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“Would you rather be an Archbishop or a Brigadier?”

“Would you rather be an Archbishop or a Brigadier?” was the question posed to one of our candidates recently. She was tempted to reply “Neither, I’m here to be a management consultant.”

How would you answer? And what lies behind the question? US-based Careers writer Kimberly Weisul sought advice and gave some pointers in her blog on the subject. Interviewing careers coach Michael Melcher he confirmed what you might have suspected: “These questions say more about the personality of the person designing the questions than what will actually be effective in finding good people,” he says. “The types of questions they ask may reinforce their self-concept as creative, edgy, out-of-the-box, et cetera, but they are not necessarily meaningful.”

Her article continues: “Here’s Melcher’s advice about how to answer the unanswerable.

Would you rather be a stream, a rock, or a tree?
Melcher says the interviewer is looking to see 1) if you can think spontaneously, 2) if you can tell an interesting story, and how you do it, and 3) if you can be relaxed and fresh when asked about things that are out of your comfort zone. So don’t just answer with one word-make up a rationale and elaborate on it, even if it seems kind of wacky. An oddball question may require an oddball answer.”

Would you have a good response?

Catriona takes a look at how the MC team fared in the Olympics ticket lottery…,

Well, did you get the Olympic tickets you hoped for?

Here at BLT we did relatively well: Sarah has some tickets for a rather good athletics session (the only ones she applied for, lucky girl); Kate is the proud winner of tickets for the men’s gymnastics; Catriona – always one to cover all the options – has some combination but no idea what of athletics, swimming, cycling, diving, basketball, table tennis and boxing(don’t ask!).

We’ll be leaving Don and Philip to mind the shop while the girls are out, although as Don is the boss we’ll let him out for a few hours to take his daughter to the horse jumping and his son to the karate. We’re good on work/life balance at BLT!

Now, I don’t want to be seen to be criticising my lovely friends in management consultancy who have played a part in coming up with the ballot scheme, ticket allocation and the related technology…….but it would have been good to know which tickets we’d got when the money was taken. Never mind, keeps us in suspense for another couple of weeks……but if Bradley Wiggins can’t get tickets for the Team Pursuit, is there really much hope for me?

Catriona looks at the perils of accepting a counter offer …..

As the market has picked up, I’ve seen the incidence of counter offers rise again. While I admit we obviously have a vested interest in individuals accepting the offers we have for them …Is it ever a good idea to stay put for a few dollars more?

While some people undoubtedly wish to increase their earnings through making a move, in my seven years at BLT I’ve rarely found money to be the sole or indeed main motivation in making a career change. Many other factors come into play and the chances are that none of these will change if your employer throws some more money your way. In fact, it’s likely you’ll be back job-hunting again in six to twelve months time. It can also be a risky strategy – you gamble on the fact that by playing your hand, your employer will then do everything to try and keep you. But what if they don’t , what if they think that you’ll leave some time soon, and in some way “your card is marked” Finally, what does it say about a company which only values its employees when they say they are leaving?.

In any event, if you really would be quite content to stay at your current firm if they paid you more money ….why not just ask for it? If you can give clear evidence of your success and achievements through for example your appraisals and client feedback and, if appropriate, comparative evidence of salaries in your competitors, then you’ve probably got a good case. It’s a lot of time and effort on your part to jump through the hoops of interviews, presentations, testing and assessment centres if really you’d be happy to stay where you are. And of course, you wouldn’t want to be seen as a time waster by your friendly recruitment consultant, would you?

What’s an internship worth?

I recently read an article in Management today entitled ‘What is an intern worth’ to quote the author Elizabeth Anderson

- “Internships are a tricky subject – on the one hand they provide a young person with valuable experience (now essential for taking the first step into employment). But it also means organisations are getting free labour and some (although not the majority) exploit this.”

After a discussion with my younger brother Shaun, he felt compelled to follow up with his thoughts. Here’s what he had to say:

As a first-year undergraduate student, I am constantly being told by those around me that an internship is the best way to spend my summer: “You may as well spend your summer gaining some experience in your chosen industry whilst making some money”.

After nearly eight months of searching for an internship, I’ve started to think that I’ve just wasted two thirds of my year.

There’s no doubt that there are a large number of internships out there; yet, after reading through masses of job specifications and requirements, it has become evident that larger companies only want to hear from you if you’re a penultimate year student, and smaller companies only want to hear from you if you’re willing to work for free. Unfortunately, I do not fit in to either of those categories.

Of course, there has been the odd exception to this observation, one of which was a paid internship for first-year students advertised by HSBC. However, applying for this internship proved to be yet another waste of time. After completing the long-winded application form for the internship, I was invited to answer a series of questions that could be answered with ‘Yes or No’ to determine whether or not I would be suitable for the position. As you may have guessed, I was not successful. But I couldn’t help question why I was not given the series of ‘Yes or No’ questions before the application form. If my suitability for the position could be deemed by a few easy-to-answer questions, why give me a tedious application form first?

Despite this minor frustration, I continued searching for a summer internship. I eventually stumbled across an internship for Allianz Insurance. After a four month long recruitment process, I was invited to the assessment centre. Once again, I was unsuccessful. All candidates were promised feedback on their performance at the assessment centre; yet, three months have passed, and despite my calls and emails, I have not received any form of reply. If I ever receive some feedback (the chances of which are becoming less likely by the day), I would deem this a worthwhile experience. However, until that day comes, all I can take away from the experience is the memory of being chauffeur-driven to and from the train station…not often you get called “Sir” as a student!

Eventually, due to the lack of first-year opportunities and larger companies seeming reluctant to communicate, I decided to search for internships within smaller companies. Yet, these searches have also proved to be disappointments, as the phrase “unpaid, but travel and lunch expenses covered” has popped up in the majority of the adverts. Although there may be a few students who could afford to take these unpaid internships, the majority of students I know would need some form of income to fund their summer months (whether it be rent for their accommodation at university, or living expenses at home).

Ultimately, there’s no doubt that there are a large number of summer internships available to students. However, it seems as if the majority of these opportunities are only available to a few select groups of students based on educational status and economic well-being. This begs the question: Is an internship really the best way to spend my summer?


The worst interview ever …or maybe not?

This is a true and very recent story ……. My candidate arrived for his fourth and final interview with the partner for a role he really wanted. Fifteen minutes after his due arrival time I received a call from HR – “Your candidate has not arrived and the partner is waiting – can you find out what’s going on ?” So I give him a call – he is there and has been for twenty minutes, all checked in with his badge and sitting patiently in reception. Humble apologies all round from client and the meeting begins

Fifteen minutes into the interview, the fire alarm goes off – although unplanned the general view is that it’s only a test but for some reason they have to find another room. Lots of wandering around and finally the meeting resumes. Ten minutes later the fire alarm goes off again and this time everyone has to evacuate. So, down the stairwell they all troop, the candidate trying to keep chatting to the partner on the way down in amongst the hordes of other people.

Certainly not your average interview and I thought we’d look to reschedule and start again. But no …..back they come with an offer ….although very unusual circumstances they liked what they saw. It adds a whole new dimension to testing how you deal with unexpected situations and how you build rapport in difficult circumstances! So if ever you find yourself in what might seem to be the worst interview ever …..keep calm and carry on and you might be surprised by the outcome!

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