5 Ways to Conduct a Successful Interview

by LISA O

An interview should be viewed as a first date, with both sides ready to impress. Even if a candidate isn’t chosen for the job, they should leave with a positive attitude about your company and its people.

Here are a few tips on how you and your interview team can leave a lasting impression:

Remember, you’re being assessed too

Unlike American Idol auditions, interviews aren’t one-sided opinion free-for-alls. How you conducted yourself during the interview will get around. (two words: social media)

This is a chance for candidates to see if your company fits their needs as much as they fit your company. Be on your best behavior and don’t let your guard down by acting too casual and unprofessional. Keep the inside jokes and questionable opinions out of the interview.

Give the candidate your full attention

Nothing short of a natural disaster should distract you from your candidate. Don’t glance at your monitor, your phone, or even your watch unless you think you’re getting to the end of the interview.

These lapses are very obvious to someone who’s giving you all of theirs. If you have a hard time letting go of your technology, conduct the interview in a tech-free zone like a conference room.

Above all other things, be prepared. Review the candidate’s resume beforehand and be ready to ask them a few questions about their experience. It’s painful and frustrating for an interviewee to watch someone review his or her resume for the first time.

Mind the time

Your candidate has taken time out of their day to visit your company and to answer personal questions about their experience. More than likely, they’re taking time off from another job.

Be respectful of their time, especially if you’ve shared a schedule with them beforehand. End the interview when it’s supposed to end; if you’re running over the allotted time, ask if they can stay later or come back at a later time.

And there has to be a dire need to cut the interview short, like a natural disaster or sudden illness. Abruptly ending the interview is jarring and leaves the interviewee wondering what went wrong.

Like a well-choreographed event, all of the scrambling and rearranging should be done behind the scenes and out of the candidate’s point of view. For example, if someone on your team must attend a last-minute meeting, have a backup ready to go.

Stay awake

Even if you’re operating on two hours of sleep, don’t even think about yawning during an interview. Perk yourself up by drinking coffee or taking a brisk walk outside.

If all else fails and you’re still fighting the yawns, be honest and have a laugh about it. It’s OK to show your human side.

No hiding

Hiring managers should always be the last person the candidate sees. Whether you’re conducting the last interview or simply escorting the interviewee out the front door, hiring managers are the spokespeople of the company and the position.

And always tell candidates what the next steps in the interview process will be and when you expect to make a decision. It shouldn’t be a secret, and interviewees shouldn’t have to ask.

How to Manage Your Content Designers

by LISA O

If you don’t have a professional background in content, managing those ‘word people’ can be an often frustrating and rocky road. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your relationship.

Happy managing!

Avoid dictation

When their work doesn’t fulfill project goals, avoid leading your feedback with, “What about saying it this way…” This is the equivalent of dictating code to a programmer line by line. It’s deflating for content designers and belittles the whole reason of why they exist.

Instead, aim for a reset.

Restate the project goals and purpose of their work, and what the end result will look like to the customer. This will help broaden their thinking , allowing them to get out of weeds and soak in the bigger vision.

And have some flexibility on first drafts, which are rarely ever viewed as final versions. Content designers are always, always prepared for multiple rounds of word tweaking based on feedback they receive.

Protect their expertise

Your ‘word people’ will hear from every single person in the company on how to phrase things differently. They’ll get conflicting recommendations, often from the same source, and most of them will be horrible.

Why? Writing is viewed as something that’s easy. After all, we do it every day. Email, PowerPoint presentations, and all the other trappings of today’s business make it appear that we’re all experts at stringing together sentences.

As their manager, you need to protect and evangelize their expertise. Loudly. And publicly.

Call them ‘the experts’ in meetings. Defer to them when everyone in the room is piling on the content recommendations.

Let others know that suggestions are welcome, and that your expert will weigh each one carefully. Surprisingly, content designs will consider every opinion. They aren’t dummies. They know great ideas can come from the most unlikely people.

See how smart they are? That’s why they were hired in the first place.

Let them obsess

Word people can debate the merits of a serial comma, or lack thereof, amongst themselves until they’re cross-eyed. Non word people will find this either completely hilarious or completely mad.

If you want a healthy and happy content designer, let them obsess. It’s their passion. Preferably, they’ll do it with peers. If they don’t have any, find them playmates (see Set up play dates below for more).

The outcome of all this obsession is, or should be, an in-house style guide. While it may seem like a lot of fussy nonsense, this guide sets the standard of all of your content. All of it. They set the rules for every single word that your customers read.

Let that last sentence marinate for a minute or two.

Now, don’t you think that serial comma is worth obsessing over?

Set up play dates

Content designers need solidarity. They must have like-minded peers to share ideas with.

This may come as a shock to a few of you, who see them as solitary creatures that prefer to scurry off to quiet places.

Well, that’s true too.

So let me clarify. Content designers, if not naturally inclined to do so, should be strongly encouraged to meet regularly with one other to discuss their work. And by strong encouraged, I mean told to do so.

They’ll resist, claiming that they have no time to meet other content designers or that they don’t need more opinions on their work.

What they don’t realize is that when they’re in a room together, content designers find common causes to champion: the em dash, the bulleted list, how to tackle an cross-sell, or how to phrase a concept in just the right way.

It’s magical to see how quickly they support one another, and how much energy they receive from regular meeting with peers.

Your business benefits too. Since they’re sharing their work with one another, your product or service will have a more consistent voice and tone. And you’ll see more creative content solutions, thanks to the combined expertise of your content designers.

Know their value

If you’ve never managed a content designer before, research what they do and why it’s highly valued in today’s business. A productive team member should never have to justify why they’re there just because you didn’t do your homework.

If you’re still flummoxed, be honest with your content designer.  And try a little humility. It goes a long way in these scenarios.

“Hey, I’m new to your discipline. Can you tell me a little about it?” is a much preferred opening line over, “So why are you here?”

Oh, and do this way before annual reviews.  You don’t want to be that manager.

4 Ways to Lose Customers with Bad Content

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by LISA O

Content is an afterthought

You develop a great technology, build a product around it, and then hand everything over to a content designer and say, “Here, just make the words sound good.”

Other than making your content designer weep with frustration, what’s wrong with this picture? Really wrong? You thought content belonged at the end of your development life cycle.

It’s tempting to only use these resources as the grammar police who are here to tidy up things at the end. That’s a risky and devastating strategy for your business.

By not engaging your content resources from the very beginning, they only get half the story of what you’re trying to accomplish.  And their work will reflect that of someone who only knows half the story.

You wouldn’t do the same thing to your engineers or product managers. Just like interaction designers, content designers can profoundly improve your products at every step of the development process.

Adopt an inappropriate editorial voice

Would you retain a lawyer who looks like Spicoli? Or hand over your life savings to an investor who wears Beavis and Butthead T-shirts?

Didn’t think so. So why would you pick an editorial voice that doesn’t suit your business?

A well-researched and executed editorial voice resonates with customers, making them more likely to come and stay (think MailChimp and Disney). That ultimately makes businesses more successful because they’re creating a long-lasting, deep connection with their audience.

When an editorial voice doesn’t match a product or service, the dichotomy is too much for customers. You want to stand out from the competition, but not because the messaging makes people uncomfortable or comes across as just plain weird.

Not understanding your customers

You can do irreparable damage through misguided content because it directly reflects how well you know your customers.

Since making your product or service easy to use is baseline, so shouldn’t knowing your customers inside out. What motivates them? What’s their daily routine? What struggles do they face?  What are their expectations?

Understanding people on an intimate level and getting one step ahead of their needs go way beyond a typical marketing profile. Median age and income can’t help you determine what your customers really need and how you can deliver it.

So get out there and talk to customers face-to-face. See where they live and work. Ask them questions about their lives. Then mirror what you’ve learned through words. Celebrate their successes, empathize when things go awry.

Like a good friend, it shows that you’re listening.

You assume customers are in the know

No matter what your business specializes in, don’t ever expect your customers have the same breadth and depth of knowledge as you do.

Abstract concepts, industry jargon, and vague guidance for the layperson can make a them feel a little small and a lot frustrated. And you betcha that they’ll ditch your business in a heartbeat for one that’s just a teeny bit easier to understand.

Now, don’t get tedious with your products and services by explaining every single thing. This is a balancing act. It’s just as dangerous to assume things  should be dumbed down because no one will understand you.

Social Media Helps Companies Find Their Funny Bone

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by LISA O

With the exception of a few short-lived jobs, I spent my professional career in corporate America. While ultimately a stable, fair place to work, corporations have never been known for their sense of humor.

Social media is helping to change all of that.

From Bodyform’s hilarious video response to a Facebook post to the Taco Bell tweet shown above, big companies are finding their funny bone. Social media has done what decades of calculated advertising and marketing couldn’t: hilarious, public, one-on-one contact with customers.

Oh sure, companies can be funny, such as MethodAxe, and Old Spice. But these are reflections of a brand, not spontaneous interactions with customers.

I say bring it’s about time we see their sassy side. It’s engaging and instantly humanizes an entire business. Plus, we all need a good laugh every now and again.