Shop the madness! Or, grocery shopping etiquette in 11 + 2.5 easy steps

Anyone who reads this blog knows how much I love shopping (and for those who haven’t read this blog before, “love shopping” is total, unadulterated sarcasm). If I die and go to hell, the devil will give me a shopping cart and tell me to shop ’til I drop.

devil

Today, due to a confluence of evil forces, I was forced to shop in my local No Frills, as well as WalMart, and finally, at Costco. And I also had to shop not only for my family, but for my mother as well. Pretty damn close to that hell scenario above, right?

Anyway, likely because the stores were closed yesterday for Good Friday, today should have been renamed Evil Saturday. Everyone seemed to need to feel the smooth plastic of a shopping cart in their hands. Everyone seemed to need to line up endlessly. And here was I, caught in the middle of this retail maelstrom. In fact, at one point, when I was in an aisle that could accommodate at least four carts side-by-side, and I was locked in position for a solid five minutes, I looked over at my wife and said, “kill me now.” Several people snickered. But no one moved.

Anyway, having spent so much time in line, I hereby present Tobin’s Rules for Shopping.

parking_lotRule 0: Don’t park like a douchenozzle
Yes, I’m starting at rule 0, because you haven’t even started shopping yet, and already you’re pissing people off. I’m going to try and be as clear as I can here: A parking space is an area of pavement usually bordered by three yellow lines. You park your vehicle so that it is contained within those three lines. To do anything other than this is to park like a douchenozzle. How does a douchenozzle park, you ask?

  1. A douchenozzle will take up two spaces, either on purpose or because they lack the basic talent to navigate a vehicle. You can tell the difference, because the one that does it on purpose will likely park it at a rakish angle, where the no-talent will just be over one of the lines by a foot or two.
  2. A douchenozzle will park where there is no parking space whatsoever. Usually closer to the store than anyone else, often right in the path of other cars.
  3. A douchenozzle will foolishly believe they will only be a few minutes, so they don’t need no stinkin’ parking space. Instead, they’ll park right up at the curb beside the store, usually blocking everyone else’s access to and from the store. Often, the douchenozzle themselves will stay in the car, smoking and playing obnoxious dance music at an obnoxious volume while they wait for their significant other (usually the one with the clothes that were in fashion in the 80s, back when they were twenty, or they’re wearing clothes that are five sizes too small for them because it makes them sexy, or, as they say, “schmexy,” or they look like they just came off a welfare-cheque financed bender) runs in for the stuff.

Don’t do any of this. Douchenozzle.

Rule 1: Don’t block the entrance
When you have made your list, grabbed your coffee, somehow managed to find a parking spot, remembered your bags, dug out a quarter and snagged a shopping cart then you’re already ahead of the game. So why the hell do you feel it’s necessary to get just inside the doors, then stop? Why? Get your ass all the way in, find a quiet, or at least an out of the way spot by all that weird fruit that no one buys, then get your shit together. Dick.

Rule 2: Watch where you’re going
Yes, there’s all sorts of things to do when you’re shopping. Keep track of that shopping list. Drink your coffee. Avoid all the morons. Scan for sales. Compare prices and sizes because it’s stunning how often they rip you off with the jumbo sizes. Etc. Etc. Etc. But seriously, it’s no worse than driving a car. So why do so many people simply choose to look sideways, or at their list, instead of where the hell they’re going? If you do this shit in the grocery store, I guarantee you’re the type to text and drive and I trust you will end up on the Darwin Awards shortly. And if you do this, and don’t know what the Darwin Awards are…don’t worry. You’ll find out. Moron.

Rule 3: Don’t walk forward and look backward
If you’ve already passed something, then you should have damn well looked at it then. If you didn’t, you have two choices: Back up safely, or loop around and check it out on the second pass. You should not be staring at it, trying to decide if it’s right for you, as you continue to walk away from it. There’s people’s heels in front of you, moron. Those damn carts hurt when they nail you right on that tendon. Again, if you do this here, you likely do this when you drive and obviously the sidewalks are no longer safe to walk. Shithead.

Rule 4: Don’t block the lane
So you’ve read the first three and you’re feeling pretty satisfied because you can honestly say, “I’ve never done any of those.” Well, then how about this perennial gem: Instead of slamming into people by looking backwards or sideways, you leave your cart to go on an exploratory side expedition, because those Ballpark Hot Dog-flavoured Potato Chips are strangely intriguing you. So you leave your damn cart in the middle of nowhere while you go off to scan the product. You’re like that stupid geologist from the movie Prometheus that sends all those flying robots to map out the place, then gets lost. Because no one leaves their cart for a second. They leave it, a large, grocery laden, steel-mesh chunk of flotsam, for a few minutes while everyone else now has to navigate around it. Watch out for me, because I’ll toss that damn cart down the nearest aisle and I don’t care how much stink eye you give me. I’ve done it. Fool.

Rule 5: Paying more attention to your phone than to the task at hand
Okay, yes, they’re convenient. Yes, people can now call you/text you/FB you/Tweet you and every other thing they pack into mobile devices these days. I use mine to hold the shopping list. So, they have their uses. But it is not acceptable to stop in the middle of a crowded grocery store to update your FB status.
FBIt’s not cool to slam your carts into other shoppers’ carts because you’re texting your BFF. That’s not an LOL. Or a ROFL. That’s a GTFOOMW (Get The Fuck Out Of My Way). That’s a WWTHYD (Watch What The Hell You’re Doing). Asshat.

Rule 6: There’s always someone behind you
Which means, when you decide to take twenty minutes to decide between the President’s Choice Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookies and the President’s Choice Decadent Chocolate Chunk Cookies, you’ve likely chosen to stop your stupid cart directly beside the person who is updating their FB to complain about the dude taking twenty minutes to decide between the President’s Choice Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookies and the President’s Choice Decadent Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Meanwhile, there’s a logjam of people stuck behind you both. Now, most people are polite. But if you hear a low, menacing, “Jesus H. Christ on Toast!” behind you, that’s me wondering if I hit you hard enough, will you press into the mesh of your cart and have to explain to your significant other why you suddenly look like you came out of a waffle iron. So move. Cretin.

express-lane-is-THIS-manyRule 7: Learn to count prior to jamming up the 8 Items or Less line
So you’ve managed to navigate the hazardous waters of the grocery store and now you’re ready to check out. Then, after a flawless performance, you then blow it all by parking your sorry ass in the wrong line. This one’s a particular pet peeve of mine. You can read further adventures here. Here’s a crazy suggestion: Try these steps.

  1. Read the sign and ask yourself, “How many items do they allow in this aisle?” It could be 8. It could be 10. It could be 12. Hell it might even be 15. In any case, between your fingers and your toes, you have enough to count them. Do so.
  2. Don’t be a bitch and say, “Well, I’ve got three loaves of bread, but really, they’re only one product, so that counts as one.” No it doesn’t. If you’ve got three, then count three.
  3. Count up all your items.
  4. Now here’s the tricky part. If the number of items in your cart or basket exceeds (which is a fancy-schmancy word for “is more than”) that number on the sign, then you cannot go in that line.
  5. Judge yourself accordingly

Trust me, this will save you a lot of harrasment at my hands if I happen to be the dude standing behind you, counting your items loudly, then bemoaning the fact that our school system no longer sees fit to teach our youth how to count. Pus bag.

buttRule 8: Don’t butt in line
So you’re looking at those horribly long, slow moving lines and even the 8 Items or Less line is stunningly long (likely with those that can’t count past five), so you find someone with a cart that’s bulging with food items and groaning under the weight and, when the person looks the other way, you choose to just deke in front of them. After all, you’ve only got a few little items, right? They won’t mind.

Yeah, they will. There’s a reason we use the terms butt and ass interchangeably. Your time is no more important than that poor bastard you just cut in front of. You are no more important than anyone else, no matter what your mama told you back when you were four years old. Buttmunch.

Rule 9: Next in line means next in line
There’s five of you in line, but then a new cashier comes in, opens up her register, smiles and says, “I’ll serve the next person in line.” Okay, just to be clear on this, what she really means is, I’ll serve the next person in line. What she definitely doesn’t mean is, I’ll serve the person that can elbow their way here the fastest. What she doesn’t mean is, I’ll serve the asshole who thinks they’re far more important than anyone else next.

I know it sounds crazy, serving the person that’s been in line the longest. But that’s really what they mean. So don’t be that jackass that shows they don’t understand rudimentary English, ‘kay? Jackass.

Rule 10: Don’t leave your cart or your fat ass in the laneway while you pack your groceries
This fits with rule 6. Because you’ve chosen to block the laneway with your cart and your ass while you pack your groceries at a glacial pace, the person behind you can’t even get up to the cash register to pay, even though they’re trying to get out of the way of the dude behind them. And you’re all doopty doopty doo, look at me packing my chocolate chunk cookies! The corollary to this is you getting the hell out of that laneway, but then scooting around to the far side and parking your fat ass in someone else’s way while you’re all doopty doopty doo. Doo-doo head.

Rule 1 Revisited: Don’t block the exit
You’re now heading out of the store. Again, rule 6 still applies. So don’t stop just before, or just after, the exit doors to dig your sunglasses and keys out of your purse. Don’t stop to adjust your junk before you head on out. Don’t stop and choose that moment to put your change/debit card/credit card in your wallet. You’ve made it this far, just keep going, stay the hell out of other people’s way, get to your car, then you can do all that shit. Bunghole.

shopping-cartBonus Rule…Rule 11: Put the cart in the corral
You’ve likely invested a whole quarter for the use of that cart, don’t you want it back? And even if you don’t, the rest of us don’t want to have to dodge the carts scattered willy nilly through the parking lot because you were too frigging lazy to walk it the twenty or thirty feet to the corral. Really, is it that much of a chore? The cart’s empty, it’s light. And besides, this is where you can have fun, putting one foot up on the cart and scoot it up to 15 mph and ride it across the parking lot, the wind blowing wildly through your hair. Yes, you look like a five-year-old, and some other asshole will likely blog about what a shithead you are, but who cares? It’s fun.

Otherwise, you’re just leaving a big chunk of metal around to scratch someone else’s car. Dork.

Rule 0.5: Learn how to back up
You’ve done it! You’ve run the gauntlet, you’ve gotten out alive, hell, you even had a little thrill returning the cart to the corral. Now, you just have to back the vehicle out of the space and get home. So how about this? When you’re backing up, actually look where you’re going. I guarantee that old dude with the walker, or the mother with her child in the cart weren’t really planning on a visit to the Emergency Room because you plowed your back bumper into their fleshy parts. Other cars are running up and down that parking lot. People are walking. Carts are blowing by. So when you back out, ease out, look behind you, look to your left and right to ensure nothing is coming at you, then and only then, can you vacate that space and get your ass gone.

Because, honestly, you wouldn’t want someone calling you a bad name, would you?

Of course not.

Advertisements

Annoying to the Maxx

This may come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog, but people can really piss me off.

Last week, I was out walking my dog Maxx who is, by the way, the coolest and most educational dog in the world. Don’t believe me? Go read this.

maxx

I always know within about 15 minutes when it’s time to go, because Maxx will find me wherever I am and then just sit beside me and stare at me with those soulful, sad brown eyes. It kills me. So, I then go down, grab the coat, gloves and hat, grab the iPod with whatever audio book I happen to be reading at the time (this week it’s John Grisham’s The Racketeer which, unless he pulls a giant rabbit out of the hat in the last fifty pages, is not going to be recommended by yours truly, but you can find that out here). After getting all geared up, I slip the collar on Maxx and we’re out the door.

Now, Maxx is a funny dog at times and truly needs constant vigilance when we’re out. He loves to find wet tissues and carry them in his mouth, which is a supreme gross-out when you consider what’s likely held in those wet folds. He’s a sniffer, constantly zigging this way and zagging that way. Along our regular route, if something is out of the ordinary, such as someone putting out their garbage bags, or a Halloween or Christmas decoration, he’ll slow down, growl, then bark it into submission. Oh, and he loves to pee on election signs, which I take great delight in considering the act as a canine commentary on the choices we Canadians are provided to vote to run our country.

One of the things that I really hate as a twice-daily dog-walker, is other, less intelligent dog-walkers. The ones that move to the sign, a tight rein on their pet? Those are great. I love them.

No, it’s the assholes that strut their animals down the streets unleashed, as though the entire cities walkways are theirs and theirs alone. When I come trotting along with my tightly-leashed dog, and their dog, completely ignoring their so-called master’s commands, comes scampering up to my dog, now I’m in a worse spot. My dog is mostly friendly, but there’s certain species that seem to set him off, and there’s no rhyme or reason to it. Hence the reason for the tight damn leash.

If your damn dog doesn’t listen to you in the presence of other animals, leash the goddamn thing.

The other ones I hate are the walkers who are out to give their dogs a “social experience.” You know the ones. They see you walking your dog. They watch as you tighten your grip and shorten the leash and move off to the side…all very obvious signs that says My dog and I are doing all we can to avoid you. So what do these morons do? Of course they bring their stupid dog over to you and usually after the dogs are nose-to-nose, they ask, “Is your dog friendly?”

Little late now, isn’t it asshole? “Nope,” I’m so tempted to say. “He’s responsible for the deaths of four dogs and the maiming of scores more. He’s wanted in eight provinces and can never set foot in a PetSmart again.”

maxx-5

Anyway, this past week, Maxx and I are out doing our evening constitutional. I manage to avoid all the discarded booger-rags and Maxx is well on his way to getting his fifty-seven pees in. We’re about halfway through the walk and Maxx pulls off to the side and does his hunch-over. I immediately reach for the poop-bag, not taking my eyes off the spot where he’s dropping the deuce. I have to watch because he tends to wander a bit as he does his business, so it’s a bit of a scavenger hunt to get it all. Even more of a challenge at night.

So, there I am, ready to stoop and scoop. Maxx finishes, does his halfhearted scratch and dig at the ground as though he’s doing a brilliant job of covering his mess, and moves off for me to swoop in. As luck would have it, another dog walker has been behind me and, in the time it took for my dog to release the chocolate hostages, they’ve caught up. I rein my dog in while trying not to lose the exact positioning of the tootsie rolls.
And of course, moron heads toward us instead of just walking by. Then he says those three dreaded words, “Is he friendly?”

I say, “It depends on the dog and I’m really just trying to pick up his crap here.” By now, he’s already brought his ugly-ass dog over and Maxx is straining and pulling and, as I said, I never know how he’s going to react, so I’m at DefCon 4, holding him back while still desperately trying keep an eye to the poopsicles. Then the guy, deciding his dog isn’t getting the full social experience, comes in closer.

Now we’re in danger of the two dogs trying to circle each other, hopelessly tangling the two leashes, or worse yet, getting a leash wrapped around a leg. And if that happens to Maxx and he pulls it tight, it’ll hurt. He’ll possibly snap at the other dog, blaming him.

maxx-10

“Dude, seriously, I really just want to pick up his shit here, okay?” I say, still trying to be polite, but letting annoyance creep into my voice.

Nope, he’s not taking the bait, and now my dog’s getting excited and I know he’s going to get circling soon and then it’s just going to be a damn thing. The other guy and I will then have to move in, try and reposition the dogs or do a whole untangle of the leashes. I’m so not in the mood for this. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t want this.

This guy is not taking the hint. I distinctly remember thinking, Fuck polite. He started it.

So I pull back on Maxx, stand up straight, look this douchenozzle in the eye and say, “Will you please get your goddamn dog away from mine so I can pick up his dogshit? Jesus!”

And which point the guy, now acting all hurt, backs his ugly-ass dog up to the sidewalk. “Okay,” he says. “Geez, I thought you said he was friendly.” He walks away all hurt the way only a douchenozzle can.

“No,” I say. “You didn’t give me a chance to say whether he was or not!” Then, as I go back to look for the dogshit, I finish with, “Next time, ask me if I’m friendly!”

I don’t think our dogs are going to continue to see their newfound relationship blossom. Hell, the next time I see him and his ugly-ass dog, I may just lean down to Maxx, point to them and yell, “KILL!”

maxx-31

This post is all about you

“I pledge allegiance to myself
To me, myself and I”

All About Me – Drowning Pool

Does anyone else out there get the distinct impression that, as far as most people go, it’s all about them?

Seriously, in the past few days, I’ve noticed—more than normal, and believe me, normal is bad enough—that so many people don’t give a flying shit, a rat’s ass, a good goddamn, or even a lowly crap about anyone else other than themselves.

It’s Monday morning as I write this, but this is what I’ve seen only since Saturday.

First, I’m at a four-way stop. I do my usual, drive up to the stop sign and stop.  Because, you know, that’s what you’re supposed to do at a four-way stop. Then I watch some kid, looks maybe seventeen, with someone who could be his mother in the passenger seat.  He approaches the stop sign.
stopI see him look at me, look at his own stop sign. I see this. And I also see him, with absolutely no slowing down, blow through the stop sign, making a right to drive right by me. I also see him smiling and the mother figure actually laughing as I yell, “Nice stop, asshole!” Laughing. Yeah, because that’s funny as hell, right?

Between Saturday and Sunday I count around eight people driving—well, three of them were driving, the other five were more approximating driving than anything, sliding all over the road as though Ray Charles was at the wheel—as they carried on their obviously Highly Important Phone Conversations. Obviously more important that all the lives they endangered and the $155 fine they were never going to get.

Okay, sorry, that was an insult to the late, great Ray Charles. That man could easily have driven better than these dicks.

You wouldn’t think I’d meet an all about me moron walking my dog, would you? Yeah well, you’d be wrong.

I walk my dog every morning and every night. I can’t tell you how often I’ve experienced this scenario, and I again experienced it Saturday evening.

We’re walking along the sidewalk, me listening to an audiobook, my dog scanning every tree and telephone pole to mark (as though he hasn’t had the chance to mark that particular one in any of the eight years of trips) and some asshole in a car goes zooming by and then cuts into a driveway in front of me.  Now, I’ll concede the point that they likely didn’t see me initially, but everyone of them does see me as they sit in their car, firmly parked right over the sidewalk. I know this because I stare at that driver as I approach, making it very obvious that I’m damn near ready to crawl right over their goddam pedestrian-blocking vehicle. And in every case, including Saturday evening, I see the driver turn their head and look directly at me.

At this point, they have three choices. First, they can back the car up four feet. I’ve had a couple do that. Second, they can sit there like the moron they are and mouth an embarrassed “sorry!” as I give them the stink-eye on the way by. At least they acknowledge me. Finally, they can look the other way and pretend I don’t exist. If they aren’t looking at me, I can’t see them and we never acknowledge each other. Sorry, that one just doesn’t fly for me.  And that’s what Saturday’s driver chose to do.  So I chose to do what I feel is necessary in those circumstances.  I cut around the front of the car—so they can watch me—and I thump my left hand roughly and firmly on the hood of their car. Sometimes I get a lackluster, half-hearted “sorry” then, but more often I don’t. To finish with a flourish, as I cut back down the driver’s side, I’ll flip them off.
flip-the-bird

On Sunday, I took the Wife to see the last Twilight movie. Don’t judge. God knows she’s sat through enough of my movies, like the Lord of the Rings trilogy and all those superhero movies with all the dude in spandex. So I could go sit through some lovelorn bloodless vampires for a couple of hours.

BD2Now, much as I don’t care about the movies or the story, I know the Wife truly does. So, obviously I want her experience to be a good one. And I’ve never understood the person that drops $25 – 35 between the ticket and the popcorn and the drink, only to go in, sit down, then talk through the entire friggin’ movie.  Why the hell do people do that?

So when the group of teens sat down directly behind us, I had a feeling. When the movie was playing less than fifteen minutes and they’d already tossed out some comments, I got more and more pissed. I know how excited the Wife was for this movie and I didn’t want some pimply-faced, popcorn-eating high schooler ruining it for her. When a phone rang on screen and one of the quick wits behind me shouted, “hello!!” I knew I was done. With the next comment, I turned and, doing my best to be both polite (only for the Wife’s sake) and show my annoyance, and said, “All right guys, enough. Dial it back.” That earned me a nervous squeeze on the leg from the Wife.

To their credit, they shut up until the last minutes of the movie, when it really didn’t matter anymore. Which is good, because the next time I turned around, all the polite was going to be gone.

Finally, there’s the one that absolutely pisses me off. On Saturday, I went into the local No Frills. I grabbed exactly five items, then headed for the 8 items or less aisle. The woman in front of me was just finishing loading up her thirteen items. I put the little separator thingie behind her items and set my five items down. Then this absolutely harried woman came up behind me, grabbed the other separator, plunked it down behind my things, then loaded item after item after item onto the belt. I couldn’t help it. I laughed out loud and finished it off with a “Jesus!”

The woman looked at me, looked at her load of groceries, then said to the cashier with an aren’t I silly giggle, “I might have a bit more than the eight item limit.” To which the cashier said that it was okay.

express-lane-is-THIS-many

Why? Why is it okay? Why, when there’s a clearly marked sign that says, in effect, THIS LINE IS FOR PEOPLE WITH VERY FEW ITEMS AND IS DESIGNED TO GET THEIR ASSES OUT FASTER THAN THE REST OF YOU THAT HAVE NINE MORE AISLES TO CHOOSE FROM, SO IF YOU HAVE NINE OR MORE ITEMS GET YOUR SORRY ASS OVER TO ONE OF THE OTHER DAMN AISLES, why is it okay that this stupid counting-challenged asshole blocks up the aisle? Why is it not okay for the cashier to tell her to have some common courtesy…or hell, some uncommon courtesy and get her items to another aisle?

Regardless, that’s not what happened here. Instead, she said it was okay. Unable to shut my stupid mouth, I said, “Yeah, it’s obviously okay, because everyone breaks that limit.”

The woman looked at my five items and said, “Well, you’re playing by the rules.”

And I said, “I didn’t think you’d notice. I didn’t think you could count, because you’re not even close to the limit.” At this point, I notice a small smirk on the cashier’s face as she runs my five items through, but I’m still pissed with her.

The woman, by this time, is now looking back at her items. I figure she’s trying to count them now. I figure I’ll help her out as I finish paying for my stuff.

“Twenty-six.”

“Pardon?”

“You have twenty-six items. In an eight items or less line.”

She stared at me disbelievingly. “You counted my items?”

I lean in slightly toward her. “I always count,” I say, pointing to the 8 items or less sign. “Always.” Then I turn, grab my stuff, and leave.

Seriously.

Wouldn’t the world be a much nicer place if, just once in a while, everyone followed the do unto others ideal?

Even just once in a while?

By the way, just after that, I went into another store, and someone with two handfuls of bags came my way. I held the door open for them. They didn’t even look at me, much less thank me.

Sometimes I weep for humanity. Sometimes I think the Mayans may just be right.

mayan

Interview with a dickwad

Wow…there’s lots of stuff pissing me off lately. But none more than this:

A few days ago, my daughter got called to a job interview. Fantastic. She was very excited and spent a lot of time prepping both on her own, and with me.

A little about me. I held a position for quite a while where I would go out to universities and interview candidates for co-op roles, summer roles and permanent positions. I also helped students get ready for interviews through mock interview sessions. As well, I also did a lot of interviewing for new hires into a call centre, etc., etc., etc.

If I had to guess, I’d say I’ve done more than 3000 interviews in my time. I’ve coached many others on how to do interviews, from both sides of the table. So, I know the interview process fairly well. On top of that, the Wife has done a ton of interviewing as well. Between us, we have decades of experience.

I’ve found the biggest mistake people make is trying to anticipate the questions that could be asked. There’s millions, so don’t even try. You’ll always get zinged. You need a better process.

So, I took the Girl through the process I suggest for anyone preparing for a behavioural interview. It’s the one I’ve used for several years and it’s rarely let me down.

Step One: The Skills

The first step is to write down what you think (or, preferably what you can pull from the job description) are the top skills you’ll need in the role you’re applying for. So, as an example, communication skills, conflict negotiation, and time management. Obviously there are tons, but we’ll use these to illustrate.

Step Two: The Examples

When you’ve got a list of seven to ten, then you want to find examples for them. So, at first, just think about a time when you performed that skill amazingly well. Jot it down so you remember it. Then think of a time when you completely boned it up badly. Did you learn anything from that? Good, jot it down too. And keep doing this for each skill.  By the end, you should have 14 to 20 examples for each of those seven to ten skills.  One good and one bad.

Here’s a great side benefit to this.  Let’s say you have 14 examples.  In reality, most behavioural-based interviews probe for maybe five to seven (and that’s a long interview) skills.  Those 14 examples you have?  Those weren’t a single skill done in a vacuum.  If you had a conflict with a coworker, for example, you likely used communication skills, negotiation skills, decision making skills, possibly leadership skills…

My point is, you have 14 very flexible answers that can be used for probably 40 or 50 questions now.

Step Three: The Format

So, now you want to work them up into good, solid answers.  You’ve likely heard of the S.T.A.R. format, which stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result.  Personally, I use B.A.R. which is Background, Action, Result.  Toe-may-toes, toe-mah-toes…same difference.

Either way, you want to come up with a very short (note the emphasis) background to the example.  Next, you want a nicely detailed stack of the actions you did, and cap it off with a short result.  Notice where you’re spending most of your time…in the actions you took.  Most people make the mistake of thinking the result is the thing.  It’s not.  You’re actions are what sell you and tell the interviewer you do possess the skill they require.

Think about it.  Let’s say your example is about having to fundraise $10 000, and it was a struggle to meet that goal, but you did it.  Is the fact that you raised it as important to a prospective employer as the actions and strategies that you performed to raise it?  Right.  It’s the actions.

Step Four: Observable Behaviours

Ever had problems in an interview walking that line between sounding conceited or sounding so humble that it seems others did the tasks for you?

When you’re putting those examples together, take all emotion out of the answers (and, as a side note, any employer that asks you how you felt about something isn’t playing fair).  If you stick to observable behaviours, that is, if someone was following you around during the time of that example, what would they have seen?  Granted, you need a little leeway on that one as they wouldn’t be able to hear your thoughts through a decision making process, but that’s it.  Talk about the observable behaviours.

Keep the emotion out of it.  Keep your opinions out of it.  They have no place in an interview.

The side benefit to this?  You won’t come off sounding too cocky or too humble, because you’re relating what anyone would have seen.  Did you get a commendation?  Great, talk about it…it’s observable.

Step Five: Research

Let me ask a question here…how much time did you take researching and preparing for your last vacation?  Probably a fair amount of time, between checking out sites, reading reviews, talking to friends, etc.

How much time did you take researching the company for your last interview?

Yeah, thought so.  Here’s the deal: It’s very easy for employers to gauge how motivated you are to work for their company based on a single, simple question.  “What do you know about my company?”

I think the most pathetic answer (besides, “I don’t know anything.”) is the guy that told me he knew we had two main competitors, both of which he’d worked for, so we were “next on the list.”

The internet is a wonderful thing.  Use it to research the company.  Hell, at the very least, set up a Google Alert to deliver the information straight to your inbox.  Research at its laziest.

Step Six: Tell Me You Love Me

This is the second hardest thing to put together.  The hardest is still to come.

After you’ve done your deep dive into your skills, then a deep dive into the company, you need to be able to articulate very clearly why you want to work for the company.  The interviewer knows you’re interested, because you applied.  But now you need to be able to explain the why.

Here’s the really bad analogy I always use:

The Wife: “Do you love me?”

Me: “Yes.” (easy answer, right?  Consider this the application you sent in)

The Wife: “Why do you love me?”

And here’s the uh-oh spot for the interviewee that hasn’t thought this through.  Because many interviewers will say something like, “Tell me why my company is the right fit for you,” or, even simpler, “Why do you want to work for my company?”  See why Step Five is so important now?

Here’s why…because if I came back to the Wife and said, “I love you because you’re female, you have brown hair and nice teeth,” she is so not going to feel very secure.

And yet, the answer I mostly get is something like, “You’re a large, successful company with lots of room for growth.”  Big deal.  So is Google.  So is Facebook.  So are a lot of other companies.

Get this one right, people, it’s a dealbreaker for me.

Step Seven: Unique

This one always seems to be the toughest one to answer, and it can also be tossed out in an interview so subtly that you don’t even realize it.  Think about this…what makes you unique?  In other words, what can you say about you that very few other people can say?

It tends to be a stumper, and usually, after a few minutes of thinking, I’ll get something like, “Well, I’m a quick learner.  I know others can say that, but I really am.”

Yawn.

Here’s what you should be thinking about: think about all the experiences you’ve had at previous jobs, or through extracurriculars, or hobbies, or traveling, or volunteering, or on boards…anything.

There’s never going to be just one thing that makes you unique.  Right now, Paul McCartney can’t say, “I was a Beatle,” and be unique.  There was three other guys, and one of them is still around.

But you can build a stack of experiences up that makes you unique.  Of course you can.  Everyone can.

The interview

So this was everything I took the Girl through–no small task on her part, let me tell you–and she then went off and worked it all up into some fantastic answers.

Then she went to the interview.  Anne Rice could have written the book on it: The Interview With a Dickwad.

The guy essentially ignored her resume (though he had a copy to review when calling her, and requested another be brought to the interview), except where he wanted to refute things.

An example?  “This place is fast-paced.  I don’t think your previous job was fast-paced.”  If he would have asked a question about it, instead of passing judgement, he would have found out it was, in fact, quite fast-paced.  So he did this a few times.

He also told her he figured she’d get “tired” of driving from her home to work and back.  Yeah, ten minutes is a hell of a commute, let me tell you.

He actually berated her for her choice of schools for post-secondary education.

And then he did the unforgivable (in my book).  He took a personal call on his cell phone, cutting her off in the middle of one of her answers.

Okay, when I’m interviewing someone, no matter how well or how poorly they are doing, they are the only person that matters for the duration of the interview.  I expect that courtesy from them, I extend the same courtesy to them.

So, basically, this asshole made the Girl do this “long” commute that he thought she would soon tire of, to essentially bring her in, pass incorrect judgement on her resume, not discuss the role whatsoever, not probe or check on any of her skills, pass judgement on her education decisions, then show her that any old phone call was more important that a possible new staff member.  Seriously, he really puts the “mental” in judgmental.

Honestly, I’d love for this guy to call her and offer her the job.

Because now I’ve coached my daughter on her response and now she can be quite emphatically clear when she tells him exactly what he can do with his job, his company and his offer.