Why Would I Want A Mock Interview?

I can just imagine many of you reading today’s blog about the benefits of a mock interview. You of whom I envision are thinking to yourselves, “I don’t like interviews, they’re so stressful! So why, when I don’t like them in the first place, would I voluntarily want to do more interviews? Especially when they aren’t even real! No thanks; interviews are painful, nerve-wracking and overall a negative experience to be avoided as much a possible. So a mock interview? No thank you!”

That’s a pretty strong reaction, but for many I’ve met over the years, it accurately sums up their feelings. They see choosing to ask for a mock interview like asking to have a root canal when there’s no need for one – just to be ready for the real thing if/when needed. Yep, a big NO.

The unfortunate reality of those who avoid the mock or practice interview is this: without practice, there’s no opportunity to get feedback and improve on their performance, so the outcome is performing poorly in the real thing. Poor interview performance of course leads to one thing; an unsuccessful outcome and having therefore to apply for more jobs and go to more interviews. Yet somehow, it seems preferable to some people to avoid all the research, practice, feedback, adjustments to delivery and just wing it. Not to sound trite but I ask you, “How’s that working out?”

Now there’s three possible outcomes you can arrive at when you typically go about interviewing by just winging it.

  • You succeed and get a job offer
  • You fail and keep on going about things the same way
  • You fail and decide to get help and improve your odds of success

It’s that first one; that belief that despite the odds, you could succeed without ever having to go through practice interviews, that keeps people from seeking out help. It’s very much like a lottery; the odds are heavily stacked against you succeeding if you interview poorly, but there is that slim chance of success and you’ll hang on to that if it means avoiding practice interviewing. The irony is that the people who avoid mock interviews are typically the ones who could benefit the most.

So what goes on in a mock interview? Let me just say to be clear here, I’m not talking about a couple of questions you give your partner or close friend to ask here. The problem with these willing and well-intentioned people taking you through the mock interview is their reluctance to point out areas to improve because of your potential negative and volatile reaction to their feedback. And if we’re honest, you’re likely to dismiss what you don’t want to hear anyhow and tell them they don’t know what they are talking about because they aren’t an expert!

If the mock interview with friends or family works for you however, great. It’s a start and who knows, they might just observe and hit on some things that turn the experience around, helping you land that job offer. If so, well done everyone!

However, if you really want to maximize your odds of success, it’s good advice to seek out the support and feedback from a professional. Employment Coaches, Employment Counsellors and others who provide job search coaching are the people you’re after here. Many of these people can be contracted with at no charge through community social service organizations. If you’ve got the desire and the funds, you can also contract with a professional privately too.

Now, some of you I’m sure are raising the argument that if you’re out of work already and funds are tight, why on earth would you lay out your money and pay someone to put you through the mock interview? The answer of course is one you instinctively know already; if it increases your odds of success and getting offered a job, that’s money well spent. But I don’t want to appear to be just writing an ad for buying services people like me provide.

So what would a mock interview look like? Well, depending on the person you’re getting help from, it could look like this:

You meet and discuss how you’ve prepared in the past. Maybe a couple of questions get tossed out just to determine what you’ve been saying to date. From these, a baseline is established. An Employment Counsellor / Job Coach will provide feedback on:

  •  First Impressions (Clothing, Body Language, Handshake, Hygiene, Posture, Tone of   Voice, Eye Contact)
  •  Answers (Quality, Length, Sticking To A Format Or Winging It, Are You Answering The Questions? Using Examples?)
  •  Suggestions For Improvement (Some Quick Improvements and Some Longer To Master)
  •  Final Impressions (Ideas On How To Wrap Up The Interview On A Positive)

Now of course this doesn’t include how to prepare for and follow up on your interviews; both of which are extremely important and both of which you’d get a lot of help with from a professional.

Interviewing methods evolve over time and how you may have succeeded in the past could no longer be working. I suppose the real question here is whether or not you are performing well enough in your job interviews to land job offers. If you’re getting a high percentage of interviews for those you apply to, and if those same interviews are resulting in job offers, you don’t need help.

If on the other hand, you seldom get interviews at all, and the ones you do get don’t result in job offers, do yourself a favour and think seriously about getting help – and that includes mock interviews and feedback.





A Mock Job Interview Exercise

I know! I know! Yes, you and just about everyone else dreads job interviews, so why on earth would you find a mock interview helpful? The answer of course is that you and just about everyone else dreads job interviews so it’s likely the case you’re not doing any mock interviews to improve your actual performance when the real thing comes up.

If you’re an Employment Coach/Counsellor and you prepare people for job interviews as part of your role, you know the value in taking all the information you’ve provided to those you’re helping and giving them an interview to show those same skills. This practice interview if it goes well can boost the confidence one has that they can replicate this in future situations, and if it doesn’t go perfectly, you can both find what needs improving and feel good about what aspects did go as planned. In other words, reinforce the good and work on improving areas that need it.

Now for three weeks I’ve been working with a dozen people in a classroom setting. We’ve been specifically addressing issues related to job searching, and both yesterday and today, it all culminates with the big mock interview. This much they knew on day one. What they didn’t know until yesterday was how that mock interview would be conducted. They believed it was going to be a one on one experience; just them and me, isolated in some office away from the other 11 participants.

As it happens, I had a different method in mind. I set up a table in the classroom with three chairs on one side and a single chair on the other. When it was someone’s turn, I had them get up and leave the room, then selected two of their classmates to sit on either side of me one the one side. We three would act as a panel; something many find a little more intimidating. This intimidation wasn’t what I was going for mind, in fact neither person on either side of me was to ask any questions, take notes or even give feedback. They were simply there to create the panel effect. Given that we’ve all been together for three weeks and it’s a supportive group, that intimidation factor was not what you’d otherwise expect with strangers.

I then had a fourth classmate act as the Receptionist, who would go out, welcome the person and bring them in to the panel. After greeting the panel, they’d sit down, set up their material in front of them and away we’d go!

Now had I told the group on day one that it would be a panel interview, that anxiety would have built up over time – even if I’d told them the day before, it would have increased unnecessarily. Why would I want to create extra stress and anxiety over something I want to go well? And go well they have so far.

The other advantage of doing this mock interview in front of their classmates is that those outside the panel and sitting around the room found that by listening to the feedback I was giving each person at the end of their mock interview, they corrected things themselves when it was their turn. I heard people changing, “If you hire me” to “when you hire me.” I also heard them change, “I like what you guys do here” to ” I’m impressed with your organization.” Polishing…

Now the mock interview is a positive experience which works because we’ve had three weeks together to go over expected behaviour, structuring the answers, anticipating the right questions likely to be asked and how to present yourself to your best advantage.

Some of my classmates are Canadian-born and have gone through Canadian interviews all their lives. Others are relatively newcomers, and while they’ve all had job interviews in the past, these people have yet to experience what a Canadian job interview might look like. This mock interview for them, is extremely useful and comforting. After all, get through a mock interview and you’ll feel more confident if you have one in the future.

Today the other six participants have their shot at the mock interview. It’s not a long drawn out affair; a minimum number of questions. What’s significant is to have the experience. All are expected to come ready to answer the questions using the format shared, and all are expected to have a question or two ready to pose as the interview wraps up.

Now, while many were still nervous; and some have stated they are nervous about todays interviews, all of them pushed through the nerves and get on with it. There’s trust you see that I wouldn’t put them in a position to fail – and fail miserably – when I’ve demonstrated for three weeks that I’ve got their success foremost in our mutual best interest. That trust is essential for them and while they don’t know it, that’s the entire key to succeeding. They trust in me and what I’m sharing with them as being in their best interests, and I trust in them to take that same information and use it as best they can. Couldn’t be prouder of them as a group for how they’ve done. No one dropped out of class, attendance has been great, but even greater than the attendance has been the investment they’ve made while present.


#1 Desired Trait? ENTHUSIASM!

If skills, experience and academic education alone were all it takes to impress upon an employer that you’re the right person to hire, there wouldn’t be any need for interviews. Employers would simply look over the resumes that come in, and presumably the first one that checked off all of their needs would get selected and the rest put aside. That is not how it works.

Interviews are held of course, most often in person, but in some cases are held over the phone, via a video link, or in a screening test or questionnaire which both lead up to an in-person get together.

The reason those employers set up meetings between applicants and their own representatives – pegged as interviewers – is to size up the person in areas that aren’t indicated on the résumé. Essentially the employer wants to meet to assess your personality, attitude, friendliness, ability to engage with them, your communication skills, first impression; all in an attempt to decide as best as possible if you’re the kind of person that will fit into their organization.

It might seem obvious to you that you want the job. I mean, otherwise, why would you have applied? People who apply for jobs however have varying degrees of excitement and enthusiasm for the work to be done. Some apply out of desperation, some are just kicking tires, seeing if they get any response, others are genuinely interested in the jobs while others are running away from the jobs they have now and almost anything else would seem to be preferable. So one’s motivation for applying in the first place is often a key question for an interviewer to determine.

This idea of determining ones motivation is why questions like, “Why are you applying for this position?”, “What do you know about us?” and, “Why are you leaving / Why did you leave your current / last job?” of interest. These kinds of questions are designed to have you respond in part to your motivation for wanting to work for this company you are being interviewed by.

So if for example you don’t know much about the company you are applying for, this could show you don’t actually know or seemingly care if the job and company will be a good fit for you or not. Your lack of interest in putting in any effort to find out before applying tells them you might just be on a fishing trip – trying to see if you can get a job offer by putting in a minimal effort. Is this an indication how you’ll go about things if they did hire you too? Probably. After all, if you aren’t investing much energy in finding out something that should be pretty important to you personally, you’re not likely to invest much energy in the work the company expects you to do on their behalf now are you?

Showing a high level of enthusiasm for the opportunity before you is first and foremost what an employer wants to hear and see in the people they hire. When you are genuinely enthusiastic about the job or career you’re interviewing for, you send a very appealing message. You’re going to work with enthusiasm, enjoy what you’re doing, make an investment of your physical and mental capacities and in short, you’ll be connected to the work you do.

So you’ll show up on time, be present mentally when you’re there physically, get along with your co-workers, and your overall energy and work ethic will add to and not draw from the overall goals of the organization. Let’s sum things up by saying you’re going to be an attractive addition to the team.

How do you convey enthusiasm? Ah, good question! Look and sound positive, sit slightly forward and make good eye contact. Ask questions throughout that show a real interest. Mention things you’ve discovered through your earlier research about the job, their clients/customers. Identify any opportunities you’re aware of that your uniquely qualified to respond to. Ask about future challenges, culture, expectations and reply to what you hear by thoughtfully adding how you will enjoy engaging with these same things.

You can tell when someone isn’t really engaged in what they’re doing and so can an interviewer. Ever been on a date where the other person doesn’t seem invested but is going along until they can finally get away? You can tell by their glances elsewhere, their lack of conversation about anything meaningful and their posture that this isn’t a good fit for either of you. Pretty much the same thing with a job interview.

You might actually see the word, ‘enthusiasm’ in a job posting or you may not. It’s never a bad idea to bring it out right from the first moment of contact, all the way through to the handshake you respond with as they say, “Welcome aboard!”

Having said that, continuing to show enthusiasm for your job on a daily basis will help keep you in mind as a positive person and influence on others you come into contact with. Who knows? Could be that your genuine enthusiasm for what you do will gain you respect and perhaps even lead to being considered for advancement as opportunities arise within the organization in the years to come.

With Enthusiasm as always,

Kelly Mitchell

“Um, Ah, If I Wrote Like I Talk, Then Like, Ah…”

Can you imagine how painful it would if we had to communicate in writing the words we actually speak? Come to think of it, this might be precisely how educators go about transforming the horrendous language skills some people have.

I was conducting a mock interview not long ago with a person who was pretty sure their interview skills were top-notch. While they had great content to share from their present and past to prove they had the experience to compete for employment, what they also had was a constant use of the words, ‘like’, ‘um’ and ‘ah’. At one point, I actually realized I had shifted from evaluating the strength of their answer to counting the number of times they used these three words.

So why do people consciously or unconsciously overuse these words? I believe the words, ‘um’ and ‘ah’ are used most often to hold the speakers place in the conversation, while their brain accesses memory files and arranges their thoughts in a meaningful way so that when the spoken words are uttered, it sounds coherent. It’s as if the person is saying, “I’ve got something else I want to add, just give me a moment to organize things in the way I want to share them; here it comes…right, I’m ready.”

Every now and then this kind of behaviour creates for the speaker a real unexpected problem. The overuse of, ‘um’ and ‘ah’ can cause a person to finish a thought and then the mouth almost instinctively throws in one last, ‘um’. The listener’s interest is piqued as the speaker has something further to add, so they themselves go silent and wait with anticipation to whatever is about to be said. The problem? The speaker who uttered the dreaded ‘um’ has nothing further to add whatsoever, and so lamely says something like, “Ah, it’s okay.”

What I find most interesting myself as someone who is often on the receiving end, is that the speakers either know they have this habit as others have mentioned it to them, or they are completely oblivious to this habit. They may say therefore, “I know, I know it’s a bad habit; everybody tells me!” Or they say, “Really? Wow! I had no idea!”

Here’s the thing about your language skills: you communicate much more than words alone. When you listen to someone, words combine with tone, body language, voice intensity, vocabulary, facial expression, eye contact etc.; all of which strengthen or detract from the content of the message you are delivering. If for example someone says, “Help me please, I’m desperate” and has a strained expression, their words are barely audible but intense and their eyes a wide and fixed on ours, – we do not doubt their plea. However, were they to say, “Help me please, I’m desperate” while shrugging their shoulders, grinning ear to ear and the words uttered in a mocked tone, then we might be left with an impression they aren’t really serious.

It’s the same when we overuse the word, ‘like’. “Could you like, help me, ’cause like, I’m – you know – like, desperate.” Is the visualization in your head right now of the person uttering this sentence a young, poorly educated female? If I told you it was really a university educated senior management person in the commodities sector would that image seem genuine? No probably not. So how we communicate does conjure up things we associate with people who talk a certain way.

Therefore others who hear us make assumptions about our education level, our professionalism, our income level, our intelligence; all from our vocabulary. Lest you think that it is wrong of people to make all these assumptions and judge you based on these alone, don’t exclude yourself from judging others based on the same criteria. As we listen to others speak, our minds take in all this data and access past memories and experiences we have had dealing with others who have appeared to us to be similar. In a matter of seconds, we think, slang = casual, overuse of ‘like’ = valley girl, overuse of ‘um’ and ‘ah’ = slow thinker. Of course these associations might not match your own experience, but they might match other people; people who are interviewing you for a job, or deciding whether or not they can help you in some way.

One way to change how you are perceived if you wish to do so in the first place of course, is to simply pause and be silent instead of using the dreaded, ‘um’ or ‘ah’. Silence is actually very effective when used in speech as it shows you are reflective.

If something is similar to something else, by all means say that this thing is like that thing in a comparative sense. However saying, “This apple is like amazing!” isn’t any more effective than just saying, “This apple is amazing!” The word, ‘like’ in this sense is unnecessary and inappropriate. Do yourself a favour and stop overusing it and using it in the wrong context.

The wonderful thing about your language skills is that unlike so many barriers to employment or promotions is language is entirely within your control to use and improve. Not only should you choose your words wisely, you can improve your skills in this area as you can with any other skill.

Then, you’d be like, totally amazing.

Job Interview Anxiety

Many people experience unwanted anxiety when they are told they have successfully applied to a job and have been granted an interview. What they feel often becomes crippling; the mounting pressure building until it is almost paralyzing making the person incapable of making a genuinely good first impression.

For those of us who actually look forward to job interviews and don’t feel this same apprehension, try equating the fear and anxiety experienced by others as the same dread you might feel yourself in some other part of your life. Suppose you opt to renovate your bathroom, need your fan belt and brakes replaced or even having end-of-life discussions with your own parent. There are undoubtedly areas in your own life where you feel anxious, stressful and some kind of mounting pressure.

The key difference between all those other examples I listed above and a job interview, is that while you could get someone else to fix your car, renovate the bathroom or address end-of-life issues, you have to enter the interview room by yourself and succeed in it by yourself. So is it this feeling of performance some fear and in that performance the dread of failing that is at play? Perhaps, but not entirely.

Some other issues that cause anxiety have to do with being judged. You are judged to have performed well enough to get the job, or perhaps to get a second interview – ironically in this situation as having performed well but now having additional anxiety over a second interview and feeling increased pressure to perform a notch higher. And while some people think the level of anxiety rises when the importance of the job itself is higher, there are a great number of people who feel immense anxiety when going for what are generally considered to be entry-level jobs. To them, their anxiety is just as real as the high rollers going for corporate executive jobs.

I hear many people say they wish they could by-pass the job interview entirely and just apply for a job and be told when they start. Wishing and hoping for this to happen however is more fantasy than reality. Employers look at the interview as their chance to meet a potential employee, hear them speak, visualize them in the workplace working alongside other employees, checking for the chemistry that will exist if they are hired etc.

One piece of good advice to consider is to be genuine in the interview. Sometimes you might hear this expressed as, “just be yourself”. If you can be genuine in the interview but at the same time ratchet up your professionalism, you stand an excellent chance of finding the right fit. By ratcheting up your professionalism, I simply mean that there are times when you are on your best behaviour in life but true to who you are, and the job interview is one of those times. If the employer likes you for who you are then you’ve found a good fit. If you are genuine but the employer passes you over for someone else, it may be that the job wouldn’t have been a good fit for them, for you or both.

Now back for a moment to fixing your car, renovating your basement or having that end-of-life discussion etc. mentioned at the outset of this piece. Were you in any of those situations, good advice would be to do a little reading, (possibly a lot of reading!) on the subject you were about to tackle. You might want to experiment on cutting a piece of pipe and soldering it back together before you shut off the water and cut your bathroom sink lines for the first time. That experimental run through builds one’s confidence to repeat that success on the important job. In your mind, you can easily recall the success you had earlier, and so you go at it with confidence.

Job interviews are much the same. Reading up on the company, knowing the job you are applying to, and having a few mock interviews to build your confidence has the same impact; your confidence rises and your anxiety decreases. The mechanic who has installed thousands of brakes is confident and feels very little apprehension and anxiety when compared to the rookie apprentice doing it for the first time when the customer is in the waiting area.

Does it make much sense then to put off practicing and going through a few dry runs before going to the interview you place so much importance in? Probably not if we are being honest. The people who tend to, ‘wing it’ usually do poorly. Charm and good manners might get you past the, “Tell me about yourself”, question but that’s it. Without practice and confidence, we’d see that same person grow increasingly anxious under scrutiny; and that anxiety tends to manifest itself in sweating, fidgeting, finger-tapping and losing good eye contact.

So, read up on the company, go over the skills and qualification in the job posting, practice your interview with someone who will give you honest feedback. Breathe! View this interview as a conversation you are having about an opportunity. You have needs and so do they. You need a job, they need a qualified employee.

Build your confidence on small successes. Smile. And the more interviews you get, the better you’ll perform.

All the best to you today!

“What Can You Learn From This?”

Whenever something really bad happens, it seems somebody asks what people can learn from the tragedy. Be it a news anchor, a reporter in the field, a government official, or a grieving parent pleading for just one life to be saved from the senseless death of their own child, someone is hoping there are lessons to be learned. No let’s correct that; someone is hoping the lessons that could be learned are learned.

Not to be forgotten however, is that when things go exceedingly well, there are lessons to be learned in those instances too. Whether it’s a great job interview, the perfect mix of company at a house party, a fabulous babysitter for the kids or camping at just the right time of year to avoid the weekend party crowd, we can learn lessons in the good times too.

Mock interviews designed to help people prepare for upcoming job interviews are valuable in that they are designed to help the interviewee get ready for questions they might get asked. As it’s a mock interview and not the real thing, it cannot be entirely relied upon to accurately reflect what the person will experience, but it can approximate it.

Some questions can be anticipated such as “Tell me about yourself”; the classic interview opener. You can bet on questions that ask you about your experience, why you are applying, and what value or special skills you are offering. Whoever is taking on the role of the interviewer has a big responsibility here to mirror as best they can the real thing, and even more importantly provide some feedback that the interviewee can benefit from in future interviews.

Every interview, be it mock or for an actual job, should be assessed afterward in order to determine what worked, what didn’t and why and how best to improve for the future. And I’m betting that you’ve done a quick assessment of how things are going yourself during any interview you’ve been part of. You know, a quick, “I think this is going well!”, or a “Why did I say that? Come on! Pull yourself together!”

It’s these moments that we are in danger of forgetting as interviews proceed and our minds turn to newly asked questions that interfere with our ability to remember the questions later on. It’s not like we can ask for a break from the interview to jot down a few notes for the future.

At the end of employment interviews, many people say to themselves that it went well overall or it didn’t. That kind of general summation is good, but if that’s the extent of your assessment, there isn’t much to really learn in order to improve for any future interview.

So consider the things you can evaluate and learn from in an interview. If you were late, what can you learn from in order to be on time – even though there was a detour required en route? Well maybe planning for any delay and getting there half an hour early would be preferable to being 5 minutes late. After all, once you are on location, you can always grab an orange juice or coffee, brush your teeth, read an article or two in a newspaper, and walk in relaxed instead of rushed at the last moment.

Troublesome questions are good to write down as soon as possible, as are answers you gave that appear to you outstanding. After all, if the answer was so good you wonder where it came from, you might want to jot it down so you can repeat this with certainty rather than leave it to chance. And the hard question? Do some research and find out how to present a more confident reply.

Think too about how you feel in an interview. Be it your choice of clothing, the comfort or discomfort of your chosen footwear, your posture in the chair provided – what worked and what didnt’ for you? Many people heading into an interview have an interview survival kit with them. Breath mints, stain removal stick, gum, dental floss, brush, spare stockings, a change of tie. While you might leave these things in the car, or conceal smaller items in a purse or pocket, they are things brought along for reassurance and to deal with emergencies. I know of one guy who sweats easily on hot days. A fresh shirt is always in his car on a hanger should he interview on a hot day and feel the need to change just before heading into the interview.

The same man keeps both baby powder in his car and hand sanitizer with alcohol in a small spritz bottle. To ensure he offers a dry hand to shake instead of one dripping with perspiration, he says he uses the hand sanitizer in the Reception area discreetly to dry his skin. He didn’t come across this practice by chance. He shook the hand of an interview once where the person gave an immediate expression of revulsion, and he determined he would not repeat that. He learned.

There is so much we can learn from both our own experiences and the experience of others whom we know first-hand or through others. Experiences – bad and good – have equal lessons to be learned but it is our responsibility to learn those lessons.

All the best to you this day!

3 Job Seekers Compared

I want to share with you the behaviours of three individuals who are looking for employment in an effort to demonstrate how to get the most out of those who can help you as you look for work. I’ll change their names for reasons of confidentiality but use names because they are easier to read.

So let’s start with Jane. I met Jane purely by chance after having not seen her for about 7 years and at that time she was just a young teenager. Now having completed her schooling, she is starting to look for her first full-time position. When she found out I’m an Employment Counsellor, she took me up on an offer to meet and give her tips on her resume and do a mock interview.

On the day we had set, she showed up on time, stayed for two hours in the evening and took notes and took it seriously. The next day she dropped off a thank you card for my time, and has emailed me twice with the latest developments. I’m genuinely interested in how things turn out for Jane and will gladly extend myself in any way I can to help her out.

Then there’s Joan. Joan is a friend I haven’t seen for over 10 years. She is now applying for a position of responsibility running a brand new Centre. Last night she came over to my home for input on her resume, cover letter and to do a mock interview. She arrived 10 minutes late, but stayed for two and a half hours. She too took some notes, and immersed herself in the techniques I was suggesting would serve her well. Initially she got discouraged with herself for the poor quality of her resume which prior to meeting she had thought was strong. However, she didn’t let this deter her but rather fed off the advice and realized that here were concrete ways to strengthen her application. She expressed her thanks and was off just before 10:00p.m. I’m committed to providing any further help she needs.

Now I turn to Marcie. Marcie is a client I’ve been working with for almost two weeks, making myself available to her from 9:00a.m. to 2:30p.m. daily. Yesterday, she requested that we meet this morning, earlier than the 9:30a.m. mock interview we have scheduled. Her reasoning is that she has been told by an employer that she should get her resume in early today and there’s a chance she might be interviewed on the spot. Great! Now as the group I’m leading begins at 9:00a.m. I offered to meet with her at 8:30a.m. for a shortened, half hour mock interview with feedback. To this she accepted, and made a point of telling me she’d forward her revised cover letter and resume to me after class yesterday afternoon. That infers I’ll have read and made comments when we meet and do the mock interview all in half an hour.

It is now almost 8:00a.m. the day after and still no resume or cover letter. Now my motivation is still high because of my own work ethic and commitment to my clients. I’m trusting her to arrive at 8:30a.m. or earlier as I’m doing her the favour of meeting, which means I’m preparing for the class differently in advance because that half hour is essential to me; something I don’t for a moment believe she has considered.

Now the difference here is that of the three, only Marcie is in receipt of Social Assistance. If you are familiar with Bridges Out of Poverty, one of the concepts to grasp is to realize that there is a difference between the priorities and values of the lower and middle classes, and again to the upper class. So I totally understand this and make allowances for those with whom I work on a daily basis because our values are not always aligned. I start work officially at 8:00a.m., but I’m sitting at my desk at 7:30a.m. almost daily because I don’t want to be late – not even once. My clients however often arrive 5 or 10 minutes late without a word of apology.

And here’s what I really wonder; do employers know about Bridges Out of Poverty and the different values and beliefs that their employees might have? Would showing up 5 or 10 minutes late on a regular basis with no apology be tolerated by an employer? What do you think? I’m guessing that all the excuses in the world wouldn’t save your employment. Reminds me of a saying, “If you keep asking others to give you the benefit of the doubt, eventually they’ll start to doubt your benefit”.

Here’s the main thrust I want to express. If you are transitioning to the world of work, you’ve got to ACT in ways that are consistent with the expectation of employers. That means you have to act responsibly, follow through on things you agree to do, show up on time, express thanks for help you receive along the way, and in short, let your actions speak for you. Anyone can say what they think others want to hear, but your actions reveal you for who you are.

Taking Advantage Of A Chance Offer

Two weeks ago, my wife and I decided one evening to head out to a restaurant in our town for dinner. While there, we were greeted by our Server who turned out to be a young lady my wife and I had done some acting with in local community theatre in the past. Now all grown up and in her mid-twenties, she is working part-time as a Server while finishing up her education.

As we chatted a little and we both found out what she’s been up to, she mentioned that she was applying for employment, and that’s when I said that I was an Employment Counsellor and would be happy to look over her resume or go through a mock interview and give her feedback on both if she wanted. And I share this with you because job seekers can learn a great deal from seeing what transpired next in how she responded.

Now you have to understand that I have made and continue to make that kind of offer to many people over the course of time. Many say something like, “That’d be great!” and I can tell right away nothing will come of it. I never push it, because I’m gauging their motivation and initiative. She came back and we exchanged emails when we received the bill, and the next day she sent me her resume. So far so good.

After I looked over her resume I replied with some recommendations and it wasn’t long before I got another email both thanking me for the suggestions and asking for the mock interview because she has a job interview next week. So last night she and I sat down at my house at 7p.m. Of note, she showed up two minutes early, looking well-groomed, casually but smartly dressed, with a portfolio of her past recommendations and newspaper clippings demonstrating her volunteer work. She also brought along two job postings, each of which she now has an interview for in the coming week. I was immediately impressed.

The two of us went over her LinkedIn profile, her resume, examined both job postings – and I noted happily that she had previously highlighted all the key terms and requirements. Then I asked her twelve questions in a mock interview, and afterwards gave her feedback. Again I was impressed because she pulled out paper and pen and took notes, which only served to encourage me to say more. The feedback wasn’t going in one ear and out the other but would actually be thought over and implemented into future interviews.

Turns out we sat and chatted for two hours when I had anticipated and initially offered one hour of my personal time. But here’s the key thing that I think it’s critical for job seekers to learn from; that extra hour I gave her was provided with my enthusiasm because of her sincere interest and appreciation. At the door when she was leaving she thanked me and said it had been very helpful. I made a point of thanking her too, and made sure she knew how much I enjoyed helping her because of her high level of interest and commitment.

Here’s a classic example of how a chance encounter unlooked-for can lead to an opportunity and how that opportunity can be then realized and taken advantage of. It was years ago in a community theatre production of Annie when she was a high school dancer in the chorus that I recalled initially. That recollection reminded me of her attitude, personality, determination and that in turn was bolstered by how she conducted herself as the Server and I watched her perform her duties. She even had to ask us to relocate prior to our food being delivered in order to accommodate a large group of eight guests, and I watched how she handled this.

In other words whether she knew it or not, how she conducted herself, her body language, her listening skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills; all of it, was being observed and remembered by me at the time a customer, and that in turn led to the extended offer of help. The offer to help was then acted upon by her, and followed through with enthusiasm and demonstrated interest. She was punctual, appreciative, interested, demonstrated a willingness to receive feedback, and remembered her manners at the door when saying thanks.

If somebody out there needs to hire a GIS Analyst (Geographic Information Systems); have I got the girl for you!

So remember that people are often watching and evaluating you and your performance. How you act, dress, the words you say, the attitude with which you conduct yourself. Opportunities may or may not present themselves at any time and you’ll never know perhaps the opportunities that pass you by because of poor first impressions others may have of you.

All the best!

My Job Interview Performance

If you were reading the blog yesterday, you’ll recall I had a mock job interview myself with the job search class I’m facilitating acting as the interview panel. Today I want to share what happened which was very interesting.

The group had to first meet and decide what questions they would pose, who would ask what and in what order, take note of my answers, act like professionals themselves, arrange the room for the interview, and one of them had to come out and introduce themself to me and then upon arrival the entire panel introduced themselves. Lots of work for a group and lots of learning.

So upon arrival, I gave a solid handshake, repeated their names as I was introduced, and sat down in front of them with my best posture, documents neatly in-hand including resume, cover letter and questions to pose myself. I offered to provide all the panel with a copy of my cover letter and resume which they readily accepted and quickly scanned. I didn’t get asked the standard, “Tell me about yourself” which I had anticipated. Instead I got asked how my previous work history prepared me for a Sales position at Target. Great start. So I related a past sales position I’ve had, and in my answer demonstrated how that experience and the other jobs I’ve had in Social Services working with people gave me a great deal of experience dealing with the public.

Then I was asked why I wanted to work for Target. I had really hoped they’d ask this question. I said, “I don’t actually want to work for Target” and then I paused long enough for the stunned faces to appear. Just when one of them appeared ready to talk,  on cue I continued and told them that I want to work for Target’s customers, whom they call guests, and while I would like to be EMPLOYED by Target, I was only interested in working FOR their guests and that’s what would ultimately separate me from all the other applicants whom I believed would tell the panel why they wanted to work for Target. They ate it up.

So on it went, and I was asked an interesting question which was to describe a time as a Social Services Caseworker when I had a looming deadline of some kind and how I met it and by doing so, was noticed by Management. Another great question which showed me they really prepared. So I answered that too by recalling a time when I returned from a three-week vacation and was expected by Management to have a backlog of appointments. However, I had prepared in advance by seeing clients earlier than they were due to be seen, and hence I returned to a manageable number of appointments and continued to meet Management expectations.

Then about half way through the interview, a very interesting thing took place. One of the panel said this; “I have a question for you – Kirk or Picard?” What a quirky question and totally unexpected! So I answered, “Picard”.  The rest of the panel was surprised too so it hadn’t been shared that this question would be asked. His question was designed to see how I’d react to something unexpected, and would have only been improved had he then followed it up with, “Why?” Then I would have had to weave my answer to getting around to how, “Picard” would relate back to the job I was being interviewed for – as in maybe his communication skills etc.

I was also asked if I’d relocate and again I went with something they didn’t expect by replying, “No actually. I currently have a one hour commute to work, and I used to have a two-hour commute to work for six years. Over that time, I have been late by twenty minutes on one occasion, and knowing where your store is located, I am confident my attendance will continue to be excellent”.  Later I pointed out that if you are going to say no to this question, you have to defend your decision or otherwise you might look confrontational or disagreeable if the REASON behind the question is to make sure you will be reliable.

In the end, I got the job! We then broke down the answers, debriefed the entire process, and they all said it had been beneficial to see the interview done by someone who does it well and is a professional. I pointed out too that the interview had gone very much like a conversation back and forth and to this they agreed. All in all, it was a great exercise, and I encourage other Facilitator’s out there to consider this approach and try it out. Put the responsibility on the group and it’s a great learning opportunity for them. I was very proud of each one of them for putting in the effort.

Today the group ends. Two have already got hired in the two weeks, and others have further interviews ahead and all are awaiting a response from jobs applied to. Each member has moved forward in their capacity to job search and has improved or corrected a job search issue in some way over the two weeks. I’m hopeful that our time together has enabled them to start new habits and build new patterns of behaviour that ultimately will help them gain financial independence through employment in the near future.

All the best

Wish Me Luck At My Interview Today!

Today it’s my turn. After giving a great deal of advice and sharing my thoughts on the job interview process, today I get to put myself up for judgement when I have an interview for a Customer Service Representative job with Target. I sure do hope it goes well!

Actually, what is really happening is this. I am nearing the end of facilitating a two-week intensive job searching group. During this workshop, I’ve had the opportunity to do a mock interview with each one of the participants 1:1 and in each case, they have had to tell me the position they are going for and the company they are being interviewed by. Then I get into the role of an interviewer from that company and we go from there. Today, I offer myself up to the group as a whole, and they will conduct an interview with myself as the applicant.

Here is how it works. I’ve told the group that collectively they must decide what questions to ask me, in what order, and that they will be in full control of the process. I will wait outside the classroom until one of them comes out to introduce themself and  bring me into the room. How they set up the room for the interview is up to them. I’ve asked them to pose questions to me that they might have difficulty answering in order to see how I might respond. They are to watch my non-verbal behaviour, check out my posture, what I bring to the interview, how I make a first impression and a lasting impression.

What I am hoping to do is show them how to react to a panel interview, which is very different from an interview with a single interviewer. All of the groups I’ve done this exercise with in the past enjoy this day. It gives them a chance to be off the hook and get me into the hot seat as far as they are concerned. What it does for me though is create a situation where they have to dialogue with each other, work cooperatively, still be part of an interview process but with some new insight. They have to record notes of some kind to give me feedback after just like I do with them. The entire time, they have to conduct themselves with some professionalism too.

Now, not every Facilitator wants to expose themself to judgement in this kind of process I guess, but I relish the interview. I figure if I’m giving all this great advice and making many suggestions, they should expect me to be able to put it all into action. It is also a great stress reliever for the group and they usually get a kick out of it. Every now and then someone tries to give me a tough question to stick it to me, but I always tell the group beforehand that while this might be worthwhile as a learning opportunity for them, they have to consider what value they will personally get out of any question posed and answered.

I’ll be hoping I get offered a job. It will be a nice way to conclude our afternoon – after I get feedback from the group and we discuss my performance and how a panel interview differs from the one-on-one interview style. If you are a Facilitator and haven’t used this idea, go ahead and steal it. If you yourself are a participant in a similar class, you might suggest this as a learning opportunity.

I’d be very interested to hear from any other Facilitator who uses something similar, or who has other ideas to share that work for you in your groups. By sharing together, we stay relevant and learning helps stimulate the little grey cells.