Problem solver: When doing an interview, knowledge of the culture in a company can be vital
Businessman Feargal Quinn answers your questions
Q: I have a really important job interview coming up and I really, really want the job. I have a great suit and all that kind of thing. What do you think is important? What should I do to increase my chances?
A: I can sense your energy from the letter and the passion you seem to have for this job. It is a great start and you need to be sure that comes across in the interview.
The suit is good and you should always aim to look your best going for an interview. However, more important is that the interviewer gets a clear sense of who you are and what you will bring to their business.
On a practical level, many interviewers will say that the initial impressions that are formed within the first 20 or 30 seconds start to paint a picture.
Do you smile when you meet someone for the first time? Have you got a firm handshake? Do you make initial eye contact? etc.
When interviewing staff over the years, I tended always to pay attention to those interviewees who had done some research before they had come to meet me.
Some would have visited our shops, done some shopping so they could get a feel for the overall experience and I even met one girl, who was applying for a senior management position, who had gone off and read my book so she could understand the culture of the company before the interview.
When researching a business before your interview, it is always a good idea to talk to some of the staff or a manager if you can get access to them as this will give you strong insights in terms of the company's focus and what they are looking for.
You need to come across as someone who really wants the job and who can bring new skills to the business.
Listen carefully to the questions you are being asked and make sure you have prepared some questions of your own to ask the interviewer. Lastly, CVs are always a source of great debate.
In my view, keep it short, simple and ensure that it provides the interviewer with a good overview of your skill sets before they meet you. As a final tip, I recently met someone who had been rejected by a company at the interview stage.
But they were so passionate about working for the company that they offered their services free to the company for two weeks so the company could get a greater insight into their skill sets.
The idea was a total success and the person ended up securing a permanent job after the local manager reported back they were an excellent contributor to the team. Good luck with the interview!
Q: I have a retail shop in a town which has been hit really badly by the recession. Over 40pc of the shops on the main street are closed and those of us that remain are struggling. Can you give us any advice?
A: This is an all-too-common query in recent times, although your situation seems to be more exaggerated with the number of shops that are closed. The problem that occurs when shops start closing is that it causes a downward spiral. Some shops close because they are not doing enough business, then more and more customers feel there is nothing for them to buy in the area and gradually stop coming, which causes future closures, thus making the situation even worse.
The first thing you and your fellow retailers need to do is to stop this cycle. Your objective has to be to create a thriving retail environment with interesting and innovative shops and businesses.
You won't be able to do this on your own and you will definitely need to involve the local authority.
I read an innovative case study recently about one of the local authorities in a town in the UK that had a similar challenge to yours.
Rather than end up with no retailers, the local authority took a view that they would sacrifice rates for a two-year period to help stimulate commercial activity.
The local authority also owned several properties in the town centre that were available for rent but were empty. They reduced the rent for these to £100 a year for two years. The effect has been dramatic, with almost every single unit now full and the town is getting a reputation for leading-edge retailing.
To compliment any work the local authority is doing, the remaining retailers will need to up their game and drive the process. That will mean dedicating many hours to develop marketing plans for the town centre, ensuring that best practice in retailing is evident in every single shop and that every shop front looks appealing.
Time is not on your side and you need to mobilise your fellow retailers and the local authority quickly. This problem is only going to get worse but the solution is within your direct control.