Sunday, January 3, 2016

The hardest part of the interview: "Tell me a little bit about yourself"...and I really mean a little.

Happy New Year! I know so many people have goals and resolutions of finding a new job in 2016. I wanted to give everyone some tips on how to make yourself memorable at the very beginning of your next interview.
In all of my years of interview coaching, one of the most dreaded times in the interview process is when the interviewer makes this simple request: "Tell me a little bit about yourself." People either find their minds going blank, or they find their minds racing with all of the possible things they could share about themselves because it is such a broad request. But here is the truth, this request is simply an ice breaker. So take off the massive pressure you put on yourself to tell them everything you think they want to hear. "Tell me a little bit about yourself" is simply a polite way for the interviewer to start the conversation before getting into the formal interview questions. And here is the exciting get to treat it as an ice breaker, which means you get to share the highlights about yourself that you choose.
I encourage my clients to use this opportunity to build awesome and memorable rapport. Most people forget that the people conducting the interviews are just like us...human. If we are full of passion and joy, it will be contagious to them. You know how it is when you are telling someone a story you are really excited about. When you are smiling and shaking your head yes, the person listening to you starts smiling and shaking their head yes as well, without even realizing it. That is the kind of energy we want to create in an interview. This is an opportunity for you to share your passion for what you do and have to offer, as well as your excitement about the opportunity to work with them. Is there a particular achievement you are proud of? Or maybe there is a unique reason that you do the work you do? Or do you possibly have an interesting career path that has brought you to this moment? When someone says "Tell me a little bit about yourself", you want to honor the request and share just a little about yourself. If they want more information...they will ask. They did not ask you to walk them through your resume, or highlight every achievement and award you've been given. They simply asked to hear a little about you. So make this time count. Pick two or three things that you want to share and make sure they are things that you feel great about. When you talk about things that you are passionate about, your presence will naturally draw the interviewer in. Everyone connects with passion and happiness, this is a powerful way to start your interview. Here are a few things to consider:
  • What do you love most about your job?
  • Why are you great at your job?
  • What inspired you to choose your type of work?
  • What inspired you to pursue this opportunity? (the position you are interviewing for)
  • What do you love about the company you are pursuing?
  • What are you known for with your current job/customers?
  • Why is this position the perfect next step for you? (the position you are interviewing for)
  • What has been the most exciting part of your career?
  • What is something in your career you are particularly proud of?
  • When do you think you have made the biggest difference in your career?
  • What makes you different from other people in your type of work?
Imagine the difference someone hearing these types of things versus hearing a rundown of someone's resume/past would feel. I have seen time and time again someone totally lose the interviewer's attention when they go on and on about their chronological career path. The fact is most people are totally boring when responding to this request. They feel pressure to share everything they have done when responding to this request. But the reality is that the interviewer has your resume in front of them, they know your history, it is why you were qualified to be invited in for an interview. Unless they specifically ask you to walk them through your resume, don't miss this opportunity for real connection.  Passion and excitement are totally engaging and totally contagious. Give your interviewer the opportunity to see the real you, and to get excited and intrigued to hear more about you. Pick two or three things to share and set the tone for an awesome interview with real connection and rapport. It really is that easy.
It's time to get excited about you and what you can create in 2016!!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Maximizing Your Strengths Beyond the Interview.

A hot topic for most major employers right now is engagement. Savvy organizations know that high levels of employee engagement are crucial to maintain a competitive edge. Have you ever considered the power you, as an employee, have to increase your own level of engagement? What if I said that you have the power to make your time at work more fun? More fulfilling? More meaningful, so that at the end of the day you feel like you made a difference. Isn't that the feeling we all want at the end of a day? This is how we can feel when we focus on our strengths.

During the interviewing process most people know they should be able to speak to their strengths. But if you've been in your current position for some time, you might not even remember the strengths you mentioned in the interview. The truth is, you and your manager have probably been focusing on your weaknesses. Most managers are well intended and they too want to feel like they make a difference, yet far too often they focus on fixing and improving an employee’s weaknesses instead of trying to maximize an employee’s strengths.

Imagine what your job would be like if you were able to capitalize on your strengths. If you are someone who has an amazing ability to see trends in data and spreadsheets, imagine being able to focus on that much of the day. Or maybe you are someone who has a unique ability to inspire and lead those around you. What would life be like if you could live in those strengths instead of trying to “improve” a weakness? If I am someone who loves to inspire people around me to be their best, but my well intentioned manager wants me to focus on improving my ability to write proposals, something I really struggle with but it’s part of my job., how happy and engaged would you imagine me to be? I would probably be pretty unhappy with low engagement.  I might be tempted to complain to coworkers about how frustrating work is. I might think my manager just doesn't “get me” because he/she wants me to “focus” on my weakness, not just “manage” it.

If you find yourself experiencing similar feelings you should ask yourself a few questions:
·        Am I clear about what I LOVE to do at work?
·        What are the tasks I do that seem to make time fly?
·        When I feel like I made a difference at the end of the day, what was I doing?
·        And then, once you are clear about what your strengths are, what things increase your energy, ask yourself the most important question. “Have I communicated my strengths to my manager?”

Your work environment and your level of engagement can improve in an instant when you create opportunities to work within your strengths. But, if you never share those strengths with the people around you, how can they possibly help you capitalize on them?

Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath is a great book to help gain a deeper understanding of your strengths. Embrace your strengths! Don’t sit around waiting for your employer to find ways of increasing your engagement. You have all the power to do that for yourself. Seek out ways to improve your strengths and find new ways at work to exercise those strengths. You will love the way it feels. Not only will you see a change in yourself, but you will see a change in how others respond to you.  Ultimately, you will see a change in your performance, your happiness and the results you create.