Tag Archives: interview

7 reasons to say no to a job offer

NOI don’t recommend that my customers say no to a job offer unless there’s a good reason. That’s why when one of my most promising customers told me she was reluctant to accept a job offer at a leading hotel corporation, I advised her to consider the circumstances.

First of all, she would be assuming a great deal of responsibilities. And second she’d be making 70% of what she previously made. Both of these factoids seemed the equivalent of doing hard labor in a rock quarry and being paid minimum wage.

I only needed to point out the disparity of salaries for her to decline the offer, even though she had negotiated a $4,000 increase. (Actually she’s smart enough to realize this.) You must be practical when considering the salary for the position. Can you pay essential bills with the salary? Will you have to cut back too much on “wants?”

There are times when you should decline an offer. My customer’s story is just one of them. A ridiculous salary offer isn’t the only reason for declining an offer. There are six others.

You’re not excited. When pundits say you’re not the only person being interviewed, they’re correct. The responsibilities of said position have to motivate you to be your best. They have to excite you.

So it figures that not only should the employer be concerned about your motivation; you should want to be motivated as well. Will the position challenge you to do your best and offer variety, or will it be a dead-end street?

Bad work environment. Another reason for not accepting an offer is sensing a volatile work environment. A former colleague of mine would often confide in me that where she was working was a toxic work environment. Management was distrustful of its employees and would often be abusive.

During an interview you should ask questions that would uncover the company’s environment. A simple one is, “Why did the former marketing specialist leave?” Or, “What makes your employees happy working here?” What about, “How do you reward your employees for creativity and innovation?”

Sincere answers to these questions will assure you that you are entering an environment with your eyes wide open, good or bad. Vague responses should raise a red flag. The best way to determine what kind of environment you may inherit is to network with people who work at a potential organization.

It goes against your morals and values. Salary.com gives this reason. “The nature of your temporary work shouldn’t make you feel like you’re compromising who you are or your beliefs. Obviously you should avoid anything illegal, but beyond that black and white is a lot of grey.”

Some of my customers have learned this lesson too late. They took a job they were not sure of and had to resign because of lack of integrity. “I should have known the company was wrong when they put off my questions about integrity,” one of them said to me.

Security. A fifth reason for not accepting an offer is the financial status of the company. If you discover through discussions that the company is at risk of closing its doors soon, it’s not wise to accept the offer, even if you “just want a job.”

This also goes for grant-funded positions. A position that will end in less than a year should make you consider if you want to join the organization only to be let go before you even get your feet wet.

You lack goals. Some of my customers have told me that they’ve been taking temp-to-perm positions that have spanned over many years; and that they’re tired of the short-term stints. Additionally, their résumé resembles one that shouts, “Job hopper.”

Your current unemployment can be a time to strategize about where you want your career to go, a time to experience clarity, not throwing darts at a wall of short-term jobs. Or if you’re unemployed, take time to think about what you really want in your next career. The offer you’ve just received should match your goals and career direction.

It’s not a cliche when I tell my customers that things happen for a reason. After I was laid off from marketing, I had a chance to reflect on what I really wanted to do. I had clear goals. So here I am.

Because you can. I say this knocking on wood. The labor market hasn’t been this healthy in years. With the “official” unemployment rate hovering around 5.0%, this is a great sign.

This also means your chances of getting a job are very good, so you can be selective…to a point. I’m not encouraging you to wait until your 25th week of UI to pull the trigger. You don’t want to cause undue stress by waiting too long to begin an earnest job search.

This may be a great time for you to get trained in skills you lack. In the state of Massachusetts, you can train (often free of charge) 20 hours a week, while still receiving your UI benefits. Are you a project manager but don’t have a Project Management Professional (PMP) cerfification? Now would be a good time to pass up a job you’re not so sure about.


While I wanted my customer to land a job in a short period of job seeking, I would have kicked myself for telling her that a bird in hand is better than nothing. I have tremendous faith in her abilities and tenacity and don’t want her to take a job that won’t make her happy. She will be land soon. That I’m sure of.

Photo: Flickr, Nathan Gibbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear recruiter, 15 reasons why you lost the best candidate ever

Man on phone 2

As a career strategist I’m privy to conversation from job candidates who are at the mercy of internal and third-party recruiters. I say mercy because before they can sell themselves to the hiring manager, they have to get past the recruiter.

In the grand scheme of things there seems to be a misunderstanding of the importance the role job candidates play in the hiring process. They are the bread and butter of the process because they’re the ones who are going to solve the employer’s most dire need, the need to fill a position.

While we see many articles written on what jobseekers do wrong, rarely a word do we see on what recruiters do wrong. I personally don’t see the justice in this inequity of blame; and I’m not even applying for jobs. I’m just the messenger.

Some recruiters (a small number) are treating their job candidates like shite, Mate. This seems counterproductive to achieving the goal of hiring people for the jobs that need to get filled. And there are numerous jobs to fill. I know, recruiters are busy (#11 on the list of job candidate complaints) vetting candidates to present to their clients, but their lack of sensitivity, courtesy, and plain logic is sometimes baffling.

I realize there are some great recruiters and some lousy recruiters (the number favors the former); and the same applies to job candidates (ditto). But some of the behavior I’ve heard about recruiters is well…baffling. Without further ado, let me relay what my customers have told me over time.

  1. You told me I was your number one and then didn’t call back. Didn’t that make me feel cheap.
  2. You knew less about the job than I did. (Ouch.)
  3. You thought I was too old. Hint: don’t ask a candidate how old she is. One of my former customers was actually asked during a telephone interview, “Just how old are you?”
  4. You took the liberty to revise MY résumé. Imagine my surprise when I showed up at the interview to find the interviewers holding a different version of the résumé I sent.
  5. Do you really think what I did after graduating from college (25 years ago) is relevant? The last time I checked, no one was using DOS.
  6. You called me an hour late and wondered why I was pissed. I  had to pick up my child from daycare,  which by the way takes up most of my UI benefits.
  7. You wanted to connect with me on LinkedIn so you could have access to my connections. I’m not stupid, stupid.
  8. You sent me to the wrong interview. Imagine my surprise when the hiring manager started describing a position that I wasn’t aware of applying for.
  9. You overlooked me because I was out of work for three months. No, technology in finance doesn’t change that much in three months. Oh, I get it; I’m damaged goods.
  10. I may not be as beautiful as your dream date, but I can manage a project with my eyes close. Incidentally,  you’re no looker yourself.
  11. You complain about being sooo busy. I’m not exactly sitting around watching Oprah and popping Bonbons. I am out beating the bushes.
  12. Really? “What is your greatest weakness?” Why do you ask idiotic questions like this? Do you think I’ll really tell you my greatest weakness? Besides, I have the answer memorized.
  13. I wasn’t a fit? Couldn’t you get a better explanation than that. I only want to know if I need to improve my interviewing techniques.
  14. Speaking of interviewing, couldn’t you have told me that I was going to be the oldest person in the building? I can rock with the best of them, but it would have been great to have a heads up.
  15. No means no. I don’t want to take a position that pays half the amount I was making at my last job. I know salaries may be lower these days, but doing twice the amount of work for half the pay doesn’t add up.

Many of the people I serve have had favorable experiences with recruiters, but the process could be a lot better if some of these common complaints are addressed.

Read the follow-up post, Dear hiring manager, 15 reasons why you lost the best candidate ever. There are 15 different reasons!

Photo: Flickr, Kev-Shine

4 reasons why eye contact is important

Recently I conduced a mock interview for one of my customers, and what struck me most was her lack of eye contact. As career advisors we advise our customers to maintain eye contact. Never has this advice been more relevant than during this mock interview.  

Here is an article I posted almost three years ago, which is still very relevant…as I’ve come to find out with my recent experience.


If you’ve seen the movie Love and Other Drugs, you’ll totally agree with Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) when he tells Maggie Murdock (Anne Hathaway) that she has beautiful eyes. No?

Not only does Anne Hathaway have beautiful eyes, but she has such tremendous eye contact that her eyes seem to become the only thing the viewer can think about. To me, her eyes signify complete trust and honesty in the movie. They are part of her physical presence, yet they talk to the viewer—as if she didn’t have to say a word.

So what do Anne Hathaway’s eyes have to do with the job search? Well everything if you consider the importance of your eyes and how you use them. I’m speaking specifically when you’re networking and, most importantly, when you’re at an interview.

Eye contact is something career counselors harp on, along with a firm handshake. It’s what we believe to be a major element of your first impression. Like Anne Hathaway, your eye contact can capture the immediate attention of the person with whom you speak.

Steady eye contact with the person to whom you speak can say a number of things: I’m warm and personable; I’m attentive and listening; I’m trusting and honest; I’m confident. These are all traits we want the interviewer to see in us. In some cases when eye contact is too steady, it might relay the message that you’re scrutinizing the other person. If it’s unwavering, it may “freak the person out”; make her feel threatened. We don’t want that.

Unsteady eye contact will most certainly hurt your chances of landing the job. Personally, when I talk with someone who can’t look me in the eye (like the customer I mention above), I become suspicious. What is she trying to hide? Unsteady eye contact usually implies that the person lacks confidence. It can also say: I’m bored; I’m distracted and thinking of something or someone other than you; I’m devious and a liar. I’m sure the last statement isn’t true of my customer.

There is unsteady eye contact that is natural and necessary. Usually when we divert our eyes from a person it’s because we’re concentrating hard on what we’re going to say next. We introverts have a tendency to reflect in such a manner, while extraverts think while they’re talking and eye-gazing.

The interviewer considers body and facial language when determining the strength of the candidate. Some experts believe that 60% or as high as 90% of our communications is nonverbal, which means our countenance may be more important than our words. Although, don’t rely on batting your eyelashes and making those eyes sparkle; the verbal messages you provide are ultimately vital in your success at an interview.

Also be aware that hiring managers and HR professionals are trained to examine face-to-face language, and certainly eye contact is an important part of overall body language. Note: it has been determined that 30% of interviewers know whether they’ll hire someone within the first 90 seconds.)

Interviewees must maintain a fair amount of steady eye contact at the interview. This means that at least 90% of the time you’ll look into the interviewer’s eyes, giving yourself sufficient time to look away as you organize your thoughts. If you’re at a panel interview, the majority of the time will be spent making eye contact with the one who poses the question, while the rest of the time you’ll scan the other interviewees sitting at the table.

Back to Anne. If you think I’m in love with Anne Hathaway, you’re mistaken. I love her eyes, and yes she is a beautiful woman, but I harbor no fantasies. My only wish concerning Ms. Hathaway is that she continues to captivate viewers with her stunning eyes that do enough talking on their own.

7 ways to drop the ball in the job search

mistakegirl

I’m not known for my etiquette. For instance, I often forget to send birthday cards to family members,; or I forget their birthdays entirely. When I’ve forgotten birthdays, I’ve essentially “dropped the ball.”

There are a number of ways jobseekers “drop the ball” in their search. They may not be aware of the mistakes they’re making, or they simply may not care. But it only takes dropping the ball once to lose out on an opportunity. Here are seven mistakes that come to mind.

1. Don’t update their résumés to reflect the job requirements. Some of my customers admit to sending a cookie cutter résumé, or one-fits-all, to a prospective employer because it’s the easy thing to do.

Not recommended. It’s sort of like giving someone a Valentine’s Day card that you’ve given your loved one the year before…and the year before that…and the year before that. In other words, you’re not showing any love.

Employers hate receiving résumés that aren’t written to them, ones that don’t address their needs and concerns. So make the extra effort when writing the most important document you’ll write until you land a job.

2. Don’t send a targeted cover letter. Again, like the résumé, the cover letter must reflect the skills and experience that are needed for the particular job. Your cover letter is a great way to tell your story and point the reader to the key accomplishments on your résumé.

One customer of mine sheepishly admitted that she once sent a cover letter with someone else’s name on it. That’s just plain embarrassing but goes to show you that care goes into writing and addressing the requirements of the job.

3. Fail to follow up after sending the documentation. Unless the employer strictly says, “No phone calls, please,” follow up to see if she has received your material. Employers aren’t dumb; they know why you’re calling. You’re calling to put a voice to the résumé and cover letter. In that case, make sure it’s a good voice.

Be prepared to talk about your interest in the job and company, but most importantly be prepared to state what makes you better than the hundreds of other applicants for the job. Have your personal commercial ready to deliver, a commercial that’s tailored to that particular job.

4. Avoid networking. Even though you’ve heard over and over again that networking is the most successful way to land a job, you would rather apply for jobs online. Guess what, the majority of jobseekers are applying for jobs online, and these jobs represent 20% of all jobs available in the job market.

The best way to land a job is to penetrate the Hidden Job Market by networking. Employers would prefer promoting their own employees, but if that isn’t possible, they’ll turn to referrals. The only way to be referred is by knowing someone at the company or knowing someone who knows someone at the company.

Networking doesn’t come easy to everyone, nor do some people like it; however, it must be done. You don’t necessarily have to attend networking groups, but you should make it part of your daily routine. Network wherever you go, whether it’s at a sporting event, your religious affiliation, your dentist’s office, a social gathering.

5. Aren’t taking LinkedIn seriously. I know this is tough for those qualified jobseekers who don’t know what LinkedIn is and don’t understand why it’s important in the job search. I see the dear-in-the-headlights look on my LinkedIn workshop attendees when I ask them how their profile matches up.

These are people who are curious about the application—how it can help in their job search. Well, it can’t help if your LI profile isn’t up to snuff. Rather it can hurt. Here are a few ways it can hurt: 1) it’s identical to your résumé in that it doesn’t provide any new information; 2) it isn’t fully developed; 3) you only have a few contacts or recommendations. There are many more mistakes you can make with your profile.

As a side note, the other night I was talking to a recruiter from RSA who said he spends every day on LinkedIn looking for people to fill his software engineer positions. One point of interest: he told me Monster.com is dead to him. This is how important LinkedIn has become.

6. Don’t prepare for the interview. At the very least you should research the job and the company so you can answer the difficult questions. Take it a step further by gathering insider information on the job and company. Some of my customers have been savvy enough to use LinkedIn to contact people in the company.

However, the night before you can’t locate your interview outfit. You haven’t taken a drive by the company to see where it’s located and how long it will take you to get there. How many times were you told to practice answering some of the predictable questions you may be asked? Again, can you answer questions like, “Why should I hire you” or “Can you tell me something about yourself”?

7. Don’t send a follow-up note. This one kills me. After all the hard work, you don’t follow through with a Thank-You note that shows your appreciation for being interviewed, mentions important topics that were discussed at the interview, or redeem yourself by elaborating on a question you failed to answer. I tell my workshop attendees that the interview isn’t over until they’ve sent the Thank You note.

Don’t drop the ball for any of the aforementioned reasons; instead keep focused on one of the most important times in your life. My not sending birthday cards to my relatives, or even forgetting them all together, is minor in comparison to losing out on an opportunity.

6 suggestions for paying someone to write your résumé; and my thoughts on installing a screen door

Last spring I made an attempt, albeit a weak one, to install a screen door on my house. As my wife stood watching hopeful that our house wouldn’t look like something from a ghetto, I kept thinking, “No way is this going to happen.” So it didn’t.

It should have gone this way: first, install the top, hinge, and latch trim; second, attach the 40 lb. door to the hinge trim; third, install the hardware that would make all this work, such as the handle, and the thingy that makes the door close slowly….

This is how it went: I called a contractor who said he would do the job for $35 an hour. I happily agreed.

Putting the screen door on my house got me to thinking about how writing a résumé for some people seems out of the realm of possibility; much like getting that damn screen door on my house to satisfy my wife. I started to empathize for people who feel paralyzed when they have to write their résumé.

Look, I come across people who haven’t written a résumé in years, maybe never. They haven’t used a word-processing application, don’t have a relative who has the time or inclination to write their résumé, and the thought of writing a résumé scares the hell out of them.

Here’s what I suggest for paying someone to write your résumé. Get the help you need immediately if you’re one of these folks who is paralyzed by writing the most important document in your life. Find a reputable agency that will take the time to write your résumé right the first time, and thereafter will update it for a very reasonable fee. Make sure of the following:

  1. Said agency has a stock of samples to show you and one that fits your needs in terms of a résumé and cost. A work history time-line and a list of keywords does not constitute a résumé. Believe me, I’ve seen these so called résumés.
  2. The person writing your résumé should guarantee you at least an hour or more to interview you to understand exactly what you do. Not someone who will note your occupation, go to his/her computer, create a cookie-cutter résumé, and take your $700.00.
  3. Those who require an executive résumé and can afford more than what is charged by an agency, should seek the help of a high-level writer who will focus more on accomplishments than simple duties. These expert résumé writers will charge significantly more, but their services will return your payment tenfold.
  4. My colleague, Bill Florin, makes a valid point. “An objective third party (pro writer) will see things in your history that are marketable, often things that you would discount or downplay entirely, Many people don’t like talking about and selling themselves.” Professional résumé writers make you talk about yourself.
  5. If you only require a basic résumé—truth be told, some people have minimal experience or have only done an adequate job—don’t be satisfied with a statement like, “Drove a truck from here to there.” You and your writer must get creative with your basic résumé. “Hauled an average of 20 tons of retail product, traversing the U.S.A. Driving record is spotless and time of delivery consistently met employers’ expectations.” Remember, you still have to separate you from the rest of the pack.
  6. Lastly, make sure a “soft copy” of your résumé is provided . Some writers will choke you for updating your résumé every time you need it sent out–this is after you’ve already coughed up $700.00.

Oh, if you’re a contractor who can install screen doors and perform other household tasks for less than $35.00 an hour, contact me. My house requires stucco repair and a bunch of other upgrades, as well.

The best way to answer an interview question; Prove It.

Woman Job CandidateYou’re asked the interview question, “what is your greatest strength?” To which you answer, “I would say customer service is my greatest strength.”  Paus…. Long silence between you and the interviewer…. Interviewer writes on her notepad…. She clears her throat…. Next question….

What did you do wrong?

If you say you did nothing wrong, that you answered the question by addressing the major skill the employer is seeking; you’re partly correct. What you failed to do is prove that customer service is your greatest strength. Here’s how to prove your greatest strength.

Take a breath before answering this question. “I would say customer service is my greatest strength. I listen to the customer’s needs, always asking how I can help him/her. When I understand the customer’s needs, I do my best to meet them. Can I give you an example?”

The interviewer nods and waits with anticipation for you to prove what you assert. To do this you’ll tell a story using the STAR formula, which may go like this:

Situation: One of our longstanding customers had left us prior to my arrival at Company X. I had heard the customer was unhappy to the point where he said he no longer needed our services.

Task: My vice president wanted me to persuade the customer to return. As the new manager of a group of five furnace technicians, it was my mission to win back this customer.

prove itActions:To begin with, I had to understand what made our customer unhappy, so I asked one of my subordinates who was close to the situation. He told me it was because the person who previously worked on his furnace did shoddy work and wasn’t responsive.

With this information in hand, I called out customer to introduce myself as a new manager of the company and ask him why he was unhappy with our service. At first he was justifiably angry, telling me he would never use us again. He revealed that his furnace was never cleaned, that it still smoked..

This was going to be a tough one, based on the tone in his voice. I listened to what he said and told him I really couldn’t blame him for being upset. I agreed with him that he wasn’t treated properly. I was going to make it right. Too late, he told me; he was going to go with a competitor of ours. He hung up before I had the chance to talk with him further.

I decided to go unannounced to his house to introduce myself from Company X, I was met with, “Boy, you’re persistent. I apologized for coming without warning and asked him if I could look at his furnace. He didn’t seem to mind and told me to go to the basement through the back.

“But I ain’t paying for nothing,” he told me. Fair enough, I told him. We want to regain your trust, and if I can’t fix what’s broken, I wish you the best. I am still sharp with my technical skills, so I was sure I could fix his furnace and win back his business.

I spent two hours fixing what was broken, namely the exhaust pipe was full of soot, which required vacuuming. In addition, the oil pump had to be replaced. This was not news our customer wanted to hear, but he was happy I was honest with him and for the work I had done. He also said the former technician didn’t catch these problems, or didn’t care.

When he asked me what he owed me, I told him there was no charge. I just wanted to be assured that he’d stay with our company.

Result: My customer told me that I had regained his trust. Further, he appreciated my honesty and concern that his furnace would be fixed right the first time. He returned to our company. For my efforts, he tried to give me forty dollars “to take the missus out for dinner.” Of course I refused his money.

From the above story, you see how the job candidate proves how he provided customer service in this instance. Of course the interviewer will ask more questions about customer service, both requiring positive and negative outcomes. Although this story exceeded two minutes, the job candidate was able to grab the interviewer’s attention.