The Botched Interview

(and how to avoid it)

Another time when I was between jobs, a recruiter came up with an interview for me that appeared to be a perfect fit.  

The opportunity was in Germany—a private company big in the plastic films industry, owned essentially by two reclusive brothers.  It was a big general manager or small CEO role for a business of a certain volume. This company had multiple plants, European sales organization, and distributors. They also had a fairly strong position in retailers’ shelves, and a significant branded presence.

My prior work experience included many achievements in a similar realm, covering the transferability aspect.  The recruiter thought so, too.

The only obvious fly in the ointment was that although I had worked in multiple industries and shown the ability to adapt successfully, I had zero experience in plastics.

So, being me, I began to educate myself for the interview. 

I researched and studied, and could soon tell you about the thermo-elastic and most other properties of PVC compared to LDPE or HDPE or PET. I absorbed their general uses, and even explored the relatively recent plant-based plastics with their adjustable shelf-lives before decomposing in an environmentally friendly way.

Well, the recruiter submitted me as a candidate and I passed the preliminary review processes without incident, apparently at the head of the list.  Then finally I was invited to meet the owners, presumably for the final interview.

By this time, I prepared myself with not only a thorough (if superficial) knowledge of plastics. I also had thoughts on how to grow the business, improve the organizational efficiency, and enhance the value to shareholders.

The two brothers were quite friendly under the circumstances. We established a reasonable rapport early. 

As the interview continued, I tried to ask more questions than talk.

My preparation certainly showed. However, I felt a certain distance grow over the course of the discussion—a subtle withdrawal of that initial rapport.

Nevertheless, we parted on cordial terms, and I hoped my perceptions reflected the fears of any interviewee under the circumstances.

They were not.

The recruiter and I spoke within a day or two and he gave me the bad news.  We both struggled to interpret the feedback he received because it was mixed, but at last he managed to boil it down to its essence: “You were too well prepared,” he said, disappointment evident in his voice.

It seems the brothers felt I was too much of a detail-oriented person who would meddle in his underlings’ decisions and not let the organization do its job without interference—because I had displayed such detailed knowledge of their industry.

Well, I was pretty astounded.  Imagine the criticism “too well prepared.” 

The Botched Interview
How can anyone be too well prepared for an interview?

In fact, many years later I can see this was not the issue at all.  There were numerous issues in fact.  For example, culture and behavior: the brothers were German and relatively introverted.  I was American and relatively extroverted.  I should have had the presence of mind to more accurately mirror their behavior.  The balance between asking questions and telling my story was another issue.  Despite my restraint, I talked too much, and did not adequately employ the arsenal of Active Listening.  Had I done so, I would have discovered their preference for a hands-off, coaching-oriented management style in their ideal candidate.

While there were other aspects, the fundamental truth is I was inadequately prepared in the actual mechanics of the interview.  I would have benefited from role-playing and practicing in advance to identify the landmines and avoid them. 

An experienced interview coach would have helped me spot many of these potential issues and prepare differently.

This is one aspect of the service we provide at the Barrett Group: Interview Preparation and Compensation Negotiation.  It routinely helps hundreds of candidates each year perform better in interviews and negotiate better compensation.  

I wish I had known about the Barrett Group before my interview opportunity back then. How about you? Are you as successful in your interviews as you expect? Or are you left wondering why you didn’t receive an offer? I invite you to take a closer look at the Barrett Group’s services. Find out how you could benefit from one of our qualified interview coaches.

Peter Irish
The Barrett Group

The Market in 2019

At the Barrett Group we make it our business to help executives clarify their career objectives (with our Clarity Program©) and then market themselves effectively.  To do this as consistently as we do, we find it useful to take stock of the market situation every once in a while—like a swimmer lifting his or her head up over the waves and verifying position and direction—by examining our own market observations.   So, let’s compare Q1 and Q4 so far to understand what seems to be happening in the executive career change market.

Note, these remarks refer only to our own clients.  

In the first part of the year, the income segments of $100,000-$200,000 (total annual compensation) and above $200,000 were equally balanced at about 49% each.  Some 39% of these clients state they were unemployed on average about 5.6 months before signing on.  These results were quite polarized at the top and bottom end, with 43% of unemployed clients having been unemployed for 3 months or less and 54% of unemployed clients having been unemployed for 7 months or more.

We help executives clarity their career goals

In Q4 now, these results show a budge in clients in the $100,000-$200,000 income category that has risen to almost 60% of clients vs. the first quarter’s 49%.  Now 51% of clients say they have been unemployed, and the average unemployment period has lengthened to almost 11 months.  So, it would seem that the middle of the market has experienced more pressure during the last six months.

Another important aspect that we look at is our clients’ motivations for seeking our services. 

These vary over time, and it seems there is a coherent pattern here, too, if we compare the first quarter versus the fourth quarter so far.

Often clients reach out to us because they are reentering the job market after a pause.  The pause could be because they have been with the same employer for a long time or due to illness, unemployment, or even other reasons.  Recently we have repeatedly heard from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that people who were not actively seeking employment (and therefore not technically unemployed) have been reentering the market in the last year or two, so that not only is unemployment low but the number of employed can grow without unemployment sinking… if that makes sense.

Some 23% of our clients in Q1 cited this reentry as a factor in their need for support.  This share sank in Q4 so far to about 19%.  The threat of possible unemployment on the other hand rose in Q4 versus Q1 from 16% to 22%, a fairly sizable increase.  Does that mean that as the expansion moves into record territory, companies are finding more and more ways to be efficient at the cost of mid-level and senior jobs?

Another classic motivation we hear a lot is “I must get into a new industry.”  Now this can have various meanings from an acknowledgement that the current industry is losing its luster to a sense of personal boredom and the need for new adventure.  It can even mean that the client sees other industries as potentially more lucrative given his or her skill set.  All of these are valid perspectives on the market. 

Switching industries is a specialty at the Barrett Group because we help our clients to highlight the transferability of their skills and experience both during the Packaging (Resume Refresh and LinkedIn Reboot) and the Presentation (Interviewing) career change stages.

This need to change industries has waned some though when we compare Q1 and Q4 so far, dropping more than 12% points to just 11.6%.  This may support the pressure we believe we see in the middle market, and therefore a shift in would-be career changer sentiment toward a search for security.

On the other hand, the other major motivation “My present income is too low” has risen sharply in the latest results, jumping more than 8% points to just under 20%.  This certainly seems consistent with the bulge in mid-market job seeker population who have generally more upward income opportunity.

“No growth potential,” though remains a very consistent and strong motivator for our clients in both quarters at about 28%, indicating that dissatisfaction with growth opportunities continues to drive would-be career changers to a large extent regardless of the economic cycle.  With our active assistance, about 75% of Barrett Group clients find their next opportunity via the “unpublished market.”  This has even greater relevance in today’s market because the unpublished market offers opportunities with potentially less competition and therefore higher compensation.

Perhaps it is time that you, too, lifted your head up and took stock of your career situation.  We help hundreds of people like you every year, so reach out and let’s discuss your true potential.

Peter Irish
The Barrett Group

Not Ready For Take-Off

Do you have conflicts at work?  It would be highly unusual if you did not.  People involved in even the simplest tasks bring different experience, skills, and expectations so conflict in one form or another typically lurks just around the corner. Are you ready for take-off?

The questions are how you deal with those inevitable differences and what conclusions you draw.  A little perspective can help.  At the Barrett Group we use DISC as a behavioral diagnostic tool (as part of our Clarity Program©) that describes the four dimensions of Dominance, Influencing, Steadiness, and Compliance.  Every DISC profile also includes a few tips on how to deal with people of one behavioral style or the other.  The shorthand, for example, for dealing effectively with High D types (Dominance) is “Be Clear. Be Brief and be Gone.”

I remember one time I had a conflict with my boss (a VP at a Fortune 100 company)—so much so that I was considering leaving.  One day in his office he accused me of being arrogant.  He was probably right, by the way, but I reflected for a moment and then told him with complete candor, “That’s the pot calling the kettle black.”  He looked shocked for a moment.  Then he started to laugh, and we became strong allies going forward because we had a basic understanding.  Ultimately, he even named me as his successor.  In retrospect, my response may have been a risky move, but it apparently was the right medicine at the right time.

In other words, sometimes when you want to leave your job because of conflicts and stress, you might be better off to reflect, or if that’s not your strong suit, to get some coaching to help you reflect before you leap.
A little perspective can help.

It does occasionally happen, in fact, that clients hire us to help them find a better job, however, during the career coaching process the client and coach may come to realize that by improving their reaction to the current workplace, or renegotiating certain aspects of the current job, the client can be happier, more satisfied, and in some cases better remunerated.

One specific example of this is an executive that I first met through a coaching assignment in San Jose.  He was responsible for IT cybersecurity at a larger internet retailer.   My coaching colleague and I met his entire team of 35 programmers—tattooed and pierced, ethnically diverse, but mostly under 30 years of age.  Our client wanted to bring this motley crew together and create a shared vision of the mission for this recently inherited organizational unit.

We employed one of my favorite tools, a non-verbal trading exercise whereby the team members had to exchange tokens of different value, i.e. to “trade” without speaking or writing.  Yes, it was chaos for a few minutes until they got the hang of it, and then it was hard to get them to stop.  They drew excellent conclusions from the exercise and went on to craft a strong vision.

Six months later, though, the client was feeling constrained by a lack of a shared vision with his own boss, so, naturally, he turned to us and began to explore career options. 

His career coach at the time observed that the client “…needs to let go of his security and take the leap if he truly wants to change jobs…”

But, in fact, what the client and the coach realized after a few months of work was that there probably was an opportunity to renegotiate the conditions at the client’s then-current workplace.  He wanted to be able to telecommute part time so he could be home with his young child a few days per week.  He also wanted more recognition and more income.  

We use a five-step career change program at the Barrett Group, so in this case, we simply pulled the Preparation stage forward and used it to sharpen the client’s interpersonal skills and expand his compensation negotiation toolkit.

Voilà!  With our support, the client managed to renegotiate his position, his title, and his compensation.  So, he stayed put.  But he still made a handsome return on his investment in us.

So even if you are not sure whether you want to stay or go, you might want to reach out to us and explore whether you are ready for take-off, or whether you just need a larger hangar.

Peter Irish
The Barrett Group

Alone In The World

Several times in my career I have been without work.  Sometimes by choice.  Sometimes not.  And particularly in the latter case, it can be a very scary feeling… almost as if you are alone in the world.  You send all of those emails, you submit your resume, you try to engage with recruiters, you reach out to your contacts and affect some semblance of happy confidence… but in the quiet of your own mind, you may well be very afraid.

Worrying is normal, by the way, and according to Daniel Goldman (Emotional Intelligence) may have its evolutionary roots in practicing for future possible events—preparing for them so as to not be caught off guard. 

But, like everything else, when taken to extremes, worrying can be destructive.

It is always helpful under such circumstances to look for some external input, perhaps from a friend, a loved one, a parent, a spiritual guide, a coach… Someone who can help you weigh the evidence and know whether your worrying is helpful preparation or just plain, frozen-in-the-headlights fear.  Sometimes just being able to talk about what concerns you can help you feel better and more in control.

On the other hand, even if you are not specifically afraid, looking for a new job can be a huge amount of work and to many people, it is hard to know where to start and how to prioritize one’s time.  Combing through job boards and applying can be very time-consuming, as can networking, interviewing, or talking to recruiters.

Our clients have an enormous benefit in this regard, because they have access to a six-member team, so that they never feel alone in the world, and have tremendous experience always at their beck and call.  

Our clients start with a Clarity Coach who guides them through the Targeting step in our five-step career change process, the Clarity Program©.  The output of this step is a clear understanding of the client’s target and an agreement about how we will approach the market together.

Next comes the Career Consultant.  This team member guides the next four steps in the process (Packaging, Market Access, Preparation, and On-Boarding) and remains the sounding-board and principal client resource as the program advances. 

At the right time in the process, we bring in a Researcher who helps winnow through the market using our state-of-the-art databases to select companies and contacts as relevant per the Targeting step.  A Writer comes in, too, to prepare cover letters and resume versions as necessary and appropriate to optimize campaign results.

A Negotiation Coach joins the team as the offers start to come in and leverages the three decades of experience the Barrett Group has in this field to benchmark comparable salary and benefits packages and to find additional compensation elements.  As a result, we almost invariably find another $10,000 to $20,000 in compensation during this step. Which is hardly surprising considering we have done this thousands of times over the years and know where to look for that hidden treasure.

Now this whole process takes time and the feelings of worry, anxiety, or outright fear do not necessarily evaporate. So, when there is a bump in the road, we also bring in our Client Concierge (one of several senior resources) who has guided thousands through this process and can literally take the client by the hand. They recognize and avoid the potholes, and help him or her focus on the straight and narrow path that leads on to career success. Now you may be the truly confident sort who does not need any moral support. But if you are not, how would it feel to have a professional team at your elbow when you face the job market?  One thing is for sure: you would never feel alone in the world.

Peter Irish
The Barrett Group

Distraction As A Way Of Life

Distraction as a way of life. We have discussed at some length the fact that people have very different behavioral styles, particularly the executives who come to us for help with their careers.  We use the DISC instrument as a way of detecting behavioral tendencies.  

The high D (Dominance) types are driven and focused but often have no patience for details or the attention span to follow longer term programs.  The high I (Influencing) types are so busy being creative or talking or meeting new people and seeking new adventures that they often achieve nothing at all.  High S (Steadiness) and high C (Compliance) personalities have their own particular issues.

However, all of these types can suffer professionally and personally from confusing activity with progress. 

If I am busy, the logic goes, then I must be productive.  Think about people you know who constantly have to listen to music or TV so that they are not left with a spare moment to reflect.  Others are constantly going somewhere, doing something, again, for the same reason—so that they do not have to be alone with their thoughts and self-reflections.

Increasingly, it seems to me, American society is losing the capacity for reflection.  The ability to value moments of solitude and silence in which to contemplate and listen to your own thoughts and feelings and consider the bigger picture.  

Distraction as a way of life

Many years ago, I worked for a brash, Dutch manager in Europe who was always busy and always outspoken, though to his credit he also cared deeply about his team and their well-being.  He was certainly a victim of this incessant drive to act instead of reflecting.  But he also left me with one particular pearl of wisdom.  At one crucial moment he whispered to me in an aside during a meeting “You know, people have more brain cells in their guts than in their heads…”   Now I don’t know if this is medically correct, however, it is definitely my experience that when I make a good or bad decision, if I listen to my “gut” I will know how I really feel about the decision and sometimes change it.

Some deeply rooted, evolutionary process operates at the subconscious level, I suppose, and confirms via messages from those “brain cells” in your gut whether you have made the right choice.  However, you have to be open to this input, and that requires a certain degree of tranquility, of listening, and of reflection.

Think about that hamster you’ve seen running wildly on his wheel, turning and turning and going nowhere…  That is the state in which we often encounter executives who know at some subconscious level that they need to change their ways, but they do not know how.   Or remember the story about the foreman and the lumberjack.  The foreman notices how one of his men is always working hard but actually not producing very much timber.  Suspicious, the foreman walks over and casually inspects the edge of the lumberjack’s axe.

“You know,” the foreman says, “you could be a lot more productive if you would sharpen this axe.”

“Sure, but I don’t have the time,” replies the lumberjack.

That is a perfect metaphor for businesspeople who are too “busy” to actually look after their own careers.

At the Barrett Group we employ a Targeting step at the outset of each career change program that ensures a thorough reflection on personality, short-term needs, and longer-term objectives.  We call it the Clarity Program©.  Here’s what one recent alumnus, Jim Lareau, has to say about its benefits:

“I hope all the other coaches have the ability to be as insightful and inspiring as Mark [his Clarity Coach] was to me. He helped me to think “deeper” about me and what I need/want/am looking for in my next great adventure. Thank you, Mark!”

So, turn off the TV, close your eyes, listen to your gut, and consider the lumberjack or the hamster.  Get Clarity.  Give us a call.

Peter Irish
The Barrett Group

Effective Law Office Management: 6 Things You Need to Know to Succeed

by Alay Yajnik, Executive Career Coach at The Barrett Group and Law Firm Growth Expert & Founder, Lawyer Business Advantage

Effective Law Office Management

Efficient law office management can be a challenging task; it needs initial and sustained efforts and can be intimidating to even think about … but it definitely pays off. Every law firm aims to operate under efficient law office management systems, but actually making the changes can be daunting.

Although changing is easier said than done, it’s important to remember that you’re in a competitive jungle; one where your profession, livelihood, and oath to serve are at stake. That being said, here are some things to keep in mind to start improving work dynamics in your law firm: 

Setting Goals and Priorities Makes Progress More Visible and Attainable

Looming deadlines are frightening; deadlines that are all over the place are even worse. While office work doesn’t always follow convenient schedules, setting up a law firm goals and priorities will help properly organize workload and optimize productivity.

In doing so, you get to check off work from a structured list so that you can see and feel progress. Make sure you make room for changes in deadlines and schedules. While it’s safe to be strict, it also pays to be versatile.

Having a Manageable Queue of Clients Should be a Priority

Understandably, many fall for the notion that the more clients they have, the more money they make. In a simpler world and business venture, this may be the case; however, with a business operating on legalities, service quality is something you can’t compromise.

For instance, some cases may need legal research. If you’ve got multiple clients lining up or expecting simultaneous and similar services, that’s going to take up time and resources. You might not have enough to provide timely and effective service for everyone. This will definitely take its toll on your practice, possibly tarnishing your reputation in the process.

Get what you can manage, and manage what you can get. 

Paperwork Should be Managed Through a System

Law Office Management

With the mountain of paperwork you constantly face, it’s only logical to resort to a paperwork management system to help you keep track of important files. You can’t risk losing court documents, client information, and accounting files with manual compilation.

While the internet is a great place to build a database for your legal documents, it’s also a risky place to be putting private data on cheap sites and software. So invest in management systems like Practice Panther and Clio for effective law practice management. These kinds of software programs will not only manage your records, but will also help your employees track and coordinate files and tasks.

Delegation is Efficient, Resource-Wise

Some employers can’t seem to find the sweet spot of work-delegation; it’s either they’re delegating it all or barely designating anything. Delegation is not only important for optimum work productivity—you need it to maximize your resources as well.

Delegating gives you the time you need to focus on more important tasks while minor tasks are being accomplished simultaneously. When you delegate tasks, you’re effectively receiving your pay’s worth for your employees while training them in the process to better fit their position.

Meetings and Evaluations Matter

Conducting meetings is an important part of establishing a successful practice. Your meetings are avenues to talk about work-related issues – internal and external. They also help bridge communication gaps.

It’s important to plan the frequency of your meetings depending on the size of your team and your workload. To make your meetings productive, be sure to set agendas prior to the meeting itself and allocate time for issues and concerns before dismissing. Stay professional and handle concerns in a proper manner. Remember to conduct your meetings at least once a week to check on progress, changes, and issues.

Additionally, you can integrate your evaluations during meetings; that’s to say, you can encourage per team or paired evaluation. Individual evaluations would work best on paper and one-to-one communication. Evaluations are great channels in helping your employees realize their strengths, and it helps them work on overall improvement.

Your Legal and Ethical Responsibilities Always Come First

Every employee and official in your law firm represents your practice as a whole; hence, the need to uphold legal and ethical obligations at all times. Not only does going against it risk legal repercussions, it poses danger to your individual credibility as well. You jeopardize your name, profession, and credence when you get involved in any monkey business.

Law office managementwill definitely need you to invest time and other resources. It can be a little disorienting initially, but once everyone gets accustomed to the changes, you can expect an upsurge in productivity. In the long run, this will help you take your practice to a whole new level at a steady and timely pace.

Remember: Effective law office management pays off!

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