There are only three questions

“There are only three true interview questions.” This headline from Forbes caught my attention this morning and I thought it might give me some insight, but the essential take-away is that interviewers only really need to determine:

  • can you do the job?
  • will you like the job?
  • will you fit in with us?

It occurs to me, though, that these are pretty much the same questions that need to be answered at the beginning of any relationship – the words may differ slightly, but the sentiments remain the same.

The interview I had for entry to my MBA programme was essentially the same: will I be able to do the work? will I enjoy it and stay to the end? and would I fit in with the Henley ethos?

Perhaps the same is true when we enter into any sort of contract with a service provider (eg car insurance, cellphone airtime): can they provide the service I want? do I like they way they provide it (can include the price)? and do I like their company image (especially important with ethical providers)?

And as a final thought, could a first date be deemed an interview for a second date (and so on)?

It might take us more that one question to elicit the answer to these three basic questions, but fundamentally can all “relationship” commencements be boiled down to these three?

Happy thoughts #5 – and a bit more philosophy

“Procrastination is the thief of time.”

For a long time I didn’t understand exactly how putting something off to another day could actually cost me time, but once I understood the meaning I started to look at it more deeply:

  • if I put something off until tomorrow, or next week, or some future date, then I’ve spent time today in thinking about it and making a decision to postpone the action.  In reality this (and the time I’ll spend thinking about the delayed matter) is time which I could have used towards the task (even if I couldn’t have finished it); or
  • if someone else delays dealing with a task from which I require the output then my time is stolen in chasing, remediating, explaining, or even just managing the delay.  (There is the deeper question of managing expectations, but perhaps that is for another day.)

Outside of work this can range from simply tedious to deeply frustrating; overall – work included – time thefts can directly be related to financial costs, and can even affect the bottom line.

Is the message, therefore, not to put off until tomorrow what we can reasonably do today?  I think that’s an entirely reasonable position, and it’s directly related to my happy thought for the week.

My diary got crunched at both ends this week and so yesterday I ended up going for a run at lunchtime (hard intervals) and another in the afternoon (slower and longer, but with a powerful finish).  I had thought about postponing one or the other but I’m glad I didn’t: I felt really good after the second, both mentally and physically. And so my happy thought is all about my running – and the fact that I didn’t succumb to the subtle lure of procrastination.

And the thought to ponder: what will you now do today that you would otherwise have put off?

Netflix or notflix?

I have Sky+ bringing me the ability to watch a whole heap of channels, to record series at the touch of a button, and to time-shift my satellite viewing.

If I want to watch something I missed then there’s a selection of “plus one” channels transmitting an hour later, or I can visit a couple of websites where the content is stored for a while (for example 4OD or BBC iPlayer).  Not only can I time-shift my viewing, but with the internet I can place-shift too – and with a bit of ingenuity it’s even possible to view from overseas.

Failing all of this I have Apple tv which will stream from my iTunes library or selected films can be purchased and viewed online.

And yet, this week I find myself wondering whether or not to subscribe to Netflix – a myriad of films, old seasons of television, and who knows what else.

I am perhaps fortunate that I have seen and used Netflix in the USA when I was staying with my family, and I found some old UK content which assuaged my homesickness and fed my nostalgia.  There was more available to stream than I could possibly watch, and had I stayed longer then I may have tried to watch more – but was that because I didn’t have access to my familiar transmissions?

It would be fair to say that I enjoyed playing with Netflix, but there are only so many hours in a day and a limit to the amount of viewing I want to do.

Does more choice mean that I’ll be more selective, happier with my viewing time?  Or will I simply be paying more to fill the same amount of leisure time?

I feel that it’s worth having a trial month, but will I simply be sucked in?

Company car or car allowance?

I was faced with this decision a couple of months ago and, as I calculated, there’s no such thing as a free car.  Let us start from the premise that a company is either willing to contribute £x towards a car from a corporate leasing scheme, or pay me £x to source my own car.  It is probably perfectly possible to get a tiny car within the £x such that the tax man’s share is covered by any remainder – but I wanted a bigger car.

So, as well as considering the obvious (company car tax on the one hand, income tax on the other; insurance, tax), I also added in tyre replacement, service, a provision for repairs (especially scuffed alloys!) and recovery.

And, on the side of the allowance, is the potential for a tax claim on the difference between the mileage rate paid by my employer and what HMRC think is reasonable.   Fortunately, I had no overriding principles to sway me one way or the other, but I recognised that “peace of mind” may lean towards a company car, even if more expensive; and, equally, the desire for flexibility may mitigate in favour of a self-arrangement.

Create a fairly simple spreadsheet, plug in a few numbers, and I had my answer – it was actually pretty close based on a guesstimate as to the cost of a private purchase.  But that was only my opening position with the car dealer – and I might have made one side look a bit less favourable than the other for the sake of a competitive edge.  The challenge, therefore, was for the dealership to source the car I wanted at a price which tempted me away from the company lease scheme.

Free servicing for three years, sir? Free recovery? Paintwork protection? As with many negotiations the deal was ultimately down to the items which didn’t hurt their bottom line too much but did affect my spreadsheet.  I did get the car for a very good price (seems the manufacturer wanted to make a “contribution” too, and they happened to have pretty much the car I wanted “pre-ordered”), it was exactly what I wanted, and I’m £150 per month better off than had I opted for the company scheme.

So what did I do that anyone else can do?  Work out the options fully, add a little incentive, and then set a challenge.  The worst case is already known and so the challenge is simply to beat it.  I may have been lucky with the manufacturer contribution, and perhaps with the convenient car in the right place, but I would have got a deal anyway.

If you don’t ask then you don’t get – and isn’t it better to have the money in my pocket?

Irrational decisions

I have belonged to the United States Parachute Association for twelve years and I feel quite an attachment to the organisation.  I have jumped at a variety of US dropzones, and I’ve had a lot of fun.  And now the renewal documentation sits on the desk in front of me and I’m faced with a decision.

Earlier this year I had a bit of a medical event, and it seems it is hereditary.  The symptoms went away on their own (as predicted by the consultants) but recurrence is a possibility.  This combined with the need for travel insurance is a bit of an issue – and premiums for travel outside Europe are eye-watering.  Unless something radical changes, the additional costs now outweigh any benefits of good weather and well organised jumping.

The silly thing is that because the disorder won’t affect skydiving itself in any way I don’t really want to give in and cease my membership … but on the other hand is it worth paying for something which I know I won’t use?  (The money element is small enough not to sway the balance either way.)

And there is the decision to be made: rationally stop unnecessary expenditure, or irrationally pay the subscription because I want hope to triumph over logic?