Kristi Hedges recently wrote in Forbes detailing the failure of communication on the job in an article titled: Five Communication Mistakes That Are Holding You Back. This enthralling article detailed the communication mistakes one makes with fellow staffers and bosses alike on an on-going basis. What was so interesting about the piece was that her five mistakes can be used in preperation for your next job interview as well. We all can learn from the mistakes of others.
1) Failing to ask for clarification. We all know that communication is a two-way street and the most effective means to that end is when both parties are communicating with the same understanding of why we are here and what we want to accomplish. Too many times people leave a discussion thinking “that could have gone better.” Hedges uses former BP CEO Tony Hayward as a great example of what not to do. Instead of showing remorse and empathy for those impacted by the oil spill in the gulf last spring and summer, we all remember that Hayward “wanted his life back.”
It is never a bad approach to ask for clarification on a question or a task. With greater detail we may prevent looking unprepared, or worse. In an interview, if you don’t clearly understand what information the questioner is seeking – get clarification.
2) Not framing your remarks at the appropriate level. Detail isn’t always necessary in a discussion or interview. Depending on your level within an organization, you may not need to know how the postage machine works. Why take up important time detailing inconsequential information when really you should be providing solutions to problems or selling yourself to decision-makers?
If necessary you can have such material with you in written form just in case the subject comes into play. You can look prepared and knowledgeable while also recognizing that time is of the essence and you would rather discuss pertinent matters than exacting details.
3) Littering your speech with qualifiers. Will a recruiter or search committee be more apt to hire a candidate who uses such phrases as: “I think,” “we might,” or “I hope to,” rather than “I know,” “the team can,” or “I will?” You need to be declarative during your interview. It is highly unlikely that you will receive the nod over someone who is willing to make a promise of success. Our society is always attempting to CYA, but an interview is not the time to be noncommittal. Sell yourself and make sure you stand for something.
4) Being negative to appear analytical. An outsider or a critic have much simpler tasks than those who govern or manage. Debate is healthy but decisions need to be made. There is nothing more frustrating than discussing and debating an issue and coming to no conclusion or solution. Current business culture seems to reward those who can blast holes into any solution; it must have something to do with the cable pundits that we are exposed to 24/7.
Questioning and analyzing is healthy but be careful not to give the aura of only being a critic and not a problem-solver. Mom always said that nobody has the right to criticize if you don’t also provide solutions. Negativity is not a trait well received in a job interview. Watch who you blame and most importantly provide solutions.
5) Being overly agreeable. The flip side to being a critic is being “a yes man.” Of course you will be in agreement with much, if not most presented to you but be careful that you don’t present yourself as a non-thinker and only a “get-alonger.” Your credibility is at stake and if you have difficulty with a comment or statement you must articulate such.
You can profess that you will follow the lead of those determining the path for the organization but it is vital that you also verbalize your hesitancy or difference of opinion. You might not be a member or shareholder of the entity but as a manager you do need to question when questioning is appropriate.
With ethics not being part of the equation, it is always important to provide your position on a matter so that all is clear upon conclusion. It is however also important not to over-emphasize your disagreement or counter-belief. No one is really interested in someone who keeps reminding them that you didn’t agree with the plan of work (a ” I told you so” person).
In preparation for an interview it behooves the candidate to contemplate what communication mistakes can take place. Be prepared for every possibility and be careful not to shoot yourself in the foot with attitudes or answers that may not be the most appropriate for your success. With all that on your mind, you’re bound to succeed.
Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career. He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Asociation Executives. He currently is between positions and has written more than 50,000 words and 100 blog postings on the topics of job search and career transition.
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