From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

November 2021
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Mock Interviews. Preparation and Practice before formal interviews
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Observ. Trends
Posted by: site admin @ 1:34 pm

Interviewing is a performance.  It takes preparation,
self-assessment, research, planning, practice, feedback,
and review
.  Consider the performing arts or competitive
sports as an analogy.

It is also marketing of yourself.

It is helped by actively doing it and facing the nervousness
of being on the spot and not knowing exactly what will happen
and in what order.  Yet you want to make a positive experience
while making a strong case for your candidacy.

As such, it helps to actively learn interviewing skills by
observing others.  In so doing, you can place yourself in another’s
place and assess what you would do.  You could note positive
behaviors and places where things could be done better.  In this
process you can improve your interviewing skills and behaviors.

This week we performed a Mock Interviewing workshop in
which many attendees agreed they gained great benefit from the
big picture continuum and the very professional feedback each
mock interviewee was offered by Marisha Godek, the experienced
interview reviewer.

We chose to perform six different interview scenarios taken
from the Interviewing continuum.  Every single one had
excellent “teachable moments” that was followed by discussion
  clarifying what happened,
  shining light on nonverbal signals,
  pinpointing things to avoid,
  offering situations where improvisation was required,
  positive small talk leading to either agenda
setting or elevator speeches, and
  offering how to face challenges in problem solving and case study

As a NACE survey reveals your technical skills, accomplishments,
abilities and acumen help you get the interview and provide ~30-40%
of the input for a hiring decision.  The remaining factors influencing the
decision include social acumen, self understanding, behavior and
interpersonal skills, working with data, computers, teams and
setting goals.

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Presentations. Rules of Thumb.
Filed under: Interviewing, Undergraduate majors
Posted by: site admin @ 9:12 am

It is very common for scientists and engineers to be
asked to deliver a presentation as part of her (or his)
interview.  We have mentioned overcoming nervousness,
audience analysis and dealing with unexpected situations.

This post offers some suggestions and rules of
thumb to “improve your game”–
1.  how much time will be allotted, who will attend?
2.  can you set up your files, projector in advance with
your laptop?
3.  ask to visit the rest room to comfort yourself and
check yourself out in the mirror.
4.  have some water to drink to ease “dry mouth”
5.  Practice your material with simulated situation
Know what you will say
   introduce yourself clearly and confidently, thank
the host for the invitation, describe your background
and importance/relevance of your topic
Consider telling a story.

Rules of Thumb
-  Focus on one medium of visuals.  A second, static
one can be helpful for take home messages or questions.
Readability of visuals.  Think about this in advance.
Size and legibility.  Use the 1-7-7-rule
      1 topic per slide
      7 words per line, max
       7 lines per page, max
-  Animations can be powerful, if done well. 
English speakers use Left to right, top to bottom.
Other directions lead to confusion and possible miss-
reading.  Avoid making the audience search a busy slide.
-  Focus on the audience, first.  Engage the audience as
informed professionals with different perspectives that
want to hear you and you wish to have capture what you
offer.  Much of this is done nonverbally.  Confidence,
respect and reciprocity are expected
-  Invite questions
Thank the audience for their attention.
Acknowledge funding sources, co-contributors.

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Presentations. Dealing with the unexpected
Filed under: Interviewing, Observ. Trends, Undergraduate majors
Posted by: site admin @ 6:34 pm

Yesterday, we presented a seminar workshop on Giving
Presentations:  Managing Nervousness and Dealing
with Unexpected Situations.

Earlier posts have discussed the nervousness conundrum.
 2   This post offers some observations of poster
presentations, presentations with power point and
behaviors in unexpected situations.

It is illustrative to skim the the history of poster
presentations learning that they are used to explain
or promote work and often considered of lesser
importance than formal lectures.  Let me pose, however,
that posters provide a more intimate conversation in a
informal, win-win way with people who are interested
audience members

So audience analysis is one of the first things to
engage in after informal personal introductions.
Assess quickly details about your listeners  AUDIENCE

4 Ts–

tone and
In fact, it should be possible to deliver the poster
presentation without the poster at all.  That is what
we did in our exercise.

A formal checklist aids a presenter in giving a winning
talk.  Seeing the room, knowing the availability of
equipment and cordless peripherals, who is in the
audience and testing everything out in advance helps.
Thinking through all that can go awry and having a
back-up ready to go– batteries, memory stick,
copies of slides, pointer and slide advancer.
Voice control, eye contact with a friendly face
and strong confident presence having your first
2 minutes down pat and your conclusion fresh
for recall.

You should also be able to give a shortened
version of the talk if asked offering the high

The last part of our seminar had the attendees
discuss and come up with what they would do
1.  unexpected interruption
2.  questions that interrupted the flow
3.  sound equipment failures
4.  large room few attendees
5.  hecklers
6.  changed length of presentation
7.  different attendees than expected.

We also talked about the propriety of
agenda slides in short talks and visibility
of slides and figure labeling.

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Undergraduate Program. More on Nervousness and Networking
Filed under: Interviewing, Position Searching, Observ. Trends, Undergraduate majors
Posted by: site admin @ 8:45 am

Last week I had the pleasure to meet undergraduates
and then offer a program on “Wise Skills,” followed
by some exceptional mock interviews.  After the
program at Niagara University, Professor R. Goacher
and I went over the MUD cards which presented
some of the questions the undergraduates had and
things they liked about the workshop.

Here are a couple of the questions.
1.  What are some suggestions about how to calm
in an interview and how to keep yourself
from fidgeting when you get nervous or don’t know
what to do with your hands?

This is a targeted question which hints at a generally
larger phobia that all people face– nervousness in
interviews and giving presentation
.  Some understand
from the get-go that it is normal to be nervous and
to manage it by several tactics.  Two undergraduates
who took me to the class room actually saw me do
many of the things that prepared me to do well–
- 60/20 rule and know your first 2 minutes down pat
- use resources in the room– board, prepared hand-outs,
     visual aids, both prepared in advance and created live
 - relate to the audience and perform an “attention
, where you are no longer thinking of yourself
   but an actor making a case and seeking positive feedback
   from the audience
 - learn and develop the presentation skill of waiting,
taking pauses allowing you to think as you are delivering
and taking in audience nonverbal signals,  Partnoy’s,  “Wait”
is exemplary reading on this.
 - know the audience
 - prepare yourself by visiting the restroom before beginning
to make sure you are at your level best.

2.  How can I approach someone in a networking situation?
I am young and feel that I don’t have much to offer.  I don’t
want to come off as someone who needs a favor but can not
return it.

So, let me tell you what we did at Niagara.  A new professor
and I went to lunch and she paid.  We have jointly agreed,
yet informally,  that I would be pleased and have the time to
act as a mentor.  We chose our lunch items and then
proceeded to the check out where I briefly
chatted with the cashier
who was there in her role for her
17th year. 

We got her name, the cashier learned mine and
we talked for a moment about weekend events.  The new
professor then introduced herself and made a nice

Walking away, the professor commented, do you commonly
create small talk with many people, engage with and make
friendly chatter making them feel significant and present
Yes, I responded– these are consequential strangers and
part of my network. 

There are others.  Several questions I have from the week
I will contact respected mentors and seek their thoughts
and advice.  It is a way I keep in touch.  Several former
students and colleagues will be asked the same questions
more for saying a quick hello.

Several of my competitors who professionally compete
for the same opportunities I will share what has happened
in my week of presentations.  I do it even if I do not hear
back, in fact, not expecting anything in return.  These are
tactics of a networker.

Then, I will at some future point contact people with whom
I work well

Resources such as this blog are a continual refresher of
sharing well intentioned, focused on other people’s
betterment, not-personal-gain communication.

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Nervousness in Interviews
Filed under: Interviewing, Networking, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 7:05 pm

This could be a long blog entry.  Perhaps it will
apply to you and your situations right away.  Or,
it might be something that does not happen often.
When it does happen, it can be paralyzing,
embarrassing and even leave a mental scar that
lasts for a long time.

Met this fine person, VT, at the career services
program of the ACS San Diego meeting this week.
In fact, she sent a nice note about her experience
today.  In the interview, VT seemed to lose her
self control in the interview situation.  She
admitted she was very nervous and did not
know what to do.

I encountered this with at least four professionals. 
Each person presented different behaviors
that originated from different personal causes.
It is definitely one of the BIG things the ACS
does in the mock Interviewing sessions by
exposing every member who wishes an experience
of what an interview situation is like.  Then, good
career consultants recognize the behaviors and
coach how each individual’s nervousness case
itself, explore possible root causes, and
behaviors to manage the nervousness. 
In fact, we never lose the anticipation, the pressure
of the situation, we only learn its manifestations
for us and how we can best ‘keep a lid on it.

Having a little pressure can, in fact, be helpful.
It keeps us from being too laid back or not
showing enough concern or interest.

The feeling of anxiety and unpreparedness can be
a normal response to intimidating, stressful or
unexpected circumstances.  Our bodies are
reflecting increases in hormones that are released
into our blood stream in anxiety presenting

Typical situations can be
    when there is one or more people scrutinizing
or judging us, especially when a lot is riding on
our performance or our understanding of what
someone’s expectations of us are.
    when we feel inadequate to respond well to
a circumstance
     when we observe someone else being exposed
just before our turn, or we have been exposed in
a previous or similar situation
     when it seems there is only one shot and high

People react physically in different ways
when they
are feeling nervous. The following
are some of the physical changes that may
when you are nervous.

       blushing and hot or cold flushes
       perspiring and sweaty hands
       breath odors and shallow breathing
       rapid heart beat and cold hands
       loss of focus or concentration
       distorted reality
       lightheaded and dizziness
       muscle tension
It seems our bodies reveal more of what is going
on inside our heads than what we verbalize.

We can also speak more rapidly, and many times
too softly.  We speak too quickly without giving
deliberate thought.  We can be prone to quickly
forgetting what was asked or said.  We do not
have “our head in the game.”

Consider implementing some of the following in
combination to improve your interviewing (and
presentation) performance:

A. Mental preparation and control
Know what you are up against.  Have some idea
what you will face and how you will face it. 
Visualize your success.  Anticipate both your
strong points and your weaknesses.

A. 1.  Be aware of the ‘true stakes’.  Some
nervousness can be attributed to “must ” do well,
caring too much and not being at your best in a
“one time only circumstance.”
If I do not do well now, it is all over and I am a
failure or let others down.

A suggestion is to perform an “attention switch”
where the emphasis is less on a rejection and more
on doing my “level best.”  Other opportunities will
come up in the meantime.

A. 2.  Many often underestimate themselves versus
the competition or the “representative person.” 
Avoid your perceptions of factors and extrapolations
to yourself and your competition.

A.  3.  Most people are unaccustomed to being judged
and evaluated on the spot by their thoughts, words,
actions and behaviors.  It is an intimidating situation.

Being smart and being aware and alert to nonverbal
signals can be quite different.  In situations like
interviews and presentations there is no replacement
for preparation and practice.
If you start early and have time on your side, find
many opportunities to develop interpersonal skills
to improve listening, audience analysis, observing
and building trust in others and having them trust

Mentally orient your thinking so that you behave
the way you desire and you visualize your success
then perform successfully.

Preparation reduces nervousness by increasing your
comfort level and building confidence that you
understand how you might respond to questions by
knowing typical questions, writing out answers after
researching the company and delivering your lines.

Think before you speak.  Clarify questions so you
understand what is expected, rather than having
to back track and correct or expand after an
inadequate beginning.

Consider pausing before speaking, thinking and
taking notes while others are speaking to gather
your thoughts.

Know your material well.

B.  Tips on physical elements to reduce
nervousness  Watch yourself.  Know that what
you do, you control, although that seems obvious. 
The nontrivial thing is self observation.

Often, we do things instinctively.  It is noteworthy
that a trusted mentor is a person who can observe
and point out foibles that we can monitor and

Things that we do that present nervous behavior
patterns are physically based, including talking
quickly, abrupt speech patterns, starting one new
sentence before the last one is finished, a higher
than normal pitch.  Nervous twitches or mannerisms
clicking of pens, helicoptering of pens on finger,
It is possible to manage these outward signs, even
if the internal feeling is on high alert.  In this,
forget trying to be relaxed and focus on not
appearing nervous.

B.  1.  Expand your abdomen and breathe more
deeply.  Erect body posture alone is good.  The
added benefit of providing more oxygen for your
brain helps when you are on ‘high alert.’

Be in good physical shape.  Get a good cardio
workout to train your body to deal with the higher
demand when under pressure.
Wear comfortable outfits that do not put pressure
on posture, breathing or diaphragm.

Another benefit of taking deeper breaths is
moderation in your speaking speed and pitch.

ACS mock interviews allow you to record yourself
in interview scenarios.  In combination with a
career consultant’s comments mock interviews
simulates your actual performance.

B.  2.  Plan to arrive in advance of the scheduled
time.  Run a trial run the day before, have cell phone
on and call if you feel you will be delayed.

B.  3.  If the interviewer pointedly asks
questions, don’t take things personally.  She or
he may be assessing you on just that ability.
That may be one of the qualities being evaluated.
Chin up and ask for more.  Have the physical
aspect under control, again.

B. .4.  Be in a relaxed yet alert state.  Do a
body and mind tuning workout and raise your

B.  5.  Related to this is ensure you get enough rest
and eat well, since you want to have a store of
neurotransmitters read to release. Avoid caffeine
just before the interview.  Keep your throat

Carbohydrates and proteins provide in turn
serotonin and eliminate B vitamins.  Chocolate and
sunflower seeds are often favored.

Case studies 1.L-CH
He began his interview speaking fast in stachatto rhythm
knowing his stuff but breathing rapidly and shallow.
He gradually showed improvement throughout the
mock interview.

Case study-YJ
She began the interview after displaying nervous
behaviors arriving a couple of minutes late and
seemingly in a distracted way running for water.
She quickly lost control in the mock interview
and appeared not focused nor ready for an interview.

We carefully articulated the nonverbal signals
she displayed and asked her to find ways for
her to gain self control in the interview situation.
Interact with the admin, comment on situations
reduce the tension she feels at the beginning with
her initiating appropriate small talk.

Case study-JG
He was an in control guy who had strong feeling
of self awareness and confidence.  He observed
a challenging previous mock interview and more
than anything else had this influence his behavior.

We pointed out his unconscious rubbing of leg
and less confident demeanor.  It was suggested
that he put blinders on for other situations and
focus on what he needed to do .

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Giving Presentations. Confidence and Nervousness
Filed under: Interviewing, Mentoring, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 9:48 am

This week’s seminar-workshop topics included confidence
and giving presentations.  We invited several students to
present the beginning of presentations and posters and created
artificial problems.  We then discussed how to work through
the situations, including audience analysis, body language signals
we give and receive, eye contact, audience engagement and
back up plans.

Technical presentations are a key way we demonstrate our
knowledge and skills.  It is hard to recover from a weak or
poor performance.

We showed how knowing what to do when things go wrong or
are unexpected is a confidence builder.  One follow up question
came, though:  How do I remove or relieve my nervousness in
giving presentations?

We talked about totally removing nervousness as not really
ever happening even for the most experienced presenters.  In
fact it is a good thing.  There is level of pressure inducing anxiety
that can set in going from nervousness with higher pressure to
perform. We see it in excellent athletes in competition.

We need to recognize it and understand that there are things
we can do to manage the tension

Interestingly, I spoke with S. Geddes-Beeching about this
and she provide a terrific reference [listed in comments section]
that led to a helpful link to the work of Hamilton Gregory,
Public speaking for college and career.

Public speaking phobias are among our highest rated fears
and he recommends that they can be managed.  To do so, get
help.  If the reading and exercises he recommends are not
enough seek out others with whom you can work.

1.  identify and confront your worst case scenarios
2.  develop your action plans, props and create a nervousness
3.  practice your tactic confidently, paying attention to the
audience getting your ideas not focusing on the phobias,
as they will hardly notice.

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Mock Interview Reflections. Washington
Filed under: Interviewing, Mature professionals
Posted by: site admin @ 7:24 am

Monday, it was delightful meeting 16
in the mock interviewing area
in Washington.  While
consultants look
carefully at body language, verbal

skills and listening skills for areas of
in personal presentation,
five other pointers
can be shared.

Small talk:  It is common for interviewers
to “get
to know you” right at the
beginning of an interview. 
To do this, it
is common to engage in “small talk,”

discussion not directly pertaining to the
yet very important in human
interactions (in the
US).  1 

weaknesses and strengths and story
:  An often heard interview question
seeks a
person’s self-awareness or areas
improvement.  When one provides a
response for
such a question in an interview,
a useful point
and one we seek to learn
is what are you
doing to improve yourself
(in a story format
– STAR concept is

Strengths are also explored in interviews. 
offer that my boss has mentioned to
me that….
referring to a strength you wish
to convey.  Then,
please give an example
via a short story.

questions:  Please do have a list of
significant questions you need to
have answered in the interview. 
It is not
bad to ask similar questions of different

interviewers.  How did you get to your
  What do you like about working here? 
See also
2 .

overcoming nervousness:  How do you move
from the “uncomfortable anxiety” at the start
of an interview to the “alert and exciting
performing” level?  It does not happen by
reading books for most people.  It happens
through preparation, confidence and practice.
So, look for opportunities to have mock and
real interviews and presentations.

using resources:  Look for ways to use
available boards, papers and media
to convey your information.  If you are
savvy at tools or board-talk show it off.
  boards, papers, the visual dimension

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Technical Presentations
Filed under: Interviewing, First Year on Job, Leadership, Mature professionals, Post-docs, Technicians
Posted by: site admin @ 10:24 am

While it is clear that practice is essential for delivering
great presentations containing material that you understand
well to an audience that you understand, Timothy J.
book, “The Exceptional Presenter”
provides both informative anecdotes and strong

He points out that exceptional presenters are not
flawless. They are passionate, organized, and engaging
deliver to the audience a message they can use.
It is not what they say that counts, but what the
audience internalizes and can use.  The impressions
speakers make by their stage presence and attentiveness
to details that strike the audience are ‘tipping points’
using a common phrase. 
-  Al Gore’s loud sighs,
-  Richard
Nixon’s 5 o’clock shadow and upper lip

-  George Bush’s watch gazing
are things that he points out.

We recognize that our interview presentation is
one of the main ways our technical competence is

Some take-aways for presenters:

60/20 rule - arrive 60 minutes in advance, line up
all presentation elements for 40 minutes.  Spend the
next 20 minutes meeting information gathering and
rapport building.

Non-verbal communications
BAD - T-rex posture;  prefer good posture not leaning
with head up and smile.  Show energy and enthusiasm.
- claw - notice the tv weather woman
- fingers - to show numbers, one, two, etc.,
- horizontal hands to indicate levels and emphasize verbs
- pinpointing dates with vertical hand motion.

actually,            frankly,
to be honest,    I mean, …

Manage elements of nervousness
  - Have your first two minutes “down pat”
  - cheat sheets
  - segment your talk
  - keep the audience wanting more.

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Interviewing. Ideas to address nervousness
Filed under: Interviewing, Networking, Mature professionals, Post-docs, Technicians
Posted by: site admin @ 7:29 am

“Don’t pick me to be interviewed, I am too
nervous!” she said.  “Well, I will do it, if you
can help me overcome my nervousness…”
she thought, then blurted out in excitement.

Needless to say, S was one of the two interviewees
chosen Thursday for the mock interview

During most interview situations, we all will notice
one or more physiological effects that tell ourselves
that our adrenaline is flowing.  Body sugar is
consumed that makes our mouths feel dry.  We
may speak faster, get out of breath or blurt
things out due to faster breathing rates.  Your
body can feel like it is “on alert”.  As more blood
is flowing, you may change in body temperature
(either up or down) in hands, foreheads, arms
and even flush.

My perception of these situations is that
they are normal and can be used to enhance
my performance, if I
      - am aware of them,
      - manage them and
      - look for my personal control measures.

We can not turn them off.  If we do, we lose the
advantage they give us– positive energy,
alertness, and peak performance.

In fact, these same behaviors affect top
athletes and entertainers.

What we learn is that there is a “tipping point”
for these behaviors where we go from
having the adrenaline flow helping to
hindering us.

S did quite nicely in the interview.  We
formed a common ground in our
conversation, as all interviewers strive
to do.  Once this was done, we explored
a few behavioral questions, traditional
questions and she posed some questions
of her own.  After the interview, she
remarked that her abs were as tight as
they have ever been, her mouth was dry,
and her hands were moist to the touch. 
S displayed a quite competent performance
in which she smiled, made appropriate
eye contact, and made a very good case
for herself.  She learned she could do
this despite the unease she felt.

She needed to establish that she could
still perform well, despite the unease.

Yet, we also talked that this can take
a lot out of a person and if done long
enough, a person can lose the composure.
So, managing the physiological effects is
important.  How do you do this?

- Sleep well the night before.
- Eat appropriately for yourself (this is different
   for most individuals.  Some eat well before
   hand, others prefer to have light yet healthy
- Hydrate, just like runners.  (Consider speakers,
  athletes who hydrate regularly during
- Hold a good body posture, sitting on the front
  half of the seat with feet flat on the floor.
(For S body posture was a telltale sign. 
She displayed a slouching body contour that
compressed her abdomen and crossed her
legs.  She was twisting herself up in a pretzel.
No wonder she felt very tight.)
- Visit the restroom before your interview,
  and feel comfortable, run water on your hands
  to bring them to an agreeable temperature.
- Check yourself in the mirror.

Kristen Welcome has pointed out that it
can be helpful to wear something that has
special meaning to you.  It shows you how
much someone believes in you.

Remember, our nervousness is normal and
caused by adrenaline flow in uncertain
situations.  Once we learn we can use it
to our advantage, we have a “tipping point”
where it can dominate us, and we can take
positive steps to manage it, we will look
forward to interview situations.

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