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Monday, May 03, 2010

How to avoid being told, ‘You’re Fired.’

I figured if “The Apprentice” reality show with Donald Trump is mandatory viewing for MBA students at Harvard, then I would probably be entertained and learn something as well – so I watch it.

One week’s episode was a real lesson in how to interview for effect, with rapid fire questions and retorts flying back and forth at break neck speed! I was surprised at the overall message I gleaned from watching Trump’s assistants interview four apprentices. One would expect that such a high profile icon of American success would be impressed by “the deal”, intellect, wit, knowledge and expertise, and he is. But, his true mantras, which he really seemed to take ownership of were as follows:

• The quality of the interview is more important than what you say.
• Energy is not always outwardly shown, so be prepared to explain how it manifests itself for you if that is the case. (This is a life line truism for most introverts.)
• An interviewer needs a reason to put you forward, to select you for the position, to vouch for you – give them one.
• Being a great person is more important than being intelligent or having intellect.
• Make sure the interviewer walks away feeling they know you, that you have shared enough of your accomplishments and something of your values that they can make an educated decision.
• Know what motivates you and be sure to share it – make sure it comes across in the interview, show some passion, commitment and drive.
• Be confident but not intimidating or come off too strong.
• When in a leadership role, give examples of how you have surrounded yourself with people who go out of their way to push through new ideas.
• Always tell the truth.
• Be prepared to give a description of the company being applied to and how it operates, and how you fit into all this.
• Know your weaknesses and how to effectively answer this question – without telling a story! (save your stories for accomplishments)
• Be visionary, look ahead – be prepared to describe what you would do on day 1 in your new position.
• Whether a man or a woman, respond authentically to whether you would hire a woman to work for you and why you are comfortable with that. (I’ll add an experienced worker to that question as well.)
• Crying is not condoned in a business environment! There is little room for emotions at work.
• This one really threw me for a loop – when in business, don’t play games.
• Don’t use sex appeal to get ahead, but all the same, men are the victims of massive sex appeal all the time. Some women certainly can use it and others just can’t!
• Perform professionally and at your very best in front of important people in the company. (I suggest you do this all the time.)

Trump spoke of surrounding yourself with loyal people. Remember those days, when we were loyal and our companies were too? It is sadly so very difficult to find true employer/employee loyalty today and where at one time, time built trust and loyalty, today it seems to be doing the opposite – the more I work for you or with you the less I like you!

Bottom line? Be interesting, be sincere, don’t push too hard but do stand up for yourself and what you believe, and be likeable and loyal. In the words of famed interview coach Brian Bassett of Bassett Communication Clinics, “practice, practice, practice.”


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