USING PERSONALITY SKILLS IN INTERVIEWING
Personality skills are skills that have become part of your personality. They are part of who you are. The tactful person does not wake up in the morning wondering if she should be tactful that day. Instead, when a situation arises which requires tact, the person spontaneously becomes tactful. Personality skills develop early in life and can be continually refined through experience.
Employers want evidence that a candidate is already strong in the personality skills deemed critical for a particular job. This is because it is difficult to improve people’s personality skills through training. If you’ve never used a computer before, you can attend a two-day introductory course and begin navigating around with some confi-dence. It is extremely difficult, however, to send a tactless person to a one-week tactfulness workshop and expect the person to improve significantly.
You start the process by selling your personality skills. To identify and become more acquainted with your personality skills, rate yourself on the following 44 key skills. Rate yourself on a scale of 1–10, where 10 is excellent and 1 is poor. Be sure to give yourself a range—not all 8s, 9s and 10s. Avoid over-analyzing here—go through the list as quickly as you can.
For more information on personality skills visit our website at www.cmr-mvp.com. You will find useful descriptions of the skills and sample statements for selling those skills in an interview. Once in the website, click on Books by Tom Washington, then click on Using Personality Skills In Interviewing.
Effective Under Stress
Sense of Humor
Writing about your personality skills will prepare you for interviews. So once you’ve rated yourself on all these skills, pick out your top ten personality skills and write a short paragraph on each one describing how you are that way. This is a quick exercise; you’re not trying for polished writing. Using your own shorthand, list an example for each skill. The example should illustrate your ability to use that skill at a high level. Your descriptions might read something like this:
Although some may say I seldom get excited, I do have a high degree of enthusiasm in many areas. It is not a gushy enthusiasm, but a strong, deep enthusiasm that comes from conviction. Example: Motivating the team on the Baxter project.
I am very efficient. This quality has been my worst enemy where I am now working. A difficult, demanding job appears so easy because I am efficient. No one fully recognizes my worth. Example: Cut the time it took to get month-end reports out from 8 days to 3 days.
I was diplomatic when I had to discuss accounting irregularities with the client’s accountants. Example: Especially on the XYZ account, when we suspected fraud.
THE UNIVERSALLY DESIRED PERSONALITY SKILLS
Although all of the personality skills are valued by employers, only some of them are universally desired. For example, you can’t even imagine an employer not wanting someone who is reliable. The universally desired personality skills are cooperative, effective under stress, efficient/productive, energetic, enthusiastic, reliable, responsible, and resourceful. Concentrate on these when you sell yourself in interviews, in addition to others that you rate yourself high in.
BEING WELL LIKED
Whenever a new person is being added to a department, there is always the question of whether the person will fit in. The employer has worked hard to create an effective team and now a new person is about to join the department. It is like a cook who has developed a delicious soup but now is considering adding a new ingredient. The new ingredient may provide just the right flavor or may completely spoil it. Of course the wrong decision with a soup is not nearly as serious as hiring the wrong person. The concern is whether the person will work effectively with the team and with the boss.
In an interview you will want to sell the fact that you have been well liked by colleagues and bosses in the past, but that is not enough. You must indicate the reasons you are well liked. That requires selling the skills that make one well liked: being appreciative, cheerful, considerate, cooperative, discreet, emotionally stable, friendly, loyal, optimistic, sincere, and tactful. You might indicate that you are the type who can get along with just about everyone, and then explain why. You would then describe some of your personality skills, using an example or two to verify you really do possess those qualities.
In interviews do not feel limited to using these specific words. Each of the words has synonyms which may be more appropriate or feel more natural for you. Sometimes a phrase will work better. Instead of saying you are joyful you might say, “I’m basically a person who enjoys life and people seem to like working with me.” Or, instead of saying “I’m basically a very friendly person,” you might say, “I’m the type of person who gets along with just about everyone.” You could continue with:
I like people and I try to find something good in everyone. I’m the only person who gets along with one particular coworker. She can be difficult, but she and I get along. I just ignore her idiosyncrasies. I’m cooperative and many colleagues ask me to join their task forces.
Selling Personality Skills And Transferable Skills
Once you’ve identified and described your personality skills, it’s important to consider how you might best sell these skills. There are four primary ways: 1) State the skill and then give an example to back it up; 2) State the skill and describe how you use it; 3) While selling a skill using a specific experience, describe the experience so vividly that some of your other personality skills are clearly evidenced; and 4) Be it. That is, demonstrate that you possess the skill.
State the skill and give an example: During an interview you might be asked to describe your strengths. You could respond by saying:
I’d have to say that one of my strengths is my ability to work effectively under stress. A good example would be when I was working on the Otis account. Out of nowhere our client told us that they needed a new ad campaign for a product that was not doing well. We had only two weeks to develop a campaign that would normally have been a two-month project. My staff and I practically lived at the office, but we got the campaign out. It was a very successful campaign for the customer.
If warranted, you could expand on this by taking two or three minutes to explain the details of the project.
State the skill and describe how you use it: Sometimes providing an example is not possible or not appropriate. Instead of giving an example you might say:
I have a reputation for being reliable. People at work know that if a tough project has to get out on schedule, it should be given to me. When I agree to take on a project, my boss knows it’s as good as done. I’ll get it done no matter what.
In this instance a specific example was not used, but the person did everything possible to prove she is extremely reliable.
Describe an experience so vividly that other skills are evident: You may have indicated that one of your strengths is your flexibility and then offered an example which clearly illustrates your flexibility, but reveals other positive traits as well. When you describe your experiences vividly, even a halfway perceptive person will pick up other positive qualities without your having to label them. Of course you can also choose to state what some of those skills are.
Be it: Don’t just say it, show it. For instance, you can demonstrate your energy level through the way you walk and talk, your body language, facial expressions, and your voice inflection. I can sense a person’s energy level within the first minute we are together. Cheerfulness, insightfulness, joyfulness, open-mindedness, optimism, self-confidence, enthusiasm, sense of humor, and sincerity are all traits that can be demonstrated. Identify which skills you intend to demonstrate and determine how you will do so.
Practice: Practice telling your stories. Only by doing so can you really hone them down to their most important points. Describe the experiences so vividly that the interviewer forms a mental image. Mental images can last for weeks or months in an employer’s mind; mere words may last five minutes.
If you know you lack certain skills or experience, look for ways to sell your exposure. In an interview your order of priority is: 1) Sell the experience you have that is identical or nearly identical to what is being sought; 2) Sell your related or similar experience; and 3) Sell exposure. Exposure means you have observed that task or skill being done by others, you worked closely with people who used that skill, or you assisted someone performing that skill on one or more occasions. People don’t get hired because of their exposure to certain skills, but exposure can tip the balance scale just enough to make the difference. When all you have to sell is exposure to a skill, do not apologize. Rather, move straight ahead and make the most out of what you have to offer.
Let’s assume that a person, who is currently a shipping and receiving manager for a medium-sized company, is interviewing for a management position with a smaller company in which he would be required to function in a variety of roles. Halfway through the interview he is asked, “Have you ever handled inside sales?” His response might be:
As head of shipping and receiving, I had contact with the inside salespeople every day. By getting out rush orders for them, I saved their bacon a lot of times. Frequently, when customers had a question about a part and the inside salespeople were busy, the call would come to me. I know a lot of parts were sold because I was able to answer their questions.
This is selling exposure.
Notice there were no apologies and no saying, “Well, no, I’ve never really done it, but I have observed it.” The person unabashedly and convincingly described his exposure to inside sales without giving any apologies or excuses regarding his lack of direct sales experience. He comes across as confident and aware.
Sell Yourself At Every Opportunity
The primary principle in interviewing is to always go for it. When the job you are interviewing for is fully described, and it seems to be less than what you really want, go for the offer anyway. People often consciously or unconsciously sabotage their own efforts, and as a result, don’t get asked back for a second interview. My belief is that you never know whether you want the job until an offer is made, money is on the table, benefits have been covered, and you have had a chance to negotiate in the things you want in, and to negotiate out the things you want out. People have negotiated for amazing things—and gotten them—but only because they had sold themselves so well that the employers were willing to do almost anything to bring them on board.
Sabotaging your efforts means that, somehow, you have failed to do your best. Consciously or unconsciously, your answers are not as sharp, or not as well thought out, or the zip in your voice is missing. The interviewer picks up on these cues.
I realize there are times when you immediately know the job is not for you. If this happens, resist the temptation to tune out. Perhaps the interviewer will also realize this job is not the right one for you and will offer you a different job instead.
You might indicate at the end of the interview that the job is not a good match. If you are highly interested in the company, however, or would especially like to work for this person, say so. There may be nothing else available right now, but the perfect job could materialize during the next six months, and you might be the prime candidate. If the person is impressed, he may refer you to someone else in the company who could use your talents. There is always the possibility that the job could be changed to suit you better. None of these positive things can happen if you stop selling yourself or fail to respond as best you can.
Power words strengthen both resumes and interviews. Learn to use these action verbs in your speaking. Describe how you “decreased” absenteeism or “generated” new revenue. Look for ways to use these key words to add punch to your descriptions about yourself: I built a team of motivated staff and introduced new procedures that increased productivity.
When you mention a skill, plan to turn it into a skill-benefit statement. Adding a benefit after mentioning a skill will double or triple its impact.
Salespeople are taught to emphasize benefits. If a salesperson merely mentions features (the same as skills for an interviewee) a sale will rarely take place. The customer wants to know how he or she will benefit if the product is purchased. It is the salesperson’s responsibility to adequately explain the benefits of the product. It is your responsi-bility to sell the benefits that the employer will derive from the use of your skills. A customer needs the help of an honest and knowledgeable salesperson, just as an employer relies on the interviewee to make the strongest case possible for why his or her services should be purchased. Benefits are the key.
Review the following statements and notice the impact. These statements may have come in response to numerous questions including telling about yourself and describing your strengths.
I establish rapport well with people. This has enabled me to gain a lot of new accounts. People trust me so they give me a small order and within a short time I usually have the bulk of their business.
I really hear people. This enables me to mediate between groups having problems because they know I truly understand both sides.
I’m an excellent problem solver. Everywhere I’ve worked I’ve taken on problems no one else could fix. I always find a way to fix a problem.
I’m an excellent trainer. That means I can assess your training needs and in a short time have a program in place that ensures people are getting the right training.
What each person has done is state a skill, followed by a statement either indicating how it has helped past employers, or how it could help the prospective employer. Indicating how a skill has helped past employers clearly indicates how it will help a future employer.
In order to create skill-benefit statements, you must list the key skills you want to sell. List the skills first, then work on adding the benefit portion. You’ll probably need to create three drafts of each skill-benefit statement until it is ready for use in an interview. When it is honed it will have the greatest impact.
CREATE YOUR TWO-MINUTE SELL
Every job seeker should develop a two-minute sell. At job fairs, in telephone screening interviews, during on-site screening interviews, or when talking to someone at a professional association meeting, your two-minute sell will open doors for you. A two-minute sell is simply a prepared spiel that quickly covers all of the key things that employers and others should know about you. If you have already identified 30-40 accomplishments and written about your top twelve, your two-minute sell will take 1-2 hours to develop and rehearse. Your competitors, who try to create a two-minute sell without having examined their accomplishments, will not be very effective.
Identify 4-6 Key Points You Want An Employer To Know About You
These points might include:
Your education, degree(s), major
Why you’re interested in the position or the type of work
Why you’re attracted to the organization
A summary of your work/volunteer experience with emphasis on successes
A brief description of your current or most recent position
A brief description of the job you’ve held that is most similar to the one you’re interviewing for
Two or three major strengths with one key example that demonstrates all of them
Contributions you’ve made in jobs, in internships, or in voluntary roles
Paraphrasing letters of appreciation from internal and external customers
A paraphrased description of job reviews, mentioning only positives
A summary of a project that demonstrates key skills
List the points you want to make. Do not write it word for word. Then begin practicing. Hone it until you can give it in two minutes or less. Ask yourself—is it interesting? Will it hold the attention of the interviewer? Is it well organized? Have I instilled a visual image in the person’s mind? Have I sold key personal qualities? Have I convinced them I have the necessary technical skills?