5 Great Interview Tips

February 29, 2016 by  

Considering today’s not very robust employment market, it is important, when seeking a position to prepare well before going to the interview. Individuals who think they can “wing it” will not likely shine during the interview as it is very competitive out there!

Here is why the preparation is so key……of course many people without the proper credentials and requirements will apply and will likely be summarily rejected. However, many applicants will have similar educational backgrounds and similar previous work experience. So how are you going to “stand out from the crowd” so that you can earn a second, or if necessary, third interview, and have a much better chance at actually getting that desired position?

Here are some tips to consider:
1. Be sure to do your homework regarding the company….how long have they been in business, what sort of culture is espoused, what sort of dress code is acceptable, how long do employees tend to stay, etc. If possible, you may want to speak to some people who work there to find out the answers to those questions. Often interviewers ask what you know about their organization and what attracted you to the job. You can usually find out most of this information by visiting the company website.
2. Prepare to answer the most commonly asked interview questions.   Such as……“tell me a little about yourself”, what are your weaknesses, why do you want to work here, where do you see yourself in the next 5 years? You may even be asked how you would resolve a situation that could arise….to see if you can think on your feet and problem solve appropriately. Preparing a 90 second “infomercial” that highlights a couple of skills that you perhaps did not include or elaborate upon in your resume which could be essential to this position would be excellent to include. Try to pick a “weakness” that you have addressed and how you have improved upon it. Offer some reasons why you feel this company would be a good fit for your skills set. Just do your best to come up with something plausible and appropriate.
3. Prepare some of your own questions.   Ask them at the end of the interview to show interest in their organization, how it runs, etc. It demonstrates thoughtful consideration, as well as preparation for the interview. Sometimes some of what you wish to learn may be answered during the conversation, however if not, you are certainly entitled to ask some questions before the interview ends.
4. Be able to demonstrate your soft skills.   Are you a good team player, do you have excellent communication skills, are you able to solve problems effectively, are you accountable for what you do, can you self-manage well, how do you deal with stress, are you a self-starter? These core competencies in the soft skills realm will make you both an attractive and valuable addition to their organization and in many cases will help you to “stand out” from others who may not have those skills. You can also demonstrate this by including items in your resume that show what you have accomplished in past positions that exemplify leadership, organizational skills, and other inter and intra personal abilities.
5. Be sure to thank the interviewer/s.   You of course will do this as you leave, however, sending an appreciative note following the interview, thanking them for their time, can never hurt your chances for a second interview, especially if you are VERY interested in the position. In addition, if you are interested, saying so is also a good idea and adding why you think you are a good fit and why you would like to be there could be enlightening to the interviewer/s as well.

Remember……..you only get one chance to make a first impression so be sure to smile, shake hands, and look the interviewer/s in the eye when you meet. That first impression is formed in the first few seconds you meet!

Meetings…..Are They the Bane of Your Existence?

February 13, 2016 by  

Do you groan whenever certain people in your office call a meeting?
Do you feel that too much of your valuable time is wasted in meetings?
Do you keep checking your watch and daydream about being on a on a sunny beach far away from the meeting room?
Well, haven’t we all! But as frustrated as you might be attending ineffective meetings, are you equally guilty of running them yourself?

Most people really dislike meetings because they generally come away feeling it was a complete waste of time. The reason for this is quite simple, most people do not know how to run an effective, results-oriented meeting with a well-paced agenda and specific outcomes. In addition, when asked to arrange and chair one, it is often assumed that they know how to do it well.
Sure, most of us have attended lots of meetings, however that does not mean that we know how to organize and run it well.
Running an effective meeting requires more than just sending out a notice to your team to meet at a particular time and place. Really good meetings need structure and order. Without these key elements they often go on and on and do not accomplish anything, other than boring and frustrating the attendees.
You need to have a clear objective in mind, a tightly timed agenda, and a commitment to involving the meeting participants in the planning, preparation, and execution of the meeting. If you fulfill those points you will be well on your way to chairing great meetings.
Given the frustration most people feel when their time is wasted, gaining a reputation for running efficient and successful meetings will be good for you and advantageous for your career.

Here are some tips on how to do it well…..
Consider that great meetings really boil down to three items:
1. The meeting’s objective is achieved.
2. The meeting takes a minimum amount of time.
3. The participants leave feeling that a sensible process was followed and specific results were accomplished.
If you structure your meeting planning, preparation, execution, and follow up employing these three basic criteria, the outcome will be an effective, results-oriented meeting.
1. Let’s look at the meeting’s objective:
An effective meeting need to serve some sort of useful purpose so that a desired outcome is achieved. For a meeting to fulfill this outcome, or objective, it must be clear to everyone what it is.

Here are some choices of what that objective might be:

• Do you desire a specific decision?
• Do you wish to generate ideas for a specific project?
• Are you sharing status reports?
• Are you communicating a specific message?
• Are you making plans for a new project?
With the end result clearly defined, you can then plan the agenda and determine who should be invited to attend.

2. Next, be sure to use the meeting time wisely.
As time is a most precious resource to all of us, and because no one wants to feel that their time wasted, you must try to keep the agenda short enough so that it can be covered in an hour, if possible, or two at the most.
The reason is this, most people cannot focus for more than 15-20 minutes at a time, so you need to try to design your agenda items so that they can be dealt with in that time frame….as much as possible.
In addition, you must start and end on time so that people will feel that you respected the time they set aside to attend your meeting. By the way, if you constantly start your meetings late and run over the specified time frame, you will find that attendees will start arriving late and even leaving early.

3. When preparing your agenda consider the following factors:
Priorities – what absolutely must be covered?
Results – what do you need to accomplish at the meeting?
Participants – who needs to attend the meeting for it to be successful?
Sequence – in what order will you cover the topics?
Timing – how much time will be spend on each topic?
Date and Time – when will the meeting take place?
Place – where will the meeting take place?

With these items you want to also remember that it is best to put the most pressing “high brain” items at the beginning of the meeting when everyone is freshest.
You need to be sure that all attendees are clear on the objectives, that if anyone is required to give a report that they have been notified ahead of time, sent a report form to fill out and given a very specific time allotment for their report.
You also want to be sure that the time and place are convenient, distraction free and available for your meeting.
Finally, it is good practice to actually time the meeting from the end to the beginning, allowing time for each item and noting it on your personal copy so that you can keep an eye on the clock to be sure you are staying on time. If you notice that time is running out for a particular item, consider hurrying the discussion, pushing to a decision, deferring the discussion for another time, or assigning it for discussion by a subcommittee.
In addition, if you have a contention issue to deal with, a special meeting should be arranged with a very clear process articulated to the attendees of exactly how the meeting will be run, how much time it will take and that the outcome or objective will be a final vote on the decision arrived at by the information presented.
Overambitious agendas are a real turn off and rarely accomplished. The same is true for meetings with no agenda…..they can be truly deadly, for when there is no clear plan or objective you tend to run on and on and go round and round….very unsatisfying to everyone!
Here are some examples of the focus a meeting could take:
If the meeting is to solve a specific problem, then ask the participants to come prepared with a viable solution.
If you are discussing an ongoing project, have each participant summarize his or her progress to date and circulate the reports amongst members ahead of time. Then you can allow some time for questions or comments on the circulated reports.
Assigning a particular topic of discussion to various people is another great way to increase involvement and interest. On the agenda, indicate who will lead the discussion or presentation of each item.

4. Satisfying participants that a sensible process has been followed is good practice.

If possible, try to circulate the prepared agenda to the participants ahead of time so that you can get their feedback and input.
Once the meeting has begun, to ensure that maximum satisfaction will be achieved for everyone, here are some factors to keep in mind:
• If certain people are dominating the conversation, make a point of asking others for their ideas. If there continues to be domination, interruptions or even disrespectful exchanges during the meeting, you may want to consider formulating “meeting rules” that everyone agrees upon and then if a rule is contravened, you can just nicely remind the person what was agreed upon.
• At the end of each agenda item, quickly summarize what happened, and for confirmation that it was a fair summary. Be sure someone is making notes regarding the necessary follow-ups.
• Note items that will require further discussion.
• Watch the body language of the attendees and make the necessary adjustments. Maybe a short break would be in order, or you may need to stop someone from speaking too much.
• Ensure the meeting stays on topic.
• List all tasks that are generated at the meeting, who is assigned to do what, and what the time line is.
• At the close of the meeting, quickly summarize next steps and inform everyone that you will be sending out a meeting summary.
After the meeting is over, take time to debrief and determine what went well and what could have been done better. Evaluate the meeting’s effectiveness based on how well you met the objective. This will help you to improve your meetings. You may even want to get the participants’ feedback. Depending on the time frame, this debriefing can be done within the meeting itself or afterwards.

Finally, prepare the meeting summary. This will be forwarded to all participants and other stakeholders. It is a record of what was accomplished and who is responsible for what as the team moves forward. This is a very crucial part of effective meetings that often gets overlooked. You need a written record of what transpired, along with a list of actions that named individuals have agreed to perform. Make sure someone is assigned to take notes during the meeting.

Remember, running an effective meeting requires careful and thoughtful planning so that everyone will leave feeling that the objective was reached and in a timely fashion. That means that the chair needs to keep track of time, control the discussion, summarize the outcomes and arrange for whatever follow up and task assignments have been decided.

Meetings have gotten a bad rap, because many meetings are unproductive and dull. However, that does not have to be the case and as they are both necessary and can produce a high potential in small and large businesses need to be done effectively. Good meetings can increase your productivity, efficiency, customer service, and bottom line.

Want to Relieve Your Stress?

February 2, 2016 by  

Stress is actually different things to different people….it is a result of our individual experiences. However there is no reason why you cannot learn some simple, basic techniques for deflecting it.

Let’s look at some of the most common causes of stress:
1. Usually you become stressed due to having to face something new, as we naturally fear the unknown.
2. You can also become worried if you are going to have to deal with something that is unpredictable.
3. Another source of possible stress can come from a threat to your ego, especially if it is about your competence and this is happening in front of your colleagues.
4. Finally, some of you may become unduly uncomfortable when you feel you have little or no control over a situation.

Now here are some simple destressors you can try:
1. Breathe in deeply by extending your diaphragm fully, then breathe out slowly. Do it about 15-20 times. When we are stressed we often breathe in a shallow manner, thereby reducing the oxygen to our brains. This impedes rational thought and our problem solving abilities. Once you increase the oxygen again, you will be able to think more clearly and therefore deal more effectively with the situation. Besides it usually puts the stress response on hold.
2. Sing….this also increases your abdominal breathing (if you do it well) and again you will slow down your stress response and begin to feel better.
3. Exercise changes your brain chemistry by releasing more endorphins, the feel good, happy chemicals, and also uses the energy generated by the stress response in a physical manner. These chemicals also can enhance your immune system helping you to stave off infections more effectively.
4. Laughter also releases those feel good chemicals so reduces the effects of the stress response and enhances your immune system at the same time.  In parts of Asia, there are laugh clinics where people who are ill can come to improve their health.  The leader employs techniques to get the attendees laughing.
5. Read, according to study at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England, 6 minutes of reading is sufficient to reduce stress levels by 68%. That is even better than listening to music, which reduces it by 61% or by having a cup of tea which reduces it by 54%.
6. Meditation is another great stress reducer. A study at Boston University, University of Montreal and Laval University, concluded that meditation when done regularly can cut stress levels by 40%.

Stress is a natural part of your life…..it will occur. It is more important how we deal with it. In fact, not all stress is bad. Short term stress can actually propel human beings to higher levels of achievement because the burst of adrenalin can actually provide us with high energy, clarity and endurance for brief periods of time.

It is the long term stressors that are most harmful, particularly when you do nothing to reduce the side effects. Long term stress can result in irreversible physiological damage to your organ systems, your memory, your cognitive abilities, your sleep habits, your weight, and your communication skills. It can cause you to “awfulize” and catastrophize situations as you have lost the ability to perceive issues as they truly are. I can lower performance levels at work and cause more mistakes. This can hurt your self-confidence and self-esteem. Many employees who are forced to take a stress leave, often come back with lowered performance levels, more frailty and the high chance that they will require another leave. Some never return to work.

Stress has been around from the beginning of time however it has been only in more recent times that we have begun to realize just how devastating it can be if not dealt with in an effective manner….and that will vary from person to person.

So, if you have been feeling anxious, irritable, unhappy, etc. or have noticed behavioural changes in a family member or colleague, try to seek help for yourself or encourage the other person to seek it for themselves before the resultant problems become irreversible.
Life is too short not be enjoying it….so face your challenges, use them as opportunities to learn, but do not dwell on them!