Monthly Archives: January 2013

Answers to Interview Questions, Part II

Interviews are not something that many people look forward to, interviewer or interviewee – but we like the successful end result of having a new employee/having a new job.  Behavioral interview questions are becoming the norm, as mentioned in part I of this post.

The great thing about behavioral questions is that they are subjective and therefore short of saying something illegal or terribly offensive, there are no right or wrong answers.  You want to be true to yourself because the objective is to find a person who will be a good fit in the department/organization.  As the interviewee, that should be your goal as well.  So in this, you are on the same page with the interviewer.

In several instances, I asked small groups to answer the questions as we were sitting around.  We discussed the merit of using one word over another when synonymous – which word would put a more positive spin on your answer.  This was one of the advantages that my brave answerers had over the regular interviewee, because the pressure was off and they had plenty of time to formulate their answers.


Q:  What are 5 words that best describe you?

A:  Dependable, honest, faithful, funny and smart

A:  Busy, positive, giving, sensitive, strong

A:  Curious, loyal, passionate, friendly, intelligent

A:  Determined, intelligent, logical, creative, open

A:  Diligent, methodical, organized, flexible

A:  Responsible, practical, problem solver, funny, determined

A:  Efficient, humorous, steady, logical, adaptable

A:  Reliable, analytical, consistent, diligent, thoughtful

Q:  Describe tasks that you have had to perform that didn’t spark your interest.

A:  Filing

A:  Cleaning, organizing a database, elder care of my parent

A:  Stocking shelves, cleaning other people’s homes/ personal space

A:  Repetitive tasks

A:  Entering new prescriptions

A:  Running the out-of-stock report

A:  Job search

A:  Conducting reviews

Q:  How would you characterize yourself as a student?

A:  Since I obtained my degree in my thirties I was a much better diligent student. I did not postpone assignments as with a family and a job you never knew what could come up.

A:  Eager, voracious

A:  Eager to learn yet not always motivated

A:  Interested in finding connections, curious

A:  Willing to learn

A:  Enthusiastic & diligent

A:  I’m a great learner, but not a good student.  I do have a high level of curiosity.

A:  Studious, attentive but not always good at retention

I still have 4 more questions, but we will save them for the last part of this little series.  You can see some similarities in the answers represented here, but everyone was authentic.

I do want to thank all of the participants for taking the time to give me thoughtful answers.  Only a few of them are actually job hunting right now.  Several wanted to remain anonymous but I can publically thank Linda Dressler, Sharyon DaSilva, & Debbie Ahern.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Cube Wall Magic

Working in an office environment means being encased in beige, pale gray, or some other neutral toned fabric these days.  But that hasn’t always been the case.  Mid-twentieth century designers decided that we would work better with the illusion of privacy and the cubicle was born.

Wikipedia image

Wikipedia image

In the open plan office, the fabric walls do thankfully absorb some of the sounds that occur when multiple people go about their day.  People like me also have a ready place to post information, reminders and musings.

The most curious thing about the cube, to my thinking is the way it can mask your proximity to so many other people.  When I am trying to concentrate to create a difficult memo, I appreciate the way that the wall cuts out distractions of movement.  But I blush to think about the personal things that I have learned about others, and that others have probably learned about me because of the way that neutral wall offered some anonymity.

Of course the likelihood that we will encounter some level of TMI when we work day after day with so many others is always present.  And I have overheard conversations coming out of offices with real walls and doors as well just by walking down the hall.

We are each persons who work.  We have a work persona and a personal life which will intersect regardless of how circumspect we might want to be.  The only opportunity to call the doctor might be during your work hours, because that overlaps with hers.  Your kids should be able to call you when they are safely home from school.  Building relationships requires the sharing of one’s self to a certain extent.

We do need to post a sign for ourselves that the walls have ears.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Knowledge is Power

What you know and how you are able to use it is very important.  There are good ways to use knowledge and bad, but this post isn’t really about ethics, rather more straightforward and personal.  When you gain information that is useful, you usually have two main options, to squirrel it away for your own use or to share it.


I’m a proponent that sharing the knowledge actually increases your strength within a situation or an organization.  Sharing the knowledge creates shared purpose, allows for greater pooling of skills among a group to build up the knowledge into something even more powerful.

Let’s say that I have an idea by connecting two or three points that I’ve learned in different circumstances.  To successfully implement my idea it takes three major skills, but I only have one of the three.  If I don’t identify a person or a couple of people that possess the needed skills, I retain the knowledge within my idea, but I’m not doing myself any favors because I can’t effectively act on it.

I know plenty of people who would take the opposing side of this argument.  I’m sure that they could produce compelling arguments, and in specific circumstances I would agree.  But overall, you will be considered more valuable within your organization if you share your knowledge within a team.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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I Will Not Commit Karoshi Due to Someone Else’s Ignotism

I have already established that I love words.  A few years ago I got a desk calendar from my brother and sister-in-law of obscure or ancient words.  I kept the most interesting and/or relevant for future use and occasionally strung one or more together to create my own vocabulary sentences.

The title of today’s post was one of my sentences and became a sort of code for myself and a coworker.

Karoshi is a Japanese word that means death from overwork.

Ignotism is a word meaning mistake due to ignorance.

We could say this to one another at key moments when necessary to get ourselves through a bad day and off any figurative ledges.  (We worked in a one story building at the time, but still…)


We are both still ticking along, so I highly recommend developing a phrase for yourself that reroutes your thinking when work seems dire, especially if it is due to some ignorance on the part of another.  Or in some way, shape or form outside of your control.  You can borrow mine until yours coalesces, if you like.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Cast by the Perception of Others

We each want to be seen in the best light by all.  But in order to be true to ourselves, we must take actions at some point that some will not like.  It isn’t possible to get through life without making choices and in the act of choosing, turn aside from the other option and potentially those we know who prefer that other option.

Especially in our current culture of criticism, we each could become nearly paralyzed in fear of upsetting others by our choices or actions.  What good does paralysis do for any of us – individually or as part of any level of a community?

My favorite question that I ask myself, that I use to view a situation, that I apply to my interactions with others is ‘What is the intent?’.  I can use the resulting information that I glean to make my determination.  Regardless of the action that I choose, my behavior will be perceived differently by each person affected or aware of my action.

“To work one’s imagination on someone else is evil.”

~Jeannette Haien, The All of It


I am currently reading The All if It and found this quote arresting.  I don’t know if I would go quite so far as to claim evil on the part of others whose perceptions are off the mark, but we certainly do owe it to others within our realm of influence to carefully consider all the aspects that go into creating that perception.

I once had a very intelligent and capable employee who could tend into negative attitude territory.  I had several comments from other managers that this employee had been seen lingering in the break room on many occasions.  This employee wanted to be promoted so as part of that conversation with the employee, I mentioned the perception of the other managers.  The employee asked why this mattered and I explained that even if this break room behavior was only a sliver of the employee’s day but that was all that other employees and managers saw, then it would be all that they had to create a perception of this person.  The employee needed to make an effort to promote a positive impression through work achievements.  As a former manager of mine liked to say, we all need to build our own fan club.


None of us has control as much control as we would like of the perception that others will hold of us, but we have control over how we formulate our own perceptions.  Have you ever laid blame at the feet (or on the head) of a service provider like a server, cashier, or customer service rep because of the overall effect that your experience with the company?  How fair was that to the actual person that you encountered?

For ourselves, we can ensure that we have a compelling argument for our actions and words – based on our own clearly defined ethics or methods.  In relation to interacting with others, it would be wise to separate the person from the parts of the experience that the person has little or no ability to control.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Indecision = Conflicting Priorities

There are at least as many reasons for indecision as there are decisions to be made.  But for the purposes of today’s post, we’ll focus on just one of them.  I consider myself to be fairly decisive.  I know myself pretty well at this point of my life in regards to what is important to me.


I was due at a dinner party today and had been given the suggestion that I could bring some type of bread, wine or dessert.  I decided easily that I would bring two things, but then couldn’t settle on what those two things should be.  I was certain that I would bring a dessert as one.  (Something sweet at the end of dinner is a great thing.)   Exactly what that dessert would be continued to be in question.  And I waffled between the merits of bringing bread or wine.  I ended up making two desserts.


While I was baking I started to think about why I had waffled.  I don’t know the people that I was getting together with terribly well and I also didn’t know what was being served.  I wanted to provide something that would be appreciated and complimentary without having enough details to make a choice.


I didn’t have clear priorities in this situation so my decision to make two desserts was made because I have a lot of experience baking.  And, I have a sweet tooth.  Two desserts would ensure that I covered my bases for those who like chocolate as well as those who would like something else.


I did go a bit out on a limb and make a dessert that I had never made before, which I wouldn’t usually recommend.  However, I have been baking since my teens so I felt pretty safe.  The other dessert, brownies, from a tried and true recipe (the book falls right open to the page) were my other choice.


Looking back, I can recall other times when I had more trouble than usual making a decision when I didn’t have clear cut priorities.  Sometimes I have had clear cut priorities, but they have been in direct conflict with each other.  Do I decide to take the action that will meet the customer’s expectation, or do I take the action that I have been given by a superior?  These sticky conflicts can make one appear indecisive.


If you can build a more compelling argument for choosing one priority over the other, then you have your decision.  Of course, you will immediately advise the affected parties of your decision and anything else that is necessary regarding the other priority.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Are You an Email or a Phone Person?

For the purpose of the next few minutes, let’s just focus on these 2 means of communication since they are the most common in the business world.  (Although as more millennials gain influence maybe texting and IM or other means will become prevalent.)


Most workers have a strong preference for one or the other – email or phone.  Each has advantages and disadvantages, aficionados and detractors.  We like to use tools that are most comfortable, but should we?


I prefer email for several reasons.  I can create a draft and then refine my message before I send it.  This doesn’t preclude the recipient from misunderstanding my intent, but it does give me the opportunity to be measured and prudent.  (Plus, I’m a writer.)  I dislike phone tag – there are many days when it seems marginally possible to catch the person that I need at the very moment when we are both free.


But there are topics and times when the phone is the best means of reaching out – I get immediate feedback from the other person whether we are in agreement and can move to take action together.  When I have a topic that should be covered by phone, I will use a quick email whenever possible as a lead in to sketch out my intent and ask for a good time/day to talk on the phone.  This diffuses phone tag, hopefully – and prepares the person for the topic.


Another point to keep in mind is the dynamic of the relationship – do I hold the stronger position or does the person with whom I want to communicate?  If the person holds the stronger position, what is their preferred method of contact?  I’m more likely to be successful if I mirror this person’s methods of contact.


Whatever your preferred method, use the other person’s time judiciously – be prepared with your important points and any corroborating materials.  Be clear in your expectations of the outcome for the contact.  If you are fishing, you can still be clear about expectations – but try not to be leading.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Thought Blizzard

In my part of the country there is much talk about our lack of snow.  Each new day breaks the record that the previous day broke, and so on.  Well, if my thoughts were only snowflakes, the children of the region would be building snow monuments to me (and cursing me in the summer when they are still doing make up days for the snow days).


Anyway, I have been subject to frustration for the past couple of days due to a mental tangle.  Try as I might to follow one thread to release the snarl, I have been thwarted similar to a mom trying to get gum out of a child’s hair without creating a bald spot. Each potential means to unlock the mess must be rejected after time spent carefully following the lead.


I woke up yesterday with two great thoughts – one for a new page and one for a post.  By the time that I had completed the ablutions that I must before sitting to write, the page idea was sitting alone in my head, the blog post dissipated – perhaps lost in the cat food container, or poured out with my orange juice – but gone from my head, leaving only the reminder that it was an excellent idea.  Drat.


I’ve been through this before, I told myself.  I will survive; perhaps revive this idea at a later point if I just leave it alone.  I got ready for a workshop on career planning and at the workshop, other ideas for posts popped and snapped as the presenter engaged each of us and drew us into his story. I was glad at this point that I didn’t sit at home pouting about my lost great idea.


Instead as the day progressed, the lost idea became a storm cloud, gathering in the other ideas, passing unrelated thoughts and miscellaneous brain flotsam to break out into a full-fledged mental white out of a snow storm.


By late afternoon, my White Rabbit self was in a tizzy – we’re late with plans, things are backing up!  Must resolve now, must resolve NOW!  (My logical self trying to remind me not to heed the rabbit, he never does any good.)


I admit to giving in to the frustration.  Maybe giving it its due, like an offering, would clear the storm.  But I had nothing in waking this morning.  And then I remembered that sometimes the best thing for a frenzied mind is nothing.  The simplicity of repetitive tasks.  So I picked up a broom, and I did the dishes and some minor clerical tasks – and was rewarded with this post on my thought blizzard.


The great idea is still lost to me, for now.  Perhaps it will again come sneaking up to visit as I sleep one night.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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January 21, 2013 · 9:21 am

When Do You Feel Inspired?

I remember the point in college when I started to realize that there was an interconnection between seemingly different disciplines.  I felt so energized and some of the learning that I had considered rather pointless even got re-evaluated.  I’ve always been interested in learning when I can pursue topics that peak my curiosity – lucky for me that is a pretty eclectic and long list.


I am frequently inspired by large and small ideas that I hear about or read.  Life is endless possibility and inspiration is lifeblood.  Sometimes one thing is a springboard to something completely different.  Often there aren’t enough hours in the day to really follow something to a conclusion, but it is all interconnected and one effort is not lost if I can’t pursue it just then.


I like to wonder how a writer came up with a certain idea, what made someone develop a certain business, how did a person arrive at their current career?


What inspires you?


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Re-Energize Yourself

Sitting at a desk hour after hour can be deadly, literally so we are now finding out.


Here are some simple exercises that you can do at your desk to keep your blood flowing and your muscles from getting too tense:

(My thanks to Real Simple for posting this information.)


I learned most of these the hard way, by going (and paying for) physical therapy due to neck and back injuries.


Try getting up to go and see someone else in the office when you need to talk to them instead of using the phone or email.  Or take the long way to the restroom or break room at least once a day.


Be proactive, take a minute and try them out now.  Your muscles and your brain will thank you.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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