Seeing the TV footage of students getting their ‘A level and GCSE results reminded me that late summer into autumn is the time when workplaces fill with new workers. Well that is what used to happen but the market for interships and jobs is so competitive, how can these new workers give themselves a winning edge at interview? They need to distinguish themselves from the competition with something more than their results and they need to make a great impression in the first five seconds. So how about displaying great manners?
Good manners are not about table cutlery but showing respect to other people and to do that you must interact with them. In a society where we text rather than talk it is critical to understand how effective communication skills (verbal and written) can make a difference.
· take notice of the interviewer,
· listen to what they say and respond to it,
· don’t give one word answers,
· look people in the face not at a point above their head
In fact smiling is the crucial action – when you smile there is a psychological reaction that forces you to feel relaxed and confident.
Have you seen the BBC’s definition of Value For Money (VFM)?
It was £310,000 (an hourly rate of £45,000) for approximately seven hours of broadcasting for the Eurovision Song Contest. Now if you skip straight to the contest outcome, Englebert Humperdink coming second to last, then you have to question the notion of value.
However if you look at what the Corporation gained then the investment paid off. The contest’s viewing figures peaked at 9.6 million, the average for an episode of EastEnders is 8 million but EastEnders costs approximately £750,000 per half hour. So suddenly £45,000 per hour does seem a bargain. I must point out that the £310,000 is only the “entry fee” to the contest and doesn’t cover the travel and accommodation costs for production and presentation staff.
So, what constitutes VFM for you? As a general rule I think it is the quality of product or service received versus the cost paid. I had an inspiring example recently. Having watched a programme about the Roux brothers and their restaurants, my mother said she would love to eat at the Waterside Inn at Bray. I did a bit of research and found that the restaurant offered a lunchtime menu for £42 per head so I made a booking for Mum’s birthday and reasoned that even if we were sat in a dark corner at least she would have her dream fulfilled.
I should have known better. The Rouxs are defined by exemplary service and cuisine, what you are spending does not determine what you experience. For £42 the menu choices are limited but add generous sized amouse-bouche, the breads, the petits fours (the size and number made them petit sixes really) with coffee and that £42 begins to go a long way. When the staff realised that we were celebrating a birthday – they brought out a small “cake” with a candle. Yes the food was delicious and beautifully presented but it was the care and attention to detail that really delivered the VFM.
A week before the lunch I rang a couple of local hairdressers to see if I could get a basic wash and blow dry before heading off to Bray. One was “closed because of the Jubilee” which had finished a day earlier. The other was open and quoted £45, I squeaked that this was a bit expensive and could hear the rustle of a disinterested shrug down the phone.
A high street hairdresser costing more than a three Michelin starred restaurant? I know which one gets my VFM vote and, more importantly, which one I will visit again.
Did you hear about the ques for food and drink at Olympic events in Wembley?
The tills had not been set up to accept Visa cards but Visa are one of the sponsors and therefore the only card that can be used at Olympic events!
One of my VA colleagues and I were discussing this and agreed that LOCOG should have hired some VAs because, as an industry, we excel at looking ahead at business needs and paying attention to detail.
We are also great at problem solving – perhaps Lord Coe needs to keep a team of VAs on standby until the 12th of August?