How Is Your Bedside Manner (as a job seeker)?

At least one person that I’m close to (okay, it’s my wife) can tell you that I have the tendency to be a grump old man. Apparently it’s becoming the normal.  But for a minute, while I write this post, I’ll put that aside, and talk about other people’s grump.

I recently heard about a dentist visit where the dentist was working with a child and said things to the mom that would have freaked out the child (who was already a bit freaked out).  Why didn’t the dentist not say that until (a) he was done, and (b) he was alone with just the mom?  He had zero consideration for the state of mind his patient was in, and how unhelpful the conversation was.

I also heard about a mechanic who treated a customer with impatience and downplayed the customer’s concerns. The customer went away frustrated, feeling unheard, and unresolved.

There was the time when … oh, you get the idea. You’ve had bad customer service experiences also… I’m sure you could share your top five bad experiences. But that’s not the point of this post.

Let’s contrast this to a recent experience I had at my local tire shop. For years I’ve wondered why their customer service has gone down… in the olden days (the 1900’s) I remember pulling up and having someone on the crew run out to my car to see what I needed, before I even got out. That doesn’t happen now, and hasn’t for years. But recently I had a problem tire replaced. Or at least I tried to. I drove off without realizing they replaced the wrong one!  So, Monday morning, I’m back at the shop and explained the problem, even saying “I’m not sure if I miscommunicated it, or the desk lady put the wrong thing in the computer,… maybe it was my fault. But the problem is you didn’t replace my bad tire…and that’s what I need fixed.”  About 45 minutes later they called my name. The verdict? No charge, an apology, and now I have two new tires!  That is excellent customer service. No lecture, which was great bedside manner.

Or, that same day I was in my office and noticed our internet service provider’s van pull up. He was supposed to come the following day but his schedule opened up and here he was… could he fix our problem today instead of tomorrow?  Of course…!  What followed was almost an hour of excellent “don’t worry, I’ll find this and fix it, I’ll get you back up to speed in no time!”  There was no downtalking, no grumbling about his job… he was cheerful and made us feel like he cared about us.  We felt awesome, and when he left, we had our problems fixed.  That was excellent service, and he had an excellent bedside manner.

Now, let’s relate that to you and your job search.  You are the provider of experience (even though you are closely observing everyone else’s manner). You are the mechanic, the dentist, the tire guy. You have a chance to delight me, and make me feel special, or you can, with a simple look, tone, or word choice, make me feel unheard, unresolved, and not anxious to do more business with you.

This impacts the results you get when you network. Do you help others feel comfortable with you, and recommending you? If not, check your bedside manner.

This impacts your interviews. Are you going to be remembered as “the jerk,” or “the person that would fit well on our team!”?

This even impacts your emails. If you have poor bedside manner you might find that people are put off by you, which means they might not want to recommend you, network with you, interview you, hire you, etc.

I think there are two parts to this:

Who you are, really. Where is your heart? Do you care about others, or what you are working on? Changing who you are might not be fair, but self-realization could help you understand why you are (or are not) getting the results you want.

How you communicate. Communication is a skill. We all need to improve our communication… and we can. We might not need or want to change who we are, but we can certainly learn and practice and improve our communication skills.

The dentist’s job is to fix teeth. It’s not to be the best communicator in the world. I’d rather have a competent dentist who fixes my teeth problems than someone who doesn’t know teeth but is an excellent communicator.

But, the excellent communication skills can help a dentist have satisfied, fulfilled, delighted, happier patients. Better communication skills can help the dentist have better relationships with his/her staff, which means a better culture, less turnover (and cost), more loyalty, more job satisfaction, etc. Better communication skills, with excellent dentist skills, can help increase referrals, business, margins, etc.

I assume that, whatever your profession is, you are competent. You can do the job. Some of you are excellent. You are the best of class.  That is the “who you are” professionally. It’s the “what you bring to the table.”

I challenge you to think about the communication part of equation. If you had excellent communication skills, paired with your professional competencies, how would your networking improve? How would your interviews and offers change?

Would you have more career security, if you improved your communication skills?

I bet you would.

The rude, those that self-serve, and aren’t considerate, are likely those who have rough careers.  Not to say the nice guy always wins, but I bet the nice guy is a lot happier, and has a better and more fulfilling career, over time.

Your bedside manner is a skill…. improve it!

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