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Tuesday, 31 July 2018

New Podcast: Dumbing down Resumes if you are overqualified; a good idea...or a mistake?

Not getting interviews for jobs, feel (or get told) you are overqualified for every role you apply for? Perhaps you should dumb down your Resume and hide or omit some qualifications, work experience or alter the titles of past positions? Is this a sensible decision? What are the risks? Is there an alternative?

I discuss this in my latest Podcast which, as ever, you can listen to on iTunes and here..


or here

Monday, 23 July 2018

Falls of Fame

I've never been very good with the names and faces of celebrities. That's a euphemism for hopeless.

Friends, colleagues, people I've met years before, no problem. 

But celebrities - there's a blockage.

Let me demonstrate.

Catching a train from Stratford-upon-Avon one morning recently my wife said to me quietly ‘Did you see where the kid with the freckles has gone?’

’No I didn't’ I replied, thinking that an odd question. My wife looked at me questioningly (as she often does) but said no more.

A few stops later she leaned forward and spoke ‘What I said was, did you see you were sitting next to Christopher Eccelston?’ Oh!

A few years ago, walking down the road towards the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon I saw a woman I recognised, probably from the school run. I said a breezy good morning, she replied in the same vein and I carried on walking thinking her name will come to me soon.
It did about an hour later. 
Dame Judie Dench.

A flight from the States many years ago. The English male sitting next to me was familiar though I couldn't place him (but, being British, wouldn't dare consider asking why he was familiar), chatted occasionally as you do and we received some splendid service from the British Airways staff. It was only on the drive home from Heathrow I realised who he was. Duncan Goodhew.

I was the host at a series of Peugeot car launches at sporting venues and events around the country. Remember the 405? I was at the Newmarket racecourse and had to give a short introductory speech to the guests then introduce the invited sporting celebrity. A man and woman made their way to me at the podium. ‘I’m Peter’ he said ‘and this is my wife. ‘Pleased to meet you’ I replied ‘we have a table seating plan, let me find out where you are sitting.’
‘I’m Peter Scudamore’ he said. ‘Champion jump jockey? Your sporting host?’ Covered in confusion I gabbled out an apology. Peter was the perfect gentleman. ‘No problem at all, why should you know who I am.’ Thank you Mr Scudamore. 

Next, a host at a prestigious club in London, again with Peugeot. Lunch and an inspirational speaker. 
Male arrives at reception desk
Me. ‘Good morning we have a table seating plan if I might just have your name.’
'Alan Lamb.'
'Sorry Mr Lamb just can't find your name on the seating plan please bear with me.'
'Alan Lamb. Cricketer. Your speaker.'
Shall we just say that Alan was not as gracious as Peter Scudamore at that juncture.




Saturday, 21 July 2018

To infinity and beyond

You know you are having a quiet day when you start reading about infinity and time paradoxes. 

We all smiled at Buzz Lightyear with his 'To infinity and beyond.' I knew, as many of us did, there could not be anything beyond infinity but, of course, as with so many things, I'm wrong.

It seems there are indeed an infinity of infinities and if you want to start boggling your brain follow this link for a starter. See what I mean?

Let this blog be the seat of new learning for us all.

Then I discovered Hilbert's paradox of the Grand Hotel. 

'Hilbert's paradox of the Grand Hotel is a thought experiment which illustrates a counterintuitive property of infinite sets. It is demonstrated that a fully occupied hotel with infinitely many rooms may still accommodate additional guests, even infinitely many of them, and that this process may be repeated infinitely often. The idea was introduced by David Hilbert in1924.'

With me so far?

'Consider a hypothetical hotel with a countably infinite number of rooms, all of which are occupied. Suppose a new guest arrives and wishes to be accommodated in the hotel. We can (simultaneously) move the guest currently in room 1 to room 2, the guest currently in room 2 to room 3, and so on, moving every guest from his current room n to room n+1. After this, room 1 is empty and the new guest can be moved into that room. By repeating this procedure, it is possible to make room for any finite number of new guests.' []

'Another thing that can be done with this imaginary hotel is to double the number of people inside, again when all the rooms are already full. This is done by asking each guest to multiply their room number by two and move to that room. (If their previous room number was n, this time they would move to room number 2n.) This would send the guest in room 1 to room 2, the guest in room 2 to room 4, the guest in room 3 to room 6, the guest in room 4 to room 8, and so on. After finishing, we find that all the rooms with the odd numbers are empty. Then we can put an infinite number of guests into these empty rooms. Now the number of guests in the hotel has been doubled without making the hotel bigger.' []

I bet that gives the Night Porter an added dimension to the role and what about the breakfast staff? How are they going to cope with an infinite number of breakfasts each morning? That breakfast buffet is going to be a disaster. Tips could be good though.

Apparently an infinite bus also arrives with an infinite amount of passengers wanting to stay the night. 

Where would you park an infinite bus?

So not Travel Lodge then.

This got me thinking about these different forms of infinity and time. It really is a quiet day as you can tell. I'm not a mathematician so we won't get into formulae, which is a relief to us all, but it seems to me that the philosophical issue of infinities and time needs further exploration.

I propose some new infinities or variations on perception of time and paradoxes;


  1. Waiting for a recruitment agency to reply after contacting you to say they have an urgent vacancy to fill and you fit the profile.
  2. Waiting for any response to any job application.
  3. Waiting for the formal rejection even though 20 weeks have passed since you had the  interview.
  4. Waiting in for a courier to deliver a package. 'Delivery will be made sometime between 0730 and a time convenient only to ourselves. Please be in or you will have to collect the parcel from our distribution centre 125km distant and open from 0310 to 0325 weekdays only during months that do not have a vowel in them.'
  5. Waiting to hear the outcome of an interview. 'We will contact you in 1n days.'
  6. Waiting for one of your children to answer an email you've sent them [note this is an incalculable amount of time approaching 'never.']
  7. Waiting for a politician giving a straight answer to a perfectly reasonable question from a journalist.
  8. The train journey to my nearest city stopping at every local stop

  1. A journey to a holiday destination always seems to take longer than the journey home.
  2. The impossibly short time between a courier knocking at the door, you running to open the door only to find the courier has left the drive, the kerb edge, the entire road, yet still managed to leave a 'sorry you we missed you card.'
  3. The impossibly short time a youth leaves when walking, staring at their smart phone, looking up and then swerving to avoid you as you walk towards them.
  4. The time between getting toothache and managing to book an appointment with the dentist expands in exact proportion to the pain experienced.
  5. The time it takes to get through to a call centre agent when your mobile phone has a technical problem caused by them. 
  6. The time it takes to explain to a mobile call centre agent that you have a) turned the phone off and on again already b) taken the SIM card out, stared at it then put it back in c) yes the software is up to date d) it's an iPhone, you can't alter the APN settings but you still can't receive phone calls. 

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

New podcast. A cautionary tale; why you shouldn't apply for jobs you do not have the skills for.

This is what happens when you have too much time on your hand, it's a rainy day and you have no other job applications in the pipeline - I should not have even started on this application process but there was the advert on a daily jobs feed, there was nothing else going I completely ignored my inner voice asking 'what are you actually doing here just stop, this is pointless?' Take heed, you should listen to the voice, it makes sense. Further take heed, as I so clearly did not, that you can waste a lot of time and effort on senseless tasks. I know that sounds much like going to work anyway but just saying...

Hear what happens next and don't make my mistakes.

Find the podcast on Sticher, iTunes, Soundcloud and Tune In radio

Monday, 9 July 2018

Live and let die.

I had an interview recently, the first in a long time. 

For the position of store manager. 

I have no retail experience though, oddly, I do get mistaken from time to time for a member of staff in department stores and asked for shop directions and clothing advice. Perhaps its my destiny?

An interesting recruitment journey. A lengthy recruitment journey. That is for the process initially rather then the drive there. For the third stage of the process there was actually a there, there

The organisation, a large multinational grocery chain, has a very slick on-line recruitment process. 

Stage 1.
Series of multiple choice questions. 

Stage 2
Record a video interview at home answering up 9 questions to camera. 
This is not something I’ve tried before but nothing to lose, let's give it a go. I can tell you 1) their process worked and 2) it's not that easy with just 30 seconds to think up a reply and then a further 30 to 45 seconds to answer. My inner voice is, by this time, asking 'is there actually any point in me saying anything about the sense in you pursuing this' but I was intrigued so ignored the voice...and ploughed on. 

It’s a very odd experience. My top half is wearing a shirt and tie and bottom half (off camera) wearing shorts. I spent a reasonable time making sure there was nothing inappropriate in the background as, once its recorded, there’s no opportunity to change the content. I mean we don't want my kid's Gonk collection being viewed on a large screen in Grocery world HQ do we?

Anyway I passed that test, surprising even myself. And so to the actual interview. Or group assessment.

Stage 3
Group assessment. This was held at a large distribution hub. We will come back to that shortly.

Now wait up, I hear you say. We’ve been listening to your podcasts and now know a little about you. But Grocery? Not a sector I believe you have any familiarity with though I understand you may have bought frozen peas, milk and loaves of bread from time to time. What are you doing? Have you totally lost the plot?

You are quite right. I buy groceries, I have them delivered even, but I'd barely even been in this large store even though they have hundreds of branches across Europe

You see this is what happens when you have too much time on your hand, it's a rainy day and you have no other job applications in the pipeline - I should not have even started on this process but there was the advert on a daily jobs feed, there was nothing else going I completely ignored my inner voice asking 'what are you actually doing here just stop, this is pointless?' Take heed, you should listen to the voice, it makes sense. Further take heed, as I so clearly did not, that you can waste a lot of time and effort on senseless tasks. I know that sounds much like going to work anyway but just saying...

There are a few things that make ice run down my spine when it comes to job hunting;

  • Role play in interviews
  • Group assessments

I arrived at the location and realised that 7 years working in the public sector has made me forget that many organisations actually have working air conditioning and not elderly fans wheezing away barely moving on decrepit desks, they have modern, brightly painted clean offices, technology and software actually less than 20 years old and desks that don't need you to jamb paper under the legs to stop them wobbling.  They have large modern carparks with electric charging points for cars. Utter bliss. Except that as soon as I got there I entered, well the offices of course and made my way to reception, but also the 'what the hell am I doing here, flee now don't look back?' zone. Out of my comfort zone? I should say. Jumping off the cliffs of Acapulco out-of-my-comfort-zone. Do you remember the song in Sesame Street 'One of these things is not like the others'? Me. In that group assessment conference room.

All credit though to the organisation for inviting me along - after all they'd seen the video so they could figure out my age but I was at least 25 years older than any other candidate who all came from the grocery sector. When I was asked where I'd last worked there was a clear 'Say what' look on their faces when I told them. It was quite a lot different from groceries shall we say. The assessor also had the look that said 'Must talk to HR about why he is here. Maybe they just wanted to see how how I handled this outlier.'

The assessment task
A group of people had become trapped underground. Water is rising. Only one can escape at a time. Worst case, one escapes, all others die. Best case one dies all others escape. Rank the order of escape by yourself, discuss with two other attendees then agree on a compromise. Of course all the 'personalities' had flaws so you had to decide on an ideology or logic (which is based on wild assumptions) about, for example, future contribution to society or lack of contribution so far. Or something else. My logic was send the one least likely to panic and bring back help and save all (think Thailand). However he had a drink problem apparently so my two colleagues thought that he should be doomed to a watery snuffing out of existence. Redemption was not an factor my compadres were willing to consider.

Of course there is no right answer, just a least worse case which you then, as a small group, have to justify. Of course you can't really as it's based instantly on people's prejudices and reading far too much into the whole thing. Which promptly bores me. It did give me a terrifying glimpse into people's immediate callousness when deciding who lives. Clue - don't be old and get trapped in a cave with grocers.

During assessments in the past, I’ve made rafts out of bits of string, cans and plastic bottles, dived through murky tunnels sharing oxygen cylinders, crossed bottomless chasms with planks and bits of rope and, frankly, can't really understand what an organisation gets out of this apart from watching Alpha males (and one female) set their egos at one another. Which probably explains why I was not successful. And there was a maths test afterwards. Not my strong suit without a calculator but as 50% of the questions involved an arcane process to do with 'chiller pallets' which may mean something to them but sounded like a dinner party course to me and therefore left me cold - excuse the pun. I mean not a clue.

We were invited to ask questions at the end by our smooth, unnaturally tanned male compere who professed undying love to the organisation. I called him Captain Corporate. In my head.
This prompted a flurry of questions in what seemed to be a foreign language.
Does the lettuce have a full pano scan?
Are pallet chillers fully RFID enabled and back hauled to the ERP on a Gondola basis or is it G5?
Does the scree post have a demountable Schting coupling or is it the EU version?
Do you squizz at all? I think that was a grocery question and not personal.

I might have made all of those up but that’s what it sounded like to me. 

I’m sure Captain Corporate had taken a further look at me and thought ‘Must definitely pay a second visit to HR to check their process for selecting candidates and try to keep the obvious non-grocers away. Especially if they have no idea what a lettuce pano scan is. I mean everyone knows that…’

Naturally I was not invited back but I couldn’t really see myself as a grocer - money was ostensibly good, but a 50 hour week plus weekend working and a promise of total hell at Christmas and other notable public holidays. And if you divide 50 hours by the salary proposed then it isn’t such great pay after all. And I could do that sum without a calculator.

I did consider asking at reception, as I hurriedly left at the end, for some frozen peas and a couple of bottles of wine to see how they would handle it and if they had a bar code scanner but decided not to. 

This was a world that was not mine, could not be mine. I did take a job many years back, after one redundancy, which involved a 180 mile four hour daily commute let alone the working day. I loathed it (and it was relevant to what I'd been doing before) but needed the money. I had to reintroduce myself to the family every Saturday morning. I don't need the money quite so much now so I'm far less impelled to take jobs which are so not me. This fell into that category. Bigly.

On the basis that if you keep doing the same thing you keep getting the same answer I’ve decided to lower the bar even further. Actually it’s so low now I can step over it barely raising a foot. There is a very splendid fine food shop in town, offering to train one as a fine food sales person. No, don’t laugh Gromit. I have sent them my totally inappropriate CV and said maybe we should have a conversation as I might be interested. Thanks to spellcheck and my inadvertent inattention it suggests we have a 'conversion' which is a completely different sort of meeting. If I have to do a retail type job then there might as well be some skill involved. Is my view. 

However that leaves me with the conundrum that I am still unemployed after  7 months.

The purpose of a CV is to get a job.
The purpose of an interview is to get a job offer.
Then you can make the choice whether to accept or not.
Still not there yet.
No job offer to consider.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Staying HOPEFUL. The latest episode of The Redundancy Podcast.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about job searching it’s that you must never, ever give up. You must always travel in hope, keep your mojo fired up and that’s why I suggest using my mnemonic HOPEFUL, based on my podcasts so far, as a strategy for getting back to work.

You can listen to the latest episode here (and you know you want to):

Or here;

Or here on iTunes;

Or here (there's now no excuse)

The podcast is researched, written and produced entirely by me. I’d like it to be a lot less of a monologue, much more of a conversation and would love contributions from anyone involved in employment for older workers. Are you an academic, in the recruitment industry, been affected, have strong opinions you want to articulate, like to be interviewed, help with research or could suggest topics for me to consider? If so then please get in contact. I’d also be very happy to have a co-host. 

You never write, you never call.