The Desk

November 20, 2014

Career Tip: How Am I Doing

Filed under: Career Tips,Job Search — Yvonne LaRose @ 12:35 PM
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A young woman who had attended a class with me happened to mention a group interview where she was one of the candidates. She shared her concern about how she did and whether she would be called back for Step 5 of the six-part interview screening.

What she expressed was trying to figure out what the interviewer was thinking and their reaction to her. The interviewer seemed to have a skeptical posture and kept looking at her while covering their mouth with one hand, almost as if to hide a sneer.

One thing the young woman shared was the impressions of one of her competitors. That person commented on how articulate and well spoken she was during the interview. They admired her for those talents and expressed a desire to be that capable.

So how did this young woman do and what could she have done to feel she’d won over the interviewer? My suggestion hailed back to my days of competitive speech.

The competition in the speech rounds was the other five orators and the judge. The other speakers were also audience. It was my job to deliver my speech as well as possible, as convincingly as possible, with good expression (physical, verbal, appearance), good interpretation of the message, and win over anyone who appeared to be hostile while addressing everyone in the room.

My technique was to speak to everyone in the room, making eye contact with each one. But I would give a little extra eye contact or emphasize a particular point while looking at the one person who appeared to be the most hostile toward me or skeptical of my ability. If I saw their attitude melting, I was certain that I’d won over the entire room and also placed well in the round. Each time I employed that tactic, I placed first in that particular round and usually came away from the competitions having won first or second place in that category of speaking.

Win your detractor to your side by knowing your subject extremely well. Make good eye contact. Definitely avoid staring; be amicable. Ask good expositive questions that concern matters that could not be ascertained online or through research.

Close the interview with courtesy, a friendly hand shake, a thank you for having been able to have the meeting (it could have been cancelled) and the opportunity to learn more about the opportunity and the company.

The Other Things

Did you notice the people you passed as you went to the office where you were to be interviewed? Did you pay attention to what they were doing, how they were interacting with others, what they were saying or how they were saying it? All of that comprised just some of the working environment and culture. In addition to thinking about whether you’ll be called back for the next phase, think about whether that culture and atmosphere is what you want for your work life or how you can make a positive impact there.

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July 23, 2012

Qualified and Disabled


After making formal application for an advertised opportunity, I was invited to interview. When the interviewer saw that I am blind and use a wheelchair, she exclaimed that she could not see how I would be of benefit to that company [in light of my disabilities].

I got the job but I would like to know what to do the next time I interview and face a similar negative attitude.


I’m glad that this sounds as though the outcome was positive. It shows that you demonstrated some excellent skills and ability to do the job. Congratulations. It also sounds as though you did a very good job of creating a sense of credibility for yourself through doing well during the interview. Possibly, you said empowering things that you did not even realize you were saying.

In answering your question, let me start then by discussing the most essential presentation during an interview.

  • your skills and qualifications for the opportunity
  • quantifiable evidence of how you are qualified
  • how those skills and qualifications will help the business function as well or better with you in the position.

You already pointed out that you were early for the appointment. That is good. It shows that you appreciate timeliness and that worked in your favor. No doubt, you took with you two extra copies of your resume so that they were ready in case your interviewer did not have it on top of her desk and you had one for yourself to pull out and discuss with them. You demonstrated being well prepared and skill in foreseeing and making contingency plans for unforseen circumstances. You showed diplomacy and tact.

The focus should not be on your shortcomings nor your disability (please note that those are two different things) but on you, how and why you are qualified. Discuss your direct, on-the-job experience that relates to the new opportunity. Discuss how well you performed in your last situation and how your input was beneficial to the customer and the company. If there were things or situations that were done better because of your involvement, talk about them.

Your speech should be cordial, business-like and professional. It should be at a good volume – not loud nor apologetic. Make certain your voice does not sound whiney – don’t be a martyr nor a cry baby. You are a strong, intelligent professional person. Show that in your deportment and presentation.

Finally (for this writing), openly discuss your disabilities. However, do not apologize for them. Discuss how adaptive you are to many situations and in short order so that you have several approaches to situations. These are not disabilities; they are opportunities for new ways of doing things. They are abilities that others do not have. Sometimes being in a chair makes you better suited for doing certain things better or more easily than others. Having low vision or no vision affords you with still other advantages. Point them out.

And having a disability is not the same as not being able. It is merely a different way of handling life and business situations. Two of your fellow South Africans have discussed coming into meaningful contributions to business and society by realizing how those “disabilities” proved to be assets and empowerment. Likewise, they point out how that South Africa’s (as well as India’s) relatively recent affirmative action legislation has created new legal bases for opening doors.

Although it positively states that those with disabilities are entitled to vie for opportunities, there is still a long way to go as far as making that new legislation meaningful for there is still the critical element of educating employers about the opportunities that are available to them through using all of the diverse population – diverse in age, sex, race and abilities. Likewise, there is still the matter of educating employers about the fact that employing those with “disabilities” is not a costly proposition and does not mean extraordinary expense to include that segment of candidates in the considered roster of candidates and personnel.

You did well and it appears you did so without realizing you did so. Focus on how you will be an asset to the company and will save money, enhance the business opportunities, have abilities that your co-workers may not have because of the issues that others see as shortcomings. Affirmatively show how you are qualified and “disabled.”

About the Author:

Yvonne LaRose was a Disabilities Accommodation Provider in the Bay Area of California from 1993 to 1997 as well as one of the founding members of Bay Area Disabilities Coalition (BADC). In addition, she was a news reader for Broadcast Services for the Blind (BSB) (a private band radio station based in the Rose Resnick Lighthouse for the Blind that reaches 13,000 listeners in 13 counties) from 1993 to 1997. From BSB, she produced and hosted her bi-weekly radio features and newscast, “Legally Speaking” from 1994 to 1996.

Originally published December 25, 2001

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August 9, 2011

How to best explain a gap in employment

Filed under: Job Search — Yvonne LaRose @ 12:54 PM
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How to best explain a gap in employment.

A very useful article for getting the Thinking Cap on your head and your head in the right place. Not every interview question is an indictment of you and your history. In fact (and as author Patti  Sinacole says), each question is an opportunity. The underlying statement is that the interviewer is very interested and is opening the door to learn how well this fit may be.

Go a head and talk about the projects that you’ve been working on (just a few, mind you) during your “unemployment” and toss in a few anecdotes about the volunteer projects that could have been considered either internships or another type of employment situation.

These types of interview questions are simply pulling open the door of opportunity. Remember to have your own screening and clarifying questions so you can assure yourself this is indeed a good match.

March 13, 2009

Job Search Effectiveness

Filed under: Job Search,Networking — Yvonne LaRose @ 3:03 AM
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There are so many in the media who are more than enthusiastic about jumping on the “tight labor market” bandwagon. It seems like everyone and his neighbor is harping about how hard it is to find a job and the extraordinary lengths to which people need to go in order to find one.

Are you having trouble finding candidates who are qualified to fill your reqs?

On yesterday’s news, a guy was interviewed. He stands on a street corner everyday at 5:30 AM with a sheaf of his resume under his arm. He passes out his resume until 7:30 AM and then goes elsewhere to do other job search activities. He said he highlights a few things here and there in his resume and relies on the person who’s reading it to do some intuitive, active reading to draw lineals from one experience to another.

There’s a flaw in that thinking. Recruiters who review resumes only have about one minute, at best two, to see the matches for the job req they have on their desk. If it doesn’t jump out at them within that time, it goes into the slush pile until the next time they’re looking for that same generic job title.

The other thing this guy who stands on the street corner does is yet another of the sins he’s committing against himself. In the discussions, we’ve shared about the one-minute impressionand how that boils down into the 15- or 30-second elevator pitch. Apparently the resume distributor has those first three elements of the positive impression down pat.

But when it came to talking about what he wants, he dismally failed. The reporter was adept at asking what he’d done before. We got a vague answer about management here and supervision there but nothing we could sink our teeth into. (Maybe I wanted to go see this guy. I may have something to offer him.)

The reporter pressed on. The next question was what type of job the resume distributor wants. This was the moment. He was asking for the world and the world was at his feet. His answer was, “well, I’ll take whatever is out there at this point in time.” After going through all of the efforts, he had no specific job he is angling to get.

I have to wonder how his resume points anyone to the precise thing they want let alone what he wants. No matter what shape our economy is in, there are certain things that are just basics. They have to be there in order for us to get started on a good job search. The resume distributor has put together a job history on paper and made thousands of copies of it which he diligently gives away to every passerby. But he hasn’t done any type of evaluation of this document nor attempted to tailor it to his search. In fact, he hasn’t even shaped his search!

Resume Distributor had the opportunity of a lifetime dropped into his lap. The reporter for statewide radio news asked him what type of job he wanted. His 10 seconds of fame and opportunity were there. All he could come up with was “I’m open to anything right now.”

Maybe he should have said, “. . . anything related to XYZ industry.”

I’ll bet I could have gone to the Occupational Outlook Handbook and found at least a dozen job titles that are related to this guy’s last job. From there, we could have worked on finding some things that are good matches for his personality and background and started a job search for him.

Since Resume Distributor didn’t give any clues about his background, let’s choose a generic job title and see if we can brainstorm some related job titles.

tax preparer
financial analyst
financial advisor
IRS agent
inventory taker
stock clerk

It might be fun to try some other job titles and see what alternates come up. At least we’d have some things to think about in case, during these times of change, some categories are simply being phased out.

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