Richard Maun – interview

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You Have A Minute To Win It!

14 June 2010

This is what happens inside our head when someone talks to us for too long.

This is what happens inside our head when someone talks to us for too long.

Do you ever listen to Desert Island Discs? (BBC Radio 4.) It’s been running since Noah was a lad and it features the great and the good getting to pick eight records and a luxury to accompany them to a desert island. You have to choose one luxury to make life bearable, so what do you choose?

Well, on the desert island that is job hunting, and its near neighbour that is networking, my choice of luxury is the Minute To Win It.

It’s a luxury in that it makes life bearable and reduces stress. Although it is a freely available and much used tool, it is also an overlooked and ignored item to the extent that for some people it might as well be a luxury. Gloriously expensive and teasingly unobtainable.

Tell Me About Yourself

This is question we get asked at networking events and is often the first question put to us at an interview. Deceptively innocent and open, the question masks a number of cowpats that the uninitiated can squish into:

1. Over talking. People aren’t really that interested in us. They want a few key facts, they want to find areas of mutual interest and connection and then they want us to stop talking.

2. People prefer talking. People often prefer to talk than to listen, not because they’re rude, but because they can get more strokes for talking than for listening. So, if we answer the question by rambling on and on and [yawn] on and on, they start get to a bit fractious. Our ears start to get fatigued after 60 seconds, hence the name ‘Minute To Win It’….a minute is a comfortable length of time to listen for.

3. Being dull. Having a beige personality can be interview suicide, if the organisation wants to hire likeable, engaging, sparkly people, and most do. Work is tough, so having a smile and something interesting to say encourages people to warm to us and makes a tough life bearable. Don’t be dull – be interesting.

How To Do It Well

We can talk at a rate of 150 to 250 words per minute, particularly if we’re excited and the adrenalin is flooding our system. This is a minute of time. We can take these words and use them to make some specific points in our minute and then we can stop talking and can ask a question to ‘throw it back’ to the other person. This is our minute of time used effectively.

An Example

Instead of writing out 150 words, the smart thing to have is a list of 8 key words, or bullet points, + 1 question. (Some people prefer lists, others a more pictorial approach, so do what works best for you.) The outline can look like this:

  1. Hi there, my name is [name]
  2. I’m an experienced [add your chief skill set or role]
  3. I’m interested in [reason for being here]
  4. Something interesting about me includes [a skill somebody wants to pay for]
  5. Something interesting about me [an experience or mention a household name you’ve worked with]
  6. Something interesting about me [a work-related fact or achievement to hook interest]
  7. A number that illustrates how good I am [write a number here]
  8. A story title that demonstrates one of my strong points [story title]
  9. QUESTION: So that’s a bit about me, what would you like to know more about?

For me at a networking event this might look like:

  1. Richard, Richard Maun
  2. Development specialist
  3. Improve language skills in teams
  4. Transactional Analysis
  5. The NHS
  6. Saudi Sheikh
  7. £4m contract in pathology department
  8. Shipping 24,000 litres of wine from New Zealand

In a few quick, carefully chosen brush strokes I can use my minute to give people memorable details about me. I can talk about my 8 points and can turn them into a potted history that celebrates successes and gives people a snappy little pen-portrait of my background. It doesn’t matter if other details are left out, they can be thrown in during later conversations, because the whole point is to hook interest and then stop talking. Given that I’m not going into great detail in my minute I’m also fairly confident of what some of the follow up questions could be such as:

  • Tell me about the £4m contract, or…
  • What’s Transactional Analysis?

I can plan short, useful answers to these and so can get off to a great start when I meet people at networking events, or if I’m being interviewed. Of course an ‘interview’ doesn’t have to be a formal job related exercise either. It can be when we’re meeting new colleagues for the first time, introducing ourselves to key stakeholders, or selling our products and services to new client. A Minute To Win It is an extremely useful item to have in our head and, in my experience, people who use them effectively are much better at selling themselves and their ideas to others.

Our Task For This Week

Have a go at talking for 60 seconds and use the points above as a guide, to give your practice some shape. How would you summarise yourself in 8 key points? Did you check your CV to see what is missing or what you could use for a Minute To Win It? There’s more information and worked examples in the book Job Hunting 3.0 and if you’re in need of brushing up your networking skills, do check it out.

FREE Sample Book

Marshall Cavendish have put together a sample ebook of Job Hunting 3.0 which features the whole of the first section called ‘Getting Started’ and the whole of the final section called ‘Checklists’ containing (no surprises here) useful checklists full of interview questions, process tips and essential information for success. If you would like an exclusive copy; email me or use the contact box and I will zap a copy right back to you.

Pass It On

If you know someone who would be interested in this blog post please forward it to them, or ReTweet it, or let them know they can subscribe to regular emails via the box on the homepage.

Missed Last Week’s Post?

Last week was all about Classic Interview Questions which are well worth knowing and easy to overlook.

By The Way…

Well done to my chum Adrian who won his motorbike race at Snetterton this weekend, after having had to work late into the night and all morning to fix an electrical fault. That’s the kind of 15omph of achievement that deserves a round of applause!

Thank you for reading to the end. Do have great interviews!

Next week is all about PASSION…!

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Classic Interview Questions

6 June 2010

This photo is called 'The Sound of Silence' - which is what happens when people don't prepare any answers!

This photo is called 'The Sound of Silence' - which is what happens when people don't prepare any answers!

Imagine that you’re going to an interview next week and you’re trying to get prepared.You’ve read your CV, you’ve polished your shoes and you have a banana to hand (we’ll come back to that later). In my experience that’s often as much as people do to prepare for an interview, on the basis that you can’t guess what you’re going to be asked about. However, many interviews use the same questions, because once you step away from the technicalities of the role, you’re left with basic ‘people information’ that has to be gathered in. Here are my Top 10 Classic Questions, to get us all thinking:

  1. Tell me about yourself…
  2. Give me 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses…
  3. Tell me about your proudest achievement at work…
  4. Why do you want to work here?
  5. What have you been doing whilst looking for a job?
  6. Who else have you applied to?
  7. How have you changed in the last 5 years?
  8. What challenges would you face if you did this job?
  9. What questions do you have for me?
  10. Why should we take a risk on you?

How To Answer Classic Questions

The key here is to have your answers prepared in advance, which often means working through them with a trusted friend, to hammer out succinct and informative answers. Questions that begin ‘Tell me about..’ are looking for a short one minute story that showcases your skills and talents. If you get asked about weaknesses, the trick is to talk about things that are ‘everyday’ issues such as having an untidy desk. Some people fall into the trap of revealing genuine weaknesses, such as really poor time keeping, which could cost them the chance of a job.

Whilst you’re looking for work it pays to do something which is work-like, such as managing a sports team, or working in a charity shop. This shows initiative and energy and makes us look better than the next candidate who has been living on his sofa for six months.

Always have a couple of prepared questions, such as ‘What would be my priorities in the first month?’ or ‘Do you have any concerns about my application?’ Both of these questions produce useful information for us and if the interviewer does have any concerns we might as well face them now and explain them away when we have the chance.

Finally, the risk question. A great way to trip up over-confident candidates. The way to answer it is to acknowledge that all new hires are a risk and that in your case your ability to do ‘x’ andyour skill in ‘y’ and your experience with ‘z’ demonstrates that you are a low risk candidate. Easy, when you know how.

Minute To Win It

This is one of the best networking and interview tools, which can help us to answer the dreaded question: Tell me about yourself (or your business)… In fact, it’s so useful that next week’s post is going to be all about it, so catch it here next Monday.

Helpful Answers

There are more questions and detailed sample answers in the book Job Hunting 3.0 which now has a confirmed publication date of 21st June 2010. Please click on the link to visit the Amazon page.

And Remember…. Bananas

Bananas contain slow release sugars which can sustain our energy levels throughout the stress of an interview. This is more useful than the energy spike we get after munching a chocolate bar, which needs to be topped up again a few minutes later. So, before you go into reception, go bananas….it might help you to do really well!

Pass It On

If you know someone who would be interested in this blog post please forward it to them, or ReTweet it, or let them know they can subscribe to regular emails via the box on the homepage.

Missed Last Week’s Post?

Last week was all about 5 Ways to Build Rapport which can make a big diference when we have to do any kind of selling.

Thank you for reading to the end. Do have great interviews!

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Click cover to view details on Amazon


Riding the Rocket

How to manage your Modern Career

Published 2013 Marshall Cavendish



Bouncing Back

How to get going again after a career setback

Published 2012 Marshall Cavendish



How to Keep Your Job

Brilliant ways to increase performance, stay employed and keep the money rolling in

Published 2011 Marshall Cavendish



Job Hunting 3.0

Secrets and skills to sell yourself effectively in the Modern Age

Published 2010 Marshall Cavendish



Leave the Bastards Behind

An insider's guide to working for yourself

Published 2007 Cyan Books and Marshall Cavendish



My Boss is a Bastard

Surviving turmoil at work

Published 2006 Cyan Books and Marshall Cavendish


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