impressions

Communication ~ Interview Killers & Winners

You need all the advantages you can get when you are going into an interview but there are mistakes that can kill the advantages. We will cover a few of these today.

First things first…do your research! You must know about the company and what the purpose and mission are before you can sell yourself to them. Go online and research everything you can find from their web site and from any news articles or press releases you can find. One of the questions that is often asked at an interview is “What do you know about our company?” If you can’t give them something substantial…it is an interview killer! If you can tell them something about their mission statement and goals and how you fit into those goals or why your own philosophy is in alignment with their mission statement…it is an interview win!

You must know exactly what you can do for the company. The company needs to know how you “fit” into their organization and it is up to you to tell them. You must know exactly where you can help them. If you have 10 years of experience in sales and consistently have rated number 1 or 2 on your sales team…tell the employer that you will bring those skills to their company to increase their bottom line. If you can give any type of accomplishments…it is always a win!

Know your strengths…if you are an organization wonder…let them know that. Unfortunately the question is often phrased as “Tell us some of your strengths and some of your weaknesses.” You must be able to state what your strengths are without hesitation, but without sounding arrogant. One of the reasons that I am such an excellent resume writer is my outlook on it…I am not necessarily a better writer than someone else but rather it is how I look at the challenge. I am an excellent resume writer because I see resume writing as a challenge that will strengthen my writing skills and I approach it as something that I want to be the best I can make it. I am sure there are better resume writers out there but I can offer that I will always take on the challenge and do my best. As for weaknesses, I generally advise clients to talk about something that they want and need to improve upon…and if they have already started with that improvement that is all the better. I personally get very frustrated while trying to work on my web site so I have reached out to a company that is going to help me learn more functions so it will be easier on me and I will be more efficient. These are interview wins because I know myself and what I can offer and I know areas that need improvement and I am trying to make those improvements happen.

Why did you leave your last job? This could be problematic if you had some trouble and were let go but at that point you simply need to be honest about what you learned from the situation…even if it wasn’t your fault. You never want to bad mouth a former employer because that is an absolute killer! You can however state that unfortunately there were changes within the company and personalities were not working out and being the “low person on the seniority list” you were the one who have to vacate the position…however what you learned was….maybe you learned that with a new change in management you were not allowed to be as involved with decisions and you should have taken a moment to watch the new manager and see and ask how they preferred you to involve yourself. Changes at a company can make staying an impossible in some situations but you must learn something in both staying and leaving. Maybe you simply could not work under the newly promoted person because your personalities did not gel…being upfront and stating that you knew the situation was coming where you would have to leave but prior to that time you tried to make it work and unfortunately it just couldn’t. Learning to watch and learn is not a bad thing so it can be a win in an interview. Trying to make something work is a win for you because you tried…just don’t say that you tried but the other person is a jerk and didn’t…simply state that there are the RARE instances where 2 personalities just can’t seem to work no matter how hard you tried.

Job hunting is hard work…it is the hardest job you will ever have but hang in there and keep trying until you find the right job for you.

See you next time…

Coach

PS…remember to send the thank you note immediately after the interview! One to each member of the panel.

The Law of Attraction

Yes I do believe that when you put positive energy out into the world…positive energy and good things will come back to you…I am going to begin a course tonight to become an Advanced Law of Attraction Coach so I can expand the great info that I want to pass along to you…stay tuned and I will get back here as soon as possible with the new information.

Coach Loretta

Interviewing ~ Quick View

A client recently asked me to do a “quick view” of some of my tips on my blog so that her teenagers would read it. Her point was tha for many young people that are used to technology providing information immediately, it might be easier to gain their attention if I gave them the information “now”. So over the next few days I will be providing the “quick tip” verson of interviewing. My friend also stated that she loves reading the long blogs because she wants the in depth information and she asked me not to get rid of it…so I will attempt to do both and work back and forth between the two sytles.

Enjoy…

INTERVIEWING TIPS 1

It is important to be on time for an interview. It is best if you arrive about 15 minutes early. This will give you time to relax and fill out an application, if necessary. Dress appropriately, since the first impression is a lasting one.

Interview Tips:

1. Do some research on the business before the interview. (See “How to Find a Job,” “Research the Employer.”)

2. Practice interviewing.

3. Go alone. Do not take children or friends.

4. Greet the employer with a handshake.

5. Make frequent eye contact.

6. Smile, be polite, and try to relax.

7. Listen carefully to the questions asked. Ask the interviewer to restate a question if you are confused.

8. Answer questions as directly as possible.

9. Be upbeat and make positive statements.

10. If you’ve worked before, talk about what you learned from it.

11. Use examples of how your skills and abilities would fit the job.

Watch for more “quick tips” coming soon…

Communication ~ In General it is a skill to build ~ Listening is a communication skill

I have spent a lot of time working on communication information because so much of what we do when we are job searching is about communication and it is so very important that we put our best foot forward and communicate effectively. I was working with someone recently and I asked him to tell me what communication means and he sat for a minute and then broke it down pretty succinctly in four words, well actually four if you want to be technical because one way to communicate has 2 words, those words are: talking, writing, listening and body language. Those are the primary ways to communicate, of course we have other ways such as sign language, volume, tone, etc…but they fall under the 3 categories because if you use sign language it is words in body language, so to speak. Tone comes under talking and of course writing covers all kinds of communication whether you are providing it or taking it in because you are reading it.

Let’s take a look at the importance of being a good listener. Listening is a skill that can be learned and should be learned because most people don’t listen,  people are often thinking of what they are going to say next and very often this causes them to miss significant points in a conversation. So what does that have to do with job searching? It has lots to do with job searching because if a prospective employer gives instructions or asks a question, you better listen so you can follow the directions or answer the question(s) correctly.

I want you to think back and honestly try to remember a time or times when you missed a point or answered something sort of off topic because you weren’t paying attention. Well, you certainly don’t want that to happen when you are talking with a prospective employer. People speak at about 125-175 words per minute but most people can listen intelligently at about 800 words per minute so it is fairly easy to see why a person’s mind would wander. Also people usually change about 75-80% of what you say into what they want to hear because people are not taught to listen. We hear things all the time, the sound of a train or siren, traffic going by, a dog barking outside, or children playing just out of sight…think about it…we hear things all the time but how often do we stop to really listen to what we hear? Our minds work very quickly and so it can be quite easy to let your mind wander into other things.

Also it is a stressful time when we are in an interview or talking with someone we want to work for and our minds can be running through many ideas, thoughts, fears, or statements we want to make sure we say, thus we might not be paying as close of attention as we should. It is critically important that we listen carefully to everything that an employer wants or says so we are on the same track.

So how do you become an active listener? Repeating back what you hear (or think you hear) is always a great way to make sure that you heard correctly. Asking questions in between a persons statements to you will help you stay focused. Inquiring if you understand them correctly by restating what they have said, in your own words, so they have a chance to let you know if you have gotten off track or if they maybe aren’t explaining things correctly. Of course nodding your head in agreement or using sounds (uh huh, oh, yes, mmmhmm)  or words to convey that you are listening is a good idea too.

We will talk more about listening skills in communication next time…see you then…

Communication ~ Resumes

I had a bit of an accident and haven’t been here for a bit, but things are fine and now let’s get to that post about resumes and the importance of categories. It doesn’t really matter what type of resume you are working with at some point in time the information needs to  be broken into categories. Generally the first time an employer looks at your resume he/she is going to give it about an 8 to 10 second glance so it they can’t grab onto something quickly, they could very well lose interest. The unfortunate truth is that employers are looking to screen you OUT so they can concentrate on the best of the best they receive. I know…nobody likes to hear that from me, but it is the truth so I might as well be the one to tell you. Better me than the employer that kicks back your resume…so let’s look at categories and how you make them work for you on your resume.

In the last blog I gave some job titles and then wrote down skills that were used in those job titles…and every job was almost the same all the way down the resume. This time we will work on breaking skills into categories to show that it is possible to NOT have everything sound the same.

This time we will take a resume that has lots of customer service including restaurant and clerical and bring it full circle to make a strong “all around” customer service/clerical/administrative resume

CUSTOMER SERVICE

  • Greeted guests and ensured that they were___________________________________________________
  • Answered customer questions and provided information _______________________________________
  • Resolved customer _____________________________________________________________________
  • Provided superior customer service; strong skills in ____________________________________________
  • Served customers their orders and made sure _________________________________________________
  • Responded quickly to customer ___________________________________________________________
  • Strong belief in ensuring customer _________________________________________________________

ADMINISTRATIVE/CLERICAL

  • Billing, meeting minutes, mail, filing, phones, computers, office machines, errands, and reception
  • Organized registration for ________________________________________________________
  • Coordinated and hosted events; organized ________________, such as a____________________ for participants, facilities, catering, signage, displays, _________________ requirements, printing and event _________________
  • Met with sponsors and organizing committees to plan __________________, to establish a_____________, or to review _______________________________ and event ___________________________________
  • Arranged the availability of __________________________________________________, and other event needs
  • Planned and developed __________________________________________ according to customer requirements
  • Conducted post-event evaluations to determine _______________________________________________

CASHIER

  • Received and disbursed _________________; kept records of _______________________________ transactions
  • Received checks and cash for ____________, verified amounts and examined ________________________
  • Explained, promoted, and sold ____________________________________________________________
  • Strong ability to multi-task in fast-paced environment by ______________________, ______________________, maintaining ____________________________________, and finishing all ______________________________
  • 100% accuracy rate for __________________________________________________________________

Another strategy is to use definite accomplishment statements to grab the attention of the reader…we will delve into that type of resume writing next time…but a quick example might be:

Flexible Leader: Operational turnaround in previous company –

  • Resulting in company’s elevated ___________________________________________________________
  • Successfully slashed over budget cost through _____________________, labor _______________,__ and

productivity ______________________

Communication ~ Interviewing ~ What are they looking for???

I had a client this week that brought up the question of  “underlying motives” when interviewers are asking questions. My answer is “YES” there is usually something underlying in the question. Most of the time I tell people that the underlying question is “Why should I hire you” and that you should tack that on in your head to each question asked…so the question is…Could you please tell me something about yourself (and why should I hire you)? What are your strengths (and why should I hire you)? Why do want to work for our company (and why should I hire you)?

But there are also other motives so if the question is “What traits or qualities do you admire in others?” the person posing the question is generally going to think that if you admire those traits in others you try to emulate those traits and/or that you possess those traits. Usually the things we like in other people are the things we like in ourselves.  It is about selling yourself so you want them to know those great qualities but what if we flip the question?

Now the question is “What traits or qualities bother you in other people?”

Often the things that bother us about other people are the things we don’t like in ourselves so how do we give an answer and not give the interviewer/employer pause? Of course it is not always the case that the things we dislike in others are traits we dislike in ourselves but it is an assumption that many people make so we must be prepared in the interview.

The best way to get through this question is to be honest about our traits and why it bothers us when someone has a trait that we have a problem with…BUT…you must put a preface on the answer…

I am a very organized person so I guess it bothers me when someone seems less organized, but in reality there are many different ways that people stay organized and mine isn’t the only way so I try to remember that.

OR

People tell me that I am honest to a fault, something I am working on so I make sure I am also tactful, but it bothers me when someone is dishonest because it isn’t necessary or right so I try to let people know that I prefer the truth even if it isn’t what I want to hear because it is important to me for the people around me to be truthful.

OR

There was a time in my life that I had trouble being on time for events and it made life harder for others so I worked very diligently and very hard to change and now it bothers me when others are late but I try to use my own experience to help them see they can change by making a few simple adjustments in their routine.

It is sort of like the “What are some or even one of your weaknesses?” It is about change and making ourselves better. It takes some thinking about what areas of life you are improving but that is what you should be talking about. It is important that you remember that just because someone throws out the word weakness…it does not make you weak…we all have things we want to improve about ourselves and so refocus on the question as areas of improvement and you won’t feel quite so panicked. Think of an area that needs improvement that you are truly working to improve and tell them what you want to improve and how you are improving.

The weakness question is not a time to throw out deep dark secrets about how you have trouble getting up in the morning or only taking an hour for lunch or even how many drinks you have in day…it is a time to look at yourself and pick an area that you really are improving.

Until next time…live life in the best way possible…

Communication in Career Planning ~ Why is it so important?


There are various aspects to career planning and in order to reach many of those goals you need to be able to communicate your skills and worth to an employer, to your network, and even to yourself.

The beginning stages of the career planning process are usually about setting your attitude for success and choosing goals. In order to do this you must be able to clearly articulate/communicate your needs, desires, and steps so you know exactly where you are going and how you are getting there.

One of the areas that we work with as we are defining your needs is to look for your transferrable skills, those skills that you already have that can slide from one job to another. Those skills could be hard skills such as computer knowledge or soft skills. Soft skills are traits of behavior such as flexibility, punctuality, honesty, and getting along well with others and again we are going to have to decide the best way to communicate those skills to a prospective employer.

Since your resume is often your first impression to an employer it is critical that your wording express exactly what you can do so you can grab the attention of the reader. Clearly communicating your skills, qualities, and achievements will give the employer a reason to take a second look.

After you have impressed them sufficiently with your writing skills and they want to interview you, then you must again show your superior communication skills to them while you are having a conversation during the interview. You will be asked a series of questions that you must answer and articulate your particular skills in relation to the job they want you to do. This is not as easy as it seems and it must be practiced…to be perfect. You must communicate with yourself; you must communicate out loud to either yourself or to others so you know exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it.

If you can’t say it to yourself how do you expect to communicate it to someone else?

Often the first question asked in any interview is “Could you please tell us something about yourself?” so you must be prepared to answer that question. The trick is to communicate and articulate how your previous experience, skills, and talents mesh with the current job opening. Most people know what they do, or have done in previous jobs but most people aren’t sure how to explain those skills, qualities, and traits to others in relation to something new. I have helped many people learn how to do this so they can be successful and I want to help you strengthen your communication skills in this particular area.

Being a great communicator is a skill like any other in which it must be practiced and continually upgraded to be able to be the best. We spend considerable amounts of time communicating with others in various way and they are all important to be aware of so we can use them to the best possible advantage.

Communication ~ Interviews ~ Non-verbal Impressions (part 6)

We have covered the self confidence level at varying degrees but since it is such a key element we are going to continue to discuss it and reiterate the points of importance. (Considering that all levels are important…I will probably cover all of the points more than once and some maybe even more than twice…so let’s get started)

Being self confident is a major key to the sales and marketing aspect of selling yourself. Think for a moment of a time when you purchased a product that worked so well that you wanted to tell all of your friends and coworkers about it because it was so amazing. Now take that same enthusiasm and sell and market yourself because honestly you need to be excited about the quality of work you do and/or how much you love what you do so you can sell yourself to others.

Remember…you are both the sales person and the product so you need to be confident in what you do and what you are capable of doing. It’s not just about what you have done but you must show a potential employer that you are also capable of doing any work that he/she needs and of learning quickly with enthusiasm and flexibility. Of course you will be telling them as you are speaking but your non-verbal communication can say things that contradict what you are telling them. Let’s go back to eye contact for a moment because it is part of your self confidence portrayal and use the eye contact as an example. Let’s say you are telling the employer that you are an honest and forthright person but the whole time you avoid eye contact and when you do look up there is fear and indecision in your eyes that says “I am not sure that I am confident in what I am saying”. If you aren’t sure, or your actions aren’t showing that you believe what you are saying…how do you expect the employer to be convinced? Honesty shows and it is imperative that everyone is honest during an interview so you end up in a job that is right for you and right for the employer.

Remember that employers don’t expect you to know everything and they are expecting to have some training time go into the person they hire so if you portray confidence in your ability to learn and show that you want to do the best job possible then you might be the person hired even if you have less qualifications or experience than someone else. Enthusiasm can take you a long way because employers want employees with good attitudes and if you are excited about what you do and are confident in your abilities and employer will take a long look at you because it is important to productivity to have workers that want to get the work done and get it done well!

Of course your enthusiasm will show through as you are speaking but the non-verbal actions must match the words. It shows clearly when a person is enthusiastic, excited, and has a great attitude in their actions because when you are excited about something the animation starts, the sparkle shows in the eyes, and a person tends to sit up taller and convey the excitement in many         non-verbal ways. Self confidence show in body language and voice and since you KNOW that you are great at what you do…make sure that you portray that confidence in all ways.

As I close I will leave you with a bit of information that has to do with communication but not actually non-verbal…Did you notice that I made the word “know” in the above paragraph in capital letters and made it bold and italic? Well the reason for that is simple…you never “think” “believe” or “feel” you are anything…you are always…Confident, Sure, or You Know…always leave out words that portray you as unsure or have the “maybe” connotation to them when you are trying to portray your confidence in yourself.

Communication ~ Interviews ~ Non-verbal Impressions (part 5)

Last time we talked a bit about posture so first we will pick up and reiterate those points and then move forward. We have determined that as you walked in and shook hands you were standing tall and showing confidence; you sat down and sat at attention, not military attention, but a tall and straight posture again showing your confidence; but you are leaning forward just a little bit to convey interest in the process and the people with whom you are having a conversation. Interviewing is a conversation between you and the person(s) sitting across from you. Of course it just doesn’t feel like a natural conversation because of the nervousness of the situation, but make no mistake it is a conversation and you want to engage the other people by telling stories and asking questions.

There is no one way to sit during an interview and it is important that you are somewhat comfortable so you can feel at least a little relaxed but you also don’t want to be too comfortable so you start to look sloppy or arrogant. I know one person who likes to sit with his legs crossed with his ankle resting on his knee because he has very long legs and when there is a table in front of him the alternative is to have his legs stretched way out in front of the table. He sits down and pushes his chair back a bit and crosses his legs but he also sits tall and straight and leans forward to show interest. He could never be comfortable with his legs sticking out from under the table; it would undermine his confidence level.  As I said in earlier posts, I keep my feet on the floor in front of me so they don’t start doing their usual little dance and jiggle routine!  I have another friend who sits with hands on her lap and her feet crossed at the ankles. She likes her hands in her lap because if she does start to fidget it is less noticeable. You must be comfortable but not casual because you are not in a casual situation. I guess I need to take a moment to say “you aren’t in a casual situation…most of the time” but my clients that are truck drivers, service technicians, and construction workers say that their world is a bit different and it usually is more of a casual atmosphere. You have to be the judge of your own industry and if you aren’t sure…err on the side of caution.

Everything you do is some sort of a communication that you are conveying to the interviewer(s) so make sure you practice in front of a mirror, with another person, or use a video camera and find out what your non-verbal body language is saying.

Let’s talk about eye contact and how that impacts the impression you make. It stands to reason that if you are nervous you might want to look anywhere in the room except directly at the people asking you questions because you are fearful  they will see the fear and nervousness reflected in your eyes. The problem with that theory is that when you don’t look people in the eye it portrays fear, lack of  confidence, and even the impression of dishonesty to the person who’s eyes you are avoiding. A potential employer wants a confident and honest person in their employ so make sure you make good eye contact with each person as you are speaking. Remember that one person may have asked you the question but all panel members are rating you so you must try to give them equal time and respect.

Another factor of eye contact is the expressiveness that can show when a person is telling about an accomplishment that makes them really proud or when telling a story that describes a situation that shows the kind of person and/or employee he/she would be. People tend to get animated and expressive when telling stories that they are proud to tell and that animation can show through during an interview and the pride shows in the eyes and in the voice!

Communication ~ Interviews ~ Non-verbal Impressions (part 4)

You wrote and tailored a fantastic resume where you communicated your skills so well that the employer called you in for an interview.  You know that your resume made a great first impression and showed that your work product is exceptional and your written communication skills are excellent. Now the interview day arrives and you are ready…

You walk in standing tall and showing confidence, you smile at each person as you say hello, you give a good firm handshake, and provide each person with a copy of your resume. You have created a strong first impression that speaks volumes about you and how you feel about yourself and your experience.

Before I move on…it is okay to be nervous…in fact even the most confident interviewee’s are nervous…you just can’t show it so while many of you are out there saying…”Loretta, you are crazy, out of your mind, you have lost it if you expect us to not be nervous as we walk in for an interview…we are going to be nervous and/or down right scared because these people will be deciding out work fate!” Yes, you are quite right, they will be deciding your work fate…but how good are you at what you do? How much do you know about your job? I am guessing that you have been confident in your job for quite some time and even very comfortable talking to others about it while you still were working, am I right? Well, go back to that place of confidence and surety in what you do and what you know and express that to the panel. It’s okay to be nervous…just don’t show it!

Now I have another batch of you out there that are saying “I am changing careers and I am new at what I am doing so I don’t have the experience to be confident when I walk in!” Again, you have been studying, talking to others about the excitement of the changes happening in your life…that is what you need to show to the panel or person that is interviewing you. Show that excitement that many people lack, show your confidence in what you have learned and how much you look forward into putting theory and classwork into practice. You can still be confident because you know the kind of person you are, you know that given the chance to prove yourself as an asset…you will go above and beyond the employers expectations.

Let’s get back to how you portray yourself in the interview…we have established that you have walked in and made sure that the person/panel has gotten the impression that you are a confident person. Now they invite you to sit down and get on with the questions. Yes, it matters the way you sit in your chair! Don’t slouch! You don’t have to sit at military attention, but do sit up straight and tall and maybe lean forward…just a little bit. Leaning forward conveys interest and you want to show you are interested in this process.

Again the eye contact will be important so make sure that you are making eye contact with each person in the room. One person may ask you a question but if there is more than one person there, they are also rating you so make sure you make eye contact with everyone. (Think of how a teacher or speaker looks around the room as he/she speaks so that everyone feels included and emulate them) When I do employment coaching I always look around the room and talk to everyone so it is the same principal

What are your nervous habits? Do you even know them? Do you play with your hair? Do you click or play with a pen? Do you tap your fingers or move your feet? We all have nervous habits that we use to relax and to reduce stress but we have to leave them behind when we walk in for the interview. I am sure I have stressed the importance of practice and more practice before an interview so let me add to that,  the practice should be in front of a mirror or another person so that you can either see your habits or have someone tell you what they are. When I got ready to start interviewing as a Career Coach I learned that I move my feet pretty much constantly when I am speaking to a group or answering questions or anything else that makes me nervous or excited. To combat this nervous habit, I practiced answering questions in front of a mirror and I would push and I mean PUSH my feet into the floor to keep them from moving around. It worked and when I began my series of interviews my feet stayed firmly on the floor without the pushing part. It had become natural, through practice, to keep my feet still.

You should have a form that you can use to rate yourself after an interview on how well you communicated your skills and strengths to the interviewer(s). Something like the chart below…

Example

Assessment

1.

Posture / Body position

1

2

3

4

5

2.

Eye contact with interviewer(s)

1

2

3

4

5

3.

Self – Confidence / Comfort level

1

2

3

4

5

4.

Mannerisms / Body Movements

1

2

3

4

5

5.

Voice (volume and pacing)

1

2

3

4

5

6.

Facial Expressions

1

2

3

4

5

There is so much more to communication than just talking and over time I will cover many aspects to make it easier for you to sell yourself. See you next time…

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Non-verbal communication is still communication
You have made it to the interview and now you need to make a great impression. What are your nervous habits? Do you really sit as straight as you think you do? Are you making eye contact? Watching the clock? Read more to ensure you are communicating what you want... Career Blog

Colleague Statement
“Loretta is a highly experienced and productive professional in the field of Workforce Development, Job Readiness, Career Counseling, Workshop Facilitation, and Job Search Preparation. I have worked with her closely for over six years, and she has consistently been a valuable, key resource in the employment community. For three of those years, she was at Napa Valley College as a resource specialist in their career center... 
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