July 10, 2015
We’re all familiar with the typical interview jargon, questions like “tell me about yourself” and “what’s your five year plan?” that you’re almost guaranteed to be asked in any interview you attend. Preparation is key so I’d expect every candidate to prepare answers for these sorts of questions, but you’d be surprised at how many people trip up here because they clearly haven’t thought long enough about a strategic, informative and concise answer.
Interviews are all about getting to know your character and deciding if you’re a good fit for the business. Nine times out of ten, the interviewer will know if they’re going to hire you the moment you walk out of the room so every minute should be treated like a pitch, like you’re selling yourself in front of a few dragons.
Never one to follow the crowd, through my 30 years’ experience interviewing candidates I’ve fashioned my very own set of questions designed to throw them off course and get down to the nitty gritty – to see a little of the real McCoy, not just your interview alter ego.
My questions are actually interview jargon in disguise but I always end up receiving a wealth of knowledge because you’re not expecting it, you have to prepare right there and then so your responses are true and unrehearsed.
If I called your manager and asked what one thing irritated them about you, what would they say?
This question will instantly throw a candidate off because they probably haven’t thought about it before. In reality, it’s just another way of asking what your biggest weakness is, a question you will definitely be familiar with.
The secret to answering this type of question is making it relevant and relative to the role you’re interviewing for. For example, if you were interviewing for a role as a PA and you told me that your old boss hated how messy your desk could get, that’s not going to make a good impression, A. because as a PA you need to be organised and B. because a cluttered desk could mean things get missed. If you’re asked this question try and think of a positive you can mask as a negative, something that adds value.
For example instead of having a messy desk, how about saying that your previous employer found it really annoying how much of a stickler for time keeping you were and you’d always be on their case about it. As a PA, this is exactly what I need so although being constantly reminded can be irritating, it will show me you have what it takes to keep me in line.
What was your claim to fame in your previous role?
AKA what are your strengths? Here I want to know what you excelled at in your previous role; what would your previous colleagues tell me you were known for? Give me something character building. For example, if you told me you were known for organising the best staff social events, immediately I would think you are fun to work with, a good team player and you understand the importance of culture in the workplace.
Or perhaps you’re best known for putting in the hours and staying behind at work to complete a task. If so, this shows me you’re committed to delivering the best possible work and you’re not scared to get stuck in and go over and above what’s expected.
If you had a magic wand and could have any job, what would it be?
This is one of my favourites, I use it in every interview and I like it because I’m always surprised by the reaction it receives. The general rule for this question is always answer with something in the same or similar industry or role you’re applying for. You’d be surprised how many people forget they’re in an interview when I ask this question – some of the answers I’ve had are priceless! Feel free to try something a little witty (depending on the interviewer) but in most cases, the best thing is to always make it relevant or at least give a good reason why you chose this particular career path. Employers don’t like the thought of candidates applying for roles they’re not passionate about so if you can’t illustrate this, you’re immediately at a disadvantage. Take this one for example, I was interviewing for a finance manager once who told me they’d like to be a professional wrestler. That’s great I thought, but how is that going to positively impact the business’ finances?
Don’t make the same mistake, your interviewer is looking for reasons to hire you, I’m not sure wrestling will really help you clinch the deal.
If you’re offered this job how could you transform the role?
Employers are looking for more than just somebody to ‘do the role’ – they want you to bring something exciting and new to their team, something that makes you stand out from the crowd. I only recruit the best and the people I do recruit always communicate how they intend on understanding, mastering and improving the role. I want candidates who show ambition, drive, innovative thinking and above all, passion – if you don’t do that, I’m wasting my time.
You’ve got 2 minutes left to ask me anything you like. What’s it going to be?
This is the ultimate killer question because it could be the difference between securing the role or not. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; it is absolutely essential to say yes and ask some worthwhile, researched questions.
If you don’t ask any questions, this illustrates that you don’t want to know anything else about the business and you’re not interested enough to carry on the conversation. Think about what you want to ask and use it to your advantage. For example, if you know the business has just launched a new product, show you’ve done your research – tell them and ask about it. These last few minutes is your closer, use this time to sell yourself and why you’re the perfect person for the role.
If you’re feeling particularly brave, ask straight out what they thought of you and if they have any reservations about hiring you. This way, you can gauge their reaction and they will like your spunky attitude.
“We were delighted with the services that Bluebox offered us. Bluebox’s attention to detail through their Diamond Programme ensured that we were well prepared for when the business was taken to market and that the sale process itself was managed expertly.
We challenged Bluebox with finding the right strategic buyer and thereafter negotiating a deal that met our requirements. In helping initially to identify and to secure the deal with Mountville Mills they accomplished just that. Communication throughout was excellent and professional, managing each stage of the process. I would have no hesitation in recommending Bluebox to any corporate shareholder or private business owner looking to divest their business.”
Richard Millward, Former Client
“We were delighted with the services that Bluebox offered us. Bluebox were challenged with finding us the right strategic investor and, thereafter, negotiating a deal that met our complex requirements. In identifying and securing the deal with LGC they have done exactly that. The process itself was efficient and smooth, largely due to the excellent communication from the Bluebox team, who also demonstrated excellent experience at managing a very engaging auction process. I would be delighted to recommend Bluebox to any corporate shareholder or private business owner looking to divest a business.”
Helen Dickinson, Former Client
It has been a real privilege working with the team at Bluebox over this last year or so. Bluebox’s attention to detail ensured that we were well prepared for when the business was taken to market and the sale process itself was managed expertly. Starting the process, I had no idea exactly what this would entail and the volume of work that has been produced by everyone and the result reached today is nothing short of brilliant.
Hugh Morris, Former Client
We are delighted with the services that Bluebox was able to offer. They showed an intimate knowledge of a deal cycle, managed a tight auction process and were highly communicative from the start. I would happily recommend Paul and his team to business owners contemplating a sale of their business in the next 24 months. Experience is key and this has paid off for us.
Laurence Seward, Former Client
Aligning ourselves early with Bluebox, and entrusting the team to guide us through their process proved to be a highly rewarding investment from all viewpoints. Bluebox’s support significantly enhanced both the value of our business and its ‘saleability’. I would highly recommend Bluebox to business owners contemplating an exit in the next two years. The earlier the engagement the better so far as I am concerned.
Mike Minett, Former Client
We began working with Bluebox in early 2015 through their Blue Diamond Programme, as we were contemplating an exit. We found that the process focussed our minds on the key areas of growth in the business, and prepared us well for the inevitable rigours of due diligence. During the sale process itself, the advice offered by the Bluebox team was invaluable. We found them to be helpful, straightforward and honest.
David Stokes, Former Client
When selecting our adviser, it was extremely important that they had access to international buyers and were experienced in cross-border M&A. The team at Bluebox proved to be invaluable by identifying a strategic acquirer from America who was not known to us and by negotiating an excellent deal for all parties. I was also impressed with the process management from Bluebox, which ensured that the deal was closed in a timely fashion.
Jeff Weinstein, Former Client
When I first engaged with Bluebox, I was hesitant as to the benefits of using an advisor to firstly, find a buyer for my business and secondly, to get a deal over the line. However, now that the deal has completed with KPM, I can honestly say that the finer negotiation points handled by Bluebox and their overall management of this process has been nothing short of first class. I would be delighted to recommend Bluebox’s services to any entrepreneur contemplating the sale of their business.
Bill Ballard, Former Client
Bluebox worked closely with us over the following six months and helped us to implement some key initiatives which made InferMed a more attractive acquisition target. Once we decided to sell the business, the Bluebox team were very diligent in ensuring that no stone was left unturned. They negotiated expertly on our behalf to ensure we got the best deal possible.
Alan Montgomery, Former Client
The pre-sale planning programme that we signed up for with Bluebox made us develop our strategies and focus on the bigger picture. It proved to be a very rewarding investment from all viewpoints and significantly enhanced both the value of our business and its ‘saleability’. I would highly recommend Bluebox to business owners contemplating an exit in the next two years.
Nigel Parsons, Former Client
I have experienced first hand the value that can be created through highly structured pre-sale planning. It amazes me that it is not something that everyone does. It is so disappointing to see around 90% of transactions collapse before they complete and pre-sale planning will not only enhance your price, but also significantly enhance your chance of a closed deal.
James Caan, Investor
We worked incredibly closely with our advisers who provided expert knowledge of the sale process with which we were not familiar. We were truly delighted with the results.
Marten Nielson, Former Client
We appointed advisers to manage the sales process after we had received a number of unsolicited approaches for the business. I was incredibly impressed by the immense value that could be created by expertly negotiating with a group of already interested parties.
Paul Duckworth, Former Client
I was delighted with the service that the team offered and their real attention to detail. The deal was not without its complexities and it was reassuring to have such experienced advisers assisting me throughout the negotiations.
Peter Bennett, Former Client
Truly delighted with the way my sale process was managed. The fact that the team I worked with achieved such a great multiple is testament to their experience and their ability to create some true competitive tension.
James Averdieck, Gü, Former Client
The team at Bluebox provided invaluable support in negotiating this complex transaction. Their access to international purchasers, and exceptional knowledge of cross border M&A ensured that the deal was concluded efficiently, achieving a highly successful outcome for us all.
Jon Parslow, Former Client
“We selected Bluebox after a fairly long round of evaluating potential advisors because of their scientific, yet challenging approach to maximising value. During our initial meetings they showed us how far short of “ready” we were and consequently we completed more preparation in the early stages which meant we were equipped for what was to come. We were delighted with our choice of Corporate Finance partner. I do not hesitate in recommending Bluebox for any SME to consider.”
Simon English, Former Client
Bluebox provided invaluable advice in managing the negotiations with incoming investors. Their skills in handling these discussions were evident from the outset and the vital interface that they provided between the incumbent team and the incoming investors was truly beneficial.
Henry Braham, Former Client
Bluebox have a professional, dynamic and experienced team that is greatly assisting me with my focus on my exit within the next 24 months. Their structured approach is very refreshing and their ‘Blue Diamond’ programme is adding immense value.
Matt Evans, Former Client
The team at Bluebox provided me with a seamless service from the start of the engagement until our deal was completed. Attention to detail was commendable and their understanding of corporate M&A very impressive. I could not recommend them highly enough.
Victor Lewis, Former client
Having tried to sell my business previously – and failed – I was only too aware of the importance of pre-sale planning. This is a talented team offering a service that most people find out about, but too late.
Simon Hulme, Former Client
Bluebox are a quality outfit. Their access to International acquirers and relationships with the highest quality domestic investors was impressive. My shareholders and I received excellent service from start to finish and it was refreshing to be dealing with a senior team throughout the sale exercise.
Michael Clapper, Former Client
I cannot recommend the team at Bluebox highly enough. Their expert guidance throughout the entire sale exercise resulted in my shareholders securing an excellent deal with which the entire team was delighted.
Mark Rodol, Former Client
I’m really pleased with the service Bluebox provided. The team demonstrated excellent knowledge of the process to follow and led negotiations for the hospital in a way that allowed us to ensure we received appropriate value whilst focusing on reputational risk. Communication and service were of a very high standard.
Steven Davies, Former Client
With Bluebox’s expert advice we were able to find the right buyer that will benefit our business strategically. We’re delighted with the outcome and look forward to starting our new chapter
Clive Hillier, Former Client
The advice offered by the Bluebox team throughout the process was invaluable to the shareholders. We strongly believe that participating in Bluebox’s pre-sale planning programme was a significant driver behind the success of the deal. Their project management and negotiation skills throughout the sale process itself resulted in an exceptional deal being delivered to all parties involved.
Harpal Singh, Former Client
I chose Bluebox because they were the only CFA we considered who were a real ‘solution sales’ organisation rather than a team of accountants and/or ex-bankers! Selling a business is a solution sell and therefore a sell-side CFA requires this skill at its core.
Jeremy Harford, Former Client
Bluebox were a full solution in every respect. As an example, I never spoke with any of the potential or actual buyers directly. This separation allowed Bluebox to do what they do best which is to sell companies for the best price and on the most favourable terms.
Jeremy Harford, Former Client