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The latest installment of our Villa Maria Talks saw us Talking Shop with interview coach and Talent Acquisition Manager, Margaret Buj. An expert at helping professionals progress in their careers, we caught up with Margaret to discuss the importance of conversations in the workplace and to discuss the evolving nature of how we communicate with our colleagues.

Q- Tell us a bit about your background and how you got into interview coaching and training?

A - I am an interview coach and experienced Talent Acquisition Manager who helps professionals worldwide get hired, promoted and paid more.

Helping my clients to achieve their goals is a passion of mine – I’ve worked with talented professionals from all over the world who succeeded in getting job offers in very competitive fields, such as law or consulting just after one training session. Many of them have had a lot of unsuccessful interviews before.

A friend of a friend who’s been looking for a job for 8 months has asked for my help as he knew I worked in recruitment. I spent a couple of hours working with him on his answers and confidence – he got the job soon afterwards and he’s been getting every contract since then.

I thought there must be other people who need help, so did some research and set up my company within 2 weeks and had the first 2 clients within the first week of my website going live.

I’ve always had a passion for helping people and have been interested in coaching for many years. However, I’ve only decided to become an interview coach after working in recruitment for a couple of years and seeing how many people, often very qualified, struggle with interviews.

I love helping others get jobs – I’ve had so many clients who got the job within hours after the interview or after months of unsuccessful interviewing. Getting these emails always makes my day! 

Q - 1 in 5 people prefer emailing to avoid conflict or to have written proof of their communication. When it comes to challenging conversations for example regarding promotions, is there a specific time where you'd say face to face communication is essential?

A - While often in a workplace it is great to communicate via email and to have proof of that communication, there are situations when I believe face to face communication is essential. When you want to apologise or when it’s something really important, it’s always best to meet face to face. Other situations will be when you have to explain something complicated or when you expect there will be lots of questions!

Q - We commissioned a research study in the UK and found that 16% of people are nervous about calling on the phone and would rather send an email – why do you think this is and what would you recommend for building confidence when talking on the phone?

A - I think some people find it less stressful to write an email, some might lack confidence, and some might prefer not to deal with yet another person face to face that day.

Also, communication is a process, which involves thinking about what and how you want to say something, and with writing we have more control and better ability to review the output which also plays into how stressful the piece of communication we’re doing is; more control, less stress and vice versa, and so with talking there’s less control and more stress.

However, talking to strangers doesn’t need to be scary or intimidating but for some reason, a lot of people over-think it.  The thing to remember is that the person on the other end of the phone is just another human beingThey’re no better than you. The conversation will go in whichever direction you allow it to go – so don’t be afraid to step in and steer it where it needs to go. If you’re nervous about speaking on the phone, always take a deep breath before you answer. Focusing on your breathing has a natural calming effect on the body and will help you focus your attention on something other than panic or distress.

Also, practice your greeting. If you find phone calls awkward, then answering the phone in that way will only make it awkward for both you and the person calling. So a good thing to remember is to memorise and practice your greeting – both for work and out of work. You don’t want to talk too fast, too slow, too aggressive or too unsure of yourself, so finding that medium will ensure that the other person doesn’t feel uncomfortable as a result. Even if that means practising on a sibling or close friend, this will help you get accustomed to greetings.

Finally, focus on your tone. On a phone call, no one can see your facial expressions or hand gestures, so your tone is everything. If you’re speaking fast and loud, you’re going to come across as abrupt, if you have a monotone, then you’re going to be perceived as uninterested. Speaking clearly, and not rushing through your words will help you with the flow of your conversation.

Q - What conversation from your own life has stuck with you the most?

A - On a professional level, I find it very satisfying to work with people who have been unsuccessfully looking for jobs for months and then they’d get a job straight after our session. I find that very gratifying, so when I speak to these people and have been proven to be able to help them, these conversations stick with me and I take them forward when I go to help others.

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