Browse Category: Interview preparation

What not to do when job hunting

Job hunting can be a stressful and unpleasant time. You may be unemployed or stuck in a job you dislike. However there are ways of reducing the pain of finding a new job.

Here are some tips on what NOT to do when job hunting:

1. ID-100255301 (1)Blame others

Blaming others and passing on the responsibility may make you feel better, but it does not help. It is your responsibility to find yourself a new job, regardless of the reasons you are in the situation you are in.

2. Be negative

In order to find, and get, a job you need to be positive. Quit focusing on the interviews and jobs that you missed out – focus on what you can do today. And what you are doing tomorrow.

3. Make job hunting your sole activity

Of course finding a new job will probably be one of your highest priorities, but it is still important to maintain a level of physical and mental health. Spend proper time with your family, go to the cinema, play sport, go out with friends.

4. See rejection as personal

Unless you are a massive exception, you will experience rejection when finding a new job. It comes with the territory – it is part of it, it’s normal. Get over it – ask for feedback, learn, change, and move on. If you don’t get (meaningful) feedback review your own performance – properly – not with sympathetic friends and family persuading you you were fine and blaming the other people.

5. Search for jobs in only one place

Scrolling through the same jobs website everyday can become monotonous. By broadening your search you have a better chance of finding the right job.

6. Apply for every job you find

By going for every job in your area you may lose focus. It is important to remember what sort of job you want and why you want it. Have you done that exercise by the way?

7. Think that times haven’t changed

It may have been a number of years since you have needed to find a new job and things will have changed. In fact – just take it from me – they have changed in the last 2-3 years. New practises such as phone interviews and online applications and competency tests are now standard.

8. Misuse social media

Social media can be a great thing when job hunting – when used correctly. Start your job search by updating your social media profiles. Do not use it to rant about your previous employer.


Image courtesy of Luigi Diamanti /

Is it time to start looking for a new job?

Plunging back into the job market is a scary task and the decision is not to be taken lightly. Too often the risk outweighs the perceived reward and you stay where you don’t want to be because changing jobs is stressful. But how do you know when you should start looking for a new job. Here are a few questions to consider that it may be time to start looking for a new job:

1. Do you lack passion?

ID-100213949Has the spark of excitement that made you eager to get up in the morning gone? If you lack the passion which you once had for your work,  it may be time to start the hunt for a new job.

2. Do you work well with your colleagues?

You may not work in sync with the people round like you used to. Group tasks, once fun and interesting,  are now exhaustive and stressful. Your colleagues annoy you – for whatever reason.

3. Are you feeling increasingly stressed?

Increased amount of responsibilities with no new benefits, poor work-life balance, and overly demanding management can cause stress and make for an unpleasant work environment.

4. Are your skills being (fully) put to use?

You may be overqualified or in an industry where your true skills are not needed or appreciated. People are happiest in companies where their skills and expertise are used and their minds are challenged.

5. Are your ideas heard and valued?

A company should provide an atmosphere where employees feel comfortable to express their ideas and their thoughts are considered and appreciated. If this is not the case, you may feel un(der)acknowledged and un(der)valued.


Changing jobs is scary and other jobs often seem more attractive even when they are not. But sometimes, if things are really getting you down, you should just say enough – I am finding a new job. It’s invigorating, it takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you live for a while instead of existing. You may discover that there is no better than the one you have or you may find something better – so where’s the actual risk?


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

How to write an amazing covering letter

A (decent) covering letter (in US English a cover letter) is an important element of applying for a job. OK – forget important, it’s huge. Hundreds or thousands of people apply for the good jobs these days so the covering letter is more important than its been in decades. It gets them to read your CV. So it’s almost more important than your CV – because if it’s rubbish, they may not even read your beautifully crafted CV.

ID-100130292Because a covering letter is free form and doesn’t follow an official structure like a CV, it may seem daunting or scary to write. Get over it – a good cover letter should be your standard practice. It’s a competitive job market – play up or sit and watch.

Some tips for writing a successful covering letter.

1. Short and sweet

The company you’re applying for may receive hundreds of cover letters for one job. Short cover letters which are straight to the point will jump out. Don’t bother with the formalities, go straight into why you would be good for the job.

2. New information

Do not just repeat your CV, it’s unnecessary and a waste of time. Instead highlight and expand on parts of your CV which are relevant to the job you are applying for.

3. Make it personal

If you have a connection or history with the company, mention it. A covering letter should make you sound interesting, not generic and stale. It would also be good to reveal some of your personality and your motivations.

4. Talk about the company

Show that you are enthusiastic and interested in the job by researching the company. Perhaps mention why you would fit into that company specifically.

5. Don’t talk about the job description

Do not use the job description as a check box to go through and say how you can do each task. Instead indicate what the general responsibilities are and explain how your experience shows that you can carry them out successfully.

6. Use short sentences

Short sentences (2 clauses max) are easy to read. Don’t use big words but sprinkle over some of the company’s jargon from their website or literature. Some jargon – do not horseshoe everything in.

7. Avoid cliches

I hate cliches. You should too. Do not use them. Just a few of the worse: cutting edge, 110%, world class.


Image courtesy of photoraidz /

An effective CV is more than just titles

ID-100195340 (1)CVs used to be a collection of titles and dates. That’s not good enough anymore. When you are writing your CV you need to convey what you have achieved, what you started with and what you ended with. Context and colour is everything.

If you just list your job titles and dates employers will reason that you had a position but did nothing with it. A job or a position is an opportunity to achieve things for the company. If you don’t outline what you did and what you achieved, in context, you won’t even make a paper short list, let alone an interview.

The paper sift, the pre-interview elimination process, is the most brutal. Most people prepare for interviews either by getting interview coaching or running through potential questions and answers. But you have to get in the room first. So focus on that first!

A recent client of mine was one of 20 who got a job offer from a large consulting company. Over 4000 people applied, but they probably only interviewed 100. Do the maths – your chances of getting excluded on the basis of your CV are huge compared to the chances of failing at interview. Your preparation and your coaching should reflect that.


Image courtesy of photoraidz /

Interview preparation coaching is personal

There are many brilliant things about my job. Campaigning is great fun and helping businesses and charities develop and deliver their stories is challenging and rewarding. But helping candidates prepare for interviews has to be the best part of my job. Getting the jubilant text or phone call is one hell of a buzz – whether it’s from a graduate getting their first job or an established executive making a successful career change.

What is quite funny is that no-one is ever “cool” about getting a new job. Both first-timers and alleged grown-ups totally lose any semblance of composure when they contact me – they generally sound as if they are bouncing around on a pogo stick. Interview preparation is so personal, so immediate, so black and white – it’s simple. Like sport. You win or lose. You punch the air or you are thrown to the floor. My stomach always cramps when I see an incoming call from a client after they have come out of an interview or in the weeks afterwards – I know that I will either be celebrating or consoling.

Yesterday I received this testimonial from a client – he had applied for a job, got it and also negotiated a great package. In fairness he was a great candidate in every way – but like most candidates he wasn’t great at telling his story at all. He was so delighted when he called me that he sounded like a kid who had overdosed on jelly babies and he gave me a fantastic and symbolic thank you gift as well! I was over the moon too – a happy day all round!

“Peter was an OUTSTANDING and no-nonsense coach. He showed me how to sell my experience at an interview. The interview. For THAT job. Investing in Peter’s coaching obviously worked because I was successful and am absolutely over the moon with my new role. He also guided me through the process of negotiating my salary up which saw an increase of over 35%. I would highly recommend using Peter if you are seeking a new role.”

Head of Public Affairs at a FTSE 100 company.

intensive interview preparation

Intensive Career Coaching – Another interview preparation client gets their first job

It was only Friday when I wrote here about a career coaching client sending me an excited email that they they had got the job. Today I received another email from a client. He had been sent to see me by his parents for my intensive career coaching interview preparation to help him succeed in his first “proper” job search.

Hi Peter,

Just wanted to let you know that you’ve done it again! Went for the interview this morning at half 8, finished by 10 and just got a call ten minutes ago saying that they are going to be making an offer! Thank you so much for your help, it really sorted me out and helped me understand where best to focus my prep work….

This guy had passed a telephone interview, helped apparently by my guide, How To Survive (and Win) a Telephone Interview. Then he was invited to an assessment day and today he had his first face to face interview. Which he got. In fact, he had only just got home from the interview when the phone rang to say the company was going to make him an offer! As he said, winning 1 out of 1 interviews is not a bad ratio!

I often only hear about it indirectly but sometimes, like today, I get a proper insight into how getting That Email can affect the candidate and his or her family. His mother was at the shops when she got the text and started texting her friends in the shop aisle – her shopping basket abandoned at her feet. The father, also a client, was on his way back from a (successful) pitch and decided to come straight home afterwards to celebrate with the family. The girlfriend got a jumbled, excited and exuberant voicemail and text and the dog that the family was dog-sitting started yapping wildly as my client bounced noisily around the house.

All of this, instead of option 2: – waiting 3 days and then getting a “Thank you but no thank you..” email….

I work in politics where spin is too often the order of the day. So I am super-careful about making claims for fear of “over-egging” things. But on days like this, getting an excited email and then having a 20 minute jubilant debrief and rejoicing with the client about their new job and reliving and wallowing in bits of the interview and the interview preparation and the coaching and the “journey” and the excited reactions of family and friends is mega. And getting that email is, for the client, literally life changing. The first job defines your career starting point. It kick-starts your working trajectory. “Start well and build” is what every parent wants for their kids. It is great to be a part of these moments.




thinking of changing jobs?

Thinking of changing jobs? 40 things to think about

Are you unhappy with your job? Thinking of chucking it all in, sabotaging your colleagues work or throwing something at your boss? Or are you contemplating quietly walking out, leaving the country and going to live a simpler life on an island? Thinking of changing jobs is normal for everyone – you have no monopoly on any of these thoughts – but doing it, whatever that is, right is important.

thinking of changing jobs?Career progression means changing jobs by definition – but why and how you do it can improve your life or totally screw it up. Changing jobs at the right time for the right reasons and in the right way may seem obvious – but emotions and feelings and irrational thought get in the way and can seriously mess up your career.

I have changed jobs and made a few career changes in my life and some were cleverer than others!

So before you start booking plane tickets, selling the house, moving to or from the big city, emigrating or physically throwing stuff at the boss, why not balance out the loud emotional voices of your feelings with some sober, boring logical stuff. I know I am being dull, dull, dull…. but try answering these questions. This is not a perfect or exhaustive list or even beautifully structured or logical – but if you are reading this that probably doesn’t matter that much to you anyway!

This exercise is even better if you write out the answers in full. Then sleep on them.

The Problem. Is it you or is it them? Is it the job or the employer?

  1. Why do you want to change jobs? Make a list of five reasons in no particular order. Write them down – seriously, it helps.
  2. Do you want to change professions or just change your employer?
  3. Would it be different if you were doing the same thing for someone else? Are you sure? Explain why? Write it down!
  4. Are you in the right job – or just at the wrong place or with the wrong people?
  5. Why did you chose your current career? What attracted you to your career in the first place?
  6. What has changed since? If anything?
  7. Why do you think that is?
  8. Why did you choose your current employer? What attracted you to your current employer in the first place?
  9. What has changed since? If anything?
  10. Why do you think that is?
  11. Is it really your job you are unhappy with or is it possible you are are just unhappy in your personal life and this is overflowing into your work life?
  12. Is it something that you can fix?
  13. If so, have you done anything about it?
  14. Are you over-tired, over-stressed, over-amped and exhausted? Do you have the bandwidth to handle this?
  15. Are you getting enough exercise and fresh air?
  16. Are you making sure that you switch off at weekends and in the evenings or do you have your laptop or iPad open all day every day? Do you have phone free days or evenings or even hours?
  17. What has changed since you started that job? I know this looks like question 9 – but has your answer changed?
  18. Is it a need for training or a personal issue or your commute or a salary thing or the career prospects?
  19. Is it because of your employers, your colleagues, the location of the job and the commute or your actual job
  20. Is your employer or line manager aware of the situation and have you spoken to them about it? If not – why not?

The Decision

  1. If you are thinking of changing your profession – what would you like to do? Why? How will it be different?
  2. Have you spoken to head hunters or specialist agencies in your field or in the proposed new field?
  3. Have you spoken to your family? Have they seen you become unhappy at work?
  4. Have you spoken to your friends? Have you changed recently?
  5. Have you cash in the bank and what are your commitments?
  6. How long could you exist before you start visiting friends at meal times?
  7. Have you assessed the job opportunities in your current profession? Availability of jobs, salaries compared to yours, qualifications and experience of the people in those jobs?
  8. How are you doing compared to others? If you are ahead – what’s the real problem – if you are behind what do you think is the reason? (Be honest here – it’s just between you and the piece of paper.)
  9. What do you need to make the change in terms of training, investment? A lawyer I knew chucked his promised career in with a Magic Circle law firm and bought a pub. Same hours – much more fun. It was a big decision with a big investment and he “threw away” a pristine career CV. But he seems happy.
  10. Could you take a sabbatical and test drive the new career? How could you test whether it works for you?

The Deed

  1. How would this affect your family and any dependents and have you spoken to them?
  2. How would your departure leave your company and the jobs and security of your colleagues?
  3. How are you going to tell them?
  4. Do you need a reference?
  5. What notice are you going to give them? What day will it be – the day after payday? How and when is the best way to tell them? Blurting it out may get it off your chest but if you are that wound up you will probably screw it up.
  6. Are you going to offer a handover –  what should be in the handover?
  7. How likely are you to see your current team and boss in your new role?
  8. How important will they be to your future?
  9. What do you want them saying about you? Do you care?
  10. Will you do this in a way that will make you proud in retrospect and that shows some class?

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