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4 Tips for Answering Influence Skills Questions in Interviews

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We’ve all been on that interview where a prospective employer asks you to “Give me an example of a time when…” It often feels as though the interviewer is just reading off a list of prepared questions. Well, he or she most likely is.

But what does the prospective employer really want to know?

These questions, also known as competency-based or behavioral interview questions, are designed to discover how you may respond in real-world situations. They’re useful for helping hiring managers weed out applicants who look good on paper from the ones who will deliver the results that they need.

Some examples of influence skills questions are:

  • Tell us about a major challenge you encountered in your current position. How did you adapt and overcome?
  • How do you handle projects that require a lot of initiative and team work?
  • What is your approach to dealing with an angry customer? Can you tell us about a specific time when you solved this type of situation?
  • How do you contribute to your organization’s long- and short-term goals?

Even though this style of interviewing has become increasingly popular, questions like these can still throw you for a loop. Here are four tips for answering these questions that will help ensure you project competence and highlight your value.

 

Reach for the STAR

The challenge with influence skills questions usually isn’t thinking of an example; it’s organizing your thoughts efficiently and communicating them powerfully. The STAR acronym outlines four steps to breaking down an influence skills question – no matter how complex it may seem. Keep this in mind when a hiring manager lobs one your way.

  1. Situation. Describe the situation or context of the example. For instance, “We were far behind our projected sales goals and had lost two key members of our team.”
  1. Task. What goal were you trying to meet? What obstacles were you trying to overcome? “We had three weeks to make up 50% of the difference.”
  1. Action you took. Take ownership and use “I” statements frequently. Remember, they are interviewing you – not your former coworkers. “I pulled some long hours running numbers and I discovered missed opportunities…” Also, specifics are crucial here. Try to use actual facts and figures instead of generalizations. “I analyzed three months of account revenue and found 30–40 instances of missed opportunities.”
  1. Results. Again, using “I” statements and specific facts, sum it all up. Example: “I restructured the working hours of the staff to allow for more coverage during high-volume times, resulting in a 35% increase in our closing rate and an additional $500,000 in revenue. My department ended up exceeding our goal by $10,000–$15,000.”

Follow STAR and the other tips outlined above. The next time an interviewer tries to surprise you with an influence skills question, you’ll be more than prepared.

The Art of Persuasion: 3 Ways Women Can Negotiate Better in the Workplace

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We may not realize it, but we spend part of every workday negotiating. Whether it’s asking for a raise, closing a sales deal, pushing for better assignments, requesting more resources, or seeking more flexibility, we use our negotiation skills on a daily basis. However, women appear to be at a disadvantage in this regard.

Research shows that men are often the better negotiators, but Audrey Nelson, Ph.D. believes this is mostly due to cultural stereotypes rather than actual gender differences. A common misconception is that men are typically more direct whereas women are more relational in their style of communication. With these beliefs, women may fail to tap into their true potential. Here are some helpful ways for women to sharpen their negotiating skills and get what they want.

  1. Start Strong

Women are more often shy and more likely to apologize, whereas men say what’s on their minds. Don’t be afraid to cut the small talk and be direct. It may take practice, but the more you do it, the more empowered you’ll feel. Plus, since a direct approach may not be expected, it will give you the upper hand right out of the gate.

  1. Communicate Value

This is a strategy that builds upon a woman’s natural inclination to think globally versus a man’s more linear method. Simplify the desired end result in your mind, but use that as a starting point to map out the ways that goal is beneficial for everyone involved.

For example: You’re a top performer in sales and want to negotiate for a higher compensation package. Communicate your desire clearly at the start of the meeting, and then highlight your contributions to the company. Don’t think of this as bragging – managers are often so busy with other things that they don’t notice the value of their team members.

  1. Know Your Facts

It’s widely known that men tend to be more fact-centered while women tune into feelings. Before you begin your negotiation, do your research! Find out the median salary for your position. Bring hard data to the table (e.g., “In 2016, our department increased revenue by $500,000 while cutting expenses by $100,000”). Know the actual market value of that car or home you’re trying to purchase. Numbers don’t lie, and the more information you have, the more legitimate your end goal will seem to others.

Above all, remember that you’re worth what you’re asking for. Self-confidence provides the foundation upon which all great negotiation is built!

How Sleep Deprivation Negatively Affects Your Work

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It’s widely known that sleep deprivation negatively impacts a person physically, mentally, and emotionally. Our ability to focus, handle stress, and think clearly are all at stake. No matter what your profession, not getting enough sleep has a negative impact on your performance. But when you are a sales professional or a training manager, it doesn’t just affect you – it affects your whole team.

Here are some of the results of sleep deprivation:

* High blood pressure

* Heart attack

* Stroke

* Obesity

* Psychiatric problems, including depression and other mood disorders

* Mental impairment

* Poor quality of life

For your health and your team’s, follow these critical steps to make sleep a priority.

Set a Bedtime Routine and Stick to It—Even on the Weekends

Prepping for bed starts early. Try to begin the process at the same time each evening. Follow these guidelines for a greater chance of success:

* Prohibit alcohol and caffeine consumption within several hours of your desired bedtime

* Exclude screen time one hour before bed

* Don’t do any exercise within three hours of when you want to sleep

* Wake up at the same time each day; don’t sleep in on weekends

Create a Restful Space

Cluttered bedrooms lead to cluttered (and restless) minds. Take some time to create a peaceful, tidy space in which to sleep. Invest in a good mattress and linens. After all, we spend about a third of our lives in bed – which justifies a more substantial investment into that part of our homes!

Consider Incorporating a Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness and meditation practices can lead to falling asleep more quickly and having better quality sleep. By managing stress and keeping you focused throughout the day, mindfulness can also improve performance in other areas.

It’s safe to say that sleep is one of the most influential factors in our daily performance. There’s no such thing as making up for lost sleep, so prioritizing it is crucial. For those in high-pressure sales jobs or people in charge of training programs, it’s even more important to take care of this easy to neglect need.

Ensure that you’re firing on all cylinders and aren’t running the risk of blowing a gasket when things get heated in the office – or when deadlines are looming. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your team. Follow the tips above, and work your way toward more restful nights and more productive days.