Author Archives: Things Career Related

About Things Career Related

Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 17 job search workshops at an urban career center, as well as critiques LinkedIn profiles and conducts mock interviews. Job seekers and staff look to him for advice on the job search. In addition, Bob has gained a reputation as a LinkedIn authority in the community. He started the first LinkedIn program at the Career Center of Lowell and created workshops to support the program. People from across the state attend his LinkedIn workshops. Bob’s greatest pleasure is helping people find rewarding careers in a competitive job market. For enjoyment, he blogs at Things Career Related and Recruiter.com. Connect with Bob on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

64% of voters say they will pay someone to write their job-search documents

There are times when having a professional do a job for you—like replacing the brakes on your car, installing a water heater, or roofing your house—is the right way to go. Let’s add one of my recent failures, installing a screen and glass door to the list.

Some of you might be thinking about the aforementioned projects, “I can do that. I’d rather do it myself than waste the money.” And perhaps you can at the expense of your valuable time and doing a shoddy job. Not good.

Smart consumers understand the value of their time and getting the job done right. Another project you think you can DIY is writing your job-search documents (resume and LinkedIn profile). But will you write documents that will truly show your value to employers? Or will you do a shoddy job?

As I’m wont to do, I polled LinkedIn members asking them if they would pay for someone to write their job-search documents. Sixty-four percent (64%) of them said they would, 29% voted no, and 7% stated they write job-search documents for a living. Eliminating the third option, leaves us with a strong affirmative for the first option.

Hiring someone to write your job-search documents

I should have prefaced this article by saying that I’m not promoting resume and LinkedIn profile writers. What I’m saying is that if you decide to outsource your job-search documents, make sure your writer can accomplish the following:

Won’t put you in debt

For many people who find themselves unemployed, the cost of hiring someone to write their job-search documents is a concern. Massachusetts offers the highest unemployment benefits at $823 a week. Mississippi, on the other hand, offers $235 a week. Someone from Mississippi will have a more difficult time paying to have their documents written.

Even if you live in a state like Massachusetts, there are other bills to pay. You need to determine if hiring a writer to do the job for $500-$1,500 is within your budget. Perhaps you received a generous severance or you accumulated a substantial savings. This might provide you with enough resources.

One solution might be asking loved ones for money to pay a writer to produce your job-search documents. Your brother in California isn’t aware of your industry and occupation, but he can send you $200 to help you in your job search. This will lessen the impact.

Saves you time

Creating strong job-search documents is time consuming. For some it’s a matter of producing a resume they’ve been updating over the course of their career, or just beginning to write their LinkedIn profile; but for others it could be creating the documents from scratch.

I’ve had high-level job seekers who’ve never written a resume or profile. They’ve been at their previous job for more than 30 years, and in between gigs they didn’t require these job-search documents. Rare, but it’s possible.

Do you have the resources to do the job right? Hiring someone to write your documents can save you hours and allow you to focus on your job–if you’re currently working–and conduct other aspects of your job search, such as researching companies on your target list.

Has a great reputation

I was hired a few years ago to review resume writing services that revised a poorly written resume I sent them. The results varied but, for the most part, out of seven resume writing services two returned acceptable products. I refer to them as resume mills because they pump out resumes by the hundreds per week.

None of the resume writing services achieved what I’m talking about here, getting a sense of who the “candidate” was and what he had accomplished. Many of the products these resume mills produced focused on keywords that they said would make the resume ATS-friendly.

It’s important that you do your research and find the best resume and LinkedIn profile writer to fit your budget, while also producing products that will land you interviews. (Also keep in mind that no writer in their right mind will guarantee the documents they write will land you tons of interviews.) How you distribute your resume is a key factor.

Is in sync with your occupation/industry

If you’re going to hire someone to write your job-search documents, it would probably be best that said person is familiar with your occupation and industry. I’m not implying that if you’re an engineer or marketer that the writer must be a former engineer or marketer. I am saying that your writer is qualified to produce a product that will be relevant to the position for which you’re applying.

Let’s say you have consistently increased processes which saved your team time, but your writer believes that increasing revenue is what should be highlighted. Because they don’t understand the nature of your occupation, they fail to hit the mark. You’ll get the sense that you’ve wasted a great deal of time and money.

A good writer will refer you to someone who’s more qualified to write your job-search documents. In the past, I’ve referred people to writers who are more aligned with job seekers. Why waste the job seeker’s and my time?

Can tell your story

A great writer will effectively tell your story. They will interview you to produce a product that will give the employer a strong sense of your career trajectory and your accomplishments that include metrics. Your job-search documents will sell you from the beginning of the documents to the very end.

Most important is the Experience section that tells a story through accomplishment statements that read like a S.T.A.R. formula. Here is a story followed by the two-line accomplishment statement:

What
ŸŸŸŸImplemented new CRM software to help Sales.

How
Approached and received approval from upper management.
Implemented Infusionsoft software for sales; originally using Excel on Intranet.
Trained Sales on how to use Infusionsoft.

Results
Increased productivity of Sales team 50%.
Completed 2 weeks ahead of schedule: projected 3 months.
CEO announced my achievement in front of staff at building meeting.

The one-line accomplishment statement

  • Increased productivity of Sales Team 50% by initiating and implementing Infusionsoft software 2 weeks before 3-month deadline. Received accolades from CEO

Ideally your writer can create a story for every accomplishment on your document, but this isn’t always possible. Good writers will “drag” your stories out of the recesses of your memory.


As I mentioned earlier, this is not an advertisement for job-search document writers. On my journey through LinkedIn I have come across great resume writers who will meet most of your objectives—cost, time saving, great reputation, in sync with your industry, and tell your story.

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Starting with years of experience in elevator pitch and on resume could hurt you

It’s inevitable. When an older job seeker delivers their elevator pitch to me, they lead with something like “I have 20 years of experience in project management.” My reaction to this auspicious beginning is that it’s not…auspicious. In other words, the person’s years of experience doesn’t impress.

The same principle applies to a resume; touting years of experience in the Summary doesn’t impress a reader. It certainly doesn’t impress me. And I imagine it doesn’t impress hiring authorities, as evident by a raging poll that is only two-days old on LinkedIn.

What impresses me AND employers is what you’ve accomplished most recently, say in the last five to seven years, and that your accomplishments are relevant to the employer’s needs. In addition, because you have 20 plus years of experience doesn’t prove you’ve been productive.

Angela Watts is a former recruiter turned recruiter has this to say about showing value over years of experience:

“Years of experience in and of itself means nothing… you may have been doing a job very poorly for 20+ years. Show me the accomplishments… the pattern of success across roles and companies… your compelling value proposition for THIS open position.”

Hannah Morgan is a career coach and speaker who advises candidates to talk about relevant value and using a hook to begin the elevator pitch and the resume Summary:

This has been a pet peeve of mine since I started! It’s always about what you know how to do (problems you solve). The number of years is irrelevant. Explain the level at which you perform your job! And yes, always get them with a hook. Make it relatable!

If you ask 10 people how someone should deliver their elevator pitch or begin their resume Summary (more about the Summary below), you’ll get 10 different answers. This doesn’t mean the answers will be wrong; it simply means the components of each will vary slightly or be arranged in a different manner.

Your elevator pitch

Following is my opinion on how to deliver the elevator pitch without stating years of experience.

Start strong

Instead of beginning your elevator pitch with the number of years you’ve been in occupation and industry, explain why you enjoy what you’re doing. That’s right, tell the interviewers or fellow networkers what drives you in your work. I’m tempted to say what you’re passionate about, but why not?

People like to hear and see enthusiasm. Especially employers who are hiring people for motivation and fit. Sure, technical skills matter. Employers need to know you can do the job, but your years of experience doesn’t prove you can do the job. “I have 20 years of experience” is a “So what?” statement.

Let’s look at a sample answer to “Tell me about yourself.” The following statement shows enthusiasm and draws the listener’s attention, especially with inflection in your voice:

I knew marketing communications was the route I wanted to take as soon as I realized what an impact it has stakeholders. Playing an integral role in getting the company’s message out to the public is one of my greatest pleasures, (slight rise in voice) especially when it increases awareness of our products or services.

Back it up with relevant accomplishments

This part of your elevator pitch is the most important, as you will speak to the employer’s needs. Two or three relevant accomplishments of what you’ve achieved most recently is best. But keep in mind they don’t want to hear your life story. Keep it brief, yet impactful.

(Big smile) One of my greatest accomplishments is having recently led a social media team of five who were able to increase traffic to my previous company’s website 250% since I took over. I was hired for the role because of my (slight rise in voice) leadership abilities and intimate knowledge of the platforms we used, such as: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

(Slight pause)

One of my favorite aspects of communications is writing content for press releases, whitepapers, customer success stories, newsletters, and product releases. My former boss said I was the most prolific writer he’s seen. More importantly, (slight rise in voice) I increased our organization’s visibility by 40%.

(Another slight pause)

I know you’re looking for someone who can create and conduct webinars. I have extensive experience over the past five years delivering three webinars a week on a consistent basis. These were well received by our (spread arms wide) 10s of thousands of viewers. One of my favorites was interviewing the VP once a month.

Wrap it up with energy

You’ve made it to the concluding statement. Maintain the energy that makes you the go-getter all employers want. Make them look past your age and focus on what you’ve achieved. A strong ending will set the tone for the rest of the interview. Use the word “energy.” If you say it, they’re more likely to believe it.

I’d like to end by saying that I’ve received multiple awards of recognition from my colleagues for not only the expertise I demonstrated (slight rise in voice) but also the energy I exuded. In addition, I was often told by my boss that if she could clone me she would. I will bring to your company the experience required and the energy needed to get things done.

You might be an older candidate, but by not letting interviewers to focus on your 20-years of experience and more on what you’ve accomplished, your chances of wowing them will be greater. They would if I were interviewing you.

What about the resume Summary or Value Proposition?

I propose that your Summary shows personality as well as value you’ll deliver to the employer. You might consider it a miniature elevator pitch. The example below is written in first person point of view, which gives the Value Proposition more personality.

I Identify and minimize risk by predicting the demand for products and adopting new technology with no interruption to the process.

One of my fortes is implementing strategies to speed up the processes of packing, loading and delivering products, thereby increasing customer satisfaction.

“Shannon has brought innovative supply chain strategies to (company) which made us more efficient and save cost. Our customers were extremely pleased with Shannon’s attention to their needs.” Bob Jones, VP Operations, ABC Company

The quote is not a mistake. Quotes can be very impactful because what others say about you weighs heavier that what you say about yourself, especially if it’s coming from someone as high as the VP of operations.


Selected quotes from the poll

Kevin D. Turner: Experience naturally is both Quality & Quantity but I recommend not leading with Quantity. XX Years of Experience was once a perceived value and now can be a limiter to a sizable % of those decision makers who are doing the hiring.

To many, XX years of experience, could bring up thoughts like; ‘they are set in their ways and won’t do it our way,’ ‘they have so many years of experience, we just can’t afford them,’ or ‘How will Bob with XX years of experience relate to 95% of our staff that are Millennials and Gen Z’s?” Put Quality first and let them figure out quantity.

Karen Tisdell: In Australia starting a profile with “I have 20 years experience in…” is standard. It’s also counter to our culture of mateship. 20 years implies that you are better than someone with only 2 or 5 years, and yet we all know that people don’t always have to have years of experience to be brilliant at their job.

Only recently a client of mine won an industry award and he has only been in the industry 5 years, and two of those were part-time. I dislike the ‘where’s my crown?’ implication in the 20 years rhetoric, as you say Bob McIntosh – it’s far from auspicious. It’s snooty, top-down, hierarchical.

Rich Ormond: I think that years of experience are very relevant, although certainly not the totality. If what you say is the default way of thinking, then people like me are in trouble. I’ve essentially had three careers so far — renewable energy, international aid, and now career services.

What’s more, I’ve gone back and forth between them (especially the first two). If I can only count what I’ve done in the last five to seven years, then I can never transition back to a former career.

No, if I ever decide to do so, you can be sure that I will be relying heavily on my years of experience in those fields, citing my recent years only as building complimentary skills. For those like me who do not have linear careers, listing your years of experience in a field is a must, I think.

Virginia Franco: I agree completely — your years of experience isn’t nearly as important as what you’ve done during that time. That being said, it’s confusing for job seekers because job posting usually list desired years of experience!

Meg Applegate: I wholeheartedly agree, Bob! Lead with your unique value not length of tenure. Answer the “why does this matter?” question and the WIIFM questions that hiring managers are asking when reading your resume.

LAURA SMITH-PROULX:I cannot stand to hear elevator pitches (or read resume / LinkedIn summaries) that tout XX years of experience, Bob McIntosh, because there are SO many better ways to describe oneself!

I have the unfortunate lens of having worked at an organization with longtime employees who’d simply clung to their jobs, with no real innovation or achievements to claim. Mere survival in one’s industry is of little value.

The other problem with this statement is that you could be up against candidates with a similarly lengthy career – and THEN what will you use for differentiation? Employers can quickly read or interpret your age and length of experience. Your career branding approach (throughout your elevator pitch and documents) must take care of the rest

Debra Feldman: ⚠ Years of experience can set off an alarm for older candidates. Rather emphasize accomplishments that are relevant to the needs of the employer. What’s that saying about it’s not the years in your life but the life in your years!

The majority of hiring authorities read the LinkedIn profile Experience section first, so make it shine

Most hiring authorities (recruiters, hiring managers, and HR) who read many LinkedIn profiles at a sitting will tell you that the Experience section is where they will go first when reading a LinkedIn profile. Not the About or Education sections.

Amazon recruiter Amy Miller states this in her recent YouTube video, How Do Recruiters Look at LinkedIn Profiles? Amy’s not the only recruiter who’s made the claim that hiring authorities prefer reading Experience first. Eighty-two percent (82%)* of hiring authorities I asked also agreed that they go to Experience first.

Bernadette Pawlik explains how she reads a LinkedIn profile: “Titles all the way down, Experience, then About. With LinkedIn profiles and with resumes, I quickly scan down the left hand side. A recruiter isn’t going to excavate your profile for your qualifications.

So, think of the LinkedIn profile as the menu and your resume as the entree. Titles should reflect your roles, Experience should very briefly outline context, responsibilities, and one or two accomplishments.

Marie Zimenoff, of CareerThoughLeaders.com, adds: “Although the About section may be first in a profile, there are a few reasons a recruiter or hiring manager will likely start with the Experience section when reading a profile.

First, hiring managers want to see if a candidate is qualified for the role before they take time to read an introduction like a cover letter or About section. Second, the Experience section titles are big, bold, and easy to skim – especially on mobile.

Invest more in your Experience section: 5 ways to do it

Given that Experience is preferred over About, it makes sense that you put your all into making it stronger. It’s been my experience that most job seekers don’t put as much effort into creating a strong Experience section as they do their About.

Is this because they’re encouraged by career coaches to beef up their About? I advise my clients to write a strong About section, telling their “story.” However, I also tell them they can also tell their story in Experience; that they can use first-person point of view even. Here is how Experience should be written.

1. Experience needs to tell a better story. Don’t have verbiage for your Experience section? A quick fix of copying the content of your resume to your profile is the first step; however, you’re not done yet.

You still have to modify Experience to make it more personal, more of a networking piece of your document. This means your point of view should be first-person and, of course, include quantified results.

Start with a job scope to craft your story. For example: “As the Director of Marketing Communications, ABC Company, I planned, developed, and executed multi-channel marketing programs and performance-driven campaigns, using digital marketing principles and techniques to meet project and organization goals.”

Use first person point of view for your accomplishments to tell a story. Take, for example, an accomplishment statement from a resume might read: “Volunteered to train Sales Team on Salesforce, increasing the team’s output by 75%.

Better: I extended my training expertise by volunteering to train Sales Team on Salesforce. All members of the team were more productive as a result of my patient training style, increasing the team’s output by 75%.

2. Utilize SEO by expanding your title. Did you know that the titles of your positions are weighed heavily in terms of keywords?

Ed Han is a recruiter who talks about the importance of titles in Experience: “There are several places where keywords are weighted more heavily than other parts of your profile. One area where they are weighted pretty heavily is in the Experience section.”

According to Ed, this would be wrong: CEO at ABC Company.

This would be better: CEO at ABC Company ~ New Business Development | Global Strategic Relationships | Increasing Market Share 74% 2020-2021

3. Expand the description of your role, no matter who you are.  You’re a VP, director, or CEO; so you think that says it all. Wrong! At the very least, your leadership as a director of an organization plays an essential role in its success.

  • What is the scope of your authority?
  • How have you helped the organization grow?
  • Have you contributed to the community or charities?
  • Have you turned around failing companies and made them more profitable?

Remember, you’re representing the organization. Your overall responsibilities and highlights will catch the eyes of hiring authorities. Here’s an example from one of my former clients of his job scope followed by a few accomplishment statements:

In this position, I was one of only four executives/staff retained in acquisition of Company ABC to remotely direct global sales, marketing, and product management. I created competitive analysis, technology roadmap, and product marketing for business unit success.

Highlights
Increased gross profit 9% year-over-year through BU cost reduction, improving product procurement process, negotiating vendor contracts, and owning product pricing structure.
Generated revenue growth of 76% by improving forecast accuracy, lead generation, engaging with key marketing influencers, and conducting technical workshops,
Expanded global sales by 20% through improved lead and opportunity management, technical training, identifying new markets, and improving channel partner experience.

Note: In this case, my client didn’t write his accomplishments in first-person point of view.

4. Stick with the accomplishments, ditch the mundane duties. There are two ways you can look at your position descriptions; you can stick with only the accomplishments, or you can mimic your resume.

I’m in the opinion that your accomplishments alone would impress hiring authorities more than all your duties and a few accomplishments.

You’re probably proud of those duties and don’t want to let them go. Here’s the thing, accomplishments speak much louder than duties. Unless you can turn those duties into accomplishments with quantified results (or perhaps qualify them), I suggest you ditch them.

After reading your flashy, personal LinkedIn profile Experience section, hiring authorities can turn to your resume to get the whole picture. Don’t disappoint them by presenting duplicate versions of the two documents.

Add some zing to your Experience. Few people know that you can bold text on the LinkedIn profile. I’m going to let you in on how to do it. Go to: LingoJam.

Copy what you want to bold and paste it into the field on the left. Your bolded text will appear in the box on the left. Here’s an example from my profile:

❍ 𝗜 𝗿𝗲𝗰𝗲𝗶𝘃𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝟮𝟬𝟭𝟵 𝗠𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗛𝗶𝗿𝗲 𝗜𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗻𝘂𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗮𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗱 for my part in delivering webinars on various job-search topics for MassHire Lowell Career Center. 🏆

What this? There’s an award trophy at the end of the sentence. Yes, you can also use emojis on your profile. One of my favorite sites for emojis is Susan Joyce‘s article on Job-Hunt.org. Susan makes it easy to copy and paste the emojis, which she calls eye candy. There are other sites that provide “eye candy.”


What do LinkedIn’s new changes to About and Experience sections tell us? Kevin Turner, Jeff Young, and Gillian Whitney collaborated on a project that boiled down to some minor changes to About and Experience. About displays four lines opposed to three, and Experience displays only two lines.

LinkedIn’s efforts to emphasize About and de-emphasize Experience won’t change hiring authorities’ opinion on which section they’ll go to first. For the majority of them it will be Experience.

*A current poll reveals recruiters and others prefer Experience by only 61%.

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The job-search networking newsletter for any holiday

Like me, you receive holiday newsletters from friends and relatives who you see infrequently. You may look forward to receiving these yearly letters or dread them because they carry on for pages about personal information best saved for a therapist.

For job seekers these newsletters can serve as a great way to network if written properly. You’re sending these holiday networking newsletters to people who care about your welfare and would like to help in any way they could.

Maybe your uncle Jake once worked at Raytheon and still has connections there, past or present; or your former roommate from college is doing well for himself in marketing in NYC. Your brother is active on LinkedIn and probably has connections living in your area. He’ll sing your praises for sure. The list of possibilities is great.

Keep in mind that you’re not contacting employers or fellow job-seeking networkers who understand the lingo and nuances of networking for work. You’re reaching out to friends and relatives who know little to nothing about your situation or experience and goals. Thus, the content should be written for the layman.

The Opening

First wish your recipients a happy holiday. You’ll start light and stay light during the entire letter. This is, after all, the holidays.

“Hello loved ones. It’s been a busy year for the Jones, and we have a lot to tell you. First let me start by telling you that we have a new puppy; I think that sums up ‘busy.’ Ellen has me on house-training duties, and for the most part I’m doing all right. We’ve named him Messi after the great soccer player. He’s pictured below.” 

Body of Newsletter

News about the family is always appreciated.

“I’m proud to say that Tommy Jr. graduated from college and is interning at Fidelity. It helps that he developed a network while in college. I’m proud that he understands the importance of building relationships.

“Claire is enjoying her senior year in high school and much to the chagrin of Ellen and me (did I say that?) is dating a wonderful boy who dotes on her. She’ll be heading off to UMaine and he’ll be going to Florida State (Joy).

“Little Jason is entering high school with intentions of wrestling and playing soccer. He doesn’t seem to be thinking of what he wants to do after high school. He jokes about becoming a professional gamer. (Does that exist.) Really, Jason is a good boy; I’m not too worried.”

Continue writing about what’s happening on the family front, but don’t brag too much. How many times have we read holiday newsletters that sound like a commercial for the all American family? Keep it real. However, don’t write negative content.

The Conclusion

Be upbeat and positive as you tell your recipients about your current situation. You want your friends and relatives to think about how they may help; you don’t want to drive them away with demands or sound needy or despondent. Hearing about your situation will prompt many of them to inquire how they can help you.

“I think you may recall that I’m in transition from my position as director of marketing at my former software company. I enjoyed my tenure there but, alas, the company was sold to a European conglomerate. Please have a great (holiday) and, above all else, remain safe.”

Sign off with your telephone number and LinkedIn URL, if it feels appropriate. Also ask your recipients to write back with news about what’s going on in their lives. Good networking is not only about you; it’s also about those with whom you communicate no matter who the audience is.

In Addition

A post script could add a nice touch.

PS: This holiday I’ll be serving at our local soup kitchen. I am looking forward to giving to the community by helping those who aren’t as privileged. I’ll be home for Thanksgiving dinner which we’re celebrating with some relatives and close friends.

Some important things to note: don’t ask if anyone knows of a job. You don’t want to put undue pressure on your friends and relatives who are not consumed with the labor market. The best delivery method for your holiday networking newsletter would be email, but a paper letter is also acceptable.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com
Photo by Tanya Gorelova on Pexels.com

It’s official; “What is your greatest weakness?” is the most difficult question among 4

It’s almost inconceivable that “What is your greatest weakness?” is a question still asked in interviews, but many job seekers I’ve asked say they’re getting the weakness question in one form or another, which means that hiring authorities see some value in it. Mind boggling.

Branding Pro Kevin Turner has interviewed thousands of people during his career in marketing and sales, and he shares the same thought:

“Its uncomfortable to answer because who really wants to admit that they have a real weakness. I hope someday this question goes away but I don’t think it will anytime soon. So we have to be ready to ask it and digest the answers.

I polled LinkedIn members, of which 11,079 have voted at this writing, asking which four questions they think is most difficult. “What is your greatest weakness?” was one of them, and it received the highest number of votes. Here’s the result of the numbers each question has received:

  • What is your greatest weakness? 4,005
  • Tell me about yourself. 2,442
  • Why should we hire you. 2,508
  • Tell us about a time you made a mistake. 2,124

What is your greatest weakness?

Executive Resume Writer Laura Smith-Proulx further bemoans the “weakness question.” As a former recruiter, she writes:

Asking about a candidate’s weakness has always struck me as useless. After all, they’re interviewing to tell you why they’re the RIGHT person for the job and now you’re asking a question to seemingly stop the flow of positive information. (I never asked this of a candidate!) It also forces the job seeker to come up with a positive spin on the question.

Agreed 100%. And what candidate in their right mind would disclose their greatest weakness? Going into the interview they should have determined which weakness is relevant but not too relevant. In other words, it won’t kill their chances of getting the job.

On the other hand, a valid reason for asking this question is to see how candidates react. Will they answer the question calmly, or will they slide under the table? Self-awareness is one key element of emotional intelligence. A candidate who answers honestly will earn points from interviewers.

Tell me about yourself

This question (really a directive) came in as the third most difficult question according to the poll. The problem with this question is how candidates should answer it. Should they talk about their high school years, or how their kids are doing, or list off a ton of platitudes of themselves? No to all.

Recruiter and Job-Search Ally Ed Han finds this question troubling:

As a recruiter and job seeker ally, it often seems to me that while most people say they hate greatest weakness, in actual practice I find “tell me about yourself” generates by far the worst responses.

“Tell me about yourself” is often the trigger for a five-ten minute soliloquy. The interviewer doesn’t want your life story: they want to know your unique value proposition, why are you highly qualified for the position, or at least well positioned to perform the job at a high level.

The directive, “Tell me about yourself” has its merits because it requires the candidate to have their elevator pitch prepared. As well, they need to tailor it to the position’s requirements. Executive Career Coach Sarah Johnston concurs:

The most common question that I see job seekers struggle with is “tell me about yourself” because it can feel very open ended. The trick here though is to selectively tell them a 90-second version of your story as it relates to the pain points of the opportunity.

Ninety seconds is all it should take to tell employers about yourself. Any longer you’ll run the risk of boring the interviewers. I know my capacity for maintaining attention to an interview question is about a minute. As Ed says, don’t deliver a soliloquy.

Why should we hire you?

The question “Why should we hire you?” is a little better in terms of questions. But like the weakness question, it’s a bit of a cliche and one that candidates can formulate their answers going into the interview. Like the tell-me-about-yourself question, there’s a formula. One that Hannah Morgan spells out:

These are all questions job seekers struggle with and for different reasons. But I chose “why should we hire you” because while this seems pretty obvious, job seekers have difficulty connecting the dots in their answer.

You are looking for X and this is what I’ve done and the results
You are looking for Y and this is how I’ve done that and outcomes
Most importantly, based on these things I’ve learned in the interview, this is why I would like to work here.
Not exactly those words, but the idea!

This is all find and good if you know about the company, but what if you haven’t prepared for the interview, you haven’t researched the position and company. Recruiter Raegan Hill writes:

The reason is, this question often asked during the beginning phase of an interview – when the professional still needs more information about the role and company before they are able to thoughtfully and intentionally answer the question in the context in which it is asked.

This sounds like a trap to me. Shame on candidates who don’t know the position and company by heart.

Tell me about a time when you made a mistake

To me, the directive, “Tell me about a time when you made a mistake” is the most challenging of the four questions, as it requires candidates to tell a story and tests their sell-awareness…to a point. Based on the poll, the voters don’t agree.

In my experience, candidates tend to swallow the honest pill when asked about a failure. Why’s this? It might have something to do with be unprepared; they go into an interview thinking that interviewers won’t ask them about times they failed. Good interviewers will.

I chose this question as the most difficult one. Here’s why. Behavioral-based questions throw people for a loop. They’re not familiar with telling a story using the S.T.A.R (situation, task, actions, result) formula. Rather, candidates are used to traditional questions, such as the other three in the poll.

What interviewers hear, even from the higher-level job seekers, are speculative answers and not specifics. This is because candidates haven’t prepared for behavioral-based questions. They haven’t dissected the job ad to determine which are the most important requirements of the position.

Go to the poll to read some other great comments.

One of the toughest interview questions: “Why did you leave your previous job?”

And how to answer it.

This is an interview question that can be a cinch or difficult for job candidates to answer, depending on the reason for leaving their position. Always expect this question in an interview. It only makes sense that the interviewer would like to know why you left your previous job.

interview with woman

How you answer this question—most likely the first one asked—will set the tone for the rest of the interview. Many people interviewing for the first time are surprised when they get this question. It’s as though they don’t expect it.

Not only should you expect this question; you should have the answer to it already formulated. It should not take you by surprise. Expect it. Be prepared. If you get it wrong, shame on you.

Also, be aware of a zinger like, “Steve, tell us why you want to leave (company X) and come to work with us?” To answer this two-part question successfully requires an in depth knowledge of the company and position. Both of which are topics for another article.

What are employers looking for?

Is there a wrong answer? Not really. It’s how you answer it, for the most part. There’s no way to change the past, so your calm response is the best policy. They want transparency, not lies. They also don’t want a drawn-out story; your answer should be brief.

If you become emotional, it will send a negative message to interviewers. If you hesitate, they may distrust you or question your resolve.

Three possible scenarios

Let’s look at the reasons why people lose their job and how to address them.

1. You were laid off

This is easiest way to answer the question, “Why did you leave your last position?” As mentioned above, your answer should be short and sweet. You may say, “The company had to cut cost and restructure after a poor second quarter.

To beat them to the punch, you might add, “I was among 15 people in my group who were laid off. I was told by my manager that she was sad to see me go.” The reason for doing this is because you might get a follow-up question about how many people were laid off.

Caveat: some people think being laid off is the same as being let go or fired. It is not. Being laid off is do to company failure.

2. You were let go

This is harder to explain, but not impossible to come up with a viable resonse. This especially needs a short answer. It’s important that you are transparent and self-aware with your answer. In other words, if you were at fault, be honest about it.

You must also explain what you learned from the experience and state that it will not be repeated. Perhaps it was a conflict of personality between you and your manager, poor performance, or a “mutual departure.”

Conflict of personality. “A new manager took over our department. I was used to the way the previous person managed us. The new manager had a different style, which I didn’t adapt to quick enough. I now understand I need to be more adaptable to other types of management.

Poor or inadequate performance. “As the project manager of my department, I was responsible for delivering a release of a new data storage software. We failed to meet the deadline by a week. My VP saw this as unforgivable.  I see where I could have done a better job of managing the team.

You were not a fit for the role. Yes, this is a not a cliche in this case. “When I was hired for the role, complete knowledge of Excel wasn’t a requirement, but as the job evolved it became apparent that my Excel skills were not strong. As this position doesn’t require expert knowledge, I am confident I’ll do a stellar job.”

Caveat: the interviewer might want to dig deeper into the situation. Be prepared to answer the questions directly with little emotion. Always keep a cool head. Resist the temptation to speak negatively about your previous boss.

3. You quit or resigned

To quit a position—especially without a job in hand—means there was an existing problem. One common reason I hear for quitting is a conflict of personality with the employee’s supervisor. Another one is a toxic work environment. And a lame reason I hear is because advancement was not possible.

Regardless, a red flag will go up with interviewers if you quit your position. What some people don’t realize is that you give up your right to collect unemployment, if you quit; another reason why this is not a great scenario.

Conflict of personality. “While my previous boss and I got along well, we didn’t see things eye-to-eye on certain decisions he made, and tension was high, so I decided the best move for me was to resign.” To show you have nothing to hide, you can add: “I would be happy to discuss further if you’d like.”

Unsafe environment.I felt the work environment was not as safe as I was comfortable with. For example, there were many fire hazards in the warehouse. Additionally, the air quality was tested, and it failed. I feel fortunate that my wife brings in a substantial income; otherwise I might have stuck it out longer. My only regret is that I miss the people with whom I worked.”

Work-life balance was in jeopardy. “My job required me to drive into and out of (city), which was at times an hour and a half each way. I was missing a great deal of my son’s activities, and my health was suffering. Although commute isn’t a reason for taking this job, it will be a relief.”

Caveat: again, it is important to be transparent and honest when answering this question. To simply say you quit or resigned is not good enough. Do not be bitter when you answer this question; just state facts.


Always expect the question, “Why did you leave your last job.” Any interviewer who doesn’t ask this question isn’t doing his job. The reason for departure is essential information. I find this traditional question to be one of the most important ones for job candidates to able to answer.

Do spelling errors and typos matter? According to more than 8,635 voters, not so much

I’ve found that my spelling errors and errant typos have gotten increasingly worse over the years. Is it because most platforms have spellcheck and alert me to my mistakes, thus making me lazy? I hope it’s the technology and not my waning memory.

Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels.com

Do you find yourself misspelling words and making silly typos? If you do, you know how it feels to see them on the screen after you’ve published your posts or articles for the whole world to see. It might be cause for you to stop writing all together. Don’t let your mistakes get to you. You’re not going to be judged as harshly as you think.

A poll I conducted on LinkedIn surprisingly resulted in a mere 12% of voters who are intolerant of spelling errors and typos. The remaining 88% will allow a few or more mistakes in people’s writing. In fact, 55% of voters answered yes to, “Hey, everyone is human,” meaning that more than three is acceptable.

For the majority of voters who don’t expect perfection might imply that content is the key. A few or more mistakes can be overlooked. Another message I derived from the poll is that it depends on where the mistakes are made. For example, resumes and cover letters must be devoid of spelling errors and typos.

Not on resumes and LinkedIn profiles

Good resume writers are careful to deliver flawless products to their clients. Case in point, Erin Kennedy writes: “Well, as a writer I am probably the hardest on myself–but I’m hard on my staff as well. Our job is to write for other people so mistakes aren’t an option. In other jobs, it may not be as important.”

TIINA JARVET PEREIRA concurs: “It’s important to have a resume that looks clear and is without typos. In my job as a Headhunter I would ask the candidate to correct the typos before passing the resume to the Hiring Manager. It gives a better first impression.”

The strongest argument comes from Wendy Schoen, who writes: “I believe that your resume reflects your character. If you do not take the time to make sure that the product (the temporary stand-in for YOU) is fantastic, what am I, the hiring entity to think of the “real” you? Of course, in the long run it does depend somewhat on the industry, but my feelings as a recruiter transcend the industry.

“Take that extra moment and have someone else proof your product before unleashing it on the world…

BTW, it isn’t just misspellings. It is also the improper use of “s” and “‘s” after numbers on a resume that turn me off.”

And for those who write their own resumes, they should carefully proofread them. In fact, job candidates should have others review their resumes and cover letters. We know that once we miss a mistake two or three times, forget about noticing them. But others will.

Okay in articles and posts?

My insecurities began to arise as I re-read some of my articles and noticed said mistakes. Grammar isn’t as much of a problem, but spelling and punctuation errors spring up like dandelions; no doubt a matter of not proofreading or having someone do it for me before sending my content live.

Erica Reckamp assuages my insecurities, writing: “Ideally, if it’s public-facing or client-facing, our content would be subjected to another round of edits, but posts/blogs are understood to be fairly free-form and it is my impression people would rather have timely, raw content than ‘airbrushed’ content.” (Read the rest of her comment below.)

You might think this is a simple topic, perhaps one that only English teachers would appreciate. Au contraire. At this point in the poll–with four days left–8,011 people have voted and 444 of them have commented.

Let’s not forget grammar

You can be the best speller in the world, but if your grammar sucks, you’ll lose your audience very quickly. Verb tense, punctuation, point of view, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, propositions, conjunctions; am I leaving something out? There’s just too much to remember.

Victoria Ipri didn’t forget grammar: “I fall somewhere between the 1st and 2nd choices. It’s not only spelling that is a problem, it’s grammar too. I’m not the grammar police, but do feel when the writing is for a professional or business document (from resumes to blogs), those who lack spelling or grammar skills should consider tapping a proofreader. (By the way, I own a shirt that says ‘I’m silently correcting your grammar.’) 😨

The fact is that sucky grammar can be more of a turnoff than poor spelling and typos. I’ve read books that contained mistakes but were so compelling that I glossed over spelling errors and typos. Thanks for bringing this up, Victoria.

There were so many excellent comments. Let’s look at some of the standout ones.


Chris Hogg: “You say, ‘I wonder if this makes me less credible as a writer.’

“I don’t think it does, but it does indicate that you need to take more time before hitting the send key.

“Why not write an article, post, resume, whatever, and let it sit for a day or two while working on the next one, and build up a small backlog that you can proof before rushing to publication.

“Also, there is a ‘rule’ in writing/publishing that once a gremlin gets into our stuff, it’s almost impossible to get it (or them) out. This is why editors and proofreaders have jobs, because they can see what we cannot.”

Ed Han (He/Him): “I competed in spelling bees and was an English major.

For me it depends on the medium, *if it’s a medium that doesn’t have built-in spell check*. Most modern web browsers do, as does every major mobile phone. So ignoring the red squiggly line on those platforms is potentially problematic to me.

Otherwise? We’re all human, and being a jerk about this stuff–or really any stuff–isn’t my idea of good networking.

🔹 Angela Watts 🔹: “It really depends on the role for me.

“If the person will be involved in developing corporate communications, I’m going to need to see a pattern of mostly flawless writing. If the individual is C-level and will be communicating directly with top tier partners, investors or customers then there is a need for error-less writing (which may be achieved by having others proofread it first). If accuracy is a critical element of a role (like in an Accountant position), typos could indicate deficiency in this skill.

“Presentation matters, but perfection does not. We should strive to write well and give ourselves (and others) grace when we make mistakes.”

Erica Reckamp: “Communication is the goal and content outweighs polish, in my opinion. If the errors obfuscate meaning (alternate word or wrong URL) or perpetuate more errors (candidate scripts with errors), then it’s more of a concern. If they’re little glitches, most readers will gloss right over them.

“Ideally, if it’s public-facing or client-facing, our content would be subjected to another round of edits, but posts/blogs are understood to be fairly free-form and it is my impression people would rather have timely, raw content than ‘airbrushed’ content.

“As a former editor, I’ve had my fair share of contacts apologize profusely for a typo. They assume we’re out for blood, but even in books released through major publishing houses, you can find 4 errors per page if you know the style sheet. We get it the best we can in time for release, so the ideas shine through! Then you just have to let it go until the next round of edits”!

Kevin D. Turner: “Passion, Caring and Knowledge Sharing to me Bob is the most important components of writing that I’ll read. You always deliver all of that. A bit of spelling or grammar issue I will forgive to get to the right valued message, especially in this global world. That being said I write and can’t read between my own mistakes, too hot and too close to the subject, so I’ve started to use a few tools to double check before posting.”

MARY FAIN BRANDT: “As someone who has dyslexia, I often overlook spelling errors, even though I know how to spell.

“Just the other day, I was proofreading an social post, which I had read 3 times and I caught another typo.

“What’s worse is that when I was younger, I had dyslexia of the mouth, I would change the order of words or letters and not realize it. one time I asked my mom if we could get fable mudge cake mix…3 times in a row.”

Paula Christensen: “I’m surprised by the 12% (so far) one error and done votes. I suspect with the current low unemployment rate and hiring difficulties that many more errors are being accepted. My personal view- everyone makes mistakes so a few less egregious errors are okay, more than three may signify the candidate didn’t take the time to present professionally.”

The ultimate LinkedIn profile guide revisited: a look at 16 major sections

In this article, I revisit the LinkedIn profile to discuss what was and what is. Creating a profile that brands you is the ultimate purpose of your LinkedIn profile. However, your profile alone won’t effectively accomplish this goal; you also need to create a focused network and engage with your connections.

linkedin-alone

Although not a lot has changed since August 2018 when I wrote the original article, there are changes worth mentioning.

Brand or Message

This is more important than many people realize. If you don’t create your profile with a clear brand or message in mind, you’ll have an unfocused profile. Delivering a message that expresses your value consistently is key to keeping your brand alive.

This goal remains the same and is more important than ever considering COVID-19 has sidelined us from in-person networking. Online branding spills over to in-person branding when if you reach out to people after you’ve connecting with them. Case in point, when I meet someone in person, I’m often told they’ve seen my profile, posts, and articles.

Major profile sections

1. Background image

Your background image is your first chance to brand yourself on your profile. It is important to use a photo that is relevant to your work or what you enjoy doing. Your image should be sized at 1,584 by 396 pixels for the best results.

More job seekers are getting the message that their background image, also called background banner, is a necessity, lest they want the bland image LinkedIn provides (see below). My valued colleague, Kevin Turner, would call this #blanding.

2. Profile photo

If you think a photo is unnecessary, you are sadly mistaken. A profile sans photo gives the impression you can’t be trusted. In addition, people won’t recognize and remember you. LinkedIn says profiles with photos are 21 times more likely to be viewed than those without.

Your photo is a huge part of your brand. You don’t have to necessarily dress to the nines for it. Just look professional and presentable. This is one area of the profile where I haven’t seen a huge difference. However, LinkedIn users are pushing the limit, as illustrated by Recruiter Amy Miller‘s photo. I think this works for her.

3. Headline

Perhaps the most critical component of your branding, your headline tells readers your title and areas of expertise. Don’t scrimp on this one — it carries a lot of weight when optimizing your profile. You have 120 characters to use — make them count.

LinkedIn increased the character count to 220 for all, which allows you to tell a longer story. I’m a huge fan of the extended Headline, as it contributes to your story and keywords. My Headline (below) is about 180 characters long. This allows me to include four titles, a tagline, an accomplishment, and my hashtag.

In this article, 15 LinkedIn pros talk about creating a powerful LinkedIn profile Headline.

4. About (formerly Summary)

Much has been written about the About section, so I’m going to spare you the verbiage and simply say your summary must tell your story. It needs to articulate your passion for what you do, how well you do it, and a call to action (how you can be reached).

There’s been a significant change here in terms of character count. At this initial writing the count was 2,000. Now it’s 2,600. What is one to do with the additional 600 characters? I personally didn’t add much to my About, other than excerpts from Recommendations.

Think the About section isn’t important? Recruiter Bernadette Pawlik reads About before going onto the Experience section.

5. Dashboard

In the past, your dashboard area contained a lot of handy information: views of your profile, views of your latest post, and the number of searches you appeared in. In addition, you could ask for career advice, turn on “career interests,” and check out the salary range for your position.

This area changed significantly. Creator Mode was introduced which has not been a deal maker for me. It shows the number of your followers in the Snapshot area, as well as the number of views for your recent posts. Two nice touches are having access to your network and easy access to your saved items.

Career Interests has morphed into Providing Services. You can also indicate that you’re open to work by selecting Open to in the Snapshot area. As well, you can choose to don the #OpenToWorkBanner, which leaves me with mixed feelings.

6. Articles and activities

This area below your dashboard is visible to everyone who visits your profile. Visitors will see how many articles you’ve written and the number of posts you’ve shared. When I see very little info in the activities section, that means the person hasn’t made an effort to engage with their network.

This section hasn’t changed and it’s still an area I look at to see how much my clients are engaging on LinkedIn. I’m adamant about my clients not only reacting (Liking) to posts, but also commenting on them. Better yet, they should write their own posts.

7. Experience

Too often, people skimp on the details in their Experience section. This is particularly the case with C-level job seekers. You don’t need to include everything, but your major accomplishments are required. Note: Your job titles carry significant weight in terms of keywords.

If you are in the job hunt, you need to give hiring authorities a greater picture of what you did. Focus on the accomplishments. Read this compilation of LinkedIn Experts who offer their opinions of the Experience section: 13 LinkedIn pros talk about creating a powerful LinkedIn Experience section.

8. Education

Don’t be afraid to add a little more character here than you would on your resume. Were you a D1 athlete? Mention that under “Activities and Societies.” Did you complete your degree while working full-time? Mention that in the “Description” area.

Nothing has changed here, but I still tell my clients that this is a section where they can continue to brand themselves by adding more description of what occurred when they attended school.

Plus: One of the best ways to brand yourself as a hard worker and possess time-management skills is to write that you earned your degree while working full-time. That’s if you did, of course.

9. Volunteer experience

Don’t neglect this area. Employers appreciate people who give to their communities. This is also a section where you can showcase your personality. Your volunteerism doesn’t have to be job-related. But if it is and is extensive, list it in your experience section.

I’ll continue to promote this area on a LinkedIn profile. Sadly, too many people don’t list their volunteerism, thinking it’s not pertinent. Well, it is.

10. Skills and endorsements and Recommendations

You can list a total of 50 skills, and others can endorse you for those skills. Take advantage of this section, as recruiters pay attention to the number and types of skills you have. When you apply for a job through LinkedIn’s “Easy Apply” feature, the number of skills you have for the job are counted.

New Skills and Recommendations Section

11. Recommendations

Once considered one of the top features, Recommendations (seen above) have been relegated to the basement of your profile. Should you continue to ask for and write recommendations in light of this change? In my opinion, yes. Recruiters will continue to read them.

I would like to report that Recommendations can be moved toward the top of your profile, but this hasn’t been the case for many years. The best you can do is direct people to your recommendations from the About section, as I have done at the bottom of my About .

12. Accomplishments

One of the major blunders LinkedIn has committed is anchoring this section in the basement of the profile. I say this because important information lies within, including lists of projects, organizations, publications, and patents.

13. Interests

This section shows visitors your interests in influencers, companies, groups, and schools. Recruiters might glean some information about you, based on the groups you’ve joined and the companies and schools you follow.

Profile Extras

14. Featured

When this article was first written, this section was called Rich media and resided in your Summary (now called About), Experience, and Education sections. Here you can post videos, audio files, documents, and PowerPoint presentations. See this as your online portfolio.

This section is much approved. One click and you are taken to the media of your choice. I call this an extra because this feature isn’t used as much as LinkedIn would like. This is too bad, as it is your online portfolio.

15. LinkedIn publishing

LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to blog on topics of interest and share the posts with your connections. If you’re consistent in blogging, you’ll develop a following. Promoting your blog is entirely up to you. In the past, whenever you published, your connections would receive notification of your posts. Not so anymore.

Not a great deal to report here in regard to changes. LinkedIn still doesn’t push out the articles published on their platform. Approximately 1MM of its users utilize Write an Article. Some members have been granted a newsletter license, and it’s not clear why only a handful are.

16. Video

Video is becoming more important to stand out on social media. A good video must contain content that is relevant to your network. Small technical things like smiling, proper lighting and sound, and a steady camera are important.


6 steps to take before and after you apply online

You might not want to hear this, but research is the key to success before and after you apply online. It would be great if you could send an application to the company of your dreams; get a call from HR to invite you to an interview, the only one you’ll have; and be offered the job. But that’s not how it works these days.

Most people, about 60% based on multiple surveys I’ve conducted during my webinars, only apply online. And probably many of them sit and wait for the phone to ring. These are the people who are in for a lengthy job search.

But it doesn’t have to be this way if you are applying online. There is work you’ll need to do in order to be successful. Six steps to be exact.

Before applying online

1. Understand the most important skills for the position

Consider this scenario: you see a job on LinkedIn.com for a Senior Marketing Manager, Website, Amazon Advertising. It’s right down your ally. You’ve been a marketing manager for more than five years and before that a marketing specialist. However, there are certain qualifications you must meet to be considered for an interview.

The job of which I speak was advertised two weeks from this writing. First things first, to get an interview for this position, a job candidate must satisfy 6 Basic Qualifications. This means if you can’t meet these requirements, you don’t get an interview, no matter what.

You don’t believe me; watch Amy Miller’s YouTube video that explains how she rejected a candidate who didn’t meet the BQs.

Aside from the 6 Basic Qualifications you also have to show you meet Amazon’s 7 Responsibilities/Requirements. It doesn’t end there. Amazon has Preferred Qualifications which are the least important but, nonetheless relevant. These are the three list of requirements you need to meet.

2. Research the position

Most of the questions asked during the interview will be about the position at hand. Therefore it’s important to research it extensively; at least two hours is advised. Going back to understanding the basic, specific, and preferred requirements, highlight what you consider to be the most important requirements.

Sarah Johnston, an executive career coach, writes:

“If you have the job description- you have a cheat sheet to prepare for your interview. Always read through the entire job description as it provides the pain points of the role and specific qualifications that the hiring company is looking for.

Understanding the companies pain points or problems, like Sarah says, is essential to getting a leg up on the competition. Many job candidates don’t consider how they’ll be the solution to a company’s problems, but you’ll be the difference maker.

3. Write a targeted resume

I tell my clients that in order to pass the applicant tracking system (ATS) process, they must write resumes that contain the required skills for the job at hand. The ATS has recently been referred to as a file cabinet that stores resumes until hiring authorities need to call them up by using a Boolean search.

Other important characteristics of your resume must, at the very least, include:

  • Brand a candidate with a value proposition or headline. This is a two-line statement that includes the title from a job add and below that some areas of expertise.
  • Contain accomplishment statements with quantified results. Agreed, not always possible to quantify results with #s, $s, and %s but they have more bite to them.
  • Work history within 15 years. If you have all accomplishments, your resume can be as long as three pages. Acceptation to the 15-year rule would be executive-level job seekers.
  • Be readable with paragraphs no longer than 3 or 4 lines. No one likes to read 10-line paragraphs. Shorter ones are more digestible.

It’s also important that your resume passes the person/people reading it. Hiring authorities are people, after all, so you must satisfy them with a well-written resume that speaks to their needs.

Note: It’s not all about writing a resume that passes the ATS process. Virginia Franco, Executive Storyteller, Résumé & LinkedIn Writer, writes:

Because applicant tracking systems (ATSs) are so inundated with résumés, increasingly more people are recognizing the wisdom of throwing their hat in the ring via alternative channels that include a focus on networking and getting in the door through referrals.

After applying online

4. Research the company

The simplest way to research the company is to visit its website and peruse it for many hours. But as a marketing manager, you realize the the information on the company’s website is marketing material. In other words, it’s smoke and mirrors.

So dig deeper. Scour the company’s site for press releases and annual reports. Be prepared in an interview to talk about the good and the bad and the ugly. I tell my clients a question you should be able to answer is, “What are some of our company’s problems?” Really.

Network

To know more about the company’s pain points talk with someone who works for the company. In the case of Amazon, you’re in luck. One of your neighbors works there, and he is willing to reveal some problems under anonymity.

The neighbor reveals two things you weren’t able to ascertain about the company’s pain points. Even though you read press releases and annual reports, motivation among the staff is low and there’s a need for more snappy material. This is great intel, as you will use it to modify some of your answers to the questions if need be.

5. Use LinkedIn to research interviewers

If your reaction to this step is, “But I’m not on LinkedIn,” get on LinkedIn. This is where roughly 78% of hiring authorities are searching for talent, including the people interviewing you.

Given that the recruiter informed you of the four people who would be interviewing you, you can look them up on LinkedIn either by names or titles. Let’s say the recruiter told you the hiring manager, HR director, the VP, and the CFO will be present in the interview; but didn’t give you their the names. Take the following steps:

Go to the company > click on the number of people who are on LinkedIn > go to All Filters > type in their titles in the keyword field. Voila, you have the names of the people who will be interviewing you. No read their profiles carefully and see if there are any commonalities. This can make for good fodder in the interview.

Why do I want to research the interviewers, you ask? It’s nice to know what commonalities you have with them and how to mention them in the interview. Let’s say you and the CFO went to the same university or like hiking. Bazinga, great fodder for conversation.

6. Prepare for the interview

Sarah Johnston offers great advice on how to prepare for the interview based on the job ad:

What should you do with this information? Prepare a talking point for each skill mentioned. Make sure you always include RESULTS. Look for how the success of the role will be measured.

“For example, if it mentions that you will need to deliver results in client adoption and engagement and account retention, prepare STAR (situation, task, action, results) stories that speak to this. Invest the time to critically think through job description. This will allow you to share your experience in a way that matches or connects with the role.”

Adrienne Tom, Executive Writer and Career Coach, emphasizes the need to practice answering interview questions you predict will be asked.

While it may feel a little silly to speak to yourself on camera, recording practice of your most compelling answers will help you see what’s working and what could use a little tweaking. While it may feel a little silly to speak to yourself on camera, recording practice of your most compelling answers will help you see what’s working and what could use a little tweaking. 


Now you’ve made it to the interview by following the steps above. This was done with minimal networking. Am I saying don’t network? Quite the contrary; networking is a more effective way to land a job. But, if you’re going to apply online, don’t simply sit by the phone waiting for the employer to call. Take action.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

Beyond the “Nerves” in an Interview: 4 ways to deal with it

Most people get nervous when they’re being interviewed for a job. They are peppered with questions that are meant to get to the core of their technical abilities, motivation, and fit. It’s a stressful situation. This is called “getting the nerves,” and it’s natural. Most likely you feel the same way about interviews.

anxious

But what if you are unable to get past the nerves because of anxiety? What can you do that will prevent you from losing the opportunity for the job? How can you stop your hands from shaking, your voice cracking, or even breaking into tears. In this post I’ll talk about what to do if it’s more than having the “nerves” in an interview.

Admit to yourself that you’re anxious

You’re not alone in feeling anxious. Knowing this should give you solace. Many job seekers have told me that they felt so anxious that they couldn’t think straight and answer the questions entirely. A few have even told me they had to remove themselves from the situation. While this is not “normal behavior,” it does happen.

Telling others, job counselors, a therapist, or even friends, could be helpful. Talking about how you feel can relieve some of your anxiety. Hearing from those you talk with that being anxious is understandable will be of comfort. Further, talking with someone who felt anxious in interviews, but landed a job regardless will give you a better sense of hope.

Know that the interview/s are barriers to getting a job, and once you’ve overcome the barrier, you will be able to do the work required to succeed. Remember that you want the job for which you’re applying; it’s the end game. This will take preparation, though.

Do your research before an Interview

I tell my clients that being prepared for an interview will give them confidence. This means thoroughly researching the position and company. If you’re really good, you’ll research the competition. People who interview without preparing—winging it—generally perform poorly in an interview.

While it’s important to research the position and company, you will benefit also from preparing mentally for the interview. This will include getting a good night’s sleep the day before. The day of the interview, you should take a leisurely walk and rehears answering the questions you predict will be asked. Or you might prefer answering the questions while looking into a mirror.

You might benefit from participating in a taped mock interview which will show you how you respond to questions, as well as your body language. I conducted a mock interview with someone who my colleague believed to be anxious. The client’s answers were fine; however she appeared tense and fidgeted with her fingers. My suggestion to her was that she keep her hands in her lap.

Admit to the interviewers that you’re anxious

Chances are that at least one of the interviewers—if it’s a group interview—suffers from anxiety and can relate to your condition. Perhaps one or more of the interviewers know others who suffer from anxiety. They should be empathetic if they know your condition.

You can simply say before the interview begins, “I’m a bit anxious at the moment. Interviews are stressful for me. I hope you understand.” Chances are that they’ll understand your feelings.

In fact, anxiety is more prevalent than you might suspect. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 19 percent of adults suffered from anxiety.

An estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults had any anxiety disorder in the past year.

Past year prevalence of any anxiety disorder was higher for females (23.4%) than for males (14.3%).

An estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience any anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.

It is possible that you aren’t clinically anxious, but interviews and other social situation cause symptoms of anxiety. The most important thing is the message you deliver. Focus on expressing the value you will bring to the table. If you have to pause at times, that’s fine.

When your anxiety is debilitating

You may suffer from clinical anxiety, in which case you’re probably taking medication or attending therapy to keep it at bay. Healthy Info Daily describes the biological reasons for anxiety:

For a person with severe anxiety, their neurotransmitters are not working properly, and important messages can’t get through properly, which in turn causes the brain to work improperly, leading to anxiety, depression and other stress-induced disorders.

There are obvious signs of anxiety. Some symptoms of anxiety are excessive worrying, sleeplessness, panic attacks, fear/discomfort around crowds, and fear of speaking in public. Compound your anxiety with the pressures of an interview, it’s no wonder being interviewed is difficult. However, knowing you’re suffering from anxiety will explain the fear you experience in an interview.

In some cases, job candidates may need intervention or help from a vocational professional. This is in severe cases and usually for candidates who won’t be serving customers. Jobs that are individualistic would be best for them. If you fall under this category, it’s important that you apply for jobs appropriate for you.

Disclose your disability at some point during the interview, perhaps at the beginning. You have the ability to handle the responsibilities of the job; however you will require accommodations. It’s best to let employers know this before they hire you, as if you’re hired and then disclose your disability, your supervisor will most likely distrust you and might find reasons to let you go.


Interviews can cause mild to server anxiety for many people. If you happen to be one who gets anxious in an interview, reflect on why you are, ask for help from others, and if your anxiety is severe consider medication as a means to keep your anxiety at bay.


If you’d like to know more about interview anxiety, visit Choosing Therapy to read their article 17 Tips for Overcoming Interview Anxiety.

This post originally appeared on recruiter.com.

Photo: Flickr, Eduardo