Posts in interview
The One Question That Could Land You a Job

If you've been interviewed lately, you probably had a mixed reaction to the process.  So many companies never even get back to you after the interview and others are just inept at the process.  


This is a demoralizing process for folks who try but can't seem to nail down a job.


The folks at Manager Tools call this phenomenon "The Christmas Rule".  Just as Christmas only comes around once a year, interviews are just as rare.  As a result, most companies don't do them very well.  Their follow up is even worse.  


So here's a good question to ask if you are interviewing someone else for a position: how will we know that you've been here after a year of employment?  In other words, what difference will you make?  Someone who has an ability to answer that quickly and thoughtfully is on his way.


The one who can then deliver on that answer will be able to keep their job for a long time.


What is the worst question that you had to field during the interview process?


Photo courtesy of MT


Productivity Interview with Entrepeneur Karl Schlegel

I sat down with former student and current friend Karl Schlegel to jive about productivity, social media and what keeps this up and coming business exec on the move.

Karl, tell readers of The Daily Saint a little about you and what you're currently working on.

Mike, I have been very blessed.  I am the oldest of 6 children and graduated from Oratory Prep and later Rutgers College.  I am a serial entrepreneur who seeks to work with clients who want to make a global impact and push past the boundaries of what they previously believed to be impossible.  My firm Blackstar Group, LLC takes a holistic approach to strategic business development and works with clients across a spectrum of industries (from defense technologies to children's characters).  We embrace a client's product or service and analyze it from several perspectives including the client's, the customers' and the market.  Then we formulate a strategic plan and help clients connect to the resources necessary to take their businesses to the next level.  We are very passionate about what we do.

Karl, how do you stay organized and efficient?

I believe that organization and efficiency is a discipline that requires practice and time.  I must say that I am far from being "organized and efficient", however I have been progressing along this path through the use of several tools:

1.  A person to keep me accountable. Like it or not, I need to be reminded of certain things from time to time.  Being held accountable is not a punishment, rather it is an opportunity to grow and identify potential stumbling blocks that interfer with moving forward.  A client ALWAYS keeps you accountable :)  I find that having a mentor or mentors is a great way to ensure that I stay on track and continue to grow on all levels.

2.  A scheduling book. I have a large notebook sized scheduling book that I use to keep track of deadlines and meetings.  I usually punch these into my blackberry so that I have this on hand on the go, but few things substitute for writing a "To-Do" or as I am working to call them "Accountability Tags" on paper with a pen.

3.  My blackberry: I use a blackberry curve and am grateful for the ability to get e-mail on the fly, as well as text, and my calendar.

4.  When something pops up, I try to do it at that time rather than wait till later. I have found that taking care of the little things allows you to take care of the big things.  Leaving too many little things causes them to turn into enormous tasks.

Karl, what productivity skills would you like to improve on in the next 6 months?

I am working on setting deadlines and completing tasks ahead of time.  I also am not a big fan of making lists because sometimes lists become unmanageable and serve to depress rather than aid.  I would also like to network more effectively at networking events.  I do not mean that I want to rush through and snap up as many business cards as possible, but I want to be a better judge of figuring out if I am the right fit for the other person and vice versa.  Events take time and money.  Therefore it is important to be judicious in the use of both.  Mike, I am open to suggestions on this :)

Karl, what effect has social networking had on your work?

Networking is one of my favorite topics!  I believe that everything revolves around networking and that all networking is social.  I believe that people are the hidden gems in society and that if people just looked around, they could find everything that they needed.  Therefore, I try to meet and start conversations with as many people as possible.  I have been very fortunate to have experienced great success with so-called "social networking" online.  I have met some great business contacts through Facebook, believe it or not.  I have also been able to take advantage of LinkedIn and met many people by engaging in the discussions hosted by various groups.  The key with social networking is to engage and participate in the community.  This is one of the core principles around Twitter which is being watched very closely by branding execs at companies ranging from jetBlue to Nielsen to Microsoft.  I recently attended a conference in New York where brand reputation was the topic and the keynote speaker, Jenny Dervin, from jetBlue spoke about the importance of Twitter and social media in building and managing a brand's (therefore company's) reputation.  Personally, I was able to help a company connect with Microsoft Health Vault by helping the company receive coverage on MedGadget, one of the top medical blogs on the internet.  The company ended up doing a deal with Microsoft Health Vault which was very exciting.  I also got invited to an invitation only dinner after an executive and I began chatting on Facebook and learned about the society balls.  As a result I ended up dancing in the Quadrille Ball and escorting a beautiful young lady at the Viennese Opera Ball.  The organizers and dancers in the balls have become close friends of mine and we get together several times a week!

Anything else you'd like to share with the TDS audience?

I try to live my life around a core set of principles.  Seek to help others, follow your passions and dreams, and understand that you are always selling yourself whether actively or passively.  I like the way Steven Spielberg said it best when asked what he did for a living in an interview.  He said, "I dream for a living".  Dreams are so powerful and propel us forward to utilize our gifts and talents.  I love working with passionate people.

I have also learned first hand from my failures.  I have failed a great deal and made many mistakes, however I try to look at failure as the teacher of success.  I like the following quote from Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM.

"Would you like me to give you a formula for... success? It's quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You're thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn't at all... you can be discouraged by failure -- or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that's where you'll find success. On the far side."
-Thomas J. Watson, Founder of IBM

I have also learned that sometimes there is nothing that can be done except to trust.  While I struggle with this, as anyone who is human will, I draw confidence from my faith that the right thing will happen in the end.  I have also learned that no matter what happens, when we choose to accept what has taken place, we gain power over the situation and ourselves to move forward.

Thank you Mike for allowing me to share with your audience and thank you for being a great mentor and role model for me.

Follow Karl today on Twitter at  renovatiogroup
Interview with William Martin, Education Professional
I sat down William Martin, Director of Activities for Oratory Preparatory School in Summit, NJ to discuss his productivity.  In addition to being a master of project management, William is an avid reader of The Daily Saint.

What do you do on a weekly basis in order to stay organized?

I maintain a weekly planner where I write down everything that's coming up and what needs to be done.  I'm also a big list keeper but I'd like to move into a more tech-based approach.  With the release of the iPhone, it's hard not to think of what a more mobile approach can do for your work.

What are your sources of interruption in an average day?

Because I try to stay on task during the day, anything that is unexpected can throw me for a loop.  This could be a conversation, an emergency or just something that I hadn't thought of.  It's a good challenge for me to stay organized and still flexible enough to absorb the speed-bumps along the way.

What do you do for a morning routine to get yourself focused?

I take a few minutes to pray and meditate on the day ahead.  It puts my mind at ease and prepares me for my schedule and necessary tasks.

William, you are regarded as highly skilled at project management.  What's your secret?

I'm not saying that it's easy but as long as I stay in front of a project, things go well.  I plan ahead, keep an eye on the calendar and notify those that need to know about whatever details are coming at them.  The "one week rule" has been good to me- always be one week ahead of any meeting or event.  Even if it means getting up in the night to capture a thought or send an email, it's worth it.  I figure that if a project is on my watch, I want it to go very well.

What qualities of productive people do you admire most?

I admire those that are focused but not to the point of being consumed with their work.  I respect those who are collaborative- they get more things done.  Finally, I really enjoy working with those people who are goal-oriented.  It rubs off and my own productivity increases.

Thanks to William for his insights and here's to his ongoing success!

Photo by INX
Productivity Interview with Sara Grant of Harvard University
I recently reconnected with an old friend from CUA, Sara Grant, who now works as a technologist for Harvard University.  What follows is the sum of our conversation- enjoy!

  • How does an institution like Harvard raise the bar when it comes to personal productivity among its employees?

    While I can’t speak on behalf on Harvard, I can say that in my working career here and at other organizations, goal setting (both organization and personal) helps motivate workers to achieve more and to take more risks. Rarely in my experience can managers get more out of their employees without goal setting. And it’s not about setting your goals for the year and then ignore them until that end-of-the-year review. Managers and employees need to continue the goal plan throughout the year—monthly check-ins or 1:1’s help.

    • What do you do each week to stay organized and effective?  each day, etc. ?

      I am a runner—5 days a week—in the mornings before work. I am fortunate to have a flexible schedule that allows me to take some time out to do this. I also try to organize my work space every day rather than once a month or not at all. When I get in… I try to assess the email inbox when I arrive, look to see if I have any v-mail and then I take 30mins to quickly note 3-5 bullet items I need to do before days ends. I also have a sticky note near my computer that lists a quick goal list so that I am constantly reminded of my plan for the year.

      • Which social networking tools (i.e. LinkedIn) do you employ to stay on your productivity game?

        I am interested in social media as a marketing tools so I am dabbling with Twitter right now and also keep tabs on old friends through Facebook. My professional network is also on LinkedIn although, I must confess to spending more time on FB than any other networking site today!

        Thanks Sara for some great perspective.  Sara can be reached via Twitter- @saragrant

        Photo by Chaval Brasil
        The Best Interview Advice I've Ever Heard
        So how do you interview and land the job you want,

        at the salary you desire,

        with the benefits you need?

        It's as simple as J.O.B. training, says career expert Mark Schnurman.  Mark's piece in the Star Ledger this past week was phenomenal.  You can read the online link here.  In sum, Mark breaks down the process of selling yourself into three categories.

        First, it's important to convince your interviewer that you have JOB SPECIFIC SKILLS.  If you are interviewing for a job in car sales, it's important to stress your ability to close the deal, maintain relationships well after the sale is made, etc.  The interviewer needs to hear that you can handle the 3-4 key skills that are absolutely necessary for the job.

        Next, Mark suggests that you support your job specific skills with OVERALL SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE.  If you have a lot of experience, stress this.  If your character is amazingly solid, emphasize that.  If you've never been sick in the last ten years, mention this.  These are the "soft" qualities that people too often stress first in an interview. It's not that they're not important- they are.  The key is to wrap them around your job specific skills.

        Finally, Mark recommends that you emphasize how much you would BE A GOOD FIT for the organization.  This is a culture question- would you be a good match for the general vibe of the culture in which you're hoping to work?  Don't fake it, just be yourself.  I would recommend that you interview within a culture that you accept and see the good in.  If youre only interest is in making an organization different from what it currently is (I think we would put that in the "hatchet man" category), there might be some room for deeper reflection.
        Photo by spoungeworthy