Archive for September, 2010

Energy Begets Job

September 29, 2010

One evening last week, my daughter’s elementary school had its open house.  There, I met our third grade teacher and learned from her all about the curriculum, her teaching philosophy, and the environment.  No doubt, she knew her material cold.  This teacher didn’t need the slides to her presentation at all, but had them up anyway.  In fact, the most salient points were made off the slides.

Sure, she knew her stuff.  Yet, there was an intangible spark to this teacher.  You couldn’t help but notice her energy and enthusiasm.  Granted, anyone can put on a clown suit and swing from the chandeliers.  But this was genuine.  This teacher spoke with conviction and poise.  She had that proverbial fire in the belly.  She took us to a place that transcended the curriculum outline, talking about the importance of mistakes and brainstorming.

As another parent said afterward, “Love her passion for teaching (can’t fake that)…she was loud, energetic at the end of the day.  Imagine her in the AM!”  She expressed many points extemporaneously, which always adds a notable organic element to presentations and discussions.  She exuded humor and had a roomful of tired parents captivated.  I came away with an exceptionally positive impression, and even felt somewhat rejuvenated and energized myself.  I remember thinking, “Now that’s the right teacher for my 8-year old spitfire!”

In my role as a search professional, I identify, engage with, and scrutinize many impressive candidates.  They know their stuff.  They can walk me through their history and map the pertinent skills, experience, and accomplishments to the position in question.  Yet in many cases, something happens when they have their initial interview.  They come across as flat, uninspiring, or seemingly disinterested.  As a result, they won’t get called back for a second interview, regardless of their qualifications.

Companies are hiring people, not automatons.  Whether done explicitly or subconsciously, hiring managers seek candidates that are genuinely engaged, interested, passionate, inquisitive, and energized.  Energy is infectious.  It’s inspiring.  When I coach candidates, I make several suggestions for them to work on this make-or-break issue.

Think of something in your life that really gets your juices flowing, such as a hobby, activity, or setting.  For example, let’s say you’re wild about old cars and you’ve fantasized about owning one someday.  Tell me about your favorite old car, one that you’d love to have.  My guess is by the second sentence, your voice and tempo have changed.  Your eyes have a sparkle in them and your face is suddenly more expressive.  These cues speak to someone’s heightened energy level.  And the person you’re speaking with has their energy antenna up and is receiving a strong signal.  Think of the positive effect this has on them.  Even if they’re not as wild about old cars, I’ll bet their energy level has risen, too.  And all of this happened without forcing yourself or having to think about it.  The same communication qualities need to exist in an interview.

Another recommendation is to ask several trusted colleagues or clients for honest feedback – I mean brutal honesty – about your demeanor when you’re having a conversation.  Ask them for their impressions of how you come across, including your eye contact, ability to clearly and concisely articulate your thoughts, listening skills, and of course, your energy level.  If you think you’re engaged and interested, but the feedback says otherwise, then you have a self-awareness delta.  Many people don’t really know how they come across.  Oh sure, they think they know, but have never had the luxury of being videotaped in a meeting or recorded during a phone call.  Well, the next best thing is candid feedback from trusted sources.

An interview setting can be a challenging environment to exude positive energy.  Aside from nerves and pressure, the discourse can at times feel distanced and sterile.  After all, the interviewer is most likely interrogating you and probably not offering up much enthusiasm or positive reinforcement for you to piggyback.  Nevertheless, it’s up to you demonstrate interest, enthusiasm, and drive.  For the same reasons I came away thinking, “This is the teacher I want for my daughter’s third grade school experience,” you want the interviewer to come away thinking, “This is the employee our organization needs and needs now.”

Action items:

1.  Remember that energy, if channeled constructively and genuinely, will help stack the deck in your favor when in an interview setting.

2.  In an interview, energy manifests itself via enthusiasm, spot-on answers to questions (i.e. no rambling or tangents), inquisitiveness, conviction, and intangible elements (e.g. good posture, eye contact, expressive face).  Seek honest feedback from those you trust to see if you embody these energy infused qualities.

3.  Think back to the best teachers you had growing up.  What set them apart from the others and how was it that they were able to get through to you and leave an indelible impression?  Perhaps some of those attributes can be applied as a candidate in an interview.