8 subtle and not so subtle hacks to ace that dream job interview!

Image credit: Sanjana Jain

Interviews are often synonymous with feelings of apprehension, unease and anxiety. Our first thought as we are walking into the interview is the singular hope that we don’t embarrass ourselves. Maybe, somewhere along the line, our urge to make a good and lasting impression becomes even stronger than getting the job.

How do we prepare for these interviews?

I guess we brush up our academics, experience and think of our strengths and weaknesses. Maybe, we do that extra bit to make sure that we look our best to make an excellent first impression. If you do these, you are like thousands of others who follow the same routine.

I want to offer you eight simple hacks to ace the interview for the job that you so desperately want, co-created and time-tested with some of my coaching clients who have managed to land up with some great opportunities.

1. Perfect your pitch: More chances then less that you will be told to introduce yourself. Hence, please make sure that you rehearse your pitch or introduction well as this will set the tone for the meeting to follow. Let it be focussed, credible and concise. Weave in a personal story while giving your background or your motivation for the career you are in; this will reflect ‘authentic warmth’.

2. Match words from the Job Description: Highlight key words in the Job Description. These words find a mention there because that is what the organisation values and that is the way it thinks. Use the exact same words when you give your introduction or talk about your experience, in response to the interview questions.

3. Establish eye contact: Your facial and eye movements are always being judged and perhaps matter even more than the skills and credentials on your CV. The eyes reflect our interest level, confidence and professionalism during an interview. Establishing good eye contact will convey your full intent to listen, make you feel heard and appear likeable. In cultures, where eye contact is seen as disrespectful, you may want to be less direct. Also, remember eye contact is not staring; you just need to do it subtly and intermittently for a few seconds now and then.

4. Playback key words spoken by the interviewer: Use some of the key words that the interviewer(s) use when they talk or ask you a question. These words are important to the interviewer, and if you can subtly get them into your conversation, it would help build great chemistry.

5. Mirroring the Interviewer: Mirroring is the practice of adopting another person’s behaviours, mannerisms, and ways of speaking. We trust people who are like us, and mirroring does precisely this. Remember some critical rules when you mirror:

· Don’t mimic, keep it subtle (only some actions, not all)

· Give 20–30 secs before you mirror

· Mirror only positive behaviours

· Don’t be so hung up on it that you stop hearing and being present in the conversation.

6. Think through your Weaknesses: Always introspect and prepare equally well for your weaknesses as you do for your strengths. It is not “uncool” any more to talk about your weaknesses. But do make sure that you also communicate how self-awareness is helping you deal with and work on your weaknesses and how you are ensuring that these don’t impact your performance on the job. Self-awareness is a critical element of emotional intelligence which is being highly valued by most organisations as an essential leadership trait.

7. Prepare your questions: You need to do this for two reasons. First, you want the job as much as the organisation wants you and hence you genuinely want to ask questions to get better clarity. Second, your questions help the employer understand your way of thinking and approaching a job. Some insightful and ‘look good’ questions could be the following or their variations:

· What are the organisation’s values?

· How do you expect employees to embody values at work or what kind of characteristics do you expect in the employees to ensure that they represent the same values? (for the second question, you could also, just pick up one value)

· What are the three critical success factors for an employee to succeed in this job?

· How does this job add value to the overall vision or strategy of the company?

· What does success look like in this job, and how do you measure the same?

· What do you like the most about working for this organisation?

· What else on my CV, could have qualified me as the best fit for this job?

8. Maintain your position as an equal: Make sure that you participate in the interview process as an equal; however, desperate you may be for the opportunity. Your confidence should come across in the discussions; in fact, that is the reason that it is said that you should move on when you are at your best! Don’t foul mouth your current employer and don’t let the frustrations of your existing job surface. You should be in a mode of ‘exploration with great zeal’. When it comes to making the offer, the employer should have to make an effort to win you over.

These strategies work not only in interviews but for other conversations as well. These help people relate to you better, help you develop great chemistry and build more profound engagement with others, from the very first meeting onwards.

All the best for that dream job interview, go for it with full confidence, armed with these hacks!

COVID 19 disruption — a reset moment!

#Covid-19 {Reset: all;}

All of us would agree that with the COVID 19 disruption, the world has hit a reset button. A few months ago, who would have believed that in the immediate future, we would remain locked down in our respective homes for weeks at a stretch. And, now, here we are. It is an imminent reality that the impact of COVID 19 will be felt for months and maybe years, even after the lockdown eases. Not only its economic fallout but also its social implications. Some of us may be lucky to escape unscathed, but there are tens of thousands who will have borne or will bear the loss of their near and dear ones. Millions have seen an erosion of their hard-earned savings, just feeding their families during this crisis. For many others, their sources of livelihood have just vanished as if these never existed. The havoc created by COVID 19 is probably the most defining moment since the last world war. Never in our recent memory has the entire world been brought to its knees like this before. Never have we felt as helpless as this before. Never have we come so close to doomsday.

We are slowly but surely rising to the challenge, which gives us the confidence that humanity will live through this disruption. In the midst of all this, I am wondering what is going to change in this world for better and what are the lessons, we as inhabitants of this planet would have learnt. How is this black swan event going to impact us as individuals, as communities and as a planet?

Individuals

  • Much-needed opportunity to pause and re-think where are we headed in our respective lives. What is the end purpose we are working towards?
  • Become acutely aware of the fragility of life. Irrespective of the speed each of us travels at, everything comes to a stop at the red light.
  • Many us will need to start afresh. Is this an opportunity to re-write our destinies? Do we just need to do things differently, or is it that we need to do different things?
  • Living through scarcity and having our freedom curtailed is a hard lesson for this generation. Many of us have probably not encountered this as closely as this, to know its true meaning. We will hopefully now, value more what we have.
  • Some of us would have survived through our addictions locked down in our homes. This could be an opportunity for them to stay that way — de-addicted and sober, rather than queueing up at the liquor stores!

Communities

  • More closely knit and connected than ever before, we will know more about people around us and value the communities we live in.
  • Resilience to face hardships and emerge stronger by supporting each other
  • Awareness and consciousness for hygiene and sanitation will increase our levels of personal hygiene. This coming close on the heels of Swacch Bharat initiatives (in the Indian context) will mean cleaner communities going forward.
  • Respect for some of our public institutions will go up, having seen their more humane side in this catastrophe.
  • Disasters such as these are great equalisers, neither wealth nor fame nor power (ask Tom Hanks, Prince Charles, Boris Johnson or countries such as the US, UK or Italy) helps you get on the safe list is a lesson to remember.
  • Redefine the way we work. Organisations sitting on the fence on ‘working from home’ policies are realising how effectively they can operate in this mode, this live pilot has proved it to them beyond doubt. More and more will adopt this as a new way to work.

Planet

  • With this pause, nature has got the much-needed relief that it deserved to get. It has reclaimed some of what we have plundered in all these decades at an exponential rate. Will we be more conscious and considerate from here on?
  • We don’t know what we don’t know. Reminder to us, that there is still so much to pursue and discover, despite all the scientific strides the world has taken so far.
  • We all are in this together. How deeply connected the human race is and how borders don’t matter when it comes to disasters? Could we also see the world as one, when it comes to opportunities?

While we reset our lives as we come out of this, let us all hope this means more sensible individuals, a more deeply connected world and a more sustainable planet.

This is our best and possibly the last chance to inhabit a more sensitive, unified and civilised planet, let us make that happen!

Building self-esteem: setting off a virtuous cycle!

The key to improved self esteem diagram)
illustration credit – Sanjana Jain

 

In my coaching engagements, I often come across coachees who are feeling lifeless, deprived of a sense of purpose and hence completely dejected and lacking the motivation to work towards any goals. That sinking feeling where one feels that life is just passing by with us being only passive spectators, watching that drift but not having any energy to participate in this journey of life. I am sure that most of the people who work as Coaches, will be able to strongly relate to this situation. All of us eventually realise that this lack of motivation primarily stems from a feeling of lack of self-worth.

This lack of self-worth or low self-esteem has its roots in the absence of self-respect and confidence in one’s own worth or abilities. The only way to pull people out of this vicious spiral of negative thought and self-blame is to help them build their self-esteem. This obviously, like most other things, is easier said than done.

What are those actions that can help build self-esteem and set off a virtuous cycle of self-belief?

Practice Gratitude: This sounds trivial, but it is a paradigm shift in how we start perceiving ourselves once we start counting our blessings. In today’s competitive world, each of us has got so used to only looking at people who are much more accomplished and have done better than us. While this can be a huge motivation for positive-minded people but for people who have lost the zest for life, it is only another realisation of how far behind they have been left. No sooner, we start appreciating all that we have in life, we start realising how blessed we are. Each us have so many blessings to count, even in the worst of our states. As the saying goes ‘I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet’.

What can you do to help your Coachee discover what all she/he has to thank life for? How can you get the Coachee to start practising gratitude?

Acts of Kindness: One is bound to see oneself in a better light, once one sets out to help others. This stems not only from the feeling of compassion which normally precedes before you the urge to help someone but also from the fact that you can help only if you have something which the other person does not seem to possess at that moment. This brings about a radically new mindset — suddenly, you are the giver and not a receiver anymore!

What little ‘acts of kindness’ can your coachee start with?

Pen your problems: I am not sure why this works but it always works. For some reasons the gravity of our problems seems to dissipate when we start putting them down on paper. I suppose when we are thinking of our problems, we are always blowing these out of proportions. We are used to thinking along a single track, hence we start focussing on the problems. These are much easier to comprehend as these are already staring at us. Our brain gets so obsessed and tired with the problems, that we lose the sense to think about the solutions. Hence, it is always better to write out the problems, accompanied by possible solutions f and just doing that one realises how much one has in control and how trivial most of the problems are.

How can you get your Coachees to start using a problem-solving framework, rather than only thinking about their problems?

Pick a hobby: Having a lot of free time at hand is a double-edged sword, some people are able to use it constructively, while quite a few use it only to magnify their current depressing state. Immersing in something you enjoy not only pre-occupies your mind but also channelizes your energies and time to something creative and productive. Creativity brings hope and a sense of fulfilment as you begin to discover things you really enjoy.

Can you get your coachee to take a deep-dive within and re-discover their hobbies?

New learnings: Fresh learning is a great way to add value to oneself and build one’s self-esteem. This could be picking up a new skill or enrolling for a continuing learning program. Learning not only productively engages our mental faculties but also opens us to new opportunities and helps keep us ahead on our growth path. New skills and learnings not only broaden our horizons but also lead to new possibilities and new careers.

How would you help your coachee discover a stimulating learning environment and draw up a learning agenda for themselves?

Read to be inspired: There is a reason that such books are called ‘self-motivation’ books! Don’t just read a book but also find one or two takeaways from each book which resonate strongly with you and convert them into action statements for yourself.

How do you get your coachee to internalise the learnings from a book?

Triggers and Barriers: Probably something which sounds trivial but has a great impact is triggers and barriers. The theory of triggers and barriers not only applies to the marketing field but as much to human psychology. There are always a few people, things and places which trigger positive thoughts and a sense of well-being and there are always a few ‘barriers’ which take away from the positivity.

How can we get our coachees to identify these triggers and barriers and how can we help them use these to their advantage in their effort to build self-esteem?

Cultivating Executive Presence

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As a coach, one has increasingly noticed companies and employees talking about Executive Presence and how to go about building the same. Most organisations may not have listed executive presence as a competency but still expect employees to display the same, especially once you start climbing up the corporate ladder. I think of executive presence as a potent combination of one’s personality, physical and mental attributes and how one conducts oneself. Executive presence is not only your body language but also how you use it in various situations.

You may have noticed sometimes, that some people walk into a meeting and they seem to light up the environment, some people start speaking and you want to listen to them. It is this charisma in a workplace setting which embodies executive presence. While we may believe that people are normally born with this and hence you either have it in you or not, however as a coach, I can assure you that this is not true. It is like most other behaviours and traits, which can be cultivated by awareness and practice. Here are a few small but sure tips, the practice of which can help you build your executive presence:

Control your emotions. Self-awareness coupled with good appreciation of other person’s perspective helps you keep your emotions in check. Learn to control your emotions and empathise with others. Take time to respond, it will help you respond from your intellectual state rather than your emotional state.

• Focus and develop the ability to genuinely listen to people who are sharing their views or presenting. Give them all your attention. Maintain occasional eye contact as it displays your interest in what the other person is saying. Make sure that your phones are on silent mode and if kept on the table, they are kept screen facing downwards, it is a great sign to the other person that he has all your attention.

Be clear and concise. You don’t need to be verbose, learn to make your point in a sentence or two. Compose your thoughts before articulating your views. Frame your questions well, when clarifying queries. Think before you ask. Learn to build on the point already made.

• Always good to spend a few minutes on the meeting agenda or discussion points, to prep your mind – not necessarily forming an opinion beforehand but just being aware of what perspective you would want to bring to the meeting and if you need to have some background information handy.

Prepare in advance for important interactions. Let us be honest, there are always some interactions which are more important for your career, then some others. It is worth preparing for such interactions (without compromising the spontaneity element) like gathering more background on the person you are meeting, his/her interests, common ground, what are the topic/stories that you may want to share, getting familiar with the topic of discussion (if known in advance), etc.

Maintain your posture while standing and sitting. Make sure that when you are standing, you are erect, chest slightly puffed out, shoulders are not hunched forward, weight is balanced on both your feet. While sitting make sure that you are not slouching but are sitting erect with your hands placed on the table in front of you. Walking upright is another habit you should build, as it makes one look much more dignified and confident.

• Have a firm handshake, don’t let your hand go limp in the other person’s grip. Keep your hand firm and make sure you have an eye-contact with the person for at least a few seconds while shaking hands.

Work on those irksome habits – looking at your phone every couple of minutes, fidgeting with pens, tapping your shoes, . . .

Dress for the occasion – invest in your wardrobe. You don’t need to have too many clothes, it is just that you need to have the right set of clothes, well fitted yet comfortable. Besides, always wear a smile (but, not a smirk).

• As a close, remember don’t be too hung up about it, you normally take notice of executive presence only in your seniors as it comes with practice (try and remember when was the last time that you noticed a junior guy displaying executive presence!). It takes time to build executive presence and with awareness, all of us can cultivate the same.

Try out the above tips and keep trying consciously until it becomes second nature and then notice the difference for yourself! If you want, you can always take coaching to help you out with building your executive presence 😊

Angel investing in startups? Then, familiarise yourself with these!

Startups continue to be the buzz word and it is a flavour of the season which is not likely to fade out soon. Everyone is looking at opportunities to get a toe-hold in the startup space, either by launching their own startups or some like me who are excited being mentor-investors, thus getting an opportunity to take this roller-coaster ride of creating a business, many times over!

If you are evaluating angel investing in a startup seed round (Pre-Series A), then it is important that you familiarise yourself with the key terms and clauses normally used in the seed round fundraising agreements and may want to even insist that these are included to protect your interests. Some of the key ones are:

Pre-money and Post-money Valuation: This is the reference valuation of the business at which the new investors come on board. Simply put, pre-money valuation is the valuation of the business without considering the current round being raised, while post-money valuation is the valuation, including the funds being raised in the current round. E.g. if a business valued at $ 1 Million is raising $ 0.5 Million in the current round, the Pre-money valuation will be $1 Million, while the Post-money valuation will be $1.5 Million.

Vesting: It is quite common to see a vesting period of 36 to 48 months for shares held by the Promoters (or Founders), which means that these shares will vest with them after or over an agreed period in smaller tranches. Vesting means that the Promoter will be free to deal with their shares as they like, only after these vests with them, though this freedom may still be subject to other covenants. The vesting protects the interests of the non-promoter investors since this ensure that the Promoters stay with the business, at least for certain foreseen time.

Anti-Dilution Protection: This clause specifies that if the Company for its subsequent rounds (after the current round) raises money at a price lower than the ones paid by investors in the current round, then the investors shall be entitled to weighted average anti-dilution protection. Hence, in such an event, the Company shall ensure that it issues such number of additional shares to the current Investors or adjusts the conversion ratio of the securities (in case of Compulsorily Convertible Preference Shares), as necessary to nullify the effect of such dilution.

Besides financials, the clause can also specifically relate to the rights of the Investors. In that case, it would mean that if the rights provided to subsequent round investors are more favourable than the rights of the current investors, such subsequent round rights shall be deemed to be given also to the current investors.

Tag along: This clause is to ensure that if Promoters decide to sell their shares, the other investors are not left high and dry, since the decision to invest in a start-up is as much driven by the faith that investors have in Promoters as by the strength of the business model. This clause stipulates that in the event any of the Promoters decide to sell their shareholding in the Company to a prospective acquirer, then the other investors shall also have the right, but not the obligation, to sell their shareholdings in the Company to the prospective acquirer, on the same terms and conditions as the Promoters. Hence, investors tag along with the Promoter.

Exit: Normally the intention is to provide an exit for the investors within a certain period, e.g. through a subsequent Series round or IPO or a strategic sale say within 48 or 60 months. In the eventuality that an exit cannot be facilitated for the Investors, there is normally a clause requiring the Promoters and Company to provide an exit, by way of buy back at a certain specified IRR, within a certain stipulated time.

Drag along: If the Company is not able to provide an exit to the investors, then investors (if agreed by majority) have the unilateral right to sell their securities to any third party and in such a case, the investors may also require all the Promoters to sell all or part of their shareholding in the Company to such third party if required by such third party, which is normally the case since the acquirer is usually looking to acquire full management control. This clause enables the Investors to find an exit in a foreseen time and hence effectively the Investors have the right to drag along the Promoters to get that exit.

Liquidation Preference: In view of the fact, that investors typically invest at valuations substantially higher than the Promoters which may have invested at much lower valuations or could have the shares by way of sweat equity, investors look for some downside preference. Even if liquidation is a remote possibility, it is normally agreed that upon the occurrence of a liquidation event, the Investors shall be entitled to receive in preference to distribution to any Promoters of the Company, an amount which shall be equal or even higher (say, 1.5x times of the investment amount).

Affirmative Voting Rights on Reserved Matters: In addition to any voting requirements under regulations, it is usual to stipulate an express unanimous written approval (or majority approval) from the investors at a shareholders’ meeting or the investor nominee director through an affirmative vote in a board meeting for reserved matters. These could include matters relating to but not limited to, issuance of capital, changing of investor’s rights, changes in the nature or scope of business, establishing any new business, related party transactions, transfer of IP/intangibles, hiring/firing senior management employees or changes in their employment terms, any material changes in the company’s business plan etc.