Posts Tagged ‘job interview’

Listening Tests Your Self-Discipline and Leadership Potential

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Ear_Small_2Listening is a strategic communication tactic. When you are not prepared to listen strategically, you can fail yourself and the other people in the room.

Strategic listening requires one skill first and foremost. You need self-discipline. You must give your complete attention to the speaker. Avoid doing anything that gives the impression that you are simply waiting to reply. And, when you do respond, make every syllable count. Bad news or good news, your response reveals how much self-management, and thus how much leadership potential you possess.

Here are the last three of the 6 listening strategies, which I started in my prior post.

De-escalation Listening
Strategic listening is key when you’re stuck with a temperamental person who is light on impulse control. Maybe you actually did something that irritated them, and then again, maybe someone in their household ate the last bowl of Cheerios. It doesn’t matter. The temperamental person is not about solving anything. In short, they just want an audience for their temper tantrum. Against all the advice you will get from listening gurus: do NOT use words to reflect back what you heard. I recommend you maintain solid eye contact, and only use sounds in response. Start with vowel sounds: ahhh, ohhh, and ooo. And when they run out of gas, switch to consonants: hmmm. Finish them off with a firm nod of your head. You will find when you withhold words; these dirigibles deflate and waft away.

Misery-Interrupt Listening
A surprising number of people are not emotionally centered at various parts of the day, or in response to a variety of situations. We all have old “tapes” in our head that frequently play the kind of angry self-talk gangstas use in a war of words against their enemies. Assess whether you are listening to a fair, objective assessment of a situation, or if it’s the speaker’s own descant relaying depression, low self-esteem, or fear. If someone is mired in personal misery rather than reality, there’s only one response: compassion. If there’s a desk between you, come around the other side. Politely acknowledge their pain. For example, say, “Sounds like a lot is going on.” Then, normalize, so they keep their dignity. For example, say, “Almost everyone has this kind of thing happen from time to time.” Follow that with some hope, so they keep their sanity. For example, say, “I know you can figure this out.”

Joyful Noise Listening
Every so often someone scores a win, and wants to retell the story. I hope you are in this situation really often, both as a speaker and a listener. As the receiver of a triumphant tale, do not relate back your own successes – even if you’ve done the same thing and your experience is totally relevant, identical or even bigger and better (for goodness sake, don’t talk about that). Instead, be a great audience. Listen to the joyful noise coming at you, and smile. Listen carefully, and echo back the key points framed as questions. For example, “You didn’t get a call back until one minute before the end of the day, on the last day the deal could be done?” or “And then you slam dunked the deal, in that last minute?” Clap your hands, and if the flu isn’t going around: give a fist pump. If the flu is going around, holler: “Air five!” and pretend you’re slapping palms.

Would you like to have all six listening strategies to use for your business or career goals? Email me at [email protected]. Subject line: Listening

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We Must Like You to Hire You

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

ShadowPortraitIn all the time I’ve been working, coaching, teaching and speaking: I have never met anyone who is too stupid or uneducated to get the job they really wanted. I’ve never met a business owner or someone who wanted to be an entrepreneur who lacks the intelligence or ability to build the enterprise they really wanted to captain.

It’s been about 15 years, and I’ve directly met over 50,000 people, plus many more from speaking to audiences around the world. So, I have a lot of proof that you can do pretty much what you want to do.

Your life is pretty much what you make it.

If you feel you’ve got a skills or information deficit, at your fingertips on a moment’s notice, you can learn almost anything. Just Google “how to roast a prime rib to medium rare” or “how to do a laparoscopic spay.” True, that last one presupposes you run a veterinary clinic, but most often the skills or knowledge you need are all over the web, with plenty of videos to give you second opinions, workarounds, alternative approaches and some good arguments.

In addition to various search engines directing you to real time resources, you have an abundance of remarkable educational institutions offering free courses on science, technology, management, design, and nearly every other topic you can yearn for.

Of course as an educator with UCLA Extension, I must mention you have access to an abundance of high quality on-ground and online courses for a fee. These 2-day to 12-week courses often turbo charge your learning, because you apply new skills as you study with teachers who are working in the field you want to enter.

There’s so much knowledge, it’s impossible to say you can’t become exactly what you feel driven to achieve. And, if you can just watch videos: you pretty much have the intellectual capacity required for that dream, along with the resources.

So it’s not for lack of intellectual capacity or opportunities for skill-building that most people find themselves stuck in a bad job or failing in a poorly run business, or failing to fulfill their desire to be an entrepreneur, consultant or anything else.

And, it’s not for lack of employers or customers who want to pay reliable, motivated and personable individuals to help them achieve their goals. Truly.

That’s the secret. If we don’t like you, we won’t hire you or retain you.

Very few people are really personable and likeable. The researcher Anderson along with many others who have expanded or contracted his seminal work on personality, determined there are 555 traits that define anyone’s personality. More than half of those traits are undesirable ones.

Your worst personality traits ALWAYS overshadow your good ones. You may be hostile, irritable, selfish, ungenerous, boring, discontented, trouble-making, a gossip, negative, annoying, attention-getting, confused… the list is long.

Unfortunately, the people who are stuck, can’t land an interview, can’t get funded, can’t stay in business or otherwise fail are leading with their worst traits, or letting them run amok when they need to be corralled and defused – before we meet you.

It all but kills me when I meet someone who could be so happy, satisfied, proud, and financially stable except for the fact that their negative personality traits are like a bad odor that won’t go away (so everyone else does).

Stop thinking you are being victimized by some outer force – although you may be. Most of us who succeed, overcome the odds, including a bad economy, less than ideal bosses and all the other things that are just a part of business and life.

Would you like an inventory of the 555 traits, and an assessment of your personality? Email me at [email protected]. Subject line: 555

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Interview: What Inspires You?

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

InspirationSquareMost recruiters want to know the single most important thing about you, which is: do you know yourself? You may not hear the literal question, “what inspires you?” during a job interview. However, your being able to articulate what inspires you, may be the linchpin to scoring the job you want.

Inspiration is that thing that keeps you going: the North Star of your career.

In a media interview last week, I was asked, “What has been the single greatest driver behind your career?” What the interviewer was really asking is, “What explains the choices you made?”

Does this sound like something you have to answer?

You may need to answer, “what inspires you?” even when that’s not exactly the question on the table. In fact, you may need to address the nature of your inspiration in your cover letter or email, just so you can get a meeting with the recruiter or hiring manager.

Is this you?

Perhaps your resume leaves you open to an accusation of job-hopping. Or, you were fired or laid off, your job was eliminated, or you quit without much notice. Perhaps your work experience is varied. Perhaps you’ve moved from one industry to another. Perhaps your education doesn’t match your current aspirations.

For example, I have a coaching client who studied to be a mechanical engineer, and did a stint in a manufacturing plant where she measured job performance on a production line. Every hour she sat watching employees and charting their widget production on a spreadsheet. She thought she would lose her mind. Turns out she isn’t suited to do the job she is educated to do. After taking one extension class in strategic marketing, Daria wants to transform herself. She wants to transition to marketing, without going back for an MBA.

Of course she can. She simply needs to explain the source of her inspiration – NOT what is inspiring her change of mind. She needs to explain that the same thing that inspired her to study mechanical engineering is the very thing that inspires her choice to move into marketing.

Here’s what I recommended she say:

Of course it seems unusual to first ‘know’ that mechanical engineering was the best choice, and now know with equal certainty that marketing is where I belong. So, I want to explain the source of inspiration for my career choices. I love measuring processes and progress. I love finding the way to optimize, replicate and continuously improve what is successful in business.

I found out that a marketing department needs this approach. The inspiration for my career is to be logical and systematic, in my thinking and contribution. Because marketing is creative and experimental in its approach to generating responses to advertising and other messaging, I can add value with a systems approach to assess what marketing programs are working.

Do you have an unusual or problematic work history? Could you benefit from a story that explains what happened, and why you are a great hire? I will help you for free. Just tell me your problem. Email me at [email protected]. Subject line: Inspire.

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Interview: Can You Work Overtime & Weekends?

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

ClockFoldersOf course, you can work overtime and weekends. The real question is: WILL you work overtime and weekends, WITHOUT being resentful? Will you work those nights and weekends with the same energy, diligence and good attitude that you are promising you’ll bring to the job every day?

Wow, you might think. They haven’t even hired me for this job and its regular hours. Now, they want to own my nights and weekends, too?

Actually, whether you do or don’t work overtime, many jobs depend on your so-called personal time to contribute to your productivity. When I was first hired at a mega ad agency, the CEO told me the company had a no-freelancing policy.

“Everything you think –whether it’s while you’re driving, showering, or taking a walk: all that is ours. We are paying you for your ingenuity and your creativity. Most of that activity can’t go on during the day, because you are working. Your best thoughts are going to come after hours, and we own those,” he concluded.

Ask any successful person enjoying a stratospheric career, or any entrepreneur and business owner. Their best ideas come when they are bathing their dogs, baking brownies and doing the assorted chores of life.  Or they visit a museum, shop in a well-curated store or sightsee a new place. These are springboards for their relaxed brain to imagine and problem solve, whether its ways to be more productive or ways to develop new products.

Who does own your time? And, how can you define what you will and won’t do after regular hours?

Recently one of my coaching clients who is job hunting called me with his problem about working overtime and weekends. Lynden said, “I observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday night to sundown on Saturday. How do I explain in a job interview that I can’t work overtime and weekends during this time?”

I recalled famous Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax. Koufax refused to pitch in the first game of the 1965 World Series because as Jew, that would have caused him to violate the religious practice of abstaining from work on the high holy day of Yom Kippur. Koufax went on to win the last two games of the series, including the championship-winning seventh game, pitching 2-0.

Not only did the Dodgers accommodate him and keep him on the team for as many years as he cared to play, they re-hired him this year as a special advisor.

Of course, my client Lynden had a more routine problem, since his Sabbath occurred each week.  When asked if he could work overtime and weekends, I recommended Lynden reply:

“Yes. On weekends I am able to work starting on Saturday, in the early evening. During weekdays, I can almost always work overtime, except on Tuesdays in Spring, when I coach my son’s soccer team.”

You might be taking a class, have a regular yoga session, attend a book club or have other time you need to protect.  You may even set aside certain hours to simply relax. In those cases, you may say,

“Yes, I can work overtime and weekends. I am able to work (fill in the specifics).”

This is a three-step communication. First, you say “yes.” Second, you define the terms by telling them what you can do. Third, you outline the exceptions.

Do you have a problem with job interviews or job-hunting that you need help with, so you score the perfect position? I will help you. Email me at [email protected]. Subject line: Hunt.

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Interview: Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

GuyPonderingSQ2Among the silliest questions you get in a job interview, is the one that won’t die: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

If you’ve written a business plan, you know your five-year forecast is the least reliable outcome you “predict.”  Same thing when you ponder your investment portfolio, the height of your infant, or the state of your love life.

There are days when I cannot make a good guess about what’s going to happen five minutes from now. Clearly the question about where you’re going to be in five years is ridiculous. Well, sort of ridiculous.

The five year question is meant to show you have some personal insight, that you spent time reflecting on your goals, and you have a sense that the job you’re interviewing for fits into your overall life plan.  A great answer doesn’t guarantee a bus won’t hit you as you leave the interview, which of course might change everything.

However, a great answer to “where do you see yourself in five years” is a chance for you to shine, in the here and now.

This week I coached an 83-year-old woman on this question. Lauraine recently had her hours changed at the hospital where she’s worked for more than two decades, as a patient advocate. Administration moved her start time from early morning to late afternoon. So, she’s about to go on a job hunt. Her goal is to find a place where her being wide awake and cheery at 7 AM is to everyone’s advantage.

Lauraine reached out to me because this is the toughest question she fears she might encounter in a job interview. My uncle is a few years older than she is, and recently started working in the pro shop at a country club. So, like almost all tough questions: I have already helped answer this one successfully. Here’s what I recommended Lauraine say.

Thank you for asking! My plan is to continue working in a customer service position. I like listening with empathy to people, helping solve their problems and putting a smile on their faces.

If you are a bit younger, or quite a bit younger, with the desire to have greater responsibility in some capacity – then your answer will focus on a longer term career path. Show how you see the position you’re interviewing for, will enrich your future value to the organization. Your answer might be:

My plan is to continue to be in administration, enlarging my skill set so I can effectively administer increasingly complex projects. I see myself developing people and leading a strong team, and becoming a person that this organization can count on – and be proud of.

Do you have a tough question that you cannot ask anyone for help with? Is there something that is holding you back from aggressively pursuing your job hunt? Is there a question you fear being asked in a job interview? Ask me. I will help you work it out, for free. Email me [email protected] Subject line: Help.

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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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