By: Shawna Laird-Brush, Business Manager
So, you have gotten the interview. Now it's time to answer their questions. To some this is the most dreaded part of the interview, so we are here to help you answer the most common of them. One of the best ways to start this portion is to try to draw out the interviewer to find out exactly who and what they are looking for.
1. Tell Me About Yourself
This is the most expected (and for introverts - shudder worthy) question. The interviewer uses this question to see how articulate you are and how well you can carry yourself. You don't want to break out your life story here or any anecdotes about Great Aunt Marjorie. Respond with highlights and accomplishments of your career. Figure out the answer to this question - what makes you special? - and then tailor the answer to the interviewer.
2. What are your weaknesses?
Don't pull out all your personality disorders - you'll only scare them. You can, however, turn this question into a positive. The interviewer is looking to see how self aware you are. Be honest and show them how thoughtful you can be. Don't use cliches such as "I work too hard." Look for your traits that can be turned into a strength. "I can sometimes be too passionate about a project" can also be looked at as a strength.
3. Why do you want to work here? or Why should we hire you?
This can be a interview "killer." You will want to do your research on the company and the position before walking into the interview. The interviewer is trying to find out if you really want to work for the company or if it is "just a job." If you stumble or try to answer without thought, you have already told the interviewer that they shouldn't hire you. Try going through the position requirements and give a reason why you are best suited to fulfill them.
4. What would your co-workers say about you?
You will want to be honest here - unless your co-workers hate you. The interviewer is again looking to see how self aware you are and give them some insight into how you interact with your colleagues. Just give them some of the regular compliments you used to hear. Try not to sound too much like you are bragging on yourself though.
5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
This could be a tricky one. If you are too specific about position titles, you may sound arrogant. However, on the other hand, if you are too unclear, then you sound like you have no direction. Tailor your response to the company and try to reassure the interviewer that you are looking to commit long term to the company.
6. What salary do you think you deserve?
Don't ever bring up salary first - let the interviewer broach this subject with you. Sell yourself then talk price. Let them know that you are amenable to discussing a sensible compensation package. You could give them a general range of the salary you have recently received if they are looking for a number. One thought is to look at their median salary range for the position and start your range slightly above their median.
BONUS: What are your hobbies?
Some interviewers will ask you this question to see what you are like outside of the work place. This could be a big reflection of what kind of employee you might be. Think about any big projects or hidden talents you may have. Let the interviewer know if you volunteer for a charity.
Also, remember that is okay to feel nervous (everyone does), but remain optimistic and sell yourself. The best way to sell yourself is to find out what they want and show them how you can help them get it.
By: Shawna Laird-Brush, Business Manager
Whether you're looking for a promotion at your agency or looking to change companies, chances are you will need to interview for the new position. This is the first of a three part series on best interviewing practices.
You always want to make a good impression when interviewing. Using the tips below could be the difference between landing that promotion and dream job or staying where you are.
Before you walk in to interview, prepare yourself. Research is your friend. Learn about the company and position. Even if you work there now and are looking to move up, do your research. You will minimize the chances for lulls in conversation.
Organize your résumé and and any other documents you plan on taking. Having all your materials together and in order will show you can be detail oriented and prepared. Make sure to update your résumé to highlight the skills that the company is looking for and arranged to make them easy to see at glance.
Being on time for your interview is a must. Give yourself an extra 20 minutes in case of traffic or if you are unsure of where exactly you need to be. Also be sure to turn off your cell phone so there are no distractions. Don't just put it on vibrate - turn it off.
When you first meet your interviewer, first impressions go a long way. Remember to smile, even if you are nervous. Be polite and use your manners. Wait for the interviewer to offer their hand, and give a firm hand shake.
Your posture can say a lot about you. You won't want to slouch or cross your legs and be sure to sit up straight. Body language is crucial and lets the interviewer know that you are not wasting their time. Be conversational but not a chatterbox. Don't take over the interview - it shouldn't be a one sided conversation.
I know it is tempting, but don't ask about money first. If the interviewer doesn't bring it up, then wait until the end before asking about salary and compensation. And remember not to let your emotions get the best of you.
This may sound silly, but send a thank you note to your interviewer. It doesn't have to be long and remember handwritten is usually the best. If they will be making a decision sooner than snail mail will get it there, send an email. Keep it simple with just the thank you.
And no matter how much you may want to, don't post about your interview on social media. Your potential employer may be checking up on you online too. If you want to tell your nearest and dearest, then do so in a phone call.
A combination of great preparation and excellent interview skills can help you ace your interview. Although most of these seem basic, it never hurts to brush up. If you have a suggestion for this post, leave it in the comments and I will update the post.
By: Shawna Laird-Brush, Business Manager
As a Director, Manager, Supervisor, or Team Lead, part of our duties include evaluating and providing feedback to employees. No one wants to alienate an employee when giving critiques because it can lead to problems in the short and long term. Follow these simple rules to provide helpful and constructive criticism.
Do Not Focus Solely on the Improvements
Use the Feedback Sandwich method: 1) Talk about their strengths; 2) Share areas of improvement; and 3) Share positive results if areas have been previously addressed. Before you start on the "bad things," let them know you appreciate their good. Everyone likes to be acknowledged for the hard work or as a great team player instead going straight to the negative. Always end on a positive note, if possible. Show them you appreciate the progress they have made on earlier suggestions of improvements.
Do Not Let It Become Personal
You don't want to attack the person and put them on the defensive. Doing so will only make matters worse and compromise any chance you have of them listening to you. Focus more on the situation, and not the person.
Do Not Be Vague in Your Feedback
You will want to be specific in your feedback. And the more specific the better. Instead of saying "you need to be nicer," speak to them about a specific problem - i.e. tone of voice when talking to a customer, or being impatient with the parts department. The better understanding they have of the issue, the more they will be likely to improve upon it.
Do Not Talk About Things Which Can't Be Changed
Comment on things which can be actioned upon. If something is taking too long, but they are following policy or procedure, then there isn't anything they can do immediately to improve. If it is taking too long because of another reason, then suggest they cut down on the number of trips to parts department or IT by combining trips and requests.
Do Not Just Critique
You need to be helpful as well. Give recommendations on how to improve instead of just telling them to improve. They may need gentle guidance because they may not know they are doing it or how to improve upon what they are doing.
Do Not Make Assumptions
Focus on what you see and not what you think you know. Perceptions and assumptions are formed from rumors or complaints, but may not necessarily be the truth. Review their work and interactions before commenting on it.
By: Shawna Laird-Brush, Business Manager
Does this seem familiar?
Boss: Shawna, do you blah, blah, contract, blah…
Me: Uh-huh (while searching for that darn piece of paper I KNOW I had 2 minutes ago)
Boss: Blah, blah, fuel report, blah…
Me: Hmmmmm…. (opening a desk drawer)
Boss: You’re hearing me, but are you listening?
Me: What?!? Yes! I heard you!
Boss: Then what did I ask for?
This used to happen to me in my first days of working (and I will neither confirm nor deny whether it still might). It would always be remarked upon in my evaluations. It took me awhile to figure out the difference between hearing someone and listening to them.
Hearing refers to the sounds you hear and listening requires focus. Listening is a commitment and a compliment to the speaker. It is a model for respect and understanding. A person will spend more than half of their time engaged in some sort of communication – with listening being the biggest percentage of that communication. People respond to great listeners – both by liking and appreciating them.
Great listening skills can lead to a multitude of positives – both personally and professionally. They can lead to better customer satisfaction and greater productivity with fewer mistakes. You have to pay attention to the “story” being told – how it’s told, the language being used, even non-verbal cues. Effective listening is the foundation of all positive human relationships.
So, how do you become a great and effective listener?
Stop Talking. This is number one for a reason. You can’t listen if your mouth is open. This is good rule and should be a poster on your wall. You will be respected more (and liked) if you don’t interrupt or talk over another person.
Prepare Yourself. Make sure you relax and focus on the speaker. Sometimes that means picking up the phone and holding it to your ear instead of using the speakerphone function.
Remove distractions. Don’t doodle or shuffle papers. Don’t surf the web or daydream about tiny toy soldiers shooting raisins at your boss to see if they land in his mouth. Though fun, it sends a message to the speaker that you are bored or don’t want to listen (sometimes you don’t but do it anyway).
Be patient. A pause by the speaker does not necessarily mean you can jump right in. They may just be taking a breath so they can continue (for the next 5 minutes, right?). Just remember – don’t interrupt.
Avoid personal prejudice. Sometimes this one is the hardest. We don’t always like our boss or colleague that is speaking. Try not to let that get in the way. You can miss important information by thinking more about the fact that you know they are the one who keeps stealing your desk drawer candy (no evidence though, so HR won’t DO anything) instead of what is being imparted.
Don’t attack the speaker. Even if you aren’t particularly fond of what the person is saying, don’t come at them with fangs bared. This is NOT effective listening.
It’s their ideas and not just the words. Some people may not as eloquent (as you think you are) in expressing their ideas. So look at the whole picture and link together pieces of information to reveal their ideas.
Provide feedback. Reflect on what the speaker said and summarize their comments periodically. Feedback can also be imparting your own ideas or building on what they may have said. Just remember – don’t attack (see rule above).
You should always be deliberate with your listening. People who don’t listen rarely figure out where or why things went wrong. It can also be dangerous. You may be “hearing” the safety guy and end up with your arm being cut off – and no one wants that.
By: Shawna Laird-Brush, Business Manager
“Leadership these days has become a complex art…”
I recently saw this line in a column from Harvard Business School and realized the truth of that one statement. Leadership has many definitions from the most basic to entire books written on the subject. Seminars on “How to Be a Great Leader” can be costly. And do you really know if that seminar will give you the tools to be that Great Leader.
Do an internet search for ‘definition of leadership’ and you can get over 261 million results. 261 MILLION! That’s a lot of opinions - who has the time to go through all of those? One article from a couple of years ago had ten different definitions, but each was written by an individual, albeit successful ones. There’s not one universal definition; even the dictionary companies differ slightly.
So how do you become a Great Leader? Do you emulate a known and established leader? Which one? And asking those questions leads to a whole new set of them and can be a vicious cycle in which you may never escape. So stop asking questions and develop your own leadership style.
Every Great Leader faces new and different challenges than their peers, but they all have a common goal or mission – bettering the organization with the team and resources you have. There are several commonalities between every definition you can find. Use those commonalities as building blocks for your transformation into a Great Leader.
Encourage, Inspire, Motivate
Not every member of your team can be encouraged or motivated in the same way. Find the best way for each person on the team and constantly fan that flame. While money usually motivates people to perform better, you may not have that option in your organization. A handwritten note to an employee about how their work is improving or was a great help in a project can encourage just as well as a bonus.
Create a cohesive team with shared effort
A cohesive team is one that has shared efforts and goals. Meet with your team to find the best way to bring them together. Play to each person’s strengths and what they can offer the team. The best team complements each other and shares the workload.
Influence by example
“Do what I say, not what I do” does not make a Great Leader. Be the example for your team. Shoulder your share of the workload and let the team know what you are working on while they do their part. It truly becomes a team effort and they will be more willing to work with you toward the goal.
Not necessarily based on position in hierarchy
Just because your job title has manager or director in it means you will be the best person to lead a specific project. You become a Great Leader by identifying those in your organization that can also lead and encouraging and teaching them how to become more effective.
Focus on the individuals
Don’t become so task-oriented that you lose the individuals working on those tasks. A Great Leader will guide individuals through challenges, rather than focus on specific task completion. Monitor your team and the effectiveness of procedures. Work with team members to improve the process/procedure or find a solution to a problem.
Leverage an attitude
Your attitude will set the tone for the entire team. Being positive, even during adversity, is not naïve; but a sign of a Great Leader. If you panic over the small bump in the road, then your team will reflect the same attitude and could spiral out of control. Set a positive tone and your team will as well.
Inspire trust and confidence
Ultimately, being a Great Leader comes down to trust. If the team trusts you, then the team can and will make great things happen. Praise your team in public and address any problems in private. The more confidence and trust that your team has in you, the more they will be willing to work toward a shared goal.
The FleetPros Blog is written and moderated by the Business Manager with contributions from the membership and Business Services Team.