Career Coaching: 4 more things that go wrong at interviews

We run Interviewer Skills Workshops and run Interviewer Skills Coaching days to get the Interviewers learning “in the muscle”. We’ve interviewed lots of people over the years and seen lots of interviewers do their new stuff. You will I’m sure not be surprised that we’ve seen candidates come prepared to fail.

As a way of getting you to prepare and get the job of your dreams the Rainmaker team came up with our top 10 examples.
In the first blog we shared 3 and in this blog I’m going to share my second 3 things we’ve seen go wrong (and in another blog the last 4)

1. I hated my old boss
Don’t fall into the trap  of bad mouthing past bosses or colleagues, even if they were the worst individuals on the planet.

If you left under a compromise agreement and have to talk about old bosses, then talk about all of the bosses you did like.

Then maybe a little about why you and your boss didn’t work out from both points of view.

You should mention that you tried your best but couldn’t work it out.
Do not bad mouth your old boss!

Then change the topic with a question about your new potential bosses management style!

2. Norwegian Blues don’t get jobs
It’s vital that you practice and rehearse how you answer the standard questions that your coach will equip you with…

Never come across like you are reading from an autocue or like Polly from the Monty Python Parrot sketch (although come to think of it Polly was an ex Parrot) .

You should be able to tailor your answers to ensure that you are answering with examples relevant to the job in hand

3. Answer  the ACTUAL question
Listen carefully to the question.
There will be a specific example of a skill or capability that the interviewer will be trying to draw out.
You should have a story prepared that demonstrates your competency.
Don’t waffle.
We find the STAR format works for stories.
What was the Situation?
What was the Task in hand?
What Action did you take?
What Results did you achieve?
Practice your stories and you should answer the question well

 4. Watch and use your body language
Your interviewer will be allive to your language from the moment you arrive to when you leave.
You need to impress and to sell yourself.
Watch the Amy Cuddy Body Language video on TED

Greet the interviewer with a firm handshake, not a limp handshake that suggests a weak character.
Smile and make eye contact.

Remember you cannot NOT Communicate… Yes please read that again.



Career Coaching: 3 Things that go wrong at Interviews

We run Interviewer Skills Workshops and run Interviewer Skills Coaching days to get the Interviewers learning “in the muscle”. We’ve interviewed lots of people over the years and seen lots of interviewers do their new stuff.
You will I’m sure not be surprised that we’ve seen candidates come prepared to fail.

As a way of getting you to prepare and get the job of your dreams the Rainmaker team came up with our top 10 examples.
And in this blog I’m going to share 3 things we’ve seen go wrong (and in other blogs more of the same)

  1. Most job interviews start or will have somewhere in the interview the following 4 questions.
    1. Tell me about yourself
    2. Tell me why you left your old job
    3. Tell me about why you want this job
    4. “Tell me what you know about the company”.   
      Oh DEAR … If you haven’t prepared for this one you are going to look a little foolish.
      Erm … Erm …isn’t going to get you there.
      Take a look at the company’s website and research the key facts about the business.
      15 minutes will do it.

2. Turning up late for an interview
Really Bad move: You’ve probably run from from the tube. Feeling hot and sweaty?
Feel good? No. You are  now at a disadvantage to all the other being interviewed for the position.
Would you employ someone who can’t make it to work on time? For an interview?

3. Poor Attire
I know they shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover but we all do. First impressions count.
Your interviewer will have made a judgement already, in reception, on your suitability for the role by the way you dress.
Keep it smart and comfortable , clean and professional.

Good Luck in your Interviews…

Project Management: Scope Creep and how to avoid it

Project Management Soft Skills : Managing Scope Creep

The order was taken a few weeks ago.
The contract is signed, and work has started.
They said there was a little “slack” left after the negotiating / purchasing process so you can over-deliver a little.
The client loves what you and your team are doing for them.
They promises to give you more work in the future.

So, it’s no big deal when they ask you to do “one more thing” for them.
You do it and get back to work.

Then you get another request.

And then another.

All of a sudden the project is off track.

You’ve just started the process of what the suits and the grey hairs call scope creep.

Here are 3 ideas to prevent that from happening.

3 suggestions to help you maintain your boundaries and still have strong client relationships.

As always with Rainmaker only you can decide what works for you in your environment.

First Step: For both your sakes get clarity about what specifically is the request

Sometimes clients are responding to something happening in the wider organisation.
Sometimes they are not clear on what they need and what they really want.
Remember our job is to give them what they have agreed with us they need, not to do everything they ask.

However When you do get a request like this, please don’t say no at first.
Sending an email with all the reasons why it is not included in the scope of the project is not your best plan here.
No one likes to be told no. It feels like rejection.
Not great for client rapport (and more business)
Talk to your client and find out the story behind the request.
Why is it so important and why now?
Clarify exactly what they want you to do.
Actually in practice many times we find requests have been based on false assumptions.

Second Step: Agree the Impact

Many clients don’t mean to take advantage of us.
Something suddenly comes up and they think they need your help.
Because they trust you, they think it’s OK to ask.
In their mind they’re thinking “This will only take a minute.”
You however need you reassure yourself and your client and then come to an agreement.

  1. How much time do you think it will actually take?
  2. If we take that time what will it impact?
  3. Is that all agreed with all concerned?
  4. Probably more importantly…. If you say Yes and deliver it for no charge then you may have established a precedent.
    The precedent is set in the mind of the client that it’s ok to ask and you will agree to do extra tasks for them.
  5. You need to help them understand how the request will impact the project.
    They need to own this part … They can choose their priorities.

Third Step: Give your client an Easy Option or Option of least resistance

Like most people your clients think they know what kind of help they need at the beginning of a project.
Much like any change project, it’s not until they get into the process that other needs are discovered.
At that point, clients feel very vulnerable.
They now know they need extra help, but they don’t know how to get it.
This is why they ask you.

This is your big chance to put the big underpants on the outside of your outfit.
(Think Superman or Wonder Woman) This is when you can save the day.

Remember this is a “surprise” and no one could foresee this.
Work on the assumption that the client is NOT asking for free work.
May be you should communicate that assumption to them?

Have at least two options ready to cover the new development.

Option 1
Should be the one that includes additional investment

Option 2
Is the solution that includes adjusting the scope.
Your aim is to make it easy for the client to get help without having to jump through a lot of budget hoops.
I suggest that when you’ve agreed either of them an email note confirming your agreement should suffice.

Keep Calm and Carry On
I suggest that you try to believe clients do not intend to deliberately take advantage of you.
Sometimes they don’t know where the boundaries are and you may have to help them understand.
When you can take blame out of the situation, you can look for the “yes” instead of starting your conversation with a “no.”
With clarity and compassion, we can deal with the real issues, communicate the impact, and create easy ways to move forward.
Our clients will remember how you helped them and still rave about your work.

If you have difficulty with this maybe take a look at our Project Management Soft skills workshops

Workshop Facilitation: Building Flexibility into Scenario Planning

Building Flexibility into Services Business

( An Article inspired by one from Charles Green)

When our Workshop Facilitators facilitate Scenario Planning sessions for companies we ask them to think about their key success factors.

One of the examples we use is four areas of success factors and have them see how they changed for the Auto industry from the post war period into late 1900s.

The four success factors we mention are

  1. Managment and Board Experience
  2. Technology
  3. Marketing
  4. Operations

In the early part of this period it’s widely thought that the keys to success were

  1. Management And Board: Ability to control labour cost through negotiations with unions
  2. Technology: Standardised and Easy to build gas guzzlers
  3. Marketing: Exclusive Efficient and Effective dealer network
  4. Operations: Efficient mass production using automated assembly line

However as time wore and oil crises loomed and competitors making smaller cars emerged  they changed to

  1. Management And Board: Supply Chain management and Strategic Alliance Management
  2. Technology: Fuel efficient engines
  3. Marketing: Brand Development
  4. Operations: High quality manufacture of smaller runs

You can already begin to see from a people and their skills point of view in the example above they are fundamentally different.
And many other aspects of a company would have to have changed dramatically in order to be great after the changes.

We ask the Leadership team members who are scenario planning what key success factors are at play today …
Then we get them to speculate on what the key success factors might be in the future .

Then we ask them to look at how they can build flexibility into their company.
We know we cannot KNOW the future but we can try to be as nimble and flexible as possible to cope with any changes that the market may throw at us.

Here are a few areas that people are coming up with more flexible approaches that you may find interesting

  1. People and skills:
    You may assume that today it will take a certain elapsed time to hire a particular category or type of of employee
    A common rule of thumb is thatit’s a three-month cycle.
    What if you could cut that to three weeks? To three days?
    You should definitely be thinking about managing people but not having them on your payroll to improve your flexibility.
    Think contracting, outsourcing, working virtually, across time zones, modularising work.
    Software, movies and consulting rojects get done now, why not extend it to “core” hiring?
  2. Facilities and Equipment:
    You are all probably still assuming that you must own or have first call on assets like facilities and equipment
    However what if you could get all the access you need just by sharing with others?
    That would save lots of money and increase your ability to flex.
    After all, you rent a room at the Holiday Inn in Reading instead of owning an apartment there.
    Why own a car when you can use Citycar?
    Why are you driving alone? Why not download the car share app.
    Why are you paying Microsoft for software to sit on your PC getting old when you can access cloud software, always updated, for less?
    Why are you buying new books instead of buying used for a 1p + Postage!?
    Why are you spending money on dedicated office space when you could share it out with other tenants? Regus? Instant Offices?
  3. Knowledge management and IP development
    You still think your organisation must nurture its knowledge and keep it safe.
    How about generating more knowledge, and more know-how, by openly sharing what you have with everyone else?
    This is the logic behind networks, communities of interest, collaborative marketing, open-sourcing, Crowd funding, wikis, webinars, curating, mash-ups, etc.

In what other areas of business life can you build flexibility into your company and make it more resilient when change happens??

Sales Training – Rainmaking: Does your proposal say WOW! or Whoa

Many of the sales proposals I have read in my Sales Training workshops miss the mark.

Some do not state the key issues that the prospect is facing.
Most fail to demonstrate how the prospect will benefit from buying the seller’s solution.

Many sales proposals open with a page or two describing the seller’s company.
If you’re doing this today… Please stop it now.

If you create proposals, here are a 10 STEPS and a few suggestions to make yours stand out .

  1. Make it easy to read 
    Use headings and including lots of white space.
    A  single-spaced proposal written in a 10-point font is not easy to read.
    When given a proposal many senior executives will just skim through it.
  2. Open with a WOW! Executive summary  
    In fact write this page as you last piece of writing.  This is your WOW!
    Most of the senior people in your client will skim read this in about 4 minutes flat!
    It therefore has to be in a readily digestable form.

    • Summarise your understanding of your clients’ issues
    •   Summarise how your solution will do some or all of these
      • Enable them to increase revenues (sell more)
      • Enable them to cut costs per transaction (do more for less)
      • Enable them to be more productive (do more with the same or less)
      • Enable them to create loyal customers (who will buy more and more often )
      • Enable them to comply with a law or directive (e.g Sarbanes- Oxley)
  3.  Summarise what your solution has done for similar companies with similar problems
  4.   Summarise the kinds of benefits that you have enabled them to deliver over what time.  
  5. Why you are different to your competitors.
  6. Tell the Financial person reading how much it will cost them and over what time.  

Just to repeat you have one page ( twist my arm and I’ll allow you a page and a half) to deliver your WOW!

Now for the rest of prospect’s team who will probably read your proposal in a little more detail…

   7. Situation Summary
One of the most effective sales techniques is to summarise your understanding of the other person’s situation before launching into a sales presentation.
It’s also the great way to open this part of your sales proposal.
Your document should highlight or summarize your prospect’s situation (Current state)
It should contain no judgemental language.
Factually what are their issues and problems with their current state?
This section should hold your prospect’s attention because it talks about the problems the prospect wants to fix and resolve.
N.B.** You have to have listened well and asked lots of great questions in order to do this.
If you cannot do this then perhaps it’s not your proposal writing skills that may need sharpening

8. Key Objectives and Desired State
The next component of the proposal should contain four to six bullet points that outline the prospect’s key objectives.
Their desired state. In other words, what do they want to accomplish or achieve?

9. The Value to the Company of achieving their desired state
Produce a list of several bullet points that describe the value of achieving those key objectives.
It can be an increase in sales, higher customer loyalty, faster time to market, reduction in expenses, , etc.
You’ll notice that up to now we have focused on the customer, not on you, your company, or your service.
This is the fastest way to get their attention and demonstrate your understanding of their needs and issues.

10. The Remaining Pages
After that, the pages outline How and What you will do to help the customer achieve their objectives.

Every piece of information you include in a proposal must be interesting and relevant to the person reading it.
Don’t include every single feature or aspect about your service.
There may be exceptions for very complex solutions but try to be brief.
However, in my experience , the shorter your sales proposal and the more concise you make it, the better.
I have never had a prospect say to me  “Your proposal was too short ”

If your sales proposals aren’t generating the responses you expect, a change might be in order.
Follow the process as outlined and you will stand out from the crowd.

Good Rainmaking
Ask us for our FREE e-book on Executive summaries too if that will help…

Appraisal Skills Training: The Purpose of the Performance Appraisal

The Purpose of the Performance Appraisal

Performance appraisals like lots of management tools, can be misused.

HR managers usually say it’s their most important device for reviewing team members.

Our experience in running our Appraisal Skills Training Workshops is that, if not used properly often managers, supervisors, as well as employees hate the thought of them.
Their Internal HR consultants try really hard to encourage their completion and managers use their creativity to delay the process.
It’s seen by all as an uncomfortable practice to carry out.
The manager and the employee can sometimes feel on different “sides”.
Appraisals can sometimes wrongly be seen as determining pay increases and in rare cases who is made redundant and who gets promoted.
Commonly they focus on what people have done wrong.

We think the real point of performance appraisals are generally to

  •  Give feedback on performance to employees
  • Facilitate communication between employee and manager
  • Identify employee learning and development needs
  • Document and explain any criteria used to allocate organisations rewards
  • Used as the basis for personnel decisions: salary increases, promotions, re-assignments, succession planningetc
  • Provide the opportunity for organisation diagnosis and development
  • Validate recruitment selection techniques and human resource policies

The most important purpose or goal of the appraisal is to improve performance in the future for both employees and team leaders.

Managers can get valuable information to help them make their jobs more productive.

Through feedback given in performance appraisals managers can identify problems that interfere with everyone’s performance and take steps to rectify them.

We suggest that if there is a shift from blaming to identifying barriers to performance the fear associated with appraisals can disappear.

When managers move have to a more cooperative and learning dialogue, appraisals become more comfortable and effective.

This puts the manager and employee on the same side, and working towards the same goals, improving together.

While managers make an effort to be as objective as possible, there are always concerns about accuracy.

When you’re evaluating your staff it’s wise to be aware of factors that may affect your assessments.

Here are a few factors of which you should be aware
We suggest you take a look and just ask yourself “Are my appriasals free from these biases”


Generalising is the tendency to rate someone high or low in all categories, based on their performance in some areas.
This does not help develop employees because the appraisal is less than specific in areas that do need development.

Different Standards of Evaluation

Evaluation terms such as fair, good, v.good, excellent, or PRB1 PRB2 etc, are commonly used in performance appraisals.
Managers should however be aware that the meaning of these words will differ from person to person.
There needs to be an additional process which tries to get all the managers “on the same page” when defining performance.

Lenient Bias

Expect this when a manager has not been shown the Normal standards of performance (see above)
and  they are lenient and will tend to get defensive when discussed.
It’s ok they don’t know the standards that’s the problem not their judgement.
Question is … Could this be you?

Is it external factors more than employee performance?

Blame can be given  to the employee when the root cause was external.
Credit can be given too. Think recessions and upturns??

Is it the system / processes or the person?

Performance is a function of both the individual and the system he or she works in.
If both factors are not taken into account, it will be increasingly difficult to improve on performance.

Performance appraisals are a necessary tool in ensuring development.
If conducted fairly and appropriately the information gathered can be used to vastly improve the performance of the entire team

If you need assistance… Why  not take a  look at our Appraisal Skills Workshop

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