Tag Archives: Interview Advice

How Far IS a Reasonable Commute?

How Far IS a Reasonable Commute? or Why Couldn’t Joe Just Check The Map?

How Far IS a Reasonable Commute

How far you commute to work can often depend on a number of factors. The short answer is it’s how far YOU deem to be a reasonable daily commute.

Where are the jobs? How much do they pay? Can you afford to get there? Above all it’s up to you but sometimes an experienced Recruitment Consultant can have a role to play.

This is how I started taking more interest in asking just that question (develops quizzical look, stares up at the ceiling and thinks back to a specific point in time).

I had a client in the town of Poole in Dorset that were leaders in the design and manufacture of specialist industrial machinery.

These machines were used in the manufacturing process of sectors like automotive, petrochemical, and food and were actually an impressive part of the production method.

The company had asked me to find a contract engineer to carry out a professional role in the offices, from memory it was something like a production engineer or production-planning engineer, I can’t remember now.

I duly searched and found someone (we’ll call him Joe) that met all of the criteria given to me by the client and “Joe” at the time was very keen on the role.

Being out of work he was looking for an opportunity that would ensure continued employment and this was something that he wanted to, in his words, “go and have a look at”.

I didn’t focus on the fact, or even bother about, how he would get there, or even how long it would take.

In retrospect, and when I thought about it, I suppose I should have been a bit concerned that this particular candidate as he lived in Andover.

Note: Just to set the scene this was BEFORE Sat Navs, Google Maps, and Mobile Phones, but AFTER Road Atlases.

I told Joe about the role, I told him where the work was; the company, the rates etc. and he said he was interested. Who was I to judge? (I now have a very firm opinion on who I am to judge.)

On the day of the interview I was busy resourcing for a large contract we had but I’d checked the night before and Joe said “everything was OK” he knew where and when his interview was scheduled for and, “he’d be fine”.

I called the client later on that afternoon to get feedback on Joes meeting with him.

Things hadn’t gone well.

It seems that Joe had experienced a particularly difficult journey. He’d had some trouble finding the place. It’d taken a lot longer than he’d expected. And he was more than flustered when he arrived in reception.

Joe was pretty fed up. Joe was so fed up that he announced (loudly) to anyone who cared to listen and was in earshot that there was “no way I’m going to do that F****ng Journey every day”. I’m told that this was followed by some kind of look for acceptance on that statement by anyone who he could make eye contact with.

Sadly, my client at the time happened to be showing out some potential customers. He was right at the handshake, “goodbye”, and “thanks for coming” stage of a very successful visit.

Understandably he was not impressed.

As a client I’d dealt with him for a long time.

He prided himself on his “straight talking approach” and was always very efficient to get to the point, albeit in an often brutal manner.

Paul (as that was his name) carried out a brief interview in reception, and suggested that if this was how Joe felt then it would be a waste of both their times to carry on the discussion any further, or words to that effect.

Afterwards we spoke, and Paul proudly used some more of his straight talking approach to explain his dissatisfaction.

Asking questions about the distance a potential candidate would consider to be a reasonable daily commute, or historically how far they’ve travelled to work, are often now a regular feature of my interviewing process.

My Advice

If you’re trying to work out what a reasonable daily commute is, have a look at something like Google Maps to establish your route and the traffic you’re likely to encounter (if you use Google’s Street View you could practically drive the route from the comfort of your own home). If it’s practical make a trial run at the times you would need to travel to arrive in good time.

If you’re going to use public transport, research your options and take into account any walking to or from train stations or bus stops, as well as the fares you’ll need to pay.

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How Not To Pitch For A Job

How Not To Pitch For A Job or How One Job Applicant Got It So Wrong

How Not To Pitch For A Job

How Not To Pitch For A Job

You only get one chance to make a first impression, and this is true in my profession as well.

I speak to hundreds of candidates every month and as soon as the conversation begins, I’m working out which one of the roles and companies I deal with you’re going to suit best.

The Wrong Way

“It’s not that I want to do it, it’s that I can do it.”

This is what the applicant on the phone was telling me.

He’d applied for a job that he was more than capable of doing, but as he’d just said “he didn’t really want to do it”.

This wasn’t doing it for me!

I’d started the conversation by asking about his current job, but he didn’t want to have that conversation.

“I know who the company is, they’re just down the road from me.”

I tried to get the conversation back on track by asking him why he’d applied for the position, but to be honest I had a lot of work to do to get excited about him as a candidate now.

It turned out he was unhappy with the insecurity in his current role and these are his words not mine, the “impending demise of the business”.

Again I wished he’d let me carry out the telephone interview in the right way, but he was keen to explain to me why he “wanted to be put forward” and everything wrong with his current employer.

I would have got to this, as part of my interviewing process, and you’ll have to take my word for it, it would have been more constructive if he’d let me.

I started to speed the conversation along.

I wanted to help him, but the reality was that his CV didn’t show half of the experience specified in the job description that he was telling me he had, and I suggested he revise his CV and we’d talk again the following day.

Why You Need To Do It

The candidates that I have the most success in placing are the ones I know the most about.

When I put you forward for a role, I’ll highlight all of the reasons why you meet the expectations of the job.

Why you may be a good match for the company.

What you’re looking for on a professional, and sometimes an emotional level, and how that matches the role on offer.

When I’m discussing your application with my client I’ll be able to answer all of their questions and give an honest appraisal of you as good fit for the role (or not as the case may be).

The client hasn’t spoken to you, so they won’t know anything about you, but if we’ve had an open and frank conversation then I’ll know.

I’ll also know more about my client than you will.

I’ve been talking to them, getting to know them, learning what makes a good fit for their organisation.

Sometimes I’ve found out by trial and error, and sometimes I’ve found out because they took the time to explain it to me.

The eventual benefit to both you and the client should be that I match the right people with the right jobs and the right companies.

The Right Way

“Tell me why you left your last job?”

I was part the way through the interviewing process but this was the point were I really started to feel the match with the clients brief was a good one.

“I like to get out onto the Shopfloor.”

“I like to interact with the engineers working for me and understand what the issues are. That way I think I do a better job.”

“I seem to spend so much time preparing for meetings, reporting against KPIs, and fire fighting, that I very rarely get a chance to implement any real changes.”

He went on to explain “there was always pressure to get the product out the door, without any real concern about quality, or putting systems in place that meant we could the job in a proper organised manner the next time it was needed”

I asked about the kind of company he would be interested in working for, the kind of environment he thought he would do best in and he went onto explain what he felt that would be.

As we discussed the job further, he offered more examples that weren’t included on his CV (you can’t include everything am I right?) that made him an even better fit for the job.

I was absolutely confident he was what the company were looking for, and after 2 interviews they agreed with me by offering a salary at the higher end of the pay scale.


If you find a good Recruiter that’s interested in placing you in the right role, then if you want my advice, work with them.

Let them do their job, answer their questions, provide them with information that you think will help them, and above all trust them.

If you find a bad Recruiter?…..Run

What’s your opinion?

Has spending time talking to a Recruiter helped you find the right role or have you had to do most of the work yourself?

I’d be interested in your thoughts in the comment box below.

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Preparing For Assessment Days

Advice for Assesment Days

Advice for Assessment Days 

I was approached by one of my LinkedIn connections for some advice on attending a forthcoming assessment day for a Maintainers role.

A number of companies that I’ve worked with in the past hold assessment days and the processes seem to be similar in most respects.

Assessment days are often done when a company want to interview a large number of people for multiple roles, so they can sometimes be well attended.

I’ll share with you what I’ve learnt over the years based on the feedback given by candidates that I’ve spoken to, and the story told to me by a friend of mine that attended one, as well as the information he shared with me.

“On the day I was met by someone from HR and shown into a room with 4 other candidates.”

“Everyone was there for the same job, which felt a bit strange.”

“It’s odd sitting in the same room as 3 other people that are going for the same job as you.”

“The process was split into 3 sections. There were the ability tests, then there was a competency based interview, and then there was the technical interview.”

The Ability Tests

“The ability tests and personality questionnaires were for basic reasoning skills as well English and Maths.”

“They were mainly multiple-choice questions such as”

Verbal Comprehension

“Examples of questions would be”

Hard is to Soft as Hot is to…

A) Cool

B) Warm

C) Cold

D) Icy

E) Tepid

Which of the following words is closest in meaning to Toxic…

A) Putrid

B) Poisonous

C) Bitter

D) Contagious

E) Inedible

A straight edge should be used to ensure that the ends of the shelves are correctly

A) Tightened

B) Aligned

C) Concentric

D) Separated

E) Flat

Then there was..

Numerical Comprehension

With questions like…

46 Minus ? = 17 (You had to replace the question mark with the correct number) 

A) 17

B) 19

C) 27

D) 29

E) 39

3/5ths x ? = 1/5th

A) 1/5

B) ¼

C) 1/3

D) ½

E) 2/3

60% of 20 = ?

A) 12

B) 13

C) 14

D) 15

E) 16

Spatial Recognition

Here my friend managed to find some examples similar to the test paper he was given on the day so I’ve included them. Clicking on the image should make them larger.

Choose the shape on the right which is identical to the given shape.

Spatial Recognition Tests

Spatial Recognition Tests















Spatial Recognition Test

Spatial Recognition Test





Spatial Recognition Test

Spatial Recognition Test





Mechanical Test

“This is an example of a question from SHL Direct, and these are typical of the questions I was asked in the Mechanical Test.”

“If you go to the SHL website here and choose the Mechanical Comprehension Test you can take a practice test for free.” 

Mechanical Questions for Assesment Days

Mechanical Questions for Assessment Days







Mechanical Questions For Assesment Days

Mechanical Questions For Assessment Days







 Fault Diagnosis Test

“I can’t tell you much on the Electrical Part of the Test so I hope this helps (it’s all I could find)”

Fault Diagnosis Test

Fault Diagnosis Test









The competency based Interview

“The next part of the assessment process was an interview with the HR department covering competency based questions.”

in a competency based interview you’ll be asked to give specific examples of past behaviours that show how you behaved in certain situations.

The interviewer will assess if you have the required competencies for the job.

“Some of the questions I was asked were…”

“Tell me a time when you had to use leadership skills or when you had difficulty with subordinates accepting new ideas, how did you overcome this?”

“Can you give me an example of when you failed to meet a deadline? What did you do?”

“Can you give an example of the time you took the initiative to implement a new system?”

The Technical Interview

“Finally there was the Technical interview with the Hiring Manager”

“This was like every other interview I’ve done and was the first time I felt back in my comfort zone. It was typical questions about how I would deal with everyday issues of doing the job.”

My Advice 

My advice for all of these interviews is the same

PRACTICE – (Repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it: example it must have taken a lot of practice to become so fluent)

My advice for the Testing

When it comes to the ability tests and personality questionnaires go back over the theory of your Electrical silks, Mechanical Skills, Testing and Fault Finding skills and anything else that’s relevant.

You can take some practice tests here,

Tests for Electricity Quizzes

Free Spatial Recognition Tests

Free Mechanical Reasoning Tests

Free Numerical Reasoning Tests

My Advice for the Technical Interview

PRACTICE – (Repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it: example it must have taken a lot of practice to become so fluent)

For the technical interview the interviewer will ask you questions based on the information you’ve provided.

Read back over your CV and practice expanding upon the job roles and  responsibilities you’ve had, how you went about the jobs you did, the challenges you faced and what you achieved as a result of it.

I’ve had feedback from interviewing managers in the past that after reading a good resume they were surprised that the person didn’t live up to their expectations.

It’s your CV, and your experience, you wrote it so talk about it with some degree of interest.

My advice for competency based interviews

PRACTICE – (Repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it: example it must have taken a lot of practice to become so fluent)

Prepare some responses to some typical questions you’ll get in a competency based interview and practice saying them out loud.


Assessment days and online testing are regularly used by companies for their interviewing process.

Regardless of whether you’re attending one or not taking some time to sharpen up your interviewing skills can only pay dividends in the long run.

Have you been on an assessment day style of interview? or taken online tests? Help others by leaving a comment below of your experience.

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