What’s Your Story?

April 26, 2018 • 2 minute read • by Saeed

Want to up your job interview game? Learn how to tell your story.

Step 1: Start by asking a few ‘Origin Story’ questions by going back in time (pro tip: ask your mom the same questions):

  • What have I always gravitated towards naturally?
  • What activities did I lose myself in?
  • What did I talk about all the time?
  • What did I love to read?

Step 2: Extract key themes to ‘discover’ your true self.

Step 3: Connect these discoveries with what you do now or want to do.

Step 4: Look at job openings with this new perspective.

Step 5: Look for jobs that reconnect you to these early ‘values.’

Step 6: In the interview, connect a story from your past to the role you are applying for in the present and connect the two to show why you are the right fit.

Step 7: Sign offer letter.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

How To Nail Your Next Job Interview

August 9, 2017 •   4 minute read • by Saeed

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” ~ Steve Martin

Over the span of my career, I have interviewed hundreds of job candidates and have been interviewed countless of times myself. I am always amazed at the poor performance on both sides of the table.

I assume you are reading this because you have an upcoming interview.

I also assume you know the basics:

  • Dress for the part;
  • Arrive a few minutes early;
  • Shake hands, don’t hug (really, I’ve had that happen);
  • Have an extra copy of your resume and cover letter on hand;
  • Don’t respond with canned answers;
  • Prepare examples;
  • Research the company and prepare three questions to ask;
  • Don’t go off on a rant about how technology is destroying us if you are applying for a job at a Apple or how wall street is fleecing us if you are applying for a job at Goldman Sachs and so on;
  • Send a hand-written thank you letter.

Lastly, I assume you know that an impression is formed within the first 60 seconds of meeting you. Actually, the research says 1/10 of a second but who’s counting.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s focus on how to actually answer questions. One of the biggest turn-offs in interviews is when people ramble on. To avoid being a babbling brook, use the STAR technique. This is an especially useful technique for answering interview questions in which you must answer with an anecdote. There are four key steps: situation, task, action, and results. Here is how it works:

(S) Situation. Describe the situation in which the event took place.

(T) Task. Describe the task you were asked to complete. If there was a particular problem or issue you were trying to solve, describe that here.

(A) Action. Explain what action you took to complete the task or solve the problem.

(R) Results. Explain the result of your actions. For example, if your actions resulted in completing a task, resolving a conflict, improving your company’s sales record, etc., explain this. Try to focus on how your actions resulted in a success for the company

Now that you have your technique down, let me give you the big secret to job interviews: People want to hire people they can see themselves working with on a daily basis. In other words, it has to be a good fit regardless of your qualifications or experience. Otherwise, both sides will be stuck in a perennial state of unhappiness. So remember, if you don’t get the job maybe it’s because it wasn’t meant to be.

Good Luck.

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.



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The Best Leaders Hire For Emotional Intelligence Not Just Technical Skills

July  12, 2017 •   3 minute read • by Saeed

Silicon Valley is associated with nerd culture stereotyped as socially awkward, tech savvy, sci-fi loving loners who probably don’t rank high on emotional intelligence.

But the stories I have heard about Silicon Valley scions like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg suggest otherwise. In fact, these folks rank high on emotional intelligence and the way they approach candidate interviews proves it.

Jobs famously would conduct interviews by taking a walk around the block with the person being interviewed. The longer the walk went, the more likely it was that Jobs thought the person compelling.  Surely, he was trying to get a sense of the whole person and not just their technical skills.

Musk famously asks candidates one question and listens closely to what they say: “Tell me the story of your life and the decisions that you made along the way and why you made them and also tell me about some of the most difficult problems you worked on and how you solved them.”

The answer tells him who really knows what they’re doing and who’s grandstanding, and it helps him choose employees who are likely to share his goals and work ethic.

At Facebook, the focus of the interview is on connection just like the mission of the company. So Zuck wants to know: “On your very best day at work – the day you come home and think you have the best job in the world – what did you do that day?”

Obviously, these questions reveal more about the candidate than stale and overused questions with well rehearsed responses such as “what is your greatest weakness?”

What are some of your best interview questions that you’ve asked or that you’ve been asked?

The One Trait You Must Demonstrate In Any Job Interview

December 12, 2014 • 12 minute read • by Saeed

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

– William Shakespeare –

Blink, and you might miss her. At 5-foot-11 and 130 pounds, Wilma Rudolph was a sight to behold. At the 1960 Rome Olympics, Rudolph became “the fastest woman in the world” and the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics.

You might think that she was born with innate athleticism. You would be wrong. Perhaps even more incredible than her achievement as an athlete is her resilience as a human being.

Wilma Rudolph was born prematurely weighing only 4 1/2 pounds and the bulk of her childhood was spent in bed. She suffered from double pneumonia, scarlet fever and later she contracted polio. After losing the use of her left leg, she was fitted with metal leg braces. She was only six years of age. As number 20th out of 22 children (yes you read that correctly), her family was poor and could not afford good medical care. The doctors had predicted that she would not walk again. But Wilma was determined to lead a “normal” life. Despite whooping cough, measles and chicken pox, she was out of her leg braces by age nine. Three years later, her mother came home to find her playing basketball by herself bare-footed. Later, she was encouraged by a track coach who recognized her talent on the court. The rest, as they say, is history.

It is clear that Wilma Rudolph faced great adversity, both internal and external. Despite that adversity, she became a great athlete and an inspiration to many. But perhaps even more impressive than her physical accomplishments, is her sheer will, determination, and resiliency. It is her mental fitness, more than her physical feats, and her dogged belief in her Self that ultimately drove her success.

From my coaching experience, I find that many people who fail to achieve their objectives, do not fail because of a lack of knowledge, skill or ability. These, after all, can always be acquired. With thoughtful planning and execution any objective is achievable. However, some, even when they have the ability to achieve an objective, still fall short of meeting their goals. Some, even when they know they can do the job, still fail to impress at the interview.


Research shows that, on average, interviewers reach final decisions about applicants in only four minutes after meeting them. According to Malcolm Gladwell, in Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, the decisions may occur even faster – instantaneously or in under two seconds. What he calls ‘thin-slicing’ has serious implications for job interview applicants. It means decisions are being made before the actual exchange of content.

That may seem unfair. Everyone, after all, deserves the same treatment and the same attention to factors such as experience, credentials and skills. And as with any job interview, a series of questions will be asked to assess the type of candidate you are. In truth, however, interviewers are less concerned with your technical abilities and more concerned with your personality type. They want to know if they can work with you. Hence the rise of personality testing in job interviews.

But beyond your personality type, the impression you leave behind of your Self has far more to do with your job interview success.

Agency and esteem are central to the construction of a concept of Self. A study of more than 500 students, academics and workers, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, showed that those who appeared more confident achieved a higher social status than their peers. The conclusions drawn from this study have significant implications for professionals. The key to career success, in other words, is confidence, not talent. Despite your credentials, experience and expertise, a lack of self-belief will reduce your chances of success. Henry Ford once said, ‘Whether you think that you can or you think you can’t – you’re right’.

Self belief is that powerful. To succeed, you must first cultivate the mental posture and mindset for success.

In her 2006 book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford Psychology Professor Carol Dweck argues that individuals can be placed on a continuum according to their implicit views of where ability comes from. Those that believe their success is based on innate ability are said to have a “fixed” mindset. Others, who believe their success is based on hard work and continuous learning, are said to have a “growth” mindset. The distinction is crucial and can mean the difference between a life unfulfilled and one, like Wilma Rudolph, of extraordinary achievement.

That is because individuals with a “growth” mindset have higher intrinsic motivation to achieve. They are more likely to set higher goals and to persevere despite setbacks. Their underlying belief system tells them that if they really want to achieve something, they will find a way to make it happen. On the other hand, people with a fixed mindset give up more readily when faced with problems. They are uncertain and doubtful about their ability and they more quickly lose interest and motivation.

Unfortunately, many people wait for their self belief to increase before they take action. That, however, is not how it works. You can’t sit around waiting for a sense of self belief to kick in when all your stars are aligned. You have to start developing your own self belief. The world will largely accept you at your own estimation. It is yourself that you have to convince of your self-worth, before you can convince anyone else. But once you are absolutely sure that you have what it takes to master any situation, you will act in such a way that your beliefs will become your reality. Mastery is made up of intention, concentration, and attention. To develop it, you must be willing to take risks and to face the inevitable rejections that come with putting yourself out there. You must practice, fail, learn and repeat until you succeed.

And if the interview doesn’t go your way, remember the words of Wilma Rudolph:“Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.”

Good luck.

©2014 – All Images and Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

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