Advice from… Larry Page – co-founder of Google Inc.

“I think it is often easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams. I know that sounds completely nuts. But, since no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition. There are so few people this crazy that I feel like I know them all by first name. They all travel as if they are pack dogs and stick to each other like glue. The best people want to work the big challenges. That is what happened with Google.”

How to make a great first impression

As the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” and this is particularly applicable in a job interview. Whether your first ‘meeting’ is face-to-face, over the phone or even over the internet, there’s no room for error. From your very first greeting, others will be evaluating your potential suitability for both the job and the company, ultimately leading to a decision on the next stage – a second interview, an offer, or rejection. In short, the pressure’s on and there’s no time to waste: you need to make an excellent first impression.

However, just as no two individuals react to the same situation in the same way, not everyone is able to leave good impressions when under pressure. It pays to understand how people make their first judgment and what you can do to be in control of the results. In this blog I have identified some of the pitfalls, issues and ways to shine.

Put your best foot forward

By being prepared. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how few people prepare intensively for an interview. For a start, when applying for a job, learn everything there is to know about the company and who you’re talking to. Research on products and services, as well as the company’s history and future direction. Learning about their competitors will give you an added advantage too. Then, if possible, prepare a video profile stating your aims, aspirations, why you’d be a great fit for the company and why the hiring manager should consider you.

(We will discuss the strengths of video profiles in future blogs.)

Once that hurdle is cleared and you’re invited in for an interview, bear in mind that when you meet someone face-to-face, 93% of their perception of you in the first few minutes is based on non-verbal data – your appearance and your body language. Ensure that you are well-groomed and appropriately attired while appearing relaxed, engaged and confident.

If your initial encounter is over the phone, however, be aware that 70% of how you are perceived is based on your tone of voice and 30% on your words. So remember that it’s not what just you say – it’s also how you say it that counts.

Be prepared to be tested

Employers use many tools to screen potential applicants, and these days to prepare yourself for the interview itself, chances are you’ll also need to be prepared for psychometric testing and cognitive assessment. More and more businesses are taking a deeper dive into candidates’ minds by using formal tests – like Myers-Briggs, for example. It’s all about hiring the person who will best fit the job from a skills, intelligence, personality and cultural perspective. Psychometric testing results provide employers with a behavioural profile of you – your level of intelligence or aptitude and your personality characteristics. The profile will indicate whether you can solve problems, are a team player or whether you prefer to work individually, and other relevant attributes. To succeed in psychometric tests, you’ll need to do some preparation in advance:

* Get yourself in good physical and mental shape (you need to be at your best to produce your best results).

* Find out what the employer is looking for in the right applicant (is it a team player or an individual problem solver?).

* Get to know the types of questions (familiarising yourself with the typical content and format of psychometric tests will give you an advantage).

* Practise, practise, practise (there are a multitude of psychometric tests you can take online).

Be prepared to be personable

An interview is a chance for you to sell yourself to a potential employer so it’s important to come across as someone interesting and engaging. It’s not uncommon for employers to hire someone they like and train them on what they are missing from the job description rather than employing a candidate who ticks all the boxes but doesn’t resonate on a personal level.  So if you have hobbies, talents and outside interests, mention them. Your interviewer(s) will be keen to see factors such as your personal development, growth, and choices you’ve made and the reasons why.

Another great way to build rapport with someone and identify how they feel about you is body language. Mirroring other people’s expressions and body helps build rapport, and you can tell whether someone is agreeing with what you’re saying by watching if they cross their arms or legs (in most cases this can be taken as showing disagreement).  Don’t overdo it though as in worse case scenarios it can feel intrusive. More importantly is intensive listening. The greatest salespeople (and we all need to sell ourselves) are great listeners.

The current market is very competitive and companies want to hire the best talent available.  And whilst there’s no definitive method to follow when trying to create a positive and memorable first impression, as you can see there are a few things you can do to help the process.  Don’t miss out on an opportunity by not doing them.

‘A good first impression can work wonders’ — J.K. Rowling

Advice from… Steve Ballmer – CEO of Microsoft 2000-2014

“Passion is the ability to get excited about something. Irrepressibility and tenacity is about the ability to stay with it. If you take a look at all of the companies that have been started in our business, most of them fail. If you take even a look at the companies that have succeeded, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, you name it, all of these companies went through times of hardship. You get some success. You run into some walls. You try a formula for a new idea, a new innovation, it doesn’t work. And it’s how tenacious you are, how irrepressible, how ultimately optimistic and tenacious you are about it that will determine your success.”

Dressing to Impress (Literally!)

From the late Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg, they’ve disrupted the industry in more ways than one, down to the clothes they wear. Jobs made black turtlenecks seem avant-garde while Zuckerberg brought the advent of the “entrepreneur hoodie.” But these entrepreneurs have a very valid reason for donning their “uniform” of success – running is a multi-million dollar company is not easy, and to simplify their morning routines, the last thing they want to think about is “What to wear?”

However, this does not mean that anyone can now take liberties with their choice of clothes, especially for an interview. Attire is an important component in the interviewing process as it is an extension of self, helps create a favourable first impression and speaks volumes to recruiters in terms of suitability at first glance.

The Psychology of Image

While enlightened society still extolls “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” this rule simply does not apply when hiring. In general (beyond just recruiters), people size you up within the first 7 seconds of meeting you based on your posture, handshake and your dressing – from the choice of clothing item, down to the colours worn.

So it is imperative to ensure that your dressing sends the right messages across.

What to look out for:

By now, it is safe to say that office wear is essentially the safest bet to dressing for an interview.

For the ladies, that means:

● A simple dress that isn’t short or tight, or in too loud a colour or print

● A blouse or shirt that is not low cut, paired with dress pants or a skirt of appropriate length (no shorter than an inch above the knees)

● Comfortable heels – opt for kitten or a stacked heel, as opposed to stilettos

For men:

● Business shirt and pants.

● Depending on the industry, a suit may be in order. If not, a well pressed tailored shirt, tie and pants are fine.

● Avoid loud prints and colours as well.

For Video Interviewing:

● No checks / patterns

● Look in a mirror – check hair/ teeth/ complexion

Stay away from clothes that are too fitted, too short, too baggy or too revealing. If you’re unsure of a clothing item,then don’t wear it. The safest bet is your best bet. But aside from the basics, there are other details that many miss out on. Before your interview, here’s a quick checklist:

1. Look out for wrinkles and missing buttons. Details like these ruin your image by making you look sloppy.

2. Pay attention to your nails. Everyone looks at hands, especially as you go in for a firm handshake, so keep your nails clean and trimmed. For ladies, ensure that your manicure or nail polish is not chipped.

3. Watch the shoes and accessories. Ensure that your shoes are not scuffed or dirty. Do not over accessorise as it can be distracting during an interview.

While you wish to leave a memorable impression, careful consideration should made as you don’t wish to be memorable for the wrong reasons. Remember that attire is an extension of oneself; aside from speaking well and being articulate, dressing is also a very important part of the interview process as it is especially apparent when you first walk through the door. Take extra care in what you wear and you just might be able to “clothes” the deal at your interview.

“Good clothes open all doors” – Thomas Fuller

Advice from… Jeff Bezos – co-founder of

“I will hazard a prediction. When you are 80 years old, and in a quiet moment of reflection narrating for only yourself the most personal version of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you have made. In the end, we are our choices. Build yourself a great story.”

5 Effective Work Habits for Graduates

When entering the working world as a fresh graduate, you’re eager and excited to showcase your new skills in order to prove yourself amongst your peers. Sometimes, it is easy to fall into the trap of wanting to do too much too soon and as a result, you may go over the top with what you show to your new employers and colleagues.

Whilst such eagerness can be a refreshing within the working environment, you might end up at a point where you become overwhelmed with tasks and assessments and end up failing, which is not the result you wanted. Below are 5 key traits for new you to practice and develop to transition into the working world.

1. Respect

Respect can appear to be easy to practice well, because it’s straightforward. However most individuals take it as a given. We have heard it often enough that we should be respectful to people, regardless of rank or designation. Ideally it is an act of reciprocity, when you are nice and respectful towards others, they would return in kind and help you when needed. This is especially important when entering a new organisation, seeing as you would never know what assistance you would require from your colleagues.

Being respectful to all your new colleagues is done out of common courtesy, especially when environments can become stressful and overwhelming. Being professional at all times increases the chances of individuals wanting you to work more with them and assist you when needed.

2. Diligence

Individuals often think that working hard is having to do as much work as possible. This is not true. In the situation of “working hard” there are contributing factors to keeping one working effectively. Self-motivation is a key component; as the old saying goes – if you’re standing still, you’re going backwards. The key to being diligent is to give each task 100%. You should also always look to improve on your skills, even as a graduate, and through due diligence, you will effectively learn what new skills you might need to acquire, or areas for improvement. Doing so helps to increase your value not only to yourself, but to your potential employers. (Doing homework and extra research on an area of focus also never hurts).

3. Focus

Sometimes when entering your new workplace, you are so eager to show everyone what you have learnt that you could overwhelm yourself by volunteering to assist with any task or project. Understanding what your job scope is and focusing on main tasks is vital. While you may think that you are showing initiative, promising to assist someone and then failing to complete the job due to lack of time or other external factors, will only reflect on you negatively. Maintaining a clear sense of professionalism and direction is important. Be aware of your limitations – focus on the current task at hand, deliver it and then move on to what else you can do next.

4. Positivity

Maintaining a strong level of positivity is not always an easy task, especially when faced with a challenge or under stress. For example, when your manager hands you a new project and expects you to work on it immediately, while you are in the midst of finishing another. It is not always easy to keep yourself balanced and often, you could fall into a slump which will probably manifest itself in your work and/ or appearance, causing others to be frustrated and annoyed.

Experiencing negative emotions being delivered in the form of criticism or rejection makes you stressed. Your body will shut down and your mind will switch to your conflict and defense mechanisms. As a result, you perceive situations as being worse than they really are. Being positive on the other hand, increases your communicative, collaborative and trust skills in others. Moreover, positive interactions increase expansive thought and actions.

On average, we need 3-5 positive interactions for every negative exchange that we have. In the workplace, have interactions and seek feedback about what is working effectively. As a new hire, people tend to be more understanding and forthcoming, and this can be used to your advantage, but only if you are proactive and remain positive.

5. Communicate

Having clear and open communication is effective in the process of helping to build strong working relationships with your colleagues. Strong communicators have the positive ability to give and receive criticism. It is always important to be able to express yourself whilst being able to listen to the ideas and opinions of others. Your appetite for learning should not diminish upon graduating – ask relevant questions. Ensure that when you are asking questions or seeking clarity with a problematic task that you offer what you think is a possible solution as well. If you see that something is not working, bring it to your manager’s attention but do not go ahead without having a series of well researched and analysed recommendations. This shows you’re proactive and you’re willing to learn even if the solution is not the right one. People are more likely to help you when they see that you have made a conscious effort, rather than wait to be spoon-fed answers.

It is clear that entering the working world is no easy task. However, consider these 5 points when taking that first step. Understand what is expected of you and learn to actively practice these points. There will be more along the way as you learn to adapt to your new company and work environment, but always be mindful when learning to practice a series of good work habits.

P.S. And always be on time.

“Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late” – William Shakespeare

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Advice from… Michael Dell – founder of Dell Inc.

“Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people … or find a different room. In professional circles it’s called networking. In organisations it’s called team building. And in life it’s called family, friends, and community. We are all gifts to each other, and my own growth as a leader has shown me again and again that the most rewarding experiences come from my relationships.”

Interview Tips for Personal Success

You have landed yourself an interview you are now faced with the issue of how to best prepare for one. What do you do? What are you going to expect during an interview? Where do you even begin?All of these questions can be rather unnerving, so here are a set of tips to help you ease those pre-interview jitters.

1. Fail to prepare = Prepare to fail

Preparation is key to any interview. It’s always good to plan ahead by ensuring that you know exactly where you are going and the time it takes to get to your interview destination. Ensure you arrive at least 15 minutes before, in order to minimise stress; interviewers are never impressed by late comers. It also helps to have a checklist – is there anything else to do on the day or is the company expecting you to bring anything with you? By being prepared, it ensures that you are ready for anything that might come your way.

2. Practice makes perfect

Preparing responses to interview questions is proven to help reduce anxiety levels. Your main aim is to deliver detailed and concise responses with your focus directed at specific examples and accomplishments. A useful technique to remembering this better is to develop your responses into a story form. Try not to memorise specific responses as they may come off as too predictable and rehearsed. Instead, formulate a flow to the questions you feel you will be asked and how you will answer them.

As your interview process begins, remember your success is dependent on the quality and delivery of your responses. Maintain your authenticity and always respond truthfully to your interview questions. Your goal is to get to the next stage, so be mindful of what you say. Showcase your skills, experiences and how well you would fit into the organisation. Provide strong examples of solutions to problem scenarios and showcase your accomplishments.

3. Do your research

Tying in with the first point, you should also prepare for your interview by doing thorough research on your potential employer. Researching your prospective employer highlights your interest to the interviewer and shows that you are prepared to invest your efforts in them. Avoid mere memorisation of facts about the company and form your own opinion. You can obtain such ideas and formulations by reading up on the company on their website, Googling them for news and visit their LinkedIn page. It is also important to find out who you are meeting; is it a line manager, someone from the HR department, or will there be more than one? Look up their backgrounds, their roles and what they do. Again, this can be done easily on LinkedIn.

4. Leave a great First Impression

Observations will be made not only on your verbal, but your non-verbal cues as well. Studies have shown that when meeting someone face to face, 93% of how you are judged is based on non-verbal data, such as your appearance and your body language. The remaining 7% is influenced by the words that you speak. Even during your initial encounter on the phone with the interviewer, over 70% of how you are perceived is based on your tone of voice and the 30% on your words. So it only makes sense that you ensure that you are attired properly. From the minute you walk into your interview, you are being assessed by your interviewer so always keep your interview answers positive. Communicate with a confident smile and a firm handshake or “hello” as they resonate positivity and show the interviewer that you are engaging actively with them.

5. Remember it is a two-way street

When in an interview, it is expected that you will be nervous and a little on edge. This is absolutely normal and you should not let it deter you. However, ensure that you are prepared to not only answer questions about the company, but to also ask questions back. A potential employer will want to know that you have researched their company (see point 3) so that you can discuss the basics and gradually move into current trends. Not only will this help add points to your interview, it will help you exude a confidence that will help with recall. Remember that the interviewer will be seeing several candidates besides yourself – someone who is interactive and communicative will stand out more as opposed to one who isn’t.

While the interview process will always be met with some nerves, there is absolutely no reason to be completely daunted by the prospect. Treat the interview process as a way of a company getting to know you, because that is essentially what it is. Be mindful of what you choose to say, maintain your authenticity, and remember; organisations may interview a lot of candidates, but you are equally important in the interview process as you do not want to join a company or take up a job that is not the right fit for you. Last but not least, good luck!

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” – Arthur Ashe

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