Owning the Interview Process

The interviewI have always found that interviewing for a new job to be one of the more stressful processes I’ve gone through in life, so much so, that have often been tempted to remain at a position longer than is beneficial. The feeling of starting over, learning how to navigate a new business culture and the thought of leaving the comfort of familiarity can be worrisome for anyone. On the other hand, I tend to be a good interviewee; I am because I’ve learned to overcome my feelings of stress and nervousness and channel those emotions into a sense of enthusiasm for meeting a new challenge. Through trial and correction, I have discovered some successful ways for job candidates to walk into almost any interview feeling prepared and confident.


No one can tell you exactly what will happen during an interview process, every organization develops their own style and every manager has their own preferences. In general, most hiring managers are looking for candidates who are qualified to perform the duties required and mesh quickly into that organization’s culture. It is that second need which separates the hirees from the also-rans. There may dozens or even hundreds of people in your area who have similar skills and education as you, so the better you are at demonstrating to the interviewer how you’ll connect with that organization’s principles and structure, the more you will stand out and the more memorable you will become.  


Research and connect

Any HR professional worth their certifications will tell that it is critical to your hiring success to learn about an organization before you interview. What you are looking for is, who that organization says they are and what they are trying to accomplish. Use whatever tools you have in your arsenal, the internet is convenient, but any personal contact you have that you can talk with will trump anything you find on a corporate website, just be wary of using proprietary information and absorbing personal bias. Organizations that have a web presence will always have a section that says “About Us”, so learn about their history, their products and services, their mission and their executive management team. Don’t be shy about investigating their social media footprint either; they won’t be when they are looking at you. What you should take note of is what’s out there that is relatable to your own skills and interests and can be highlighted during your interview. Effectively connecting yourself to that organization’s interests and culture during the interview is the primary purpose for research and it makes it easier for recruiters and hiring managers to “see” you working there.


Be responsive not animated

Hiring managers tend to enjoy an interview more if the candidate is upbeat and responds appropriately to questions. Those who follow the interview playbook will always leave room for candidates to expand on answers so there is no need to be overly chatty and so animated that you look like you need sedation. The types of questions you’ll be asked will follow a familiar pattern from interview to interview, so get comfortable with them, but DO NOT become so rehearsed with your responses that you come off as unnatural or canned – it requires practice and there’s no way around it. Author and employment expert, Alison Doyle has a great article on interview questions at About.com that should help you prepare for the types of question you can anticipate.


Be in control – don’t take control

Hiring managers have sat through more interviews than you could possible go through in your career, so avoid thinking you can win them over by dominating the conversation. At the same time, you want to demonstrate genuine interest in the organization and the specific position. The absolute best way to do so is to ask questions. If you have not been given the opportunity to ask questions during the interview, near the end is where you can let your interviewer know you have some questions; this is where all the research you’ve done will pay off. Candidates should use this time to learn more specifics about their initial responsibilities, the corporate culture, expectations and special projects. Don’t waste the responses by not, briefly, connecting your strengths to the answers. This is your pre-close.


Ask to be hired

You would think that the fact that you showed up for the interview would be indication enough that you want the job, but something as simple as asking for the job is often over-looked, but can strike a chord with even the most hardened HR manager. If nothing else, it should at least get you to a second interview. Try the following examples and make them your own:

  1. “Based on our conversation, I believe I have much to offer your company and that the company has a great deal to offer me. Have I given you enough information to make a decision?”
  2. “I’m certain this is the right place for me. What can I do to convince you I’m the right person for the position?”
  3. “I’m sincerely interested in this position, what is the next step to move forward?”
  4. This position seems to be a perfect match for my skills and experience, I’d really like to work with you and your team.”

Asking for the job is a delicate matter; it should be handled in the most respectful way. You do not want to blow your chances by appearing too pushy or arrogant. You should be completely genuine and don’t leave your enthusiasm at home. This is your close.



~ Richard


Freedom Park, Charlotte NC

Freedom Park, Charlotte NC



My Face

You never really saw my face,

I only reminded you

of wandering youth, the strength of hope

and the delightful kingdom of imagination

Your sight was your playground

as you seized upon the libertine,

gave into the desperate deception.

You fed your heart with flesh,

your mind wanting, dying, for lack of nourishment;

hoping to elude the pain

Only once did you hear my song,

was that enough to fill your hands

Soak your tongue seal, your fate?

If you were inclined to insecurity

would passion be enough to wash your wash your vacant heart,

would longing soothe the sandy crags of your wilted skin?

Forever now my delicate death

brings misty rains practical words

that speak not of doubt, but of unthinkable mirth,

of flowers and sunsets, of starless space and pitch black


……..and see me now

~ Richard

Business and the Great Society

On January 4, 1965, in Lyndon Johnson’s State of the Union Address he stated …. ”we begin a new quest for union. We seek the unity of LBJman with the world that he has built—with the knowledge that can save or destroy him—with the cities which can stimulate or stifle him—with the wealth and the machines which can enrich or menace his spirit. We seek to establish a harmony between man and society which will allow each of us to enlarge the meaning of his life and all of us to elevate the quality of our civilization.” As America contemplates the fifty-year legacy of Johnson’s “Great Society”, it is worthwhile to consider the role of business, if any, in the “War on Poverty.”

During the ongoing debates, blogs and commentaries over the success or failure of Johnson’s programs, there is a gushing tendency to present incalculable numbers of people living in poverty. Somehow, in the political rhetoric espousing differing philosophies and agendas, what seems to be lost is the question where we collectively ask, Why is it the world’s wealthiest nation cannot feed, house and educate all of its citizens? If there are those who believe that government should not be in the business of social welfare, then they must also agree that business is not the answer either. Business does however, have a duty to be a responsible co-member of society. What gives some people the most difficulty in assessing the value of the Johnson’s social programs is the moral assumption that any system that provides the basic necessities of survival on a routine basis will lead to a systemic dependency that deteriorates the will for self-determination.

As evidence of this phenomenon critics point to is the raw numbers of those seem trapped in an endless cycle of poverty. On the other hand, to focus solely on poverty rates when assessing the results of the Great Society’s initiatives is to ignore what was at the heart of Johnson’s plan – to create economic opportunity for all of America’s residents; to break down the walls and impediments to gaining full access to the opportunities this society has to offer. Johnson never intended that government should be the solitary provider of social support for America’s poor. Consider the types of programs proposed, which were designed to provide better schools, better healthcare, better living conditions, as well as better training for better job opportunities, it is clear that monetary handouts were not the goal. All of the programs initiated were designed to bolster those at the bottom of the economic spectrum or to combat decades of cultural and economic disparity.

From a business perspective, the day-to-day objectives of growing a concern notwithstanding, a visionary approach to economic development in the United States should be viewed, by business, as being in its own interests. Local, small businesses provide more than goods and services; they offer jobs, something which gives people a greater sense of community than any government-funded program could every provide. Poverty and economic instability are the enemies of business as well as governments. Yet, less than two percent of Fortune 500 companies take a pro-active approach to poverty, most are reactive and more than a few take no action what-so-ever. Since the term globalization came into vogue, the reality of the working poor has come along as well. These are the groups of people who, no matter how many hours they work, cannot raise their economic status above the poverty level. Lax or nonexistent working standards around the world have led to a situation whereby more than 3 billion people, nearly half the world’s population, live on $2.50 or less a day. This is not only a morally intolerable situation it is wholly unsustainable as well. The good news is that business can take a lead role in addressing the issues of inequality and poverty. To become an organization that is pro-active in its sense of social responsibility, try these approaches:

–          Go beyond legal compliance; actively engage your employees and community on issues of responsibility.

–          Think in terms of societal responsibility, not just social responsiveness.

–          Have a triple E standard of behavior (Ethics, Equity & Effectiveness).

–          Communicate in-out, out-in, up-down, down-up.

–          Do the right things right.

–          Do well by doing good.

–          Discard the pyramid model of business growth

Businesses who increase revenues and profits become job creators and as employment grows, the economy broadens; goods and services are more accessible, better schools are built, living conditions improve, people are less reliant on government intervention and America comes closer to that Great Society.

~ Richard

Under-serving Customers

Short staffedToday’s business model extols the virtues of doing more with less; that is often translated into serving more customers with less staff. If you sift through the Web sites and blogs that offer advice on providing great customer service, you would be hard pressed to find many that recommend having enough staff on hand to do that. The popular lists talk about smiling, listening, training, communicating and a host of other well-intentioned homilies. At the end of the day however, if your staff is stretched beyond its reasonable limits then your customer service outcomes will be inconsistent at best.

A recent trip to my local drug store put this front and center in my mind. The super drug stores have all but replaced the small, family-owned shops, which catered to the customer who need to make a quick trip to pick up one or a small bag of items in-between major shopping excursions. The chain drug store I tend to frequent almost always schedules one person to run the front counter and relies on calls of help over a loudspeaker to provide backup. The employees who are called have other responsibilities and are not easily available so there is always a lag in getting to customers. Heaven forbid if a customer has a question or issue that cannot be resolved by scanning into a register; that is when the whole system breaks down. During my last drug store visit, I waited behind a customer, who picked up a common cold remedy product, which when scanned, gave the clerk the message that the product was recalled and could not be sold.

The clerk offered no explanation or alternative for the customer; she was left consider her options and to grouse quietly about the product being on the shelf in the first place. What further created a poor experience for her was that just before getting to her recalled medicine, the register scanner had trouble reading the digital coupon on her cell phone and again, the clerk was of little use in resolving the problem. Like most of us who do not wish to be that person who holds up the line at the store, she began feeling the pressure to simply, get out of the way. I made a point not to exhale loudly or display any impatience, but the frustrated customer ultimately walked away from the counter in search of a replacement product and leaving the clerk to deal with the other items scattered around the register.

It would be simplistic to lay the blame entirely at the feet of the clerk and there is no doubt that he could have handled the situation much better. However, it is also fair to ask why the recalled cold medicine was still on the shelf at eight-o-clock at night. It is also fair to question why he was not provided a list of alternative products for the customer to purchase instead. These two questions led me to consider whether there was enough staff on hand that day to update the inventory and restock the shelves properly. I considered whether management was willing or able to train and communicate changes with their staff each day. I also had to consider whether that employee was frustrated at constantly being put in situations in which he is not equipped or trained. I consider these things because I have been in these situations myself.

If this employee lasts at this job, it will be for no other reason other than acquiring a paycheck and perhaps healthcare benefits. Sadly, this is the attitude that all too many customer-facing individuals carry when they greet and deal with customers. Having a barebones staff is the low-hanging fruit of business accounting and even with outstanding team members, there will be times when customers will feel under-appreciated. Employees at the front lines of customer service require more support, not less. Customers need to feel that they are doing more than going through a cattle line. If you find that you are turning over a consistently high number of people whose job it is to be the face of your company, you should consider whether you are frustrating those employees out the door. If that is not enough for you to make substantive changes to your approach to staffing, then perhaps you should consider how many customers you are also pushing out the door.

~ Richard


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