Rapport on Demand

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These articles by Melinda Sherwood were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on July 28,

1999. All rights reserved.

Employee Profiling

Hiring a bad employee can cost thousands of dollars

and months of time, yet most businesses still prefer to rely on the

skimpy evidence produced from resumes and a couple of interviews.

"Most of the time when you make decisions with people you’re looking

at the tip of the iceberg," says Anthony Pantaleone, regional

vice president of Profiles International Inc., a company that produces

employee testing software. "The Titanic was sunk by an iceberg,

but it was what was below the water that sunk the ship."

Pantaleone says that studies have shown that the interview is one

of the least effective ways to learn about a job candidate. "We’re

human and we tend to hire people who are like ourselves," he says.

"But if you hire in your own image, you may not actually be looking

at who’s right for the job."

Another option is employee testing, what Pantaleone calls the "New

Art of Hiring Smart," which he explains on Thursday, August 5,

at 7:15 a.m. at the Clarion Hotel and Towers in Edison. It is part

of the Middlesex County Chamber breakfast series. Cost: $30. Call


Profiles International Inc. (http://www.profilesnj.com,

or http://www.profilesinternational.com.), based in Waco,

Texas, produces the next generation of Myers Briggs-like tests, that

can be taken on the computer. Tests include Career Mapper, an interest/skill

assessment for jobseekers, and Step One Survey, a test employers use

to evaluate a person’s integrity, relationship with substance abuse,

reliability and work ethic (which ShopRite food stores currently use).

Psychologists run each test on focus groups to ensure that everyone,

regardless of background, sees the same inkblot.

Pantaleone graduated from Rutgers, Class of 1991, with a BS in accounting.

After taking one of Profiles’ tests, he learned that he is "bad

with data," and fell more naturally into jobs that involve interaction

with people. Now he manages the company’s regional sales office in


At first, though, it was the economic inefficiency of the hiring process

that attracted him to the job. "I’m used to looking at the bottom

line by curbing costs," he says. "The one area that is almost

an intangible is the people element; it’s not as easily measured as

numbers, but it significantly impacts the bottom line. We wanted to

take the uncertainty out of hiring."

The reasons to implement employee tests are compelling, and Pantaleone

offers a few:

HR departments don’t know the job and may have little

interaction with those who do. Even the process of gathering a talented

pool of prospects is compromised.

Replication of incompetency, or the Peter Principle, as

Pantaleone calls. "When incompetents climb the ladder, they hire

who they like," and so on, until an institution starts to decay

from the bottom up.

Hiring a rabbit to swim. "You can hire a rabbit to

swim, but you’d be better off to hire a fish," says Pantaleone.

Skills assessment tests can determine whether an individual has a

proclivity towards a certain job or activity.

Tight-lip policy on references. The only outside indicator

of an individual’s character — the job recommendation — is

inherently biased, and former employers are not legally permitted

to say much. "They’re just going to give name, rank and serial

number because they don’t want to say anything bad about someone for

fear of a lawsuit," he says.

Pantaleone doesn’t suggest ditching the job interview altogether,

but employers do need to improve the hiring process by learning more

effective techniques. Employees can start by asking better interview

questions, says Pantaleone. Something that goes beyond "Tell me

about yourself."

Top Of Page
Rapport on Demand

Is winning that account or making that contact important

enough to you that you will gladly wriggle in your seat and talk gibberish?

If that’s what the person across from you is doing, that’s what you

should do too, says Della Menechella, a master-practitioner

of neuro-linguistic programming (a high-tech way of saying communication


"People like people who are like them," she says, and you

can build instant rapport by merely mimicking the way a person communicates,

whether it’s rapid-fire conversation, or a slow, dulling drawl. That’s

the definition of a master communicator, says Menechella. "To

know what you’re doing and to do it consciously to get a specific

result is where the mastery comes in," she says. "If you can

communicate you can do anything."

Menechella presents "How To Take the Breaks off Your life and

put it into High Gear," a recipe for overcoming self-imposed obstacles,

on Tuesday August 3, at 6 p.m. at the University Inn and Conference

Center at Rutgers. It’s part of the New Jersey Association of Women

Business Owners free open house. Call 732-238-8408.

Before she was a motivational speaker, Menechella worked 10 years

as corporate human resources executive for Viacom and holds a BA in

business from Rutgers, Class of 1981. But that was in her former life,

she will tell you.

For the past 14 years she’s studied everything from Gestalt therapy

to famous orators searching for an answer to an age-old question:

What’s the essential difference between people who are successful

and those who are not?

The difference between success and failure: it’s all in your mind,

says Menechella. "It takes being open to seeing life differently

and making changes and choosing the way you want to react to things,"

she says. "I believe so many people are settling for less."

Self-help guru? Not her, says Menechella. "There are a lot of

people out there teaching a positive attitude, and that’s great, but

I’ve never been able to use that," she says. "When you don’t

feel real positive what do you do? I don’t think people know how they

operate and that’s one of things I want to teach."

As president of Personal Peak Performance (Della04055@aol.com,

732-985-1919), Menechella gives one-hour or full-day programs on everything

from tapping into creativity, to perfecting your customer service

techniques. In sales particularly, it’s necessary to be extremely

sensitive to the full range of communication possibilities, since

words only account for about 7 percent of the entire process. "Your

goal is to meet client’s needs then you want to make them feel comfortable

with you," she says. "If you’re very different, the nervous

system gets overloaded, but if I meet someone who talks rapidly, I

feel like I’ve met a soulmate."

Whether you are pitching an idea to a partner or potential client,

Menechella says you should employ the following tricks to achieve

instant rapport:

Match your speaker, meet them where they are. "There

are queues that tell you which way people like to get information,"

says Menechella. "Visually-oriented people usually speak very

quickly." Throw phrases like "see what I mean," and "look

at what I’m saying" into the conversation, or use visuals like

brochures. People who speak slowly are kinesthetically oriented —

moved by feelings — and tend to look down to the right, says Menechella,

because that’s how they access their feelings about something. Phrases

like "how are you handling this" are more on the mark. "Match

them where they are to develop a rapport and then lead them in a different

direction," says Menechella.

Parrot the body language of those around you. If someone

is sitting back, sit back. If someone’s legs are crossed, cross yours.

"People say `Oh my god, they’re going to know what I’m doing,’

but they won’t know," she says.

Menechella knew that she had won an account when she watched the key

decision makers parrot her body posture at a sales meeting. "It’s

like when someone yawns and the rest of the world follows," she

says. "If there’s a connection, you can’t help it."

Use "fogging," or validating, to overcome objections.

Instead of trying to persuade a person to feel differently, simply

say "If I were in your position I’d feel the same way."

"Acknowledge where someone is and move on," says Menechella.

"If somebody doesn’t feel validated they’re going to continue


Don’t treat an angry customer calmly, contrary to common

practice. "It makes me even more angry because I feel like they

don’t understand me," says Menechella. Without sounding combative,

be alert and sympathetic. Say something like: "You sound like

you’re upset!" No more patronizing tones.

To put on a more positive attitude, look up and smile. "Your

brain cannot feel bad in that body posture; it doesn’t compute,"

she says. "When you see someone who’s won the Olympic gold, that’s

what they’re doing." Use your body to create feeling.

In group situations, adapt constantly. "Imagine a

cocktail party," she says. "You don’t serve everyone the same

drink." Likewise, be fluid in your ability to match each person.

"What you’re saying is that I really care about you enough to

change my style of communicating."

It’s better diplomacy, and it’s better humanity, says Menechella.

"People make others wrong if they’re not the same," she says.

"We want to change them. If people trust in you, they will follow

you. The person who has the most options, wins."

— Melinda Sherwood

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