The Scoop @ MSCO

Four Trick Questions Interviewers Ask

The following article is by Mark Stevens, as seen on his LinkedIn blog.

A job interview is not really a job interview. It’s a cat and mouse game designed to lure you into traps of self revelation.

The way it is commonly structured, the interviewer does not conduct an investigative background search but instead gets you to shed an unattractive light on yourself.

Why would you do that? Well, you wouldn’t consciously, but the way the system  often works, you are lulled into sense of comfort and trust and thus fail to see the “tricks” in the trick questions.

With the goal of being forewarned and thus hopefully prepared, let’s see how this works.  We’ll start with trick question 1:

*Tee Up Your Proudest Moment:

Interviewer: I see you were varsity basketball in college.

Applicant: Yes. The practice was tough — what with a full academic schedule and all — but I loved it.

Interviewer: Highly competitive, I bet.

Applicant: Always and so intense. But if you can’t compete you, just can’t make the cut. I’m sure the same is true here.

Interviewer: How does that jell with the need to collaborate, which is a hallmark of our culture.

Applicant: Well, I mean, I guess –well, I don’t plan to step over other people, if that’s what you mean.

(Do you hear the gong? Believe me, I have been to these movies many times. You will be checked off  this interview as too aggressive for the team.)

*Get You To Out Yourself:

Interviewer: I have to say, you appear to be a honest person. Very much so. And I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.

Applicant: Thank you. I pride myself on that.

Interviewer: As you should. Allow me to ask: if there’s one thing you’ve done in you life that you could take back, what would it be?

Applicant: Hmmm. Well, I don’t like to talk about it, but I married someone I didn’t really love. Hoped it would somehow work out. But I guess hope springs eternal. For awhile, it seemed like I ruined his life but I think he’s okay now. And I’m living with someone new and quite happy.

(A perfectly normal human story but a sure thing that the position will go to someone else.)

*Painting You As Desperate:

Interviewer: I see you haven’t been working for nearly a year. My guess is that you wanted to put your feet up for awhile. Nothing wrong with that.

Applicant: I wish. No, I’ve been networking, interviewing nonstop. At my age, it’s not easy.

(You took the bait. Now you revealed your age bracket and the deadly fact that no one else seems to want you. Gong!)

*Showcase Your Inexperience:

Interviewer: So this would be your first full time job, correct! No bad habits. Just a great ambition? There”s always something exciting about that.

Applicant: Exactly. Do you know how great it feels to finally be out of school. Yes!

Interviewer: I do. I do. But you really know nothing about the work ahead of you, do you?

Applicant: Well, I’ve read a lot about it.

Interviewer: I don’t see any internships on your resume.

Applicant: Wish I had but..

Interviewer: But?

Applicant: I went to this great summer camp as a kid and I just hated letting go. So I took counselor jobs every year. They barely paid anything but hey, it was like extending my childhood for four years.

Interviewers set the traps. People really do say/admit these things. Which leads to three nevers and a final piece of advice:

1. Look hungry
2. Reveal your age group
3. Say a single negative word about yourself
4. Most important, turn the tables on the interviewer, telling him what you think he wants to hear. Period.

All is fair in love, war and job hunting.

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Published In Leadership Excellence Essentials

As CEO and founder of MSCO, Mark Stevens’ voice has been featured in countless publications over the years. This time, the December issue of Leadership Excellence Essentials has published one of Mark’s thought-provoking articles.

The article, entitled Loners At Heart, is about how great leaders are often loners in disguise. Mark claims, “Even more than that, they prefer to be by themselves and ironically, it is this isolationist part of their personas that drive their ability to think, innovate and to inspire others.” 

To read more about this and find out the two main epiphanies that Mark believes we can all draw from this, read his article here:

To see the full magazine and articles published from all of the other great influencers included in this month’s magazine, follow this link:

For more of Mark’s articles and unique point-of-view, connect with him on LinkedIn.

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McDonald’s in Denial


The slide continues. One of the all-time business juggernauts that for generations knew nothing but rising sales and profits, markets to vanquish, raving customers clamoring for more, is imploding in front of our eyes. It appears to be a slow but inevitable train wreck.

I have written about this before, and even as 400,000+plus LinkedIn members agreed, the McD bureaucrats — the spoiled successors to founding genius Ray Kroc — insisted that they had all the answers. That the turnaround was in full view.

But this week sales and profits slumped again and worse yet, the new CEO insists that the company is seeing “early signs of momentum.”

Wall Street and Main Street are both seeing signs of something far more ominous and about as appetizing as a hockey puck Big Mac: Denial.

How can McD’s former branding chief turned head honcho see momentum in:

* US same store sales down 2 percent

*Net profits sagging 13 percent

Only if he means downward momentum. That the deterioration of the once venerable fast food king is accelerating.

It is this managerial myopia that is most troubling. We all know that much of what McDonald’s serves is fatty, dated, unhealthy, manufactured so-called food that is hardly going to increase anyone’s life expectancy. That’s a given from my perspective.

But that can change and though there are new menu items and other experiments underway to reverse the order of things, when management at any troubled business refuses to a) admit it has lost its way b)bring in fresh blood to rethink the model and c)execute like hell in a new direction, the prognosis for the future is hardly anything to celebrate.

While McD fiddles around the edges with modest changes in its 1950’s way of doing things, the 21st century rolls along, with healthy and edgy fast food competitors springing up on every corner, down the street from the tarnished arches.

The questions are two fold:

1. How long will consumers put up with McDonald’s tired fare and often sloppy stores?

2. When will the board and The Street demand a true fix from without, calling in a turnaround ace well before the company’s critical mass breaks down.

Complacency is a curse for any business. Denial is a deal killer.

Written By:
Mark Stevens

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Xerox Targeted: Why The Icahn Torture Test Continues

Just this week, the most famous and wealthiest activist investor in history, Carl Icahn, turned his guns on Xerox. Many are asking, “What does Carl want? Why does a man with $35 billion continue in the hunt for wealth?”

As Carl’s biographer, one-time neighbor and tennis partner, the answers are pretty clear to me. Carl always wants the same thing: more! It’s not the money, per se, as much as it is taking it away from those who he perceives to be the enemy: members of the corporate establishment.

He once told me–in so many words–that ‘these people looked down on me when I was a poor nobody growing up in Far Rockaway, NY. Now I want to pour vinegar in their martinis and break their golf clubs.’

Does Icahn really care about Xerox, its balance sheet or its shareholders? Absolutely not. But he found a soft target and he will play the only game this virtual loner has played so effectively all of his adult life. And chances are Xerox will pay the price. And drink the vinegar.

Check out King Icahn: Biography of a Renegade Capitalist here:

Written by:
Mark Stevens

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Why Macy’s Is A Retail Sleeping Pill

Dec 2, 2015

So what is Macy’s anyway? I mean I understand Walmart and Target at one end of the spectrum and Saks and Neiman Marcus on the other, but Macy’s is a mystery.

I walk into a Macy’s and what do I find:

*A boring predictable environment

*Plain vanilla products it feels as if I can buy much cheaper and faster on-line

*Sales reps who seem to be sleepwalking, dreaming of escaping the monotony all around them

Most of all, I think of what Bloomingdale’s legendary former CEO once told me: “Great retailing isn’t retailing, per se, it’s show business.” If Bloomies was once the epicenter of retail entertainment, to me Macy’s is an Ambien.

I have nothing against Macy’s personally but as a businessman, the place bothers me for a primary reason that applies to other entities of its ilk.

That is, Macy’s was once a great and imaginative retailer. It’s holiday windows were stunning. Movies were made about it. Great products often enjoyed their debuts at Macy’s. The company has gone through a series of managerial and financial gyrations over the years, that’s true, but as a consumer, I don’t care about that. I want to walk into a store from a tiny New York surfing boutique to a California Walmart and be excited about the deals, the bargains, the unique goods, the imaginative environments. At Macy’s, for me: nada.

And then there is online. I find it vastly more exciting, pleasant and economical
to browse Amazon, Mr. Porter and than to visit a Macy’s or to be bored to tears by its site.

There are thousands of issues swirling all over this issue, this Macy’s thing, but to me none more important to the marketer I am that no business should ever lose its magic, its joy, its ability to thrill, its unique qualities and quirks. Others may find it all at Macy’s: I don’t see a hint of it.

It’s just too damn easy to fade into the black hole of boredom.

Written by:
Mark Stevens 
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