Tag Archives: getting a job

Don’t dig your own grave in an interview

I had a guy come in for an interview after a depressing few months of job hunting. Within 5 minutes it was obvious why no one wanted to hire him. What really killed him was that it wasn’t his fault, sorta, why he left his last 3 jobs.  If your boss won’t explain what you have to do so that you can understand it, it isn’t your fault, sorta.  When you finally decide not to work 50 hour weeks any more, it is not your fault you quit.  And an affair with your boss that ends unhappily is certainly not your fault, is it? And every detail was explained in the interview. Worse, when questioned, “Do you explain this to everyone you interview with?” the answer was, “Of course, I can’t lie about it.”

He was digging his grave with his own hands.  He would shoot himself to prove why gun safety is important.  In a game of checkers he would explain why he made each move so he didn’t surprise his opponent.

We worked for an hour to give him answers that were true and made him look discrete and loyal.  Near the end he said, “I guess I am going to have to learn how to lie.”  He didn’t understand. We explained, “In 20 years you won’t tell all the heart wrenching reasons you left your recent job, so don’t tell them now.” He just couldn’t accept that.

What to say 

For any negatives, acknowledge them very briefly, and also find the good side of that experience.  I said, “Acknowledge them.”  I did not say, “Explain them.”  In almost every negative situation there were some positives.  Think of what those positives were and emphasize them. Explain the positives and not the negatives. Here are examples: 

Your boss didn’t train you:

“I was very grateful for that job, but I needed an opportunity to grow more. I had a strong boss who taught me about leadership.”  

You left because of long hours:

“My boss taught me a lot, but we disagreed on working conditions.  It was great to work directly with an entrepreneur like him.”

The office affair went sour:

“That was a great company, but I left because of the office atmosphere. My trainer at that company was brilliant.  I learned a lot about business as well as the technical side of my job.”

When someone asks you more about the negative, refuse to talk about it.  Instead, talk about the positives you brought up.  It is called loyalty when you refuse to discuss unimportant tidbits of gossip and concentrate on the positive. Another word to describe it is discretion.

Something to do today

Make a list of all the things you mention in interviews that just don’t sound good.  Figure out how to mention them in 5 words or less.  Then figure out 2 good things you can mention that are related to those negatives.

Get your resume read

I read The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, the abridged Reader’s Digest version. It was fantastic. I liked it so much I started reading the original by Victor Hugo. It was torture. Every building in Paris was carefully described. A walk down a street was as long as a chapter. I couldn’t finish it. 

Like Reader’s Digest did, you have to simplify your resume according to your simple plan. Your resume plan should simply be – GET A PHONE CALL.

Get a Phone Call

Make getting a phone call the point of your resume. Now remove the stuff from your resume that won’t get you a phone call. You need to entice people to call you by giving them exciting information, and NOT fully explaining it. Then they have to call you.

If you set out to simplify your resume without a simple plan, you will fail. You have to cut out the things that don’t apply to the plan you are pursuing. You may end up with three simple resumes. That’s fine. Each resume should be simplified so that it applies to one single objective and the single plan to GET A PHONE CALL.

For someone living before photographs, a description of Paris was thrilling. For someone who has been there and can see pictures of it on the internet, descriptions of Paris are chloroform in print. Victor Hugo decided on a simple plan: have a good plot, and double sales by having great descriptions. He knew his audience. He sold a lot of books to his target audience.

The same thing goes for the person who wants to be a manager. He’d better have a manager’s resume. If the same person applies for a job as a technician he needs to leave out all the manager stuff. Complexity gets confusing and discouraging to the reader… and therefore gets your resume deleted. If you want to be a hands-on manager, then show how you have done that in the past. That is actually a simple plan like Victor Hugo with plot and descriptions.

Simplify your plan, then simplify your resume. You will get a phone call.

Something to do today

Are you applying for several different kinds of jobs?

Split your resume into several distinct resumes. One simple resume for each job.

Negotiating a salary at a new job – first interview

“Will you work for minimum wage?”

Not a winning question when negotiating salary with an engineer.

“Give me all your money!”

Probably not a wise gambit for any job interview.

At some point in your job exploration the question of money has to come up.  Asking a recruiter what the job pays is fine.  Asking what your pay will be in a phone or first interview is a mistake.  They may have been given strict instructions to only mention $50,000, but have been told that they can go to $60,000 for the right candidate.  That happens all the time.

Timing is critical. Don’t negotiate salary, vacation or perks until they love you and are sure they want to hire you. You have no leverage for negotiations until you are the final candidate.

Money, Profit, Finance, Business, Return, Yield

When THEY ask you how much you must make to switch jobs, THEY are nervous.  So are you.  Here is an answer that works.  It doesn’t get you eliminated for asking for too much.  You won’t get paid too little for being too meek.  It leaves room for negotiating.  It gives them the information they need to make you a good offer.

The answer has 3 steps:

  1. the compliment
  2. the money
  3. the rules.

First the compliment.  This job and your company interest me.  I’d like to go to work for you.

Now the money.  Last year I earned a total of $70,000 and just had a raise to $73,000.

Finally the rules.  I certainly wouldn’t want to earn less.  I would like to be able to entertain your best offer.

This works for minimum wage jobs and CEO salaries.  If they ask a second time, tell them the same thing.  Let them know that you feel it is the company’s job to make an offer, not yours.  You just tell them the facts about what you are earning.  That’s all.  You can negotiate AFTER they have decided to make you an offer.  Then you will have some leverage.

How to think about salary – do this.

Write down three numbers.

First, what are you earning now?  Obviously you would take your current job for that much money.  You did.

Second, what do you really think you would be paid in a good but realistic situation if you switched jobs next month?  It should be a raise.

Third, if the ideal job came along, with you doing, learning and being exactly what you really want, with a great company and future, what is the least you would take to go there?  Is it a drop in pay?

You now have three different numbers you would work for.  So why should you demand to know what a job will pay before you find out which of the three possibilities it is?

Using a mirror to find your problems

Most people have no clue what happened in a job interview. Did you do well?  Did they hate you? Is there a big mistake you keep making? You lose sleep, hope, talk to yourself, and relive the interview, praying to find a clue.

It is like when you want to see the back of your head or you want to see the middle of your back. It takes at least two mirrors and a lot of luck, twisting, and patience.

A friend’s eye is a good mirror.

Find a couple of job interview mirrors, like the ones you use to see the middle of your back. You need a friend who won’t just parrot back what you say. Someone who listens and will feel comfortable telling you what they really think is critical. They need to walk you through three questions. Not just ask them, but make you stay on track. They need to pull you back to reality and away from your emotional state. Have them explore these three questions:

  1. Walk me through the interview like a movie. What exactly happened without any emotional coloring?
  2. In the interview, what were their hiring priorities? What did they explore and worry about the most?
  3. In your gut, how do you really feel about it?

You can go through those questions yourself and it will help. But, there is something about having to answer to someone else that often clarifies the situation. That’s one reason that a recruiter earns his keep. He becomes a sounding board after an interview for both the candidate and the client, helping them stay in sync with each other.

Having someone who can point out your mistakes and help you find where you need to work on to get a job is important. A friend or a family member is helpful but only if they know saying the bad things not just the good things is good for you. A recruiter is a great choice too, because it’s their job to help you find a job.

Something to do today

Find that mirror. Who will be honest with you? Who will YOU be honest with?

How to win the rigged game of getting a job

Of course the game is rigged.  Don’t let that stop you—if you don’t play, you can’t win. (Robert Heinlein)

Games can be deadly serious

Chess, poker, basketball and football are just games.  Some people study those games intently and never play themselves.  Others study the games and get into the competitions, contemplating victory and risking defeat. Those who watch from comfortable chairs and never participate, can never know the struggle and thrill of victory, nor the cleansing scourge of defeat.  The quiet careful critics will never grow a hundredth as much as the rankest loser grows.

Look at your job search like your favorite game or sport

That job or promotion you have applied for 5 or 10 times may really be out of reach for you.  That doesn’t mean you should stop trying.  At least you are in the game.  You will never win if you quit the field of battle.

Out of work?  Every job you apply for is a new game. Every time an employer calls you is a victory.  The next game is the interview.  Another game starts in the second interview.  Negotiating your salary is another game.  The day you start the job a new competition begins.

Look at it as a game. For a game you study techniques and practice them over and over. You also study the great winners and losers.  If you want to be great, you also study the mediocre masses because you have to find out why they are merely mediocre.  If you want to win, you have to know how to defeat each of your opponents.  A coach is also essential. Your coach will be called a mentor, recruiter or friend. Find the most successful person you can and ask for them to give you advice on what you should learn, study and practice next. Practice, prepare and then execute.  If you lose 20 times it won’t really kill you.  Look at it as a game.  The only thing that really kills you is giving up and leaving the game for good.

If there is a job or promotion you want but just can’t seem to win, make a game out of it. Play. Have some serious fun with it.

Something To Do Today

Make your job growth a game.  How can you learn to play it at a Super Bowl level?  Who can be your coach?  Get back in the game. Play.

Out of work?  Job hunting?  Make it a game. Study.  Keep trying.


Tomorrow:     Before you know it

Later:              Who is driving?

How to motivate yourself to search EFFECTIVELY

An actor asks himself, “What is my motivation?”  The rest of us laugh at him.  He’s trying to figure out which way to face on a stage.

Ice cream used to motivate me. I’d walk on hot coals to get it.  I still like ice cream, but it won’t get me to detour 100 yards to a store now.  Sometimes leaving work early is a great motivator.  Some days a chance to go for a walk will get me to work hard.  Winning is a great motivator at times.  Sometimes letting my kid just barely win is a motivator. What motivates me changes hourly, daily, weekly and monthly.

Getting a job is often not enough of a motivator in your job search.  To avoid pain, unmotivated people spend hours in front of a computer “playing” with job boards. There is no need to call people and admit you want a new job. Lack of real motivation is behind taking friends out to eat instead of creating a network by eating with more helpful strangers.

I have come to the conclusion that my subjective account of my motivation is largely mythical on almost all occasions. I don’t know why I do things. (Lloyd Dobens)

Use motivation in two ways.

  1. Figure out what motivates you to avoid a job hunting method
  2. Use motivation to get you to work harder.

Real networking is difficult for many.  Calling up a company and asking for the manager, VP, CFO or President is impossible for many people. Try to figure out why that call is difficult, while a call to HR (Human Resources) is easy.  HR knows less about jobs than the VP of Operations does.  If fear or embarrassment keeps you from making calls to real decision makers, admit it.  Talk about it with someone.  Make some commitments and work your way through it.

Making a few MORE contacts can also be difficult.  Find rewards that will get you to make a few more calls and submit more resumes.  It can be that you will only watch your TV show if you get 3 more resumes out or make 3 more calls.  Set a goal of only going golfing if you are taking a potential hiring manager from another company.  Decide you won’t turn on the computer until you have made 4 follow up calls where you have submitted your resume.

Think of what motivates you today.  Admit roadblocks and work around them.  Find little incentives you can give yourself to do just a little more in your job search.

Something To Do Today

Choose one activity you avoid.  Give yourself an incentive to do it.  Now do it.


Tomorrow:           Waiting for the “help wanted” sign

Later:                    Networking

Calls to companies

Intelligent use of recruiters

Get famous, get a job

Sneaky no good cops set a trap for me

How to count your job search victories

Job hunting triumphs come often.  Getting a job is always the cumulative result of a hundred victories.  Those victories should be celebrated over and over in your mind. Yes, you need to notice that you failed to finish the next step, but you shouldn’t focus on a defeat and exclude the victories leading up to that step.

If you send out 100 resumes and get 3 phone calls, you succeeded 103 times!  You sent out 100 resumes, a feat many job seekers never equal.  You also got 3 calls from your resume.  It worked.

You called 10 recruiting shops and 1 invited you in for an interview.  10 calls is a great adventure, and one success in 10 calls is wonderful.  Stock salesmen often make 200 calls in a day with absolutely no success.  Getting one interview is great.  Making 10 calls is a victory.

I had an executive make it to the final list of 3 candidates for a high level job.  Another candidate was chosen.  All he could see was that for the 7th time in 3 months he had failed to get the job. He could not focus on some delightful facts:
1. He was referred to me by his network.
2. His resume was very good.
3. I thought highly enough of him to recommend him.
4. He got the first phone interview.
5. An executive flew across the country to interview him.
6. He came to the facility he would lead and passed 6 more interviews.
7. He made it to the short list of final candidates.

What a monumental chain of victories!  This was a phenomenal set of accomplishments.  Yet, he couldn’t see his successes when the process was done.  All he looked at was that he missed the final cut.  He got depressed and self critical.  It got so bad that I couldn’t recommend him to another company.  He took a job he dislikes with a company he doesn’t respect.  That job lets him stop the pain of focusing on his occasional failures. He was not desperate financially.  He was desperate to win because he stopped seeing his successes.

Take the time to relive your successes every hour of your job search.  You will find your attitude soars.  You don’t make the cut?  Relive every successful step getting there.  Include finding out about the job, applying, getting a call, arriving on time, etc.  All those are feats showing your prowess.  Go ahead relive them in your mind. You deserve it.

Something To Do Today

Get your job journal out.  List the 3 jobs you have gotten closest to winning.  Even if it was just making a phone call or sending a resume.  List all the steps you executed successfully to get to that point.  Include all the little ones.  Relive those successes.  “You done good, little fella.”


Wrestlers in feather boas and getting the right job

It is wonderful how quickly you get used to things, even the most astonishing. (Edith Nesbitt)

What does being unusual have to do with getting a job?  A lot. Because everyone is unusual in some way.

Everyone knows you can’t run for Governor and expect to win if you are a professional wrestler who wears feather boas. It is worse if you are a radio talk show host who is conservative AND liberal at the same time. Jesse Ventura became a Governor by being all these things. He got a lot of politicians upset and confused. He also did a great job of running the state. But, less than half the people voted for him.

My partner and I offend some people. We do it by being ourselves. We are not purposely obnoxious. We are friendly and inoffensive by our standards. We just believe in being open, honest, and having fun. We have a theory that we can either try to be bland inoffensive gray, or we can enjoy work being just who we are. We can’t do both. We have found a LOT of people who like it when we are ourselves. Even the candidates who literally leave our office in tears because we are candid with them, send their friends to us. But some people refuse to do business with us. We choose to pay that price.

We don’t set out to be obnoxious. Neither should you. If that nose jewel is just an accessory, don’t wear it to the interview. If you will not work without it, wear it. The same thing goes for a beard. Dress up in the best way you know how for an interview. Make your resume as professional AND personal as possible. Use good manners always. Be honest. Be yourself. Also understand that whether you dress very conservatively or outrageously, you will be judged as a bad fit for some jobs. Just make the choice consciously.

There are jobs for programmers, salespeople, bankers and accountants in very conservative companies. The jobs also exist in companies that have bizarre office paint jobs, people with pink hair and pierced tongues, and parking lot hockey games at lunch. I can point out such companies deep in Amish country in Lancaster, PA. All companies want team players who fit into their very different cultures.

Let’s be honest. The more unusual you are, the more exceptional your accomplishments have to be. Don’t set out to offend or shock people. Be as nice and sociable as you can. Fit in with company culture wherever possible. Just don’t be afraid to be a little different, to be yourself.

Something To Do Today

Call my office after 6 pm and go to my voice mail. (717)975-9001. Bryan Dilts is the name. I change my message occassionally. My message is “very unprofessional” according to many. It also sets me apart in the minds of people who hear it.