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July 2018

SELF PROFILING MATRIX – A “CHEAT SHEET” FOR INTERVIEWS!!

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IS YOUR RESUME A COMPLETE AND A WHOLE REPRESENTATION OF WHO YOU ARE ?

A resume DOES NOT do justice to what you are as an individual, or what kind of person you are to work with.

A resume DOES NOT give a complete picture of the challenges you faced before you won that “Allrounder Award” in 2010. It does not talk about why you choose a particular path. It hardly tells the other person the reason for the job transitions you have had.

Have you ever thought from the hiring managers point of view?

For him your resume and the resume of the 10 other people who came for the interview, they all pretty much look the same. It is the same technical skills, more or less the same experience, or similar academic qualifications. But is it fair to equate your experience with the others just by the look of a resume? Unfortunately, that is how it works!

The various incidents, experiences, narratives of your life are a very valuable predictor of your future performance. And for obvious reasons, it all cannot fit in an 8 by 12 inches piece of paper.

Let’s imagine a situation that you are sitting across an interview panel. Your resume has been looked at, chosen and now you have a wonderful chance of presenting yourself in every possible way to leave a lasting impression.

In one of the previous article we did an exercise on “Self-Awareness” in the “Who am I” article.

WHO AM I ??

So, you are at a good place. You have a deep understanding of yourself which is very important during this very phase of giving an interview.

And then a question is thrown at you “Why should we hire you?

Despite doing this very exercise on your strengths, you are at a loss. Why so?

Most of the times a candidate fails to give an answer that is directly related to the questions.

Here’s  why –

People fail to connect the dots and recall the relevant information at the right time. It is all about understanding and seeing the pattern in things and taking the leap of putting it together and then delivering a response in a cohesive and an effective manner.

SELF PROFILING – A “CHEAT SHEET” FOR INTERVIEWS!!

 

The trick is in self profiling. Using the information that we have with the “Who Am I “exercise and putting it in a way that will help our minds to project the right information at the right time.

Skills-Scenario Checklist

Before we make  the matrix , let us put down a checklist of some skills and scenarios where we use such skills. Remember, this list is not exhaustive.

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Life Events-Skills Matrix

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    HOW TO USE THIS MATRIX?

Based on the various scenarios/situations you have faced during your student life, your professional life, personal life, think about the skills that you exhibited. For ex – The time when you worked in a big cross functional team ( that is your scenario) and had to be a strong team-worker  (example of skill used would be team player. ) Now use the matrix to map out various other skills that you can think of corresponding to the many events in your life.

HOW IS THIS EXERCISE HELPING YOU?

Let’s take an example of a question in an interview-

“Tell me a time when you had to deal with multiple stakeholders. What were the challenges you faced and how did you overcome?”

It will be definitely be a difficult question to think off hand if you are not prepared with the response. This question prompts you to think about a “situation “in your life where you overcame a challenge and may or may not have been successful at the end of it. What is important is –

  • To recall the right situation out of the many scenario’s in your life
  • Once you decide which situation you are going to talk about, next is for you to give examples of how you used the necessary skills ( It can be quite an array of skills you have used in a particular situation if you give it a good thought) to face the challenges.
  • And third most important aspect is discussing the outcome.

This was a direct question for you to talk about a situation. There may be other questions which may not directly prompt you to quote a situation but definitely, you will have to think of the right one to arrive at a convincing answer. For example –

“Describe a major goal you’ve set for yourself recently.”

What should be your ideal thought process ??

  • Think of of an example of a goal you have set and achieved. Taking an example from the matrix below- I aimed for getting the 1st prize during the dance competition.
  • Think of more such patterns of accomplishment where you wanted to excel. Get a sports quota scholarship.
  • Now you can talk about how you set on to achieve goals you set for yourself based on these scenarios.

This indicates that you are focused, you set realistic goals and you are motivated to work towards it.

WHY IS RECALLING THE RIGHT EVENT AND THE REQUIRED SKILLS, APTITUDE AND ABILITIES SO IMPORTANT?

When you can recall the right event at the right time and fit it into the question that was asked “seamlessly”, you –

  • Create clear differentiation between a not so good answer and a very good answer
  • Successful in grabbing the interviewer’s attention. Interviewers love hearing a response where a story is weaved into it. By thinking about the corresponding situation in your life and stating it as an example will make your response not only compelling but very interesting as well.
  • Are making powerful impact with your answers which will help the hiring manager take a decision post the interview. For ex – 10 people are asked the same question. 2 of them build give the right examples to support their answers. Which answers do you think the interviewer will remember at the end of those 10 interviews? But ofcourse, the ones where the candidate managed to recall the right events and showcase the skills and abilities he used.

For someone who is not well prepared or who just regurgitates the usual, run of the mill responses, these questions are going to pose a herculean task.  A not so good response is marked by fumbles, pauses and hmms… Whereas a well-rehearsed answer is a confident, persuasive and convincing response.

Use this matrix to start thinking at the right direction.  As they rightly say, Well begun is half done !!

 

 

 

 

WHO AM I ??

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The “Tell me about yourself” or “ How would you describe yourself“ question is asked usually in the beginning of the interview so that it provides a general framework for discussion for the rest of the interview. This question gives way to other related questions.

You are actually at an advantage if asked this question during the interview. You have this wonderful opportunity to talk about your passion, your strengths, things that are important for you.  A golden chance to manipulate the discussion into a domain where you know you can do well.

We touched upon how important it is to know ourselves thoroughly to perform well during an interview in the Self-Awareness post.

SELF AWARENESS – A VITAL COMPONENT FOR SUCCESS IN JOB INTERVIEWS !!

In this article, we will help you understand yourself through some guided questions. To ace this open-ended question, you need to ask yourself many open-ended questions and answer them objectively. These questions are a way to explore yourself. We will do a small exercise using a model called Johari’s window which represents our levels of self-disclosure.

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Let us look at the components of the window in detail.

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These are the aspects of our personality which we need to explore.

Let us come to the most important aspect of our personality , which is

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In this article we will attempt to answer a few questions about yourself. The list of questions is exhaustive and not limited to the ones mentioned here. Our aim is to get you onboard the train of thoughts and guide it in the right direction.

These questions below will prompt you to think and to reflect on yourself. You would be surprised to discover certain things about yourself when viewed with an analytical and critical eye. You may also have to take feedback from others – your trusted friends, family, co-workers to fill in the Blind Spot area.

Our ultimate aim with this exercise is to score and plot the Johari Window based on the reflections and observations we have made about ourselves. The larger the open area, the more transparent you are to yourself. 

We will then give examples on how to craft your response to the tell me about yourself question based on your discoveries.

As much as possible, be honest to yourself while responding to these questions to determine accurately whether the behavior is in line with your identity, an integral part of who you are.

TASK 1 – ASSESSING YOUR PERSONALITY

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PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWERS TO ANY OF THESE QUESTIONS. THE GOAL HERE IS TO IDENTIFY YOUR PERSONALITY TRAIT , UNDERSTAND PATTERNS THAT GOVERN YOUR THOUGHTS, FEELINGS AND BEHAVIOR , YOUR EMOTIONAL STRUCTURE – ALL OF WHICH HAVE A HUGE IMPACT ON IMPORTANT LIFE OUTCOMES.

Now that we have a good idea about the kind of personality we possess, let us move to other questions which can be answered both my experienced professionals and freshers alike. Just because you are right out of college and do not have experience does not mean you cannot answer these questions. Infact, this is the best time in life you should be looking at what you want to steer your career in the right directions. So, go for it!!

Task 2 –  Best Fit = fn ( Individual Personality + Work Environment)

This exercise is to find a match between your personality and the work environment  you best fit in.

We spend most of our waking hours at work, with our colleagues and customers/ clients. A very important question you need to ask yourself – How would my 9 am to 5 pm look like?

  1. a) Do I like an environment that is face paced and structured or would I be happier if I do not have to work under strict timelines but systems are highly unstructured?
  2. b) Will be most comfortable working in a large company or am I at my best if the company is small
  3. c) Do I like a causal environment (Sneakers everyday) or a more formal one? Yes, what employees wear talk a lot about the culture the company has
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         Task 3 –  YOUR SKILL INVENTORY

This may not be as simple as it sounds. The skill inventory that you make for yourself should not only include your core, technical skills but also your soft skills. Now this is an area where you need to ask yourself. Am I an extrovert? If I am one, am I just comfortable talking to people who I am familiar with. A big crowd gives me the jitters?  It is a good idea to rate your skills. If I see my career in marketing, I would rate myself from 1 to 5 ( 1 being the highest ) on these various parameters

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Task 4 – VALUES YOU UPHOLD

The values and beliefs that you have, have a direct co-relation to the work culture that you would be most comfortable in. We did a little exercise in Task # 2 about the work environment. So, your question may be what the difference between Work Culture and Work environment is. The unwritten rules that form a part of the work culture define the work environment. So, it is all inter-related.

Let’s say Ritin a software engineer is always on the lookout for developing his technical skills.  He has a lot of opportunity in his job front to improve it.  Ritin thinks that taking certifications will help him grow and also do better in his job. There is a company policy against reimbursing the employee for certifications he makes out of his choice. What does this say about the company culture? Ritin may feel its unfair but another employee Anand may not seem too bothered about it. Anand may be keener on getting his work-life balance right. A movie night at office seems more fun for him.

Ask yourself – Do you love being creative around your work- thinking out of the box?  Do you like taking risks? Are you an independent thinker? Or do you need opinion of a whole lot of people?  Does the term flexible working hours entice you?

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Task 5 – YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS

Now this is something probably you will have at the tip of your fingertips. Some important aspects you need to consider while making a list

  • Think of examples which support your accomplishment. For ex – I was instrumental in organizing a fund-raising event for which we raised around Rs 3,00,000/-
  • Go back to your skill inventory. Think of situations where you used your skill and brought about a positive difference. For ex – I had to negotiate with a very difficult and demanding client. I not only managed to close the deal but I was also successful in building a very strong relationship with them.
  • Support facts with numbers and figures. Always, always try and do this. Gives more credibility to what you are saying. And be sure of the numbers and facts you are providing. Example –Delivered industry-leading software that saved clients millions of dollars, shortened processes from weeks to minutes, captured #1 market share and generated up to $21M in annual revenues within year one of launch
  • Do not restrict to achievements that are just task oriented. There may be a time when you were given more responsibility in the team. It can probably be as simple as organizing an offsite. You are probably good at coordinating and facilitating.
  • Achievements also mean accomplishments that you have had as a team. I am very proud of the fact that my team achieved 100% targets well before the deadline – shows that you know the importance of “We” over “I”
  • For freshers who have not come across real time work experience, when you look for a job they really do not expect you to have come across challenging situations obviously. Here, the effort is to understand yourself better. Using the P-A-R approach will help you dissect your lives achievements.

P- Problem or a challenge you faced

A- Action that you took to solve the problem

R- Result of the action that you took

For ex – I worked on a project during my internship on new ways of improving speed and efficiency of conveyor belts while reducing energy consumption. We were successful in reducing power consumption by 5% .

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Task 6 – YOUR EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS !

What gets you angry? What irritates you the most? What is that you fear the most?

Identifying the trigger points that leads to you having any extreme emotions are important not only in discovering your feelings about also will help you in controlling and regulating them. Having a strong will power and ability to have Self-Control is considered a very vital skill. For instance – You look for perfection in the PowerPoint that is sent by your team. Any small error, even in spacing or formatting gets you upset. If you aware of this emotional trigger, you can be aware of your feelings and choose not to react to it and concentrate on more important data on the presentation

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Task 7- YOUR PASSION

What drives you?

What motivates you?

Please note that you need to limit your passion to work. It can and should go beyond what you do on a 9 to 5 basis. If you have not found that one thing that you love doing, go explore. It will definitely help you have a better understanding of yourself and also give you a high sense of emotional well-being.  It will also be an avenue for you to socialize and network with industry professionals.

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Task 8 – YOUR CAREER GOAL

Where do you see yourself in 5 years ? As a manager or a senior manager are not the kind of responses you should be telling yourself. Know what you are getting into if you are a fresher and if you already are experienced, do a thorough research on the career option that you have chosen. Make an in-depth study and research on the industry or technology that is related to your career. It is a good idea to Subscribe to magazines that is related to your field of occupation. Start following articles of well-experienced, reputed professionals on LinkedIn

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Task 9- YOUR IDEAL JOB…

This is in a way related to what you love doing now and what will keep you more than happy 5 years down the line. Once you know your long-term career aspirations you will be able to expand this answer In a way that sounds realistic and goal-oriented. Thinking on these lines will help –  I love to get a deep understanding of a subject and becoming a Subject Matter expert In a way that I can wow the client.  Eventually, I want to pick Big Data Analytics and specialize in it. I am curious about how Hadoop work. I would want to work more on this technology.

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TASK 10 – YOUR DEVELOPMENTAL GOALS

This should be in line with your career goal and aspiration. Taking a certification in Hadoop or aiming to land a job which gives you exposure to Hadoop may be a good step to begin with.

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Task 12: HOW OTHERS VIEW YOU?

Remember the Blind Spot in Johari’s window?

The only way to know about yourself to which you are blinded, is from getting feedback. Keep it informal and Choose a good mix of people – some from your work place, your friend, your relative, your mom. This gives you an overall perspective of how others view you. It may go to the extent of building a damaged relationship with your cousin or friend.

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As you may have realized by now, most of these tasks are interrelated. Having said that, there are high chances that each of these questions will help you discover newer aspects about yourself. Give yourself some time and happy exploring!

Our next step is to develop our interview response and it is a guarantee that once you are done with this exercise you will find a whole new way of answering the regular questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 Reasons Why improving your communication skills is tougher than cracking IIT JEE

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Communication or a lack thereof can make the difference between success and failure. One may have excellent technical expertise but if he is unable to communicate effectively, he may not be as successful. And therein lies the distinction between an excellent employee and an average one.

Research says that employers rate verbal communication skills as the most important. The very fact that companies seek candidates with strong communication skills point to the fact that the ability to effectively communicate is a virtue and an aptitude that is hard to find.

Here are some of the reasons why the ability to communicate is harder than solving a math problem and is a skill that many lack in-

 

  1. Language Acquisition vs Language Learning – Schools don’t teach “communication”. They teach the subject technically which may include grammar, sentence formation and the general workings of a subject. It is not necessary that a person who answers correctly to a fill in the blank preposition question will have a good hold of the language. And this is where it is important to highlight the distinction between language acquisition and language learning. Language learning is learning the rules and the structure. Language acquisition is applying the rules. Applying linguistic skills are not as straightforward as application of math or a science formula.

 

  1. ABC vs 123 – A formula in math can be applied to the question and you arrive at the right result. But that doesn’t work with languages Once you understand the way to approach a problem, using your logical skills you can get the right solution in Mathematics. Math has clearer rules which makes it easier to teach and to understand. There is no go to formula which will guarantee results when it comes to communication. Moreover, math can be self -learnt. Have you ever heard of someone trying to master communication skills sitting all by himself in a 12 by 12 room with a pen and paper. This brings us to the next point.

 

  1. Not having a Mentor – We have heard of people taking extra coaching classes when it comes to math. But little do people realize that communication, a very vital skill is more effective if there is an intervention at the right time. Someone to not only help learn the ropes of the language but also put together this complex body of knowledge in a way that it can be applied at the ground level. Experiential learning through interaction, perception, discussion, argument makes the learning more effective. Getting the right mentor, someone to coach you in the right direction is difficult to get. Moreover, not many realize that a mentor or a coach can make a difference not only in the way you express yourself but also to the whole approach on communication as a soft skill.

 

  1. Technical Challenges – Learning the nuances of the language can be tricky. The right pronunciation, the correct order of words, sentence formation, using appropriate synonyms, grammatical correctness – all of this can be overwhelming if you are not fluent with the language. If you lack in any of these areas, you come across as a poor communicator. Communication does not end with the verbal ability to converse. It also expands to reading and writing, each of these skills having their own technical complexity.

 

  1. Barriers to communication – Cultural differences, language differences, prejudices that people carry, the mindsets of people make communication all the challenging. The speaker has to be mindful about the general rules of conversations and ensure that it is line with the background of the audience he is interacting with.

 

  1. Communication, A skill hard to quantify – Rating communication skills is difficult. We cannot objectively measure effectiveness of communication. For example – A Software Engineer is asked to write a code to calculate the exponent of a number. The answer will be in absolutes. Either it will be a correct program or an incorrect one. Whereas a question directed to assess the communication skill may not be as simple. Not only is it difficult to assess, but no two interviewers may think alike.

 

  1. 7-38-55 Rule – As complex as it gets – According to this rule, when we communicate, only 7% consists of the words. 38% is attributed to use of one’s voice, like modulation, tone and volume. Body language consists of the larger 55% . Your gestures, hand movement, facial expression are called Non-verbal cues. So now along with speaking correctly and fluently, a speaker also needs to be conscious about his body language as well.

 

  1. Difficulty in achieving the right tenor and tone to suit the situation – This constitutes the 38%. Communication is effective if it has relevance and is based on context not just by choosing the right words but also achieving the appropriate tone . There are many such situations where communication is just not a regular conversation between 2 people. Unhappy client has to be convinced, having to apologize to someone, resolving a conflict , giving a sales pitch- each of these situations demand a particular tone that you have to adopt to sound convincing and compelling. Imagine that you are a juggler. The more number of balls he has in the air, the more difficult it is for him to switch between balls. The balls here signify the many elements of communication. The Content, Body Language, the tone is all up in the air at the same time. You have to calculate your every move to ensure it does not land plop on the floor. That is how complex communication can get.

 

  1. The human factor – Communication involves multiple parties –: the sender, the receiver(s). No two people have the same style or way of communicating. No wonder there is a high probability of misconstruing a message. Research shows that if a message can be understood in different ways, it is usually understood in a way that cause the maximum harm. Communication never happens in isolation. These various external and internal factors involved can cause many a hindrance to the communication process.

 

Communication is a skill that is needed in every walk of life. Whether it is between parents, siblings, family members or at workplace or a student. It is a bedrock for developing and establishing critical relationships , relationships that matter to you. A strong communicator has more chance of success in every aspect of his life.

This is an area where improvement never ends. It is not too late to revive this “hard to learn – but not impossible to master ” skill and head in the right direction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SELF AWARENESS – A VITAL COMPONENT FOR SUCCESS IN JOB INTERVIEWS !!

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“Know thyself” a motto inscribed on the frontispiece of the Temple of Delphi (Goddess of Wisdom) talks about discovering your real self.  Being aware of yourself, as has been mentioned time and again by spiritual gurus, great philosophers and behavioral psychologists, is the fundamental essence of who we are and what we are.

Knowing oneself is not just limited to the spiritual realm. Knowing aspects of ourselves that shapes our personality is a cornerstone of success for a job interview.

The goal of this article is  to compare 2 responses to some important interview question.

  • One is a memorized, scripted response
  • And the second answer is a response from an individual who understands himself and can draw a connection between what he is and the kind of job, environment, people he can work best in.

Needless to say, the latter is a more effective and convincing answer. Thus, emphasizing on the point that unless an individual takes an honest look at life, his shortcomings, his strengths and many such aspects, he cannot answer the questions to the best of his abilities.

Let us look at a few familiar interview questions and the common responses to each of them.

 

DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A FEW WORDS

 

ANSWER :

Hello, Thank you giving me this opportunity. I have around 9 years of experience with an engineering background. I completed my engineering in 2009. Post that, I joined in a small-scale industry XYZ and worked as quality engineer for around 18months. I was responsible for handling the entire process of inspection and quality check. Eventually, I took over customer complaints and other responsibilities and was promoted to Quality Manager. I then got opportunity to work in a medium scale company ABC industry limited with a turnover of around 600crore per annum where I joined as purchase engineer. I worked here for 4years and handled material planning.  Vendor development is my key functional area. Then I joined 123 Private Limited. It’s a Canada Based company and has around 75% of share in the Canadian market. I handled product and vendor development and supply chain management. I have always grown in the company that I have worked for. In this company too I was promoted as sr. Engineer. I love watching movies with my family. My favorite actor is SRK.

 

Now let’s move on to another popular question

 

WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESS ?

What do you think of the above 2 responses. They pretty much are a direct answer to the question the interviewer is putting across. Think of other various possibilities of answering the above questions.Answer: I am a workaholic and very hardworking. My weakness is that I can never say no to anybody.

Now take a minute to answer these questions below –

  • Are these answers good enough to help you stand out from the rest?
  • Does the answer reflect the kind of person you are completely and truly?
  • Do you think these answers were compelling, convincing and show case the best in you?

These interview questions are some often asked ones which are directed towards knowing how best you will fit in the company and for the position you applied. These are questions that urge you to introspect and reflect on yourself.

When the hiring manager says “Tell me about yourself”, it is but natural to talk about your work experience.

But this seemingly right answer just comes off as a memorized reply which does not reflect the real you. On the contrary you shoot yourself on the foot with a frail answer. Questions like these become tricky because there is no right or wrong answer. But there is a clear, distinct difference between a “run of the mill” response and an answer which evokes a positive and affirmative reaction from the interviewer. One of the ways for you to showcase the best in you is to give a response that completely and truly represents you. The interviewer can see through a made up, superficial response even if has all the right components in it.  But a genuine and an honest answer will help you connect with the interviewer and set the pace for the rest of the interview.

How do we achieve this? How can you steer the interview in a direction that works in your favor?

Being Self-Aware is the answer to the question.

The key to communicating perfectly, effectively, fluently and honestly lies in the streamlined process of reflecting on your thoughts, emotions and knowledge and framing a response that defines you from the rest.

So why is Self-Awareness vital for success in a job interview?

Knowledge is within every individual. Information that you have gained over the years from various sources, from your personal and work experience, by virtue of interactions with people around you is all wisdom that lies deep within you.

The foundation to nailing an interview is in discovering the learnings by knowing and understanding yourself thoroughly. If you recall important information about life experiences and connect it to the position you apply, it shows that you know what is best for you, what works for you, what doesn’t.

It is a given that an employee will do his job right.  Most of the employers are seeking employees who are good team players, who have a good control over their emotions, who are able to interact easily with co-workers and customers, who personify integrity and strength of character, in short employees who create a congenial work environment. A highly self-aware employee will definitely leave a lasting impression on the minds of the hiring manager.

Analyze this response below to the “Tell me about Yourself “Question

“With about 5 years of experience I am adept in creating testing strategies for a wide range of software products. I have been extensively exposed to agile and session-based testing in my current role as Test Engineer in XYZ company.

I get this huge sense of satisfaction when I know that the product that the client and the customer use are written and tested correctly by my team and me.  As I have mentioned in the resume, I was instrumental in automation of testing cycle which resulted in 66% reduction in Regression Testing time.

With XYZ company, I have been a part of many short-term and long-term projects, each of it having its own specific testing environment. I am proud of the fact that I could adapt myself to these different environments easily and successfully.

I also have continuously tried to improve myself. I have successfully completed my certification program for Unix Shell Scripting. This is the domain I would like to specialize in. I am excited that the role that I am applying  for will give me a good amount of exposure in the UNIX Operating System.”

The above response to the “ Tell me about yourself “ question not only describes the work experience the individual has , but subtly puts across some strong points which an interviewer would like to hear.

Let us analyze the response in detail.

With about 5 years of experience I am adept in creating testing strategies for a wide range of software products. I have been extensively exposed to agile and session-based testing in my current role as Test Engineer in XYZ company.

This above statement throws light on the Amount of Experience and the Depth of Knowledge the candidate has

I get this huge sense of satisfaction when I know that the product that the client and the customer use are written and tested correctly by my team and me. 

This above statement tells about what drives him ? How passionate he is about what he does?

With XYZ company, I have been a part of many short-term and long-term projects, each of it having its own specific testing environment. I am proud of the fact that I could adapt myself to these different environments easily and successfully.

This above statement gives an idea on the Work Environment he likes to work in

As I have mentioned in the resume, I was instrumental in automation of testing cycle which resulted in 66% reduction in Regression Testing time.

This statement quantifies Past Achievements & Success using Facts and Figures

I also have continuously tried to improve myself. I have successfully completed my certification program for Unix Shell Scripting. This is the domain I would like to specialize in. I am excited that the role that I am applying for will give me a good amount of exposure in the UNIX Operating System. 

This statement above talks about his future career plans, his Career Aspirations and in ways he can add value to the job and the company.

We will take up some of the important job interview questions in our subsequent articles.  We will also talk in detail about –

  1. What exactly is true self-awareness
  2. How do we work towards it
  3. And how being self- aware helps us craft responses that will impress the hiring manager.

Clarity in thought and fluency in speech begins with being self-aware.

 

 

By Maathangi Iyer