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Expect the Unexpected

Whilst browsing the internet this morning I stumbled upon a quick ten tips for interview success.

Having given the article a thorough dissection it is clear that interview tips come in all shapes and sizes; presentation, immediate impression, rapport, preparation but my favourite by far is ‘expect the unexpected’, as usually this refers to the possibility of a left field question such as, ‘What kind of an animal are you?’

Candidates often say that this type of questions would immediately throw them, but by taking a deep breath and pausing for a moment to collect your thoughts, this type of question is readily answerable and it’s easy to identify the professional context to the enquiry, (in this case it could refer to habits, personality traits and personal preferences.) However, there are some that are not quite so logical. How would you react if you were asked to dance ‘Blame it on the Boogie’ as some poor interviewees at B&Q were? In what respect might this be a valid assessment of your suitability? Alternatively, what would you do if you noticed the interviewer falling asleep as you answered a question? Would you be offended/pretend not to notice/apologise for being boring?

These occurrences happen all too often as interviewers try to become more and more creative in their approach, which leads me to wonder how you can prepare for the variety of tasks that may or may not be sent your way. Whilst giving candidates advice there is only so much you can predict from an interview and tackling the unknown is never easy. The only advice would be to think laterally and expect the unexpected!

BLT does something funny for it’s money – Red Nose Day 2011

In light of the recent events in Japan and Libya, there hasn’t been that much in the media on this years comic relief efforts. Here at BLT, we feel strongly about the Comic Relief campaign. The word “poverty” is not something many of us can relate to.

“One in two of people in Sub Saharan Africa survive on less than one dollar per day.”

Facts and figures do little to help us build a picture of what 315 million people in Africa have to endure on a daily basis. Those of you who have been watching “Rich, Famous and in the slums” will have a better idea of what being born into poverty entails. Those of you that haven’t, I recommend you take a look, it’s a real eye opener

The Red Nose Day campaign has become a BLT tradition, and we’re incredibly proud that we have been able to raise £300 for such a great cause.

Every 2 years we take a break from the meetings, the emails and the phone lines and meet downstairs with the aim of “doing something funny for our money.” Yesterday was no exception; proceedings began with lunch in our conference rooms, followed by a ‘guess the baby competition’. As a bloke, I didn’t fancy my chances, as if it wasn’t difficult enough; Becky saw fit to through in some wildcard photos! The afternoon provided a steady stream of laughter, most of which came when the identities of the babies were revealed! See if you recognise any of the faces!!/photo.php?fbid=10150210987334848&set=a.10150210986844848.376917.49493764847&theater

Do Employers give Passes to those wearing Glasses?

A recent article in the Financial Times has provoked me to start the debate as to whether wearing glasses is a hindrance or a help? Recent research shows that candidates stand a better chance of getting the job if they wear glasses…

As a glasses (and contact lenses) wearer myself, this is an issue that holds close to my heart. When I have worn my lenses to an interview has it meant that I have been missing out on jobs and opportunities for vanity’s sake? Would I have a higher level of success if I put my specs on? As far back as I can think, I have conscientiously woken up an hour earlier than necessary for interviews so that by the time the interview approaches my eyes are awake enough for me to put my contact lenses in. Not having glasses on is an immediate confidence booster and I have always felt an employer will take note of who wears glasses and who doesn’t. Now that I sit on the other side of the table I know that’s not the case!

When interviewed by the FT, Graeme Read, MD of an International Firm and a Global Executive Recruiter argued that he believes the theory has been ‘pushed by a bunch of opticians’ and that glasses or no glasses, asking intelligent questions is far more important to the average interviewer. He states that although appearances are important, actions and words speak louder. Similarly, Maggie Berry, MD of Women in Technology, a Specialist IT Recruitment firm questions whether it is a confidence booster? Wearing glasses is stereotypically associated with ‘nerds and geeks’ and clearly the image still persists! However, they don’t make you smart and they don’t change your answers.

Upon pondering the issue I have come to the conclusion that the glasses debate could arise from a number of avenues. The recent celebrity trend of wearing false glasses has sparked a craze amongst the population and an increase in sales of plain glass frames. Perhaps given this trend it has merely become more acceptable to wear a pair or spectacles? Alternatively, it could be argued that people who wear glasses look more intelligent and professional as it insinuates they have spent a lot of time reading books and studying. (A recent College of Optometrists Study has revealed that 40% of people with perfect vision would wear glasses if it would help them get a job)

The recruiter in me argues that wearing glasses doesn’t make a blind sight of difference (pardon the pun) and that preparation and personal presentation hold more weight at interview, but the glasses wearer in me can’t help but wonder whether employers subconsciously take note of spectacles, for the good or the bad!

BLT goes back to school…again

It’s not all work and no play at BLT – last week I escaped the heady heights of management consultancy to spend a day at a school in Tower Hamlets. A group of individuals from a range of businesses spend a day at an inner city school, conducting mock interviews on a one to one basis with 15 and 16 year olds.

It’s a sobering yet very rewarding experience – within walking distance of the wealth of Canary Wharf lies a very disadvantaged community. The school seemed to be a challenge in crowd control as much as anything else with teachers communicating via walkie talkies, cctv in operation, and security guards on site. The school was well equipped with a vast array of PCs in the IT room and some fantastic sports halls – but at lunchtime no one was using them …where were the lunchtime clubs I asked myself?….no teachers volunteering to run them I concluded..

The children were a mixed bunch – some were obviously struggling academically, yet still thinking about university ….why? University isn’t the right place for you if you’re struggling with GCSEs, never mind A Levels. Yet, in amongst it all, there were some good ones, and so satisfying when you see someone good who you feel with a little bit of guidance and support could aim for a better future.

Call it what you like – doing your bit for the Big Society, CSR ….I’d highly recommend it …you might just find you get as much out of it as your audience!

PwC to increase the numbers of women coming through to partnership …

As part of a wider diversity strategy, PwC in the UK is encouraging a new ‘comply or explain’ approach to the promotion of women to senior ranks in the firm.
The approach is being planned after detailed analysis examined the promotion flow of women and men in the organisation. 15% of PwC’s partners are female in the UK, and around 50% of employees overall. Leaders in the firm’s major divisions are asked to proactively consider women in their promotion rounds, or explain what the blocker to progress is, so that it can be addressed. Emphasis will fall initially on achieving proportionate promotion rates at manager and senior manager levels in the firm, to build a long term pipeline of senior female candidates for leadership levels.
In 2009 PwC was awarded the Opportunity Now innovation award for the firm’s Advisory Women’s Leadership programme, designed to build the pipeline of female partners for the firm’s Advisory division. It radically improved the leadership pipeline for the division, and was rolled out across the firm in the UK last year. Using an actuarial model to monitor and analyse women’s progression through the ranks in the firm over six years, it resulted in the creation of a programme specifically identifying and addressing the barriers to women’s progression, providing female staff with targeted development, building mentoring relationships between senior executives and female staff, and providing bias awareness training.

I’ve written previously about how I disagree with quotas and the approach above would seem to be more sensible. What is the impact of this in practical terms for PwC in the UK? The figures would suggest a successful programme – in 2007/8, 20% of partner admissions were women; in 2008/9, 25% of partner admissions were women; …….this compares with no internal female partner admissions prior to the programme.

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