Memorial Day Thoughts 4

I went to a funeral yesterday for a friend I’ve known for almost 20 years. I first met him when his son and mine were on the same soccer team. Later,  he listed a rental property for me when he was in real estate. Most recently, his wife  worked for the same company I do. In many small ways, I shared his life.

Monday is Memorial day. I count among my friends many Veterans, including my father who was a first Lieutenant in the US Army. During this holiday weekend, I plan to thank every person in uniform I see, to share a small moment of their life.

As we remember the dead, let us also honor the living, sharing the small things with others.

3 Ways Job Seekers Tell Stories During An Interview 3

What kind of story are you telling?

The more I speak with job seekers, the more I am certain that those who are getting hired tell a better story. They have taken the time to think about their past experiences and have practiced telling specific stories about specific actions they have taken.  They can tell an employer what the problem was, what action they took to solve the problem and how it came out.

During an interview for any position that involves interaction with customers, you will most likely be asked something like “tell me about a time when you had a problem customer; what was the problem, what did you do to resolve the problem and how did it turn out”?

Here are three ways people answer:

1. Having interviewed several thousand applications, almost two-thirds  will gloss over their answer. It’s as if they are taking a few experiences and mashing them together, then talking in general terms about it. There is a generic “someone was upset, I called a manager, I think it was ok”. Even getting that out of many applicants is a struggle. Sadly, many applicant stand out because they can’t tell a simple story of how they helped someone.

2. Without a magic potion that will make the applicant’s nose grow with each “untruth” they tell, an interviewer can never be 100% certain if the applicant is telling the truth. Yet some applicants feel the need to embellish their story in order to make themselves look better on paper or sound better in an interview. Most experienced hiring managers will understand what is going on. Just be yourself, sincere, honest and enthusiastic. Making up stories is never the right answer.

3. Having taken the time to think about your job experiences before the interview and the ways you have helped customers, you pick the experience that most closely fits the job you are applying for and you simply relate the story like you would tell it to a family member.

“It was Christmas Eve, I was the store manager for Best Products in Hopewell, VA. My phone rang about 8:30 PM and it was a customer who had bought a large ride on car for his 4-year-old son for Christmas. He was putting it together and found the battery was missing. He was very upset that his son’s Christmas was going to be ruined.

I told him to meet me at the store and I would get him the battery. I called my assistant manager to meet me there, just in case it was a setup (it wasn’t) and I went to the store. We found the battery the man needed and his son’s Christmas was saved.”

While you may not have solved a customer problem on Christmas Eve, I am certain you have gone out of your way to take care of a customer issue. Maybe you dropped off a set of plans on your way home, you called someone and got a needed repair done quicker or  you beat a deadline for a customer and made him or her look good as a result.

Take a few minutes right now and go back through your customer service experiences. Then you will be ready for your next interview, standing out for the right reasons. You will set yourself ahead of two-thirds of the applicants just by this one idea.

And if you feel like sharing, I know we would all benefit from hearing your personal “Christmas Eve” story.

Sometimes a picture says it all 1

My daughter Cynthia graduated from Drew University this past Saturday. Under the heading of the world at large, I started to write my impressions of the day.  After three days of musings, with Cynthia’s picture as inspiration, I realized that her picture captures everything I could say in a single smile.

So I share the moment with you as her proud father.

As a Manager, why you should expect the unexpected 1

I never expected a Blue Bird

I was sitting on the deck, enjoying the sun and having a little lunch. When I finished, I picked up my plate, opened the screen door and walked into the kitchen. I was thinking about getting back to my writing when, looking to my left through the kitchen window, there it was. Sitting on the fence near my bird feeder was a blue bird.

I have lived in New Jersey for over 20 years and never seen a blue bird here. In fact, the only blue bird I have ever seen was at Gettysburg, Pa while we were on a horseback tour of the battlefields.  So to have one sitting on my fence for several minutes was completely out of the blue (no pun intended). This got me thinking about the unexpected and why we should be expecting it.

I should have expected to see a bird I hadn’t seen before. Several years ago I was in the living room when I heard a loud “bang” against that same kitchen window. Running into the kitchen I saw a somewhat dazed immature Bald Eagle sitting on the fence. It turns out he was hunting for lunch at my bird feeder and had swooped down on a sparrow, over shot the feeder and slammed into my window. I’m pretty sure the eagle was just as surprised about the situation as I was.

In business, managers need to anticipate and plan. This includes expecting the unexpected. It may be a power outage that closes your business unexpectedly. It could be a typo in your email advertising link that sends your potential customers to a less-than wholesome website instead of your landing page. Sometimes it’s an employee who doesn’t check that the projector is working before your presentation.

The more we expect the unexpected and check for the unexpected, the less unexpected we will have as managers.

After you do what everyone else is doing – try this to land a job 1

 

What Associations have you researched?

So you have subscribed to the weekend edition of the NY Times, you are reading the job listings on jobs boards and you went to a job fair. You have contacted Aunt Millie who knows a guy who knows a guy at a company you want to work for. Your resume is out there and you’re sitting pretty waiting for the offers to roll in.

If this strategy isn’t producing the desired results yet, you may want to include this in your  job search tool bag. Do some research on Associations and trade groups relevant to your industry, or the industry you hope to break into. These publications can  help in your job search. Many companies advertise in industry publications to attract talent that is already skilled in the field.

You can also use these industry publications to network. By scanning each issue, you can quickly see who is being recognized for their work, who has landed a new position and even who is retiring. This sets up a great reason to contact these people. You might send: a personal note from you congratulating someone on a promotion, a note recognizing the value of the research someone published or a card thanking someone for their years of service. Done the right way, you have created a personal connection. This would not be the time to discuss you and your job prospects. It needs to be about them.  A follow-up down the road can begin a more specific conversation.

For my jobs board One Stop Jobs Online I belong to the International Association of Employment Websites. One of the resources offered is a Directory of Associations by category. This would be a good place to start if you are not currently researching Associations  in your job search.

Another benefit of Associations is to  see what is going on in your industry. This gives you great talking points when you interview.

So do the traditional job search activities and then look for the not so obvious. It may be the lead that lands you in your new hire orientation!