Archive for December, 2013

How to Make Your Ideas Memorable: A Simple Acronym to Follow

By Michael Bai

“Tell me about yourself.” If you’re like most people, you dread hearing these four words from the interviewer. You feel as if what you’re saying isn’t interesting and that the interviewer won’t even remember half the things you just told him or her.

Now let me ask you: have you heard of the Kidney Heist? Poisoned Halloween Candy? Bloody Mary? Chances are you have, and you remember the contents of these fictional stories very well. The common factor behind these memorable stories isn’t that they are fake, but that they are “sticky” and contain the elements of SUCCESs, an acronym used by Chip and Dan Health in their book Made to Stick. By incorporating these six elements into your interviews, you will make yourself unforgettable.

Element 1: Simplicity

Keep your ideas concise. Prioritize what you want to say. The goal is to keep messages simple and profound, not just to reduce word count. Oftentimes in interviews, people make the mistake of saying more than they need to and drowning the interviewer in unnecessary details. Stick to facts that strengthen your story.

Element 2: Unexpectedness

A bag of popcorn is as unhealthy as four Big Macs! An unexpected message such as this one grabs the reader’s attention. Whenever an idea doesn’t fit an individual’s expectations, it creates curiosity. People experience dissonance when ideas contradict their own predictions, and they will seek to understand why. In an interview, unexpectedness can help you differentiate yourself from other candidates. During my medical school interview, the committee was surprised to hear that I was a business major, which gave me to the opportunity to explain how my business skills would be valuable in a medical environment.

Element 3: Concreteness

How do we communicate clear ideas? We use sensory words and describe ideas in terms of human actions in order to paint a picture in the minds of our audience. These ideas are naturally easier to visualize and remember. They present things in a manner that every person can understand. When you are telling your interviewer about what you did last summer or about the time you went to Mexico, paint a picture for him. Let him experience what you experienced.

Element 4: Credibility

Why should people believe you? If you are an expert in the area you are talking about, people will not question your authority. However, in many situations, we do not have this luxury. The “try before you buy” method helps solve this problem and involves having your audience members test drive your idea in their heads. For example, a car salesman might ask: “Can you see yourself driving in this convertible with the top down?” When applying to an industry you may not have experience with, tell them about your other experiences and skills that are relevant. Show them that despite the lack of direct experience, you are qualified and a good fit for the job.

Element 5: Emotions

We are not machines. People naturally feel emotion and use emotion to make judgments. When we remember ideas or listen to a story, we are remembering the content as well as the emotions the story makes us feel. A story that is half complete won’t make a very memorable impression on anyone. A message that instills pride and loyalty, on the other hand, can drive an entire nation to action, such as when the Rosie the Riveter poster inspired women to work in factories. Use facial expressions and body language in conjunction with your words to show your passion for the organization. Prove to the interviewer that you are genuinely interested and this job is what you want to do.

Element 6: Stories

Before email or instant messaging, people communicated ideas through stories. Storytelling is a way of creatively expressing ourselves and informing others. Being an effective storyteller means incorporating all of the above elements in order to communicate your ideas in ways that are both interesting and informative for the audience. When an interviewer asks you a behavioral question, he is basically telling you to provide him or her a relevant story. By using all six of these elements, you can make sure that both you and your story are memorable.

December 2, 2013 at 10:25 am 4 comments

Avoid Poor First Impressions

By Jessie Nerkowski

Have you ever rushed to a particular seat in a restaurant with the best view of people? I certainly have.  Every time I go to dinner with my mom, we race to the better “people-watching” seat and when I win, she always says “you turkey.”  This little race may seem silly to you, but we are just “people watching.”  If you’ve never people watched, try observing strangers for a few seconds and form quick impressions of them.

Before I began writing this post, I performed a quick Google search for “making a first impression” and instantly Forbes returned Seven Seconds to Make a First Impression, 5 Ways to Make a Killer First Impression, and 5 Tips to Create a Positive First Impression.  By briefly skimming these articles, you’ll learn how to present yourself at a business party or networking event, as well as how to perfect your impressions in interviews, but you will not learn the importance of first impressions in your casual and daily life.

Why am I discussing “people watching” in a business communication blog post about first impressions?  The answer is simple: you never know who you will be in contact with at any moment.  Whether you are going grocery shopping on a Saturday or running errands before you head to the gym, you constantly create first impressions as you associate yourself with new people.  If your parents are like mine, they raised you on the cliché “don’t judge a book by its cover” to make sure you get to know people before you make rash judgments about them.  The truth is, however, you judge people within seconds of meeting them, and they do the same to you.  Below are three ways to help you always create a positive and meaningful first impression.

1.  Fake It Until You Make It

A simple smile is one of your greatest assets to making positive first impressions.  A smile not only makes you seem like a happy person, it also makes you more approachable to other people.  Think about your shopping experiences–what type of people do you approach for help?  Personally, I always try to avoid the scowling assistant because I prefer to avoid unhappy people.  Therefore, when you are having a bad day, try smiling and being positive. Just as smiling when public speaking can settle your nerves and also hide your anxiety about presenting, a smile changes your attitude by giving you confidence or avoiding negativity.  Ultimately, keep faking it until you make it because negative energy is just as contagious as laughter.

2.  Look Good, Feel Good

Remember a time when you put a little extra effort into your clothes and hair for the day.  How did you feel?  I feel great when I am confident about my appearance.  It seems crazy, but your appearance can greatly affect how you feel about yourself and how others perceive you.  I am not suggesting that you have to dress fancy every day, but always be put together and dress appropriately for the occasion.  Whether you are heading to the gym, meeting your friends for dinner, or watching your favorite sports team, your appearance should always be well-groomed, coordinated, and appropriate.

3.  Be Confident, Not Cocky

Confidence begins with good body language.  Just like you smile to feel good, stand tall and keep good posture to exude confidence.  To avoid appearing insecure, maintain open gestures and arms.  If you constantly cross your arms, you may come off as reserved and unapproachable. Similarly, when you directly interact with someone, remember to have open body gestures, look him/her in the eye, and give a firm handshake.  This initial handshake and eye contact creates an instant connection, and if you’ve ever received the “limp fish” hand, you know that’s not a positive impression.

Though you want to demonstrate confidence, you must avoid crossing the fine line to cockiness.  With my “people watching” experiences, I quickly labeled some people cocky based on their self-centered interactions with others and with me.  To avoid crossing that line, be humble.  Focus on the “you” and not the “I.”  Though people want to hear about you and your experiences, they don’t want you to brag.

To conclude, remember that everybody is “people watching,” and you are always being judged.  On any given day you can interact with someone important, and your first impression is a lasting impression.  Therefore, remember to smile, stand tall, and dress for success.

December 2, 2013 at 10:04 am 5 comments


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