Interviewing by Storytelling

How can you be comfortable in an interview and show the best picture of you?

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer
As appeared in “Ask the Career Coach” Column on MillburnPatch.com

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

I struggle when interviewing as I am not comfortable in this setting. How can I be more effective in my responses?

GD
Short Hills

 

Interviewing can be stressful if you are not prepared. Although you cannot prepare for every question or situation encountered, practice can reduce the anxiety you may feel going into an interview setting.

A certain amount of stress or anxiety can serve to elevate your performance during the interview. If the stress or anxiety is too much, then it can have a negative impact on your presentation.

The key during an interview is to shift ever so gently the interview from a question grilling situation into a conversation. You can achieve this by answering the questions concisely and asking clarifying questions as you close your response. For example, for the “tell me about yourself” you can say “based on my understanding of the position, I have the knowledge to help the company leverage itself in this new market with experience in…” Then close your answer with “please share with me what some of the initial projects you see this role taking on.” Closing in this manner will allow you to gain insight for the questions that follow and you are gently shifting the interview into a conversation style.

The key is to know the job, the company and potential issues the company is facing—compliance, regulatory, globalization, environmental and social concerns prior to your interview meeting. If you can gain intelligence on the individuals you will be meeting with is very important as well. Ask about their process, next steps and when you can connect with them to follow up.

Learn yoga breathing so you can calm yourself prior to interviewing. Clear your mind and focus to get the conversation flowing. Wrap your answers in stories after you provide a concise technical answer by saying, “May I elaborate by sharing a work situation?” It allows the interviewer to respond and then you are able to engage in a story. Keep the story brief, emphasizing the point you want to make and do not go off on a tangent. It’s a powerful way of sharing your strengths while weaving a story.

Remember it is your responsibility to tell an accurate story about yourself, stressing your strengths and abilities. If you are scheduled for an interview, then you have passed the initial match or competency screen. Now it is up to you to show your personality. People like to hire individuals that they like and get along with, so chemistry is important. Watch for work style, approach and engage so you can begin to build a relationship. Typically the hiring manager selects the candidate they believe will perform well and that feels comfortable within the company culture and department’s style.

 

About this column:

“Ask the Career Coach” is a column dedicated to those who may be in transition or wrestling with a career dilemma by providing a forum for advice.  

How Do I Stop Self Doubting?

How to gain more confidence on the job.

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer
As appeared in “Ask the Career Coach” Column on MillburnPatch.com

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

I have been working for 6 months as a RN (Registered Nurse). I am always asking questions when I am not sure how to do something. Why do so many more experienced RNs doubt me by telling me how to do something even if I know how to perform the procedure? What should I do?

Thanks,
L.G., Millburn

 

You are in a field that has potentially life-threatening consequences if done wrong. The fact that you are aware enough to ask when unsure is a good thing. The biggest challenge for many new hires is knowing when to proceed and when to ask for help. In nursing school, there was probably a lot of instructional guidance given. It sounds like you are taking your work very seriously.

By asking repeatedly about a procedure, you may be undermining the staff’s confidence in you. Are you truly unsure or just not feeling confident enough to proceed? If you have done a procedure before successfully, ask yourself, “do I need to review the protocol?” If you are unsure, you may want to ask an experienced colleague to stand by if possible, while you perform the procedure. It will demonstrate your abilities and confirm your knowledge. If you are unable to complete the procedure, your experienced colleague will be there for assistance.

Respect your colleague’s time. When working in a team, understand that your co-workers have other responsibilities they are juggling. If you are asking for help, figure out how to return the favor by helping them in an area you are strong in.

Another option may be to create a study group with other RNs to practice procedures, review protocols and share best practices. Consider asking some of the more experienced RNs to honor this group by offering their expertise and mentoring. You may consider creating a social club for RNs, such as a book or movie discussion group that can meet in person or over a social media site. You may consider joining some professional associations for gaining additional knowledge and best practices.

Connecting with colleagues is important when building trust within relationships. Creating genuine caring relationships with your team members while balancing the workload is important. Self-awareness of one’s behavior is the key. The faster you can build the emotional intelligence through raising their self-awareness, the faster your team will integrate and the happier they will be to work together. A team consists of multiple styles and various experience levels. Respect for one another, understanding each other’s strengths and how to support one another is very important. New talent is important and necessary and the blend of wisdom gained from experience with new creative ideas usually yields the best and brightest options.

 

About this column:

“Ask the Career Coach” is a column dedicated to those who may be in transition or wrestling with a career dilemma by providing a forum for advice. 

Effective Unemployment

How should you spend your time while you’re unemployed?

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer
As appeared “Ask the Career Coach” Column on MillburnPatch.com

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

How do I use my time wisely during a job search?

C.S. Millburn

 

When you are in the job market, how you use your time to gain additional skills, build trusted relationships and engage in meaningful ways is important. The job market will always swing—currently in a downturn—and we need to plan for each cycle preferably while working. By plan, I mean in financial terms and thinking through what’s next for you. Is it education, retraining, certification, new venture? Have both short and long term plans for your career.

One way to use your time wisely is to create a learning environment that is less formal than entering a certification or education program. Creating a learning environment can be as simple as a book club setting or a topical discussion that everyone brings information to share. When you are learning, you are able to see new perspectives and will help you when you are interviewing as well. Your answers will become more thoughtful.

Another way to use your time wisely is to volunteer. It can be with an organization relating to a cause you believe in or help you build skills needed for your next opportunity. Some volunteer opportunities exist online such as Volunteermatch.org, Taproot.org, Idealist.org, UrbanIntern.com, and internsover40.com and many other local organizations will have options to consider. Think about what skills and abilities you want to develop and then engage in an opportunity. Consider volunteering part time if you want to continue your job search.

The stigma comes into play when you are not comfortable or do not have a good story to tell during the time unemployed. In today’s market, some individuals will hold it against you for being unemployed. Unless you are highly recommended by a respected colleague will you possibly interview with one of these individuals. Honestly, you cannot change other people, only yourself, so get comfortable with where you are. Live it, breathe it and feel good about what you are doing during your transition period.

 

About this column:

“Ask the Career Coach” is a column dedicated to those who may be in transition or wrestling with a career dilemma by providing a forum for advice. 

Dumbing Down Resumes

You don’t want to seem overqualified for a position, but dumbing down a resume can backfire.

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer
As appeared in “Ask the Career Coach” Column on MillburnPatch.com

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

What do you think about leaving off or adjusting credentials—such as PhD’s, managerial experience—work years from one’s resume during this economic downturn in order not to appear overqualified for a job?

TL Millburn

 

In today’s market, with all of the online search capabilities, it can be challenging to present yourself as someone you are not when social media can give you away. How you profile yourself on LinkedIn.com is more typically how you will appear. Think about “Googling” your name to find out what data comes up for you. Although you may choose to have multiple resumes, your social media profile is your tell all.

Typically, when you hear you are overqualified, this can reflect a number of concerns. Some potential employer’s concerns may include that they believe you will be bored in the position, you will not remain in the job long, you may try to expand the job and reach for work that is someone else’s responsibility or they may not be prepared to pay what they believe your experience deserves.

One technique for shortening your resume is to limit your experience to your most recent and relevant positions and then consolidating your earlier experiences showing only highlights of achievements.

I do not recommend changing your job title because when a prospective employer checks your references, typically the company will provide the latest title held just prior to your departure. Other inconsistencies may turn up in your social media data. Think about how you may have been were quoted in an article, blog or book. How were you referenced?

Your confidence and body language during an interview can also tell a lot about you. When you interview, your presence and how you handle yourself reveals your confidence, experience and abilities.

Keep in mind that today’s market is challenging and compensation is approximately 10-20 percent lower than where we were before this economic downturn. Some interviewers can be intimidated by a person with a wealth of experience. Others will be thrilled to have your experience on their team. It is up to you as the interviewee to present yourself in the most appropriate manner to the interviewer.

Be careful when dumbing down your resume. It can backfire on you. A person I know presented a dumbed down resume to the company of his dreams even though his experience was greater than the position he applied to. As he was in the midst of interviewing for the director role, a VP level position opened up. Now, he had to explain his passion for the company and how he was willing to come in at junior role so he could join their operations. Thankfully, the hiring manager was so taken with his abilities and impressed with his commitment to the company that he hired him. This situation could have been interpreted differently. If he saw the candidate as disingenuous, the situation could have gone the other way.

Although I do not recommend dumbing down resumes, you may choose to selectively highlight certain experiences and scale back on some other experiences for your resume. The challenge is adjusting your on line presence to reflect a consistent message. When you interview, you may choose to adjust your answers to reflect the level of experience required. You may wish to address that you have additional experience but that you understand what is required for this position and stay focused on making your answers consistent with the job at hand.

Remember what Sir Walter Scott said: “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

 

About this column:

“Ask the Career Coach” is a column dedicated to those who may be in transition or wrestling with a career dilemma by providing a forum for advice.  

Dodging the Axe

Get tips for job retention strategies.

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer
As appeared in “Ask the Career Coach” Column on MillburnPatch.com

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

My company is preparing for another round of layoffs and my department does not have much work. I think I may be in danger of losing my job. What do I do?

S.T.
Short Hills

 

Think about what you do and what value you deliver for your company. How are you perceived by co- workers, your boss and management? Are you a “go to” player that can provide answers when needed, understands how to manipulate data to identify trends, able to generate new potential revenue stream or contain cost? Can you suggest some work projects that your organization will benefit from? For example, create templates for commonly requested documents or presentations; write a user’s guide or checklist for repetitive projects to ensure constancy and compliance; or generate a new use of a product or a product from the fall out of another product.

To keep your position in this economy you should consider presenting a solid business case as to why you are a good return on investment (ROI). You need to show value, in terms of ROI, that you bring. This ROI may be a direct monetary value such as revenues generated from sales. Alternatively, the ROI may be a cost containment value, such as the cost of fees associated with using external resources relative to the use of internal experts.

To keep your position, you should also think about the relationships you have with your boss, co- workers, the management team, vendors and clients. Think about your presence, both internally and externally. What are you known for? How are you perceived? It plays an important role in whether your position is maintained or modified. Sometimes a company has no choice but to let staff go due to dire financial situations. Typically, those who remain are individuals with unique skills that are needed and are well-liked by the organization.

It takes time to establish your presence to become a known value. The time to work on your ROI is not at the time of potential layoffs but throughout the year. To build your reputation and influence, you will need to raise your self awareness and observe the social networks around you and ensure you understand what the organization values in those they hire and retain.

 

About this column:

“Ask the Career Coach” is a column dedicated to those who may be in transition or wrestling with a career dilemma by providing a forum for advice. 

Connecting with Your Boss on Facebook?

How do you respond when your boss wants to be friends on Facebook?

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer
As appeared in “Ask the Career Coach” Column on MillburnPatch.com

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,

What do I do with my boss who wants to friend me on Facebook? I do not want to, as I use Facebook to connect only with my family and personal friends. Do you have any suggestions on how to handle this?

Unsigned

 

There is so much attention given to connecting on social media that many believe they need to connect with everyone they know regardless of their connection to the other individual. The key to truly connecting in person or on line is developing the relationship. Relationships are based on common interests and connections, and relationships are developed over time.

Have you thought about why your boss wants to connect with you on Facebook? What is your boss looking to gain from connecting electronically when you are connected while at work? Do you work in the same location or do you work remotely? Are you in a position where the power of whom you know and their connections can have an impact on your work results?

Being honest and sincere is the best way to respond. It is better to set a polite and appropriate professional boundary upfront. Some options to consider:

  • You may ignore your boss’s request. This is not recommended as it will only going to be awkward over time.
  • You may friend your boss and restrict what he/she can and can’t see.
  • You may create a separate work related profile for your professional connections.
  • You may suggest connecting on LinkedIn instead. Then explain how you use Facebook to connect with family and personal friends only. Add that you enjoy working with him/her and would like to keep the relationship professional.

As more and more companies are using social media sites to communicate, this is a tricky situation. Some companies are now putting rules in place on the use of social media such as Facebook. For example, a supervisor can’t friend a subordinate. Check if your company has any established guidelines.

 

About this column:

“Ask the Career Coach” is a column dedicated to those who may be in transition or wrestling with a career dilemma by providing a forum for advice. 

Acing the Group Interview

How do you prepare when you will be interviewed by a group from a potential employer?

By Lisa Chenofsky Singer
As appeared in “Ask the Career Coach” Column on MillburnPatch.com

 

Dear Career Coach Lisa,
I am about to enter my second round of interviews for a position I really want. When the recruiter gave me the information for this interview round, he mentioned that the company will be conducting a group interview with the hiring manager, human resources and a peer. Then I will be taken to lunch by some colleagues of this position. Is this typically and how do I prepare for this?
ST
Short Hills

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