Browse Category: Interview preparation

Need a coach? Peter Botting

How to reboot your job hunt

Need a coach? Peter BottingHave you been job hunting for a long time with little results? It can be a demoralising process, especially the longer it goes on. Often all a job hunt needs is a reboot to put some more life into it and into you and help you down the right path towards a new job. I advise that you first take a few days off. Spend some decent focused time with friends and family. Switch off from the job hunt and don’t do anything work related. Get some exercise and some fresh air. Ideally get some time in a different town. Then when you are focused and rested try out these ideas on how to reboot your job hunt:

  1. What do you want?

This is a simple and fundamental question, yet so often job hunters do not have an answer. What sort of job are you looking for? Do you want to change industry? What qualifications and skills do you want to make the most of? What sort of people and company do you want to work for? These sorts of questions can be easy to answer once broken down, but by answering them it can you the focus you need. Use a pen and paper and take your time answering the questions. You have me on your hands – use it.

  1. Change your time

How long do you spend a week searching for a new job? Chances are you could spend more time job hunting. Measure how long you spend on average searching for a new job in a week, then you can assess how much more time you could spend. Obviously spending hours scrolling through job sites is pointless, instead spend your time researching and networking.

  1. Reassess your social networks

We are starting to live in a world where social media is a must. Having a strong and consistent social media presence is no longer optional when looking for a job. Maybe you have a Twitter you rarely use, or a LinkedIn which needs updating. As employers increasingly look at your online presence to assess you, taking your time and putting effort into your social media profiles can pay off.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

So tell me about yourself – Lethal Interview Question

IMG_1024This is a popular interview question which is almost always wasted. It is the interviewer literally giving you 800 metres of rope and saying go play. But the opportunity is usually wasted and the danger of totally screwing up is huge…. “Well I am 28, have a 2:1 in piffle and am generically interested in whatever I think you are interested in or what I am guessing you think I should be interested in.”

I hate the word but this is literally a perfect opportunity to ‘showcase’ your transferable skills and experience without sounding like an arrogant **** (insert whichever 4 letter word you feel most appropriate).

When asked tell me about yourself this is your opportunity to present your message about who you are and why you should get the job.

To answer this question well, like any other interview question, it all comes down to preparation.

Here are some ideas on how to prepare to answer tell me about yourself:

  1. Brainstorm

Write down all the strengths that make you right for the job you are applying for. This could be communication skills, public speaking, patience, etc. Then consider in which ways your experience proves that you have these strengths. For example you could describe how you managed a large team, or carried out successful business sales pitches.

  1. Focus

Reduce these ideas down to a precise and focused script. You do not want to bore your interviewer with unnecessary details. Instead be brief and concise; it is likely that the interviewer will decide which parts of what you said they want to pick up on.

  1. Rehearse

Do not attempt to perfectly memorise what you are going to say – this will likely come off sounding stiff and repeated. And rehearsed! But learn the key points that you want to cover. This is your chance to present your message in a clear and efficient way – don’t waste the opportunity.

4 ideas to consider before accepting a job

sellingGetting a job offer is a great feeling. But before you leap for the phone to accept the offer – wait and think. Accepting a job offer is a big step and should be treated like one.

Here are some ideas to consider before accepting a job:

  1. Money

Salary is one of the easiest factors to measure when considering a job offer. You will likely already have a benchmark regarding salary based on how much you already earn or used to earn, how much you are being offered, and how much you want.

Here is my guide to negotiating salary

  1. Culture

Culture is a much more difficult concept to consider than salary. Research the company and try to figure out what their values, practises, goals and attitudes are. Consider what is important to you and see if the company’s culture matches your own beliefs.

  1. Management and colleagues

The people you interact with on a day-to-day basis are likely to have one of the biggest impacts on your happiness. It is likely that you have met your manager, boss, or supervisor. Reflect on whether you think you can work well with them, and if they would create an atmosphere in which you can work successfully.

  1. The job

After looking for a new job for a long time you may start to lower your expectations of what you want from a job. Take some time to think seriously whether you want this job or you just want a job? Before you accept the job think – how will your skills be used? How will you be able to develop n this job? How will be able to cope with the responsibilities of this job?

Performance Coaching is best one to one and designed for those who hate losing.

Group Coaching

I used to do a lot of group coaching. I do very little now and when I do, I take another coach along to help make the coaching more effective.  The groups I used to coach were typically groups of 12-15 from companies like Grace Chemicals, ThyssenKrupp, BASF and SAP. They were very typical corporate coaching sessions for middle management and the budget for the day was split between all the participants’ personal development budgets. German firms are better at this most – personal development is both encouraged by the companies and sought after by the employees.

Coaching PyramidThen Mercedes hired me to do an 1-2-1 session over ten days with a senior guy on a very sensitive issue and I loved it. More importantly than that – the results were better too.

Norming Training

Group corporate coaching normally is what I call “norming training” – it gets everyone up to a minimum level of competence. Or at least it should! Far too often norming coaching is seen as just something to survive and it is approached by participants and coaches without focus or energy.  Coaching without a specific target is harder to focus and too often includes handouts that soon become, and remain, dusty on unvisited shelves. Tennis coaching is fine and good and important – but preparing for a match against a specific opponent on “that court” is far more fun!

Norming training gets people from the bottom of a pyramid to half way up. It is important but it has its downsides and its limits.

One is the fact that the participants can’t open up completely to the coach with making them themselves vulnerable to the others in the room – who invariably are, will be, or are friends of, current or future competitors in the corporate or political career race.

Secondly – the higher you get up the performance pyramid, the less coaching is about transferring skills and the more it is about what’s in your head. Ian Barclay coached me in Johannesburg. He was Pat Cash’s coach and I was a young, ambitious tennis coach totally focused on learning all his best coaching techniques and skills. He said that teaching beginners, like he taught Cash initially, was all about skills and just 5% about what’s in your head. By the time Cash was playing serious professional tennis, the ratios had reversed and it was now at least 95% head and the rest skills. If you are helping people with what’s in their head – it’s personal. Huge trust is needed and that’s best done very carefully and sensitively without others listening in.

Performance Coaching

Most of what I do now is performance coaching – in other words coaching aimed at a specific event with a time limit and a specific outcome.* It is taking people who are already quite competent and pushing them up the pyramid – leaving good, and the competition, behind. Coaching people who want to work to step up from being “good enough” and who now want to make Partner, bring in the business and the bonuses and get promoted. Since that session with Mercedes I have worked in the same way in politics, career development and with corporates: –

  • Politics – preparing wannabe MPs for selections and selection speeches, successful MPs for their maiden speeches, campaigns for elections, the No2AV referendum campaign and even the Sri Lankan Prime Minister for an address to the United Nations
  • Career/Personal Development – preparing graduates and senior executives for interviews
  • Corporate – preparing business development, management and MBO teams and individuals for major events, pitches and proposals.

All of them are focused on specific events, with defined time limits or dates and a specific win/lose outcome. It is for those want to perform as well as they possibly can – not just a bit better than the others and who resent being called “good enough”. It is for those who, like me, hate losing or coming second. If you know somebody who might fit into one of those categories – why not forward this post to them and introduce us by email?


*I have also worked on ongoing campaigns, e.g. against Human Trafficking, but there is a difference to this type of campaign – they are drip, drip, drip although they obviously include specific events and critical dates.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Covering Letter

In 1483 a young Leonardo da Vinci applied for a job with the ruler of Milan, Ludovico Sforza. Sforza was in need of military engineer at the time of war. Da Vinci applied for the job through a letter listing his qualifications and explaining why he would be best for the job, essentially a cover letter or covering letter.

ID-100173765Sforza employed da Vinci, and several years later commissioned him to paint ‘The Last Supper’.

Here are some ideas from da Vinci’s Covering Letter:

1. Start strong

My Most Illustrious Lord… I shall endeavour…to make myself understood to Your Excellency for the purpose of unfolding to you my secrets.

You probably will start with “Dear Sir/Madam” but a personalised greeting is far stronger. His was personalised because it was a single copy delivered probably by hand. He added to this by dangling “secrets” in from of his target employer. He set himself apart right up front – just as you should do. Quickly (i.e. concisely!)  sketch out why you would be good for the job and why you are different from the other candidates.


2. Write about what is relevant to the employer

I have plans for very light, strong and easily portable bridges with which to pursue and, on some occasions, flee the enemy, and others, sturdy and indestructible either by fire or in battle, easy and convenient to lift and place in position. Also means of burning and destroying those of the enemy.”

Be explicit but not petty – they don’t want to know the sub-set of the technique you use for tyre changing – but they do need to know that you can change tyres quickly.


3. Show you are different, that you understand the employer’s world and make them want to take you off the market.

Also, if one cannot, when besieging a terrain, proceed by bombardment either because of the height of the glacis or the strength of its situation and location, I have methods for destroying every fortress or other stranglehold unless it has been founded upon a rock or so forth.

I have also types of cannon, most convenient and easily portable, with which to hurl small stones almost like a hail-storm; and the smoke from the cannon will instil a great fear in the enemy on account of the grave damage and confusion.

Da Vinci differentiated what he offered from the competition. And he added exclusivity – this is a given in a job interview but the threat of someone having your services, and hiring you because they want you in THEIR team, is what you are aiming for.


4. Title lists are necessary but don’t get you the job. Give a brief description of your skills

‘I know how, in the course of the siege of a terrain, to remove water from the moats… should a sea battle be occasioned, I have examples of many instruments which are highly suitable either in attack or defence’.

Like da Vinci, keep your skills and qualifications brief. A couple of sentences on each one would be enough, and make sure that all the skills you include are relevant for the job that you are applying for. Check out the employer’s website and use their jargon where possible.


5. Show flexibility

‘I can execute sculpture in marble, bronze and clay. Likewise in painting, I can do everything possible as well as any other, whosoever he may be’.

You don’t need to be able to create sculptures out of three different materials, but show that you are flexible, able and willing to learn and open to change and to develop If you can offer more than one skill to start off with – even better. Always try and outline more than one thing you can “bring to the table”. DO NOT list responsibilities you won’t take on, or jobs you don’t want to do. Ever.  Stay positive in your covering letter.


6. References / Contact details

‘If any of the above-mentioned things seem impossible or impracticable to anyone, I am most readily disposed to demonstrate them in your park’

Offer your references – not on request but freely given. Employers don’t have the time (or the inclination) to ask you to be so kind as to supply them with references – check with your references that you can use them – then give full contact details.

You can read the whole letter here


Image courtesy of sippakorn /


How to stay positive when job hunting

You may be in a job you don’t want or you may be unemployed and desperately wanting a job. Either way, job hunting is a thankless, tough task that can take ages. Staying positive is essential to your success and good for your sanity and your relationships!

ID-10076986You need to wake up every morning and believe that that day may be the day that you get that interview, offered that job, or begin your new career. Much is written about the power of positive thinking – because it’s true. Believe it’s possible and it becomes so – be negative and what you say and think will become your reality.

Staying positive is not easy. Battle through – and here are a few types to help:

1. Concentrate on the good things.

Job hunting can include a series of rejection and non-responses. It may cause you to question your ability and this can shake your confidence. Concentrate on what you have achieved in your personal and professional life and why this makes you an asset to an employer.

2. Identify the problem – then fix it.

Work out what part of job hunting is causing the most problems and stress. Maybe you feel that your CV is not up to scratch, or your interview technique needs work. In that case get objective feedback on your CV and rewrite it if necessary. Work on your interview technique with a coach. Prepare for all the obvious interview questions. .

3. Find purpose – and make that more than a pay cheque – (although that is obviously important!)

Try and see finding a new job as a great opportunity for your career. Remember why you are doing it and consider “the next job” as a new chapter in your life.

4. See setbacks as what they – part of the process, not an event or an end destination

When dealing with setbacks you should consider job hunting as a process with ups and downs, hills and valleys. Bad days are not the end – they come with the territory. See interviews and applications and writing bespoke CVs and covering letters as a routine step towards your new job. You will make mistakes and you won’t be perfect every time – you are human. Get over it.  But the process of job hunting will go on. See a failed interview as an opportunity to learn, to develop, to improve. Consider the things that went well and what went wrong – polish and improve an rehearse the former and fix the latter.

5. Do something job-search related every day.

Do something every day, even just one thing, that will help your search – get feedback, hire a coach, read industry content, sending CV’s, research your target company,  network.

6. Do something physical and something with your loved ones every day.

The one keeps you sane and healthy and helps you declutter and decobweb your head. The other should remind you why you are doing this – apart from the obvious hunger in your tummy and the nasty letters from the landlord!  I have been there myself and getting fresh air and exercise gets the heart and the blood moving, takes you away from the computer screen or the TV, gets you showered and dressed and alive again. When you spend time with friends and family don’t focus on you and don’t talk endlessly about the job hunt. Focus on them – no moping and complaining please otherwise you will enter a cycle of negativity and be dull, boring company.


Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG /

What to ask to understand a company’s hiring procedure

There will probably be an opportunity before your first interview to ask about the company’s hiring procedure. If there isn’t – you should ask, nicely, anyway. It’s a fair question and this knowledge could help you, will give you increased confidence and calm your nerves.

Here are some questions to ask to understand a company’s hiring procedure:

  1. ID-100205959Can you describe the step-by-step hiring procedure?

Most employers and almost all large employers will be happy to explain the procedure to you. Every company has a different way of hiring people and this of course depends on the level you are applying. Barclays used Topgrading for Associate Director and above – am not sure if they still do. You may have competency and group tests and telephone interviews before you even meet someone for a real interview. Then you may have one or several interviews and you may be interviewed on your own or in a group. You may be interviewed by one person or you may be interviewed by two people playing good cop/bad cop or you may be interviewed by a panel. I have been interviewed by a panel once – it was terrifying to start off with – I wasn’t prepared for that and wish I had been.

  1. Will I be taking any tests?

Some companies require job candidates to take certain tests before they are offered the job. This can range between psychological, aptitude, technical, intelligence, maths, abstract reasoning, or physical (drug) test; or a combination of these. By finding out what tests you are taking, if any, where the tests will take place, who will be conducting the tests, and when the tests will happen will allow you to prepare yourself and relax in the knowledge that there will not be a surprise exam. You may also have written tests. This can be a problem for people with dyslexia and an issue that I have worked on with clients increasingly over the years. Dyslexia is bad enough at the best of times but when time pressure is added it gets worse. I have a good friend who has dyslexia and have an idea, as much as anyone can who doesn’t have it, how frustrating it can be. One of my clients had been applying for positions at law firms but kept on having to do (hand)written exercises. We worked on his confidence and then he approached the firm, explained the situation – was given an extra 10 minutes to do the exercise and, most importantly, was allowed to use a laptop which obviously included spell check. He got the job and he and his family were over the moon – but that wouldn’t have happened without asking the questions first.

  1. How long will you make to reach a decision?

Some employers will make a decision on the spot, while others may take weeks. Knowing that a decision will take a week when you think you will find out immediately can spare you the nerves of not knowing when you will find out. This is the least important question to ask – but it will stop the nerves jangling for weeks afterwards.


Image courtesy of nongpimmy /

New: Free downloadable guides to improve speeches, survive telephone interviews, set goals and more.DOWNLOAD NOW
+ +
Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On LinkedinVisit Us On Instagram