Small talk and 4 other traits introverts must improve upon

extravertsWhen my colleagues are chatting away during lunch, I like to join their conversation which is usually about current affairs, television shows, or other topics extraverts seem to enjoy and master with ease.

I do my best to break into their banter, picking the right opportunity to voice my views. But at times choosing my words seems like work. I’m not unusual in this way–finding making small talk difficult–other introverts have expressed the same frustration.

Being comfortable making small talk is one trait I admire in extraverts. Other extravert traits I admire are:

Ability to promote themselves. Extraverts have the gift of gab, and we all know that verbal communications is more direct and timely than written communications. While I feel comfortable sending an e-mail to my manager about my accomplishments, extraverts would go directly to her office and talk about their accomplishments. This confidence they display I erroneously misconstrue for conceit.

Solution. Before approaching the manager to speak of their accomplishments, introverts should formulate what they’re going to say. It may be helpful to write down some talking points on their accomplishments before approaching the manager. They should also remember to smile.

Ease of networking. Most extraverts will tell you they have no problem entering a room full of people and striking up a conversation. Most introverts will tell you this takes effort and is often uncomfortable, and some introverts will tell you they fear networking, both for professional and job-search purposes. Therefore they don’t network.

Solution. Introverts should not network like extraverts. I tell my jobseekers that introverts can network; they just do it differently. Instead of working the room, they feel more comfortable in smaller groups and engaging in deeper conversation.

Boundless energy. Presenting in front of a group doesn’t scare me. By most accounts I’m quite good at it. However, after conducting three workshops a day, my brain feels like mash potatoes. Extraverts, on the other hand, can talk till the sun goes down. Where extraverts may run into problems is not taking time to ask questions and listen to their attendees. Introverts are said to be better listeners. Still, it’s nice to have the endurance to talk with people for eternity.

Solution. Introverts should take advantage of downtime to recharge their battery. I retreat to my cubicle where I can rest my mind and reflect on the next workshop to come. When colleagues approach me during my down time, I tell them I’m busy with important work…even if I’m not.

Conflict management. Well-known psychologist and author, Marti Olsen LaneyPsy.D, The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, asserts that introverts are not as strong at conflict resolution as extraverts are. She writes that introverts avoid conflict as much as possible, and I see her point.

Solution. In order to be good at conflict management, introverts must choose their battles and formulate their thoughts before jumping into the foray. When an answer to an accusation is called for, introverts should ask for time to think about their response. I feel this way when I’m asked to defend my actions.

My admiration for extraverts makes me think about how I can improve on the aforementioned strengths they possess. I’ve witnessed them in my extraverted colleagues and friends; as I’ve also witnessed introverts weaknesses. With some practice, introverts can improve upon their weaknesses, and extraverts can tone it down.

5 ways to be memorable in a positive way in your job search

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I don’t remember much, but when I do, I never forget. There are some jobseekers I remember because they leave a lasting impression, like one woman I had in my Behavioral Interviewing workshop whose story about motivating others was so compelling. Melissa is her name.

Then there’s Mark who just got an Administrator position in healthcare. He thanked me for my help and told me he’d write an account of his job search and how LinkedIn was of great help.

Lisa landed a benefits job in human resources. Previously she was a manager, but she wanted out of that. She proved that stepping down is fine, just as long as you can still prove your value.

Armando I remember because he would always ping me with updates about his job search. He was always positive, never seemingly desperate, and sometimes he offered to help me. He still remains one of my favorite former customers, still someone I’ll reach out to. The other day, in fact, I called to see if he needed a gift in the form of a very talented jobseeker.

Kelly just landed a marketing job at a bank after being out of work for approximately a year. When she spoke with me just before securing her job, she admitted to being discouraged; but she never showed this. In fact it was just the opposite–she was positive and very active on LinkedIn.

Unfortunately there have been people who are a complete downer, but they’re far and in between. Still I remember them because of the poor impression they made. Mike Downer would constantly e-mail me about how he wasn’t going to make it. I would tell him he would if he networked and tried to be positive. He finally got a job. I won’t hear from him unless he needs another job.

The five people* I mention–yes they exist–who came across as positive and/or were willing to provide any help they could are the ones I would go out of my way to help; whereas the one that was always negative is someone I’d dread hearing from.

There’s a pattern here. People want to go out of their way to help those who make a good impression. If you want to be memorable to people who can assist you in your job search, keep in mind the following:

  1. Appearing positive, regardless of your internal struggles, attracts more people than if you’re negative. Negativity drives people away. Take Mike Downer, for example.
  2. Remind people of you by pinging them with e-mails and phone calls, but don’t annoy them with constant contact. Offer to meet them for coffee if it’s convenient for them.
  3. Always follow up after you’ve met someone who might be of assistance. Every time you follow up ask if you can be of assistance to them. If you can reciprocate in any way, it’s better than only asking for their help.
  4. Know your stories. Expert on storytelling, Katharine Hansen @ A storied Career, touts the importance of stories, how memorable they are in life and in the job search.
  5. Let people know about your successes. Had a great interview? Let people know. Finished a résumé you’re happy with? Let people know. Although your confidence may be low, announcing your achievements will make you and others feel great.

These are just a few positive things you can do to become memorable. Don’t be a downer, regardless of your internal struggles. Most people understand that being out of work is painful, including yours truly; so don’t make it the gist of your relationship with others. People like this are easy for me to remember, even if I can’t remember big name actors like Chris….See, I forgot.

*I will occasionally update this list of people and their examples of positiveness.

The curse of tattoos at interviews

An article by Jeff Haden got me thinking about my daughter’s latest request; a tattoo. Jeff’s article is about a man with a tattoo so intricate and enormous that Jeff could only stare at it, making the man uncomfortable.

Although my daughter’s only 16 and she doesn’t want to cover her whole arm with a tattoo, her request makes me think about the ramifications a tat will have on her career future. Will it be detrimental to her job search? I’m sure it will. She’s waiting for my reply.

Where will she put the tattoo, I ask her. I dunno, she tells me. Great. I don’t normally have to deny her requests, but I feel conflicted. I try to picture a tattoo on her.

Will it be private or public? Will it be tasteful or obnoxious? And how many is she planning to get? If it’s private, tasteful, and only one; I guess I could accept her getting a tat. However, if they’re numerous and on her neck, wrist, and anywhere they’d be seen during an interview or at work; I will definitely have an issue with that.

TattooOne of my customers who formally worked at an upscale salon has tattoos that cover her hands, forearms, and neck. They’re magnificent tattoos like the one Jeff mentions in his article, but the assortment of them makes me wonder how employers would view them, if she were to apply for, say, an office position.

This customer’s tats are so visible and magnificent that they distracted me during my workshops. Particularly during my Interview Techniques workshop when I want to have her stand up so I can tell the group that tattoos like these might not be the right image you want to present at an interview.

And then I want to add in a Sam Kenison rant, “They’re forever. Ah, Ah, Ahhhhh.” But I neither make her stand or express my disapproval of her tats. It’s her life, even if they are forever. I can only wonder why she decorated her body like a Harlem wall covered with graffiti. Maybe if she had a parent who urged her not to get the tattoos, she wouldn’t have marred her body with them.

Among the many aspects of our first impressions, tattoos are one of them. Employers are more forgiven than they were in the past. We know this because many of the people who serve us at restaurants and coffee houses, work with us in offices and outdoors, are displaying them freely and with impunity.

But it makes me wonder if the tattoo-baring employees displayed them so freely when they were interviewed, or did they hide them with long sleeves, turtle neck shirts, and pants that covered their ankles…in the dead of summer? If these folks with tats had the foresight to hide them, they may have dodged a bullet.

What if, for example, a college grad is applying for an accountant position, in the last stages of the interview process, and talking with the VP of say PricewaterhouseCoopers. She’s feeling so confident because she’s been told this interview is a formality, a sign off. It’s in the bag. So she lets her guard down and wears a sleeveless dress, revealing a small, tasteful butterfly tattoo on her shoulder.

Harmless, right?

This is my fear; my daughter will be that young woman at the interview of her life, only to blow it because of a simple tattoo. Only because some conservative guy might be the decision maker and think that this woman is too compulsive; not right for the company image.

All because of a tattoo my daughter got while her friends were encouraging her to “go for it” in New Hampshire at some seedy tattoo parlor. The image of her walking out of the parlor sporting a tat on her wrist, looking at her friends for approval, showing some doubt on her face; is enough for me to make a decision.

I tell her no to the tats, and she shrugs her shoulders and says fine. I get the feeling she never wanted one and all my worrying was for naught, until she asks for is a nose stud.

 

 

9 reasons why I update so often on LinkedIn

update2Yesterday I tried really hard to refrain from sharing more than one LinkedIn status update. This resolution lasted an hour before I gave in to my urges, like someone on a bad diet. I don’t know what it is about this habit of mine, where I update no less than five times a day.

Daniel Newman an Adjunct Professor of Management at North Central College probably had me in mind when he posted Six Bad LinkedIn Habits That Must Be Broken on TheSavvyIntern.com.

I quote Daniel, “People don’t check LinkedIn nearly as often as Facebook or most other Social Networks for that matter. So I recommend that statuses are updated no more than once or twice a day.”

It’s not only Daniel’s suggestion that makes me examine my propensity to update. One of my colleagues told me I’m over the top and need an intervention, some kind of professional help he told me. So to validate why I update no less than five times a day, I came up with nine reasons.

Visibility. I reason that to be relevant on LinkedIn one must update. But how visible is too much? When people tell me they see me a lot on LinkedIn, are they just being nice and really thinking they see me too much on LinkedIn?

It’s fun. I can hear the guffaws from the peanut gallery, those who can’t think of what to update to save their life. Believe it or not, I enjoy writing and sharing articles…sometimes my own.

It keeps me from having to watch crappy television shows. Weighing watching The Bachelor against scanning my home page or Pulse for articles to comment on. Well, I’ll take the latter any day of the week.

It’s ideal for introverts. Here you go again, Bob, talking about introverts. I personally believe that updating on LinkedIn is an ideal way for introverts to communicate their thoughts. (Read 6 reasons why introverts prefer to write to understand what I’m talking about.)

I’m competitive. Or somewhat narcissistic if you like. Maybe subconsciously I enjoy receiving “Likes” or, better yet, comments on them gives me a feeling of being on the screen in Times Square.

I want to educate my followers. This is my pat answer to my aforementioned colleague and others who ask why it’s important to update at least once a day. Sharing articles…many times my own…what’s going on in my professional life, sage words of advice, etc, are intended to help my connections.

I’m addicted. This is perhaps my greatest fear. That I’m out of control and may need an intervention, as my colleague suggests. But like any addict, I can’t stop going to the strategically placed Share an Update box on my home page. It’s calling for me, “Bob, why aren’t you updating. It’s been an hour since your last one.” STOP, I yell. But then I give in.

I’m not as bad as some. I know this is a lame reason, almost an excuse, but some of my connections show up on my home page 10 times in a row. Do I remove them from my list of connections? No, I HIDE them. So I try to space out my updates.

I use it as a teaching tool. During my LinkedIn workshops when my attendees are outraged by the idea of having to update at least once a day, I demonstrate how to share an update within three minutes.

So here you have the reasons why I update and feel it impossible to follow Daniel Newman’s suggestion to update (only) once a day. I hope that he’ll revise his article to say, “Update as much as you’d like.” But I don’t think that’s likely because in all honesty, I’m the perfect example of an update freak.

 

 

5 hard truths about the interview, according to an interviewer

Interviewers who proclaim that most interview advice is simplistic irritate me. These are people who view advice on eye contact, handshakes, how to answer difficult questions, and avoiding smoking before an interview, as obvious and unworthy of  mention.

But the fact remains that occasionally some of these know-it-alls speak the truth, and the truth sometimes hurts. Let’s face it, although eye contact and the handshake need to be in check, there are more important things to consider at an interview.

Charles B is one of these people who warn jobseekers to be aware of more pressing issues at an interview. At the behest of a customer of mine, I read an article by Charles entitled Why I Won’t Hire You. It’s quite good, albeit abrasive. For example, he writes:

“When you first walk in to my office, I am expecting you to be one of the 99%+ people who I know I won’t hire in the first 5 minutes. I am hoping I will be proven wrong, because I really want to hire you and be done interviewing. Unfortunately, most people looking for jobs don’t deserve them….”

Don’t pull any punches, Sir Charles.

Charles goes on to address some of his pet peeves, those that will certainly prevent job candidates from getting hired by him. I see truth in all of them, and have my own comments to add.

1. You send me a stupidly long résumé

Bingo, the shorter the better. If you’ve read his article in full before reaching this point, you’ll note that he’s a bit hypocritical, as his article is quite long. But his point about writing a résumé that addresses the requirements he lists in his job ads is spot on. In the hiring manager’s mind, it’s all about her needs, not a candidate’s desire to pontificate on irrelevant skills and qualifications.

2. You can’t tell me why you like your current job

That’s right, be specific and sound enthusiastic about what you did at your last job. Generic statements like, “I enjoyed the challenges” are seen as avoiding the question. Someone who’s serious about working for a company will see this as an opportunity to talk about responsibilities and challenges that exist at the perspective company.

3. No career plans or vision

As Charles says, “If you just want a job, why should I care? Someone else will come to me with their vision. Eventually.”

He states as a valid reason being disappointed with the lack of growth opportunity at one’s former company and an opportunity to advance at his company. Why would an employer want to hire someone who doesn’t know what he wants? Failure to express career direction at in interview indicates a lack of focus on the job.

4. No Skills

This is a common complaint among recruiters and hiring managers; people apply for jobs they’re not qualified to do. Charles says to not waste his or others’ time and be honest in your written communications about how you’ll need to learn the required skills. For example, he accepts someone who writes, “Looking to grow skills in Unix administration from a project background.”

5. Answer my questions with conjecture

Here he’s saying don’t bull s_ _ _  me. If he asks a questions that calls for an example, job candidates better have one, lest Sir Charles loses his patience. I see his point. Interviewees who are dancing in circles come across as desperate or unsure of themselves. Just be honest and say you can’t provide an example.

How to Win the interview

There are five specific traits Charles is looking for:

  1. Show me you can get things done.
  2. Show me you are intelligent.
  3. Show me how I fit into your vision
  4. Be highly skilled.
  5. Be Passionate.
  6. Don’t let me see you sweat. (This is my suggestion.)

The bottom line is that Charles B is telling it how he thinks it is. Jobseekers shouldn’t discount other information given by job search experts, but they should heed what this hiring manager writes. The truth sometimes hurts. But isn’t it better to know the truth than go to an interview with blinders on? Incidentally, Charles B might not like what I’ve written, but the truth is that I don’t care.

PS. Since I wrote this a few days ago, I visited Charlie’s comments and was amazed by the positive and negative…downright nasty…comments he has received. I urge you to read his article.

This article previously appeared in January of 2012, but it still holds true to the nature of interviews.

I’m not the enemy–8 myths and facts about what I do

myths

I recall a conversation I had with a recruiter who told me I’m the enemy. The reason she told me this is because my job as a career strategist and workshop facilitator is to prepare jobseekers for their search. And I imagine this recruiter believes I instruct my customers to do anything to pull one over on recruiters.

While it’s true my goal is to help my customers get jobs, I will not go to any measure to help them land in a position, especially when they’re not qualified.

The fact that this recruiter called me the enemy got me to thinking about how misunderstood I am when it comes to preparing jobseekers for their search. Here are 8 myths and facts about what I do.

1. Myth: I tell my customers that all recruiters are scum. That they only care about themselves and their client, the company.

Fact: I tell my customers a recruiter’s paycheck comes from the company. However, the recruiters’ goal is to create a match between employer and candidate. Many recruiters want to build healthy relationships with jobseekers–it only makes good business sense.

2. Myth: I encourage my customers to lie on their résumés or, at the very least, embellish their accomplishments to trick recruiters into calling them.

Fact: My mantra is, “Never lie on your résumé.” People who lie on their résumé are found out for the frauds they are. So don’t make it worse by claiming you’ve accomplished more than you have, I advise.

I’ll admit that I tell my customers to conceal their age by only listing 10-15 years of work history. 

3. Myth: I tell my customers that the recruiter’s purpose is to screen them out of consideration because of their their salary requirement, so they should agree to a lower salary. Then they can battle it out with the hiring manager.

Fact: Yes, recruiters need to know if the opportunity is at all plausible, so I tell my jobseekers it’s best to know earlier than later if they and the employer are even close. Why waste everyone’s time?

4. Myth: Similar to myth # 3, I tell my customers that the telephone interview with the recruiter is only a screening to verify they have the technical requirements for the job and has nothing to do with determining personality fit.

Fact: Recruiters need to verify if my customers can do the job, have the required software/hardware/procedural skills required by the employer; but good recruiters also determine if applicants are a personality fit. I tell my customers to be prepared for more difficult questions, including behavioral-based ones.

5. Myth: I tell my customers that recruiters have no say in the hiring process.

Fact. Recruiters don’t make the ultimate decision, but their opinion is valued by the hiring manager, so the interviews will be challenging and reveal the strengths, as well as the weaknesses, of the applicants.

6. Myth: I tell my customers to go around the recruiters and speak directly with the hiring managers.

Fact. Going around the recruiters will not only fray relationships with recruiters, it will demonstrate a lack of integrity and will turn the hiring managers off. However, if my customers are not getting the love from a recruiter, they should take measures into their own hands.

7. Myth. I tell my customers to contact as many recruiters as possible to increase their chances of getting a job.

Fact. My father told me as a teenager to play the field; this always backfired. The recruiter can be your best friend, so don’t dis him by not showing the love. My customers need to build the trust with the recruiter and not insult him by being a player. Some recruiters are putzes, so move on until you find one or two that deserve your love.

 8. Myth. I tell my customers that all recruiters read cover letters.

Fact. From the words of a recruiter who doesn’t read cover letters, “I read 200 résumés for one position. No, I don’t have time to read cover letters.” Some recruiters (the smart ones) read cover letters, but no all.

As you can see, I’m not fighting against recruiters; I’m merely trying to prepare my jobseekers in a realistic manner. I don’t believe all things come up smelling like roses. There are jobseekers who will pull dumb moves, and there are recruiters who will treat my customers with disrespect. The goal is to develop a partnership between jobseekers and recruiters.

 

 

 

11 traits of the best interviewer ever

Based on a comment from a reader, I’ve added one more trait of the best interviewer ever. I will continue to add more traits as great suggestions are made. 

As I read articles on the five traits employers look for in the ideal job candidate and others like it, I think about what traits the  ideal  interviewer would demonstrate in the hiring process. Interviewer/s typically hold all the cards in the hiring processes, but who’s to say they shouldn’t be accountable for hiring the most qualified person for the job?

According to an article from CareerBuilder.com, a whopping 69% of employers say they hire people who aren’t qualified to do the job or aren’t a fit. Furthermore, employers are losing humongous sums of money because of their poor hiring decisions, as much as $25,000-$50,000 per bad hire.

I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t bode well for employers’ hiring strategies and, more specifically, how they interview and choose their candidates.

Interviewing people for a position isn’t the easiest thing to do, nor is it the most pleasurable part of a job according to most hiring managers I’ve asked. I didn’t particularly like it myself, but it was a necessity. Who is the best interviewer ever? He or she has the following 11 traits:

  1. She’s prepared from the beginning. The success of an interview depends a great deal on whether the best interviewer ever has taken the time to prepare for the big event. This means identifying the skills and experience she seeks in the candidates, as well as recognizing the weaknesses she wants to avoid. She prepares answers in advanced and doesn’t rush around asking people in the office what interview questions she should ask five minutes prior to the interview.
  2. Doesn’t care that the candidates are nervous. Some jobseekers don’t interview well, but that doesn’t mean they can’t excel at the duties of the job. It’s a totally different matter if they’re not prepared for the interview or commit all of the faux pas described in the hundreds of published books and online articles. The best interviewer ever will overlook such poor first impressions.
  3. Puts the candidates at ease. Related to the previous trait, the best interviewer ever will try to bring out the best in the candidates by making them comfortable, trying to reduce the stress level. A great opening statement might be, “I’d like you to relax and consider this a conversation. I’m interested in getting to know you so I can make a good judgement about your skills and experience.” This certainly will bring out the best in the candidates.
  4. Asks the candidates relevant questions. These would include questions that were well thought out, not ones that the interviewer read from a book, or questions that were devised three years ago by Human Resources that meet the requirements for previous HMs. The best interviewer ever does her due diligence before the interviews begin by meeting with the HM to determine his needs and wants.
  5. Asks tough questions that get to the core of the candidates. Most employers would agree that besides the questions that determine someone’s technical abilities, behavioral-based/motivation-based questions are the best at predicting how the candidates will perform in the future, based on past behaviors and their motivation to overcome obstacles. Related to #2, the best interviewer ever knows these questions will stress candidates more than more traditional questions.
  6. Interviews candidates for a job that exists. Oh sure, there’s a need for someone to fill a position in the company; but the company plans to go with an inside candidate and is holding the interview for appearance sake. This is a waste of time for everyone involved and a letdown for expectant candidates. This is plain wrong and may not be on the head of the best interviewer ever.
  7. Interviews candidates for the correct position. The best interviewer ever doesn’t interview candidates for a position that has different requirements than advertised in the job posting. Many of my customers have told me they prepared for the ideal job only to find out the requirements were beyond their reach, making them obviously unfit for the position. A big waste of time.
  8.  Doesn’t ask illegal questions. “How old are you?” one of my customers was asked during a phone interview. Other illegal questions include: what country are you from? Do you have any children? Are you taking medication? The best interviewer ever will refrain from asking questions about race, color, sex, religion, national origin, birthplace, age, disability, and marital/family status, etc. The best interviewer ever knows better.
  9. He doesn’t make a decision based on appearance. I once worked for someone who hired very young, attractive women; and the running joke was that he was a “dirty old man.” This makes one wonder if many qualified people were passed over because they didn’t meet his appearance standards. The best interviewer ever will disregard appearance and focus on technical and personality fit, ultimately hiring people who are right for the job, not better suited for modeling.
  10. She provides feedback if a rejected candidate asks. This is a tough one because a few candidates might cry foul or press the best interviewer ever for more details. However, many of my jobseekers simply want to know how they can do better at the next interview, nothing more. I applaud an interviewer who will provide critique on how a candidate answered certain questions, what skills they lacked, or if they wouldn’t be a personality fit for the company (there is such thing).

As mentioned earlier, making great hiring decisions is not as easy as people would think, ergo the 69% of hiring managers who make wrong hiring decisions at one point or more in their career. But if said interviewers consider their goal of hiring the best candidate, they must think not only of themselves but rather consider how best to get the necessary information from the people they’re considering hiring.

Oh, lastly, 11. He sends a rejection letter. A little bit of courtesy will go a long way.

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