Thursday, December 31, 2009

Interviewing for a Job: Projecting Enthusiasm from the Get-go!

Recruiting experts and employment specialists are constantly, and rightly, advising job seekers to look upbeat when they meet a potential hirer. In fact, just yesterday, appearing on PBS’s highly regarded "Nightly Business Report," John Challenger, CEO of the well-known firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, urged applicants to project optimism during an interview, despite the understandably dispiriting environment. Well, here are two easy-to-implement suggestions on how to project enthusiasm and zeal from the get-go:

1. Display a wide smile when the hirer and you look at each other for the first time. I call it the “all-32-teeth-showing-smile.” In other words, a plain, ordinary smile is not good enough. I have ample evidence to say, with conviction, that a display of dental enamel has a visceral impact on the other person. It unambiguously conveys warmth that words cannot express. (So, if you stop by a McDonald’s to gulp down a sandwich just before the interview, be sure your teeth look perfectly clean before you meet the hirer.)

2. Move with alacrity. Move with energy. For instance, supposing you are walking toward the hirer who is standing at the other end of the hallway, or as the hirer is looking on, you get up to fetch a glass of water or cup of coffee from across the room. Well, take brisk strides instead of moving at an arthritic pace. In other words, let your physical actions project that you are a person of enormous energy.

Remember, a key thought in every hirer’s mind, as he or she studies you, is: If I were to hire this person, will he or she come to the workplace each morning bursting with enthusiasm and zeal?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

High-Impact Communication Skills: The Extraordinarily Articulate Bruce Hoffman in Action on the BBC This Morning

Bruce Hoffman’s name first entered my consciousness in the early part of this decade, shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, thanks to his unremittingly lucid and penetrating comments on al Qaeda in particular and terrorism in general, and I soon realized that he is perhaps the most articulate American in the field of anti-terrorism. Ever since, I’ve found listening to Mr. Hoffman to be most rewarding: His extraordinary command of the language enables him to give expression to his expertise, deep insights, and views as few specialists can. Thus, whenever he is featured on any of my favorite radio or TV shows, I instantly sharpen my antennas so that I don’t miss a word of what he is about to utter. Not surprisingly, I honor Mr. Hoffman on my website’s home page as well in my book The Articulate Professional – 3rd Edition (on page 4, where I laud some 15 or so Americans whose voices are extremely influential partly because they possess a vigorous vocabulary).

This morning, Mr. Hoffman was on a 3-member panel assembled by The BBC World Service to discuss the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. He did not disappoint, using a stream of fresh, vivid, evocative, and synonymous words and phrases--the defining trait of articulate people--to emphasize his points. For instance, when asked whether it was his view that the 9/11 attacks had indeed shaped this past decade, Mr. Hoffman replied: “This was the end of the halcyon period during the '90s when, supposedly, a new world order was emerging which would be far more peaceful, far less truculent than was the case during the Cold War. (Instead) these attacks led to a dramatic transition from the belligerence but non-violence of the Cold War to an actual hot war that the U.S. was involved in during the last 9 years--this succession of military engagements that would have been unimaginable in the 1990s.”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Formula for Seizing People’s Attention When Expressing Your Indignation; New York Judge Jeffrey Spinner’s “Piercing” Words

One of the benefits of possessing a powerful vocabulary is that when you are really indignant, it is easier to capture everyone’s attention. [No wonder I have devoted an entire section on words for “Specifying Criticism or Disapproval” in my book, The Articulate Professional – 3rd Edition (2008).] A New York judge’s criticism last week of a bank for its apathy and indifference (in its dealings with a customer facing foreclosure) was so piercing, thanks to his liberal use of out-of-the-ordinary and high-caliber words, that it made national headlines.

Here is some of Suffolk County Judge Jeffrey Spinner’s opinion, as reported on “ABC World News with Charlie Gibson”: He called the bank’s behavior “repugnant” and accused it of “inequitable, unconscionable, vexatious, and opprobrious” conduct, as well as “duplicity… intransigence… and a condescending attitude.” Saying that “each and every proposal (made by the customer), no matter how reasonable, was soundly rebuffed” by the bank, the judge decided that “the appropriate equitable remedy was to simply cancel the loan."

A note of caution with regard to oral communication: As I stress in my seminars and in my book, when speaking, it’s not a good idea to spew out uncommon words in the manner of a fusillade, because that gives the audience acute listening indigestion and creates a deep aversion toward the speaker. In oral communications, use high-caliber words sparingly and with synonyms (or synonymous phrases), antonyms, and split-second pauses to help ensure everyone in the intended audience understands your message fully.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Praising an Employee: GM Chairman’s Uninspiring Performance Yesterday

By now you’ve probably seen the widely broadcast video clip showing General Motors Chairman Ed Whitacre Jr. making the surprise announcement about CEO Fritz Henderson’s sudden departure. What struck me most about that video clip was the manner in which Mr. Whitacre delivered his words of praise for Mr. Henderson’s role in engineering the company’s ongoing turnaround. With his left hand holding a sheaf of papers, and his other hand in a pocket, Mr. Whitacre’s utterance sounded very knee-jerk and superficial—a far cry from what I would have expected from one of corporate America’s most highly accomplished execs. [It was under Mr. Whitacre’s leadership that Southwestern Bell—later renamed ATT—was transformed into an industry titan.]

Granted that Mr. Whitacre had no choice but to read his statement (the press conference had been hastily called), he could have easily made his praise for the outgoing CEO effective and impactful by using his right hand to accentuate the words, rather than have that limb hidden in his right pocket.

Bottom line: All execs are quick to say that “people are our greatest assets.” Well, if that is the case, why not manifest that sentiment? Here are some tips: When praising an employee, (i) be emphatic, (ii) make your sincerity unambiguous and transparent by using appropriate body language, and (iii) use at least a couple of fresh words or phrases to help shed triteness.

Later this week, I will be posting a video clip of the GM Chairman’s shabby performance to help illustrate how not to praise an employee. And you can bet that the clip will become a prized asset in future renditions of my seminar on How to Deliver Effective Praise in Just Three Sentences,” the objective of which is to help managers boost employee morale, loyalty, and productivity.”