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A.B.C.D.E. of Interviews

Tell me something about yourself.
Why do you want to work here?
What do you know about our company?
What are your weaknesses?
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Tell me how and when you were a team player last?

Questions such as the above can be any interviewee’s nightmare, the reason more often being that there can be no right answers! Then, how to prepare to ace an interview is a skill that most interviewees look forward to learning.

Whether it is a student aspiring towards his/her dream job, or an employee interested in getting promoted, or a consultant looking forward to collaborate with a potential client, successfully attending and closing an interview in one’s favor is very essential. It is not just what one knows, but also the perception one gives, and how one responds to the interviewer that help make or break an interview.

So, knowing how to handle oneself before and during an interview is a skill that every student needs to master. However, with the number of books and the amount of material available in the world today, it is difficult to specifically get to the few basic and simple pointers for the same. Here is a simple way to remember the key skills, just as simple as remembering A.B.C.D.E.

1. A: Attitude of Positivity – It is said that when one wishes and imagines of positive things to happen, they see that the Universe helps in positive things to happen! Many a time, our positivity, or negativity drives us towards almost deciding whether or not we can accomplish something, and this attitude sometimes make us to either step up and surge forward, or else to give up and let it go. How many times have we heard that proverb, “Where there is a will, there is a way!” that if one only determines that they wish to achieve something in life and works hard, they overcome any roadblocks in their path to success. In ‘The Secret’, Rhonda Wayne tells one to give out positive messages to the Universe and that it would help positive things to happen. In ’The Alchemist’, Paulo Coelho says that when one really wants something, the entire Universe will conspire in helping one to achieve it. Right from our scriptures to the latest books, the world around us constantly messages us to think positive, be positive, and that positive things shall happen to us, even in succeeding in a job interview!

2. B: Bookish Know how – Knowledge is power! In today’ world, where everyone speaks of the attitudes and skills one should learn to build rapport and successful conversations, it is important not to undermine the importance of the basic theoretical and subject knowledge in the areas the person is attending the interview. One definitely needs to know the concepts and have read enough literature to be good in the subject and to be able to answer any relevant questions. Read books, visit libraries, talk to experts. Do what it takes to know about the area in which you wish to work.

3. C: Competencies –Today, the various techniques that can be learnt to build the requisite skills and competencies are innumerable. From the ability to ask the right questions, to building rapport, to having smooth conversations, to articulating one’ s thoughts, to understanding and expressing about oneself, to listening effectively, and confidence building, it is essential for students to get trained and gain the competence so as to confidently attend any interview. Learn techniques to build confidence and to connect with other individuals.

4. D: Dream – It is often said that even the world will step aside to make way for one who is surging towards their dreams! When companies ask interviewees where they see themselves in 5 years, they are not expecting a prediction of the future. What they are looking for, is to get an insight into the vision of the future of the individual, into their dreams and ambitions and aspirations. In fact, French writer and Nobel Prize winner Anatole France once said, “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.” It is this belief and desire that organizations look for when asking about one’s goals and dreams. It is wise to remember that desire creates action! … and to learn to focus and work towards goals.

5. E: Express – Articulating one’s thoughts can many times, be a challenge. I remember the umpteen times that students have said, “Ma’am I know the answer, but just could not find the right ways to say it!” One of the hardest things to do when you’re communicating, especially interviewing, is expressing yourself and your thoughts accurately. It is vital to say things just the way you mean them, and just the way you want them! One needs to overcome the fear of expressing themselves. Feel confident, learn the above techniques, and say what you wish to say! You might not get another chance!

Master the ABCDE… ace interviews!
You have the power!

Posted in ‘The Hans India’ on 22nd Sept 2011

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September 25, 2011 Posted by | The Hans India Newspaper | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 3rd Alternative

“The 3rd Alternative” is a management technique used for resolving conflicting situations. This is derived from understanding to use the age old American proverb, “There are three sides to every story — your side, my side, and the right side!”

Exactly who said the above is not very clear in the texts of history. History shows that way back from 1802, John Adams, the 2nd President of the United States of America popularized the use of this adage. The concept however, is sound even to today’s individual and organizational conflict situations and scenarios.

The most common reason why conflicts occur anywhere is ‘individual differences’. This could mean a difference of opinion between two people on how to perform a certain task, or a difference in the understanding or desire of goals to achieve, or in differences due to different cultural habits, or a difference in common interests, etc.

‘The 3rd Alternative’ is a powerful technique to use when there are individual differences that lead to a conflict. The process is as follows:

1. Find an individual, a 3rd person other than the 2 individuals involved in the conflict. Ensure that this person has the capacity and the intent to remain neutral and unbiased towards both the parties involved. This person serves as a mediator.
2. The 1st party submits their case to the mediator, from his/her perspective, with facts and emotions, with no interruptions, except from the mediator in case of an clarifications
3. The 2nd party submits their case to the mediator, from his/her perspective, with facts and emotions, with no interruptions, except from the mediator in case of an clarifications
4. The mediator steps away from the 2 parties and ponders over the situation at hand considering both the facts and feelings from both perspectives.
5. The mediator then comes up with a neutral and unbiased solution which would be as fair as it can be, and presents the solution to the 2 parties
6. The thoughts of the 2 parties on the proposed solution are listened to by the mediator
7. The mediator rethinks on his/her solution, alters it if need be, and presents it back to the 2 parties.

Though, this technique can also be done with one of the two individuals involved in the conflict taking on the role of the 3rd party, it is however not suggested so because it could later lead to assumptions of bias on part of the individual.

One of the examples of the ‘The 3rd Alternative’ can be found in the story of 2 brothers in a village who were left with a large plot of land and no will after their father’s untimely demise. They are at a loss as to how to divide the land equally between them such that it would not result in any unpleasant situations either then or later. So, under the assumption that he would be the best person to approach the situation from a neutral unbiased perspective, they go to the village head and ask for his help. “We love each other a lot”, they said to the village head, “and do not wish to fight now nor ever. We are confused how to resolve this situation without creating any unpleasantness. Please help us!” The village head comes up with a solution which, on first instance seems utterly ridiculous to the brothers. He says, “Toss a coin. Decide who says ‘heads’ and who ‘tails’. The winner of the coin toss would get the opportunity to divide the land into 2 parts, in whichever way he wishes to do so.” The brothers were aghast! How could the village head say this, they wondered? Wouldn’t it be awfully unfair to the other brother, they questioned? The village head smiled and then gave the remaining part of his solution. “The brother who wins the toss would get the opportunity to divide the land into 2 parts in whichever way he wishes to do so, but, the other brother would have the privilege of choosing which of the 2 parts he wishes to own!” The brothers walked away, happy, and marvelling the wisdom of the village head to look for the 3rd alternative!

Attempt to perceive the 3rd alternative! Resolve your conflicts…
You have the power!

Published in ‘The Hans India’ on 8th Sept 2011

September 20, 2011 Posted by | The Hans India Newspaper | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Breaking Paradigms

A paradigm can be described as a certain mode of thinking bounded by particular parameters and criteria. During any situation or problem, while looking for a solution, an individual has certain assumptions that they make, certain preset notions and rules that they believe in which guide them to think of possible solutions to that situation. These rules and beliefs are within the stipulated paradigm or thinking of the individual or of the society or the field in which the individual is working. These paradigms, though very useful in resolving situations, many a time also limit one’s thinking and perception. Today, we are going to explore the world of breaking these paradigms, i.e. the world of ‘paradigm shifts’!

One of the most popular notations of ‘paradigm shifts’ is as given by Stephen Covey in his bestselling book ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. In this book, Covey talks of paradigms with 2 perspectives. One, of how the passengers in a train, initially irritated by the ruckus created by 3 kids, taunt the absent-minded father for not disciplining them. Later, after learning that the 4 of them were returning from the kids’ mother’s funeral, the passengers understood the uneasiness in the children’s minds and thereafter, started to encourage them to make more noise and jump about, thus attempting to take the kids’ minds off their mother’s departure. One additional piece of information, Covey says, can change the entire way of looking at a situation. He refers to this as a paradigm shift in thinking! Information may also create paradigms, says Covey, through the famous example of the same picture having both an old woman and a young beautiful damsel’s pictures. People would only see the side of the picture that they have been fed information on earlier. Thus, paradigms always exist, and it is possible to also break them and look beyond them.

We see things in a certain way, under certain defined rules. Many a time that helps us to find solutions as well as common notations of interpreting situations. However, some times, stepping out of these rules and boundaries is what gives rise to innovation. For example, from the perspective of mathematics, the answer for ‘what is half of 13’ would always be 6.5! However, assume this from a linguistic perspective, and it may be as 13 i.e. 13 divided with a horizontal line midway. Or it can also be 1I3 i.e. a vertical line between 1 and 3. Once one starts to look beyond the defined rules of mathematics and starts to accept other perspectives, it is possible to find alternate solutions, alternate methods, and alternate paradigms. When solving a mathematical problem, it is important to stay within the realm of mathematics, however, other times, once in a while it can be creative and also a little fun to step beyond the obviously accepted norms.

All great inventions are children of this fantastic phenomenon of ‘breaking paradigms’. From a Galelio who thought beyond the accepted norm that the earth is the centre of the Universe, to an Edison who kept thinking beyond what is known in electricity, to the Wright Brothers who chose to look beyond what human beings can do while inventing the technology of aerodynamics, from the challenge of putting a man on the moon to the experiments conducted on the atom by Rutherford, looking beyond paradigms has always been difficult, revolutionary, and has resulted in extremely successful and useful inventions!

The most powerful example of breaking paradigms that comes to my mind is that of Roger Bannister, who in 1954 decided to break the paradigm that existed in human minds – a paradigm that was considered reality and a medical truth – that the physical human body cannot run a mile in 4 minutes! It was medically proven to be not possible for the physical body. No athlete across the world could accomplish this impossible feat! Roger Banister, a medical student, decided that this was a paradigm in the mind, and on 4th May 1954, for the first time in the history of sports, an individual ran a mile in 4 minutes! Something considered literally impossible!! The most interesting outcome of this paradigm breaking, is that just within the next one year to that event, many more athletes could run a mile in 4 minutes. Today, almost every athlete can run a mile in 4 minutes. Did the human body change??? Or, did the paradigm change???

So, let us understand that, for all of us, paradigms exist! They are in our minds! They are useful! They help in resolving situations and problems with known tried and tested formulae! Sometimes, paradigms can limit. We need to learn the ability to work with the existing paradigms whilst also striving to look beyond them for creative alternatives…

Embrace other paradigms n work with them! Resolve problems creatively…
You have the power!

Published in ‘The Hans India’ on 28th July 2011

September 19, 2011 Posted by | RevathiOnline Learning, The Hans India Newspaper | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

be SILENT to LISTEN!

Sshhh!!! Silence please!!! Keep quiet!!! Stop talking!!!

Words which, I am sure, will take many of us back to our childhood and Kindergarten classes, right??!!! Right back to our teachers shouting and trying their best to get us to listen to their lessons and to their instructions! That we have to maintain silence in order to be able to listen is an age old formula that we have always been taught and will continue to teach for generations to come… and rightly so too!

In today’s corporate scenario, it is neither just technical competency nor just the hardworking ability that take priority whilst employing individuals. Communication is one of the vital aspects taken into consideration too, and a core aspect of communication is the ability to listen. In today’s fast moving world, maintaining personal relationships has sometimes become a challenge, especially when both partners are busy with their respective jobs and have lesser and lesser time to give each other and their family. In both the above cases, taking time out and truly listening to the other person can be an effective solution.

It cannot be just a coincidence that the words LISTEN and SILENT are anagrams i.e. are made out of the same alphabets! It is therefore, but natural that for us to learn how to LISTEN, one must learn to be SILENT first! Let us now understand what being SILENT means:

• S: Sincere – Do you remember the times when the person in front of you was smiling with a sombre look on their face, with all the right signs of listening, and yet you just know that they are not interested at that time, that they are not sincerely listening to you but just so for the heck of it??? Well remember this, so can everyone else make out too!!! Yes, so here is the first step to being SILENT to LISTEN: be sincerely interested in what you are supposedly listening to…

• I: Inquisitive – Be curious. When one is intently listening to something, one’s brain automatically keeps working on the same too. This raises questions in the listener’s mind which they would want clarified. This also helps the speaker to understand that the other individual is truly listening and attempting to understand what is being said. It is thus a good idea to ask relevant and non-threatening questions to customize the conversations.

• L: Like person – Make sure that you like who are listening to… Their communication ability, their competency in the subject, their handling of the audience and the content, etc… Many a time I have seen listening of an amazing topic go flat just because according to the listener, the speaker’s behaviour and value system did not resonate with what was being said. Not just the content of what is being said, but also the person saying it has a lot of impact on how well it is listened to. Ensure that you talk to and are hearing from the right person.

• E: Empathize – Sometimes listening is not just about hearing what is being said, but it is also about communicating feeling what the other person is feeling. Especially when the other individual is sharing information connected with emotions, be they positive and negative, that of joy or sadness, one ought to be able to relate and express empathy on the same towards the other person. After all they are talking to a human being and not a wall!

• N: Non-verbal communication – Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Your actions speak so loudly that I can’t hear your words!” The impact of the right non-verbal communication whilst listening is vital for the other person to get the feeling and acceptance that listening is happening. So, nod once a while when appropriate, smile at the other person, lean forward, show facial expressions, and let the other individual know that yes, you are listening!

• T: Talk- Listening also involves talking… to a certain extent! One needs to paraphrase (repeat the speaker’s words in their own words) once in a while. One also needs to ask the right questions to continue and steer conversations while also summarizing points once in a while. Also important to talk during listening, is to once in a while also express thoughts about self to the listener as course of self-disclosure in order to continue conversations smoothly. So, talking to the right extent n in the right manner is vital to listen effectively!

From Robert Cialdini who said that listening to the other person helps you to convey your point more effectively, to Stephen Covey who emphasized listening as very important under his 5th habit ‘Seek first to understand than to be understood’ in his popular book ‘7 Habits of Highly Effectively People’, the importance of listening to one another is highlighted in many ways. We ought to learn and practice the above constantly!

Be SILENT so you can LISTEN…
You have the power!

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Published in ‘The Hans India’ on 25th Aug 2011

September 4, 2011 Posted by | RevathiOnline Learning, The Hans India Newspaper | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment