I’m thankful but I want just a little more…

morecowbellI heard a definition of success the other day that I really like… “Success happens when you realize that you have more than others.”  Now I know that we ALWAYS want more and THAT is the problem.  I read Ecclesiastes and I think “Sure, sure… having everything doesn’t help fill that hole I have in me.  Easy for you to say.”  But I want to try it for myself.

This affects our job search in ways that we do not realize.  I heard an interview with a career coach that discussed how many of us are constantly looking at on-line job boards, even if we are happy in our current role, which many of us are not.  Why?  Because we all want a little more.  My neighbor has a boat and a lake house.  A friend got a Jeep for Father’s day.  It would be EASY to strive for more and I do, but the reason is what matters.

If we strive for more just to buy more junk then it will lead to death.  Sure, you can work more to make more money, but your family might fall apart.  Just ask Jay Grinney, CEO of HealthSouth.  In an interview with Jeremy Carter on the Bold Future Podcast he says that he regrets all the time he spent working and how it cost him his family.  Or how about the relationships you lose or your heath that deteriorates?

We may be looking for the wrong things in our job search.  We may also be asking the wrong questions in the interview process.  I am not saying you want to jump right in and ask questions without regard for how they come across but you CAN find out the IMPORTANT stuff without being direct.

Time off:  If this is not important to you (and it may not be) then I hope you are single.  Many times you can find this on the company website.

Work schedule: Hopefully they list the work schedule or refer to it in the job posting.  If not look on Glassdoor.com.  You may reach out to someone who is currently in that role at the company.

Benefits:  Again, check the website first.

Pay:  Check out Glassdoor.com or ask people that work there what the “pay range” is for the position.  I would NOT ask someone who is currently in that role but maybe someone who has previously been in that position.

Culture:  This is a BIG one.  Check out their website, Glassdoor, employees on Facebook and LinkedIn.  Look for pictures and comments.

In the end, as with most things, your NETWORK can answer a lot of these questions and help you decide what positions / companies are a good match for you.


Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.
George Bernard Shaw

Oddball Interview Questions… why do companies still use them?

This post started with a tweet from @hiringsocial and @FidelisPartners yesterday: “How to tackle those oddball interview questions.”  My first reaction was why in the H-E double hockey sticks do people still ask these questions?  I actually tweeted “most interview questions should be job related.”  I wanted to explain further and I fully admit that my thought process is usually not protracted but I did feel that 140 characters would not suffice, so I wrote this post.

Many hiring managers surmise that interview performance predicts future performance on the job.  While there may be some correlation between interview answers and job performance, I believe that often times interviewers infer causality where there is none.

An example given is asking a candidate what color crayon they would like to be.  Even if there is evidence to back up the assumption that wild and passionate people more often times choose red it could also be that the person answering the question read this post.  If that is the case they chose red because they are interviewing for a sales position and they know that you want a passionate person in sales.  That begs the question, are interviewers measuring what they intend to measure?

Another issue is that male interviewers are more likely to ask these types of questions than their female counterparts.  So I would argue that by asking these questions you are already interviewing with a gender bias.  Hmm, I wonder why tech companies have a difficult time hiring women.

I believe that most of the people who ask these questions do so for one of a few misguided reasons:

We have always done it this way:  Some people feel that if it was done to them, they get to do it to others.  I believe they call this hazing in College.

It uncovers hidden traits: You mean like how your BS meter is a little more sensitive than others?  I am no psychologist but you might as well do a Rorschach test with candidates.

You can discover things about people:  This hearkens back to older school odd ball things from interviews.  Like the Captain who would offer a cigarette to officers who came into his ready room.  There were no ash trays.  He wanted to see if they planned ahead.  Or how about people who salt their food before tasting it?  Does that mean they are presumptuous?

How they solve a problem:  “How many people are using Facebook in San Francisco at 2:30 PM on a Friday?”  It seems that some people at Google have asked this question to see how quickly people think on their feet.  It could be valid if people at Google are usually put in a room with someone they have never met when they are asked to solve a problem.

What I believe can improve the interview process is to tell people WHY you are asking questions.  For instance: “I would like to see how you work through a problem so I have a situational question for you… How would you estimate the number of M&Ms that could fit in a VW Beetle?”  You get better and truer answers from people when they are put at ease.  Shouldn’t we treat others as we would like to be treated?

The same rules apply for behavioral interviewing.  In behavioral interviews you want candidate’s answer to include the situation or task they were doing, the action they took and the result or outcome.  Usually interviewers do not mention this fact and they do not get good answers.  Interviews are more predictive of future performance if you let people know what to expect.  That is why I tell people what to expect from the interview process.

Interviewers CAN use some “oddball” questions in the interview process if they explain why they are asking the question.  When companies ask questions that seem to come out of left field, without context, it does not necessarily tell you if they are a good match for the company or the position.  What it probably tells you is that they are very good at interviewing.

Think about it… your best employees… your best co-workers… the ones you can’t do without… where they the best interviews you ever had?  Did they have the best looking resumes?  I doubt it.

All that said… any candidate, as the Social-Hire post says, should be prepared for the oddball interview question.  Or, if you dare, maybe just ask the interviewer “Hey buddy, why don’t you just ask me what you really want to know about me?  Why do we have to play this game?  How about this… you be honest with me and I will be honest with you.  Because I really don’t want to work here unless I can be successful.”


We are called to be bold.
Joshua 1:9

Working on being authentic in the interview

genuineThe main difference is the more you practice, the more authentic you will be and the closer the “role” is to the true you the more genuine you seem. Actors practice WHAT they say, HOW they say it and their BODY language.  You need to do the same to prepare for an interview.

Think about the sales people you have not liked dealing with… they seem fake.  The good sales people plan out and practice their elevator speech / pitch before going on sales calls.  They believe in what they are saying / selling.  If someone is really good you do not even know you are being sold.  You need to get to the same place in your interviewing skills.

If you want to get better it is going to get uncomfortable.  I like the saying “The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle.”  Would you rather feel the fool while recording your answers or when you are across a desk from a hiring manager?  Ask your significant other to play the role of the hiring manager and give you feedback.

A friend of mine in sales said that he had his wife get in their bedroom.  He would call her and pitch her like she was a customer.  He said it was HORRIBLE but it was the best training he did.

This is another reason that informational interviews are so useful.  They get you accustomed to interview settings without actually being in an interview.  You are able to practice your professional communication skills in a less stressful environment.

So you need to ask yourself; ARE YOU WILLING TO DO WHAT IT TAKES? Once you have identified what interviewing skills you need to work on are you willing to improve?  Many people like the idea of running a marathon as a goal but they are unwilling to get up every morning and train.

You have two choices… do something about it or stop complaining.  There is never a reason for whining.

Be authentic in your interviews

authenticOne thing that I have heard a lot about lately is authenticity. We want people to be authentic.  The interview process is no different.  To put it another way, you need others to perceive you as genuine.

As an employer we want people to be authentic, but in a good way.  If you are not a nice person then you could justify being mean as “I’m just being authentic.”  No bueno.  You don’t just want to be yourself,  you want to be the best part of yourself.  I have rarely met people who do not have a “good side” they could show others, if they choose to.  Even Merle Dixon had a good side.

So you ask “how can I do all of the things you talk about in a job search and be authentic?”  Fake it till you make it.  You can tell when actors seem authentic in a role and you know when they don’t.  Think of Tom Hanks in Cast Away vs. The DaVinci Code.

To be authentic you must believe in yourself.  I am not trying to get all warm and fuzzy on you but if you don’t believe in yourself why should anyone else?  I just read a blog post from Lori Deschene at Tiny Buddha about How to Love Your Authentic Self.  The title sounds all tree hugger, otter scrubbing, PETA loving but it has some very good tips:

You are not your mistakes.  I have heard “everything happens for a reason.”  I believe the follow-up to that… “sometimes the reason bad things happen is that you are stupid and you make bad decisions.”  I know I have!  In God’s economy nothing is wasted.

You have nothing to prove.  This comes into play when people ask about weaknesses or mistakes you have made.  You need to own them, tell them what you learned and what you have done and / or are doing to make sure they don’t happen again.

The dark is valuable.  You must have the attitude that Spartan Up! does… you either win or you learn.  You don’t lose.

You matter.  There is a Ted Talk that speaks to this: Our loss of wisdom by Barry Schwartz.  He talks about how janitors at hospitals see their value in their jobs.  Everyone matters, even you.

Positive feelings and actions breed more.  To help yourself, help someone else.  It is a scientifically proven fact that if you help someone else it helps you.  Often times it helps the giver much more than receiver.  You don’t even need to include someone else if you don’t want to.  David Steindl-Rast says “Want to be happy? Be grateful.”  Many of our problems are 1st world problems.

Get out there and meet the you that you want to introduce to others.


Don’t waste a minute not being happy. If one window closes, run to the next window- or break down a door.
Brooke Shields

P.S.  I never thought I would be quoting Brooke Shields 🙂

Always be asking… what do they value?

valuesIn a recent Spartan Up! podcast they talked about how any interaction with another person is a two-way streak.  You need to ask yourself “what do they value?”  This is very important in the interview process.  You need to put yourself in the recruiter or hiring manager’s shoes and ask that question.

Some things may be generally valued by most organizations: honesty, timeliness, innovation, attention to detail, etc…  How do these play into the interview process?


Don’t get caught lying.  Even an out of date resume sends up warning flags.  If your resume says that you are still currently in your job then you tell me “oh, no.  I left there a month ago.”  That is no bueno


You’ve heard it: If you’re early, you’re on time.  If you’re on time, you’re late.  If you’re late, don’t bother showing up.  If you are going to be late call BEFORE you are late!


Be ready to talk about your creative solution to a problem at work.  Or better yet, I like seeing that you have done your research on the company and uncovered some interesting things to ask about.  “I see that many of the people in the Sales Development Department, like me, have been sales managers in the past.  How do you feel that contributes to their success in their current position?”

Attention to detail

I already mentioned being sure that your resume is up to date.  Do your best to remember names.  Also be sure to write thank you /  follow-up emails to everyone you meet with.

But you ask “What about values that are unique to each company?”  One word… GOOGLE.  For instance, if want to work at Regions Bank.  GOOGLE “Regions Bank Core Values”  BOOM!

Things like that can help you tailor your answers to each company.  You can also work them into your questions.  “I noticed that putting people first is your first core value.  How is that displayed in Branch Banking?”  Remember, the interview is more about what they want than about what you want.  Think of it as a consultative sale.


Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.

C. S. Lewis

Let’s talk about compensation…

Stack of $100 billsMany people will tell you “the one who mentions compensation first loses.”  This assumes that pay is a zero sum game.  Personally, I think it is up to the company to mention pay first.  It may not mean that they tell you what the position pays first but they should bring it up and it should be brought up early.  I talk about compensation in the first interview.

Yes, I have paid two people differently for doing the same job.  Same pay for the same work sounds nice but rarely are two people contributing the exact same to the company.  What if one person is not at work for 1/4 of the year off while the other person works for an entire year?  Should they be paid the same?  Or how about if one person is liked by all and raises everyone’s spirits while the other person is like having Eeyore around?  To me compensation is more about your overall contribution to the company and not just your “work.”  Not to mention the discussions about high performing and high potential.  Sometimes a person with higher potential is paid more than someone who is performing better.

In the interview process discussing compensation often times makes people uneasy.  As a candidate you need to know what your bottom line is.  If you have a number that is your “must have” number then make it at or near the bottom of the range you give.  You don’t just give them ONE number when they ask about pay do you?  If someone asks about pay and you don’t know what the company’s pay range is for the position then give them a range.  Say something like “I need to be between $45k and $60k depending on benefits, vacation time, bonuses, etc….”  You better believe that “benefits” play a big part of the package for most people.  I am not just talking about medical and dental…

Here are some of the areas you should consider as “benefits:”


How long will your commute be?  I drive 20 miles and it takes me about 30 minutes.  I actually like the “me” time of the commute and I get to make some personal calls so I see some value in the time but it does cost me in real dollars.  Here are two articles about how much the commute costs you from Reuters and Lifehacker.  Keep in mind that today the IRS standard mileage rate is $.575 per mile.  It can add up not to mention the time you are “spending” in your commute.

Time off

Take your salary divide it by 52 and that is what each week of vacation is worth to you in real dollars.  If the company only offers you three weeks of vacation and you want four, ask if they can bump your base by the weekly amount and let you take a week unpaid if you need it.  I encourage doing this because any future raises will be based on you salary, not your vacation.  Plus, you may not need the extra time off.

Work from home

If you work from home you save a TON of money.  Here is an article from About.com to help you think of the TOTAL cost of working.  If you work from home you save on the commute AND your wardrobe.  I am not saying that you should fold clothes while you are on a conference call but multi-tasking is an option.


How about when little Timmy has basketball practice at 5:30 two days a week?  Will you boss allow you to leave early those days?  You don’t want to ask that directly in the first interview but you can find these things out in the interview process.


Working in a bad environment costs you your happiness.  How much is that worth to you?  Keep in mind that YOU contribute to the environment you work in.  The other day a person was being a Mr/Ms grumpy pants complaining about their job and how other people don’t work as hard as they do.  I told them that I had a stack of people at my desk that they could complain to if they want because these people had no job at all.  Like I say, if the problem is not with you , then you cannot fix it.

We all need to pay bills so before you start the job search take a look at your expenses and come up with what you need to make.  But be sure that you know what your TRUE costs are in case you need to negotiate.


If all of my problems are first world problems, I don’t have problems.


Does your resume look like a ransom note?

Ransom note for overshareingAsk a recruiter, they have seen them.  The resume from the person that thinks they are being “creative” (yes, that is an appropriate use of quotes) when they put together their resume.  There are a multitude of fonts, formats, different spacing, etc… Just like on a ransom note.  Not that I have every written a ransom note.

Just say no.  You need to learn that formatting on a resume needs to make it EASIER to read the important information, not turn into a game of where’s Waldo.  Here is a great article from Carrie Cousins at design shack about Good Writing and Editing.  The same rules apply to resumes.

Here are some basic design tips:

  • If you want to play it safe go with a Sans Serif font.
  • Use mixed letter case the most, it reads more easily than all UPPER CASE.
  • Stay consistent.  If one title is upper case then make them all upper case.
  • If you try to make everything stand out, nothing will.

At the end of the day remember that your resume needs to reflect the best parts of you AND you need to adapt it to each position when you apply.


Design is intelligence made visible.
Alina Wheeler

Use your future memory in your job search

futureWhen I first heard the term “future memory” I as immediately attracted to it as it seems to be an oxymoron.  How can you remember the future?  Another term for this is “prospective memory” or “automacity.”  Many people might also hear it called “muscle memory.”  We are constantly training ourselves to do things in the future without taking the time to think about them.  The problem is that we are rarely intentional about developing our future memory.

How do you get future memory?  Practice.  You must practice if you want to perform well.  This is especially true of interviews.  No, you cannot rehearse an entire interview but you can prepare and practice a few things:

Non-verbals:  Ask people for feedback on your non verbals.  Do you make effective eye contact?  How is your handshake?  Do you have good posture?  The list goes on.  Be sure to tell people why you want the feedback and that you want honest feedback.  Your livelihood may depend on it.

Interview responses:  Anyone who is not prepared for one of the following questions should not pass go and will not collect $200… Tell me about yourself.  Why are you interested in this position and our company?  What is your biggest weakness and/or strength?  Why did you leave your last job?

Making small talk:  This is where being a jack of all trades helps but anyone can do this.  One way is to listen to or read some recent news stories from NPR or the BBC.  Sorry, those are truly the most fair and balanced news agencies out there.  I also highly recommend listening to a few podcasts that are on the top of the charts or just check out some TED Talks.  If you do not or have not watched / listened to TED Talks then you are REALLY missing out.

So stop remembering the past and get started building your future memory.


The future depends on what we do in the present.
Mahatma Gandhi

What are you feeding your brain and your soul?

Media1I feel that you can learn a lot about people by finding out what they listen to and read. The other night at a company dinner I overheard our CEO mention he listens to podcasts during his morning workout. I asked him what his favorite podcasts are. I have now added Spartan Up! and The Unconventionals to my list of podcasts.

What we take in affects what we do, how we view things and how we view ourselves.  How others view you starts with how you view yourself.  I don’t mean that people love someone who is a narcissist but if you do not believe in yourself , why should others?  This is especially true in the interview process.  An interviewer is not going to tell you how great you are.

Think of the media we consume as brain and soul food. Many of us are concerned with what goes in our mouths but why do we take the same care with the media we devour each day? We must become intentional with what we feed our minds. If you don’t pay attention to what you fuel your mind with it will be bound up by the garbage we have fed it.  Just like if you eat junk food then need to run a race, no bueno.

Take a minute and list out all the stuff you read or listen to on a daily basis.  Then next to it put a plus if it helps you, gives you productive ideas and is uplifting or positive.  Put a negative sign if it gets you down or makes you doubt yourself.  Make an effort to do more of the pluses and less of the negatives, you’ll thank me for it.


The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.

You need a kinetic job search

Kinetic jobsearch1The word kinetic first came up in science class when talking about kinetic energy.  But then it came up again in news reports about battles in Afghanistan and Iraq as a “kinetic military action” or a “kinetic battle.”  It hit me… that is what people need… a kinetic job search.  Most of us sit back in the job search and don’t push it forward.

What is a kinetic job search?

You need to go on the offensive.  Don’t wait for a company to post a position.  Lots of people have written about the benefits of networking and making friends.  But to do that you need to get outside of your comfort zone.  You need to start making things happen.

How do you start a kinetic job search?

Start with small goals.  Make one new contact your first week, two the second, four the third week and so on.  If you are not currently working treat you job search like a job.  Take breaks, go out for lunch, etc…   Ask others to help hold you accountable for your goals.

Even the military takes a strategic pause.

If it has been a while and you are not getting anywhere in your job search maybe it is time to pause and refocus your efforts.  Ask others for assistance.  Take stock in what you have done, what has worked and what didn’t.  Then re-boot and launch your search again.


Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.  Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
Sun Tzu