In which there are seven weeks to go …

Seven is a number imbued with special significance. The Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, the Seven Sisters are just a few of my favourite sevens. Oh … there’s rugby sevens too.

But the seven I’ve been focusing on over the last day is the seven weeks I’ve got left before I have to seek my subsistence elsewhere.

Concentrates the mind that.

Still, I’ve been making progress on my cunning plans. Toward the end of last week my diary for the week ahead suddenly plumped up with several new events that have put a spring in my step.

Including … wait for it … an interview.

Don’t get too excited, it’s a preliminary one but I do feel a little like hanging out some flags.

So I took myself off to a quiet place yesterday – away from the blogosphere – to do some planning and preparation.

I’m pretty nervous. I’ve not had a job interview for quite some time. Is it still the same out there? I am hoping the normal rules of social interaction still apply. That nothing too weird has happened since I last had to explain why I thought I was the ideal person to perform a job of work.

Then there’s the question of thinking myself into the role for which I am being interviewed. What would my new employer get – if they were rash enough to offer me the job? How would I spend my time? What would my plan for the first days, weeks and months look like? How would I need to develop? What help would I need?

All big stuff. A lot to ponder on.

Then there’s the whole business of clothes. Business-like? Yes, but tie or no tie? Business casual perhaps? (Anyone actually know what that means?) Does the world really want another middle-aged bloke in a charcoal grey business suit?

Too late to do anything to advance my New Year diet so I’ll be a little above my ideal fighting weight. Lift not stairs then on arrival. You can overdo the ‘glow’ that comes from labouring up several flights of stairs. Perhaps a haircut though? With the hot towels? Yes, perhaps.

Time to visualise doing the perfect interview. Seeing and hearing giving perfect answers to the questions. Erudite. Confident. The candidate you just know you want to usher through to whatever happens next.

We’ll see.

Several colleagues have now found themselves perches in other organisations or are on their way to. It’s nice to feel a little back in step with them.

But, of course, there are other things I need to be doing. Today finds me en route to a financial planning seminar. What to do and what not to do with your money as a newly redundant public servant.

I caught a little bit of the Prime Minister’s interview on the Marr programme today. What was impressive was the confidence of the man in dealing with seemingly impossible questions and coming up with near-plausible explanations for all that is going on.

It was a masterclass. And, yes I was taking notes.

All help gratefully accepted.

About redundantpublicservant

A redundant UK public servant looking for work, sharing his experiences and providing a space for others to do the same.
This entry was posted in interviews, Job applications, job hunting, Redundancy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to In which there are seven weeks to go …

  1. Troodles says:

    Mr RPS, Glad to hear you have an interview, i’m excited for you. It really does give you a boost, I also had my first pre interview over the telephone on Friday afternoon for a project management role. Not easy as you get no physical clues as to how you did. However, if I can give you any advice on my experience was that they wanted examples, eg ‘ give me an example of when you have had to deal with a difficult customer and what did you do’ or they were testing your ability to reason ‘ in your opinion what is the most important ‘service delivery, cost and profit, client expectation, legal obligation’. Although much of the prep work I did not use I was able to think more quickly and clearly about examples and what I had done. The recruitment consultant was also very helpful before hand.

    I will find out this week if I go any further and I wish you luck with yours.

    PS. We share a family passion as here a Trdooles Towers we love rugby. My husband and I were in Paris for the last Rugby World Cup final and had been hoping to go to New Zealand this year, but redundancy has changed our plans. So will now be watching from the comfort of the sofa.

    • Dear Troodles,

      Great news about getting the interview. Not having the visual feedback must be hard. I’ll keep everything crossed for the result.

      Envy you the RWC memories. We still prefer to watch England from behind a sofa but for none of the reasons that we had in 2003.

      Thanks for the good wishes,


  2. AB says:

    Hi RPS,

    So glad you’ve got an interview!

    Here are my top tips (though I usually interview and am interviewed in the voluntary sector, so they may not be as applicable to the public sector…). Some sound pretty obvious, but always worth considering.

    Firstly, prepare your thoughts about each attribute they seek in the person spec. You need to think about key words you will use in an answer covering this area and examples you might use. Note that this isn’t preparing answers as such, but preparing the broad topic – revision, if you will.

    Then think about the structure of how you will answer questions at interview. I have four golden rules:
    1. Cover the basics – most questions will have a model answer and a scoring scheme to enable the panel to assess your answer. In many scoring schemes, if you don’t cover the basics, you can’t rise to the higher end of the scheme. So, for example, I always counsel people to note their experience in writing bog-standard press releases as well as high-level smoozing of journos for comms jobs; and their experience in day-to-day supervision and appraisal as well as complicated disciplinaries for management jobs. It is also important to be impressive and to say the insightful stuff, obviously – but the panel needs to understand that you are grounded.
    2. Give examples – every question should have an example. The example’s purpose is not to be interesting or funny: it is to demonstrate how you meet the requirements of the job, either directly or by way of analogy.
    3. Answer the question – one of the pitfalls that candidates often fall into is to hear key words in the question rather than the question as a whole. This can lead to them setting off at tangents and not answering the question, and doesn’t show good listening and comprehension skills! So, watch that you hear the whole question, take a beat’s pause to digest, and then set off on an answer to that question, building on your revision, giving your example, covering the basics and impressing them with your insight.
    4. And finally – be concise. When you get to the end of your answer, stop. No need to fill the time. A paragraph rather than a page answer is just fine.

    It’s also worth preparing your thoughts on the latest policy developments in your field and sector. There are a lot of questions being asked at interview about the Localism Bill at the moment! Do try to appreciate the point of view of the questioner, but equally it doesn’t usually matter if they agree with you, more that they can see you’re interesting and interested.

    Seriously good luck. My fingers are crossed for you. AB

  3. AB says:

    Oh, and one final point: say “I” rather than “we”. Yes, the achievement probably was “our” achievement rather than “my” achievement, but this is an interview about you and what you can do. Don’t feel chary about selling yourself and putting yourself in the best light (obviously staying the right side of the line). Use “we” when talking about the wider programmes you contributed to and the organisation you helped make more successful and efficient.


    • Mean Mr Mustard says:

      “…the organisation you helped make more successful and efficient”.

      Oh dear. My previous organisation has since lapsed into severe meltdown and deepening reputational failure. Though I had the foresight to get out in time, a prospective caring employer only sees a former Enron employee.

    • Dear AB,

      Thanks for these really helpful hints and tips. I’ll do my best to deploy their wisdom in action.

      It’s great to know there’s so many folks wishing others success in the labour market we’ve been reintroduced to.

      Thanks for your good wishes


  4. HR Gal says:

    All good points, and congrats on the interview! The ideal interview answer is between 30 seconds and 2 minutes – no rambling or you’ll switch off the interviewers. If they want more detail they will ask.

    Try to relax and be yourself – after all this is who they will get. No point pretending to be someone else or everyone will be miserable after you join!

    And finally, remember to be nice to the receptionist – and anyone else you come across – I -always- ask my receptionist for first impressions, and how someone treats them is often indicative of their general attitude to others!

    Good luck (and if in doubt be smarter rather than casualler – you’ll get a cue at the first interview for appropriate dress at the second – or ask the agency!).

    • HR Gal says:

      oh, and an obscure one for you – asking for tea or coffee on being offered it makes you look much more confident than the legions who only ever ask for water. or maybe I’m the only one who notices weird things like that?! 🙂

      • Dear HR Gal,

        Thanks for the tips. I will boldly ask for coffee in the most assertive manner I can muster!

        best wishes


      • James says:

        What a terrible judgement to make on someone – I do not drink tea or coffee, can’t stand the stuff and now you tell me you make a judgement on me because I asked for water. Just for clarity, what words should I use when I say I want water to ensure you don’t mark me down for what I like or don’t like to drink.

        My advice to RPS – beware HR who make judgements on you based on their own prejudice and ignorance and have nothing to do with your capability to do the job.

        If you don’t succeed this time, don’t lose heart as it probably had nothing to do with you or your suitability and everything to do with ridiculous and stupid HR people.

      • Dear James,

        Thanks for the good wishes.


  5. HR Gal says:


    It’s not a judgement in the slightest, merely an observation that a lot of people who would otherwise like a different drink meekly ask for water as they don’t want to put you out. It’s actually just in the way it’s communicated, not the beverage requested. A confident request for water is still a confident request! (and for the record water is and always has been my drink of choice…)

    • James says:

      How do you know they would like a different drink? Maybe they do indeed just not want to put you out – is that really a bad thing?

      If your only issue is meekness of tone, then what does the context or situation have to do with it?

      HR are meant to be independent, clear thinking arbiters of candidates’ abilities to meet the criteria for the role, you seem to be piling judgement upon judgement and focusing on a specific situation to reinforce a view you already hold about the drinks people ask for.

      Hope you never interview me!

      • HR Gal says:

        Ah, I think you’ve read into it far more than I intended. My flippancy gets me into trouble… apologies, and I will shut my trap now!

  6. Annette says:

    Very best of luck – I can’t really add to the excellent points made above!

  7. @DavidWhe says:

    Serious good luck to you RPS. The tips above are really useful and I don’t want to offer anything other than be yourself, confidently! Just from the contents of your blog – I’d give you a job!



  8. Cinderella says:

    well done on the interview. It’s a step forward and about getting that confidence back. you can do it!

  9. Betty M says:

    Good luck in the interview.
    Definitely wear a suit and tie unless you are absolutely sure the business all wear jeans particularly if you are going for something senior. It shows respect for the business and the interview process you’ve made an effort. I’d also get a haircut. Neither of these things matter at all in ability to do the job but there is no point giving them a reason to prefer anther candidate.
    Use their buzzwords from their ad/job spec. Again they may be ludicrous but they will be expecting them.
    Hope it goes well.

  10. Mean Mr Mustard says:

    I was kind of concerned with the thread degenerating there for a moment, then I realised it was only a storm in a teacup.

  11. Onelungamy says:

    An interview! Awesome. Best of luck, RPS

    Amy 🙂

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