Are You Killing Your Personal Brand and Hurting Your Interview?

November 28, 2011

Project Your Personal Brand in Your Interview

There are lots of behaviors that hurt personal brands, many of which are obvious. Lying, cheating, stealing, spreading rumors, shirking work, and having a sloppy appearance are only a few of the obvious ones. There are other brand killers that are less obvious and committed by even accomplished people. These include:

Not stopping to think
Instead of pausing to think in a rational manner, this is when you let emotions hasten decisions. Many of us think we are good intuitive decision makers, but in highly emotional situations, emotions may overtake even good intuition.

Failing to see what your are doing as others see it
You might be convinced of the correctness of what you are doing, and you might actually be correct; however if others are not in agreement, you are hurting your brand. Are you sure other people view your behaviors as you mean them to be seen? For example, a manager might reduce consultants’ time to save money and avoid staff layoffs, but the staff that has to work more hours may see the boss as saving money to increase profits and get a bigger bonus.

Being often wrong but never in doubt
Human brains are wired to build a sense of certainty, and this certainty is often expressed as fact rather than as opinion. Ask yourself whether this is verifiable fact or just your thinking or opinion. If it is your thinking or opinion, present it as such: “This is my thinking/opinion, and I may be wrong, but.…”

Failing to see others’ perspectives
This is getting caught up in your own point of view at the expense of ignoring others’ opinions. I wish I had a dollar for every time I said, “This is a no-brainer,” only to learn that others’ brains didn’t see it the same way. For example, in my mind an interview presentation is a no-brainer- but is it in your brain?

Jumping to conclusions
Human brains learn patterns that work well most of the time, and it automates them, which promotes efficiency. This has become more prevalent as the world has become more complex and we are confronted with many more choices and decisions. However, automatic responses also encourage us to jump to conclusions that may be wrong. Once you start jumping to conclusions, you may then commit the brand killer of being often wrong but never in doubt.

Missing the bigger picture
This is when you’re narrowly focused on the immediate moment or on your role and you miss the bigger picture. You may succeed yourself, but at the cost of your team or the company. Saying, “I got my section done on time, and it was accurate” for a proposal that didn’t win the business is an example of missing the big picture. Your brand is connected more to winning the business than to getting your section done. What did you do to help other team members succeed?

Doing the right things for the wrong reasons.
I once had a boss who announced in a meeting that he had gotten tickets for everyone to attend a Phillies game. We were all pleased and grateful until he said, “Yeah, I was at a fundraising auction, and I wasn’t going to let this arrogant SOB show me up by outbidding me.” The tickets were nice, but they were tainted by the wrong motivation for getting them, and it hurt his brand, which was not strong to start with. It was no surprise that most of the staff was busy the evening of the game and unable to attend. Doing the right thing for the wrong reason causes confusion and ambivalence in the minds of others and is often worse than not doing the thing at all.

Many of these brand-hurting behaviors will undermine your interview performance as well. You can easily imagine how not stopping to think, jumping to conclusions, failing to see others’ perspectives, and missing the big picture will hurt you in interviews.

Active Interviewing

Active Interviewing protects your brand

Can You Answer the Interview Question “Why are you no longer working?”

November 14, 2011

Exit Statement

Make Sure You Have A Solid Exit Statement

Prepare Exit Statements

Interviewers frequently ask, “Why did you leave (or why are you leaving) that employer?” This is a difficult question for many candidates to handle well. If a candidate was let go for cause, answering is an embarrassment. Even in a bad economy, where the reason is a layoff, a candidate may get defensive and tend to ramble with his answer. To effectively answer this question, prepare an exit statement for each employer for whom you worked. The statements should be brief, factual, and not defensive. Some examples include:

     *     Candidates who’ve been laid off

“Due to declining market conditions, Konix underwent a major reorganization. This resulted in the elimination of more   positions from the national sales force, including mine.”

“Due to market conditions, Mileage Automotive has reduced the size of their workforce by 350 positions. I was able to retain my job through two rounds of layoffs; however, my position was eliminated in the third round.”

    *     Candidates who are working and looking for another job

“Although I’m performing very well as a senior business analyst with Capital Tech, I have learned that there are no opportunities there at the level appropriate for me, especially across the disciplines in which I work best. Therefore, I’m exploring senior-level management positions that will leverage my understanding of technology, marketing, communications, and sales.”

     *     Candidates who’ve been fired

“The culture at my last company was not a good fit for me. My style is to bridge differences to find common ground. I believe that’s the most effective way to move forward when two sides disagree. That style was instrumental in the successful resolution of several serious negotiations at Zenox Company, but at Stricker, I found the situation to be quite different. In fact, when I tried to intervene to resolve a problem that had brought our new product group to a standstill, my manager pulled me out of the group and told me he thought the creative differences would result in a better product. This trend continued for the 18 months I was there, so I wasn’t really surprised when I was asked to leave.”

A few rules about exit statements:

     *     Never be negative about the employer. Even if the layoffs were due to terrible planning or you were let go because of a bad boss, do not be negative. Notice that in the first exit examples, layoffs were due to “market conditions,” not bad corporate planning. If you were fired, don’t blame your boss; talk about strategic differences or differences in work philosophies.

     *     Keep it simple. The briefer the better. Only give pertinent information, and do not go into detail. Long explanations make you sound as if you’re being defensive and covering up something. If the interviewer wants more detail, he will ask for it.

     *     Communicate magnitude. If you were part of a large layoff, include numbers. Being one of 15 or one of 2,000 (depending on the company’s size) makes it clear you weren’t singled out.

     *     Mention multiple rounds of layoffs. Often, companies lay off workers in multiple rounds. The common perception is that the first round of layoffs consists of marginal workers the company wanted to get rid of anyway. The subsequent rounds begin to include good employees. If you were in a second or third round of layoffs, mention that in your exit statement.

Active Interviewing

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