What Employers Look For – An Alert and An Active Mind

Employers Look For Active And Alert Candidates

As a student attending a job interview, you must display an alert and active mind. You have to be constantly aware of your surroundings and mindful of what is going on. It need not be what you are interested in, but still, you must know what is happening. Always be receptive to new information. Don’t purposely block your mind, loose focus, be judgemental or simply lazy. Develop “mental agility and toughness”.

This comes by practice and exercise just like physical agility and toughness.

It will not happen on its own. You have to make a conscious effort and be consistent.

How do you do it? Read on.

Physical Exercise:

There is an old saying that a sound body leads to a sound mind. We in the Army (I am a retired Brigadier) surely believe in that. Every time I feel stressed out or fuzzy in my thinking, I go for a jog – and voila – my mind becomes crystal clear.

Try it out!

In fact, on days when I do not go for my morning workout, I do not feel bright the whole day. It does have something to do with the mind. Medical science also agrees. To quote David Linden, Professor of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, “the most helpful thing that anyone could do for their mind is to take 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day”.

Although it appears that the reasons behind the beneficial effects of exercise are not fully understood, scientists have observed that exercise causes all the blood vessels in the body, including those in the brain, to dilate. This changes the metabolic capacity of the brain.

Exercise also makes the brain secrete certain chemicals which help keep neurons healthy and able to change. Hence, create a daily exercise routine – it will keep your mind active.

Memory Training

Peter Brown, Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel, in their book Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, suggest that memory is triggered by learning. If you have learned something, you will remember it. If you do not remember a thing, it means you haven’t learnt it.

Smart people always amaze me. In my school days I often wondered how some of the bright students in my class seemed to read a chapter just once and remembered everything in it, whereas I had to read it several times just to remember some of the points and that too for one day! It was frustrating and depressing. It also meant a lot more hard work – or so it seemed. I did not know that you need to train your mind to remember. It makes it easier to learn.

There are proven ways to train your memory:

Retrieval:            You must frequently recall what you have read or learnt. Do this by simply shutting your eyes and recalling your notes or ideas instead of re-reading them. Do this a couple of times till it becomes routine. See how fast your brain gets used to retrieving information! In fact it becomes easier than re-reading the material!

Elaboration:       Periodically, stop and explain to yourself (imagine your little sister in front of you) , in your own words, what you have just learnt. Use a blank sheet for illustrations. This helps in establishing connections with your previous knowledge and also establishes a sort of ownership with the idea. The result is a longer memory span.

Interleaving:      Just sitting back and observing from a distance what you have just learnt, allows the mind to take it in. It also helps if you can divert your mind to some other topic not related to what you were doing, and give the brain some rest. The authors of “Make It Stick” suggest that this process relates to our prehistoric past, and the need to assess a problem before finding a solution. This type of interleaving ensures that you have thought about the topic which is the essential step in learning, and thereby remembering it.

Generation:       When answers are not readily available, it is better to leave it for a while. It is called “generation”. The answer is  usually worked out subconsciously, from first principles – and it sticks.

Reflection:         Sitting back and recounting the sequence of events, as they occurred – or should occur – is a good way of remembering them. I have found this very good for presentations where I do not have to refer to my notes for very long periods.



An active mind is one in which you can control . It can focus, or pay attention to any event for a sustained period of time. If you cannot control the mind, it will not allow you to concentrate or focus and will result in  wasting precious time. Meditation is a simple  (not easy) method which enables you to gain control over your mind.

Meditation is simply sitting quietly and learning to focus on any convenient thought, mantra or even on your breathing. You can slow your  life down in this way. The mind will then stop its mental chatter.  It learns to focus. The distraction caused by the chatter is no longer present.

An untrained mind spends most of its time in the past or in the future. The past only brings regret and the future anxiety. With meditation, you can train your mind to live in the present moment . ( Remember that “breathing”, is always in the present . Whenever you catch your mind wandering,  make a conscious effort to bring it back to the present. In fact, with some effort you can train your mind to learn from the past and build a good future whenever it visits those periods!

 Meditation is, nowadays, considered as one of the essential tools for personal growth.Its benefits spill over to all areas of your life – and then who does not want a calm mind wit a laser sharp focus.

It is recommende that you meditate twice a day. Morning and evening. It offers endless possibilities for your development as an individual.

Remember, however, that controlling your mind, like anything worthwhile, takes time and attention. Learn meditation from any local coach or training forum. Practice it diligently. Don’t expect results overnight. Persist with it and you will soon start seeing the benefits.

Meditation maintains an active and an alert mind. It also contribute to an overall improvement in all facets of your personaity. What’s more, it will show in your face, in your behaviour and in your self- confidence.

About the Author

Brig Raghavendra Rao is a retired army officer (Brigadier), a retired Director from a Public Sector Undertaking and a full time academician since 2006. He has been on both sides for students seeking jobs - and he knows what employers look for - and (sadly) what students lack. He has created this blog to reduce that gap.

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