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Failure and Self-Confidence: 4 Ways to Protect Your Mojo

Posted by Robert Accomando on Mon, Jul 27, 2015 @ 04:42 PM

Mojo is everything. When you’ve got it, any challenge thrown at you is an opportunity to underscore just how good you are. You pounce. You accelerate to “danger.” You’re smooth and polished when others crumble. You’re right even when you’re wrong. Or at least everyone thinks you are (and that’s worth the price of admission right there). The problem is no matter how good we are, we all sometimes fail – especially high-fliers who tend to push the limits. The problem is failure can do a number on one’s mojo. When our personal confidence is low, our body language, word choices, clarity of thought, ability to inspire others – it all suffers. When a big strike-out leads to a personal slump, life can get down right difficult. No doubt, mojo is some valuable “stuff.”

So unless you can guarantee that you’ll never fail again, consider developing mojo resiliency using the secrets of human biology.

1. Be Kind. Said another way, oxytocin. Being kind and compassionate to others is scientifically proven to make you feel great. But there is a biological reason for that wonderful feeling. The human species has evolved using a cooperative structure, and to keep us cooperating and, therefore, surviving (especially in difficult situations like child rearing, mutual defense, hunting, etc.) Mother Nature devised an ingenious way to rewards us; a shot of oxytocin, which is responsible for creating the feelings of love, friendship and connection. The person helping, the person being helped and other people watching the act of kindness all receive shots of oxytocin. Love and kindness are actually contagious. 

2. Be about Team. Said another way, serotonin. Regardless of your role in life, anyone can find a way to encourage those around them. Whether you are a coach, parent, student, boss or some combination of these roles, chances are you motivate people on a daily basis. As humans, we like to receive praise and recognition for our accomplishments. When we are encouraged, especially by people we respect, we are motivated to keep working hard. Thanks to a release of serotonin, we receive positive feelings of confidence and pride after both recognizing and being recognized for our good deeds and hard work. Seeing people complete these tasks and carry out their accomplishments also releases serotonin. In order to keep your mojo intact, be a team player by positively encouraging the people around you.

3. Be Active. Said another way, endorphins. It’s tricky to always find time in your day to exercise. I’ll be the first to admit that every once in a while I can’t bring myself to exercise (especially after a long day). But if we want to protect our mojo, we need to make the time to get that work out in – no matter what. Endorphins are chemicals that are responsible for “runner’s high,” and otherwise useful for masking pain. Our bodies constantly crave these endorphins, seeing as they are essential for our survival (i.e., keep hunting, keep working on protective shelter, keep looking for water, etc.) and give us a relaxed feeling as a reward. Exercising and completing other physical activities are the most common ways our bodies produce endorphins. Just get out there and do something physical every day. Your body and your mojo will thank you for the effort. Looking like a million bucks doesn’t hurt either, let’s be honest.

4. Be Goal Oriented. Said another way, dopamine. The goals you make on a daily basis do not always have to be formally formatted or eloquently written. Setting goals can be as simple as making a to-do list for your workday or even jotting down a quick grocery list of dinner ingredients. Personally, like a good financial portfolio, I believe in “goal diversification.” Set some easy ones that you know you can attain but also some more challenging ones that are within your abilities but more longer term in nature (i.e., a month or two). Of course, there are the big ones that are just going to be hard to achieve and will likely take more time. Consider further breaking down harder goals into their component parts or “mile stones” so that you can better regulate your dopamine dose and its regularity, so to speak. Accomplishing goals on a regular basis will reward you with that special “yes!” feeling that is just so satisfying. Do celebrate your successes and embrace yourself for a job well done. When others recognize your hard work and accomplishments, you may get a little serotonin and oxytocin for your accomplishements to boot!

Mother Nature has instilled in each of us all the mood altering drugs we’ll ever need. All we have to do is be mindful of our lives and disciplined in how we live them. Simply by being kind, generous, physically active and disciplined we can both protect our mojo and live rich and meaningful lives. Life really is beautiful.

Tags: candidate preparation, C-Suite Advice, HR Thought Leadership; Transformational Leadership, interviewing tips

Assessment Testing and Organizational Arrogance: Avoiding Talent Turn-Off

Posted by Julia Lansing on Fri, Jul 17, 2015 @ 11:07 AM


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A recent article in Harvard Business Review entitled, Ace the Assessment cited recent research showing that “about 76% of organizations with more than 100 employees rely on assessment tools such as aptitude and personality tests for external hiring. That figure is expected to climb to 88% over the next few years.” 

Hey, we get it.  Good executive recruiting firms use assessment tests too, including us at Nutmeg Healthcare Recruiters.  But here is what most organizations don’t get about assessment testing:

From the perspective of a quality, passive candidate, assessment tests are obnoxious.

I love the dating metaphor relative to the interview scenario because people inherently get it.  So imagine, for a moment, the reaction of your high-quality date sitting across the table when you say, “Hey, before we order drinks, I hope you wouldn’t mind taking a little personality test?  I just want to be sure that you have the right stuff before we spend too much time sort of getting to know each other.” 

Now, how long do you think it would take for that quality person to get up and walk out of the restaurant after that kind of statement?   Exactly.  

Most of the time, high-quality candidates know what they have to offer an organization and often don’t accept the premise that somehow they are lucky to be interviewing with your company -- no matter how great you believe your company is.  It amazes me how deeply leadership candidates will connect with the concept of humility when they are on the job market and also how quickly they forget it when they are employed and on the other side of the interview table in their roles as HR leaders or hiring managers.  If I had to take an educated guess as to why that is, it would be about the types of candidates most organizations usually interview – candidates that need a job (i.e., “active candidates”).   Active candidates typically communicate differently with perspective employers during the interview process than those that are not actively on the job market, much like a perspective suiter looking for, say for example, a new spouse with cash.   With most active candidates working hard to impress, many quality organizations can get used to feeling sort of “superior.”   And like celebrities and the uber wealthy, these companies often times get away with being organizationally arrogant in their “dating” process. The result?  Shallow candidate pool. Compromise hires. Lack-luster productivity and moral. Higher turnover. 

Alas, assessment tests are great tools in the hiring process.  Am I suggesting abandoning them?  No.  What I am suggesting, however, is to more carefully consider the timing of when the assessment test is introduced in the process.  Don’t make it part of the initial screening process.  Instead, consider waiting until the interview process has yielded positive impressions for both your organization and the candidate. To use the dating metaphor again, wait until after the second or even third date.  At later stages of the interview process, most quality candidates understand the opportunity more fully and are interested in continuing the process for all the right reasons.   An interested candidate is always much more willing to do what is reasonable to prove they are up to the task in order to land an opportunity seen as personally and professionally advantageous. 

“Wait,” you say, “most candidates have no idea we do these assessments until they arrive at the first interview.  At that point we have them so why waste the time with the interview if they don’t measure up on the test?”  Well, you may physically have them in your HR office and they may even take your test, but in the limbic, decision-making part of their brains – an area incapable of expressing language – most candidates leave those assessment test meetings feeling sort of “exposed” and generally turned-off.   Perhaps that’s par for the course for an active candidate who needs the job and has no good choices but to acquiesce to an organization’s hiring process, but our experience is that assessment tests during initial interview rounds are a definite buzz-kill for a high-quality, passive candidate with choices.  Those are the candidates -- the ones that are attracted to your opportunity on the merits despite their other good choices -- that often make the best hires.

So if you want a second and third “date” with the best candidates out there, an emotionally intelligent interview process is the right way to go.  Save the assessment test until your confident you've got “Mr. or Mrs. Right” and you’re confident your candidate feels the same way.

Tags: candidate preparation, C-Suite Advice, HR Leader Advice, HR Thought Leadership; Transformational Leadership

Communicating “Fit” During Your Interview

Posted by Robert Accomando on Mon, Jul 02, 2012 @ 08:36 AM

If there was ever a fuzzy term in the interview business, “fit” has to be near the top of the list. While different folks define the term in various ways, there is a wonderful scene in a Diane Keaton film called “Baby Boom” that I believe illustrates “fit” in a way most people understand immediately. The main character, played by Diane Keaton, is interviewing a number of apparently qualified but otherwise “fit challenged” nanny candidates to care for her newly acquired baby niece. If you missed the movie back in the late 1980’s or just don’t remember the scene, please take a minute to check it out the first minute or so of the clip on Youtube: 


It’s funny in its exaggeration, but the concept illustrated is clear. “Fit” asks the following questions: 

“Does the candidate’s confidence level, interpersonal skills, communication style, professional aspirations, appearance and demeanor dovetail with the job’s requirements, challenges and the people that this candidate will be working with on a daily basis?”  

That’s not the same question as, “can I see myself becoming friends with this person?” or “do I personally like this person?” This is not about being friends. “Fit” is about having a clear concept of what “kind” of person would likely do well in the role, considering what this person will be required to do and who that person will likely be doing it with.

If you accept this definition of “fit,” you might have come to the realization that there is actually no way to authentically communicate “fit” with integrity except to be yourself throughout the interview process. To that, I would say you’re right! In fact, as a candidate, if you accept a position that doesn’t resonate with you personally, you are not long for “the door,” whether voluntarily or otherwise. Nevertheless, during your interview you should strive to authentically communicate that part of yourself that is professional, capable, appropriately motivated and socially engaging. Fail to do that, and you will take yourself out of the game well before the offer stage, when the power shifts to you -- the candidate (i.e., “I accept the offer” or “I decline”). Here is what you need to do to authentically communicate “fit:”

Be Enthusiastic!  If you have done your homework before your first interview, you should have a pretty good idea as to why the opportunity would be professionally exciting for you.  Don’t be afraid to show it! Employers want to hire those individuals who want them. Your enthusiasm during the interview sends a clear message: “I think this is a great organization, and I really want to be on your team!  I will be a pleasure to work with because I will come to work each day with a smile on my face, happy to be here.”  Even if you do not have all perfect experience for the role you are interviewing for, it is likely that your positive disposition and enthusiasm for the institution will cause them to remember you for alternate or future positions. 

Smile.   Next time you are greeted warmly by someone with a smile, try to notice your initial impression of that individual. Similarly, next time you are greeted by someone with a frown, try notice the difference in how you perceive the individual. If you are like most professional people, you have already made the following observation: people who smile when greeting others for the first time, at the close of a meeting are generally viewed as more likable, genuine, trustworthy and even more intelligent. So smile to everyone you meet during the interview, including the receptionist and those entering and leaving any waiting area. You would be surprised at how many people may have a say in deciding whether you are the best candidate for the job, and many times those people are walking in and out of the very office area where the interview is being held.

Make a Warm Personal Connection.  Certain folks have “the gift.” Others, not so much.  Some folks can do it only if their “in the mood.” Others can “turn it on when needed.”  Wherever you fit in this general description, during your interview process try to employ that part of yourself that is able to connect with other people on a human level. If something is funny, laugh. If there is an awkward moment, roll with it. If a nice complement is paid, be gracious. If the conversation goes in a less formal direction, embrace it without compromising your professionalism. Most people don’t want to work with an android or someone who is uncomfortable in their own skin, so don’t try too hard.  In the end, what will be, will be. Try and just relax and explore. If you decide not to make the job interview the “end of the world,” chances are you will settle in nicely and really connect. 

Tags: candidate preparation, interviewing tips

Interviewing – 101: It’s Always about Competency, “Fit” and Motivation

Posted by Robert Accomando on Wed, Jun 20, 2012 @ 02:00 PM

I don’t care what the job is.  I don’t care what level the job is.  Heck, I don’t even care who the person is that is asking the questions during the interview.  Any legitimate job interview boils down to three fundamental questions:   

  • Can this person do the job?
  • Is this person a good “fit” with the rest of my team?
  • Why is this person “on the market?”

The candidate who takes the time to deeply understand these fundamental questions from the interviewer’s perspective will be light years ahead of any candidate who focuses primarily on their own priorities during the interview process.

Competency and “fit” speak to the fundamentals – whether you can do the job and will work well with the existing team. Just as important to most quality employers is insight into why you want the job. The “why are you looking?” question is a potential minefield for the unprepared candidate, and its mishandling is the most common reason for employer’s decision to “pass.” Much like at the start of personal relationships, new prospective partners are very interested to understand how the last “relationship” ended to get a sense of what they might be “in for” down the road. “Bad-breakups” are a sure sign to most employers that future employer-employee relationships may be rocky, and most employers will avoid taking such risks.

Your job -- if you want “the job” -- is to focus your interview communication on the challenges your perspective employer faces and your shared values. Here is what you need to do:

  • Be prepared to offer concrete examples from your professional past that show you have a track record of success meeting the same or substantially similar challenges your prospective employer is facing.
  • Keep your energy and enthusiasm level high throughout the process. Respond to all related communications promptly and clearly. Nobody wants to hire a dud.
  • Don’t bad mouth past employers or team members. Sometimes things don’t work out. No need to spend a lot of time on it, but what you do say about past employers should be respectful and balanced. No drama. No ambiguous chatter. Just the facts. Try to conclude the related conversation with the positive “take away” that resulted from the employment experience.
Follow that simple advice, and your candidacy will likely resonate. If you don’t, it won’t.  It’s that simple.  

Tags: candidate preparation, interviewing tips