Lost your mojo?

Feb 17, 2010 by

I was reminded the other day of a chap I interviewed late last year for a technical sales role. Really nice chap. On paper, great experience. When I coaxed information out of him, it was clear that he had achieved everything he had said on his CV. So why was I feeling cautious about him? What was the problem?

To use a much loved modern phrase, he had ‘lost his mojo’. Being made redundant had knocked him back so much, followed by rejection after rejection, that he simply could not portray the confidence and energy required for any role, but certainly not a sales role.

Ordinarily, that would have been that – but I felt that underneath it all, he really was a good technical sales guy and could do the job well. So I put him forward to our client, with detailed notes of my interview, including my thoughts on his demeanour. I had to persuade my client to see this chap, and I spoke to him at great length about going into the interview in the right frame of mind: positive, confident, and engaging.

I would love to tell you that this story has a happy ending, but sadly it doesn’t and is a salutary lesson. The client agreed totally with all my observations and said that the candidate’s demeanour was exactly as described in my first interview with him. In other words, despite all the advice and encouragement, he simply hadn’t been able to change his mindset.

This was a recruiting task that we were engaged on for a specific client and a specific role. I desperately wanted to help this candidate but he couldn’t afford outplacement sessions and, although I freely gave him advice over the phone, he would have needed many sessions to move him on from his dark place.

It’s easy to say, “Don’t worry.” Having been made redundant myself in the past, please believe me when I say I am only too aware of the damage that this experience can cause. Yet you must deal with it.

Friends and family will all want to help – you’ll be surprised. If you really can’t face them, talk to strangers. There will be job clubs local to you, and there are many websites that can help. Perhaps posting your situation here will open up the opportunity to talk to someone fresh.

One thing is important to consider: if you start applying for jobs before you’ve dealt with the pain of losing your last one, you’re almost certainly wasting your time. There is no shame in feeling pain, and you are not alone. The truth is that once you confront that pain, and start to deal with it, then you will be able to move on to better things.


  1. Anatoli

    A very nice observation. Practical content is a bit in a short supply. Friends and relatives, who are working, have their hands full and have no interest in sharing my worklessness. They want their private space and this is understandable. Does not help much though.
    This article seems to be a sales pitch for outplacement services as it gives nothing else.

  2. Che

    Anatoli, you’re absolutely right. To be honest, I’m really grateful that you took the time to post your comment.

    We do wish to provide an outplacement service. What is important to us, however, is to do so as cost-effectively as possible. As time goes by, we hope that we can improve our blog posts to provide you with as much practical advice as we can. Additionally, we will very soon be in a position to offer some podcasts with more detailed suggestions too – again, we hope, giving good value.

    If you look at Richard’s profile on LinkedIn you can get a flavour of how people feel about his work. What we are aiming to do is provide people with his insight for no more than £100.

    If you would like some more specific help (with no obligation) I would invite you to either sent me a tweet @ubiquitousrat, or drop me an email to che@newton-stanley.co.uk with your details. I would be happy to talk to you further.

  3. Anatoli

    I picked up on this offer and called Che. Boy, was I rewarded!
    Through an improvised coaching session I have learned a lot about a part of interview preparation I have not heard before, that is, how to prepare to an interview emotionally. here is a practical EQ lesson I feel obliged to share.

    1. Set the winning mood
    Candidates that reach interview stage are close; only the best wins the job, the second gets a bitter nothing. Interview is not a competition of skills, these have been valued at resume screening stage. Interview is a personality check. So make yours shine. Here is how: visualize success prior to an interview, re-create feeling of success.
    Write down successes in your carrier and for each one think of
    o What qualities allowed you to succeed? How did you succeed?
    o How did you feel when success was achieved?
    o What did you do at “success point”?

    2. Engage with recruiter personally.
    Recruiters hire whom they like, managers much more so. Skills come 2nd at best.
    • A little mistake and its honest admission create a more humane atmosphere. Saying “I am not currently performing at my best as I feel nervous; I am so excited about this opportunity” may help establish a better connection.
    Look how professional mind hunters do it. Today I watched news during breakfast. At commercial lady was eating yogurt, dripped a bit on her sweater and did not even stop as yogurt was so good; that’s the only commercial I remember.
    • Look around the office, at recruiter. Find details to relate. Adjust to style, but stay professional. Recruiter may provoke you with sloppiness or excessive friendliness. Keep your posture professional.
    • Answer questions enthusiastically, but exactly and briefly. “If you see a world through Simon’s eyes you will sell what Simon buys.”
    • Recruiter goes through a “beer test”, that is he is trying to decide: Would I go with this candidate for a beer?

    3. Show passion.
    Humans speak at max 120 w/minute, while can listen at 400+ w/minute. In every 1 minute monologue listener waits 45 seconds for words to come. Fill the spare time with emotion.

    4. Practice
    Ask for feedback when possible.
    Ask friend of a friend for an interview and a feedback.

    Thank you Che, thank you Richard! With this practice I feel ok even to cold call.

  4. Sarah Elliot

    Regarding the comment about losing ones mojo – I completely agree. However, how do you fight knowing that you have years of experience and the interviewer does not want a manager. The interviewer will provbably have little interest in the CV, and does anyone want to go for a beer with a female accountant mid 40s?
    I often find recruiters personally negative and I’m waiting for it. I also want to hold back for the employer, as my profession is not in sales.

  5. Che

    Sarah, thanks for posting a comment yesterday. Forgive me for taking longer than I would have liked to respond – sometimes duties really eat our attention.

    I certainly relate to that sense of doubt about whether what a recruiter might be looking for will match my CV and own aspirations. Perhaps it might be helpful to talk privately about your situation… and if so, I would be happy to spend some time doing so. It’s really hard to offer any kind of advice when we don’t really know your situation as well as we might. My email is che@newton-stanley.co.uk and if I can be of help, feel free to drop me a line.


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