1. Do you remember a time when you were happiest as a child? Where were you, who were you with and what were you doing?
First year at secondary school in PE class (sports for those who don’t know). It was a football session, 5 a side, round robin format, probably 4 or 5 different teams and the team that scored 2 goals stayed on and the other team had to drop out and wait their turn to get back on. Pure childhood bliss! I can’t remember a specific moment or game, but I just know that hour of the week was the absolute highlight for me and I was so excited when it came around and so disappointed that it would fly past so quickly. Sport has always been that ‘special place’ for me, somewhere I can be myself and be free from stresses and worries.
2. What seemed like an inconsequential decision at the time, but in hindsight turned out to fundamentally reshape your life?
Being dragged along by friends to see Honey, I Shrunk The Kids at the cinema when I was a kid. It opened me up to the wonder of cinema and probably was one of the first influences in me eventually going to drama school and becoming a professional actor earlier in my life.
3. Name a well-known person you admire and explain why you hold them high esteem?
There are so many but anyone who comes through adversity and shows resilience. Tiger Woods winning a major again back in 2019, BBC newsreader George Alagiah, Vogue editor Edward Enninful have all overcome some major obstacles in their own ways but have come out the other end victorious.
Less well known but also worthy of a shoutout is my niece (Miss B). She has been applying for a training contact with legal firms probably for the last 5 or 6 years and taking constant knock backs. She’s probably sent out 100’s and 100’s of applications but one firm finally said YES to her a few months ago. A real lesson in persistence and unwavering belief.
Oh, and one that I literally discovered at the weekend is occasional Countdown host, Dr Anne-Marie Amafidon. I heard her speak at a literature festival at the Southbank and she is doing great work getting girls into STEM careers.
Life can be difficult at times but all these people inspire me to keep on keeping on
4. What’s one misconception people generally have about you?
That I’m super serious. I guess I do have a bit of a serious face at times but I love goofing around as much as the next person. I blame my glasses!
5. What personality trait has got you in the most trouble? What kind of trouble does it get you in?
Probably saying yes too readily. I once dog sitted for a friend for a weekend. I attached the leash in the wrong way so as soon as we were out the door and, on the way, I thought, for a leisurely stroll, the dog proceeded to run away. And as I chased after it it thought I was playing along and so ran a bit quicker, swerving into the traffic and all sorts. I thought my life was going to be over and I was going to be responsible for losing my friends much loved dog, or worse. The most frustrating thing is I had put on the wrong pair of trousers for the walk so as I was running my trousers kept falling down so I kept having to pull them up. It’s probably the most fearful 10 minutes of my life in recent memory
6. In current industry conversation, what is an example of ‘making a mountain out of a molehill’?
It’s more like me making a mountain out of a molehill, and I might be a little old fashioned but I do miss the old days where LinkedIn was primarily a business networking and business updating platform. I think it’s turned in to what Facebook was a few years ago as people continue to use Facebook less and less and they are beginning to overshare personal stuff on LinkedIn. I don’t want to see pictures of some dude’s family at CentreParcs. Put that on Instagram
7. What is that thing which is OK to ask you about, but which other people are wary to do so?
My acting career. I used to be quite vague about that whole time in my life because I thought that would somehow reduce my credibility when speaking to hiring managers or going for interviews but as time goes on, I realise that many people in the industry have done other things in their life whether it be teaching yoga, being a Sales Director, ex sports people etc. Now, I think the experience that I’ve had really does set me apart because I’m comfortable doing public speaking and that kind of thing
8. What do you think is acceptable today but will become taboo tomorrow?
Any of the following: eating meat (I’m a meat eater myself), owning pets, learning languages, asking people about what salary they are on. This last point is already on the way out. I also do think a 4-day week is coming so out will go the standard Monday to Friday working week. May be not today. May be not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.
9. What app or tech product have you most recently fallen in love with?
The Picture This plant app. I am, or was, the world’s worst plant keeper until someone told me about this app. This and the fact that Clubhouse now accepts android users! Another which I literally used for the first time yesterday is Too Good To Go which is a brilliant app that helps to reduce food waste while also saving food buyers a few pennies. Much needed in the current cost of living crisis climate
10. What’s the last image on your camera roll? Care to explain?
A picture of a Shiba Inu dog that I’m looking after for a few days. The owners are away in Barcelona and want daily pics to see how their dog is doing which is fair enough
11. Which fictional villain do you find yourself sympathising with most? Why?
Wow, these questions are really searching aren’t they! (He has to Google fictional villains). As an ex-thespian I always thought that the character of Iago in Othello would be a great part to play. Clearly the dude is a psycho but I think to play the part effectively you would need to find his redeeming features so that he doesn’t come across as a 2-dimensional demon. These features must have been there to get close to Othello in the first place. Being passed up for promotion can do strange things to people. Internal mobility and other career paths had clearly not been discussed properly with the poor man! Patrick Bateman from American Psycho also lives long in the memory, but no, I don’t have much sympathy for him. Here is a list of some of the most well know villains:
12. Aside from family & friends, if you could invite any 3 people - living or dead - to your final dinner party before the end of the world, who would they be and
I have thought about this often over the years and it changes from year to year but at the moment it would be:
Jamie Foxx – He could keep us entertained with his stories and impersonations so if I am missing anyone important, I’m sure Jamie could rustle up a good impression
Muhammad Ali – They say never meet your hero’s but this would be my chance to test that theory
Princess Diana – To even out the testosterone in the room she’d have to come along. I’d want all the gossip on what really goes on in the Royal family and she could give us a running commentary as we all sit down to watch the next season of The Crown
13. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received? Who gave it and when?
“Just go out there and sell some f**!ing pictures”. This was given by my manager when I was selling aerial pictures in Norfolk during the summer holidays in between my 1st and 2nd year at university. I think I had woken up in a bad mood or the previous day had a been a difficult selling day or something and so I was thinking of taking the morning off and having a break. The moral is don’t procrastinate, just do it.
14. What decision makes you say, “What was I thinking??” when you look back on your career?
I have definitely done too much contracting over the last 2 or 3 years. Contracting is great insofar as you get experiences of different teams, different companies and their cultures and you can take the best learnings from each but I do think that is slows down your career progression. Unfortunately, with a mortgage to pay I couldn’t afford to wait around for the right permanent job to come along so I’ve had to take the next opportunity which often has been a short-term contract where the recruitment process is often far quicker. I think quite a lot of people have fallen into this trap which is a great shame
15. What hiring heuristic do you generally go with?
In hiring there are 3 things which everybody focuses on: quality (candidates), time (finding candidates quickly) and cost. Having all three for each hire is incredibly rare or unlikely and getting 2 out of 3 is much more realistic so we need to be mindful of which of the 3 we can be more flexible on so that we are managing expectations.
16. When it comes to our work and industry: what scares you most?
The ease with which companies layoff people in Talent Acquisition at the first sign of trouble. Unfortunately, it still seems that we are usually the first people to go in times of crisis.
17. What’s one industry challenge you don’t actually think will ever get solved?
Both interviewers and candidates not being completely truthful during the interview process. It’s like in football you know that if you don’t go down in the box if you have been fouled, chances are you will not get the penalty. In an interview situation if you don’t embellish certain achievements as a candidate of if you don’t over elaborate career prospects then you are unlikely to get that dream candidate or job.
I sometimes see it kind of like a date, or trying to sell a product or service to someone. There is always going to be a degree of trying to impress the other person by saying the right things and the interview is no different. Perhaps over time the interview will decrease in importance and we will all have professional, constantly updated stats that can be tracked at any given moment of time to demonstrate how good we are at our jobs like basketball or football players have. You heard it first here folks!
18. What common wisdom in our industry needs to be debunked?
The notion that bullet points on a JD should be outlawed is complete nonsense. Not everything that is said at industry events by so-called thought leaders is correct (present company excluded obvs!). Job seekers haven’t got all day to read chapter and verse and want to get to the salient points quickly and bullet points allow this to happen
19. If you could add a question for the next person to answer, what would it be?
What has been the secret to your success and what would be your no 1 tip to someone who is looking to move into a role like yours?
20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?
Ismahan Osman – Global Head of Talent Acquisition @ The Economist
Thank you to Tunde Makinde for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Make sure to follow Tunde on LinkedIn.