When an interviewer poses a brain teaser to you, it may seem tedious, but the reasoning behind it is to see how you’d deal with stress on the job. It’s also to assess your personality: are you more optimistic or pessimistic?
Since nobody would come right out and respond, “I tend to be a pessimist,” many interview exercises are designed to reveal such things that you might not intentionally disclose otherwise. Quite a few candidates are now being asked to take a personality assessment test prior to being considered for employment. Employers want to see how quickly people think on their feet and out of their comfort zone.
Eleanor* contacted me, frustrated, for help, because her months of job search efforts hadn’t paid off. What I saw in her results was more promising than she realized, though. She didn’t properly interpret what she received.
Eleanor was looking to return to the job market after having been a stay at home mom for several years. Although she had been working hard to reestablish contacts and network, it became obvious that she was technologically behind and simply didn’t understand some current protocols in today’s job hunting etiquette.
She showed me an email she had sent to a manager, asking for information about an upcoming recurring seasonal temporary position. Eleanor mentioned a mutual friend they have in common who recommended her for the position, then attached her resume and asked for the manager to review her resume and a time to meet when they might discuss any suggestions that the manager had to bolster or improve her resume.
In the manager’s response to Eleanor, she told her that the recurring seasonal position probably won’t be renewed for the upcoming season, due to budgetary problems, but that a different job might be available instead (it’s still not confirmed). She gave Eleanor a name and contact information to follow up with for verification of this later in the month.
Eleanor used this email to demonstrate her disgust with how unhelpful people are, lamenting, “She didn’t even mention my resume! You’d think she could take some time out of her schedule to have a short meeting with me, wouldn’t you?”
Although Eleanor called to engage my services, it was clear she was ready to Forget It! so I tried to take her step by step through this particular email and show her several positives where she saw negatives.
For one thing, I told her, the fact that she got a response at all is an indicator that someone cared . . . most people wouldn’t bother to write back. This was clearly a personal response, too – not a form letter. Another good sign.
Answering Eleanor’s question with “this position isn’t available” was helpful, but the manager didn’t stop there. She obviously cared enough to offer help about another possible available position (and didn’t have to), along with a name and contact information. These are all positive indicators.
While it’s true that the manager didn’t respond to Eleanor’s second request about meeting or critiquing her resume, I pointed out that this topic was all lumped into the end of the same paragraph as the first request. It was obvious by the footer in the manager’s response that the she had replied from her mobile handheld device, which means that scrolling large amounts of text is cumbersome – and downloading a document is virtually impossible.
A better way to have sent this message would have been for Eleanor to break up each idea into its own very short paragraph, and send a link to her online resume, I explained. Then, the manager could have more easily noticed the second request and connected online to view the resume.
It was as this point that Eleanor confessed that she didn’t have an online portfolio, and we got to work on building her LinkedIn account immediately. She also upgraded her cell phone to a smartphone and began practicing texting and tweeting, to become more proficient with key words and how to market herself in today’s world.
Eleanor learned two different responses that she used whenever someone posed the “Do you see the glass as half empty or half full?” question to her that helped her seem more thoughtful and unique as well, depending upon her assessment of whether she found the manager to be more creative or analytical:
• That depends. If the glass is being filled, then it is half full; if it’s being emptied, then it is half empty.
• Actually, the glass is entirely full: half of it with water, the other half with air.
When Eleanor realized more what it’s like from the HR manager’s perspective, we were able to Fix It! and set her up on several interviews, until ultimately, she got a job offer with a company that was a good fit for her.
Changing her tactics – and mindset – helped Eleanor develop better interview skills and portray a more confident, talented candidate to each hiring manager she met with thereafter. She didn’t just say she had a more positive outlook. She actually found one, and it showed.
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
— Rita Mae Brown