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How To Spot a Bad Job Candidate in an Interview

indifference A commenter (Sebastian from my friends at Webmail.us) reminded me that I completely forgot to write my promised follow up to my post about identifying bad job candidates.

The post was a good idea and I’m happy that Sebastian reminded me. In the first post, I already talked about some things you can look for when screening candidates. Assume the candidate has passed that test – their resume looks good and you’re now ready for some sort of in person or phone interview. What should you look for in that initial interview?

Did they do their homework?
I like to start off interviews with a few questions that essentially ask if the candidate has done his or her homework. Questions can include “How would you describe the services we offer?”, “What would you say our competitive advantages are?”, etc. These not only see if the candidate has bothered to look at the company’s web site, but also can give the interviewer an idea about whether or not the candidate “gets” the company.

Are they paying attention?
It seems minor and is very subjective, but it helps to notice how much attention the candidate is paying to you and the interview in general. Are they “with it” (you can tell)?

Do they blame others?
I can’t stand it when job candidates blame other people (bosses, colleagues, policies, etc.) during interviews. If they’re making excuses, it causes me to think a lot less of them. It just isn’t a personality trait I like and it isn’t a personality trait that is good for customer service.

Are they specific?
A big thing I look for in answers is how specific they are. Specific answers are infinitely better than vague ones. I want to hear how, what, and why the candidate did something at their last job – not just that they “improved customer service.”

Attitude makes a huge difference – especially for entry level customer service positions. Does the candidate smile? Does he or she use positive words? How is the candidate’s tone of voice? Does he or she laugh? Things like that can all be good indicators about a candidate’s attitude.

Little things.
I also want to see a candidate that is dressed neatly and professionally, is early (5 – 10 minutes) or at least on time, and is nice to employees (receptionists, security, etc.).

What do you look for when you’re interviewing job candidates?

Sample Holiday Card Writings

proj_a536b On Tuesday, I told you about my process for writing and sending out holiday cards. It is a somewhat involved, but still doable process.

A big question that a lot of people ask, search, and email about is what to write on the inside of holiday cards. Most of the searches and questions to date have been about thank you cards, but also what to write on holiday cards.

Last year, I provided some (good) suggestions about what you can write on your holiday cards to professional associates, clients, etc. Here are the ones from last year (with the dates updated):

  • Happy Holidays to you and your family.
  • I wish you and your family a very happy and safe holiday season.
  • It was a pleasure making your acquaintance (and/or working with you) in 2007.
  • Have a very happy holiday.
  • Thank you for your help and advice. Have a very happy and safe holiday season.
  • Thank you for your business in 2007. We look forward to serving you in 2008.

    Obviously, you can’t use the same line two years in a row. I personally like to have a general theme and customize it a bit whenever possible. For the cards I sent, my general theme was “happy holidays to you and your family” and I customized it from there.

    For example, I wrote something like:


    Happy holidays to you and your family! I hope you enjoy your time off from work – better get rested up for when you get back and things start picking up in early January! Great working with you in 2007.

    Best wishes,
    so and so

    The point is to be personal. You don’t want your message to sound robotic or like a template. The more you can personalize it, the better.

    I like using best wishes or warm regards as my closing for holiday cards. I don’t use them at all except on cards, but that’s fine. I think the connotation is appropriate for a holiday card.

    What do you usually write on your holiday cards?

  • Keep Your Cool on the Phone – Part 2


    This is part two (part one is here) of the guest post written by Jennifer Harris from Ruby Receptionists.

    Some may think it is a good idea to agree with everything the angry caller has to say, “Yes, that is awful, I totally agree 100%.”  The problem is this can be patronizing and the caller will pick up on that.  We have found it is better the only empathize when we really do agree with the caller.  It is often easier just to get the caller on your side.  “Here is what we are going to do… Why don’t we try all of his lines, and if we are unable to reach him, we will leave him a voice mail and a written message that I will mark urgent.  That way we attack from two fronts.”  By doing this you bring them on your side, so the two of you are working together.  Then you give them a plan of action, so they know everything about the process, making them feel more in control.  Finally, by saying something like this, you are letting them know that you are doing everything in your power to get them what they want and hopefully they will stop being angry … at least with you.

    One more trick I like to employ is just to smile.  The caller cannot see my smile, but it tends to show up in my voice.  No matter how horrible I find the caller, I just keep grinning and even if I do not succeed in cheering them up, at least I feel fine when the call is done.

    Sometimes there is just no pleasing a caller.  They want to yell, and you are the lucky person who will receive the yelling.  Just remember to stay calm, use the tricks above, and if they don’t work, end the call politely, when you have done everything you can, and forget about them.  If you are able, walk around the block, eat something crunchy (I like carrots), and remember, they are not mad at you, they are mad at their situation and you got caught in the crossfire.

    Jennifer Harris works as the sales coordinator for Ruby Receptionists, before which she worked as a receptionist for 5 years, learning all the ins and outs of phone etiquette.

    Holiday Cards

    CAN5249Lg It’s that time of year again. Many of you have likely already put your holiday cards in the mail. I just put about half of mine in the mail yesterday and am working on the next batch now. 

    Here is how I managed my holiday card process:

    Purchased cards. 
    I went to the Hallmark store and got four boxes (yes, I send a lot of cards) of a nice card type. It wasn’t holiday-specific and was pretty modern and upbeat.

    Customized envelopes.
    Each card obviously came with an envelope. I set my printer to print on the envelopes – that way I could type them out. This required some trial and error, but I got it working. To add to the general effect, I matched the font and capitalization style that was on the inside of the card.

    Create list.
    I sent an email out to most people on my mailing list asking them to send me their update address. I imported this list into Microsoft Word and it started printing envelopes. I soon had all the envelopes I need already addressed and ready to go.

    Write out cards.
    This is the most time consuming part of the process, but also the best part. I wrote out a nice little note to each person. Since I don’t send out that many (read: I don’t send out hundreds), I’m able to customize them. Many of them had a general theme, but I don’t think any two cards had the exact same message. What they each did do was:

    • mention the date (December 2007)
    • say Happy Holidays on them
    • address the person by his or her first name

    Once I was finished writing out the card, I would put it in the appropriate envelope and put that card in my “ready to be mailed pile.”

    Seal and stamp.
    I can’t stand licking envelopes, so I tape them. I taped all the envelopes and put a stamp on them. Before sealing the envelope, I double checked that the name matched the address on the card. The stamps weren’t holiday themed, but that’s fine. Once the cards were checked, stamped, and sealed, I put them in the mailbox and off they went.

    For some more on this subject, check out this post from last year. What is your holiday card sending procedure like? Later this week (Thursday), I will post some sample holiday card sayings.

    Outstanding Blog Meme

    There has been an “Oustanding Blog” meme going around, which Service Untitled is proudly a part of. It was started by Troy from OrbitNow. There are a lot of great blogs here and there is a lot you can learn from them. Feel free to post the list on your blog.

    1. 100 Bloggers
    2. 37 Days
    3. 3i
    4. 43 Folders
    5. A Clear Eye
    6. A Daily Dose of Architecture
    7. The Agonist
    8. All Things Workplace
    9. All This Chittah Chattah
    10. Angela Maiers
    11. Antonella Pavese
    12. Arizona High Tech
    13. A Writer’s Words, An Editor’s Eye
    14. Badger Blogger
    15. Bailey WorkPlay
    16. Being Peter Kim
    17. Brett Trout
    18. Best of Mother Earth
    19. Beyond Madison Avenue
    20. Biz and Buzz
    21. Bizhack
    22. BizSolutions Plus
    23. Blog Business World
    24. Bloggers Showroom
    25. Blogging for Business
    26. Blogher
    27. Blog Till You Drop!
    28. Bob Sutton
    29. Brain Based Business
    30. Brains on Fire
    31. Brand Autopsy
    32. The Brand Builder Blog
    33. Branding and Marketing
    34. Branding Strategy
    35. Brand is Language
    36. BrandSizzle
    37. Brandsoul
    38. Bren Blog
    39. Business Evolutionist
    40. Business Management Life
    41. Business Pundit
    42. Business Services, Etc.
    43. Busy Mom
    44. Buzz Canuck
    45. Buzz Customer
    46. Buzzoodle
    47. Career Intensity
    48. Carpe Factum
    49. Casual Fridays
    50. Change Your Thoughts
    51. Chaos Scenario
    52. Cheezhead
    53. Chief Happiness Officer
    54. Chris Brogan
    55. Christine Kane
    56. Church of the Customer
    57. Circaspecting
    58. CK’s Blog
    59. Come Gather Round
    60. Community Guy
    61. Confident Writing
    62. Conversation Agent
    63. Converstations
    64. Cooking for Engineers
    65. Cool Hunting
    66. Core77
    67. Corporate Presenter
    68. Crayon Writer
    69. Creating a Better Life
    70. Creating Passionate Users
    71. Creative Think
    72. CRM Mastery
    73. Crossroads Dispatches
    74. Cube Rules
    75. Culture Kitchen
    76. Customers Are Always
    77. Customer Service Experience
    78. Customer Service Reader
    79. Customers Rock!
    80. Custserv
    81. Craig Harper
    82. Daily Fix
    83. Dawud Miracle
    84. Dave Olson
    85. David Airey
    86. David Maister
    87. David S Finch
    88. Design Your Writing Life
    89. Digital Common Sense
    90. Director Tom
    91. Diva Marketing
    92. Do You Q
    93. Duct Tape Marketing
    94. Empowerment 4 Life
    95. The Engaging Brand
    96. Essential Keystrokes
    97. Every Dot Connects
    98. Experience Architect
    99. Experience Curve
    100. Experience Matters
    101. Extreme Leadership
    102. Eyes on Living
    103. Feld Thoughts
    104. Flooring the Customer
    105. Fouroboros
    106. Franchise Pick
    107. FutureLab
    108. Genuine Curiosity
    109. Glass Half Full
    110. The Good Life
    111. Great Circle
    112. Greg Verdino’s Marketing Blog
    113. Hee-Haw Marketing
    114. Hello, My Name is BLOG
    115. Holly’s Corner
    116. Homeless Family
    117. The Idea Dude
    118. I’d Rather be Blogging
    119. Influential Marketing
    120. Innovating to Win
    121. Inspiring & Empowering Lives
    122. Instigator Blog
    123. Interview Chatter
    124. Jaffe Juice
    125. Jibber Jobber
    126. Joyful Jubilant Learning
    127. Joy of Six
    128. Kent Blumberg
    129. Kevin Eikenberry
    130. Learned on Women
    131. Life Beyond Code
    132. Lip-sticking
    133. Listics
    134. The Lives and Times
    135. Live Your Best Life
    136. Live Your Inspiration
    137. Living Light Bulbs
    138. Logical Emotions
    139. Logic + Emotion
    140. Make It Great!
    141. Making Life Work for You
    142. Management Craft
    143. Managing with Aloha
    144. The M.A.P. Maker
    145. The Marketing Excellence Blog
    146. Marketing Headhunter
    147. Marketing Hipster
    148. The Marketing Minute
    149. Marketing Nirvana
    150. Marketing Roadmaps
    151. Marketing Through the Clutter
    152. Mary Schmidt
    153. Masey
    154. The Media Age
    155. Micropersuasion
    156. Middle Zone Musings
    157. Miss604
    158. Moment on Money
    159. Monk at Work
    160. Monkey Bites
    161. Movie Marketing Madness
    162. Motivation on the Run
    163. My 2 Cents
    164. My Beautiful Chaos
    165. Naked Conversations
    166. Neat & Simple Living
    167. New Age 2020
    168. New Charm School
    169. Next Up
    170. No Man’s Blog
    171. The [Non] Billable Hour
    172. Note to CMO
    173. Office Politics
    174. Optimist Lab
    175. The Origin of Brands
    176. Own Your Brand
    177. Pardon My French
    178. Passion Meets Purpose
    179. Pause
    180. Peerless Professionals
    181. Perfectly Petersen
    182. Personal Branding
    183. The Podcast Network
    184. The Power of Choice
    185. Practical Leadership
    186. Presentation Zen
    187. Priscilla Palmer
    188. Productivity Goal
    189. Pro Hip-Hop
    190. Prosperity for You
    191. Purple Wren
    192. QAQnA
    193. Qlog
    194. Reveries
    195. Rex Blog
    196. Ririan Project
    197. Rohdesign
    198. Rothacker Reviews
    199. Scott H Young
    200. Search Engine Guide
    201. Servant of Chaos
    202. Service Untitled
    203. Seth’s Blog
    204. Shards of Consciousness
    205. Shotgun Marketing
    206. Simplenomics
    207. Simplicity
    208. Slacker Manager
    209. Slow Leadership
    210. Socially Adept
    211. Social Media Marketing Blog
    212. Spare Change
    213. Spirit in Gear
    214. Spooky Action
    215. Steve’s 2 Cents
    216. Strategic Design
    217. Strength-based Leadership
    218. StickyFigure
    219. Studentlinc
    220. Success Begins Today
    221. Success Creeations
    222. Success From the Nest
    223. Successful Blog
    224. Success Jolt
    225. Talk to Strangers
    226. Tammy Lenski
    227. Tell Ten Friends
    228. That Girl from Marketing
    229. Think Positive!
    230. This Girl’s Weblog
    231. Thoughts & Philosophies
    232. Tom Peters
    233. Trust Matters
    234. Verve Coaching
    235. Viral Garden
    236. Waiter Bell
    237. Wealth Building Guy
    238. What’s Next
    239. Writers Notes
    240. You Already Know this Stuff
    241. Zen Chill

    Keep Your Cool on the Phone – Part 1

    kx-t7731b_left This is part 1 of a 2 part guest writer post on keeping your cool on the phone. It’s written by Jennifer Harris from Ruby Receptionists.

    What do you do when you work primarily on phones and have an irate caller on the line? The easy thing would be to match their annoyance level. Get angry right back, and throw some well places obscenities in for good measure… right? Well, sure, if you want to lose your job. I work for a virtual reception company and all day long we talk to people over the phone. We get happy callers, angry callers, callers with crazy stories, and callers who did not dial correctly. The happy callers are easy; they call in ready to be pleased. The angry callers, not so much.

    A receptionist is able to tell right away who the difficult caller will be. They are the ones who, rather than saying, “Hello, may I please speak to Joe Bloggs,” say, “JOE STILL HASN’T RETURNED MY CALL! ARE YOU EVEN DOING YOUR JOB?” The inexperienced receptionist will get flustered in this situation. He or she will make excuses and often end up sounding worse than if they had just yelled back. The bad receptionist will actually yell back. In a situation like this, it is best not to match the tone of the caller. Instead, as one seasoned receptionist told me, “I put on my preschool manners basically. By lowering my voice they have to really listen to hear me and they usually end up matching my tone.” When someone is about to blow their top, she demonstrates the behavior she would like to see from the caller. She speaks calmly and brings them down to her level of calm.

    (more about handling angry callers on Wednesday)

    Jennifer Harris works as the sales coordinator for Ruby Receptionists, before which she worked as a receptionist for 5 years, learning all the ins and outs of phone etiquette.

    HomeHero Revamps the Ordinary

    homehero I find it really interesting when ordinary products are redesigned. Ordinary products that no one thinks twice about because they’re so common and so uninteresting. A product called HomeHero is changing what people think of the fire extinguisher.

    Everyone knows of the big red fire extinguishers. They’re heavy. They’re ugly. They aren’t super simple. Because they’re big and red and ugly, a lot of people don’t put them in plain sight. An equally large number of people can’t remember where they ended up putting their fire extinguisher when they actually need it.

    Fire extinguishers can save life and save property. People don’t want people to get hurt or for their homes to burn down. They also don’t want to have a huge ugly fire extinguisher in every corner of the house, either. HomeHero understood these problems and saw a big opportunity there.

    bsr-a500They worked to design a fire extinguisher that looks a lot better than the big red thing that people are accustomed to seeing. It’s slick and white (almost like a certain MP3 player that could have inspired it). It’s easier to operate and supposedly more user friendly.

    HomeHero took a super ordinary product and made it better. They addressed one of the consumer’s main concerns about the product and made it better. I’m really curious to see how successful HomeHero will be when it hits the market in full force. Personally, I think it will be successful.

    The trick is thinking about ordinary things that can be improved a lot and have been neglected for a while. Televisions are ordinary and can be improved, but there are a lot of people thinking about those. You need to find things that have been left untouched for a long time (like fire extinguishers).

    Some of my initial thoughts about ordinary things that can be improved:

    • Smoke alarms
    • Garage door openers (the handheld part and the actual machine)
    • Chargers for various devices
    • Shopping carts (I know IDEO tackled this once)
    • Gas stations
    • Self checkout

    I also thought of shower heads and remote controls, but there are a lot of people working on those already. What are some things you’ve thought of? Where can great design make a huge difference?

    The wrong way to market.

    I just got finished writing about how classy American Express was with their advertising. It’s sad, but another company did the complete opposite to me a few days ago. Their method of marketing was tacky at best and unethical at worst.

    The story is pretty simple. A company I thought was Toyota (though I’m still not sure who actually sent it) sent me a postcard saying that there was important information about my warranty and I had to call immediately. I figured it was something to do with a recall or with registering my warranty to ensure they knew when it’d be over.

    I call the number and am connected to this guy with a really strong southern accent. The accent in general doesn’t bother me, but he was difficult to understand since it wasn’t that refined of an accent. He was actually fairly nice, but I recognized it pretty early on: the call was just a sales pitch.

    The guy started talking about how there were a lot of recalls on my make and model (which isn’t true) and how I should get an extended warranty. I started to ask a question and he transferred me to a sales representative.

    One good thing was that the sales representative (who was much easier to understand than the first guy who answered the phone) had all of my information already. He didn’t really make that clear until I asked a question or two, but he had all the information I had given the previous guy.

    I asked the sales representative a few questions and tried to get a price. After being somewhat forceful, he gave me a price. The price was too high, so I said thank you and told him I wasn’t interested. He wasn’t able to say a response for some weird reason and just made noises (I’m serious!) until I hung up.

    My main contention was the way the warranty company presented the offer. If they sent me a nice brochure or mailing about what their warranties covered, how they could help me, and the general prices, I would have been much happier. I hate “bait and switch” offers as a customer and as a professional. They’re tacky and do nothing for the brand.

    If you have an offer, say it up front. It’s your job as a marketer to get the potential customers’ interest – not to lead them on.

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