Friday, October 11, 2013

Is Your Interview "Light Fluff ... or Real Stuff"?

Over the past summer, I embarked upon a challenge to create several different versions of an interview skills workshop, knowing that some of my clients would be likely to attend the sessions more than once.  Why might they do that?  Well, I suppose practise makes perfect, but I think a lot of them have learned that I get a little bit bored doing things the 'same old way' and even though the topic may be the same, my approach can vary widely from one workshop to the next! 

One of my current favourites it to utilize a '3-F' theme to describe a range of interview no-no's.  I crafted a theme around the letter F.  I came up with (1) FEATURE DUMPING, (2) MOTHS to FLAME, and as depicted in the title of this blog, (3) LIGHT FLUFF, NOT REAL STUFF.  So what exactly do each of these terms imply?  Many of my clients, when I describe what I mean, often turn a slight shade of pink or red, realizing they have fallen into the 3-F trap themselves.  So let me explain:

Feature Dumping:  That is when you wing off a bunch of adjectives/descriptors
about yourself that you hope sounds impressive, but you do absolutely nothing to demonstrate how they actually apply to you.  An example:  "Could you tell me your greatest strengths?"  Your response: "I would say my greatest strengths are that I am punctual, conscientious, friendly, organized, a good team player, determined, trustworthy, and can work well independently."  On the surface, this sounds good, but really, you likely said similar stuff like this on your resume or in your cover letter.  Choose a couple strengths with careful consideration and then paint a picture with an actual experience to back them up. 

Moths to Flame:  Moths are drawn to the light, but are at risk of being burned by the heat.  The human comparative  is when you are asked questions such as "Have you ever been frustrated with your boss or supervisor?"  Some of us seem bound-bent on choosing examples that resulted in a less than stellar outcome.  Perhaps it is guilt prompting us to confess our worst 'sins', but just like the moth, I can't tell you how many times people spew forth examples that demonstrate no positive outcome and they 'burn themselves' in the process.  Yes, an interviewer wants us to recognize we are human, but they are also looking to see how we strive to handle such challenges. So I might suggest that we park or absolutet worst examples in the closet and think about those that demonstrate our personal growth and a positive resolution.  And last but not least ....

Light Fluff; Not Real Stuff.  This one is sort of a cousin to feature dumping.  Except with light fluff, you basically talk in circles around a question and use vague statements.  An example might be:  "Do you consider yourself to be a good team player?"  And you answer with:  "Oh yes, I get along with everyone, and I would say everyone gets along well with me.  I am friendly, and I work hard to make sure everyone feels comfortable. And they know they can count on me."  Again, on the surface, it sounds 'okay', but in reality, if leans a little towards light fluff.  So anchor your answer down a bit more. A better approach is to start with an affirmation that you do see yourself as a good team member, but then suggest a specific example of how your teamwork skills were actually demonstrated in a real situation.  In other words, give them some 'real stuff' to consider.

All too often, people go into interviews without having consciously thought about the many 'stories' they could tell for various potential interview questions.  Perhaps they believe in magic, and hope the perfect answer will pop into their heads at just the right moment.  Real life doesn't work that way. Get more acquainted with the person staring at you in the mirror.  That person actually has a lot of stories to share. You might just have to dredge them up from the recesses of your memory; and as you think of them, start recording them as they come to mind to continue to build your 'story bank'. After all, it is a way of investing in yourself!

Do check out my other blog topics while on here!  I love writing about people and what inspires them.  I also discuss various career and employee development topics, usually with a dash of humour or a grain of salt! I welcome you to join me, and to leave a comment!

Catherine Stewart-Mott; Forward Momentum Services