Thursday, May 30, 2019

Building interpersonal relationships at work

How well do you relate to others? 

Having the required interpersonal skill sets to relate to others  and forging a positive relationship with them is crucial for your career advancement. By developing such skills, it becomes easily possible for you to interact openly and positively with your co-workers and bosses in the work environment. Your endeavor in developing relationships at work should result in mutual understanding. This does not necessarily mean always agreeing with the other person, rather its appreciating and respecting their situation or point of view while holding your own. 

1. Effective communication skills
This is the most fundamental people skill because it encompasses your persona and ability to get along with other colleagues, persuade others to listen to your ideas, and much more. Effective communication helps us better understand a person or situation and enables us to resolve differences. It also allows us to build trust and respect, and create environments where creative ideas, problem solving, affection, and caring can flourish.

2. Practicing Active Listening

Hearing and active listening are two different things. Most people hear someone speak and start to form a response in their mind (or worse, starting talking) before the person finishes what theyre saying. Active listening involves the use of both verbal and non-verbal cues to encourage another person to express their ideas, thoughts and emotions freely, and comprises of the following ingredients:
A. Prompting: This is required to show interest and keep the other person talking. Use verbal cues like - Yes, Okay, I see…’, Mmm..and non-verbal cues like nodding your head and showing the appropriate facial expression.
B. Responding: You need to respond to gather more relevant information and encourage the other person to reveal their needs and concerns, as well as establish an open two way communication. Your response should be in the form of open ended questions instead of leading ones. Use a positive tone without agreeing or disagreeing. Responses can be in the form of - Is this important for you?, Tell me more about it., and How do you feel about it?
C. Restating: This is paraphrasing the other persons point to clarify your own comprehension about what the other person is meaning to say, and that you are trying to understand the situation correctly. Avoid value judgments or convey your own opinion. You can use phrases such as - Is this what you mean…’, Am I understanding correctly that…’, Is it correct to say that…’ or Im not sure Im following you here…’
D. Empathizing: You can recognize the other persons point as valid without necessarily accepting their opinions or conclusions. You need to show that you fully understand and respect their point of view and comprehend their feelings. Use phrases like I understand how you feel…’, It must have been very frustrating for you…’ or I fully comprehend your feeling this way…’
E. Summarizing: Its important to draw all relevant information or ideas together to establish the ground for further communication and highlight the key points of the discussion, and set aside irrelevant information. So what Ive gathered from our discussion…’, It seems your key issue is…’, or So the most important point is…’ are some phrases which can be used.

3. Building Trust
Building a relationship of trust involves being reliable throughout. You should be able to do what you say, and say what you mean. Honesty is an important trait in trust building. You need to keep your word and tell the truth. Develop an open attitude and express yourself freely and have others do the same to you. Share your thoughts, truly listen to others and show empathy. Keep away from the danger of gaining trust by using gossip, and show integrity by keeping secrets that are told to you. In short, you need to adopt these five traits if you wish to build a trustworthy relationship: Reliability, Honesty, Open attitude, Empathy and Integrity. Once trust is established, you can build upon the valuable performance oriented  values of confidence, empowerment and inspiration:


4. Showing Empathy

While sympathy is mere compassion, empathy goes one step further as being responsive compassion, or compassion plus expression. Its stepping into the other persons shoes - putting yourself into their situation and feeling the way they do. Empathy involves not only expressing mere words, but also involves empathetic and active listening, word choice as well as timely cues and responses.

                5. Displaying Good Etiquette

Displaying good etiquette at the workplace goes a long way in building your reputation as a well mannered and genuine person. This may range from smiling, greeting and wishing co-workers & superiors, displaying a helpful, cooperative attitude, respecting other's privacy, paying genuine compliments, displaying emphatic concern at other people's problems and several other small gestures of generosity and caring. However, you need to ensure that these gestures come out naturally and spontaneously and are not forced or artificial, otherwise you may come across as being phony.

Putting these five skills - effective communication, active listening, building trust, empathizing and observing good etiquette - into active use at your workplace will help you develop healthy and positive interpersonal relationships with others which can go a long way in promoting your career prospects. 

View the following uploaded videos on our You Tube channel on building interpersonal relationships: 

1. Building positive relations at work
2. Building interpersonal relationships

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Answering Interview Q's: Tell me about yourself

Facing job interviews: What are you assessed for?

You can expect a wide variety of questions during your interview session which assess your overall personality, evaluate your soft skills, attitude and motivations as well as  technically intricate questions relevant to the job applied for. Questions are designed around specific competencies essential for the position you have applied for. As such, nearly all interview questions fall into these 4 major categories:

Can you do the job well?
This tests your competency and knowledge for the job.

Will you do the job well?
This probes if you have the correct attitude and motivation to perform the job.

Do you fit in well?  
This is to judge how well you will get along with the others in the organization.

Are you affordable?
Are your current salary expectations in alignment with the compensation policy of the company.  

The whole point of the interview is for the interviewer is to establish four basic things about you - to determine if you have the skills and competencies to perform the job effectively, if you are willing to perform the job well and equally important, how well do you fit into their organization - if you are someone they would like to work with, whether your overall personality are in sync with their corporate culture and values, and lastly, if they can afford you. Before going for the interview, research the current salary structure pertaining to that job profile in that specific sector and quote accordingly in case you are asked about your salary expectations.

Facing job interviews: Answering the basic question:

Tell me about yourself: This is usually one of the first and most important questions asked during the interview. The way you answer it creates a strong initial impression on the interviewer and sets the tone for the rest of your interview. Make sure you prepare the answer to this question well and practice speaking it aloud a few times in front of a mirror, or in front of someone who can give you an honest, critical appraisal. However, your answer should not come out as rehearsed, but appear to be spontaneous. 

What's the purpose of asking this question?

The interviewers already have your CV in front of them which contains all the relevant information about you. So why do they ask you to tell them about yourself? Not only is this question an ice breaker, but it is asked to assess you on three important things: 
  • How well you can market yourself as the most qualified person for the position.
  • What you consider more important about yourself.
  • Test your communication skills. 

How to answer?

This question can be asked in various ways such as - 'Walk me through your resume', 'How would you describe yourself?', or simply 'Can you present yourself to us?'. Before attempting to answer the question you need to keep in mind the following things:  

A. Prioritize & structure your information:
Consider what information about yourself you would like to tell your interviewers first of all, after introducing your name. The first piece of information has to be relevant and interesting enough to raise the interviewers interest in you and become willing enough to hear out your entire answer.

What should I convey about myself?

Your current pursuit:
- what you're currently doing or where you are presently engaged.
Your career objective & goals:
- align them with the corporate objectives & goals. (If possible, give your specific short term goal, followed by your long term objectives)
Your work experience highlights
- highlight responsibilities & achievements.
Training sessions attended /projects completed:
- highlight the work profile & your contribution to the company during that period, and the experience and practical learning you gained.
Your key skills and qualities:
- mention those relevant to the job profile.
Your special achievements:
- Prizes, positions held, participation in events & competitions, research papers presented, projects, etc.
Professional /Technical qualifications:
- something apart from your academics, which can also include relevant seminars and workshops attended.
Your hobbies & extra-curricular activities:
- It is important to mention appropriate extra-curricular activities which add to your suitability for the job. For example, if you are applying for a position which involves your working in a team, it would be a good idea to mention that you enjoy playing or watching team games like football or cricket instead of individual playing games like badminton or table tennis.   

It is absolutely not essential to mention all the above in your answer. You should prioritize and highlight areas which you're strong in, and downplay or omit areas where you're not. For example, if you don't have any special achievements to speak on, it would be best to omit them from your answer.  

B. Use sound scripting
Sound scripting is the technique of using voice modulation, word stress, pace control and deliberate pauses in your communication in order to not only avoid being monotonous and flat in your delivery but enhance your verbal communication effectively to make it sound intriguing and pleasant to listen to. For more tips on verbal communication enhancement techniques, please refer to my earlier article on Verbal Communication Skills published here on this blog.  
C. Use action verbs to create a positive impact 
Use of action verbs in your answer greatly impacts what you wish to convey. There are different set of action verbs for different job profiles, skills and specializations. The action verbs should be used in your career objective and for describing you achievements, skills, work experience or project work. You can refer to my uploaded video for an extensive list of which actions verbs to use for which job profile. 

D. Be aware of the competencies required for performing the job
Given below is a Job Profile–Competency Chart depicting what skills and attitudes are
essential for which job profile:

Job Profile
Skills & Attitudes
Communication, Interpersonal, Persuasive, Assertive, Persistence, Patience, Optimistic, Enthusiastic, Result oriented, team working.  
Communication, Interpersonal, Team working, Organizing & planning, Persuasive, Innovative, Analytical, Decisive, Trouble shooting, Optimistic, Enthusiastic.
Analytical, Innovative, Methodical, Precise, Rational, Detail Oriented, Critical, Broad vision and foresightedness, planning and structuring, intuitive.   
Communicative, Interpersonal, Judgmental, Negotiating skills, Keen insight of human character, Motivating, non-discriminating, Compassionate, Good listening skills.
Technical Research
Creative, Analytical, Detail Oriented, Methodical, Precise, Persistent, Critical, Optimistic, Intuitive, Problem solving approach, Team working.
Software Development
Analytical, Detail Oriented, Methodical, Innovative, Problem solving approach, Team working.
Technical Support
Analytical, Methodical, Problem solving approach, Team working.
Customer care / Hospitality / Client Interaction
Communication, Interpersonal skills, patience, team working, empathy.

Note: Other skills may also be required for a particular job profile, but are secondary. For example, for a Finance job, analytical ability is essential, but it is also good to have a positive and optimistic attitude.

It is important while answering this question; you phrase your answer in such a way that brings out the relevant competencies appropriate for that job profile. Make use of specific action verbs and phrases in your answer in order to create a better impact.

Here are some examples to give you an idea:

Question: "Tell me about yourself?"
Response for a finance job profile:  
"I have achieved success so far by making well-thought-out decisions based on careful analysis of all factors. I'm a person who approaches problems with logic and sound reasoning. I would enjoy developing appropriate systems and procedures to streamline and automate the financial functioning of a company in an effective manner, and my goal is to gain expertise in all finance related procedures and systems. My finance specialization in MBA and relevant summer internship in XYZ Bank has provided me the technical knowledge which I can built upon, and I am looking forward to joining a company which can provide me a platform to build a career in finance."
Response for a marketing job profile:
"I thrive on seeking out innovative solutions to challenging problems to maximize results. Regardless of the task or challenge, I always like to give my best performance in anything I do. I think my main strength is my ability to work well with diverse teams. I seek out opportunities to involve  and collaborate with others to perform a job effectively. This ability, combined with my effective communication skills has always led me to success in extra curricular activities. My marketing specialization and summer training project in identifying and developing new market segments at ABC Corp has groomed me well for a professional career in marketing. I believe that an organization that does not change and grow will die. I would enjoy working with your company to help define new market opportunities and evolve innovative strategies in order to maximize the overall profitability of the organization.”

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Answering Interview Q's : How to answer behavioral & hypothetical questions

Answering Interview Questions

Different types of interview questions:

Its a good idea to be aware of the different categories of questions and how to best respond to each one before appearing for an interview. Corporate interviews are generally a mix of various types of interview questions, and very rarely of one kind. As such its better to be aware of the different categories of questions which may be asked from you, so you can be in a position to answer them appropriately and remain in control of the interview.

In this article well focus on three different categories of interview questions which are commonly asked and explain the best way of answering such questions.

1. Specific or Closed Ended questions:

Examples: What specialization had you taken in college?or Where did you do your summer internship from? or Are you willing to relocate?

Answering specific or closed ended questions - the best approach:

The best way to answer such questions is to initially give a straightforward factual reply, and then expand on your answer to elaborate upon your key strengths, achievements and interest areas related to the question.

Suppose you are asked about your summer internship project. Firstly, you can start by mentioning the factual details of your summer internship (the name of the organization, the field of your internship, the nature of the project you were given) and then move on to elaborating upon the key highlights of your internship - such as why you did your internship from that particular organization, the knowledge & experience you gained from the internship, followed by your achievements and contribution made to the organization during your internship period - all such information which is not mentioned in your resume.

It is always a good idea to elaborate further as it lets you to give a clear insight to your interviewer about your strengths, attitude and personality based on the information you have given instead of having your interviewer probe around trying to discover them, and probably form an incomplete or distorted picture of your abilities.

Remember, there is no such things as a closed ended question in interviews, the ones where you can simply give a yesor noanswer. The answer to the question Are you willing to relocate?can be answered in a simple yes or no, but it is always better to expand upon your answer to include the reasons for your answer as well, as it gives a clearer picture to the interviewer about the background to your answer.       

2. Hypothetical or Situation Based Questions:

Examples: If you were in charge of leading a team, how would you ensure everyone met the work deadlines?or What if there were no fixed guidelines for performing a certain task?

Hypothetical questions are based on What ifpremises, asking you to project your thoughts and ideas from an assumption. You are expected to give your response to certain specific, hypothetical situations that you may face on the job. You are tested here are for your speed and clarity of though, along with the ability to construct a logically convincing response. Most importantly, It tests your ability to apply relevant skills to a hypothetically practical situation which you may face in your prospective job.  Hypothetical or situation based narratives are related using future tenses - "I will be...", "I plan to", "I intend to".

3. Incidental or Behavioral Questions:
Examples: Relate an incident in your life when you had to display your interpersonal skills.or Give an example of your leadership ability.  

The purpose behind such questions is to test your understanding and knowledge of certain job related competencies and in what way you are able to practically apply them in real life situations. The interviewer makes certain assumptions based on your past demonstrated behavior in tackling different types of situations in order to predict your future responses.

Keep concrete specific examples ready for each of the relevant competencies to narrate promptly and smoothly. Do not make it sound rehearsed or artificial. Go into details and give specific time periods and names while you are relating the incident to sound more authentic. You can draw on extracurricular activities such as annual college festivals, competitive activities like debates and sports in which you participated, project work, summer internship, class assignments or any other activity you may have undertaken to base your examples around.  Just remember to use the past tense to describe incidental or behavioral situations, such as "I did...", "I performed...", I managed..."

Answering hypothetical and incidental questions - the best approach:

These kinds of questions are more prevalent in corporate interviews nowadays, as they reveal a great deal about your inherent as well as acquired competencies. The best way to respond to such questions is to structure your response in a STAR framework:

S: What was the Situation?

Describe the background here: During our annual college festival in January last year, I was entrusted with the responsibility of..

In the case of hypothetical or situation based questions, the situation will be given to you by your interviewer, for example How will you lead your project development team to achieve time specific goals. In such cases, you need to elaborate on the following three aspects of the STAR framework here. What you need to do is to reflect on the specific skills which will be required to successfully perform the task., and then build them into your answer. Taking the above example, the skills which you would require for leading your team to achieve time specific goals will primarily be leadership skills, team building, team coordination and time management.

T: What was your Task?

Outline your work responsibilities clearly here: I was entrusted with the responsibility of getting sponsors for various cultural events from companies.or in the case of an hypothetical or situation based question: To get the best results from my team in achieving time specific goals, I will first need to guide my team to establish individual areas of tasks and responsibilities.”  

A: What Actions did you take?

Focus here on your competencies to accomplish the given task: I used my interpersonal skills to build a team of enthusiastic students, and motivated them to visit companies to collect sponsorship. I was able to organize the work according to the ability and resources of the team members, and utilized my personal contacts as well to get the desired sponsorship..
In the case of the hypothetical question given as an example above, your answer could be Once having established the individual goals and responsibilities, I will collaborate with my team to work out an achievable time schedule…”   

Your answer should clearly demonstrate to the interviewer that you are aware of utilizing interpersonal skills, team building, time management and other relevant skills into the given situation to accomplish specific goals in order to get the desired outcomes.

R: What was the Result?

Mention the outcome at the end - what you achieved as a result of your efforts. Give specific figures about the organizations you obtained sponsorship from and the amount collected from each, and maybe include a commendation received from your head of department or teachers appreciating your efforts.

While fresh college students can give an example as the one stated above, it is always a good idea for experienced professionals to chose a recent example, such as previous projects completed, targets achieved in previous job, team building exercise carried out - any recently accomplished area in which you are able to clearly demonstrate the successful application of skills you are asked to give an example of.