The season is changing, chocolate’s in the air.

We’ll all soon have that twinge of an urge to simplify, brighten up, change our surroundings a little.

Because we can. Can’t we?

In every office in which I’ve worked recently, I’ve been struck by how ‘zoned’ the space has become.  Privacy is the new status, and there are some fabulously imaginative ways of ensuring that subtle and covert signals are clearly understood.

(And overt signals have by no means disappeared.  I know a building where hundreds of young talented people work in which – still – carpet, wallpaper and a mysteriously wealthy fragrance greet those leaving the lift at the ‘Board Floor’)

Having just had a lovely little travelling time in a European city that has consistently appeared top of the happiness tables. (Copenhagen, Denmark. Britain was 23rd on this list in 2016) I’ve been struck by how profoundly and speedily, surroundings alter mood, morale, and possibly even world view.

A quick Google study will uncover many studies about architectural and urban design that promotes calm, or relaxes, or soothes.  But something much simpler is open to us all.
The effect of mixing, naturally, different ages, priorities, and expertise.

The interior effect in that extreme building (and it is intended, isn’t it?) to a visitor entering that floor is to feel inadequate, inferior, and clearly without power.  The interior effect of a Copenhagen street by contrast is very different.  An interior shift can be felt; a shift towards a positive yet relaxed feeling that anything is possible.  Because homes and business are mixed up. Because evidence of children’s lives are visible everywhere. Because the Civic Buildings (how thrilling to situate ‘Borgen’) are low –key and relatively open.

So simple. Mix us up more, and we feel better.


H80pxtreeave you noticed lots of interviews going on in public places recently?

Perhaps privacy doesn’t matter so much, and we all just choose to tune in and out? Whatever the reason for the apparent rise, I’m definitely able to hear just about every word of the typical café interview these days. And they’re quite boring.

I double-checked with a couple of reliable young persons who have recently been through the process.
The consensus is that interview questions really have become more tedious.  I’m told the top faves are still ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years time’, ‘What are your main strengths and weaknesses’, and that the opener is nearly always ‘Tell me about yourself’.

Penny Hunt's drawing of a cake to be used in interview processes

And those questions copied from newer corporate cultures (‘If you were a pizza topping what would you be?’) sound amazingly weird when you hear them asked out in the open air – in ‘real’ surroundings. (The Google interview process enjoyed some brief fame for this. If we were to make up, I don’t know, ‘How many knitting needles do you think there are in Brisbane’ we’d be on the sensible side of what used to go on.)

Even the start of the long recruitment dance – the CV – is so hard to judge and get ‘right’: it’s so hard not to sound too ‘shiny’. Perhaps it’s the CV format that sets the tone for the interview mood. Unfortunately.  The comedian Alexi Sale used to include a lovely CV suggestion in one of his riffs about the soul-perils of work. He suggested that everyone has some sort of everyday brilliant talent, and that this should the core of any resumé.

Are you someone who can always find a parking place, for example? Perhaps you can do that amazingly loud fingers-in- mouth whistle that summons cabs from miles away? Perhaps you can eat the middle out of a biscuit?  The really worthwhile point in his suggestion I think is to watch out that we don’t train and massage away any clue to the everyday, real, person who has put themselves forward for a leap into the unknown – the new job.

And isn’t being grounded and real rather a crucial and desirable quality in any role?  We can teach skills. Experience will come. Who is this (brave) person?  Wouldn’t it be good to break out of that dehumanizing language of the recruitment process?  Wouldn’t it be more constructive to have a play with questions that actually let someone be themselves and share their own sense of balance and perspective?  No need to be passionate about everything.  No need to have to seem professionally keen all the time

I asked a client about this. We felt the only pace to solve it was the pub.

Amazingly it worked.

No, truly.

  • We realised that what we really wanted when interviewing others was to find answers to two of our own burning questions:
  • “Would we have a fun time with this person on a long train journey”
  • “Does this person have a life?”

The pub magic ran out pretty quickly of course, and the debate continues: but we got to….

  • ‘ Anything made you laugh today?’
  • ‘ How old do you feel inside?’

(and of course offer our own internal ages. Mine’s 12, I think) before getting waylaid by possible CV alternatives.
I thought a freshly baked cake was an excellent idea.