Sunday, 16 September 2012

My 60 Second Interview

I was recently impressed with a new development on one of my favourite professional networking sites. They'd added a section entitled 60 Second Interview, with set questions which you've to answer as instictively and quickly as possible; (I'm a slow typer so it took me a bit longer than 60 seconds but my answers were the ones that came to mind straight away).

Before I get into why I think this is an interesting thing, here are my answers:

What was your first job? 

I worked as a Sales Assistant in a chemist called Belsize Pharmacy in Belsize Park, North West London, it's gone now and the last time I looked it was a branch of Boots.

Who's influenced your career most (and why)? 

I won't name names but anyone who knows me relatively well won't have a hard time figuring out who the individual is. The answer is one particular CEO who's grown a small firm into a medium sized global business through his single-mindedness, raw energy and focus. He might not be the easiest person to work for at times but he gets great performances out of people purely because he demands them and they in turn rise to the challenge. He's solely responsible for creating a culture of hard-work and uncompromising results which everyone subscribes to in his company.

What's the best piece of advice you could give someone? 

Be accountable. Try and foster the attitude that 'the buck stops here' regardless of whether you like 'the buck' or not. There's no point blaming other people or thinking you can't do something; really embrace that in your life, even when it seems like a tough thing to do and you'll give yourself the best chance at getting what you want out of life.

And surround yourself with positive people, work hard, have fun, finish what you start, take care of your health.

What's the skill you'd most like to have? 

I'd love to be a great, natural orator like Bill Clinton who can ad-lib his way through his speeches with apparent ease!

What's on your desk? 

My laptop, a phone... and I think that's it, not very interesting I'm afraid.

What's your favourite holiday destination? 

I love England for our history, but for beaches and turquoise sea, the Bahamas any day!

What car do you drive? 

Right now I have a Mini Cooper SD, in Alpine White (which is more ivory than white), with black roof, door mirrors and the classic stripes on the bonnet. She's (I call all my cars 'she') got great acceleration and the fuel consumption isn't too bad (but I still pine for a Lotus Esprit Sport 350 in white).

What are you passionate about? 

This could be a long list but it's probably summed up best as: live the best life that you can, make the most of yourself and your opportunities, work hard, have fun, value other people, spend your money, buy nice things, earn more money, be in control of your life.

Who's your business or personal hero/heroine? 

In terms of business, probably Jim Rohn though there are others; I believe Covey had a lot of good things to say, Will Smith for his positive outlook and work ethic.

What would be your perfect day away form work? 

Well I'd have my Lotus Esprit Sport 350 parked outside, it'd be a sunny day, perfect driving weather! Off to the countryside with a close friend, the speed cameras have taken the day off, long walk, pub lunch, scintillating conversation, a few drinks and in the evening a meal in a nice restaurant with friends to round it all off.

What's your greatest business achievement? 

Together with three others I founded a City sales team in one of my old companies where we were entering a difficult market with no track-record, no clients and strong competition. Within a year, through lots of hard work, judicious networking and leveraging everything humanly possible we'd built a £20m business, displaced numerous incumbents and won some of the most prestigious clients in the City.

What's your greatest personal achievement? 

Fun wise I reckon it has to be winning fastest lap time at a track day at Brands Hatch up against an all male contingent, haha :-) A more serious answer would be I think I've done pretty well despite having not had much of an education - but for all that, it's only really about what comes next, I'm more interested in what I'm going to do tomorrow and the day after that.

What's your favourite gadget? 

I'm not a gadget person and have never owned an 'I' anything... I may break this trend with the new IPhone V however. :-)

What's your favourite quote or motto? 

"Don't wish it was easier. Wish you were better." Jim Rohn

What's the best/worst quality in a leader? 

Well for me personally I need to work for someone who's competent, has a work ethic that I admire and good man-managment skills that inspire me to do my best work.

What would you choose as your last meal? 

I know this is a favourite question but food wouldn't really be on my mind at that moment!

What was the worst piece of advice you've been given? 

"Be sensible, you can do that another time."

The circumstances were that it was a risky but potentially very profitable thing I was contemplating doing. I didn't take the advice and it did pay off but even if it hadn't I wouldn't regret the decision I made.

What was your best meeting ever (and why)? 

Prior to an important meeting regarding a key piece of business with a key influencer, I'd predicted that despite my company being able to deliver real business value to the end-client, this person would actively try to make my company lose as relations were strained between our organisations at that time. Plus he had the authority and power to do just that. However my hunch was that he wouldn't want to be seen as overt about this so this meeting was all about neutralising that threat, which my CEO and I did. The 'how' part doesn't matter but a while later, after relations had been restored and the end customer was happy, the person in question volunteered to me that he had considered blocking our bid.

What's your favourite pastime/relaxation activity? 

Being with close friends, the activity is secondary.

What's your favourite music/musician?

Michael Jackson :-)

What's your all time favourite book (and why)? 

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, one of the few books I'm happy to read again and again. It's beautifully written, well drawn characters, evocative images, trials and tribulations, history - it's got it all.

What's the thing you hate the most? 

That's easy; losing.

What did you want to be as a child? 

A make-up artist or a vet!

What can't you live without? 

My lap-top!

Name one person you'd like to have dinner with (and why)? 

Bill Clinton - to see what's behind all that natural charisma and eloquence!

Tell us about a turning point in your career 

I suppose the moment I realised I wanted to be a sales-person for a living; for me that happened when I was young and in my first job - not exactly a turning point in my career as you can hardly call working in a chemist a career, but it was a pivotal moment nonetheless.

What was your worst job? 

I stacked shelves in a supermarket as a part time job when I was at school; and the worst part of that job was putting the milk on the shelves as some of the cartons always leaked a bit. It was always a very smelly, messy job that everyone disliked doing.

What's in your briefcase/handbag? 

I'm a girl and I like to be prepared, so suffice to say that my handbag is a mysterious place that no man and only another female would understand. :-)

What's the best thing about your job? 

Being able to believe in what I sell. I like working for a company that delivers on its' promises and has something a little bit different than everyone else out there. I work in a competitive market, over saturated with not much to tell between all the different firms so it's good to know you can differentiate yourselves from your competitors.

If you weren't in your current role, what would you be doing? 

It wouldn't be much different to what I'm doing; I'm a career B2B sales professional now and that's all I want to do; who I do it for is the only thing that would change.

What was your worst mistake (and what did you learn)? 

Not studying hard enough at school. I have plenty of reasons why I didn't, attending seven secondary schools was one but I would've loved to go to University.

What's the question you'd most like to have been asked (and why)? 

What are you most afraid of? The 'why' part is that I think it's potentially quite revealing and I'd like to know other people's answers.

My answer would be 'fear itself', only because I've learned time and time again that your mind has an unlimited capacity for negative imaginings which when put to the test are seldom borne out in reality.

My Thoughts

That was the interview and it was courtesy of the website which pitches itself as the "portal to bring your entire professional internet presence together in one place" (you can check mine out here). What I think professional networking sites and the like sometimes lack is a personal touch, and this interview invites a response which seeks opinion, fears, potential prejudices, pride - you name it; in short the emotional content, character and personality so often lacking in other professional portals. I think they've done a great job and hope you check it out and let me know what you think in the comments below.