Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Service of a Great Evening Out in New York

Thursday, April 18th, 2024

I attended an unforgettable interview at the 92nd Street Y this week. The glow of witnessing a lively and extraordinary conversation between two astonishing people—Doris Kearns Goodwin and David Rubenstein—continued to exhilarate and warm me on the bus ride home. The talk and ride were the best of New York, confirming, yet again, why I love living here.

Rubenstein didn’t let the conversation lag on any topic, nudging Doris off one and on to another memory time and again. She wasn’t the slightest bit flustered easily jumping back and forth to answer each question with heart stopping recall of fascinating incidents. She shared firsthand insights with dates and events/turning points of the 1960s—the focus of her new book, “An Unfinished Love Story: A Personal History of the 1960s.” And she was funny. She told us that this book wasn’t her fattest and that a reader told her that she’d fallen asleep reading one of the others and that “it was so heavy it broke my nose.”

According to the Y’s program director, David, lawyer, businessman, [founder/co-owner of the private equity firm Carlyle Group], philanthropist, author, former government official and sports team owner [Baltimore Orioles], is often onstage at the Y, and you can see why. He was perfectly prepared, had all his questions in his head after reading the book “in three sittings.” He delivered them without notes with popcorn popping speed. The time flew by.

And while Doris let him lead her most of the time, he wasn’t in control. As he’d done countless times before, he’d step on her last sentence to ask another question. When he interrupted her while speaking about her children, as she’d only mentioned the name of her youngest of three sons, Joe, she ignored his latest question and said that she wanted to finish speaking about Joe, and she did. Joe had received the Bronze Star for Army service in Iraq and served a tour in Afghanistan.

After the talk I strolled from Lexington Avenue and 92nd Street to the Second Avenue bus stop at 86th Street and plopped down in a front seat when the bus arrived. Opposite me was a young man reading a copy of Doris’s book. Each attendee had been given a copy. I reached into my tote bag to pull out my copy, showed it to him, smiled and asked what he thought of the talk. That started a lively 30 block conversation about the interview, the relationship between Doris and her husband Dick, the difference in values between the 1960s and now, music—Mozart and Aaron Copeland in particular, [he is a musician] –and Malcolm Gladwell.

When he got off the bus a woman who had moved closer to us and had listened to our banter, sidled over and asked me if I’d just been to the Y. She said she’d wanted to attend but already had tickets to a concert. We chatted for another 10 blocks.

I walked home from the bus stop on a cloud.

It’s nice to go to events with a friend to have someone to talk to about the film, play, workshop, or talk. It’s not always convenient. But there’s something magical about having the chance to do so with strangers on a New York City bus.

Have you enjoyed similar conversations, as you exit an event or stop for a snack at a nearby restaurant afterwards–or on a bus?

Service of When We Think We’re Terrific But We’re Not: Inconceivable Job Interview Mistakes

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay 

I couldn’t believe the results of a survey that Steven Greenberg reported on WCBS News Radio 880. He’s the host of “Your Next Job.” Among other things on his LinkedIn profile he lists HR and Talent Acquisition Consultant.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay 

Most job candidates think that they do well on interviews he said in a recent radio news brief. Speak of delusional if you compare this impression with what employers had to say!

Greenberg covered highlights of a survey of employers:

  • 71 percent said applicants answered a cell phone call or texted during the interview. He advised this is inappropriate behavior even during a Zoom call. Really?
  • 70 percent said the candidate dressed too casually.
  • The majority said applicants appeared disinterested: They didn’t ask questions that showed they’d looked into the position or the business or organization.

These are such obvious, easily remedied issues none of which should have happened in the first place. They illustrate that the preponderance of job candidates in the survey were oblivious of others. I can’t offer another explanation. Can you? Have there been times you thought you aced something and you didn’t?

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

Service of Employee Behavior: It Reflects on a Company’s or Organization’s Image

Monday, December 17th, 2018

Most organizations diligently protect their images but it’s not always clear to members or employees how important each person can be.

I was first aware of this as a young child. We wore school uniforms. Students were asked to behave  in public to reflect well on the school. “You represent us out there.” Made sense to me. [Many of us graduated from the school bus and took NYC public transportation as early as 5th grade.]

What about corporations? Just last week a friend told me that she’d had a few good job interviews via Skype with various people at a company and never received a response when she followed up with one of the staffers to see if she was still in the running. Such thoughtlessness on the part of a company’s employees reflects poorly on it.

How difficult is it for someone to draft a simple note–approved by the appropriate entities–to send any candidate the  moment they are no longer being considered for a position? It took less than one minute to write this rough draft: “Hello________. Our job search took a different direction since we spoke. We enjoyed meeting you, thank you for your time, and have kept your resume on file. We look forward to being in touch again should the right position open up. We wish you all the best.” It’s important to keep up the spirits of anyone looking for a job and to make every candidate feel good about themselves. It costs little to do and reflects well on a company if its employees show empathy.

In my line of work following up is my middle name.  I don’t expect to hear from people I pursue in my PR and fundraising efforts unless they are interested in my client’s product or event or in participating in a fundraising project. If the answer is “NO,” I am grateful to be told and think well of the person [and by extension, their company] for taking the time because they have been mindful of mine.

Are there other subtle ways that employees and students can boost—or detract—from the image of the company or organization they work for or attend? Is caring about such details passé?

Service of Running Late Before and After Mobile Phones

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

It seems increasingly hard to get to places on time.

A friend takes New Jersey Transit to work in Manhattan. Service has been atrocious and promises to get worse. One morning last week it took cars 90 minutes to cross the George Washington Bridge from N.J to Manhattan. Subway service can be iffy–trains zoom past stops unannounced or are delayed.

I got an email from another friend this week—I’ll call him Phil. He wrote: “We are interviewing computer color tech people to fill the job of someone who just left. So far, all candidates have been late, one by 45 minutes. Not one called to warn about their travel circumstances nor did they apologize.” Phil remembered that he’d previously fired someone when the man arrived late on his first day.

Long before mobile phones I was almost late my first day on a job at a startup because I’d been sent an address that didn’t exist. The street number would have landed a building in the middle of Madison Avenue. I can still feel that twinge of “Uh-Oh–something’s very wrong!” I found the right building by entering each one on either side of Madison. Lucky the employer got the street right. [The business lasted one year.]

Phil recalled the one time he was [very] late for an interview. He’d left earlier than usual for his commute to NYC and “wouldn’t you know Grand Central Terminal was closed because of a smoky fire. No cell phones. Trains backed up. The prospective employer understood of course.”

His story took a curious turn. He said: “I didn’t take the job. Something didn’t seem right. Two weeks later the entire group was fired. I would have been out of a job.” Kismet.

I hate being late and admit that having a phone takes the pressure off when transportation or other glitches happen so I can alert clients, colleagues and friends. Do most people use theirs for this purpose? Do you have memorable experiences of being late to an appointment before or after cell phones? Can you imagine sailing in late to an interview without a word about the time as the candidates for a job in Phil’s office did?

Service of Credit History

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Andrew J. Hawkins wrote “De Blasio, council urged to ban credit checks in hiring,” in The Mayor and City Council are working “through the details of a bill that would prohibit employers from reviewing the credit histories of potential hires,” he wrote and that “liberal advocates are pushing for passage of the strongest possible version of the legislation.”

I clicked the Dēmos link in the article—what Hawkins described as a “progressive think-tank.” Its members believe there is no relationship between a person’s credit and their potential to misuse information, steal or commit fraud. In a memo to the Mayor and City Council Speaker Dēmos quoted a credit reporting company’s spokesperson as telling the Oregon State Legislature: “We don’t have any research to show any statistical correlation between what’s in somebody’s credit report and their job performance or their likelihood to commit fraud.”

The group wants no exemptions and disagrees with state laws that permit credit checks for staff with access to valuables or cash. The memo reports that “Senator Elizabeth Warren and 18 co-sponsors have introduced legislation in the United States Senate that prohibits credit checks for all positions except those requiring national security clearance or where required by state or federal law.”

I was bonded by several employers. One, who had been burned by the head of the accounting department who stole $hundreds of thousands, would look for signs to indicate that other employees might be spending far more than their incomes would support. He’d want to find out who gave that administrative assistant her fur coat or what’s in those shopping bags that an account exec brings back from lunch break? I have no idea what the credit rating of the accounting scoundrel was or whether checking a person’s credit rating was routine nor do I recall the information required by the company that bonded me.

Looking at a credit rating, how would a potential employer know whether a person had excessive shopping habits which might indicate instability or irrational thinking? Maybe it was a spouse or child. Perhaps they’d been adversely hit by the economy, owe more on their mortgage than their property is worth, replaced a good job with poor paying part time ones and maxed out credit cards to pay for essentials. Would this automatically mean they’d cheat or pilfer? On the other hand should an employer’s hands be tied and kept from such information?


Service of Letting off Steam

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Visited a friend where she works and she proclaimed that too much winter must be why everyone there was in a bad mood. A post like this helps address the blues. Writing about irritations lets off steam. It’s restorative.  

Don’t make me do the math

In a prominent newspaper I read this sentence: “The company said new technology allows one of the company’s workers to produce about 330 feet of fabric in less than an hour compared with just two meters in the 1990s.” Dear Reporter, Help me: In future convert comparables to all feet or meters please.  

Was I born yesterday?

I still get phone calls at the office that begin, “I’m calling from customer service about the copier in your office.” If legit they’d name the brand of copier. Grump.  

Want to raise my hackles/push my buttons? Say this:

“Nobody asked you to do that,” after I’ve done you a favor or something nice.  

Fat free and tasteless

My nephew popped in a gas station store to grab a Fig Newton snack and left annoyed because all they had were the fat free variety. He said that people fool themselves about benefits from eating the less toothsome alternative. “You don’t need to eat the whole box of the classic Fig Newtons,” he suggests.  

What’s that again?

When watching an interview on TV Erica Martell cringes when the interviewer answers the question for the person being interviewed and the interviewee parrots the words.  Example: Q: “You were sorry then?” A: “Yes, very sorry.”  

Media training advises the person being interviewed never to repeat the words of an interviewer. In addition to the fact that it’s irritating and boring, more important it can backfire. Take this instance. Q: “So you scammed the IRS in 2013?” A: “I didn’t scam the IRS in 2013.” A headline might be: JOE ADDRESSED 2013 IRS SCAM. A simple “no” suffices.

Royal Retirement

Bob Gula says he’s tired of hearing about city, state or union employees retiring on zillion dollar pensions in their 40’s with free healthcare. “They never went to college like I did,” he observes. “The greatest insult is I am the one who is paying for this with my taxes. Lesson learned: Do not go to college. Get a city or government job. Work in a job with a union.”  

What gets under your skin? Share and let me know if you feel a teensy bit better after letting off steam.

Service of Interview Style: John Gambling a Model

Monday, November 25th, 2013

December 20th ends a NYC radio institution: 88 years with a Gambling behind a microphone during morning drive time. Starting with John B. Gambling followed by his son, John A. Gambling and ending with grandson/son 63 year old John R. Gambling [photo above], their styles and topics are a reflection of their stints waking up listeners or keeping them company when they wait in traffic or munch breakfast.

The first Gambling was known for inspiring his audience to exercise. The second Gambling’s program included live traffic reports from a helicopter and separate sports, news and weather in-studio announcers along with a range of correspondent regulars covering shopping, film and theater. The last Gambling’s stripped down staff includes a person from a weather service in Atlanta, a traffic reporter who reads news from a computer in the studio, a terrific newsman and occasional correspondents. His longtime producer recently left for TV. Going to bed at 7 p.m. to leave home at 3 put a huge weight on his shoulders.

David Hinkley in the New York Daily News wrote about the current Gambling: “….he remained known for his interviews with a range of guests, many of whom held different views.” His politics are clear yet I thought he remained balanced, polite and calm with all. His audience doesn’t know if someone gets under his skin though after some conversations he occasionally admits to skepticism or annoyance.  I’ll remember him for his interview skills. He was never at a loss for questions and bounced along with more even when interviewing a dud.

After interviewing the ethereal Shirley Maclaine recently the pragmatic Gambling seemed relieved no doubt because her answers made sense. Afterwards he said that he never interviews from a list of questions. This intrigued me because I am a list person. He clearly has notes in front of him with book titles, author names, subjects and piles of clips–or a computer with this info–and perhaps an ear bud connected to his producer.

The use of my interviews is quite different from someone on-air. I write up the results and don’t want to waste time or forget an important question. I’m driven off my list to squeeze out at least one quote from someone whose responses remind me of the thud a dead tennis ball makes. I also stray from my list inspired by answers along the way.

When you interview someone–and I’d count a visit to a doctor and a job interview–do you come armed with a list or are your questions spontaneous?

Service of Telephone Interviews

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Rust retards a neglected second or third language. It also corrodes the ability to conduct effective and coherent business telephone conversations which we’ve largely abandoned in favor of communicating by text, social media and email.

There are exceptions to the telephone embargo namely first job interviews, as part of some scholarship selection processes and as a substitute to face time to sell a project, most often to a stranger.

There are obvious benefits of phone meetings: Traffic delays won’t make you late and you can keep a list of points to make and questions to ask in front of you. As you think of a question based on a comment the caller has made, you can also jot it down.

But putting your best foot—rather voice—forward on the phone, without your graceful body language, riveting eye contact and handsome smile to help your case, also has its challenges.

Ginny PulosI asked Ginny Pulos [photo right] to share some tips to refresh our memories about a process that once was routine. The director of the New York-based Ginny Pulos Communications, Inc. is an expert on presentations, persuasion and communication in corporate environments.

These are some tips Ms. Pulos shared about telephone techniques:

“Take a minute to bond: Ask how the caller’s day’s going, their trip, how they are affected by the drought.

“Unless you’re on Skype or Face Time, the caller doesn’t see you. As 93 percent of the impact of a face to face meeting is your body’s language, your voice must be alive with energy. And you must put a smile in your voice. You do this by having a bright face, not a frowning one. A mirror gives you the ability to instantly course-correct during the interview.

“Have the mirror on your desk so you can see what your face is doing to ensure you’re smiling—which is the only way your voice will. An option to a mirror is a wide brass or silver picture frame big enough to see your expression.” Note: Ms. Pulos has a mirror in her home office across from her desk. It may be there for more than reflecting the water view outside the window.

“You still have to prepare for the interview. The most frequently asked question is ‘Tell me about yourself,’ so prepare key stories and find bridging language to be sure you get them all on the table.

“You’ll want to ask about the stability of the company before you make the leap.  How many times has the position been filled in the last decade? What is the culture at the company? How are its prospects?

“Make sure to sit tall in your chair or even stand—and make sure that mirror is around.

“If you’re comfortable using Skype or Face Time, you might suggest moving over the conversation.”

Most people are in a rush when they interview you on the phone so how fast should you speak?  “Slowly and use your lips, teeth and tongue. Speaking slowly gives you time to think and to hear yourself.”

What if you have an accent in English?  Slow down when you speak and elongate every vowel, even the short ones. For “if” say “iiif.” For people born in India, as an example, emphasize the letters B, P, D, T , W and V which generally are pronounced more softly than the American ear is accustomed to hearing.

Ms. Pulos suggests that before you call; check that your voicemail message isn’t sing-songy, that your voice is clear and the message simple and direct.

She adds that you should conclude by asking what the next steps are especially at this time of year when people are going on vacation. She says a phone call follow-up is better than email, which is so easily lost, so ask if you can call—and offer a timeframe.

Do you favor telephone interviews to in-person ones? Do you have questions for Ms. Pulos, great or disappointing outcomes of telephone interviews or additional tips to share?





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