interview to ask questions. You may of course get no time at all to ask questions, this is especially true of very formal interviews where the interviewer is seeing the interview as a one-way process. Believe me, this is very common.

Make sure you ask lots of questions. Not only will it build your knowledge of the role, the people and what’s expected of you, but it will also show the hiring manager that you care about the job and their company.

Don’t ask too many questions about money, working hours, benefits and any other compensation or benefits as this could send the message that all you care about is getting paid. I also tend to prefer leaving money related questions about of the interview unless you really have no other choice.

Instead why not ask questions around things like this:

  • The people and why they are so good?
  • What sort of work is involved and how does this contribute to the mission of the business
  • How is the work organised and structured?
  • How big is the company, where is it located etc (although you should have researched this before hand)?
  • What does success in your role look like?
  • Who will you be working directly with?
  • What skills of yours will be used the most in the work?
  • And any questions related to what is being discussed.

There is no harm in writing all of these down and having a notebook with you. It shows preparation.

How to handle disruptions in an interview

During an interview you may experience lots of interruptions and oddities. A good interviewer will try and stop a lot of this but you might still be disrupted.

This disruption could be people entering and leaving the room, conversations happening between people not directly interviewing, people stood behind you, people taking notes or any number of other distractions.

If you find it very distracting, like someone stood behind you, then I would suggest asking for it to change. I was once being interviewed by four people and a further two people sat behind me making notes. It was really uncomfortable. I didn’t really understand what was happening so I asked for clarification and change. They wouldn’t. I made my excuses and left.

Sometimes distractions are just careless planning and fidgety people, this can be excused. Sometimes though it could be institutional, like I the example above. I realised with the interviewers lack of flexibility and change to HR corporate rules that this was not a company I wanted to work for.

Sometimes you might not have the option of walking out, but I would always suggest you raise your concerns.

Most of the time the interviewers simply don’t realise they are making candidates uncomfortable.

How to answer interview questions for success

You will no doubt get asked lots of questions in an interview. In fact, an interview is pretty much a series of questions and answers.

Your success in landing a job lies in your ability to answer interview questions for success.

Here’s a list of tips:

  1. Super Important – Answer the person asking the question
  2. Don’t answer open-ended questions with one word answers. An open question is your chance to explain in detail.
  3. Don’t answer closed questions with a diatribe. Succinct yes or no answers are fine for binary questions like “Did you work there between 2015 and 2016?”
  4. Answer the question fully and with as much details as you see fit – don’t meander on and wander on to different subjects
  5. Don’t be afraid of leaving silence at the end of your answer. If the silence becomes uncomfortable then ask the interviewer whether you answered their question well.
  6. Answer the question being asked – not a side topic, different question or other random thought in your head
  7. Answer honestly. Don’t lie. The truth is more important than a made up story that sees you unwound in an interview. Trust me, getting caught lying about your experience is pretty much an immediate “no”.
  8. Practice your answers to common interview questions such as “what are your strengths and weaknesses, what are you most proud of, what is your biggest mistake and where do you see yourself in 5 years from now”.
  9. Work out how you will deal with the questions you simply cannot answer. Sometimes “I simply cannot answer that question” is better than a made up response that you don’t believe in.
  10. Try to avoid jargon when answering questions. An ability to clearly explain your thinking is an ability rarely seen in many people. Practice it and you’ll no doubt stand out from the crowd.

Until next time


Don’t be negative in an interview

When answering questions be sure to remain positive. Try to avoid being negative about people or work. Hiring managers want to be wowed, not depressed.

Hiring managers are looking for people who will bring positive energy to the business, not someone who will suck the life out of everyone.

If you’re feeling a little tired or low before an interview then try smiling stupidly at yourself in the bathroom or your car or somewhere private.

Try jumping up and down, listening/watching something funny or simply doing a power pose for 2 minutes

Try techniques to focus on the positive aspect.

Even the direst experiences often have positive angles if you look hard enough. Be as positive as you can as it makes a much stronger first impression.

Until next time


Focus on these three things when searching for a new job

When job hunting focus on the following three core activities.

I always advocate a similar amount of time for each one, but experiment with your own balance. The important thing is that you spend some time doing each one.

The three main activities that you should be doing to get a job are: Building Your Network, Job Hunting and Learning.

Building your network

Your network will lead to new connections and more opportunities. A wider network can lead to greater diversity of opportunities.

Job hunting

To get a job you’ll need to track one down so spend a significant amount of your time scouring job sites, planning your speculative applications, applying for jobs and updating your CV.


There will always be a job that requires some skill or experience you don’t have.

Sit an online course, connect with thought leaders or volunteer your time to a community project – these are all things you can do right now and they’ll give you more skills, experience and learning.

If you focus your energies on the three activities (Building Your Network, Job Hunting and Learning) you’ll increase your chance of getting a job and of you being the right fit for it.

Research the company before an interview

When you go for an interview be sure you’ve done your research on the company and the hiring team.

The internet has made this research easier than ever and it really doesn’t matter what industry you’re in – you can find out something about the company.

So get Online, create a safe place to store your research (I would of course recommend Evernote) and research some or all of the following:

  • Glassdoor profiles, employee reviews and behind the scenes life at the company
  • LinkedIn profiles and associated business page on LinkedIn
  • Who is interviewing you – are they on LinkedIn or other social site?
  • Company website – what’s it like to work there, what do they sell/serve, who runs the company?
  • Social Media – what are they presenting on their social media profiles – does it resonate with Glassdoor reviews or other sources of insights?
  • Companies House will often show revealing information such as financial status, directors, accounts and any charges they face.
  • Good old fashioned Internet search – what does it bring back?

The best approach is to do the research in advance and spend some time reviewing it all.

Try not to do this the day before or on the way to the Interview. A hiring manager often wants to know that you care about the business as much as they do – so the effort put in to research is key.

It’s also really great to put the effort in to researching who you will meet – you may find you share similar social activities, or know someone, or went to the same school. This is all great banter as well as showing that you’ve done some research.

As a minimum though, always make sure you know what the company sell/offer/provide.

Until next time

Set realistic time frames when job hunting

It’s important to set realistic time frames when applying for jobs.

We become impatient when we expect something to happen more quickly than it actually does. Job searching often takes longer than expected.

Set realistic time frames and work within these.

You’ll also get a more realistic time frame the more you apply for jobs.

Some companies will naturally work faster than other.

Use a calendar to set yourself deadlines and targets to achieve.

Track the average application cycle time (how long it takes between applying for a job and getting an interview). This will give you some evidence to start predicting how long future applications may take.

The more data you have the more realistic your time frame should become.

To keep your job you need a big network

A good, but old, book to learn about networking is a book called “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty” by Harvey Mackay.

I originally thought it read “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirty” – I was 36 when I read it – I thought I was doomed.

The book is pretty dated now in the modern world of the Internet and Social Media but most of the concepts are still sound.

I liked this one from page “Harvey’s Top Ten List”

If you’re going to keep your job, your network has to be as good as or better than your own company’s.

You need:

  • Support and sponsorship in other departments besides your own, so that you’re able to jump to another department if yours is downsized or jettisoned.
  • Lines of communication that tell you what’s happening in other parts of the company-who’s growing, who’s shrinking.
  • An outsider’s objective view of your company and how industry wide trends are affecting your role in it.
  • Foreknowledge of what skills are going to be in demand at your company.
  • A backup strategy in case you are let go – in other words, a career network outside the company.

Think your company is going to provide you with this stuff? No way. There’s just you and your own network

Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty – Harvey Mackay – http://amzn.to/2mi6lcn

Until next time.

Get a tour after the interview

I can’t stress this enough; GET A TOUR OF THE WORKPLACE!

It’s crucial. As part of the interview, the tour of the work place reveals the real company, not the one the hiring manager told you about.

You’ll hopefully get to see the people, the equipment and hardware they use, the breakout/lunch/chill-out rooms, the office space, the vibe, the buzz/hum of the office and the general look and feel.

Take the chance to speak to people whilst on the tour.

Say “Hi”, ask questions and draw attention to things that interest you. Ask for someone to talk you through the business process and ask about who does what. Ask to meet some people from other departments too.

The tour is a chance to really explore whether this company is where you want to be. I appreciate not everyone will have the luxury of choosing whether a work place is right for them, but if you do have that luxury then use the tour to help make up your mind.

I once took a job after being interviewed in a special meeting room located off the main reception area. It was nice, clean, simple, elegant and tidy. I was impressed.

I then started working there. On my first day I went through the big double doors to the real workplace and was shocked by what I saw. There were ceiling tiles hanging off, ancient computers, contractors sat around on fat cat wages playing Solitaire. There were holes in the floor, holes in the walls, and holes in the ceiling. There were broken coffee machines, broken computers, broken lights and broken souls. I didn’t even have a computer for the first two days. It took me a further two days just to get a login to the intranet. What a disaster. I left after just eight days, three of which were spent trying to find someone to hand my notice in to. I learned a very valuable lesson from that job – always get a tour.

If they can’t or won’t do a tour think hard about whether this is the place for you – after all, what are they hiding?

The tour can give you insights, can help you relate to where you may be working and can help you to appreciate the context in which you will be expected to operate. Keep your eyes peeled for:

  • Hardware and equipment.
  • Proximity of employees to each other.
  • Working environment (cleanliness, tidiness, etc).
  • Facilities such as drinks areas and food.
  • People’s faces (happy, sad, stressed, bored)
  • Volume (is it deathly quiet or loud and boisterous – which do you prefer?)
  • Look and feel (new, old, well kept, invested in?)

I think most people will get a good or bad feel for a place immediately. It can be a real deal breaker.

Remember though that you’ve only seen a snapshot of a work place. A snapshot in time where people may be working to meet a tight deadline or simply having a bad day. What you see may not be the norm, but I suspect you’ll get a gut feel about the place that should inform your decision.

Job hunting is a serious business

Job hunting is a serious business. Treat it like a serious project and you’ll get positive results. Treat it like a side project, or a drudgery that needs to happen, and this will shine through in your results.

Finding good jobs is hard. Learning skills to attain your dream job is hard. Interviewing is hard. And dealing with rejection can be devastating.
With these challenges though comes better jobs, more meaningful work and a changed you. This is the journey.

By treating job hunting as a serious project you’ll find the energy when it gets tough, you’ll remember why you’re doing this and you’ll keep striving to get the right results.
Here’s some ideas:

  • Write down why you are doing this. What is your purpose? (More money? More meaning from work? Better location? Better job? To be a role model?)
  • Read this purpose every single day.
  • Create a plan (on paper, Evernote, Trello, ToDoist, Planner, Calendar, whatever) – make the plan, put your name on it and then action it.
  • Review progress and measure it. Measure how many applications, how long they take to come through and anything else related to it. Then adapt to the numbers. If you’re submitting 20 application and only getting 1 call back, what’s wrong?
  • Stay motivated. Listen to career planners and coaches, subscribe the career advice channels, get some personal coaching. In a nutshell, stay around motivating people. Avoid those that bring you down.

Until next time

Use good email addresses when applying for jobs

One thing I see all too often is people using silly email addresses for submitting job applications.

You know, like bigdaddy1978 or bestmummyintheworld1827 or Daz732.

Every time you communicate you send messages and meaning to others. For most hiring managers, using an email like this, sends a very clear message – no effort.

Instead you want to wow them so use an email address that looks neat and tidy.

The best ones to use are clearly firstname.surname. These may often have been taken so no harm in using your middle name if you have one, or using initials. It’s also fine to use numbers on the end, just make sure it’s your full name so it sounds more formal.

I would also advocate using a Gmail or Fastmail address. Hotmail and Yahoo are quite spammy domains so best to stick to Google or Fastmail or something like this.

If you have your own domain then you can also then use your domain as an email.
For example i could use rob@parentbrain.com – which would be a good domain to use for applying for parent related jobs, but not so good for any other industry – hence I have a generic one.

Once you have a decent email address try to only use it for job related emails. This has a number of benefits such as:

  • Keeps spam to a minimum
  • Keeps your work and private life separate
  • Means you don’t get distracted when you log in to check job related emails. (three hours later you’re in the deepest corners of Mumsnet)

Until next time

How to use spaced repetition for learning

Space repetition is a great way to learn new things.

It’s pretty simple.

Let’s say you’re learning some new skill. You may read a few resources or sit a course and take some notes.

With spaced repetition you would set a reminder, say a week later, to go back over the notes again.

This space between repeating the learning gives your brain time to digest the information, link it to other bits of information and make sense of it. It means that when you revisit the information again you can gain deeper learning.

The human brain is remarkable and this techniques really helps me to learn deeper.

Try using Evernote to store the note and then set a reminder on it. Or use a calendar to remind you to revisit the learning.

When I apply this technique to learning, I get astonishing results.

Until next time.

How to use Evernote for job searching

I had a fully detailed idea about how to use Evernote for job hunting, but it turns out someone else has already written a short guide. Saves me having to write it. 🙂

You can find the article here:

In a nutshell use it to save your documents, career defining moments and anything else that is useful in job hunting. (I would especially re-iterate the saving of applications – as this is the area most people struggle with)

I tend to also use Evernote to store applications and to track companies I’d like to work for one day.

Until next time.

Drawing isn’t just for kids – draw to explain in an interview

If you feel more comfortable drawing out an idea to explain it then go for it (assuming you have the facilities to).

When I have a candidate who uses visuals, or other techniques rather than verbal explanation, I’m deeply impressed.

I’m impressed because it shows they are able to walk through their thinking and explain it in ways that aren’t typically associated with interviews.

It shows courage to ask to draw, doodle or use other mediums. And isn’t that weird that we should feel embarrassed to ask to deviate from a verbal answer?

How to leave an interview part way through

I’ve asked to leave three interviews in my whole career. Here’s some advice on how to leave an interview part way through.

Each one that I walked away from was for different reasons, but all of them related to the fact the hiring manager was being a aggressive/uncompromising or too formal.

Once I was interviewed in a freezing room where the window wouldn’t close. They refused to close it after I asked. I thought I was going to pass out from the cold, so I asked to leave.

Once I was being interviewed by a panel of about 6 people. Then, a few minutes in to the interview, about 5 more people came in and sat behind me. They started to take notes. I asked if they could move to the side as it was weird having them sat behind me, the hiring manager said “No”. I said “Goodbye”.

The third one was during an interview where the hiring manager had a clipboard. I kid you not. A clipboard with questions on it and he rattled through the questions not opening up the interview for any discussions. He would cut me off and ask me to keep each answer to just a few words. He said he had lots more people to see that day. I realised I would be a cog in a larger machine – I didn’t want that. I asked to leave. He said “No”. I walked out.

It’s hard to leave an interview, but it’s better than sitting through something that is making you really uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t want to walk out because it’s hard, or they ask some tricky questions, or even if you’re not 100% sure you want the job. This could lead to a bad reputation as the “interview walker”. But if something is really wrong, you feel disrespected or you feel uncomfortable then it’s fine to ask to leave.

Of course, not everyone can walk – only you will know your own personal circumstances.

If you do decide to leave here’s roughly what I would say:

“I’d like to end this interview if that is ok with you? I thank you so much for your time but it’s very clear to me that this is not going to work out. In order to save us all lots of effort and time, I propose to leave. Thanks for the opportunity but I would like to leave now please.”

They may ask you why – tell them if you’re feeling brave. Mostly they will be so shocked that they will likely not know what to say. They will be annoyed – no doubt, but I suspect they were probably having the same thoughts anyway. Grab your stuff – say thanks again, and go.

I wouldn’t do this if it was coming to the end of the interview unless something is really wrong – like inappropriate behaviour. I would likely sit out the interview. But if it’s in the first half or a little in to the second half, then I would definitely consider it.

Don’t be afraid of walking out. It’s your time and your life and you have to do what is right. If you do it politely and give good reasons then you should have zero problems escaping an interview.

Until next time

Handcream in an Interview

Once upon a time I went for an interview with an upmarket insurance company.

I arrived about 15 minutes early – text book behaviour. I had prepped well – text book behaviour. I had everything I need with me – text book behaviour.

I warmed up my vocal chords by talking to the reception team – again, another text book behaviour.

Whilst sat in reception I noticed that they had some posh bottles of hand lotion on the table next to the industry awards. I like free stuff so I leaned forward and applied a decent amount to my hands. I rubbed it around and realised that I may have taken too much. It wouldn’t sink in. It was like I’d stuck my hands in a vat of the stuff. I was covered in it.

I couldn’t wipe my hands on my suit – bad move. Nor did I fancy wiping them on the settee as it was already malting fabric on my suit – I didn’t want a hairy hand. Not a great first impression in any environment.

There were no tissues – nothing – and the hiring manager was now heading my way through the office.

As I shook his hand I knew I’d failed. I could feel my heart sinking. Our slippery handshake sealed my future. His face told it all – a disgusted look filled his face as our hands slipped around in a slippery grip.

I apologised for the handcream mess and explained what happened, but it was too late.

To make matters worse, when I got to the interview room I leaned on the table and slid across it – taking out a glass of water and almost landing on my backside.

Everyone I met in that interview got a slippery attempt at a handshake – the damn stuff just wouldn’t sink it.

By this time I’d resorted to wiping it on my suit and socks – nothing would work – nothing – it was like industrial goose fat.

They’d given me tissues but nothing was working. (And yes, nowadays I would simply ask to go to the toilet, but back then I was a shy retiring individual).

At the end of the interview I bid them farewell and headed to the bathroom to wash this grease from my hand – the only trouble was I couldn’t open the bathroom door  as my hands were so slippery.

So please be cautious – please tread carefully – don’t overdo the hand cream. And if you do, pluck up the courage to ask for time to get cleaned up.

Until next time

Remember more with MOM

When you’re meeting people for the first time it can be easy to forget their names. The pressure, nerves and belief that you can’t remember people’s names can seriously affect your performance in an interview, at a networking event or even during your first few days at a new workplace.

Jim Kwik offers an approach outlined in his Be Sauve mnemonic. This is helpful for sure, but a simpler one from him that I quite like is his MOM one.

I use it all of the time.

It stands for:

  1. Motivation
  2. Observation
  3. Mechanics

If I were to ask you to remember the names of 20 people at a networking event you would likely say you can’t remember that many names, or your memory is bad, or that’s too many.
If I were to ask you the same thing but then offer you ÂŁ100,000 if you did remember everyone then you would likely say you’d do it.

You have to be motivated to remember.

How many times do you lose something in the house? Like your keys, or paperwork, or the remote control, – sure – kids have a habit of moving things, but mostly it will be because you didn’t observe where you put stuff.

When you come in from work and chuck your keys down, it is likely that you don’t observe where you put them, which is why it’s hard to find them again. It’s not because you forgot, it’s because you didn’t observe.

The final M stands for mechanics – this is the process of storing information. Some people are very visual and hence will use visual mind tools to remember. Some prefer to write things down several times. Others will repeat names and words until they are sunk in. Mechanics of memory are very personal and we are all different. Experiment and see what works for you.

There you have it.

  • Be Motivated to remember.
  • Observe
  • Use Mechanics that make sense for you.

Until next time.

What is your personal brand?

We all have a personal brand. It’s who you are and the image you convey.
You could be the hard worker, the complainer, the emotional vampire, the angry customer, the loud and noisy neighbour, the professional, the obnoxious employee or the poor performer. You may be a mix of all of these and more. There are many different aspects to our personal brand.
The key to succeeding in your career is to realise that you can control many elements of your personal brand, and the time to take control is right now. Ideally you’ve been cultivating it for some time, but the if not, start now.
  • How can your authentic self come through in your personal brand?
  • What can of personal brand do you want?
  • How do you want people to refer to you?
What do you want people to say about you when you’re not in the room? That’s the ultimate personal brand. And you own it.
Don’t leave it for other people to cultivated, don’t leave it to chance.
If you haven’t started managing your personal brand yet, then find someone you admire, trust and respect and copy them. Find what works and what resonates then keep adapting.
Don’t force too much though – you need to be comfortable and authentic. You need to be you – but you can change – how would you like to change?
Your personal brand goes with you everywhere. Everything you do contributes to it. So be cautious, but embrace the lifelong journey of growing and nurturing what you can offer to the world.
Until next time.