Introverts, speak up. Six tips on how to be heard

Business Meeting

Are you an introvert who has great ideas but fails to voice them at meetings? Have you given up on trying to contribute company rhetoric? You aren’t alone. Many introverts have difficulty expressing themselves at meetings and need to find ways to speak up. Here are six steps to take in order to be heard.

Speak with conviction 

I was talking with a colleague who complained that she is never heard at staff meetings. She said she suggests ideas but is basically ignored. I could only nod in agreement because I have witnessed her at meetings, and concluded that her ideas are solid, but she doesn’t speak with conviction.

I too have not been heard. I recall suggesting an idea that was ignored, only to be brought up by someone else and accepted. I didn’t speak with conviction at that time. Perhaps I didn’t think it was a good idea. Well, I guess it was.

Introverts are notorious for not being heard. In part it’s their fault; they’re disinclined to speak when the moment is right. They allow the talkers, e.i. extraverts, do most of the talking. It’s not that introverts don’t have great ideas; they just don’t express them enough.

Don’t think too long before you speak

No one likes to offer up lousy ideas. It only makes them look inept and it can draw disapproval from the group. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to what’s being said and choose the right moment to weigh in.

Be concise, yet factual, with your ideas. Add value and don’t speak just to speak. Extraverts are often accused of speaking before thinking and the result is the consumption of valuable air space. When you have your thoughts formulated, you’re more like to speak intelligently.

Be bold

Depending on the group etiquette, or lack thereof, wait for a break in the conversation and then  offer your idea. Some groups follow Parliamentary Procedure, where one person speaks at a time uninterrupted. However, it’s been my experience that that rule gets thrown out the window soon after a meeting begins.

If no etiquette exist and everything is fair in love and war, by all means break into the conversation when there’s the briefest pause. Don’t raise you hand; just clear your throat and speak loudly to be heard. Continue to maintain a steady audible tone without shouting and becoming belligerent.

State it twice if necessary

If you feel that your idea hasn’t been noted by those leading the meetings, restate it at another time during the meeting. I’ll say, “I’d like to reiterate what I said regarding….” Sometimes the group needs to hear you twice for anyone to digest it, particularly if the meeting is getting lively.

Related to the aforementioned suggestion, you may have to repeat your point if you’ve been interrupted (not uncommon during an unruly meeting). You’ll know your idea has been noted when others in the group comment on it…good or bad.

Compliment others for their ideas

Great relationships involve give and take. The same applies to meetings, where your goal is to maintain relations with your colleagues. One way to do this is by offering compliments for your colleagues who deliver strong ideas.

A simple nod of your head when you make eye contact with your colleagues will suffice. Or you can verbalize your compliment and maybe add to their point. Your colleague will appreciate your acknowledgement and reciprocate when you provide your ideas.

Stand if necessary

As a last resort you may have to stand to be heard. This may seen as aggressive, but if you feel your idea is important and needs to be heard, don’t be hesitant to stand. People in the room will notice you immediately and their attention will be directed toward you.

Use this ploy as a last resort, though. If you make a habit of this, you may come across as confrontational. Once you have made you point, thank the group for their attention.


My colleague is very intelligent and has a lot to add to the conversation, but she doesn’t understand the rules of dialog in a company. I not only refer to extraverts who like to dominate air time; it’s people who simply don’t care what others have to say.

If these are the rules of company meetings, it’s up to people like my colleague to assert her opinions even if she feels it’s rude or inappropriate. Let me restate what I said earlier: all’s fair in love and company meetings.

Photo: Flickr, Alok Chaudhari

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10 reasons why you’re not a fit for the job

Nervous Candidate

And you’ll never know which one.

“You aren’t the right fit.”

This is the default answer recruiters and hiring managers give job candidates when the hiring manager (HM) doesn’t hire them. But it’s as vague as the answer my son gives me when I asked how school went. “Fine.”

Though you may never know why exactly you weren’t hired, keep in mind that it may not be something you did wrong. You didn’t screw up the interview because you said your greatest weakness is you don’t spell well. Or you couldn’t come up with a story about when you saved a project from failing.

No, there were other reasons why you weren’t “a good fit.” Here are some possibilities:

You’re not a purple squirrel. This is a term to describe a candidate who has 15 out of 15 qualifications for the job, which is nearly impossible. Of if you have all the qualifications, there’s something else you lack.

Perhaps you don’t have the personality the HM is looking for. Don’t worry if this is the reason, because the position will remain open forever, or at least until you find your next job.

You’re too old. Sadly—a word my daughter likes to use—this is a fact of life. Some, not many, HMs look at age as a reason to disqualify candidates from consideration. They’re ignorant to the value of the mature worker.

The major concern is money, or output, or flexibility. You did your best to dispel theses bogus reasons, so move on to employers who value you for your extensive experience, maturity, dependability, etc.

Legitimate reasons. Legitimate reasons such as relocation, compensation, or other financial issues. Hiring a candidate is a business transaction, so if you’re going to put too much of a dent into the company’s pocketbook, there’s only one solution—the company ends the business transaction.

Or you just don’t make the grade, whether it’s because you lack the technical skills or you don’t have the personality for the work environment—no fault of yours.Trudge on to the next opportunity with lesson learned.

They went with someone inside. It’s not uncommon for a company to advertise a position even when they have an internal hire in mind. But the company wants to make certain that they hire the best possible person, so they test the water and conduct a traditional search.

You’re better qualified but not as well known as their internal candidate. As well, the company is fostering good will among its employees. Unfortunately, some organizations will hold interviews, despite knowing they’ll hire from within.

You’re too good. Many job seekers have told me that the hiring manager who interviewed them was less knowledgeable; that they could do the HM’s job. This was apparent the minute the conversation began.

Understandably the HM felt insecure, harboring “you’ll-take-my-job” feelings and decided to go with a safer, less qualified candidate. Perhaps one of the other candidates the recruiter sent to them for consideration.

Hiring managers are sometimes incompetent interviewers. Many HMs aren’t trained to conduct interviews to capture the most complete candidate. Their priority is usually hiring someone who has the best technical qualifications.

In finding someone who can handle the responsibilities in their sleep, HMs neglect other important aspects of the job—motivation to do the job, and being able to work with other.

Unfortunately hiring managers make decisions based on personal biases. Nepotism is one blatant reason why people are hired for a position. One of my customers was told she was being let go so the owner could hire his cousin. He actually admitted it to her.

And there’s always a candidate’s appearance, attractive or not, that may come in play. I remember working at a company where the director of sales coincidentally hired beautiful, incompetent women. It was a running joke among the employees.

You’re brought in for the wrong position. Has this happened to you? You applied for a particular position but are surprised to learn that the questions being asked are not ones you prepared for.

Job responsibilities change midstream possibly because the HM is new and has other needs she needs met. This can throw anyone off their game, so don’t sweat it if you don’t do as well as you’d like at the interview.

Sometimes hiring managers don’t have a choice. As a favor to a “friend,” an HM will have to hire someone who most likely isn’t qualified. This is the most bogus reason, in my mind, especially if there are qualified candidates.

Usually this is a strong suggestion from someone higher up in the organization, and there’s not much an HM can do about it, except to argue against hiring someone who isn’t a fit for the position. This comes at great risk to the HM and is probably not worth it.

Okay, you didn’t do too well at the interview. But this doesn’t mean you were wrong for the position. There are times when job candidates are not on their A game, when they don’t answer the tough questions or show enthusiasm for the position or company. It happens.

This can explain being the wrong fit; a poor performance at the interview. It’s time to move on to the next position. (The good news, if you’re dying to work at a particular company, you can apply for other positions, interview with other HMs, and quite possibly get a job.)


What we’re left with after a candidate isn’t hired for one, or many, of these reasons mentioned above is a disheartened job seeker; a recruiter who won’t receive her bonus; and an HM who hopes he has hired the ideal person for the job.

There’s only one winner out of the possible hundreds of candidates in the process. I’m not stupid enough to believe telling you the reasons why you didn’t get the job will provide you any solace, but hopefully you’ll understand that you’re not to blame.


I posted this article more than a year ago but have since added two additional reasons.

Photo: Flickr, bm_adverts

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10 common interview questions; the good, bad, and the ugly

Nevervous Interviewee

Preface: I will always believe that behavioral-based and situational questions are better than the ones discussed in this post; however interviewers feel differently.

There are interview questions that have survived the test of time and are still being asked at interviews. Some of these classics are good, others are bad, and still others are ugly. In this post I talk about these questions and rate them from 1 to 10.

Your opinion might be different, so feel free to add your comments at the end of this post.

The Good

Do you have any questions for me?  This is my favorite classic question. Why, you may wonder. It’s a question that many candidates have difficulty answering. Their response may be that they asked questions during the interview, so they have none left. Not good enough.

The interviewer wants to hear intelligent, thought-provoking questions you’ve formulated during the interview and ones you’ve brought with you. Go to the interview with 10-15 questions written down on note cards or a piece of paper. Ask if you can refer to your questions; this shows preparedness and interest in the position and company.

I give this one a 9.

Why should we hire you? I like this question because it makes you address three major components employers look for in a candidate—your ability to do the job, your willingness to do the job, and your ability to fit in. This question is one of the most important of the classics an interviewer will ask.

The interviewer asks this question to hear how you’ll articulate the answer. After all, she’s trying to determine why she’ll hire you. Make it clear why she should hire you with a concise, value-added answer. Telling her you’re a hard worker, well liked, outgoing is not going to impress her, nor should it be a reason for her to hire you.

This question deserves an 8.

Tell me about yourself. This is more of a directive and one you should expect in least in 7 out of 10 interviews. It challenges your nerve and sets the tone for the interview. You’re being tested on how well you summarize your strengths and relevant accomplishments, as well as how confidently you deliver your answer.

Knowing your personal commercial (or elevator speech) and knowing how to adapt it to the job and company to which you’re applying will make this directive easier to answer. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t answer this question easily, yet many a candidate slide under the table when faced with this directive.

In my mind this question is also an 8.

Why are you looking for this sort of position and why here? This two-part question is another way of testing your enthusiasm for the job and company, as well as asking why you left your previous company (or are leaving your current company). Well played by the interviewer.

Talk about the challenges you look forward to facing and how you want to make the company stronger. Also be careful about revealing too much information about your departure from your last company. There are three possible scenarios for leaving your last company: you were laid off, let go, or quit. (Click on the links for great post on how to handle each one.

This one is also an 8.

The Bad

What would your former boss say about you? You can think about your strengths and accomplishments till the sun sets, but the interviewer makes you think about what someone else thinks of you—not what you think of you. And there’s a chance your former boss might be contacted.

I suggest you contact your former boss, providing you’re on good terms, and ask him how he would answer this question. It’s best to be on the same page, and you can lead your answer with, “My former supervisor often told me I was someone people in the office would go to if they had questions regarding technical marketing content.”

I give this question a 7.

What are your plans for the future? Better than, “Where do you expect to be five years from now?” because it’s testing your self-awareness. Do you want to advance in the new company, remain an individual contributor, or even take a step back from your management responsibilities?

All three answers are fine, as long as you will add value to to the company. Talk about how you plan to develop new skills, contribute to the company’s bottom line, and show your leadership skills (whether you manage or not).

This question is worth a 6.

What is your greatest strength?  This is one of my least favorite questions. Why? Because you can practice answering this in many different variations. It’s easy to adapt to the situation. The company needs a great leader, well there you go. Communication skills, bingo. Technical knowledge, you get the point.

You should have no problem with this question as long as you know the most important skill required for the position. Review the job description and assume the first requirement is the most important.

This question also earns a 6.

The Ugly

How does your previous experience relate to this position? Really dumb question. The interviewer wants to know if you have the job-related skills, something that should be obvious from reading your resume.

To answer this question you need to know the job requirements and how you qualify for every one of them. Do your homework. Also think of transferable skills that can contribute to the position.

This question deserves a 4, because it only requires you to read the job description and connect the dots.

What is your greatest weakness? Here’s the thing, no one is going to admit to their greatest weakness, and everyone is so nontransparent that this question should be barred from all interviews. A word of advice, never tell the interviewer you’re a perfectionist. Read why here.

On the plus side the interviewer is trying to gauge your ability to say a fraction of the truth. In other words show some transparency. He wants to see if you are aware of your faults and how you are trying to correct them.

Nonetheless, the score for this question is a 2 out of 10.

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be? Resist the urge to giggle; some argue that there is a good reason for asking this question and questions like it. They say it determines your knowledge of the work environment. For example, the environment is fast and progressive, so you want to be flexible like a birch.

My suggestion for answering this question is to play along. Most interviewers who ask this question are inexperienced and have no idea of why they’re asking it. However, some interviewers do.

Regardless, I give this question the lowest score, 1 out of 10.


These questions have popped up in article after article. My clients report being asked them in their interviews. These questions, as good or ugly as they are, are timeless. So expect some, if not many of these classic questions, in your next interview.

Final thought: questions like these are the easiest to answer because you can arrive at the interview with the answers already in mind. If you’re wondering which questions deserve a perfect 10 our of 10, behavioral-based interviews like “Tell me about your greatest challenge, what you did about it, and what did you learn from your actions?” is more like it.

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2 great reasons why introverts and job seekers should walk alone

Walking shoes

Introverts find various ways to carve out the time to reflect. Mine is walking. Yours may be hiking, yoga, going to the gym, taking a ride, etc. Imagine doing what helps you to reflect.

As often as I can I lace up my sneakers, set my phone to NPR or my music play list, and set out for my 45-minute walk…alone. Always alone. If you’re thinking that only a loner would walk alone, let me assure you that, as an introvert, this time is golden.

I usually walk the same route; although, I might get a little crazy and reverse the route. I joke that if someone wanted to assassinate me, they’d know where to find me based on my routine.

Why do I walk alone? I’ve asked people if they’d like to join me, but there are no other walkers in the neighborhood. I suppose I could reach out to people in other neighborhoods; I’ve seen people drive from other neighborhoods to take advantage of our hills.

I walk alone because being alone is my time. It’s my time to relax after a long day of work. It’s my time to get out of the house and be in nature. It’s my time to reflex. Besides, walking with other people would mean coordinating meeting up, and that’s just too hard.

Despite wearing a headset and listening to “On Point” or Taylor Swift (don’t judge), I am alone, and I do think of whatever comes to mind. At times I’ll formulate ideas for a new workshop. I’ll figure out a way to solve a pressing problem.

Introverts need time to reflect

I tell my job seekers that when I was out of work I extended my walking from 45 minutes a day to 90. That’s right; I doubled my distance. I walked around the city of Lowell strategizing on the job search and clearing my head.

I suggest they do the same and the reactions are mixed; some nod with approval, others give it a thought and then dismiss it. Maybe to some walking is boring. I admit if it weren’t for my NPR and music playlist I wouldn’t enjoy walking as much.

Extraverts, on the other hand, generally require a walking buddy who they can talk with, because they need to be around people. In fact the more the better. Occasionally I’ll see groups of walkers talking with each other a mile a minute.

If I notice someone in the group just listening and seldom contributing, I think that must be the introvert in the group. Introverts welcome conversation but don’t engage in exhaustive group discussion, where the goal is to win the battle of “Conversation Master.”

One of my valued connections, Edythe Richards, asserts that as an ISTP I’m extremely independent, which makes perfect sense given the fact that I love my alone time. I’m surrounded by people during the day, but after work I like to walk alone.

(I suggest you listen to Edythe’s awesome podcast on my type: ISTP. She’s recorded many more, with her goal to create podcasts on all sixteen types.)

Edythe also says ISTPs can appear aloof. I don’t consider myself aloof, but maybe that’s what makes people aloof—they don’t know they’re exhibiting such behaviors. To me, walking alone is natural and often enjoyable.

In place of human interaction, I have my NRP or music playlist. Oh, of course I have my variety of thoughts, some of which are productive (as in a new idea for a workshop) others are regarding kids’ issues, and others just thoughts. Regardless, they’re thoughts.

How introverted job seekers can benefit from walking

If you’re currently without a job, walking can be especially beneficial to your state of mind. Those who haven’t suffered the loss of a job may think that the loss of income is the most devastating part of being unemployed. This is not necessarily true.

With the loss of employment comes the blow to your emotions, which in turn can affect your motivation. A routine of walking early in the morning can replenish the motivation by giving you routine similar to what you had when working.

Getting up at the same time every morning and leaving the same time. It’s a routine and all good. You lose your routine, you lose your mojo. And you don’t want that.

Walking is also a great way to strategize about your job search, devise your day’s activities. There is a networking event coming up. Are you prepared for it? Are your personal business cards in order? Check. What are some of your talking points if you have to make small talk.

Maybe your résumé needs updating. Walking gives you the time to think about some of the accomplishments you achieved in your most recent position. They have to be included on your résumé. You have to enhance your LinkedIn profile, including adding a photo, beefing up the Summary and Experience sections.

I used to walk before an interview. It gave me time to go over my elevator pitch and answer the difficult questions I expected. So when the interview arrived, I was prepared to answer the questions. I must have confused people who saw me talking to myself. Oh well.

The time to reflect eliminates the things in your house that distract you from the job search. I’m always telling job seekers to get out of their house. Walking is a perfect way to do this.

I’m not saying walking is going to be your thing. I’m also not saying that introverts are the only ones who should walk. We’re more like to use it as a time to reflect and feel totally natural doing so. Give it a shot whether you’re out of work or just need some time to reflect.

Photo: Flickr, sabrina amico

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14 tips to connect in your community for your job search

small meeting

Some job seekers see attending organized networking events as akin to meeting their future in-laws for the first time. For some it’s downright frightening; one job seeker told me she hyperventilates before she goes to an event. Wow.

Perhaps you feel similar symptoms, dreading the times you have to attend organized networking events.

You’re expected to engage in conversation about you and the strangers you meet, deliver your elevator pitch, maintain proper posture, exchange business cards, refrain from eating messy food, etc.

Take away the expectations that come with attending a networking event, and you’re left with simply connecting with people in your community. You’re more relaxed. There’s no pressure to perform like you would at a networking event.

Community includes the people with whom you interact: former colleagues, small meet-ups, friends, family, neighbors, soccer parents, PTA members, your hair stylist, the folks with whom you volunteer, your career center staff—essentially everyone in your life.

Am I suggesting that you avoid networking events? Certainly not. There are opportunities these events provide, but by connecting with people in your community valuable opportunities also exist. Some important points to consider when connecting in the community include:

  1. Get the word out. As simple as this sounds, I know people who don’t tell family or friends they’re out of work because of shame and embarrassment. Regardless of how you departed your company/organization, your community has to know you’re no longer employed. There is no shame in being unemployed, as thousands of others like you are in the same situation.
  2. Don’t come across as desperate. One thing employers look for in a candidate is confidence. The same applies to your community. Someone who appears confident and not phased by their situation is someone your community members will be willing to back.
  3. Make a good first impression. Along with projecting a positive attitude, dressing well at all times, being considerate of people’s time, going out of your way to help others, and of course smiling all count. The saying that your first impression is your last impression holds true.
  4. Resist the urge to bash. Regardless of how your employment ended, don’t rant about how unfairly you were treated and the circumstances of why you were let go or laid off. If asked about your departure, explain how it happened, but don’t come across as angry. If you’re not past the anger stage, avoid talking about the situation.
  5. Know what you want to do. Your community can only help you if you are able to explain very clearly what occupation you’re pursuing, the industry in which you’d like to work, even the location you prefer. To say, “I’ll do anything; I just need a job” is not helpful to people in your community, and will make you appear desperate.
  6. Clearly explain what you do. To say, “I’m in customer service” is not enough.Telling your community that you “answer customers’ questions regarding their cable, telephone, and Internet issues” paints a better picture and provokes follow-up questions.
  7. Do your researchWhat type of companies do you want to work for? What are the names of those companies? This is all important information, especially if you know of someone in your community who has a contact or two at those companies. Casually connecting with these people by making a phone call or meeting them for coffee can lead to results.
  8. No events are off limits. Bar-b-ques, holiday parties, baby showers, your nephew’s birthday party, are appropriate places to connect to explain your status. Just be tactful and don’t dominate conversations with your job search woes. Instead briefly explain what you do and ask people to keep their ears to the pavement.
  9. Start small. An alternative to an organized networking event is a meet-up. This is a small group consisting of 4 or 5  people who get together to discuss their job-search situation, hold each other accountable, offer job-search advice, and provide moral support.
  10. Carry personal business cards with you. That’s right; even when you connect with your community in a casual way you’ll want to show how serious you are about finding a job. It shows professionalism and helps people to remember what you do and the type of job you’re seeking (related to numbers 4 and 5). Unlike your resume, they are easy to carry.
  11. Never outright ask if they know of a job. If you want your community to help you, don’t ask if they know of any jobs that would suit you. This only puts pressure on them. One phrase I used when I was out of work was, “If you come across anything, please let me know.”
  12. Stay top of mind. Ping the people in your community with updates on your job search or just to keep in touch by sending them e-mails or cards on special occasions. It doesn’t always have to be about your job search; asking a contact how their child’s play went is a good break from business. Doing this will keep you top of mind.
  13. Follow up. Perhaps the most important part of you job search is following up on the people with whom you’ve spoken. Chances are they for got your conversation a couple of days ago. Kindly tell them, “I’m following up on our conversation. When you get the chance to send my Bob McIntosh’s contact information, I would appreciate it very much.” Always follow with asking them how you can be of assistance.
  14. Reciprocate. When you finally get your job, be sure to show your gratitude by offering to help those who assisted you with your job search. This means everyone. You may not be able to provide the same kind of help, but maybe you could help someone with her small business, for instance. Keep the good will in your community going.

Connecting with people in your community should feel natural and relaxed, not stiff and laborious. Connecting at networking events can have great benefits, and over time you’ll learn to network better; but begin by establishing relationships with the people in your community and build your way up to attending the events.

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Photo: Flickr, Ormiston Sudbury Academy

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6 times when an accomplishment list can be useful

SuccessMan

For awhile now I’ve been telling my workshop attendees to put together an accomplishment list. I’ve been waiting for just one of them to ask me if I have one. And I’ve had the sinking feeling of being like Dante in the eight circle of hell suffering along with the hypocrites.

For those who are unfamiliar with an accomplishment list, it’s a number of outstanding achievements you’ve accumulated over the course of your career—but not exceeding 10 to 15 years of work history. It should be broken down into occupations, positions, or skill areas, or you can compile a list of accomplishments that reflect one occupation.

1. Networking meetings. Most believe they should bring a résumé to a networking meeting, but an accomplishment list could be more useful, given that a generic résumé will not impress the interviewer. Let’s say the person with whom you’re speaking mentions that the many of the company employees expressed dissatisfaction in their responsibilities.

On your accomplishment list is: “Reduced turnover by 50% and increased employee satisfaction by implementing a program that facilitated cross-training in various departments.”

2. Networking. Bringing your accomplishment list to networking events for job seekers will serve you well. You won’t cite all your accomplishments when you’re standing at the front of the room during a “needs and leads” session but telling the group about your best accomplishment will leave a lasting impression in their minds.

“At Acme Company I volunteered to lead computer training for people who were struggling with SAP. My patient, yet thorough, style of training enabled all the trainees to understand the program in a week’s time, thus increasing their production.”

3. Interviews. Why not make your accomplishment list part of your portfolio? Chances are you’ve included the necessary job-related accomplishments on your résumé—and you’ve explained them during the meeting—but there may be other accomplishments that could contribute to your candidacy. Your list might be the tie-breaker.

Before the interview, expand on the accomplishments by explaining the whole story using the STAR formula. Your accomplishments talk about the action and result/s, but you’ll need to tell the whole story, particularly when answering behavioral-based questions.

4. Telephone interviews. Telephone interviews are also a great time to share your accomplishments. Because the interviewer can’t see you, your list will be by your side where you can see it. The interviewer asks if there’s anything you’d like to add.

You say, “I would be remiss in not mentioning that I excel in writing. In fact, when technical document was needed, sales would often come to me for easy-to-understand documentation on our products.”

5. Writing your marketing documents. An accomplishment list is extremely useful to have at hand when writing a résumé and cover letter. Some of my customers are writing a résumé for the first time in 20 years.

Should they write the Summary Statement first? Probably not. It’s easier to structure your Summary around your accomplishments, not the other way around.

I advise my customers to write at least five accomplishments having to do with increasing sales, saving money, increasing efficiency, solving problems, effective management, or other ways they’ve helped the company/organization.

6. When you’re employed. Often we overlook accomplishments we’ve achieved at work. The best time to compile your accomplishment list is when you’re working and the accomplishments are fresh in your mind. Every time you do something outstanding, write it down.

Asking for a raise? You better be able to justify a 10 percent increase. Bring your list with you to refer to. Chances are your boss knows what kind of great work you’ve done, but does she know you scored 97% on your evaluations?


I’m glad to say that, I now have an accomplishment list that spans no more than 10 years, most of them within the last five. Now when one of my workshop attendees asks, “So, Bob, do you have an accomplishment list?” I can smile and be assured that I’m saved from the eighth ring of Dante’s Inferno.

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Photo: Flickr, dtn305

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5 steps to take when you can’t tailor your résumé to a particular position

ResumeWhen I tell jobseekers they should tailor their résumés to every position, their eyes widen. Some protest that this is too much work and one or two even become angry and profusely refuse to put in this hard work.

The reason I tell my customers to make the effort is because they need to speak to the needs of the employer. Further, this will impress the employer with their research of the position and demonstrate how they can solve problems the company is facing.

But let’s be realistic; this is not possible for every résumé you write, particularly if:

  • you’re posting your résumé on a job board where it will be stored in a résumé bank among millions of other résumés;
  • you don’t have a descriptive job ad and/or;
  • there’s no one to network with to find the real deal about the job for which you’re applying.

So what’s the solution?

In his Knock ‘Em Dead series, Knock ‘Em DeadSecrets & Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World, Martin Yate offers his Target Job Deconstruction (TJD) method as the next best thing to a tailor-made résumé. His method makes sense to me, so I teach it in my workshops.

“Your résumé,” he writes, “will obviously be most effective when it starts with a clear focus and understanding of a specific job target. TJD allows you to analyze exactly how employers prioritize their needs for your target job and the words used to express those needs, resulting in a detailed template for the story your résumé needs to tell.”

There are eight steps Martin describes when writing your TJD (they can be found in his book), but I’ll talk about the most immediate steps for creating your résumé template.

1. The first task in creating your résumé template is to collect approximately six job ads for a position you’re seeking. Use websites like Indeed.com or Jobster.com. They use spider technology pulling from other job boards and deliver a plethora of positions from which to choose. The locations of the jobs matter not.

2. From there, you’ll note a requirement (skill, deliverable) most common for all six positions. Next, identify a common requirement for five of the six positions, a common requirement for four of the six positions, and so on, until you have a list of the most common requirements in descending order.

This will give you a good understanding of how employers think when they determine who they’d like to hire. It will also give you a foundation to write a résumé template, which you can modify whenever you send your résumé to a particular company.

Let’s look at a Marketing Specialist position in the Boston area. I managed to find six job descriptions by using Indeed.com. Listed below are the six most common requirements for this position.

  1. Common to all six companies is writing copy for web content, as well as creating a social media campaign.
  2. Common to five of the companies is managing relations with appropriate departments.
  3. Common to four of the companies is coordinating projects with outside vendors.
  4. Common to three of the companies is researching competitors’ websites and reporting activity.
  5. Common to two of the companies is coordinating trade shows.
  6. Another notable duty is Photo shoots/animation development, which drew my attention, as I enjoy, but have limited experience in photography.

3. Now write your résumé. Given the above information, your new résumé should first verify in the Professional Profile your qualifications for the most common requirements listed. Your Performance Profile could read as follows based on the general requirements:

Produced compelling content for website and social media distribution ~ Manage communications between engineering, production, and sales ~ Develop and nurture vendor relationships ~ Direct tradeshows from planning to completion ~ Acknowledged by CEO for cost reduction.

4. You will next extract all the key words that apply to you and create a Competencies section including those key words, as your résumé might be scanned by large and even midsize companies. Don’t forget the strong transferable skills you possess.

5. Finally, you will prove in your Employment History what you have asserted in your Professional profile. Try to prove your assertions with accomplishment statements that are quantified. For example, the following accomplishment addresses the first statement from the Performance Profile above:

Produced persuasive content which was distributed via the company’s website and major social media platforms. During this time, a 56% increase in revenue was realized.

Final Note: I continue to insist that, when at all possible, my customers tailor their résumés to each job they apply, as it demonstrates their knowledge of the position and effectively demonstrates their qualifications to meet the position’s requirements. This is ideal when you have a list of your top 20-30 companies, the companies for which you want to show your love.

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