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1 way to blow an interview, 10 ways to fix it

forehead-65059_640-pixabayPerfect candidates blow interviews like this every day.

Daryl comes out of another tense project meeting at work.  He’s late leaving for his job interview.  He guiltily leaves his jacket hanging in his cubicle so no one will suspect he is gone and sneaks out to his car.  He turns on talk radio where politicians are being called the biggest thieves and liars on earth. That gets him thinking about his hate for his current job.   He’s two minutes late.  No one will notice, but Daryl is still stressed.  The interview seems to go well, but it only lasts half an hour.  The next day a secretary calls and informs him that “He is not a fit.” He does not understand why.

This is how Daryl blew it

You have to prepare for your interview emotionally and mentally.  Daryl did neither.  He really did everything he could to assure he interviewed poorly.

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.  (Seneca)

Here are 10 things to do on your way to an interview:

  1. Get mentally out of your office an hour early. Shut your office door or leave the building. At the very least, prepare the evening before.
  2. Reread the descriptions you have of the job you are applying for.
  3. Jot down a quick list of how you have triumphed in the kinds of projects that you would see on that job. Writing the list cements it in your mind.
  4. Describe those triumphs out loud while you watch a clock. Keep each description under 2 minutes.
  5. Answer aloud a few test questions like, “Tell me about yourself,” or “Why do you want this job?” Time your answers. Keep them under 2 minutes.
  6. Leave early enough to arrive 10 or 15 minutes before the interview starts.
  7. Listen to soothing music or a motivational CD as you drive.
  8. Use your drive time to think about what you have accomplished in previous jobs. Talk out loud about each accomplishment while you watch the clock. Keep each description under 2 minutes.
  9. After you stop in the parking lot, read the job descriptions one more time. You need to keep in mind what the company says it is looking for.
  10. Time to shine. Remember to smile as you walk in the door and greet each person.  Have fun.  Remember, they invited you in.  They want to see you.

If you have a bad interview, you won’t get the job.  If you have a great interview, you not only get the job, you get more money.

Interview preparation is not difficult.  It requires time and concentration. Give it the time and the effort it deserves.  You’ll see the difference.

One critical thing I mentioned that people forget

Collect job descriptions of every job you are going to interview for.  That’s often the key missing link in preparation.  If you rely only on your memory, you may forget a few essential points that you should emphasize in your interview.



Coming up:           References

You can’t rollerskate in a buffalo herd

Resume magic

Imperfect and highly paid

The most common interview questions

I hate (certain) firefighters

“Jim barely went home for the last two weeks.  He saved the Membership Project.  Our customer was screaming because of the implementation problems.  We are giving Jim a bonus and a week of vacation for his efforts.”

Jim is a firefighter and an arsonist.  He led a project down the path of failure.  When his inept leadership nearly sank the whole division, the manager two levels above him stepped in and salvaged the project at implementation.  Jim worked like crazy.  His whole team did.  It really bothers me when guys like that get praised and rewarded. In some companies that is the culture.

I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to die in a fire of suspicious origin. (unkn)

picture of matches catching fire

One man’s job arson causes a whole team to burn.

Has an emergency caused you to work nights and weekends?  Did a job you were the finalist for disappear because of a disaster? Was it filled by a firefighter who is an arsonist?  Do your bosses know the arson root of a lot of job fires?

Root causes of job arson are going to be a continuing subject for a few days.  Career building and job hunting both have firefighters who are also arsonists.  Don’t think you are safe because you are job hunting.  It’s amazing how many job hunters destroy their own chances of success.

 Something To Do Today

Make a list of the times you have had to work late and on weekends due to unforeseen problems or disasters.  There is probably an arsonist somewhere.  Who is it?  Make a list of arsonists.

The list you are making may help your career and your job hunting.  It can help you see how you aid and abet arsonists.  That tendency may be why you have missed more than one job or career opportunity.


Job arson examples:      The Mythical Man Month

Doctor No

Dead fish



And later:    How to work a convention

Forgetting to get a job – Liar research day

“Five wasted years due to a liar.  I was promised equity, part ownership, and then they sold the company without giving it to me.  I was robbed. I’ll never trust anyone again.  Now I’m in it for the money.  I’m in it for me.”

He has the skills to succeed, but who would hire him for an honest corporate level job now? He broods on wrongs done to him. His attitude and morals are shot. He is sure everyone lies and cheats. Every time he sends me a resume, it has incredible lies on it.  He only remembers the bad, never savoring the good.

Some places will hire him for sales or sales management because of an undeniable track record.  But will he cheat the customers or help them?  Will he ever be a customer centered salesman again? He will be fired soon.

I have kept in contact with him for years and he has never recovered. He refuses to move on mentally. Morally he remains disfigured, brooding, and unreliable.

The inability to forget is infinitely more devastating than the inability to remember. (Twain)

picture of hate

Grabbing offenses tightly only pushes needles through your hand.

There are a lot of people like him. I ask these scarred souls, “How soon did you figure out your boss was lying?”  Usually the answer is, “I found out 3 months (or 3 days) after I started.  But then it was too late to take another job.”  I ask, “Why didn’t you get the promises in writing?”  The answer is always, “I didn’t think I needed to.  He kept telling me he would do it.” By then you knew your boss was a liar, so you trusted him??

Time to forget that you were cheated.  You made two mistakes: 1. You decided to keep working for a liar, and 2. You decided you didn’t need promises in writing from the liar.

What you should do is learn from the two lessons above and move on.  Refuse to work for a liar again.  Get promises in writing.  And now start remembering all the good people you have known.

Good people attract good people.  You will find that people who tell the truth in business don’t mind putting their promises in writing.  As a matter of fact, they prefer putting promises in writing so that there is no dispute later about what they promised.

Now forget how you were robbed.  That was one bad boss.  No need to tell the story over and over.  Frankly forgive him.  If you are suing him, let your lawyer worry about it.  If you aren’t taking him to court, drop it completely.

Learn from your mistakes.  Continue trusting people.  Get promises in writing.  Learn the right lessons and forget the pain.  You’ll be happier.

Something To Do Today

Liar research day.  Who do you know who says they were robbed in a job or business?  Come on.  You probably know a few.  Ask them 2 1/2 questions:

  1. How soon did you figure out he was lying and why did you stick with him so long?
  2. Did you get all those promises in writing?


Later:   I hate firefighters

Dead fish



The healthiest way to look at jobs unfilled

Needlessly unfilled jobs get me mad.  They keep you out of a job.  They lower profits at the companies that desperately need the right person.

This article calls the over qualification of a job opening “zombie thinking”.   I like the solution Lou gives to solving the problem.  Unfortunately it has to be solved by the employer, not the job seeker.

4 keys to take charge of a group – networking

Networking?  It is leadership.  Some of the best connected network creators I know have never been managers, but they all have been leaders.

Seize Opportunity to take charge of a group

90% of opportunity is seized, 10% is granted.

So who decides where you go for lunch?  In a group of 10, 8 people will meekly suggest a restaurant, one person will call for a vote, and one will decide where to go without a vote. How does that one person get the whole group to follow her? 

  1. She makes decisions that are desired by other natural leaders of the group.
  2. She finds out who has a strong bias against her decision and deals with it.
  3. Occasionally she goes somewhere she doesn’t like, to please others.
  4. She pulls or pushes people out the door to get them moving.

It is not just a matter of having a strong personality.  It isn’t just being decisive or insistent. Seizing opportunity requires a decision you really care about, dealing with all opposition, and getting people moving.

To seize opportunity you have to care, move yourself and move others.


Something To Do Today

Take the lead or watch a leader take charge of a group.

Starting tomorrow I’ll be giving at least one suggestion each day for networking.

For a few days:           The first step towards leadership

How to network at the top.

Creating networks

What to do before you quit

Should you quit your job to look for a new job?


Hiring someone who has a job is always easier for managers than hiring someone who is unemployed.  The reason is that they figure 90% of the people who are unemployed have one of 3 problems: they are incompetent, they are troublemakers or they are never satisfied.  I talked to a manager about a very competent programmer.  She asked, “If he is so good, why is he unemployed?”  Because she feels uncomfortable with that question, it looks like she won’t hire him.

Since you shouldn’t quit your current job, what should you do?  Become a model employee.  Treat your current job like you expect a big raise in a couple of weeks.  Document how well you are doing and let the people you interview with know how well you are doing.

Here are 8 things you should do at your current job:

  1. Arrive a little early and stay a little late.  Just a few minutes makes a big difference.  It is job insurance.  Track it.
  2. Do your job interviews before work, at lunch or after work.  Future employers like to hire people who are still looking out for their current boss.
  3. Use a personal email account for job hunting.  Go to Yahoo or gmail for a free account if you have to.  Your next boss may be turned off if you are using company assets (email) in your job search.
  4. Figure out ways you can make more money or save more money for your current employer.  Document it.  Then use it in job interviews.  How will an interviewer react if you say, “In the last 2 months I’ve saved my company $3452.”
  5. Track how fast you do everything, and do it faster.  Compare yourself to others.  Use your improvements in interviews.
  6. Go out of your way to help people beyond your job description.  Write down what you do and who you help.
  7. Absolutely stop bad mouthing your current employer. Stay away from people who gossip.  Get out of the beef and whine lunch group.  Why?  You will do better in interviews.  Your attitude towards work will be better.  A person with a good attitude always gets the job over someone who hates their job.
  8. Look for ways to get training on the job or in classes.  Prepare yourself for the next job you want.  Volunteer for assignments that will make you stretch.

WARNING:  If you do all of the above, you will probably be offered a raise or a promotion to stay when you quit.  Turn it down and go to the new job.  Trust me, it never works out unless they offer you the raise and promotion BEFORE you quit.  Much better to come back in a year or two than expect your boss to forgive your accepting another job offer.


Something To Do Today

Improve your performance at your current job.  Track the improvements and use them in your interviews and on your resume.

Why your coworkers shudder when you approach

Admit it.  You have worked with someone you just wanted to avoid. You have done your best to get out of projects with one of your coworkers. There is someone whose footsteps send a wave of panic through your body.

Here is a look at 11 sins you will recognize. Do any apply to you?

What if you were fired totally unfairly?

When you are fired or laid off, you are wounded. How do you tell when you are healed?

“Of one thing I am certain, the body is not the measure of healing, peace is the measure.” —Phyllis McGinley

You may need to take a week or two off before looking for a job. If you start searching for a job before your wounds have started to heal, you may keep yourself out of jobs because your interviewing is filled with raw pain.  Over and over I have seen people totally botch phone and in-person interviews because they hadn’t healed enough from their job exit wounds.

As you notice peace again, your wounds are being healed.

If you are really having a hard time letting go of the hurt, unfairness, and pain you may want to try something I do.  Go to a cemetery.  Spend an hour there walking and thinking.  Do it every day for a while until you start feeling peace.  There is nothing like a cemetery to remind you of how important the way you were treated in your last job is in the long run.  It reminds me that I will be judged on how I act, love, and forgive, not on what others do. It reminds me of the shortness of my life and that I don’t want to spend my time in bitterness.  It is my choice.

You can do the same thing by sitting in a big old church.  Pastors are happy to let you sit there even if the church is closed.  If the door is open, go in and sit.  Or knock on the rectory door (the house next door where the pastor lives) and ask for  a favor.  Or try going to a downtown church or homeless shelter to find a chapel to sit in.  Hospitals have chapels open 24 hours each day.  Evenings are a good time to find an open church.  Many catholic churches have a morning mass and you can ask the Priest if you can just stay and sit.

Sometimes I just find a mountain trail and go for a hike for a few hours. Your local outdoor sports store and state parks department will have maps available.

It is much better to take a week off, than to apply for a job when you are bitter, upset, and still bleeding from a job wound.  Take some time. Find some peace.  You will get a better job.

During a job interview I have never heard someone complain of how badly they were treated and how horrible the boss was in a job 20 years ago.  You will eventually stop complaining about your treatment.  Why not stop now?  You’ll be happier.


3 reasons to not even consider a counter-offer from your old company

It always sounds self serving when I say it.

So read here what are 3 solid reasons to not even consider a counter offer.

When you quit your job, and your old company offers you a raise, better offices, and a promotion if you stay, it is because they are desperate.  Desperate people don’t really love the people who drove them to desperation. They remember.

3 big ways to do “Thank you” wrong

HR said, “We are still going to bring George in, but his Thank You note wasn’t professional at all.”

I cringed as she told me the problem.  Then I decided to do a survey of managers, directors, and HR folks to see how a Thank You can be done wrong.

The 3 biggest mistakes:

  1. A text message Thank You
  2. A sloppy ugly note
  3. Spelling and grammar errors

A text message thank you

Nothing says I didn’t really want to send this message as much as a text message.  The short, compressed, choppy text message can only give a bad impression. An email is the most common thank you note.  Email is fine but text messages reek of insincerity to many managers.

A sloppy ugly note

A clean typewriter paper page with a short handwritten note is great.  A card from the store with nothing inside but your neatly written thanks is wonderful.  Typed is okay if your handwriting is bad.  Short is best.

Paper ripped from a spiral notebook is horrible.  A napkin with a note — please, don’t even consider it.  A pen that skips and was restarted on the page, don’t send it! A card printed from your PC – don’t!  They just don’t look professional.  We are going for professional here.

Spelling and grammar errors

If you have any doubts, don’t send it.  Hand it to someone who is good at spotting bad grammar and spelling.

In a nutshell

You will be judged by what you send.  If it looks professional, heartfelt and personal, you will be judged well.  If it looks unprofessional, you will look unprofessional.

It is best to send a nice professional looking note.  If you aren’t sure, sending nothing is better than broadcasting your incompetence.