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Think of your job interview as a series of stories: Think balloons

Balloons and job interviews? Yes. All my blogs talk about the importance of storytelling and active listening in all forms of communication: “small talk” in the office, in writing science articles, and in acing that job interview.

 

When you have a job interview, you have to “show, not tell.” Never say, “I will work hard.” Blecchhh. SHOW how you work hard—and work BETTER. In other words, if the interviewer asks you a question such as “What is the most significant thing you have ever done?” he or she wants more information than “I successfully meet challenges when I’m faced with them.” Too vague!

You will want to give a story such as the one below (and this actually happened in my own professional life when I was marketing and sales director of a U.S. publishing company):

 

It was September 12 and 13, 2001. The Twin Towers had just crashed. People were devastated, but they also wanted to buy any and all available books about the Twin Towers. It just so happened that my publishing company had recently published such a book. Demand for the title was overwhelming. I was dealing with my own shock of the situation—we all were—yet I was able to work with people in production, customer service, and acquisitions to develop a production plan that would immediately meet the public need, and yet not produce too many so that we would be inundated with returns. It was a horrible time in our history, yet we had a public service to do, and we did it very well. (We ended up with very few books being returned.)

In the story, above, I illustrated how I was able to demonstrate team work, leadership under stress, both professional and emotional. THAT is the kind of story you would want to have at your disposal.

Think of these stories as brightly coloured balloons. Before the job interview, make sure you have created at least three or four of these stories. Frankly, some of the stories could be interchangeable. I could use this story to answer the question “How well do you deal with stress?” as well as “What is the most significant thing you have ever done?” Have a story ready for the following questions:

 

  • How well do you work under stress?
  • How successfully do you meet challenges?
  • What is your strong point?
  • What is your weak point?
  • How do you demonstrate leadership?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?

    (Yes, even for a question like this, have a story ready: this story should demonstrate how you have taken some job or task and made it better / more efficient. That story will show how you are always looking to improve both the work situation and yourself. Then conclude the story by tying it in to the job interview at hand: “So you can see that I am always eager to try new things, to do things in a better way. I look forward to doing this, and perhaps rising within your company.” Even if you’re pretty sure you won’t want to stay with that company, NEVER SAY that . . . always show your creative, innovative side, and how that can benefit the company you’re interested in now.)

 

So. Start thinking of stories.

SHOW, not TELL.

When the time is ripe, pull that red balloon story out of your mind and use it.

Contact me at arashap@eloquentenglish.com

See my website: www.eloquentenglish.com

 

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“Be Prepared to be Amazed”: 10 Tips on Having a Great Conversation

Celeste Headlee, radio host in the USA, gave a great talk on Ted.com on how to have a better conversation:

http://www.ted.com/…/celeste_headlee_10_ways_to_have_a_bett…

If you can have an open mind and be prepared to believe that every person has a fascinating story to tell, she states, you can make almost every interaction one full of meaning and significance. She gives 10 rules to have a great conversation; here they are, paraphrased.

Think about using these tips during job interviews; during chats with your colleagues; even when you’re having fun with your friends. You never know what you’ll discover about others—and about yourself.

1) Don’t multitask. Of course you shouldn’t be texting or using your phone while having this conversation. But even more than that—BE PRESENT. BE IN THE MOMENT. Don’t be thinking about anything else.

2) Don’t pontificate—don’t talk “at” that person. If you want to just express your opinion without worrying about reciprocity—write a blog. Enter every conversation with an assumption that you want to LEARN. Really open up your mind to the other person. I come into every conversation believing that “everybody is an expert in something,” she states, “and I’ve never been disappointed.”

3) Use open-ended questions: Who, what, where, when, why, how? Ask people questions that they really have to think about. Keep the questions simple so people will give interesting, extended answers.

4) “Go with the flow.” Let your thoughts come in and then go out of your mind. Keep being present.

5) If you don’t know, SAY that you don’t know. Err on the side of caution.

6) Don’t equate your experience with theirs. For example: If a person talks about some bad situation, don’t give them YOUR bad situation. All experiences are individual. This conversation isn’t necessarily about YOU. Conversations are not meant to be your opportunity for self-promotion.

7) Do not repeat yourself; it’s condescending.

8) Ignore extraneous details—don’t worry about little details such as dates, names of others, etc. People care about YOU—the big picture you’re telling.

9) THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT—ACTIVE LISTENING. It’s the most important skill you can have. She paraphrased Buddha: If your mouth is open, you’re not listening. When you’re talking, you feel like you’re in control . . . so you continue to speak. We talk 250 words per minute, but we can listen up to 500 words per minute, so our minds are filling in those extra 275 words. It takes ENERGY to PAY ATTENTION to someone. Most of us don’t listen to the intent to UNDERSTAND. We listen with the intent to REPLY.

10) Be interested in other people. Keep your mouth shut, your mind open, and always be prepared to be amazed.

 

Feel free to email me with comments or questions: arashap@eloquentenglish.com.

My website is www.eloquentenglish.com