The wonder of paying it forward…


…and a story about my son and I raking a neighbor’s yard.

This past weekend I dragged my son out to rake some leaves. Of course he complained and gave me every reason why he shouldn’t have to rake leaves, including having to play Madden 2015 online against his friends.

I told him he’d lose his Xbox if he didn’t rake leaves with me, and he told me I couldn’t do that. It was against the law because he bought it with his own money. I told him he could buy all his meals from now on.

Then he told me that I’d have to pay him ten bucks to rake our leaves. “Ten bucks,” I said. “Seriously?” He said he was serious. I proceeded to tell him that in my day I raked leaves for free.

He retorted that we weren’t living in “your prehistoric days” and that he is a Capitalist out to make some money. Where did he learn about Capitalism, I wondered.

When we walked outside our front door and headed to the left, he asked me where we were going. To Pete’s I told him. I heard his jaw drop. “Why are we raking Pete’s leaves,” he whined.

“Because it’s the right thing to do.”

“Will I get paid?” he asked.

Pete’s yard is the size of half a football field and every inch of it is covered with leaves. When I looked at my son, I thought he was about to cry. Hell, I was about to cry. But I told myself that it was the right thing to do, and I repeated this to my son when I saw him just standing there in disbelief.

He and I both grabbed a rake. I gave him the good one because his whining made me want to kick him in the ass, and I told him I would kick him in the ass if he didn’t start raking. I’ve never touched a hair on his body, but my threat got him going.

At first he started raking the leaves like he was swatting at flies. You know, passive aggressive. I knew his game, though. I told him to do it right. He told me this is how he rakes and that he wouldn’t talk to me.

Nearly an hour went by in silence as we raked at least 10 large piles of leaves. This would easily fill 30 bags. I decided to give my son a break and have him start bagging. But as he began bagging, I heard the familiar sighs coming from him.

“Hey, Bubs,” I said.

“What?” he replied, refusing to look at me.

“Do you know why we’re doing this?”

“You said it’s ‘the right thing,'” he mimicked.

“Have you ever read a book called, Pay It Forward? Actually there’s a movie about the book that we could watch.” This got his attention. “You see, the main character’s a boy who has to do a school assignment on saving the world. So he decides to help three people, with the condition that the three people each help three people, and so on and so on. Eventually people are helping each other across the world.”

“That’s pretty cool,” my son says, stopping to listen.

“You know Pete can’t rake and bag all these leaves himself. He’s kinda too old for it.”


“So if we do this for him, it’s like paying it forward.”

“But what will he do for us?” my son asked.

“That’s not the point,” I replied. “The point is that what we do for him will eventually come around to us. Pete doesn’t have to repay us. Do you see what I mean?”


“Does it feel good helping Pete?”

“Yeah, it does,” he admitted…and smiled.

We raked and bagged leaves for another hour, and even after that there were a dump truck worth of leaves. I decided that it was good enough when my bleeding blister started stinging. I knew my son wanted to get back to Madden 2015. So we called it a day.

What does this mean for jobseekers?

In the mind of a jobseeker, finding work is the priority. So to think of helping others before helping himself may seem counterintuitive. It’s not, though. Social psychologist say that helping others makes people feel better; it gives them a sense of achievement.

People who understand the true nature of networking are always asking, “What can I do for you?” Not, “What can you do for me?” One of my most valued connections always ends our conversations with, “What can I do for you, Bob?” As he’s out of work, I think to myself, I should be asking him how I can help.

Another great example of a jobseeker helping others is a customer of mine who facilitates a networking group in the area. This is no light task, as he must recruit guest speakers, run the discussions, and create the agenda. What’s his reward for doing this? He is helping people like himself search for work, which gives him a sense of achievement.

When I was out of work, I was responsible for helping two people find jobs. One of them was my neighbor, the other a family friend. I remember alerting my neighbor of a position in our city’s DPW. My wife put in a good word for him. He landed the job easily.

Those who help others understand the concept of paying it forward. It is not a new concept, as I explained to my son, but it does work. It creates great karma, I tell my workshop attendees. Paying it forward epitomizes networking.

I asked the attendees of one of our networking groups to write down one example of how they recently helped someone. The attendees were so involved in this exercise that they wanted to write about more than one time they helped another person. Many of them said the exercise made them feel happy.

Volunteer to help the more needy, such as a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, if you have the time during the holiday season. While your lending a hand, talk about your unemployment status with other volunteers. (You never know where your next lead may come from.)

If you’re looking for a job, find a way to help someone in need this holiday season. It may not directly lead to a job, but it will make you feel better. Most likely the good deed you do for others will come around, just as I explained to my son the day we were raking leaves.

Back to my son and I raking Pete’s leaves

Later that day I found an envelope in our mailbox. In it was a $20 bill meant for my son and me. I could have given my son the $20 for the hard work he’d done, but instead I returned it to Peter, who tried to refuse the money. His protest were met with my simply walking away, with him holding the money in his hand and me smiling as I mounted my stairs.

Photo: Flickr, Graham

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Can we have a little transparency at the interview, please?


Honest AbeA conversation with my daughter in the past aroused in me emotions of both concern and relief. Two conflicting emotions you’re thinking. Yes, two conflicting emotions, but the feeling that stays with me is the feeling of relief.

The feeling of relief because she was truthful about her faux pas, her display of bad judgement. All was forgiven, although not forgotten. “This is what the truth accomplishes,” I told her.

This is what you get when you ask your kids to be honest. This is what you get when you ask for honesty, regardless of the response.

What interviewers get from their job candidates at an interview aren’t always honest responses. Candidates are guarded, weighing every word they say, because they feel one wrong answer can blow the deal. They don’t have faith in the interviewers being understanding of mistakes made in the past.

Questions Addressing Candidates Weaknesses

When I spring the question, “What is your greatest weakness?” on my workshop attendees, I often get a moment of silence. Their minds are working like crazy to come up with the correct answer. They think the best answer is one which demonstrates a strength, not a weakness.

No job candidate wants to disclose a real weakness. They don’t want to kill their chances of getting the job, so they creatively elude the question, or even lie.

What I impress upon my workshop attendees is that interviewers want transparency, not a coy answer they’ve heard countless times. The “weakness” question is the one that gives them the most trouble.

So they come up with answers like, “I work too hard,” or, worse yet, “I’m a perfectionist.” I tell them these questions rank high on the bullshit scale, to which they laugh. But it’s true. These answers are predictable. They’re throwaway answers, wasted breath.

Be smart, though. Don’t mention a skill as a weakness that is vital to the position at hand. Bringing up public speaking, when it’s a major component of a position requiring public speaking skills, would be a major problem and probably eliminate you from consideration.

Another question job candidates struggle with is, “Why did you leave your last job?” For those who’ve been let go this can be a struggle. Transparency is required here just like the weakness question.

Unfortunately you may have been let go from your previous position, which means you may have done something wrong; or maybe it was just a conflict in personality with your manager. Whichever the case may be, be transparent, rather than trying to make up a phony story.

For example, “My first manager worked well together because he was clear about his deadlines. However, with my recent manager, I didn’t get a clear sense of when financial reports were due.

This became a problem on a few occasions, which I take responsibility for. Because of this, I’ve learned to ask about strict deadlines.”

Note the person explained the situation succinctly (this answer must be short) and explained how she learned from the experience. This demonstrates transparency and self-awareness.

make mistake

People Make Mistakes, They Do

Smart interviewers understand that just as jobseekers make mistakes, managers also make mistakes. No one is flawless in the interview process. They don’t want to hear people dancing around their questions. It’s a waste of time and just makes the job candidate look silly.

Furthermore, interviewers want to hear self-awareness, meaning that you know your weaknesses, and are doing something to correct them. If your greatest weakness is a fear of public speaking, maybe you’ve been attending Toastmasters to get over that fear.

Lynda Spiegel, a job coach who has interviewed hundreds of job candidates, believes transparency is the best policy:

“There’s nothing to be gained by candidates trying to bluff their weaknesses. To act as though a strength is a weakness (“I can’t seem to turn off my work email when on vacation”) is disingenuous, and to claim that there are no weaknesses lacks credibility. The best way for candidates to approach questions about their weaknesses is to acknowledge one or two, explain what they’ve done to address them, and then move on to their strengths.”

If you can’t admit that you slip every once in awhile, you lack not only self-awareness, but also emotional intelligence, which is a key component of your personality. Not all interviewers want the purple squirrel, the candidate that is perfect and elusive.

Employers want people who can do the job—have most of the required skills—and the motivation to take on challenges. So if candidates don’t have some  non-consequential skills, they need to own up to it. Their understanding of self and limitations is part of their EQ, which is not a given in everyone.

Back to My Daughter

It’s tough as a parent to realize your daughter, or son, is not perfect and makes poor judgement calls. Life would be easier if you didn’t have to deal with these minor issues, but they are part of life.

I appreciated her transparency and, as a result, trust her more than if she hadn’t told the truth. In addition, I understand she’ll make mistakes in the future. This is not too different than a conversation that an interviewer and job candidate have. Interviewers will trust candidates more when the candidate is honest….to a point.

I’m sure there was more to the story than my daughter wanted to disclose.

Photo: Flickr, Limmel Robinson

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The 5 ways employers prefer to fill a position


And what you should do about it.

Consider this scenario. On Friday the position of Sr. Engineer is announced internally. All employees who want to apply need to submit a résumé detailing their qualifications COB on Monday.

Three people feel they are qualified and hurry to update their résumé over the weekend, save for one who doesn’t have a résumé, has never written one. He’ll have to learn how to write one quickly.

By the end of Monday, when résumés are due, the VP of Engineering shakes the hand of the new Sr. Engineer, who is told to keep this promotion under his hat until the staff meeting on Friday.

The VP wants to receive the résumés, just to make a good show of it. She winks at the new Sr. Engineer as he leaves her office. Again, keep this under your hat, he is told.

This is not news to many people who have witnessed one of their colleagues suddenly be appointed to a coveted position in the company. The more senior employees—those who’ve been around for a while—are least surprised by this move.

Generally speaking, there are five ways employers prefer to fill a position.

One. The scenario above is the most preferred way employers prefer to fill a position within the company. Ideally they have someone who can fill it quickly and with little fuss. Is it fair to the unemployed outside the company? No.

Unfair to the unemployed, but companies have one thing in mind, filling the position with a safe bet; and who’s safer than someone they know?

The hiring manager is familiar with the abilities, and inabilities, of the company’s employees. As well, promoting from within builds good will in the company. An employer that promotes from within is a good employer. So this is a win-win situation.

Two. The second way employers prefer to fill a position is by taking referrals from their own employees. In some cases the employer will reward the employees with a monetary bonus for referring a person who sticks for, say, three months.

When I was in marketing, I referred my cousin to an IT position in a company for which I worked. I recalled years before how he spread the word of his unemployment at a family gathering, so I brought this up to the powers that be. The CIO read my cousin’s résumé, invited him in for an interview the next day, and offered him a job that day.

I was rewarded one thousand dollars, minus four hundred for taxes. I’ve heard of people who received as much as ten thousand dollars for making a referral. Of course the level of the position to be filled matters.

I never would have referred my cousin unless I was confident of his abilities, which is the case with most employees making a referral. People like me don’t want egg on their face if the person doesn’t work out, even if said person is family. By the way, my cousin worked out extremely well.

Three. At this point the employer has tried his best to find an internal candidate or someone recommended by his employees. Nothing has worked out and the position has to be filled yesterday.

His next move is reaching out to people he trusts outside the company. The employer may reach out to former colleagues, partners, vendors, even people who’ve left the company for greener pastures (boomerang employees).

He trusts these people because they know what he’s looking for in job-related and soft skills. They’re the best bet he has at this point.

A recent survey by revealed that 40% of hires were from referrals, which made up of only 7% of sourcing efforts. This is significant, given the other methods used and makes one wonder why employers are wasting their time on, say, job boards.

Four. When requesting referrals doesn’t work, the employer’s next step is hiring a recruiter. This is less desirable than seeking referrals because recruiters are expensive (as much as 20% of a candidate’s first annual salary), but palatable because recruiters are more knowledgeable of the industry. article talks about the two types of recruiters, retained and contingency. While retained recruiters work strictly for the employer and are more knowledgeable of the industry, the contingency recruiters only get paid when they find the best candidates.

The employer’s cost for hiring a recruiter can range from 15-25% of the applicant’s first year salary. A hefty chunk of change.

Either way, the employer is paying for a few candidates to be delivered to the table. It’s still a risky proposition. Referrals are still the desired source of candidates for the reasons stated above.

Five and finally last. Now it’s desperation phase, because this is when employers advertise their positions. There are two major problems with advertising a position, cost and uncertainty of hiring the right candidate.

You may think that it’s the cost of advertising online is the major concern, but it isn’t; the cost employers feel the most is the time spent reading résumés and interviewing unknown people. When I ask former HMs, who have read a great number of résumés, if they like reading those résumé, approximately 98% of them say they don’t.

With applicant tracking systems in place, you’d think the process would be more manageable and pleasant, but this isn’t the case. For some, reading 25 résumés is reading 25 resumes too many.

Even with the advancement with the ATS, poor candidates get past and make it to the interview. What many recruiters and HMs are experiencing are candidates who are not qualified and, in many cases, have embellished their accomplishments.

What do you do as a jobseeker?

The obvious answer is to become a referral by reaching out to those you know in a desired company. This sounds easier said than done, but the steps you take begin first with determining which companies you’d like to work for. And, most importantly, why? Create a list of 15 target companies.

Next identify people at said companies who can be of assistance. LinkedIn is ideal for this, as most hiring authorities are on LinkedIn. Make use of your online time by using the Companies feature and do advance searches. Work your way up by connecting to people on your level. Also, connect with people who used to work at the company; they can give you some insight.

Remember the number two way employers prefer to fill a position? When you find someone who works at a desired company, fairly late in your conversations, ask if her company offers an employee referral bonus. This would be a great incentive for said employee to refer you to a position, providing she has faith in your abilities and character.

If you were an outstanding employee where you last worked, friends of your employer will come to you. I see this often with my best customers who land jobs based on their personal branding. Former vendors, customers, partners, and colleagues reach out to them.

Attend industry groups where people who are currently employed are networking for business. You are there to offer your expertise either on a paid basis or as a volunteer. You are prepared with personal business cards and your personal commercial. It’s my opinion is that the best people to be with are those who are employed.

One of the best places to network is in your community. You never know when you could run into someone who knows someone who works at one of your target companies. Most important is that people know about your situation and that you’ve clearly explained what you’re looking for.

When you least expect it, your lead will come to you. One of my former customers was approached by his neighbor who had heard my customer was out of work. His neighbor took my customer’s résumé to the HM of the company he worked for. Days later he was interviewed for a position.

The bottom line is that you cannot rely on applying online and waiting to be brought in for an interview. You must become a referral.

Photo: Flickr, Roger Braunstein

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Introvert or extravert? Maybe you’re an ambivert


And how being an ambivert can help in your job search.

I conduct a poll at the beginning of my Myers-Briggs Type Indicator workshop. I ask my attendees to write on the back of a piece of paper if they had the choice to be an introvert or extravert, what they would choose. What do you think they choose? Easily nine out of 10 would prefer to be an extravert.

Their reasons for preferring to be an extravert (remember, we don’t have the option) vary from: extraverts are well liked; they make better small talk; they’re not shy; they get ahead at work, and, by large consensus, their lives are easier.

There’s good news for my attendees if they don’t want to be typecast as an introvert; they could be an ambivert, which may be better than being an extravert. Although the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator doesn’t recognize it as a dichotomy, author Daniel Pink writes about the ambivert in It’s Human to Sell.

In his book Pink claims it’s not very clear extraverts, nor very clear introverts, who make better salespeople. It’s ambiverts, who lie somewhere in the middle, that are better at selling (moving). Ambiverts are more balanced and therefore make better salespeople. (Take the assessment here to see if you’re an ambivert.)

Pink writes, “Extroverts can talk too much and listen too little, [and] overwhelm others with the force of their personalities.” On the other hand, “Introverts can be shy to initiate, too skittish to deliver unpleasant news and too timid to close the deal,” but ambiverts “know when to speak up and when to shut up, when to inspect and when to respond, when to push and when to hold back.”

According to Pink, one out of nine people are proclaimed salespeople, but in actuality nine of nine people are salespeople because they are moving others. This is especially important to jobseekers who have to move others while exercising their marketing plan, e.g., their written and verbal communication skills.

When we talk about introversion and extraversion, it generally comes down to two things:

Energy level—Extraverts are said to have abundant energy, especially around crowds. Their batteries are re-charged by being with many people. Introverts are more reserved and prefer smaller groups, which don’t drain their batteries. They need their alone time and, because of this may be seen as reclusive. Stealing away at times recharges the introvert’s batteries.

Picture this—Introverts turning on their turbo jets and jumping into the fray, mingling with many people in the room to make as many contacts as possible. Extraverts holding back and focusing on two or three people with whom to speak. This contradict what we know about introverts and extraverts and how they interact at networking events.

No, this would describe ambiverts who have an easier time adapting the traits of their opposite dichotomy. Strong clarity of either dichotomy makes it more difficult to adopt the traits of the other side of the spectrum.

How this helps in the job search. Ambiverts have the energy extraverts have to attend networking events. They don’t give into the temptation to blow off an event after a hard day of looking for work. Ambiverts will also be more open to meeting with someone for an informational meeting, whereas introverts may be a bit reluctant.

Communications—Extraverts prefer to communicate verbally with others and tend to be more comfortable with small talk. They enjoy the back-and-forth banter. Introverts would rather communicate through writing and that’s how they learn best. Small talk can be more of a challenge for them.

Picture this—Introverts talking without thinking and being the first to initiate the flowing non-stop conversation. Extraverts taking time to actively listen, nodding with understanding as the other person speaks. This contradict what we know about introverts and extraverts and how they communicate with others.

No, this would describe ambiverts who have an easier time adopting the traits of their opposite dichotomy. Strong clarity of either dichotomy makes it more difficult to adopt the traits of the other side of the spectrum.

How this helps in the job search. Because ambiverts are comfortable with both verbal and written communications, they can network and talk during an interview with ease. As well, they will excel at writing their resumes, LinkedIn profile, and other written communications.

Do ambiverts exist? Ambiversion is widely considered to be a farce by many members of the LinkedIn group I’m a member of, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment, who claim you prefer one or the other. Yes, we have the ability to utilize all traits on the spectrum, but the consensus among the group is an ambivert doesn’t exist.

One member writes: “…I’m not offended by the word ‘ambivert’ but I do think it dismisses the idea embedded into the MBTI that we all have innate preferences and can learn to utilize skills from other parts of what are truly the spectrum, not dichotomies.”

Another member of the group explains we have a preference for introversion OR extraversion, while some are more comfortable adapting the traits of the other type. Ambiversion is merely a term to explain this: “We all have an innate preference for extraversion OR introversion. Someone with a level of type development that allows them to comfortably and adeptly execute behaviors associated with BOTH preferences is an ambivert.”

My take on all of this is that an introvert can utilize the traits of an extravert and vise versa, and should feel secure with this knowledge. However, if he/she doesn’t like to be labeled an introvert, there’s always the ambivert title to fall back on. Now, a true student of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator would tell Mr. Pink he’s practicing poetic license.

Posted in Career Networking, Career Search | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Younger interviewers, 9 reasons why you should not discriminate against older workers

Job interviewAs a followup to 5 reasons why older workers should not discriminate against younger interviewers, this is the flip side of age discrimination.

I hate seeing trepidation in the eyes of my older workers. It concerns me and then I get angry. The reason for their trepidation is because they fear that employers will pass them over because of their age, whether warranted or not.

I assure them that only a few interviewers will practice age discrimination—usually the ignorant ones—but sometimes my words will fall on deaf ears. The doubt has already been planted in their minds.

They’ve heard stories about how older job candidates are asked question that are designed to figure out how old they are. An obvious question about age is, “So, when did you graduate from high school?” They nod at the transparency of this question.

This is the kind of crap my older workers face. This is the reason for their fear, even before the interview has begun. Essentially their chances of doing well during the interview are slim to none because they are already psyched out. And then I get frustrated because of their fear.

This pisses me off. The discrimination my older workers face and the anticipated discrimination they’ll face, even if it may not occur.

So younger interviewer, here are some things to consider.

Older workers know more about the job than you do, but they’re not there to take you job. A common complaint of my older workers is the hiring managers’ lack of knowledge, which is reflected in the questions they ask. Beyond that, older workers have been at their career for 20, 30, or more years. It reasons that they have more experience than younger workers.

But they also say that they simply want to be hired for the job for which they’re applying. They’re not interested in taking the hiring manager’s position. Some of them want to step back and rid themselves of management responsibilities, they don’t want the stress.

Older workers are dependable. You’re mistaken if you think older workers will miss work due to illness, mental health days, child care, and any other excuse you can think of. They have a work ethic and commitment to work that is ingrained in them.

My father worked six days a week, and I try to emulate his work ethic. I arrive early to work, even though I don’t have to, and am willing to come in early and stay late, if necessary. This is because they can; I don’t have the commitments younger workers have, namely children.

Older workers also are not interested in jumping from job to job. They believe in loyalty. You can be assured that they will want to make your employer’s company their second home. So there’s no sense in asking them where they plan to be five years from now. They plan to be with you.

In a Forbes article, it states the average tenure for older workers is approximately 4.4 years, whereas the tenure for the millennials is half that. Here’s a great post from my valued connections, Catherine Miklaus, that explains the job-hopper mindset.

Older workers have life experience that helps them solve unusual problems. Some older workers have experienced loss. In some cases they’ve lost loved ones and or jobs, which has forced them to adapt to adverse situations.

The ability to adapt to adverse situations makes older workers natural problem solvers. They think calmly under pressure because they’ve seen the problems and have learned from their mistakes. Practice makes perfect, as they say.

Older workers want to work. A common misconception is that older workers are waiting until retirement comes. The fact is that if the work is stimulating, they will work years beyond retirement age.

One of my colleagues is beyond retirement age, yet she says she would work as long as she could, because she enjoys the responsibilities and the people with whom she works. Trust the older candidate when she says she has no plans to retire.

Older workers can be a great mentors and may teach you a valuable thing or two. People who want to progress in their career understand the importance of a mentor who can help them with the technical, as well as the emotional, aspects of their job.

Older workers, who have more job-related experience, also have developed emotional intelligence (EQ) that comes with the trials in tribulations of their work. Older workers know themselves and others’ limitations.

Older workers will make you look good because you hired the best candidate. Come on, would you rather hire someone who you’re not threatened by, or someone who can be a great asset to your team? Okay, that’s a difficult question to answer.

But here’s the thing; when you hire a poor worker, that person doesn’t work out and the company loses between $25,000 and $50,000 finding his/her replacement. And you look really bad. Trust me when I say older workers don’t want your job; they just want to work. Period.

Older workers may not be as fast as you, but they works smarter, not harder. So you take the stairs two steps at a time, you work 12 hours a day and see this as productive, you never take vacation (idiot), you multi-task your ass off.

Older workers don’t do any of that foolishness, because they do the job once and get it right. I used to be in a hurry to get nowhere, until I realized that it’s better to work smarter, not harder. It may seem like a cliche, but it works. So don’t laugh when I’m walking down the hall and you’re running. We’re both getting there.

Older workers don’t think they’re all that. I’ve had the privilege to work in a young, vibrant environment, and a more mature professional one. I’ve enjoyed both, even the Nerf Footballs zipping by my head. But I have to say that the younger workers were more concerned about their pride than the older workers with whom I’ve worked.

Rest assured, younger interviewer, that we older workers have experienced our successes and the peak of our career. We’re not into the fast cars, perfectly manicured hair style, and taking credit for your work (at least I hope not). You can be “all that.” We’ll look on with admiration.

When you’re interviewing the man with grey hair sitting across from you, don’t judge him before getting to know him. He possesses many of the attributes I’ve described, plus some. Ask the questions you’d ask anyone applying for the job. It’s likely that he’s expecting you to demonstrate bias, as he’s experienced it before, so surprise him and be the better man.

Posted in Career Search, Interviewing | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

10 ways to beat the interview nerves

Nervous candidateHave you been so nervous during an interview that you temporarily forget your name or what your previous title was? It happens. Have you been so nervous that the cup of water you’re holding is shaking beyond control? Sure, it happens. Or have you been so nervous that you can’t shut up? Oh yeah, it happens.

The fact is most people are nervous during an interview; some worse than the aforementioned examples. But how can you keep your nervousness under control?

First you must understand that it’s natural to be nervous before and during an interview; that nervousness can overcome anyone, even the most qualified people for the job. But even if you are qualified, expect some butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms, and dry mouth.

As a nervous job candidate, the best you can do is accept your nerves and try to manage them. To do this, it’s important to do the following before and during the interview.

Before the interview

1. Be as prepared as you can. You’ve heard this many times; and if you’re smart you’ve done something about it. You’ve researched the job so you can recite the responsibilities. The same goes for the company. You must go beyond the cursory reading of the job description and company website. Talk with someone at the company, if possible. Also, if you’re on LinkedIn peruse the profiles of the people who will be interviewing you.

2. Practice. Professional athletes don’t go on the baseball field or soccer pitch without practicing in between games. My valued LinkedIn connection and executive coach, Greg Johnson, reminds us that mock interviews or even practicing answering questions in front of the mirror can help reduce the nerves, as it prepares you for the real thing.

3. Request a pep talk. I know, you’re stoic and don’t need others’ help. Everyone can use help for those who are willing to give it. One of my favorite things to do is pump people up before they interview the next day. Simply telling them that the interview is theirs because they’ve prepared for the meeting, they’ve practice, and they’ll be rested for the interview.

4. Get a good night’s sleep. As basic as this seems, being well rested is essential to doing well. Remember the days when you crammed for high school or college exams, trying to mash all that information into one night? Didn’t work too well, did it? Same goes for the interview—do your research over two, three, for days; as it’s easier to remember the information.

5. Take a walk. The day of the interview, I used to take walks. The reasons I did was 1) to relax my mind, clear the negative thoughts, and 2) practice answering the questions I predicted (related to number 2). I gave myself enough time to complete my walk and put on my best duds. It’s important that you feel good and look great before going off to the interview.

During the interview

6. Admit that you’re nervous. That’s correct. Make a brief statement about how you haven’t interviewed in a while and might have some jitters but are very interested in the position. This will explain a slow start until you warm up and get into high gear. This doesn’t give you the right to completely lose your nerves; eventually you’ll settle down.

7. Don’t let the questions that are very difficult get to you. There are bound to be some questions that stump you, but don’t lose your head if no answer comes to mind. Instead ask if you can think about the questions a bit longer by saying, “That’s a very good question and one I’d like to answer. Can I think about this a bit longer?” Don’t take too long, however.

Note: To make matters more difficult, interviewers are wary of answers that sound rehearsed. Take the weakness question: interviewers have heard too often the, “I work too hard” answer. It’s disingenuous and predictable. And never answer, “What is your greatest strength?” with you’re a perfectionist, an answer that carries negative connotations and is, again, predictable.

8. Use your research to your advantage. Whereas some candidates may seem naturally composed and confident, your knowledge of the job and company will be impressive and negate any nervousness you have. Your advanced research will show your interest in the position and the company, something any good interviewer will appreciate.

Note: Start an answer or two with, “Based on my research, I’ve learned that…. Simply hearing the word “research” will go over very well with the interviewers.

9. Remember you’re not the only one who’s nervous. Come on. Do you think you’re the only one in the room who’s nervous? Many interviewers will admit that they’re also nervous during the interview; there’s a lot at stake for them. They have to hire the right person, lest they cost the company someone who’s a bad fit or not capable of doing the job.

10. Lastly, have fun. Come on, Bob, you’re thinking. Seriously, don’t take yourself so seriously. Be yourself. You’ve done all you can to prepare for the interview, the research, the practice, a good night’s sleep, etc. What more can you do? Show the interviewers you are relaxed and calm…and right for the job. Have as much fun as you can.

Anyone who tells you interviews are not nerve-racking think you were born yesterday. I’ve had exactly two people in eight years tell me they enjoy interviews. Those are people who must either be ultra confident or out of their mind. Even job candidates who do well at an interview, experience some jitters and recall times when they could have done better, including keeping their hand from shaking while holding a cup of water.

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4 reasons for NOT saying at an interview that you’re a Perfectionist

PerfectionistI can say with certainty that I am not a perfectionist. Today, for instance, I’m wearing brown shoes, olive-green pants, a black belt, a blue striped shirt, and a Mackintosh plaid tie. And, oh, my socks don’t match. I attribute this imperfection to my upbringing in a chaotic household, where no one really knew how to dress.

My colleague won’t mind me telling you that she prepares her room the night before her workshops. She puts aside exactly three Starbursts, a cup of lukewarm water, two paper towels, and enough sharpened pencils for twenty attendees. Not only that; she reviews her presentations before every workshop. Is she a perfectionist? Quite possibly.

If you claim perfectionism as a strength at an interview, you’re likely to lose the job before the interview’s over. Here are four reasons why:

1. Interviewers have heard this claim far to often and it insults their intelligence. Someone I once interviewed answered my question, “What is your greatest strength?” with a smug look on his face, that he was a perfectionist. I immediately thought he was a con man.

2. A perfectionist is someone who has a difficult time finishing projects or assignments because she thinks it must be perfect,which is a tough bill to fill. I knew a person who would prolong delivering something as simple as a PowerPoint presentation because the thought of handing it in imperfect terrified her.

3. A perfectionist is most likely going to irritate those around him because he will expect perfection from them. CBS Money Watch repeats“It also messes up the people around you, because perfectionists lose perspective as they get more and more mired in details.”

perfect woman4. An astute interviewer realizes that there are negative ramifications that accompany perfectionism. Psychology Today states,  “A one-way ticket to unhappiness, perfectionism is typically accompanied by depression and eating disorders.”

Those who consider themselves to be perfectionist are so concerned about being successful that they’re more focused on not failing. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Bad news for perfectionists abound when Wikipedia also claims there’re serious psychological ramifications associated with it: “Researchers have begun to investigate the role of perfectionism in various mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders and personality disorders.” Yikes. This makes me glad that my ties rest in my drawer at work like a nest of snakes, instead of hanging neatly on a tie rack at home.

However, there seems to be some contradiction when Wikipedia describes perfectionists as perfectly sane people who simply excel: “Exceptionally talented individuals who excel in their field sometimes show signs of perfectionism. High-achieving athletes, scientists, and artists often show signs of perfectionism.”  This makes sense. I suppose that if I were to be operated on, I would want a perfectionist as my surgeon.

I’m certainly not a perfectionist, and it hasn’t hurt my performance–my performance reviews consistently garner “Very Good”–but I wonder what it would be like if my clothing were perfectly matched. I’m sure I’d suffer some malady. One thing is for certain, it’s better to choose a different strength to give at an interview.

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