Engaged Conversation?

I went to Starbucks the other week to grab a coffee – something I do on occasion particularly as in this case when I was driving, getting tired and everyone else in the car was asleep or likely to be soon. I chose to go through the drive-thru window to avoid waking my precious cargo.

I got to the order speaker thingy – a difficult experience at the best of times but in this case it was very clear that the person at the other end had very little time for me. Once I got to the window the experience didn’t get any better. She seemed more concerned about what was going on inside the store than just helping me. After I paid, I asked for some sugar but it seemed like I must have asked for gold sprinkles based on the reaction I got. Then to top it off she says “and have a Great Weekend”. Well, the idea was nice and said with even an ounce of sincerity I might even have believed her. But she didn’t even wait to finish the sentence before the window was closing and she was already turned around for her next super efficient task.

I’m sure you all experienced something similar at some stage but my question is: have you ever been less attentive than you should to people you have interacted with? I know my answer is unfortunately yes but for those of you in the job search it’s especially important to engage with your audience. Presidents Bush and Clinton are rumored to have that quality – people feel like they are the only person in the world to the ex-Presidents when they meet them. Can you do the same in a formal interview or in an informal networking meeting? If you are not used to it, it will take a lot of effort but if you are not engaged in the conversation people notice it and conclusions like being insincere, scattered, or unfocused might follow. You might be the most sincere, interesting and perfect job candidate on the planet but if you can’t connect with the people you are speaking with then your job search is going to be difficult.

I can share some other experiences of people in the interview process that similarly failed to connect but I’d prefer to hear your thoughts or experiences.