Month: February 2021

REMOTE COACHING: LESSONS LEARNED

Living through the pandemic has stimulated a shift in how we lead our lives and we do our jobs. As an educational coach who guides school leaders and aspiring learners in preparing resumes, and getting ready for job interviews, I’ve been forced to carry out my job remotely. What I’ve learned is that I can be just as effective over Facetime, Zoom and the like, and even over the phone.

The biggest advantages for my clients are that they do not have to commute 30 to 45 minutes each way to meet me in person, and that those clients who live nationally and internationally can avail themselves of my services.

Why didn’t I consider this before? Well, “necessity is the mother of invention”. Welcome to and take advantage of the new normal! If you think you can benefit from my services, contact me at larryaronstein@yahoo.com and check out my website at www.larryaronstein.com

BODY LANGUAGE

There is a lot of attention being paid to body language in regard to its importance over the course of a job interview. Some experts even say that ninety percent of what we communicate is expressed through body language. Body language is a two-way street between the candidate and the interviewers as well as among the interviewers. An effective candidate must be aware of, and try to control his or her own body language. You should also try to observe, interpret, and respond to the body language of the interviewers.

I learned the importance of my body language the hard way. I was interviewed by a small group of search firm consultants. They seemed friendly and nodded their approval to my responses throughout the interview. As I gained confidence, I became relaxed, sat back in my seat, crossed my legs (which are a little long), and balanced my knee on the edge of the table. I left feeling that I had aced it and would be called back. That didn’t happen.

I reported my rejection to my mentor with a sense of defeat. Based on my feedback my mentor could not diagnose any deficiencies. However, he did know the search consultants and promised to get their feedback the next time he saw them. Several months passed by.

“You’re not going to believe the feedback,” he reported. “They loved your answers. But one of them said that you were too relaxed—even appeared cocky. She said you sat back and put your knee on the edge of the table.”

About a year passed. There I was again interviewing with the same group of search consultants. Needless to say, I leaned forward this time. No sitting back for me, this time. They moved me on in the process, and I get the job.

Just your posture and manner of walking into the room has significance. Stride with an air of confidence and smile at your audience. Your posture should connote self-assurance, not arrogance. Your smile should reflect that you’re pleased to be there. Your first impression means everything. Most people begin forming an impression of you within thirty seconds. You must get off to a good start.

My advice concerning body language over the course of your interview is to lean forward in your seat. Slowly scan the faces and eyes of the interviewers. If they like what you are saying, they will tend to nod and smile, usually subtly.  Nod back even more subtly. Focus on the people who are not giving non-verbal feedback. Watch to see if they exchange knowing looks to one another. Often, you might say something that resonates with an issue they may have previously discussed. A glance, a smile, a frown, a nod, a negative shake of the head between interviewers means you may have confirmed or disagreed with something of interest to them. A negative shake of the head probably means that you have stepped on a potentially explosive issue. Quickly backtrack and clarify your statement, if you can, to neutralize the potential damage.

Your ability to mimic other people’s gestures and postures indicates you are in sync with them. If someone leans forward, lean towards him or her. If someone smiles and nods, then smile and nod back. Practice mimicking at meetings and social gatherings. You’ll find it really works.

Larry Aronstein provides one-on-one coaching in preparing candidates for interviews and in resume preparation. Visit his website at http://www.larryaronstein.com

Ten Rules on How Not to Mess Up Your Interview

  1. Don’t talk too much. Answer each question within two to two and one-half minutes. Give one good example. The panel is working within a tight schedule. Nobody likes a chatter box. If they want to hear more, they will ask you to elaborate.
  2. Answer the question. Stick to the interviewers’ questions. Stay on topic. Panelists commonly ask the same questions to every candidate in order to compare answers. Be careful about getting on a roll and going off on tangents which might result in not answering the question. Not answering the question will be noticed.
  3. Never fake an answer. If you’re asked about something that you don’t know, simply admit that you don’t know. Nobody likes a faker. You should add, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I am a quick learner, and will learn whatever I need to know in order to get the job done.” If you don’t understand the question, it’s acceptable to say that you don’t understand the question and ask if they can repeat or rephrase it.
  4. Don’t overdo It. Laughing too long and too loudly at a joke that’s not all that funny, becoming overly enthusiastic about one of your own answers, being argumentative and emphatic about a minor issue, are all examples of “over doing it.” Professionals maintain an even keel. Act like an adult. Being over-the-top just raises eye brows and generates side glances.
  5. Direct yourself to the whole table. In a group interview, you have to try to please everyone who’s sitting around the table. You can’t afford to please administrators but alienate the teachers. Seek out the middle ground and demonstrate your diplomatic skills. As you speak, slowly look at all of the panelists.
  6. Don’t misrepresent yourself. With the availability of Google, Facebook, and on-line newspapers, it is pretty easy to check out your background. Stretching the truth or misrepresenting yourself and being found out is fatal. The regional educational community is a small circle. You will be checked out.
  7. Say calm. Don’t expect that every answer will be a homerun. Try not to get rattled if you think your answer to a question is weak. As the song says, “Just keep on keepin’ on!”  Interviewers are people too. They know that you’re nervous, and they are forgiving. They will recognize it if you redeem yourself by giving a strong response to the next question.
  8. Act like a guest. I’ve witnessed candidates come into the room and move their table and chair to be closer to the panel. I’ve encountered several candidates who became insistent about setting up a PowerPoint presentation, even after they were told not to do so. Most commonly, there are candidates who drone on and on, despite being told, “Thank you. Now, let’s go on to the next question.” You’re not throwing the party. Act like a guest.
  9. Be respectful. No matter how disrespected or provoked you might feel, always remain respectful. As a candidate, I have sat out in a waiting room for up to an hour and a half. I have been asked to do a writing sample, even though I’ve been published dozens of times and written a doctoral dissertation. A questioner has even criticized my current employer. Through it all, hold your tongue, smile, and be polite. Don’t be combative.
  10. Leave your baggage home. Question: “What do you expect from us in order for you to be successful?” The best response would be to say, “I work best as a member of a mutually supportive team.” Unfortunately, I’ve actually had candidates say, “My last boss was verbally abusive, I could not work under those conditions.” Another response was, “I need to have flexibility. As a parent, I must be home by 4:30, and, by the way, I can’t attend evening functions.” Don’t put up obstacles, and don’t present yourself as someone who may be difficult to deal with.

The best advice that anyone can give you is to just be yourself, let them know who you are and what you stand for, speak from the heart, be professional, and be appropriate.

Dr. Aronstein provides one-on-one coaching which prepares you for interviews, and helps you prepare your resume. Find out more– www. larryaronstein.com or email: larryaronstein@yahoo.com

YOUR CANDIDACY: WHAT ARE THEY REALLY LOOKING FOR AND HOW DO YOU PRESENT YOURSELF

As a candidate, everything you write and say contribute to building your narrative; the story you tell about yourself. This includes your resume and cover letter, how you present yourself in person, your answers to the interviewers’ questions, the questions you ask, your letters of reference, and what your references say about you. It’s about developing a picture of yourself, creating a chemistry, demonstrating you are a good match, an easy good fit for what they’re really looking for, and what their community wants.

Creating an attractive narrative requires many strategies for each unique position. However, the commonalities out-weigh the differences. Before describing some of the strategies that go into building your narrative, we first must understand what the interviewers are really looking for.

What They Really Want

  1. They want to know who you are, and what you’ve accomplished.
  2. They want to like you. Too often interviews are sterile; you must create an emotional and compelling context through your story telling.
  3. They want to be assured that you share their values and aspirations.
  4. They want to see that you look and act the role.
  5. They want to be sure that you’ll easily fit in and not cause conflict.
  6. You need to come across as humble, self-effacing, sincere, direct, plain spoken, good humored, and authentic.

If this is what the interviewers want, then how do you go about creating a narrative and presenting yourself as that candidate? What strategies should you employee?

Useful Strategies

  1. Find out everything you can about the school-community from a variety of sources. How many students do they have; what ate the demographics; what are they proud of; who are their leaders; what is their reputation; what is their fiscal status.
  2. Figure out what they really want you to do. Do not solely rely upon their job description—that’s what they think they want; it may not be what they really want. Do they want a change agent? Are they happy with their current status? What problems do they have?
  3. Analyze your resume, particularly your accomplishments, and emphasize those aspects that they are looking for and that are consistent with their values as a community, and their needs. It is not enough to assert, “I’m creative and hardworking”. Provide specific and vivid examples of your accomplishments, both professional and personal.
  4. Elude to some personal information, which is not on your resume and which they can’t ask you about. If you are married and a parent, let them know. School people love family-oriented candidates who can relate to children and parents.

The tactics as to how you go about carrying out these strategies requires careful planning and practice. However, the reward of moving through the steps of your candidacy and winning the job will be worth all of the effort.

Dr. Larry Aronstein is an experienced career coach who assists school leaders, aspiring leaders, and teachers in their resume and interviewing preparation. Find out more at www.larryaronstein.com. Contact him at larryaronstein@yahoo.com