Category Archives: Interviews

Ruthlessly exploit yourself – 9 good ways

Don’t do something illegal or immoral to get a job. Lying, blackmail…you know better than that.

Mountaineer, Climb, Rock Climber, Mountain Climber

However, Ruthlessly exploiting everything good about your life is not wrong. Let me give you some things people have said to me that I think are crazy.

You are crazy if you say:

  • I will not use my family connections to get a job.
  • My friends are too close to my heart for me to ask them for help.
  • I refuse to use their emotions about my situation.
  • Inviting them to lunch is brown nosing and sucking up.
  • I won’t tell them I left because I was sick. I don’t want their sympathy. 
  • I want the job, but I don’t feel right pressing them to choose me.
  • It is greedy asking for more money.
  • Taking this job to get experience, when I plan to leave later, is wrong.
  • I’m a veteran, but it is not fair to use that to get a job.

Let’s look at that last point. A few veterans actually forget that the leadership, teamwork, calmness under fire, discipline and fortitude they developed is uncommon. They feel they just did their duty. No big thing. Why bring it up?

Your life experience makes a difference, whatever that experience is. You need to use it and exploit it. People connect emotionally and help each other all the time. Don’t be afraid of that.

Because so many people have a problem ruthlessly using every advantage they have.

Something To Do Today

What is unusual about your past and your experience? Think about it and write it down. How can you use this in an interview or on a resume?

Hurt employees are bad employees

If you are hurting, you are a terrible employee

Alone, Being Alone, Archetype, Archetypes, Expression

A woman moved into a new neighborhood and asked the man next door what the people who lived there were like. He answered, “They’re just people. What were the people like in your last neighborhood?” She told him exactly what she thought. He replied, “I think you’ll find people around here are exactly the same kind of people.” It is mostly what you take with you, not the neighborhood, that determines how you will like where you live or work.

Laid off, fired, divorced, or the death of family, friends or pets can all make you hurt badly. The trouble is that many people take those pains to work. There they perform poorly or not at all. Bosses understand a few days of mourning. The trouble is that some people don’t get back in the saddle. Those people are horribly unproductive or counterproductive for months or even years.

The people who hurt the most have the toughest time finding a new job. It is obvious when someone is suffering that we often tell them to take a week or two off to recover before they apply for another job. Why blow a great opportunity because you are in pain? Some people are so badly hurt we won’t even try to help them get a job.

In other words, don’t expect to get a great job while you are hurt or mourning. If you really are hurting you need to change and get back to normal or no one will want to work with you.

Poor social skills and terrible work habits have the same symptoms as debilitating emotional pain. Some symptoms are that you think, and it is true, that everyone at your last job was HORRIBLE. The boss was a lunatic. All your coworkers avoided you. Promotions and pay raises were denied because someone hated you without any reason. People were talking behind your back. Everyone wanted you to leave. 

The problem with that debilitating pain (or the other problems), is that you refuse to take responsibility yourself. When things are going that bad at a job, it is always your fault. You are bringing that anger upon yourself by something you do. Your attitude, reactions, the chip on your shoulder, or lack of listening, may incite the problem. Occasionally, very rarely, you have the wrong job. The problem is you.

Don’t bring those problems to your next job. If everywhere you go smells like crap, check the bottom of your shoes before you blame someone else. 

Something To Do Today

Think about your job search. Just think. And then take notes about your conclusions.

11 vital clues about the Art of Job Hunting

I was asked, “I have been studying to get my programming certification after being out of IT for 5 years. People want to hire youngsters, not a grandfather from the Philippines. What do I have to do to get a job?”

It won’t be easy, but you can get that job. 

Checkmate, Chess, Board, Chess BoardFirst you have to understand the way competing for jobs really works. The concepts are not “fair”. In many ways they are not “nice”. They are all based on character, reality and results. 

You can fight the principles just like you can fight the law of gravity, but gravity and these principles still apply. Contemplation of the principles may give you great insight. This is “The Art of Job Hunting”.

Over 20 years as a recruiter have taught me these basic principles, and I will do a post about each one of these.

  1. Nothing beats a positive unstoppable Helium II attitude
  2. People who are hurting are terrible employees and everyone knows it
  3. You have to know your advantages and ruthlessly exploit them
  4. The people competing against you must be known, measured, and either beaten, eliminated or enticed elsewhere
  5. You can’t make a silk purse out of a buggy whip
  6. You have to be worth more than you are being paid
  7. A man dying of thirst will still want a bargain on a bottle of water
  8. Perception isn’t important, it is everything
  9. Character really counts
  10. Diamonds in the rough don’t stay that way
  11. Relax and you will get cleat marks up your back

Guess what I am going to be writing about for the next few weeks? 

Something To Do Today

Think about your job search. Just think. And then take notes about your conclusions.

Mental Hygeine to Get a Job

lego man in a shower

Job search? Cleaning your mind may be the most critical part.

“Why are there no blacks and only 3 latinos out of 1200 employees?” I figured there was a good reason, and the president of the company gave me one.  However, a manager got me into his office and yelled at me.  He really yelled at me.  I had a choice to make as I got in my car.  Should I replay the incident over and over and get madder and madder, or should I concentrate on something else?

I chose badly for 15 minutes.  I got madder and madder.  Then I realized what I was doing.  I figured out that something must have triggered that outburst.  The president was not bothered by my question.  The manager that yelled at me was badly embarrassed.  I forgave him and started concentrating on something else, anything else.  In 10 minutes I was enjoying life on my terms again. And, yes, I found out three months later that they were now actively recruiting and training blacks specifically for that division.

Most jobs you apply for, you won’t get.  That’s just the statistical truth.  So how do you handle it when you lose?  You certainly have to notice what happened.  It is great to try to figure out what went wrong, if anything.  After you’ve evaluated what happened, start planning your next job success.

If you keep replaying every negative thing that happens while searching for a job, you’ll go crazy.  When you concentrate on what went well, you reinforce your positive behaviors.  When you relive the things that went wrong, you reinforce the negative. You also feel worse.  Work at feeling better.

My wife is a good piano and organ player.  When she is learning a new piece she is careful NOT to practice known mistakes over and over.  She slows way down and practices it right.  Then she speeds up.  In her mind and in her fingers she concentrates on minor victories.  It can take her a month of practicing 2 to 4 hours a day to get a piece just right.  She’d go crazy if she concentrated on her mistakes.  She enjoys practicing because she celebrates every minor success.  She can find a success every minute.

You need to look for successes in your job hunting. If there is something you know you did wrong, slow down.  Instead of rehearsing the errors in your mind, mentally see yourself doing it right.  Find a quiet place and relax.  See yourself correcting mistakes and getting a positive response.

If someone else screwed up, slow down.  Concentrate on what you did right.  You can’t control the other person.  You can’t change history.  You can find a quiet place and relax.  You can rehearse in your mind what you did right.  In your mind you can practice correcting any mistakes you made.

Good mental hygiene is the difference between self improvement and self destruction. It also just plain feels better.

Something To Do Today

Get the book Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz.  It has a lot of great ideas about how to control your thoughts and happiness.

Go to JustServe.org and find a place you can help someone else.  It will help.

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Next:     Cover letter anesthesia

Should you answer, “Where else are you interviewing?”

Spy asking Spying or helping?

Are they going to use the information to hurt you or to help you?

Who is asking you, “Where else are you interviewing?” That should change your answer.

During a police interrogation you answer questions differently than you do when you are talking to your spouse.  For example, “Where have you been?” can be more dangerous coming from one of those two sources.

There are two correct responses to the question, “Where else are you interviewing?”  If you are talking to a hiring manager or HR person, tell them.  Let them know what is going on. Give them details if they ask. It will most likely increase your desirability if they know others are talking to you.

If you are talking to a recruiter at an agency, you need to decide if you trust the recruiter.  Ask the recruiter, “Why do you want to know?”  After the recruiter acts defensive or offended, ask your real question, “Do you ever submit resumes to jobs you find out about from candidates?”

The recruiter should answer, “I will only submit a resume to a job you mention if I am already working on it, or if you tell me you are out of contention there.  I will never reduce your chances of getting a job by submitting competition unless I was already working on the job.”

Do you trust the recruiter?  If so, give him the details of your interviews. He can help you much better in your job search if he knows everything. All the recruiting trainers and over half the recruiters will play fair with you. They will not ruin your chances where you are already interviewing. If you have serious doubts about the recruiter, tell them you are interviewing, but not precisely where.

Basically, if someone will hurt you with the information, protect yourself.  If the information works to your advantage, tell them.

Something To Do Today

Evaluate every recruiter you work with.   Which ones do you trust?  Which ones are questionable?  Why? Trust your instincts.

I am going on vacation the week of the 4th of July.  I’ll be at a family reunion in Gila, NM and totally unavailable.

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Later:                          Why don’t they give you an answer, Yes or No?

The company’s reputation

Will you do anything we ask? – the interview question

waist deep in water

Will you really do “whatever it takes” ??

“Will you do whatever it takes to get the job done?” is a common interview question.

In “The Firm” a new lawyer finds the perfect job: great pay, wonderful benefits and  a really high flying lifestyle.  Then he finds out he is a part of the mafia and can’t get out unless he is the guest of honor at his own funeral.

Let’s get realistic.  Even in high flying corporate scandals no one is murdered.  If you feel you have to blow the whistle you can go to newspaper reporters and the police.  You will be safe physically.  Your only real worries are social and financial.  The company’s risk is to its very existence.  It can be destroyed just by bad press.  Also, legal action can take away any profit the company has had for years.

There is no reason to suspect that your employer wants you to do something illegal.  It is much more likely he wants you to work late.

Go ahead and be enthusiastic when they ask the question, “Will you do whatever it takes?”  The proper answer is to give examples of how you have gone the extra mile in previous jobs.  Tell when you worked late to finish projects or help a teammate.  Carrying a pager is a great example of doing “whatever it takes.”  Mention the inconvenient business trips.  The support you had from your family when you had to work late or travel is a valuable story.

I hate to go back to it, but, don’t mention when you did something borderline illegal.  Don’t assume they want you to do something immoral.  If they ask you to do something that is wrong, ask them to clarify.  Ask for examples.  If you are sure they are asking you to do something illegal, immoral, or fattening, refuse the second interview or the job offer. You can even bring it up with the CEO or the SEC.

Some people have been burned by a previous bad employer.  You may have been hired by a place with dubious morals. You are out now, or in the process of getting out.  Assume the best of the companies you are visiting.  Give examples of how hard you are willing to work to succeed. Focus on what you can do for the company.

Something To Do Today

Assume the best.  Ask for examples.

The intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man hardly anything. (J. W. von Goethe)

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Tomorrow:     Where else are you interviewing?

Later:              Why don’t they give you an answer, Yes or No?

The company’s reputation

How to talk about money in a job interview

beggar on the street

You aren’t a beggar in a job interview.

Do you hate to be asked about money in an interview?  Are you afraid it will go something like this:

“I really like your background.  I think you would do well.  How much less than $55,000 will you take as a base salary?”

You probably won’t be asked that particular question. It is brutally bad. But it does happen.

Employers hate to ask any money question.  It isn’t polite.  But, you and the employer need to be in the same salary ballpark. Wouldn’t you feel upset if after 3 interviews over a period of a month you were offered a salary of half of what you are willing to take?

What makes the money question worse is that you cannot give a solid answer and win.  If you give a number too high, they may refuse to continue the interviews.  If you give a number too low, they’ll pay that low number and not a higher one you could have gotten.

There is only one way to answer the question.

  1. Compliment — Start out with a compliment.
  2. My now — Let them know what you earn now or in your last job.
  3. Best offer — tell them you want to hear their best offer.

Here’s an example:

“How much do we have to pay you?”

“(Compliment) I like this company.  The opportunity is just what I am looking forward to.  The team is a real winner too.

(My now) I currently earn a $63,000 base plus a bonus of $2500 last year.  I certainly wouldn’t want to earn less.

(Best offer) What I would like is to be able to entertain your best offer.

This answer gives them information to work with.  It is not a refusal.  The heartfelt compliments at the start make them feel good.  You tell them what your baseline for comparison is.  Finally you give them a chance to be generous.

Can I bring up money?

Don’t bring up money in any interview, ever, unless you get a feeling they are going to be way too low. Even then, use the 3 step formula. You can discuss your expectations with an outside recruiter/headhunter any time, but not with the company’s internal HR recruiter or a company interviewer until they bring it up.

If you have questions about benefits, vacations, the 401K program, relocation payments, or other benefits you can ask the internal HR recruiter when you are interviewing face-to-face with HR. You can ask the external recruiter/headhunter any time.

So, what do I do?

Wait for them to mention money, then 1. Compliment them, 2. Tell them your “now”, 3. Ask for their best offer.

Never, ever suggest they don’t have to pay you.  What they pay for, they’ll value.  What they get for free, they’ll take for granted, and then demand as a right.  Hold them up for all the market will bear.  (Lois Bujold)

Something To Do Today

Most people cannot clearly state what they earn.  I don’t know why.  Before you go on an interview write down the clearest, shortest way you can state your current earnings.  Then practice answering “the money question”.

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Next:     Why are you leaving your job?

Later:     Will you do anything we ask?

Where else are you interviewing?

Why don’t they give you an answer, Yes or No?

Horrible interview answers, and a good one – the weakness question

Woman saying WRONG!

Wrong answer! You lose. Now leave.

In an interview you are asked, “What are your weaknesses?”

You reply, “I really don’t have any weaknesses.”

Wrong answer.  Every religion I know of says that you have weaknesses.  Don’t fight it.  Come up with one.

“My biggest weakness is my cheerfulness and high character.”

That just made everyone who heard it sick.

“I like to humiliate people with sexually explicit jokes.”

That weakness will get you escorted out of the building by security.

“As a project manager I have a tendency to give people too much freedom.  When they tell me they are just a little behind schedule, my tendency is to believe them even when I know deep in my heart they are in trouble.  I have to constantly remember to dig into problems my people are having and make sure they get help early.  That way we can hit all of our deadlines. I’ve gotten very good at it.”

That one is true.  It is my personal weakness.  It is the virtue of not micromanaging, that I take too far.  Did you notice that I mentioned what I have learned to do to overcome that weakness?

When you are asked, “What are your weaknesses?”, be honest.  What is a strength that you take too far?  That’s a good place to start.  The most important part of your answer is to show that you have learned how to cope with your weakness.  What do you do to make sure that the weakness DOES NOT CONTINUE to be a problem?

Don’t be syrupy and sweet.  Don’t deny that you have problems.  Honestly evaluate your performance.  Take a strength that you over-exercise.  Explain it.  Explain what you do to keep it under control. When they know you have figured out how to compensate, they will accept it as self-realization instead of weakness.

Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points.  (Knute Rockne)

Something To Do Today

Make a list of virtues you take too far.  Add to that list what you do to compensate.

Take your strongest weakness into your next interview, along with its solution.

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Tomorrow:     What do we have to pay you?

Later:              Why are you leaving your job?

Will you do anything we ask?

Where else are you interviewing?

Should you tell them where else?

Why don’t they give you an answer, Yes or No?

The pause that destroys a job interview

shocked woman

It is not when YOU pause that destroys you.

Silence is golden when you can’t think of a good answer.  (Muhammed Ali)

An interviewer said, “Tell me what your biggest weakness is.” The candidate gave one example.  There was a pause. The interviewer looked puzzled. Uncomfortable, the candidate gave another weakness.  The surprised interviewer sat for 10 seconds after that admission trying to gather his thoughts.  The candidate gave another weakness.  In all, the candidate gave six weaknesses.  The interview was over a few minutes later.  The candidate was not hired.

When you finish answering a question and the interviewer looks at you without saying anything, what do you do?  Do you start talking again?  No! Stop! Shut up!  You need to learn to outwait your interviewer.  If he wants more, let him ask. If he raises an eyebrow as if to say, “Is that all?”, then you should look puzzled or confident and wait for him to talk.

Most interviewers do not consciously use silence as a weapon.  They will be happier if you let the silence stretch.  They are gathering their thoughts.  Don’t interrupt them.  Let them have the time they need to feel comfortable.

Interviewers who purposely use silence will be impressed if you have the guts to let a silent break stretch to 30 seconds while looking them in the eye, occasionally glancing down to their hands.  To them it is a sign of self worth and assurance.

A big turn-off for many managers is someone who just can’t stop talking.  Make use of the old saying, “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

Something To Do Today

Practice talking and then being quiet.  Watch how the person you are addressing gets nervous. Just for today, don’t let them off the hook.  Be the strong silent type today.

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Tomorrow:     What are your weaknesses?

Later:              What do we have to pay you?

Why are you leaving your job?

Will you do anything we ask?

Where else are you interviewing?

Should you tell them where else?

Why don’t they give you an answer, Yes or No?

How to deal with interview traps

bear trap

Questions that are really interview traps can kill your chances

Thumb screws and the iron maiden are no longer considered proper interview tools. Nasty traps are rarely set for candidates.  The most common snare is a reasonable question or a pause that becomes the killing moment in an interview.  We’ll talk about pauses another day.

Reasonable questions that are dangerous include:

  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What do we have to pay you to get you to work here?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • Are you willing to do anything necessary to get the job done?
  • Where else are you interviewing?

When you get a dangerous question you should answer it accurately.  That doesn’t mean you need to go into a lot of detail.  Over the next few day we’ll touch on each one of these questions.  For now, remember to be brief.

Any one of these questions can bring out old job wounds.  Job wounds are things that happened at a previous job that you are afraid will happen again.  Get over them. This is a new company.  Don’t yell, whine or complain about the past.  If you have to mention something that is ugly, state the fact in one short sentence and stop.  Don’t explain.  Don’t fill in the details. Let your interviewer assume what he wants. You will find that their imagination is often more generous to you if you are extremely brief and only mention facts.

The secret to avoiding interview traps is to prepare an answer in advance.  Use that answer and avoid going into areas that are painful for you. Brevity is a key.

If all the world’s a stage, I want to operate the trap door. (Beatty)

Something To Do Today

Write down a one sentence answer to each of the questions above.  Next week compare those answers to the guidelines for each question.

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Next:     Pregnant pauses

Later:              What are your weaknesses?

What do we have to pay you?

Why are you leaving your job?

Will you do anything we ask?

Where else are you interviewing?

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