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7 top tips to help you survive your first job interview!

First Interview

“Nation of awkward teens need help to shake hands and smile”

Antony Jenkins Barclays chief executive, was quoted in The Sunday Times today as saying that Britain will probably have a “lost generation” of teenagers, if we don’t “help them develop the skills they will need for the new world of work”.  Are these your students he’s talking about?  The skills he’s referring to aren’t the academic topics they’ve spent years studying for, but “people skills”.  These are the skills that take the individual from being “socially awkward” and not able to give eye contact or shake hands with someone in authority, to appearing confident in the way they manage themselves, engage in conversation and play their role within the interview.  Below I’ve outlined 7 top tips for you to share with the young people you work with increase their effectiveness in interviews:

Be prepared for the interview

How many of us worry about the interview in private, but shrug it off as “no big deal” in public.  IT IS A  BIG DEAL! Statistics from www.parliament.uk showed that 764,000 young people aged 16-24 were unemployed in September to November 2014, which was up 30,000 on the previous quarter, and the unemployment rate was up 0.9% from the previous quarter. This means that no matter how positively you are viewed at six form, college or university, you are an unknown quantity in the world of work. You will be judged on what you know and how you present yourself, so read up on the company, the position you are being interviewed for, what other similar companies are up to.  Have questions prepared that you can ask the company, and appear knowledgeable. Be very clear why YOU want to work for THEM, as HR and company directors like to know that you have chosen to apply to them for a job rather than a competitor.

Be confident

How do your friends and family view you?  Do they see you as being confident in a range of situations?  Ask them for examples of when they have seen you this way, and what you looked and sounded like?  Check out were you naturally confident in this situation, i.e. discussing a topic around Sunday lunch with your family, or did you have to switch if on, such as giving a speech at college.  Get your family or close friends to describe these situations and coach you, so that you can conjure up these positive words, phrases and mannerisms again, when your confidence is beginning to fade, either before or during an interview.  Also ask them to describe situations where you’ve been over-confident and what this looked like? It’s important to know the difference so that the wrong impression doesn’t come across in an interview.  When we are nervous, over-confidence can easily come into play to cover up nerves.  This is not a good look

Posture and stance

When you go for an interview, you never know who is observing you, so it’s always a good idea to be confident from the minute you enter the building.  What impression are you giving the receptionist who greets you?  At this stage, you will need to show confidence through your posture and stance, so ensure that when walking into the building or interview room, you stand up tall and straight, put your shoulders back and keep your head level with your chin up, as this makes it easier to gain eye contact.  These things extend your body length and give you a presence.  If this is difficult for you to understand, just think of how you view people who are the opposite.  By trying to make themselves as physically small as possible, how do you see them: shy, worried, fearful  or even powerless?  Can you think of someone who has a strong presence on TV?  Observe their mannerisms and how others react to them.  However, as I’ve mentioned earlier, don’t be over-confident and swagger into the interview room thinking the world is lucky to have you.

Eye contact

There is a lot of information out there on whether you should or shouldn’t make eye contact due to cultural differences, gender and age differences and how best to show respect to someone in authority.  The golden rule, is that the person interviewing you is asking you questions and so will usually be looking at you, and so expects you to look at him or her when responding.  It’s useful to do this, as you can generally pick up on their facial cues, smiles, nods show they are listening and are either agreeing with what you are saying or are finding it interesting, whilst frowns or  stares could mean confusion or disagreement.  It IS acceptable however, to break eye contact. You are not in a staring competition, and also ensure that if you are being interviewed by a panel, that you initially look at the person who asked you the question when answering, then look along the panel as you continue answering the question.

eye contact

 

Body language

During the interview you’ll be using a range of body language and the key is to be aware of some of the messages you are giving.  This is why mock interviews are really useful, and preferably with people you don’t know, as they can tell you, without bias, the impression you are giving.  You will be nervous, you might be flustered, you’ll probably be sweating and possibly uncomfortable in the clothes you’re wearing.  If you have excluded an air of confidence before entering the room with your posture and general chit chat, don’t blow it now.  Ask friends and family if you have any ‘poker’ tells, which means what do you routinely do when you are nervous, twist your fingers, play with your hair, clear your throat or jiggle your legs?  Whatever your poker tells are, unless you are consciously aware of them you won’t be able to know when they are happening and stop doing them!  You won’t fail an interview for crossing your arms across your chest or saying erm, but the person interviewing you will pick up on how uncomfortable you feel compared with the person they have just seen, and may choose to give the job to the more confident person, if qualifications and knowledge are similar.

Choice of words

You must know your stuff!  You must use key terminology in a knowledgeable way and also provide examples of things you have done.  Look at the job description, objectives or competencies required and pick out the key points that link your experiences or ‘career/job wants’ and talk about these.  At the very least it shows you have read all the information sent to you and can link the job competencies to experiences you have had.  It also makes you feel comfortable as you are talking from a position of familiarity and therefore are more confident.  It’s like using hashtags, if you want to get hits, use the right tags.  If you want to get the job, use the workplace language! Most interviews want to know about your life experience as well as academic information, so talk about your hobbies and how decision making comes into play, or budgeting, decision making or problem solving…

The open and close of the interview

These are important times and interviewees often feel powerless at these points as they are unsure what is expected of them, so are just usually quiet and waiting for someone to tell them where to go and what question to answer.  Use this time to engage in small time or chit chat, about the company “I’m delighted to have the opportunity to come here today because I’ve heard ….”, the building “What a fantastic old building, what’s it like to work here?”, the weather or any small talk (you can prepare some topics beforehand), so that you give positive verbs to the person meeting you, and it also helps you to relax into the situation.  More importantly, the interviewer sees you smiling and chatting to a member of his or her staff on entry to the room. An excellent first impression! Similarly, at the end of the interview, show some initiative and thank the interviewing panel for their time, give them eye contact and shake each person’s hand if you have the opportunity.  This gives them a positive lasting impression of you being a confident candidate for the job!

Professional Development People have worked with schools, universities and companies in coaching people and developing their communication skills.  We were most recently involved with #DavidCameron’s #Employability programme in Surrey, helping the long term unemployed get back into work, through training them in a range of qualifications, CV writing and interview skills.

Let us help your young people!  Call or email Paula or Richard via our website to arrange a free consultation over coffee. Follow us on Twitter Paula or Richard
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Is Transactional Analysis a viable business tool? Psychology for business –

Transactional Analysis

Transactional Analysis or TA as it is commonly known as, is a tool used in many areas of business and education, and it’s a concept that once explained, makes complete sense and you’ll wonder why you haven’t used it before!

There have been many books and articles written on Transactional Analysis such as ‘Games People Play‘ and I’m OK – You’re OK .  Their premise is to  help us become more effective in the way we respond to and communicate with others. Read on, and in laymen’s terms I’ll explain the terminology and how to begin to understand why we communicate in certain ways, both in the work place and in our personal relationships. However, there are complexities to this concept, and so this series of articles will only look at transactional analysis on the simplest level.  However, you can contact us if you want to explore various concepts further.

Transactional Analysis – What is a transaction?

Dr Eric Berne was a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, whose work on human behaviour was influenced by Dr Sigmund Freud and neurosurgeon Dr Wilder Penfield.  At it’s simplest level:

 “Transactional Analysis is the method for studying interactions between individuals”  

This includes any form of verbal or non-verbal communication between two people. This communication is the ‘transaction‘, whilst the ‘analysis‘ is what you understand or take from the message you are receiving.  Someone smiling at me is a ‘transaction’ and my ‘analysis’ is that the person is happy to see me.  Berne’s work asks us to reflect on these interactions and try to understand our own behaviour as well, i.e. why am I smiling back and crossing the road to meet them, if I really want to avoid them?

Transactional Analysis – What are ego states?

To help us understand the nature of our transactions with each other, Eric grouped our ways of thinking and behaving into three areas, that he called ego states:

Parent -when we are thinking or behaving from this ego state, we are drawing on our experience of the parental Is Transactional Analysis a viable business tool?figures in our lives which have been absorbed into our way of relating to others.  These parental figures could be warm, loving, indulgent, distant, controlling, or ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ types. These characteristics could be attributed to our real parents, or people who we saw as parental figures in our lives.   In a recent situation, someone hit my car from behind whilst I was stopped at a red light.  The woman driving was so apologetic and shaken up by it, I forgot she had hit me and gave her a hug and told her it would be OK.  It was my natural response to nurture her, once I realised everyone was OK.

Adult – when  we are involved in transactions from this ego state, we are rational and able to think and make choices.  In this state, we are able to recognise our potential child and parental responses but keep them in check and maintain control and deal with the facts of the situation.  Again, in the car situation above, my initial response on getting out of the car was to ask what had happened, was anyone hurt, then later on to check my car and hers over and then take her details for insurance purposes.

In between these clearly adult ego state behaviours, I was shocked and shaking, but comforted her when I realised that she was worse than me emotionally.

Child – from this ego state, we are remembering how we used to respond to events outside of ourselves when we were small.  We may use extremes of behaviour and language and have strong feelings about a situation or statement, and exaggerate our responses, i.e. in the car shunt situation mentioned above, I could have slammed the car door and screamed at the woman “You stupid idiot, are you blind?” and then burst into tears.  This name calling and crying is a way of showing that a situation has overwhelmed us and so we can revert back to name calling and extreme displays of emotion, if this is how we remember dealing with situations when we were small.

We can move between the ego states depending on the situation, the people involved and the communication itself.  As you can see in the above example, my thoughts were in the adult ego state and ruled my emotions initially, as I was very rational and dealt with the damaged car, before moving into my parental ego state.  Not everyone is able to do this, and certainly not all of the time.  We tend to have an ego state we naturally adopt when under stress and times of pressure.

Question: Do you know what your natural ego state is?  

Do you handle situations from different ego states depending if it’s home or personally related, as opposed to a work problem?  Most of us do, because we’ve learnt the types of behaviours expected of us at work and conform to them. However, at home and with our partners we can let rip and behave in an emotional way (child or parent), which would be unacceptable in another situation or in front of a different audience.

What type of language do you use? 

Parent – “never”, “should”, “always”, “do this”, “don’t do that”

Child – “I feel”, “I hate”, “Always”, “I don’t want to”, “I like”

Adult – “probably”, “I think”, “I realise”, “perhaps”, “I believe”

In the next blog, I’m going to explore complimentary and crossed transactions, as well as ‘game playing’ examples, and begin to look at how you can change the course of a conversation or interaction that is going wrong.

In the meantime, please tweet me @therealme_PDP and give me examples of how you know when you are in a particular ego state.

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What’s your USP?

What is your USP?

In the world of business and marketing, understanding and highlighting your Unique Selling Point (USP) is crucial in getting you ahead of the pack.  I’ve been looking at this aspect for my own business branding and new website (soon to be unveiled), and began to think about how individuals advertise their uniqueness when developing personal relationships with others, such as friendships and dating? How do we discover we have things in common with potential new friends? How do we sift through other people’s characteristics to match our own needs when dating, or do we just look at the photo? How much do we use our USP to draw the people we want towards us?  What is your USP?

In today’s world where communication has to be fast and instant, email, text, twitter etc have largely taken over from face-to-face communication, and often by the time we actually meet someone, we have already formed an opinion of them, including whether we like them or not. On the surface, thisis ridiculous that we can judge someone through a badly worded or blunt email or blurb on a website. This happens though, due to our emotional response to what they are saying or their photo. What is your gut feeling? Do you take a chance on meeting someone or developing a friendship or relationship if the ten or twenty seconds you have spent reading their communication has put you off? Generally the answer is no. We are living a larger and faster version of Britain’s Got Talent, in which we can parade a selection of potential friendships or partners on our iPad screens daily and can ditch twenty or thirty applicants in a couple of minutes, job done!   

What is your USP?If this is resonating with you, what happens if you are on the other side of the iPad screen? What are you offering to stop someone else passing you over? A number of websites offer advice on how to set up your profile and outline your interests in such a way as to match you with others who could or should value the same things as you. The key thing is what makes you different to the others out there who are competing in the same market? What is your USP and how do you get it across to others?