Archive for November, 2013

Job Interview: Are You Willing to Run Errands?

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

InterviewErrandsCropped2You’re in a job interview for a higher-level position, and the recruiter asks you whether you’re willing to run errands, cover the phones or stock shelves. The right answer is really simple. Be truthful.

If the idea of performing menial chores outside your job description makes you sick to your stomach and tears at the very fiber of your self-esteem, then say:

Outside of work, I run errands. I answer my phone pretty much whenever it rings. I put away stuff I buy from the grocery store. But the thought of doing that at work makes me sick to my stomach and tears at the very fiber of my self-esteem. What other stupid questions do I need to answer in this job interview?

That isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds right now.

CNBC calls me, “America’s job coach.” On television, I have coached people who can’t land a position or a promotion, but are offended in a job interview when the recruiter asks if they might do something outside of the job description. They protest that these chores are “below” them.

Wow, they must have quite a staff at home!

I believe I got my first promotion in advertising because when my account executive asked me if I would swab his phone with alcohol pads whenever he was out of the office, I responded:

Do you want me to bring the swabs from home or do we have a supply here?

One week later, I was elevated from account coordinator to account executive, and doubled my salary. Was it my swabbing? Or was it that I was willing to swab?

I watched with sympathy as his next coordinator swabbed. But, I knew her future was bright.

The way to handle these work chores is to frame them as human kindness, which turns out to be good for your mental health as well as your career. Kindness is not an overflowing characteristic of most current or potential employees. Thus, communicating that you’ll always be happy to help out gives you a huge competitive edge.

Therefore, if you want a position because it largely includes the type of work you desire, when the recruiter asks the dreaded “run errands” question during the job interview, your answer will be more like:

Of course. I am always happy to pitch in.

Say this with a smile and a quick nod of your head.

And, when you do those errands, here’s a mantra from my mentor: “It’s the role, not my soul.

What’s the toughest job interview question you’ve been asked – or are afraid you’ll have to answer? Let me know, and I’ll coach you through it, for free. Email me:[email protected] Subject line: Tough.

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How Do You Deal with Difficult People?

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

InterviewQuestionCropWhat is the right answer when the recruiter asks, “How do you deal with difficult people?” You cannot say: “I like everyone! I never encounter difficult people!”

Here’s the thing. Either you’ve dealt with difficult people, or YOU are one. The truth is in an office, someone is always stressing out everyone else. So, admit you’ve met a few difficult people in your career, and have a good answer with an example.

Keep in mind that having a personality conflict is very different than dealing with someone who is causing a problem for everyone. If you misread this question and make it about a personality conflict, you are saying you’ve been a problem employee.

This may be familiar, if you have a sibling. You’ve heard a parent say, “If you two don’t stop bickering back there, I’m going to stop the car and smack both of you.” That’s a personality conflict, a turf war and the famous sibling rivalry. You’re both difficult, even if your brother started it.

Instead, you want to take on the role of a therapist here, not an enemy combatant.

Here’s an example. My coaching client Deborah is a staff accountant at a large Las Vegas gaming company, and worked for three years with Marjorie, a monstrous woman who had been with the company for a decade. A few co-workers suspected Marjorie had some compromising photos of the senior executives, but in fact she had some specialized knowledge about the legacy IT system. That made Marjorie valuable to the oldest customers who were still on that system. Plus, the senior executives didn’t suffer Marjorie’s tantrums.

As Deborah went on interviews she had her “difficult people” answer ready, because Marjorie was a textbook example.

“Of course, I am compassionate when someone is truly difficult,” Deborah shared. “I know it’s nothing personal between them and me.  When difficult people cause stress in the office, it’s most likely that their home lives or some other problems are really what’s stressing them. For example, I had a colleague who rarely could sit through even a few minutes of a conversation without interrupting and would even interrupt me when I was with a client in my office or on the phone. My strategy was to listen to her with my full attention for a few moments to see if what she needed was truly urgent. If not, I apologized and let her know I couldn’t spend more time with her at that moment.  But, I’d make myself available to her if she wanted to talk after work. Because she commuted with a co-worker, I knew she rarely could meet after hours. It seems transparent, but it worked. Eventually she stopped interrupting me.”

What would your answer be? Whatever you say, keep in mind that working with difficult people calls for you to show how you can be compassionate and dispassionate. You want to show you understand that some people on some days come to work with the worst parts of their personalities “out there,” AND that you don’t get caught up in whatever drama they bring.

The “How do you deal with difficult people” question is one you want to address quickly and then move on with the interview – unless you are interviewing for a customer service position. If that’s your desired role, or you are currently struggling with a difficult person, I recommend you get to know my guru on the subject, Dr. Rick Brinkman. He can change your life with his book: Dealing With People You Can’t Stand.

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Why Were You Fired?

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Some of the most successful people in business were fired from a previous job. Vivian Giang does a nice rundown of the rich and once fired. Mark Cuban, Madonna, Michael Bloomberg, JK Rowling, and Walt Disney are just a sampling. So, if you’ve been “let go” for unsatisfactory performance: you’re in very good company.

Unfortunately, when a recruiter or hiring manager asks you this question – it’s not to congratulate you on joining the ranks of these business stars. It’s to uncover an issue that might affect your performance in this new position.

That’s the key issue: what did you do that might predict your future performance?

If it’s something like stealing, lying, or perpetrating a verbal or physical attack on a colleague: Ricky Ricardo would say, “you’ve got a lot of ‘splaining to do, Lucy.” But, it’s not impossible to get a job, even after such antisocial behavior, especially if you’ve paid the price.

Perhaps you served time in jail, did community service or otherwise made restitution. Penitence alone won’t be enough to clear the slate. You’ll need to prove that you’ve learned a great lesson, made major changes in your thinking and behavior, and remain accountable to someone who may be monitoring, mentoring or otherwise helping you stay on the straight and narrow.

Daniel is a client of mine who threatened his boss with a gun, after an argument about an investor. In fact, Daniel didn’t have the gun at work, but he did have a gun at home. The threat was vague: “You know, I have a gun at home,” Daniel said. That was enough – more than enough. Daniel was fired. While he didn’t go to jail, Daniel had to deal with a lawsuit. And, his reputation was severely damaged.

It was a terrible time in his life, but it gave way to a much-needed personal reckoning. Daniel went into extensive therapy, both one-on-one with a therapist and additionally in group therapy that lasted several years. Among the best outcomes was Daniel changing careers, to one with much less interpersonal stress. He removed himself from managing people. He went to work in horticulture. Being in nature, nurturing plants and slowing the pace of his life are the keys to his successful self-reinvention. He remains in a weekly support group, and he mentors people struggling with the issues he overcame.

Showing that level of self-knowledge, taking responsibility for his actions and sustaining his commitment to change got him his next job, a great one where he has responsibility for managing property.

He actually looked forward to the “why were you fired,” question from the recruiter when he interviewed for the position. He didn’t just admit what happened: he was eager to share the turning point in his life. Note: I’ve changed the client’s name and a few details to protect his privacy.

If you’ve been fired for any reason, recruiters are seeking to understand what happened, and the reasons for your action. They are equally interested in how the termination changed you: what did you do to remedy your thinking and behavior? How do you manage yourself today, that’s remarkably different than the way you were at the time you were fired?

As a career and business coach, I’ve heard just about every difficult situation human beings can find themselves in. And, I have been part of helping clients make simple changes and achieving near miraculous redemption, as these good people got themselves back on the road to success at work and life.

If you have been fired, you may need some help getting back on track, or simply with an accurate and uplifting way to tell your story. You can email me: [email protected] Subject line: Help.

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Angry? Frustrated? Recruiters Want to Know!

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

FrustratedBusinessmanWhen a hiring manager, recruiter, investor or potential partner asks you how you handle frustration and anger: what will you say? Of course, I recommend the truth, so you might have to be really picky about the example you choose to share.

After all, you’re not being asked about every instance where you lost your temper. You get to choose one. Choose wisely.

It will pay off if you have a particular situation in mind, with an answer you’ve practiced so your rage gene doesn’t provoke your Incredible Hulk response. No one wants to hire a mean green menace, although we know that even a softy like Shrek has his limits.

Start your discovery process by meditating a bit on what’s recently frustrated or irritated you. You might also want to focus on an inanimate object, like when your car battery died on the way to the airport or your phone update wiped out all your photos. Focus on what happened, what you did to calm yourself down, how you took care of the situation and what you learned from it. Got that?

1. What happened?

2. How did you return to a calm, problem-solving state of mind?

3. What did you do to take care of the situation as quickly and effectively as possible?

4. What did you learn from the experience?

Your personal brand is at stake here, because we all get angry, irritated, frustrated, and worse. So, you want to communicate that you’re human and get upset. But, you also want to be seen as a person who is really effective, able to acknowledge difficult feelings and recover from them quickly.

This is a great time to showcase that your personal brand includes resilience and recovery from failure. You also want to make it clear that you are someone who learns from mishaps, and takes responsibility by having alternative plans whenever possible.

Can you see how this tough question is actually a gift to you as you reveal the nature of your personal brand? Can you see how this moment allows you to show some of your best qualities?

Here’s an example, from my client Dylan. He starts off his answer with a smile – a little bit rueful and a little self-deprecating. That smile is contagious, and the recruiter will smile, too. And, those smiles increase Dylan’s likability! Pretty good for Dylan’s personal brand from the get-go. Here’s what he says:

I wish I were a better mechanic, since I really love the Mustang my dad handed down to me. It’s a classic, which means not every repair shop has the parts that seem to wear out or give out pretty regularly. A few months back, the car stalled on the freeway during morning rush hour traffic. I was horrified. I was that guy that you hear on traffic reports: car stalled in the middle lane of the 405 and stopping traffic all the way back to the airport. I was so angry at myself for making me and all these people late for work. I’m a Triple A member, so I called them immediately and they got me out of there. That day I made the decision to keep the car only for weekend trips with my dad, who really is a great mechanic. And for workdays, I bought a brand new subcompact that gets about 40 miles a gallon. It’s much cheaper on gas than the Mustang and perfectly reliable. It was a good lesson for me: to choose efficient and effective over sentimental, when it comes to machinery. Next time I’m mentioned on the radio, I’d like it to be about something good I’ve done.

Can you see how Dylan’s personal brand now includes good decision-making? Can you see how he used the opportunity to talk about his dad and the time they spend together? Can you see how his good humor comes through?

What can you say that let’s a recruiter know that you can handle your anger or other negative feelings, and use them to your own and the company’s advantage?

Do you want to know if you have an anger problem? I have a self-graded assessment you can have for free. Just email me at [email protected] Subject line: Anger.

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