21 August 2020

10 Things I Learnt About: Job Interviews (as an interviewer and interviewee)

1. When writing the personal statement in the application, address all the essential and desirable criteria in the order they appear in the job specification. Usually the HR department and then the interviewers match the personal statement to the job spec when they score candidates. Make this straight forward for them by using the same headings ie 'Skills and Knowledge - Essential'.

In order to get an interview you will most likely have to match all the essential criteria and if there are a large number of applicants all the desirable criteria. If you can't match some of the desirable criteria, write in a strategy of how you could fullfill that criteria. However do not fill inadequacies with your life story and how you won a badge in the scouts... this will mostly be irrelevant.

2. If you have an interview you met the job criteria and you are almost there... well done!

3. Before an interview make sure you know what the job you've applied for actually entails, don't just go by the job description and spec. If someone already has that role, call them up and have a chat about what they do. If this is a new role call the department lead for a chat. This strategy works two-fold.

  • You find out information about the role not in the public domain, from that conversation you can think about your experience and how it tallies with the role in advance of the interview. You may even find that this job is not for you, I certainly have especially when salary is to be negotiated.
  • You have made yourself known to the department, this gives them a sense of you before the interview, which could give you an advantage over other candidates.
4. Before the interview read the strategic documents of the organisation. What are their big achievements? What are their future strategic goals?  Now think about your skills and experience and how they fit with the organisation's proposed future. How can you help them achieve their goals if you were part of the team? Have a few thoughts about this, as they are good to drop in when answering questions in the interview. They are also good as the basis of a question when you are inevidently asked at the end of the interview, 'Do you have any questions for us?'

5. Research the interview panel. Find out about them. Once when I was on an interview panel interviewing a group of people for a large freelance project, they had researched all the panel members and asked us specific things about our interests. It made them look really thorough and very engaged with the organisation. They got the job.

6. Before the interview thoroughly go through your personal statement and keep it in the top of your memory. Now think of other examples of when you met that criteria, this will be useful in the interview.

7. Over dress for the interview. Be much smarter than you think the people already working in the organisation dress. I have been on a panel with someone wearing shorts, moan about a candidate not wearing a tie.

8. Be 15 minutes early for the interview. It will settle your nerves and give you time to run though your application and the job specification and get your presentation ready (if applicable). It really doesn't look good if you walk in flustered because you only just got to the interview venue, or worse you are late and make the panel wait.

9. If you have to make a presentation check which presentation software fits with the organisation and if there will be WIFI if you need to use that. I advise not to do a presentation that needs WIFI as it will inevitably not be available just as you need it. I also advise sending the presentation in advance so the panel have a copy, bringing it along to the interview on a USB stick and printing out copies of the presentation for the panel in case technology isn't working. Practice your presentation so it fills the alloted time, do not run over as doing so will cut the time available for your interview.

10. If you can't fully answer a question but then later in the interview think of a better answer, pipe up and tell them and say it.

I haven't mentioned things like not swearing, not talking over panel members, not arguing with panel members, not talking badly of current colleagues, not lying about your experience, refusing to stop doing your presentation because you've gone on too long... because they are obvious things not to do... right? 

The key thing is that if you demonstrate that you more than match the criteria and look engaged with the organisation and its future objectives you've given yourself a really good chance of getting the job.... Good luck!

28 October 2019

Case Study - imagined

Case Study - imagined Andrew Abbott idea of case studies as 'fuzzy realities'

3 July 2019

Were you at Rodney Parade 6th January 2019 and saw Newport County beat Leicester City?

Were you at Rodney Parade 6th January 2019 to see Newport County beat Leicester City?

I am a researcher from Newport based at Durham University making a study capturing the atmosphere and fan responses when Newport County beat Leicester City 6th of January 2019.

I am looking for people to interview about this. Can you help?

Are you?
  • Over 18?
  • Who attended the match on the 6th of January Newport County v Leicester City match?
  • Who are able to be interviewed by telephone?
  • Can give one hour of your time with the next few weeks (at your convenience)?
If you are interested in getting involved and need more information please contact me victoria.j.jones@durham.ac.uk

24 June 2019

10 Things I Learnt About: Public Speaking

Who Am I, What Do I Know?
I am currently concentrating on my art practice and trying to further a research career by undertaking a Human Geography based PhD at Durham University. My past career has involved heading cultural programmes and networks, strategic development projects and lecturing. Presenting ideas is an integral part of all these roles. The audiences I have presented to have varied in size from 2 people in a meeting, to 10 people in a training workshop, to 80 students in a lecture, to 200 people in an auditorium. The audiences have ranged from students to cultural, education, public sector and business communities. I have presented on a range of topics including: art in education, design as a business tool, brand development, design theory, art theory, strategic thinking processes, 3D printing techniques, fashion trends... I have done this a lot. The tips I will share below can apply to most presenting situations.

So here goes...

1. Present Your Authentic Self
No matter the situation, present the idea or information in the same way that you would if you were having a conversation with one other person and sharing it with them. You should be you. If you are being your authentic self, then it is easier for you to recover from making a mistake or forgetting something.

I used to think I had a 'ropey' presenting style because I was just being me. I thought I needed to look more polished. I have witnessed a variety of presenting styles over the years and met the speakers on and off stage.  I have seen people be an inauthentic, projected, theatrical or authoritarian version of themselves. This led me to realise that if you project a 'persona' that isn't you, it is harder to recover from stumbling on words or making a mistake. The mistakes become more apparent and it is difficult to go off script. If I make a mistake and forget something, I am apt to say something like 'Shit, I meant to say this earlier but forgot' and then relay whatever it was... but that is me and how I speak normally.

2. Own What You Are Saying
Know the content well enough that if the technology fails or you lose your notes you could still do the presentation. I usually have a few key words written in marker pen in a notebook, these are cues to move onto the next phase/theme/idea. They are a safety blanket I probably don't need, but I always have them.

And on owning it... don't wing it. As an audience member we know when someone hasn't prepared and it changes our perception of the quality of the content of what they are saying.

3. Last Minute/ Other People's Presentations
Last minute and other people's presentations are the most stressful to do. Either way it means that you don't know the content well, or the content doesn't follow the logic you would use to present the idea/information. A useful mindset to adopt is that you can only do what you can do. Go through the content as much as time allows and work out and  'own' the core messages you need to impart so some of it feels comfortable.

Whether you tell the audience that this is a last minute thing for you (probably isn't for them) or that you are standing in for someone else, depends on the circumstance. By standing in for someone else you can't answer nuanced questions about the content and don't even try (see point 6). I probably wouldn't labour the point that it was last minute for me... but I would mention if I was standing in for someone else.

4. Structure is Key
Structuring the presentation effectively is as key as being yourself. Why are you doing this presentation? What part of your expertise will this audience find useful? What are the core things you need to share?  In a time frame of 15 minutes what can you share? A useful way to think of it is to ask yourself, in 15 minutes time what will this audience find out from me that is useful for them to know and me to share? They don't need to know everything about a topic and you can't give it. With an introduction and a summary you are left with 10 minutes. I speak at about 140 words per minute. Three minutes on three key ideas (420 words per idea) doesn't allow much depth, that is ok, know it and don't attempt depth. Five minutes on two key ideas gives a bit more scope (700 words) and 10 minutes on one idea can be more nuanced (1400 words). At the end of the presentation make it clear what the purpose of the presentation was and recap what you were attempting to communicate. This is essential as people tend to zone in and out especially if they have been watching multiple presentations (particularly in conferences) or fiddling with their mobiles.

5. Who Are You Talking To?
Who are the audience? Why are they tapping into your expertise? Stating the obvious, the usual purpose of being invited to do a presentation is to enable an audience to gain more information about a specific topic because you have been identified as knowing stuff about it. The bit that isn't obvious (to some) is that you have to adjust and tone how you present information inline with this particular audience. This is not about adjusting what you are sharing, but how you are sharing it.  You can present ideas by talking at people, talking with people, getting people to talk to each other, doing things at people, doing things for people and doing things with people. Not all audiences respond to information gathering in the same way. I try to have different textures of sharing information in presentations: telling, sharing, showing. Aside from 'talking at' etc, strategies I have used to make a point include: sharing objects, sounds and smells... but that is me (refer to point 1).

6. You Don't Know Everything - So Don't Pretend To
Even if you and others feel that you know everything about a subject/topic/discipline, you don't. Your field is always changing, so you can't. This is connected to point 1, being your authentic self. I have been in situations where someone hasn't known the answer to a question and has given a fudgy face-palm inducing answer instead of having the humility to say 'I don't know'. At best they made themselves look silly and inauthentic, at worst they have impacted on the integrity of their department/organisation and in turn their colleagues.

7. Keep to Time
You have been given a time slot - be considerate and stick to it. You may be asked to speak at a conference and there may be someone before or after you. Every moment you go over time has a consequence, either for someone after you and/or the audience. Every moment you go over time cuts down the time for questions or at worst the time allotted to a speaker further along the programme. If you are running a workshop or training session the attendees have accounted for being with you for a particular amount of time and probably have other commitments afterwards. If you have planned the session properly (points 4 & 5) you should present exactly in your allotted time frame.

8. Encourage and Support Your Fellow Speakers
Some people are very nervous about presenting and need to feel encouraged. If you know this, be nice and sit in their eye line, smile and nod. If they are nervous and they spot you doing this, they will start to present to you. This is a responsibility, you need to keep it up to help them.

To be honest no matter how seasoned you are, some audience encouragement is always welcome. I do the 'eye contact - smiling' thing and encourage other people to do it too, because of an experience I had. In the midst of giving a talk at a prestigious event I noticed my new boss not only looking bored but looking out in the middle distance. I found this off putting and stumbled. The key note speaker sat next to me nudged me, smiled and nodded - this was enough to make it feel ok. I subsequently learnt that some people have 'resting bored face'.  I then decided to 1. try and not be put off if people do potentially off-putting things during my presentations (like sleeping or putting on make-up), 2. be like the key note speaker and actively encourage people.

9. You Can Never Totally Crack It
You should never get to the point in presenting that you think you have cracked it. You should be alive to what you are doing. Each time you present you should aware of what worked and what could be changed next time.

It is easy to get into an 'auto pilot' zone especially if as I did you present the same thing over and over again. I did one presentation on brand strategy 172 times in three years and started to go on auto-pilot when I did it. What I had to remind myself was, that however old it felt to me it was new to the audience. I had to actively make myself pay attention and be in the moment so I didn't slip into sleep walking it.

10. Say Yes
A few years ago when I was at Design Wales, we did a campaign we called 'Casual Sexism in the Creative Industries'. One of the more disappointing things I learnt during that project, was that conference and event organisers find it difficult to get women to speak as presenters and on panels. I had assumed that the visible lack of women at the events I was attending was due to women not being asked to speak. Around the same time the BBC approached the university research department where I was working offering free media training to the women. There were markedly less women in our department than men and all the women had their own distinct area of expertise and something to share, and yet not one woman would do it.

So whoever you are if someone asks you to speak, or you see a call out for speakers you are a good fit for... just do it. If you are a woman do it so your point of view is represented and visible to others. If you are a male ditherer, also just do it because you know you have colleagues with less expertise than you do who would jump at the chance.

Ok...  in summary
- Be yourself
- Know what you are talking about 
- Don't panic, do what you can
- Plan it well
- Consider the audience
- Be real
- Stick to time, don't take the piss
- Be supportive
- Keep learning
- Say yes, just do it

The more you present the easier and more comfortable it becomes. I haven't done much presenting for the past few years and nothing for almost a year, so some of this is a good reminder to myself.

2 March 2019

2 December 2018

Time Grids - explosive

One of a series of tests for new work, which I am excited to be making over Christmas!

16 June 2018

1000 Pauses - Harena Project

I have made 1000 of these over the past week. They are part of an installation I am showing at RDV in Nantes. This is an attempt at materialise what 'paused' time might look and feel like. They are thermochromatic so that they will colour change over a day as the sun passes by the work through the window. That is the plan.

5 June 2018

Smell The City at the London Museum

For one night only as part of the museum's celebration of their 'Fatberg' exhibition, my Smell the City installation a fake museum of sewer fat, was on show at the real Museum of London. 4th June 2018.

2 June 2018

Flotation Tank

Fieldwork for the 'Harena' project, a collaboration with Julian Brigstocke a cultural geographer at Cardiff University. The project is a 'Creating Earth Futures' Leverhulme commission from the Geo-humanties department at Royal Holloway London.

Smell The City - merchandise

27 May 2018

Cloacina - Smell the City Detail

Smell the City detail. The logo of the South London Underground Department of Geopotation and Effluence. It depicts Cloacina the Roman goddess of sewers and cleansing.

21 February 2018

Visit to an Anechoic Chamber 21/02/2018

To get the full effect in an anechoic chamber the door has to been wheeled shut. It is approx 20cm thick concrete with 50 cm thick foam padding. Once closed, the only sounds are the ones in your body. #Harena

Fieldwork for the 'Harena' project, a collaboration with Julian Brigstocke a cultural geographer at Cardiff University. The project is a 'Creating Earth Futures' Leverhulme commission from the Geo-humanties department at Royal Holloway London.

29 January 2018

Concrete Experiment 01

ConcreteIsland from Victoria J. E. Jones on Vimeo.
Trying to turn concrete back to sand.

Fieldwork for the 'Harena' project, a collaboration with Julian Brigstocke a cultural geographer at Cardiff University. The project is a 'Creating Earth Futures' Leverhulme commission from the Geo-humanties department at Royal Holloway London.

14 January 2018

Sand and Oil

SandandOil from Victoria J. E. Jones on Vimeo.
suspension from Victoria J. E. Jones on Vimeo.

Fieldwork for the 'Harena' project, a collaboration with Julian Brigstocke a cultural geographer at Cardiff University. The project is a 'Creating Earth Futures' Leverhulme commission from the Geo-humanties department at Royal Holloway London.

1 January 2018

You Own Everything, Everything is Yours

It took six months and ended up being a team effort with my mum, but I made this embroidery for my daughter as a graduation present. The phrase comes from her favourite film 'One Night in Paris' a seminal 80s documentary about the vogueing scene in New York.

28 December 2017

The Twelve Minute Pilgrimage - version 2

The Twelve Minute Pilgrimage (2017)

The Twelve Minute Pilgrimage (2017) detail
The Twelve Minute Pilgrimage: Abrasion
(Metal cabinet, canvas shoes, down jacket, 'The Smell of Reassurance')
Add The Twelve Minute Pilgrimage: Residue
(Metal cabinet, photograph of LED light, 'The Smell of Reassurance')

15 October 2017