By Bob Lankard
Most of us talk more than we need to. If most of the time you talk more than you listen, you re probably failing in your communication, said Roger Ailes in You Are The Message (Currency,1989).
She talked her way out of a job, is another way employers describe a failed interview.
In one interview I misinterpreted a question. I anticipated a question I had practiced instead of listening carefully to the question. As a result I gave an inappropriate answer. This is one of the worst things that can happen in a job interview. Failing to pick up clues about employer needs is another failure to listen in a job interview.
Seek first to understand and then to be understood, is the fifth principle in Steven Covey s Seven Habits of Effective People (Free Press,1989). This rule can be a practical guideline for the job seeker in selling one s soft skills. If the job seeker tunes into what the interviewer says about the needs of his or her company, the job seeker then can reply with how their skills complement the needs of the company. Most employers will seek the following soft skills in job applicants.
Dependability is one of most popular soft skills to appear in help wanted ads. Synonyms of dependability include thoroughness and persistence. Do people count on you for things? Do friends trust you with money, a pet or some responsibility? How is your attendance at school or work? Those who are in sports should think of an example when they did not give up when the going got tough. Instead of simply writing, I am dependable, use the above questions to provide a specific example for your cover letter or resume, or a story to tell during the interview.
Many classified help wanted ads request the prospective employee be a team player. Employers believe the team approach gets more done than the same number working as individuals. There is also the expectation that an employee who is not a team player would take away from the overall productivity of the unit. A team player would be committed to the team goals, respectful of other team members, creative, willing to share ideas freely and a good listener.
The classified ads could also specify someone with group skills or networking smarts. Job applicants wanting to prove their team skills may want to list them in cover letters, or on resumes for jobs where they were part of a team. Participating in a club, team sport or Scouts can also provide examples. Were you ever on a committee that planned the club s annual picnic or dinner? Were you captain on a team or an officer in a club? Telling an interviewer that you were in the French and chess clubs would do little good in an interview. However, you could say, I was on the picnic committee for the French club. Last year less then half of the members turned up for the picnic. So I surveyed members about reasons for not attending. I made recommendations to my committee and as a result attendance at the picnic increased. I suspect this type of answer would impress the interviewer that you were a team player.
Of all the worker qualities desired by employers I suspect positive attitude would come in first. Employers have likened employees with other than a positive attitude to the bad apple that spoils the whole bunch. A positive attitude was the first of self-help writer Napoleon Hill s seventeen success principles.
A positive attitude can be demonstrated by the following:
Speak in an enthusiastic manner;
Tell the employer I really want this job ;
Have a smile on your face when you meet the interviewer; and
Have your body language (gestures, eye contact) radiate enthusiasm.
Bob Lankard, a business columnist for the Indiana Gazette and former program manager at the state Job Center in Indiana, Penn., offers common sense advice and innovative tactics to help all levels of job seekers satisfy their employment ambitions.