Wednesday, March 24, 2010

7 Things Never to Say to Your Boss

Everyone has a boss. Even if you "work for yourself," you're still an employee to your client.
A big part of maintaining the boss-employee relationship is to never allow a boss to think you dislike your work, are incapable of doing it, or--worse--consider it beneath you.

These sound like no-brainers, but many statements heard commonly around the workplace violate these basic rules. Looking for an example? Here are seven heard in workplaces all the time. They may seem ordinary, even harmless. But try reading these from your boss's point of view. You'll see right away why it's smart to never allow these seven sentences to pass your lips:
"That's not my job." You know what? A lot of bosses are simple souls who think your job is to do what's asked of you. So even if you're assigned a task that is, indeed, not your job, refrain from saying so. Instead, try to find out why your boss is assigning you this task--there may be a valid reason. If you believe that doing the task is a bad idea (as in, bad for the company) you can try explaining why and suggesting how it could be better done by someone else. This may work, depending on the boss. In any case, remember that doing what's asked of you, even tasks outside your job description, is good karma.

"It's not my problem." When people say something is not their problem it makes them look like they don't care. This does not endear them to anybody, especially the boss. If a problem is brewing and you have nothing constructive to say, it's better to say nothing at all. Even better is to pitch in and try to help. Because, ultimately, a problem in the workplace is everyone's problem. We're all in it together.
"It's not my fault." Yet another four words to be avoided. Human nature is weird. Claiming that something is not our fault often has the result of making people suspect it is. Besides, what's the real issue here? It's that something went wrong and needs to be fixed. That's what people should be thinking about--not who is to blame.
"I can only do one thing at a time." News flash: Complaining you are overworked will not make your boss feel sorry for you or go easier on you. Instead, a boss will think: (1) you resent your job, and/or (2) you aren't up to your job. Everybody, especially nowadays, feels pressured and overworked. If you're trying to be funny, please note that some sarcasm is funny and lightens the mood. Some just ticks people off.

"I am way overqualified for this job." Hey, maybe you are. But the fact is, this is the job you have. You agreed to take it on and, while you may now regret that decision, it's still your job. Complaining that it's beneath you only makes you look bad. Plus, coworkers doing similar jobs may resent and dislike you. And guess what? Bosses will not think, "Oh, this is a superior person whom I need to promote." Nope, they'll think, "What a jerk."
"This job is easy! Anyone could do it!" Maybe what you're trying to convey here is that you're so brilliant your work is easy. Unfortunately, it comes off sounding more like, "This work is stupid." Bosses don't like hearing that any work is stupid. Nor do they really like hearing that a job is easy peasy. It belittles the whole enterprise. If a task is simple, be glad and do it as quickly as you can. Even "stupid" work needs to get done.
"It can't be done." Saying something can't be done is like waving a red flag in a boss's eyes. Even if the thing being suggested truly is impossible, saying it is can make you look ineffectual or incapable. Better to play detective. Why is the boss asking you to do whatever it is? What's the problem that needs to be solved? What's the goal? Search for doable ways of solving that problem or reaching that goal. That's what bosses really want. Most of them do not expect the impossible.
Last words: When in doubt, remember that silence really is golden.

How to Ace the Phone Interview

Many job interviews these days are conducted by phone. It’s faster and cheaper for both job hirers and hunters. HR folks especially like it because it allows them to screen more applicants in less time. A phone interview may even be your first contact with a potential employer.

Phone interviews are not, however, the same as in-person interviews. So much human communication is non-verbal! You may need to acquire a few new skills to pull off a great jobinterview over the phone. To get you started, check out these phone interview do’s and don’ts:

  • Smile while you speak. It may feel silly, but smiling shows up in your voice.
  • Stand up. It removes pressure from your diaphragm and gives your voice more resonance.
  • Choose a quiet room. No dogs barking, kids whining, music playing, lawnmowers mowing, or TV blaring in the background.
  • Tape your résumé and whatever notes you'll use (say, lists of your accomplishments and strengths) on the wall so you can consult them without having to look down, which can muffle your voice.
  • Have pen and paper handy, along with your calendar (maybe they’ll want to schedule a follow-up!)
  • Remember that your interviewer can’t see you. If you pause to make a note, don’t let the silence stretch out. You might say, for example, “Just one second, please, while I write that down.”
  • If a switchboard operator or an assistant connects you to the interviewer, be nice to that person. Word gets around.
  • Whether you use a land or cell line, test your phone connection with a friend. Choose a phone you can hold to your ear comfortably. If you use a headset or speaker phone, make sure you are not unconsciously shouting.
  • Do a practice interview with your friend. Ask if you say “um” a lot (which is even more annoying on a phone than in real life), or if you speak too slowly or quickly, or if your voice is too loud or too soft. Taping yourself is another good way to get an idea of how you come off.
  • Try setting up a mirror in your phone-interview room. Sounds crazy, but having a human face to talk to may help you to speak with more passion and conviction. Try it!
  • If you have time, just before the call, take a series of long deep breaths. Say a few practice phrases, slowly and in a slightly deeper register than your normal voice.
  • Be prepared. A prospective employer may call when you least expect it. Yes, you can ask to reschedule at a more convenient time but showing you are flexible and can think on your feet is not a bad way to impress people. Keep your phone-interview area set up and ready to go.
  • Close the interview by trying to set up an in-person meeting. It’s that old sales technique of “asking for the sale.”
DON’T: (Most of these should go without saying but let’s say them anyway.)
  • Don’t eat, drink, chew gum, spit tobacco, smoke, sniffle, belch, or blow your nose. If you absolutely must sneeze, hold the phone as far away as possible, briefly apologize, and turn the conversation back to the interview. (Don’t say, “Whoa, what a honkin’ sneeze!”)
  • Don’t put your interviewer on hold to answer an incoming call.
  • Don’t talk to other people in the room. (Try to be alone when you’re interviewing.)
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. This is also true for in-person interviews, but on the phone you lack visual cues to tell you when your listener is zoning out. Practice speaking in two-minute increments (use an egg timer, or the timer on your microwave).
  • Don’t interrupt. If you accidentally speak over your interviewer, quickly apologize and let him finish.
  • Don’t fail to realize that a phone interview is as formal as an in-person interview. A phone call may feel casual but—beware!—you are being judged and you need to sound professional. If it helps, try “dressing up” for your phone interview.
Good luck. Your next phone interview may be The One. Oh, and don’t forget to follow up with a thank-you note, just as you would after an in-person meeting.

How to Answer 10 Tricky Interview Questions

Does it seem as though some job interview questions are designed to trip you up?
It should, because they are. Here are 10 of the trickiest tricky questions you might be asked at a job interview, with ideas on how to handle them:

1. “Tell me about yourself.”
  • DO: Talk about the ways that what you know and what you can do are perfectly suited to this job.
  • DON’T: Tell the interviewer your life story.
2. “Tell me something bad you’ve heard about our company.”
  • DO: You wouldn’t apply for a job at a company you disapproved of, would you? So you should be able to honestly answer that you haven’t heard anything negative about this place.
  • DON’T: Repeat gossip you might have heard.

3. “Why should I hire you?”
  • DO: Impress your interviewer with how much you know about the company’s requirements and then describe how you are the best person to meet those requirements.
  • DON’T: Get tripped up by a lack of prior research.
4. “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
  • DO: Talk about how your specific abilities, training, and experience will enable you to smoothly integrate with this company.
  • DON’T: Say that you have no idea.
5. “How would you react if I told you your interview so far was terrible?”
  • DO: Recognize that this is a test to see if you get flustered. Say, mildly, that you would ask for reasons why.
  • DON’T: Freak out. Remember, the interviewer said “if.”

6. “What’s the last book you read?”
  • DO: Mention a book that reflects well on you. Choose something by a reputable author that your interviewer has probably heard of.
  • DON’T: Name a book you haven’t actually read.
7. “Can you work under pressure?”
  • DO: Say that of course you can, and then relate a brief story about a time you did.
  • DON’T: Just say, "Yes I can." Provide a specific example.
8. “Who’s your hero?”
  • DO: Name a person who has inspired you and then describe specifically how this inspiration relates to your work.
  • DON’T: Get caught off-guard by what should really be a softball question. Come prepared with a good answer.
9. “Have you ever considered starting your own business?”
  • DO: Talk about how you are happiest and do your best work in a company that is amazingly similar to the one you’re applying at.
  • DON’T: Go on and on about how you’d love to be your own boss one day.
10. “If you won the lottery, would you still work?”
  • DO: Be honest and say you’d be thrilled to win the lottery; then add that even if you did you’d still seek out satisfying work, because work is what makes people happy.
  • DON’T: Say that you’d never work again (too honest) or that you’d just work for free (too BS-y).

Bottom line: It pays to think through in advance how you would handle some of the more common trick questions. In general, remember never to badmouth or blame others, especially past employers. Be careful not to betray your nervousness with jittery body language. Don’t lie or babble, or show frustration, impatience, disappointment, or anger.
The most important thing to remember is that hiring managers who ask these questions are far more interested in how you answer than what you answer. They just want to see how well you think on your feet. So even if a question completely flummoxes you, keep your cool, smile, and look ‘em in the eye.


While scanning CV's scattered on the table of our hr this morning, I was reminded of my past interviews. There were times that employer asked me bad questions which confused and offended me. Bad questions really don’t make sense unlike the good ones, but these help the employers judge the technical and mental qualifications of the applicants.

With my actual experiences I have hereunto enumerated my top 10 worst job interview questions along with my answers and "comments".

# 1 How will you see yourself after 5 years?

The most irritating questions of all times. When I was in high school, our English teacher required us to write a formal theme with the topic "My life after 5 years". Absolutely, my teacher was not thinking. She did not realize that we need 4-5 years to complete a bachelor's degree.So it is very much certain that 5 years after high school graduation we are still in college. And when I was in college, our English 101 instructor did the same thing. During our final examinations he gave us one hour to make an essay with this topic "What I wanted to be after 5 years". I hate to be asked by this question. I thought this question is asked only by teachers. I never thought this is one of the favorite questions in the interview. My response: Well, your company looks pretty good!
# 2 Describe yourself in three words.

Is this a beauty contest? How will we describe ourselves in three words? For questions as nonsense as this why don’t we give the interviewer a choking answer? Begin your answer with the phrase "I am". I am lovable. I am "papable". I am yummy. I am sincere. I am loyal. I am honest. My response: 
three words are not enough!

# 3 Tell me about yourself. 

If you got nuts on your head you will surely ask the interviewer, "Don't you read my curriculum vitae?" Curriculum vitae show all the information about the applicant – his jobs experiences, educational background, personal details and so on and so forth which are enough to answer this question. My response: 
Would you be willing to listen and be with me for at least one hour?

# 4 Rate yourself.

Here it goes. Another irritating question. If you don't expect this question, this will give you a crack on your head. How are you going to rate yourself anyway? You should ask the interviewer what's the highest? If he said 10 rate yourself 9. Certainly his follow-up question would be, "Why only 9?'' Tell him you're not perfect. My answer:
 9 over 10, 1 for reservation in case you disagree.

# 5 Why are you interested to work in our company?

This is the common question the employer often asks to the applicants. It's pretty obvious that the need to work for a living is the main reason why an applicant is interested to work. My straightforward answer: 
I need a job!
# 6 Can you work under pressure?

Nobody will say no to this question. If during the first question, you felt bad about the interviewer and sensed his different aura, then, answer him no. My answer: 
I'm used to that.
# 7 Do you know how to drive a car?

Funny but true. First time I encountered this question during my interview with my current company. The last interviewer (it was a panel of interview) asked me this question. I was speechless. I applied for accounting position and not as a driver. My answer (short and thoughtless): 
I know.
# 8 Do you abuse alcohol and drugs?

This is one of the offending questions I always avoid to hear. What made the interviewer ask this question? Do I look like a drunkard and a drug addict? My response: 
I'm an occasional drinker and I only take OTC drugs. 
# 9 If you are a lost character, what would you be?

I don’t like to recall my answer to this question. It was so frustrating.
# 10 If a train is traveling to the north, what is the speed of light?

Is this a question of a normal person? This question was asked to my friend. He stood up and walked out.

Tricky and hypothetical questions are often asked by the interviewer to test the psychological abilities of the applicants. They really exist on the interview whether we like it or not.

10 things you should never do at work

There are a number of things that you should never do at a work place. This would of course include things that have been detailed on your contract and would be a legal agreement. Employees are also generally expected to follow the code of conduct and the contract and almost all of us do follow them – like being in the office at agreed working hours, turning up for a meeting in time, calling up the manager if sick etc. etc. These are all common stuff that everyone is generally aware of and would be happy to follow. But there are a few untold things that may not be expected out of an employee but if followed could help you in a number of ways later…

1. Don’t forget your values
Most companies have a document detailing the code of conduct and the code of ethics. These explain the ethics involved in doing business from a company’s point of view and not from a person’s point of view. I am strong buyer of having a defined ethics for yourself. This could mean turning off the PC when you leave work, buying fair trade coffee for the office, running fundraisers  and participating in events, to name a few. You would probably do these things in your personal life – then why not incorporate them in work life? Remember….everyone respects people with values.

2. Never over commit
Only commit what you can do. Trying to over commit to impress managers is a very common phenomenon at work. There are two problems associated with this -
* You over commit and do not deliver and the project goes out of schedule potentially leading to a failure
* You over commit then stress yourself and deliver and your manager is going to assume that is what you are generally capable of delivering.

3. Don’t seclude yourself
Don’t seclude yourself by having lunch at your own desk and not being at a work gathering unless you have a very good reason for doing so. You may be seen to be a outsider within the team and that is something you would not want to be bothered with. Once you start moving with people, it makes it much easier for you to voice your opinion during meetings and people will be more likely to accept your point of view and will be happy to discuss ideas further.

4. Never lose your self-respect
Do not engage yourself in doing thing that would tarnish your self-respect. Sometimes being too down-to-earth can be damaging and one needs to balance his personal preferences with his job role. Cleaning up the mess you created is no problem – but do not offer to clean up the mess someone else created – that is not your job! This doesn’t mean you should not help others when they are in need of some help; but it is not a good idea to keep offering help and letting other take advantage of your good attitude.

5. Say ‘No’ to personal work
This is one of the most important of all “never do this at work” topics. It is better not to confuse the work place with your home. Most of us will not work during personal time, then why do personal work during work time? This would include checking personal emails, logging to social networking websites, reading news etc. etc. That said, it doesn’t mean you should always push personal work after office hours. There may be certain personal things that might need immediate attention and you might not have a choice not to do it. In that case, do keep your manager informed.

6. Never poke into others business.
Understand what your job role is and act accordingly. Companies have various levels of engineers and managers to split the job to be done and get that done effectively. Trying to impress the management by over doing things and by doing that, stepping into your colleagues domain / job role is an absolute NO. If you have potential showcase it in what you are asked to do and not by doing some one’s job.

7. Never lie
Although companies do not use lie detectors to find out whether someone is lying about something they did – it is one of the most important aspects to build a good reputation within the company. If you have done something wrong, it is better to put forward the case with all the facts and then say you would take care the next time. Doing something wrong and being genuine about it is much appreciated than lying about it or pointing someone else for your mistakes.

8. Don’t get into personal relationships
Never ever think of misbehaving with co-workers and avoid entering into any sort of relationships at work. These relationships will invariably lead to messy situations when you have to be decisive with a person with whom you are on a personal relationship. And, the moment this story leaks within the office, it is for sure going to affect your personality and esteem.

9. No backbiting…please.
Talking about others behind their back is completely unprofessional and something that you should avoid. If there is a problem, better call the relevant people – manager, supervisor or even the colleague with whom you have a problem – and sort it out right in front of their face. The moment someone realises that you are talking behind their back, they are going to make you the last person on their ‘much respected’ list.

10. Don’t steal
Well…this sounds straight forward. Most companies have CCTV in their premises and although this is not to monitor what employees do – they can indeed see what you are up to. Most of us would say stealing property like cables, stationary etc. are an obvious ‘NO’. But how about technology?