Awareness & Adaptability

Here is the tough truth about interviewing: every interviewer, company and day is different. The personalities of the people in the interview – whether in person, on the phone, or by video conference – will sway the encounter. You may have done all of your research and feel that you know the questions you are going to face, only to be disappointed and surprised by an unanticipated angle or a completely different line of questions. That’s where your awareness and adaptability become critical.

Awareness of Your History. Having a detailed awareness of your career history and accomplishments is mandatory. Only you know your story. If you have carefully reviewed your history as you wrote or refined your resume and have updated your LinkedIn profile with your best stuff, you have made a tremendous step in the right direction. By thinking about and reflecting on your accomplishments for these career marketing activities, you will help yourself to have the awareness, memories and stories ready to go for an interview.

Awareness of the Organization’s Culture. This important step is one that is often overlooked by job seekers. Most companies share a lot about their culture and priorities in very open and public ways. Read everything on the company’s career/employment web sites. If possible, get to know people in the organization and learn from them. Then take the step of thinking about how you can best craft your stories in a way that will resonate with your interviewer. Here is an example. Target Corporation lives by the motto “Fast, Fun & Friendly.” If you know this, you could consider how your career stories could be told in a way that show your quick and determined action to resolve a business problem or to exploit an opportunity while staying focused on customer service or employee engagement.

Adapting to the Question. You will have to take your stories and adapt them quickly during an interview. For example, you may be prepared with three stories of accomplishments and you might even have some thoughts of the order in which you would like to tell them. Your interviewer may ask a situational question that changes the order of your stories and the angle you take. Only by knowing your stories well will you be able to adapt. Your interviewer may ask, “Tell me about a time that you saved your company money and please be specific.” If you have a story that fits the question, you can tell the interviewer about the situation, your specific actions and the outcome. If you don’t have the stories memorized and ready, you may stumble through this question and give a weak or poorly told example.

Adapting to the Atmosphere. As mentioned earlier, every interview will be different, and you need to be ready. You could face a one-on-one interview, a small group or a large panel. The interview may be conversational or very formal. It might even include numerous introductions and short interactions. Your emotional intelligence receptors must be on full alert to understand the dynamic and to adapt as needed. By knowing your material and your stories very well, you can devote more of your energy to this critical element and less to the hard work of recalling your stories.

You need to know your stories and must be ready to share them in detail and in a way that addresses the question you face and in a way that is appropriate for the environment. Make the effort to review and reflect on your performance so that you will be ready to adapt as needed. The work that you do will be worth it.

Other articles to help you prepare to interview:

Question 5: Why did you leave?

Question 4: When have you failed?

Question 3: Your greatest accomplishment?

Bill Florin, CPRW is the President of Resu-mazing Service Company.

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Sorry! Too Bad!

I’ve got the kids today while my wife works. Laundry, feeding, reprimanding and the very necessary trip to the supermarket are all on the to-do list. We can’t make it through the hurricane with a few almonds and some old breakfast cereal that nobody likes, can we? Of course not, so make the list and check it twice knowing full well that some critical item (milk?) will be forgotten anyway.

Shoes on. Seatbelts fastened. Numerous in-transit requests concerning candy and other junk denied. Park. Grab a wet cart in the rain. Run across the lot. Put on the bargain hunter hat and get busy. That’s where the real story begins. This could have been a training video on how to discourage customers.

Endcap displays are normally where you find the deals. All of the important things you need, all on sale. Not today. Today (in the early afternoon), every endcap was set for tomorrow’s ad with today’s full prices. The guy in the tie said, “Yes sir, our sales start tomorrow.” Obviously this is for their convenience and not the customers’. Those ends all looked wonderful, and gave me lots of reasons not to buy. Maybe I will get that stuff tomorrow – at the warehouse club. Sorry! Too bad!

$12.50 for a can of Folgers? Uh, is this Starbucks and you didn’t change the sign? The same stuff was $8.00 at Target last week. No coffee for me. Sorry! Too bad! By the way, what is that logo that Stop & Shop (and Giant, another Ahold USA brand) uses? It reminds me of customers fainting and falling over backwards from their prices.

If a company is going to have the cast iron determination to shake every last nickel from you with their prices, you could hope for a great checkout, right? Maybe, but not today. As everyone is shopping hard to prepare for the big storm, there was one express line, two regular lines staffed by humans, and a row of self-serve stations. Ugh.

The guy watching the self-serve was busy writing some secret notes on a tiny piece of paper while customers juggled through the maddening interface of these checklanes that were likely designed by the same fellas who came up with the Yugo. The systems look like the Frankenstein of the IT world: a scanner here, a screen there, another screen for your credit card and yet another screen where you sign your name. Don’t forget the light-up slot for your coupons (that doesn’t light up) and the hockey goal-esque red and green flashing lights bolted atop this monstrosity. Does red mean goal? Do I get a discount?

Secret-note man came to help for a moment and bagged a few items. Until he had to go back to his secret note. All the while my kids are banging on the Redbox machine like retirees at the nickel slots while I force sweaty frozen foods into plastic bags and hope to finish my task before the next customer’s OJ squashes my bread. Sorry.

What are my points in sharing my “what I did on my day off” story? Don’t show your clients and customers what you can’t or won’t do for them. Justify your prices with the quality and service you deliver. Exceed your customers’ expectations. And let your spouse do the shopping.

What’s My Motivation?

You have heard that line before, probably in a performing arts setting as actors work to figure out the energy that is needed to deliver their lines and do whatever they have to do to create a believable scene and character. Have you ever considered your motivation for doing what you do every day? What gets you to push the rock up the hill?

I hope that your motivation is more compelling and energizing than mere survival. If you are driven to pay the rent and keep food on the table and nothing more, it’s time to consider alternatives. Why? Because if you find something that you love doing, you will do it better, faster and with more stamina than if you have to drag yourself through an experience you hate.

I will share a personal experience to make the point. I served as a Store Team Leader for Target, and I had the opportunity to be the person responsible for opening the new store in the South Bronx in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. This meant long hours, an insane commute (70 miles each way) and working in an environment that was radically different than anywhere else I had ever worked. Why did I do it? Yes, money was part of it, but was not the only motivator. I also saw it as an opportunity to do something special, working with a talented leadership team to build a business that employed hundreds of people (if you want to see what that looked like, click here) and that brought quality products and services to an area that was disturbingly underserved by retailers. We made a difference in the South Bronx community. It counted.

So what’s your motivation? Why do you get up every day and do what you do? Is it to be the best in your department or field? Is it to help others? Is it to earn the respect of industry peers and competitors? If you can’t answer the question easily, take some time to do so. Turn off your gadgets, get away from your desk, and sit down with a paper and pen and write down the things that give you the energy to perform. I enjoy helping others identify their talents and accomplishments so that they can grow in their careers. My energy is directed towards activities that make that happen. What about you?

Identify your motivation and use it to deliver the performance of your life every day.