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Read the tea leaves to get the job
By Teresa Taylor
May 2, 2014 - 8:25:28 AM

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Tassology: the art of reading tea leaves

At the bottom of a great cup of tea, the leaves that give the brew its flavor are left behind. Legend has it that the study of such tea leaves will show you insights into your future and will help you map out a course of action. It also doesn't hurt to add more caffeine, sugar, or a shot of your favorite whiskey (for career candidates over the age of 21, of course)!

Most candidates are so focused on getting the job that they don't realize that there is an art of creating a relationship first. They make it about themselves and then wonder why it didn't go their way or why the job went to another person.

You cannot capitalize on a relationship that never existed. Here are six tips to help you read the tea leaves (or coffee grounds) on your next interview:

1. Look Around -- when you visit someone in their office take a moment to look around at the personal items that they may have on their desk or wall. Everybody wants to talk about the picture of the dog, fishing trip, or kids. If they didn't - they wouldn't have it sitting out. Just be careful not to make an ASSumption! Let them tell you who that is in the picture, don't make an incorrect guess that you will never be able to take back. Keep a mental note of what you saw and draw upon it later in your ongoing conversations.

2. Shut Up -- the hardest thing to do is stop talking and listen. Get yourself comfortable with long pauses and wait for someone to answer. You do not need to fill the air with additional clarification or give someone multiple choices to pick from. Take a breath and sit back so that you can actually hear the other person talking and digest what they are saying. Don't be so worried about what you are going to say next but rather absorb and comprehend before you reply. You will be surprised at how often the conversation will take a different turn if you just let it happen.

3. Don't ignore the administrative assistant - this person knows every single thing that goes on at that office. The assistant can be your worst enemy or will make sure that you return for another meeting. It is funny how he/she can magically "lose your message" or it can move to the top of the list. Treat the assistant with the same respect and courtesy that their boss is getting. Build an ongoing relationship and find a personal connection. The assistants move between companies so they may help you get your next job.

4. Appearance is important -- How you present yourself is reflective of your ideas. Put all your devices on vibrate and make sure you know how to use your laptop if you want to use a demo. You also don't want your phone buzzing when you are talking -- it is distracting. The constant noise can change the whole rhythm of the discussion and ruin the meeting.

5. It is a two-way street -- don't treat your new relationship like a street that goes in one direction -- that is, your way, to serve your needs. It's about give and take. No one gets anywhere on a one-way, dead- end street. Relationships don't get built by arriving in someone's office and shouting, "Ta-da!" Think about it, how long does a normal friendship last when a friend only calls you up for favors or special considerations?

6. Do what you say you are going to do -- now that you have spent the extra effort listening, looking around, and being extra nice to the administrative assistant -- follow through on your commitments. If you said you are going to provide more information, a link to something, or a contact -- do it! If there is a reason to put a time constraint on it then make sure you are clear in your communication. Many positions are lost over an avoidable mis-understanding.

Dale Carnegie said "When dealing with people, remember that you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion." In order to be successful you must have people smarts. That is because business is not about transactions, it is about people. Learn to watch people -- their body language, behavior, and gestures. Not only do you need to recognize it, you also need to be able to influence it.

Reading the tea leaves is an art. Those that master it enjoy success.

Teresa Taylor
Author of The Balance Myth

Teresa Taylor serves on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem, Inc., a financial services holding company with $7.3 billion in assets, as well as the board of directors for NiSource, Inc., a Fortune 500 natural gas and electricity storage and transmission company.

Additionally, Taylor is an executive adviser to Governor John Hickenlooper and serves on the Colorado Economic Development Commission amongst other things. She resides in Golden, Colorado, with her husband. She has two grown sons.


  • Top Female Telecom Executive by Fierce
  • Telecom Top Twenty Female Executives Forbes magazine
  • Top 100 Distinguished Women (2007 and 2010)
  • Women of Distinction Award  Girl Scouts (2008)
  • Current and past memberships in Executive Women Leadership Organizations

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