Do You Relate or Simply Respond?

mouth taped shutI saw an interesting quote yesterday.  It was something to the effect of most people do not listen they just wait to respond.


How true.


I get reminders of that often when speaking with my son.  He is 20 and therefore I know nothing.  During our drive-by visits (which is what I call them because he comes and goes so quickly) I might ask him a question and his response is completely out of the blue.


That is when I look at him and ask, “Did you even hear the words coming out of my mouth or just answer based on what you thought I was going to say?”


That’s when it hits him that I might have said something different from what he was expecting.


I’m a mom, I do that sometimes.  Gotta keep him on his toes.


I swear the child hears me the same as Charlie Brown’s teachers.  *sigh*


It is not an uncommon phenomenon.  We as adults do this all the time.  While we might be able to get away with it in our family lives (to a degree) it can be a complete disaster during business building or job searching.


In an interview most people are prepared to be asked the “canned” questions – tell me about yourself, what are your strengths/weaknesses, why are you looking, why do you want to work here, blah, blah, blah.


But that is just it – we treat it as the blahs and therefore give it no credibility, thought or proper attention.  The questions may be canned but that does not mean your responses should match the blah-ness.


Yes, I made that word up, go with me here.


Let’s put the shoe on the other foot for a moment.  If you were to go to 10 interviews in a row and 9 asked the same blah questions but one asked something different – which interview would you remember?


Out of all the candidates an interviewer is talking to – don’t you want to be the one that is remembered?




Yes, you should have a general idea of what you want to say; however you should adapt it to the situation, the individual and the environment.  Make it fresh, relevant and as interesting as you can.


During an interview years ago I noticed several pictures of children on the credenza of the man who was interviewing me.  The kids looked about the same age as my son at the time.  When he asked about my weaknesses I responded that I guess it would depend on who you were asking, according to my teenager I have many.  He immediately smiled, readily shook his head and said “I can relate to that!” and a wall came down.  I then went on to provide a business response.


Sometimes the questions catch you off guard and the response may be a negative but you still have the opportunity to shine.  When I first re-entered the working world after staying home with my then toddler I was interviewed for a secretarial position by a gentleman who was 86 at the time and had no plans of retiring.


He also was very used to things being done “the old fashioned way”.  He asked if I knew shorthand.  I hadn’t done shorthand since I was in high school!  That was back in the day of electric typewriters – boy am I showing my age here.


Anyway, I this was an important question to him – I didn’t want to blow the opportunity just because I could only remember one shorthand symbol and I wasn’t going to lie.  So I responded that I had a three year old and have learned to write very quickly.


I got the job.  I also weaned my boss off electric typewriters and carbon paper for computers and printers.


The point is listen to what is being asked as though it is the first time that question has been posed to you.  Take a moment before responding then respond directly to that person, for that situation, for that moment.


Allow yourself to come through even in the most dreaded or repeated questions and you will be the one they remember – and want to speak with again.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW


What Do You Want and Why Should I Give It To You?

I had the absolute pleasure of speaking to the Avon Chapter of Busniess & Professional Exchange this morning.  What started out with elevator pitches moved on to resumes.  Although it was an interesting journey there was a common thread that lead from one topic to the other: engagement.

Let’s face it – the driving force behind most communication is engagement.  Oh sure, there are times that communication is strictly one way – i.e. speaking to our children.  Trust me, when my son was in his teenage hey-day the last thing I wanted in talking to him was engagement.  No, it was more a “just listen and do”; unfortunately, this is my kid we are talking about so there was a lot more engagement that I ever bargained for – gee, wonder where he got that….

Ok, fine, he got it from me.  I’ll admit it.  Having recognized that I can take a mere statement and build an engagement on it I have had to realize that it is not always the desired response.  Ask any of my former bosses.

I study communication at all levels and all forms; I love it and it is fascinating.  Normally because of the amount of research and analysis I can bring to light certain points that people normally overlook.  Just like making the statement that normally the purpose of communication is engagement.  You want the other person to be drawn into a conversation with you.

The most difficult mode of communication to build engagement is the written word.  When you are speaking to someone in person or even over the phone you have clues that you can utilize to adjust your speaking patterns or chosen words to encourage engagement.  However, with the written word you are far removed from that person.  For this reason sometimes it feels like a shot in the dark.

So how do you even begin to craft a message that will build engagement?  The first thing you should do is ask yourself, “What is my desired outcome?”  Even thought this sounds simple enough you would be surprised how many people really do not know what they want when they send off a message.

Oh sure, when you send a resume you want them to call you –right?  But what then?  What do you want them to ask you about, what do you want to focus on during the conversation – have you thought about these before you craft your message?

Sometimes we make things too darned difficult for our own good.  Start small, start simple.  First figure out what kind of response you want from the other person.  This will help drive your message.

Sometimes the recipient is looking within your message to determine how they should respond.  That might sound confusing so let me give an example.  I received a text yesterday – nothing new, I get a lot of texts (I’m really big on texting).  Anyway, this one was a very simple message: it was the name of a place I worked at when I was a teenager, but that was the extent of the message, oh, and some exclamation points.

I looked at it and thought, “Ok”.  I am not sure what the meaning was, I mean it wasn’t an invitation to join them, maybe it wasn’t even meant for me – who knows.  I certainly didn’t and since I was clueless, I didn’t respond.  I wasn’t trying to be rude; but not having spoken to this person in a while I just assumed it was sent to me by mistake.

Long story short – know what it is you are saying and why so you do not leave the recipient clueless.  Because if you do want a response and you do not allow them the opportunity to respond you have no one to blame but yourself if you don’t get it.

Now, if you are sending a more lengthy communication, i.e. resume or email, again start with what is your desired result.  Then you need to think about your audience.  Realize that their time is important, no matter how little they are giving to you, it is important.  You need to make your message count – and this means it should matter to them.

Your resume should answer the question, “What can you do for me?” If you are asking for an informational interview you should enlighten them as to who you are, how you got connected to them, what type of information you are seeking and why – oh, and thank them.  Don’t forget your manners.

Let me be blunt – for some reason we all find that we have less hours in the day so we have become very selective with the amount of time we share with others and even more selective on those others that we choose to spend time.  Within your written communication you need to build the case for why they want to give you their time.  In other words why would it benefit them to speak to you?

Let me take blunt a step further: until you can answer the questions of “What do you want and why should I give it to you” do not send that communication.  Only after you can answer these two questions then you can begin to craft your message in a way that will not only speak to these to points but significantly increase your chances of accomplishing your desired result.


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.