Why Can’t I Tell Them On My Resume The Job Loss Wasn’t My Fault?

resumeThis could absolutely be the shortest article I have ever written if I just answered that question.  It would be comprised of one sentence:

It is not in your best interest.

That would be it, end of article – hope it helped!

Although the reason is simple and easily explained, to understand why requires a little more explanation. I also do not think a seven-word article is very useful.

A Resume Is Not An Application

There are certain elements that are not expected to be listed on a resume that are expected on an application.  These items include address, phone number, supervisor’s name and – get ready for it – reason for leaving.

Your reason for leaving is not expected to be listed on your resume and if it is it would be probably be considered odd for being on there.

You Do Not Get To Pick And Choose

When I have a client that wants to list why they were let go from one position, it is just that one position they want to detail; not the rest of their jobs because they may be due to being fired or quitting.

If you only detail one job then you really send up a red flag.  The reader will notice it is the only explanation and want to know what happened to the rest of the jobs listed.  As you did not give an explanation for any other job, they will assume the worse.  Misconception due to lack of information.

The Explanation

The best time to explain a job departure, and when you will normally be asked, is during an interview.  I did say normally: there may be a requirement during the pre-interview process in which you need to detail each departure.  This is not the ideal case, but it is more manageable and to your favor than putting it on you resume.

Whether you have to write an explanation or answer in an interview, the answer should be the same and follow a few best practices:

  • Be positive, or at least do not be negative.
  • Take ownership and accountability.
  • Be honest and concise.
  • Put it in the best light.
  • End it looking forward.
  • Remember, you are human.

Blaming a former employer is never a good move.  If you are still angry, blaming or being a victim the prospective employer will see that as a red flag.  No one wants to hire a victim.

What was your role?  Did you make a mistake? Were you in over your head? Was there a miscommunication with the client?  Where did it start?

If you were lucky enough to be downsized due to budget cuts or the company that bought out your company kept only their management That is all you need to say.  It is understood.

However, if there is something there, they will find it so it is best to be honest – without going to confessional.

If you were hired for one position and given responsibilities that were over your head, be honest.  Then put the positive on it.  Although you were not equipped at the time you are grateful for the experience.  It made you stretch and realize where you could improve.  It is regrettable that you did not have enough time to master it while there; however, you have been doing xyz since and are not at abc point.

From there you can look forward.  Now that you have mastered this, gained more experience, been exposed to a broader range of skills you know that not only can you bring value to this company, but having the experience you are able to identify possible challenges before they become an issue.

Lastly, remember, you are human – everyone makes mistakes.  Every. Single. Person.  You are not unique in being the only person ever fired or let go from a job. Just as I told my son and many parents have done so as well, it is not the mistake but what you do after it that counts the most.

What did you learn, how can you apply it going forward.  Some of the best experience comes from the worst mistakes.

All of this information would not fit on your resume.  Leave it for the next step in the process.  Hopefully, that will be in an interview because that is the best case scenario.

Best Case Scenario

The interview is your friend for explaining a departure.  This is where you need to use all your senses: watch and listen while you are speaking.  Give your short, concise explanation and either wait if on the phone or watch while you are giving it.

If on a phone interview, listen for their reaction.  Not just what they say, but how they say it.  Listen to their tone and inflection of their voice.  Do they sound hesitant? Do they sound confident or dismissive?  It will tell you how much more detail you need to give or if they are going to move on to the next question.

If you are in a face to face interview, watch their body language as you are speaking.  If you start giving too much detail or going in an area that causes them discomfort or suspicion, their body will let you know. Shifting in the seat, raising of eyebrows, tilting of the head or pulling it back a bit, crossing arms etc.  If you get the vibe they are not digging it, they are not digging it and stop digging yourself a hole.

Please remember, this is not a confessional – you do not have to give every gruesome detail.  Just start with the basic facts and go from there.  If they want more information, they will ask.


The question is coming so be prepared.  You want to know what you are going to say but not recite a script.  If it sounds like you are giving them a memorized cliff-notes version, it will send up a red flag.  Know the major points only, not word for word memorization.

Practice, practice, practice.  Stand in front of a mirror and answer the question several times.  Let some of the minor words change, the most important thing is that it flows naturally, confidently.

Practice with a trusted friend and have them watch your body language.  Are you fidgeting, are you showing that you are uncomfortable or do you have any tells?  If you are not natural and comfortable no matter what comes out of your mouth, your body will betray you.

One last thing: you are explaining, not justifying or apologizing. Events happen in life, mistakes are made, the sun still rises and sets.  Focus on the positive that you bring to the position, do not dwell on the negative and you can set the tone so they focus on those positives, too.


I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.


Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at companies, professional organizations and colleges speaking to leadership, sales, teams, transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about career mobility, personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

Stop Ignoring The Most Important Person To Give You Job Search Advice

confidenceWith the ability to have instant access to a wealth of information on any topic known to man, it would seem to be a pretty easy task to become fairly well educated on a desired topic. The flip side to this is information overload which leads to analysis-paralysis.

If you are in the process of making a change in your career – moving up or changing industries – it is natural to do a little research to be prepared. So you begin a search on the internet. You find information on job search strategies, resumes, networking, LinkedIn, interviewing – just to name a few topics that you are likely to run across.

So you pick on and start doing some real research on one topic to get started and that is when the fun starts.

One site tells you that you should always have a one page resume, another says that two pages is preferred or most common. One expert tells you that you should never have a summary on the top of your resume, another says it is an absolute must, and the list goes on and on and on and on….

What you start to quickly realize is there is a lot of conflicting information out there, with an emphasis on a lot of information out there. By the time you amass all the tips, tools, tricks, insight and recommendations your head is about ready to explode. You feel worse than you did when you began the process.

Perhaps you feel like you thought you knew a thing or two but now you feel you really do not know a darn thing about this whole process after all. A sense of doom and gloom starts to creep in.

Should you redefine your brand, resume, LinkedIn, networking, interviewing and everything else that you do every single time you leave the house or apply for a position? Everyone seems sincere and authoritative, even if conflicting, so who do you listen to?

Let’s not forget the well-meaning intentions of family and friends. Some turn into instant experts on job searching and all the elements as soon as they find out you are in that mode. They tell you with extreme confidence exactly what you should do. Sometimes, if you are really lucky, they badger you asking if you have followed their advice to the letter and if not why not and it can turn into berating rather than supporting.

Professionals, websites, articles, videos, seminars, books, friends, family, former bosses, co-workers, networking groups – who do you listen to? You have so many options of who to listen to but odds are you are not listening to the person who has the most to contribute, your most valuable expert.

What if I told you there is one person who knows you better than anyone else and who can guide you? They can weed through the landfill of information and pick out the gems that benefit you the most because it is in line with who you are and what you want.

Who is this person??

It is you.

That’s right; you need to listen to yourself. Your gut, intuition, little voice in your head – whatever you call it you need to learn to listen to it.

No, you do not know the world of job searching, but you know you. And selling yourself in a way that resonates with you is the foundation and vital to your job search success.

You can gather the best advice in the world but if it does not work for you than it is worthless. Listening to yourself allows you to pick and choose among the strategies and suggestions and mold them into your comfort level.

For example, if you read a very persuasive article advocating for colors, graphics, charts and statistics on your resume but your stomach tightens just thinking about it. That would be a signal not to do that. If you choose to ignore this advice from yourself and do make those changes you will probably end up not liking your resume.

This in turn means you will be less likely to utilize it and send it out. That means less visibility and not creating opportunities for you to be considered. This could prolong your job search, deepen your frustration and make you feel worse than before.

If your gut says absolutely no but you think there might be some value in the advice, see if you can find a compromise. Say, “Self, I know I cannot do the fancy-smancy resume, but is there something here we can use? I really want to upgrade the look of my resume.”

Self may very well respond with, “How about using a different font, work with the white space, change your letterhead and make smaller visually impactful changes?”

Now you create a look that you like, that you are proud of and one that you happily send it out. You therefore increase your chances for visibility, communication and action.

The bottom line is this: it is your career, your life, your resume, your LinkedIn profile, your networking, your brand – it should represent you! Do research, listen and then have that conversation with yourself. Find a compromise in order to build a personal brand, make connections, expand your network and capitalize on opportunities.


I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.


Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at colleges, professional organizations and companies around the US speaking to leadership, sales and athletic teams; transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

You Wouldn’t Marry The First Person Who Asks You – Why Work For Them?

proposalIf you went out with someone once and they told you nothing about themselves for example their values, their goals, family, what they do and other pertinent information and only asked about you – would you marry them if they asked you at the end of that date?

I am hoping the answer to that is no.

If so, then why would you do the same with a job?

Job searching is a lot like dating. The first date was the resume; this is where they discovered you meet their general qualifications. The interview is the second date; this is when they size you up to see if they can introduce you to their friends and family and if you will stick around.

In any long term relationship you have expectations and items that you will accept, will compromise on and things that are “oh hell no”s.

These are your negotiables and non-negotiables. One of the most important ways you can be prepared for an interview is to know what is on your lists.

It is Personal

Your non-negotiables are your non-negotiables. They are items that are personally important to you. I know there are many people in your circle that are trying to help you and it is great to have feedback and guidance. However, in the end, what you decide upon is what you have to live with, not them.

What is important to you – money, opportunity, benefits, location, travel time, duties? There is no judgement, this is your list.

Your list may be quite specific (I will not take less than X salary) or broad (I will not work for a company that is immoral or unethical based on my beliefs).

They Change

My list from 20 years ago is different from my list today. I have grown as an individual, a mother, a family member, a partner and a woman. Twenty years ago you might have foregone money for opportunity. Today you have the experience that you will not accept less salary than what you deserve.

There are many factors that change our non-negotiables. Age, experience, family, personal growth are just a few. Perhaps you have been in one industry for over 10 years and you want a change, even though you are older you are willing to accept a lower pay for the opportunity to get into your new chosen field.

It is Okay to Say No

Just because an opportunity is presented to you does not mean that you have to take it. There is no obligation just because an offer was extended. When you do decline, do so professionally.

Simply tell them thank you, but no thank you. After interviewing I do not think I am the best candidate for this position or the best candidate that you are looking for. Simple, polite and professional.

You can use this same sentiment when telling friends and family. You will be asked, ridiculed or berated for not taking a job. I have had clients that they friends or family members tell them things like: you’re crazy, you will never get another offer like that, that was stupid, what more do you want, you’re being selfish, you can’t afford not to take whatever someone is offering you.

Personally, I would like to coach them on how to tell their friends and family what they can do with those comments six ways to Sunday, but that is just me. Those are rude comments and completely unsupportive. The best way to handle them is to say very little.

It was not a good fit. If they continue to push, and remember this is not their business or the job they have to show up to everyday, stand firm: it was just not a good fit. You do not need to explain yourself or justify your core beliefs about what you want or are willing to accept.

Trust Your Gut

This is the hardest thing I think for people to grasp. Job searching is a gut wrenching process. It makes you question your value as you have the opportunity to be rejected at any time throughout the process or before it even begins.

Going back to the relationship analogy – if the thought of being there every single day all day does not give you the warm and fuzzies then your gut is trying to tell you something. Thinking you will learn to love it is not the best plan B.

Respect Yourself and the Opportunity

It is actually more disrespectful to take a job you do not want rather than decline. It is also disrespectful to you and it sets you up for failure if there is absolutely no give and take of value.

If the opportunity has a component that you could learn a certain skill while I am there and provide benefit to the company than you are making a contribution, which means this is a compromise.

Stop Talking Yourself Out of It

Talking about what you want does not make it happen. I can talk about winning the lottery but it does not make me a lottery winner. Talk is anticipation of action; however, it is only an expression, not an action that carries you forward or moves you back.

I cannot win the lottery if I do not play and even if I play it does not mean I will win. If I play there is absolutely no guarantee that I will; however there does remain a chance – no matter how miniscule.

You have to apply, talk to them and participate in the process. An offer and acceptance is a combined decision and is a step – either forward or back. Without an offer there can be no action, without trying there can be no offer.

Find Your Support

I already touched on the non-supporters who would condemn you for not taking just anything; what you need is to find the circle that supports you for not taking it. Those that do not ridicule but rather listen. They may be few and far between but they are out there.

They may not be in your immediate circle so go out and find them. It could be a networking group with the sole purpose of supporting job seekers, it could be a faith based group or a recreational group that you find one or a few people that are true supporters.

You need them, find them and support them, too. My best friend has been my person for a long, long time. Sometimes her most supportive statements are: they suck, do not apologize, why do you think that or move on.

It is an individual process; however, you are not alone. What has been the most helpful advice or encouragement that someone has given you during job searching?


I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.


Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at colleges, professional organizations and companies around the US speaking to leadership, sales and athletic teams; transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

5 Blunders That Could Ruin Your Interview

Head SlapOne of the biggest frustrations of interviewing, right after not getting the job, is not being told why you did not get the job.

It is a competitive market with a lot of quality candidates out there. However, what could have cost you the job are some simple mistakes that you yourself made.

From the moment you release your resume you are on stage. Everything you do from here on out with regards to the job is being watched and judged. Slack in one area and the curtain closes.

They Like Me

We like to be liked; I believe it is human nature. During an interview we really want the interviewer to like us. The problem in this is when being liked and or being likable trump being relevant. When you spend more time trying to be their buddy rather than demonstrate your value in the position, your experience, skill sets, expertise and being the solution to their problem.

Yes, you want to build a rapport and demonstrate that you are the right fit both in terms of qualifications for the position as well as within their culture.

Always Pick Multiple Choice Answer C

I remember hearing that when in doubt on a multiple choice question, you should always choose answer C if you do not know the answer. I am not sure who came up with this advice and I never saw the wisdom in it.

You might be asked a question and you immediately see more than one way to answer it. It is a mistake to assume you know the intention of the interviewer. Ask. Simply ask the interviewer if they are looking at the situation from perspective A or perspective B. The interviewer might not be aware that there is more than one possible viewpoint. This demonstrates thoughtfulness in your answer and an expanded view on the topic.

Not Even In the Same Ballpark

It is great to prepare for an interview and have examples to answer the “tell me about a time…” question. The problem comes when we have memorized those stories and relay them when they are not relevant to the actual question being asked.

Relevancy comes from addressing issues related to the position, industry, company and situation. You must demonstrate that you get their need and you can solve their problem. Do not leave them to try to connect the dots – show them so they can walk out of that room saying, “That’s our person!”

Unlike the financial industry, in the career industry past success is an indicator of future success.

It Is Assumed

Several recruiters, hiring managers and human resource personnel have told me that an interview could have gone well, but they never followed up because at the end of the interview the candidate never expressed that they were still interested or wanted the job.

Do Not Assume. Just because you showed up and answered the questions does not automatically equate to you still wanting the job. Your silence could leave the interviewer wondering if you did not like what you heard but you are being too polite to tell them you are no longer interested.

Speak up. At the end of the interview reiterate that you believe this is a good fit and are very excited to join their team.

Dead Air

You showed up early, were completely prepared, aced the interview and closed strongly with an “I really want this job” – yep, you have got it in the bag.

Nope, not so fast – your work is not done.

You are not done with the “I want the job”, that is your face to face closing but not the end.

Follow up with a professionally worded ‘thank you for your time’ correspondence. Be sure to highlight the strengths and positives from the interview. Thank them for their time and re-iterate your interest and excitement for the position.

This will reinforce all the positives that you have and give you an additional edge. Surprisingly many hiring managers will keep those follow up correspondence to put in your personnel file because it demonstrated a positive quality about you.

You should arrive early, be prepared, look the part – all the traditional wisdom for interviewing; however, you also need to pay attention to the details along the way. As the sayings go – the devil is in the details and it only takes one pebble to start an avalanche.


I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.


Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at colleges, professional organizations and companies around the US speaking to leadership, sales and athletic teams; transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

4 Things Not to Say to Your Dog or an Interviewer

luke suprisedOne of my top cringe-worthy sayings is “I’m a people person.” When I would interview someone and they would tell me this I would respond with, “That’s nice, I’m a dog person.”

Dogs are incredibly intelligent creatures. Although there are times that I challenge my own conclusion on this when they do weird things like eat their own waste or vomit, but overall, they are intelligent. They understand what you say not only in words but in body language and actions.

I cannot say, “I’m going to walk to the store” because the mention of the word ‘walk’ starts a frenzy in my house. Of course, when something has been destroyed in my house and I say the phrase, “Who did this?” I get a trio of blank stares and head turns with perked ears with the implied response of, “We don’t understand what you are saying, we don’t speak human.”

There are phrases or words I cannot use if I want to maintain an environment of peace and calm; there are also words or phrases that I have learned I just cannot say to my dogs. These just happen to correlate with phrases that you should not say to an interviewer.

You Understand

No, really, they do not. Dogs and people are going to understand what you tell them, not what you intended to tell them. Telling a dog, “I cannot play with you right now because I am too busy, you understand” does not equate to them getting the fact that you have a deadline.

What they know is you are ignoring them. Period. You might as well tell them that you don’t love them anymore. Dogs do not connect dots. Cats chase glowing red dots, dogs are oblivious to dots.

When talking to a hiring manager and they ask you about a situation, ending your response with “you understand” is the same as telling them “I really do not have a good answer to your question so I am leaving it up to you to fill in the blanks for me.”

If you are asked a question that gives you the opportunity to highlight a skill set or accomplishment for goodness sake take full advantage of it. They will not know how wonderful you are and what a great fit you are for the job if you do not tell them. Do not assume they are connecting the dots. You know what they say about assuming….

I Didn’t Mean To Put That There

My pack has always included big dogs. I had a Great Pyrenees, Sheppard/Husky mix and currently a Lab – pictured above. The thing about big dogs is there is nothing they cannot reach. My kitchen counter tops are clean and bare by necessity, not design. I can put something in the very back of the counter or lock it in the oven and as soon as I leave the room it is eaten. My Lab can unlock things. He laughs at child locks.

At this point it is of no consequence to the dog in telling them that I didn’t mean to put the food item there and that it wasn’t for them. They don’t care. If I put it there and it is within reach then it is fair game. That means if they can reach it, they will eat it. Plain and simple.

For an interviewer this equates to putting something on your resume that you do not want to discuss or highlight. Everything on your resume is fair game. If you list it and I am a hiring manager than I have full opportunity to explore it.

Often I have found people will include items on their resume that are actually weak areas or tasks that they do not want to do. When reviewing these items in resume reviews I am told, “I didn’t mean to put that there, I really did not have a lot of exposure to it but I thought it would look good on my resume.”

No, it does not, especially if you cannot speak to it with authority and confidence. I am not a technical genius to say the least. If I were putting a resume together for myself I would not mention proficiency in certain applications because the truth be told, I might have worked in them, but it was a slow and painful process.

Trying to make yourself look better by listing something you are not skilled at and then going a step further by trying to proclaim you are proficient in it is one sure fire way of discrediting everything that you have said to that point and everything after.

If you cannot speak to it as a value add then leave it off

Biscuits are Not a Priority

My dogs live for treats, and tummy rubs, but mostly food related items. Biscuits are a priority for them. I call all treats ‘biscuits’ because this is their favorite word. My dogs are spoiled, they get biscuits for things like going outside and pooping. What an awesome life they live, they get rewarded for doing what they have to do by nature. I would have a revolt on my hands if I proclaimed that biscuits were no longer a priority in my house.

You need to know the hiring manager’s biscuits. Factors include industry, clients, target markets, skill sets; what are their goals, mission statement, short and long term plans. If customer service is their biggest biscuit for the position for which you are interviewing then you darn well better come prepared with a box of results, value and accomplishments related to customer service.

If, on the other hand, you tell them that customer service is not high on your priority list or worse, tell them that you do not like it, you have just lost the job. One, you were not prepared for the interview; and two, you are not the right fit.

I once interviewed a young lady for an investment associate position, she would be responsible for tracking orders in the market, spreadsheets for clients and verifying costs basis. She was doing fine until she told me that she wasn’t really a math person. Math was a pretty big biscuit for that position.

I Don’t Have Time

I don’t know about your dogs but when mine want to go play and I am trying to finish something up and tell them that I don’t have time right now I get the look. One will give me the pathetic look, one will give me the disdained look and the other gives me a look of sheer confusion. This is important to them, how do I not have the time? Do I not love them anymore? Next thing you know I will tell them that I don’t have any biscuits.

Telling a hiring manager that you do not have the time to learn a new system, technology or skill set is telling them that their job and company are not a priority for you; now or in the future. You do not see it worthy to give them extra time to be a part of the team.

If you are asked about the company for which you are interviewing and you tell them you did not have time to research it, you are telling them you do not care. You are not engaged or interested in the position. It could very easily translate that you are only looking for a paycheck.

My dogs have taught me about unconditional love. No matter how bad my day, if I am out of the good biscuits and they have to suffer with the yucky ones, or have less time to play, they still love me. This is just one wonderful thing about dogs.

Jobs, on the other hand, not so much. Start slacking on the biscuits, giving less time or effort and they do not show unconditional love; they show you the door. You have to put in as much as, or more, than you expect to get back to reach that point of satisfaction, joy and success.

If you are going after a job you have to want it; and wanting it means you have to know the ins and outs and be excited to do that and more. This is best demonstrated by doing your homework, being prepared, communicating your value and be engaging in the process.


I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.


Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at colleges, professional organizations and companies around the US speaking to leadership, sales and athletic teams; transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

4 Steps To Create Engagement In Any Conversation

a conversationCommunication is important in business, communication is vital. It is not enough to introduce yourself while networking, tell your clients what you do and take orders from your boss. You have to exchange information and build alliances.

It is called engagement and there are four steps to creating engagement in any conversation:

1. Ask a Question

Soliciting information from another person opens the door for them to share information and insight with you. In turn, based upon their response, you can then help guide the conversation.

2. Keep Quiet and Pay Attention

Once you ask a question, give the recipient all your attention, do not talk over them and do not be distracted by anything else in the room. Give them your undivided attention in order that you can hear what they say and relay their importance to you.

3. Listen

This goes beyond hearing their words or preparing a response before they are finished giving their response. Listen, really listen to what they say, what they do not and their body language. The total message is comprised of all three.

4. Follow Up

If you were paying attention and listening to what they said, you will be able to formulate either a follow up question for further clarification, deeper understanding or to be able to provide comprehension of what they said. It is validation to the other person that you were listening, what they said was important and you are engaged with them.

Using these four steps, you can build rapport with anyone at any time in an easy manner allowing them to provide all the information and clues to guide the conversation and find a common ground, allegiance, prospective opportunities and collaboration.

How to Follow Up Dead Air After an Interview

Computer FlowersThe interviewer is going to call; you know they are going to call. You rocked that interview and at the end they told you they would call. Any time now, they are going to call.

But they haven’t called.

Now what?

First – do not panic. Take a breath and look at the calendar. How long has it been since your interview? If it has only been a couple of days, relax. If it is before the time they said they would call, give them a chance.

If it is past the time they said they would call – or if they did not say they would call and it is the next week – then set a strategy to follow up.

The feeling of wanting to get back in touch just to find out something can be overwhelming, but before you do, you need a plan.

The essence of the message

The point of following up is to get an answer, but just calling and blurting out, “What is going on?” is not recommended. Preparation and professionalism is the key. We need to set a strategy on how to craft a message. There are several things to keep in mind when crafting your message:

1. Recognize their time is valuable, they are busy and you are not their first priority.
2. Be helpful rather than needy and never be demanding.
3. Keep it short – remembering number 1 above.
4. Keep it professional – you are still being evaluated.
5. Be courteous – thank them for their time.
6. Remind them of an alignment from the interview without rehashing the whole thing – reiterate a point that you two really connected on. (Live phone conversation or email)
7. Let go of the negative – if you feel you did not do well on a question or portion of the interview, do not use this opportunity to try again.
8. Keep it positive – state that you are very interested in the position.

The call

If you were given a phone number, it is acceptable to call. Before you do, have three scripts written:

1. If they answer the phone.
2. If you get a gatekeeper.
3. If you get voicemail.

All too often I had answered the phone only to be told by a prospective employee that they did not anticipate that I would answer. Well, then why did you call? They were all prepared to leave a voicemail but got completely thrown off when I actually answered. This is why you need the three scenario plan, to be prepared for whatever happens on the other end of the line.

Let’s say I interviewed with Todd about a recruiting position, here are some sample scripts:

If Todd answers: “Hi Todd, this is Lisa McDonald. I had interviewed with you last week regarding the recruiting position and I just wanted to touch base to see if there was anything else that you needed from me in order to move forward.”

If I get Todd’s voicemail: “Hi Todd, this is Lisa McDonald. I had interviewed with you last week regarding the recruiting position and I just wanted to touch base to see if there was anything else that you needed from me in order to move forward. I very much enjoyed our meeting and am excited about the opportunity. I can be reached at PHONE or EMAIL at your convenience and I look forward to speaking with you soon”

If I get a gatekeeper: “Hi, my name is Lisa McDonald and I interviewed with Todd last week regarding the recruiting position. I was just checking in to see if there was anything else that he needed from me in order to move forward. I can be reached at PHONE or EMAIL”

When giving your phone and email, speak slowly. Pretend write it as you speak it to make sure you are giving it at a pace that someone can transcribe it. It is very frustrating to get a voicemail and you have to replay it several times to get the number or spelling or have to ask someone to keep repeating themselves.

The email

During the live phone conversation and in an email is when you can reiterate a positive from the interview, it flows more naturally in a conversation and easier to insert in an email.

Emails are intended to be short, not letters or biographies. That is why the same rules apply for a phone call as for an email. This email is not the same as the thank you email you wrote immediately after the interview, you did do that, right? This is a light, just touching base, what can I do, I’m still here and interested communication.

A sample email could be:

Thank you for your time last week regarding the recruiting position. I really enjoyed our conversation about Company’s philosophy and practice during the entire process as it is my exact approach. I very excited about the opportunity and I wanted to touch base to see if there was anything else that you needed from me in order to move forward.

I can be reached at PHONE or this email at your convenience. Thank you again for your time last week, I look forward to speaking with you soon

The what-ifs

Now you have the perfect message and ready for any scenario. You are not ready to call just yet – you need one more plan. The plan for the what-ifs.

What if they filled the position?
What if they blow you off?
What if they give you another time period?
What if they have no answer but still seem receptive?

If they filled the position: Thank them for their time and consideration and request, politely and positively, that they keep you in mind for future opportunities. Ask if you may connect with them on LinkedIn or contact them again in the future if another opportunity arises.

If they blow you off: Do not take it personally, whether they seem gruff on the phone or do not respond at all. Set a time period as to when you will contact again if you do not get a response. Reaching out a few times is fine, but every week for two months is a bit much. Set a limit and stick to it. If they blow you off on the phone, remain calm, polite and professional. If they say something like, “I just don’t have time right now” keep cool and calmly reply, “I understand you are really busy, I will check in with you next week.”

They give you another time period: It may feel like a blow off, but hey, you are still in the game. Thank them again for taking the time to talk to you and let you know and that you look forward to talking to them by the time period they gave you. If it passes without a call, repeat your follow up.

They have no answer but still seem receptive: Still in the game. This is when you can tell them that you know they are very busy and would it be alright for you to follow up with them next week. You can let them know you know they are busy and you do not want to bother them. They may have no issue with you following up, the worse they can say is no.

Final thoughts

Following up is a good thing, but too much of a good thing and you look like a stalker, once a week is fine. As a general rule Mondays are always busy and people are strategizing their week, Fridays they are checking out. Lunch time may be their only downtime or the time they set for meetings.

Whatever the situation or result, remain professional. I know it is frustrating not to get a call or to be put in an endless follow up loop, but keep that frustration to yourself. Do not vent to them, even if they open the door by saying something about how long and frustrating this process is, do not vent to your friends or social media. Keep it cool, cucumber, you are still being auditioned.

If the position is filled, try circling back about a month or so later. Many companies give a probationary period for new employees and by that time they may realize the one they hired is not the one for them. Your timing might just get you back in the door.

Lastly, keep all your doors open. Even if it sounds like a shoe-in, keep open, keep networking and that way if the unexpected happens (they hire someone else, the job falls through) you still keep moving forward.

The Power of the Pause

mouth taped shutWe live in a reactionary world. Immediate responses may improve speed, yet they can damage quality, content and opportunities.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned as a leader, employee, service provider, parent, partner and family member is the power of the pause. One of my greatest teachers was my father.

My dad rarely reacted, only in danger situations. While teaching or listening, he always paused before responding. He took a split second to not only listen to what we said, but to measure and monitor his response. It was a very powerful tool. It also gave us the time to reflect on what we just said – normally realizing that it was probably something we should have re-framed.

Taking a pause before answering a question allows you to do the same – think. It also conveys to your audience that you are listening to their questions with respect to them and your answer.

The dictionary defines respond as to say something in reply; it defines react as to respond or behave in a particular way in response to something.

I have different definitions.

React – to act without thinking, impulse
Respond – to act with thought or purpose

We become conditioned to react, we learn to respond.

One of the problems with reacting is that we condition our audiences on what to expect. It can be a dangerous precedent in reacting. There is normally that one person in an organization that people avoid because they react – immediately and normally in a non-positive way to news. Temper tantrums, flying objects, colorful language, fits – you name it, it is not pleasant. It creates a communication and career barrier.

My son is a react kind of guy. If it pops in his head it comes out of his mouth. He has helped me become a responder. I know how he is, therefore I have learned to modify my responses to him in order to lesson his reaction.

Oh, I am understanding, I am patient, I am kind and it gets old. That is when he started the journey of going from reaction to responding. We are not there yet, but it is a choice and a continual effort. I stopped understanding, being patient and kind and told him that I was not going to hear of it. His reaction impacted me too negatively for me to continue to be the understanding doormat.  Others are doormats for those who react. Things were more difficult for a period until we made the boundaries of respect.

When you respond you respect your audience; when you react you disrespect them.

Another challenge with reacting is that it damages your credibility, accountability and those around you. Lash out in a reaction and saying you are sorry does not take away the event. It lessons it, it is workable, but you have to do much more work to get back to where you were prior to the reaction.

A bit of bad news would send my son in a tizzy. Any future plans were immediately scrapped and the world was ending – right then and there. After calming down, the world was actually the same right place that it always was and a simple sorry was thought to be the magic ticket to erasing the tizzy.

It does not work that way. Reactionary tizzies implode the worlds of everyone involved. They have to take time out of their day to accommodate the tizzy, putting all their priorities aside to make it through the storm. How can your team count on you or believe that you are going to hold it together if you cannot handle a bump in the road?

The client wants to add this aspect to the program – the world is not over, it is called adaption. Figure it out that is what they come to you for – your expertise. Having a complete meltdown and then apologizing a half hour later is not going to instill confidence in your team. It will actually diminish their respect and level of confidence in you.

I am not throwing stones, where do you think my son learned to react? I used to react, and sometimes it just felt good. But I realized the damage it was creating to me, my family, my colleagues and my career. I learned to stop, think, listen and respond. Sometimes a very minimal response is the key to waiting for the reactionary impulse to subside.

When hearing unpleasant news, being confronted or facing a challenge, take a breath. A small count of three to five can be the difference between imploding your career and moving into the next level; between building a bridge and burning that sucker down or allowing the small, unexpected whims of misery change the course of your future.

When Interviewing is Like Arguing with Your Wife/Mom

mom and kidI have yet to meet someone who enjoys interviewing. It can range from nerve-racking to humiliating. Oh sign me up!

The most common thing I hear that unnerves people the most during an interview is silence.

The dreaded pause after you answer a question; when that pause is dropped in the middle of the room like a big ol’ purple polka dotted elephant.

Our natural reaction is to fill that void. All sorts of things start running through our head, like: did I say something wrong, did they misunderstand, do I need to clarify, do I sound like an idiot, should I give more examples, can I stop talking, good gosh make the voices stop!

And the trench digging begins. We start talking nervously trying to answer unanswered questions, going down rabbit holes and pretty much derailing the original question and possibly the interview.

Stop, breathe, relax.

First, they may be pausing because they are thinking about what you said and, hey, not in a negative way. Maybe you triggered a different idea and they are thinking about how to approach.  Maybe you introduced a skill set that would be great and they are thinking about how to incorporate it. Maybe they lost track of what they were thinking. Maybe they are hungry and thinking about what they are going to order for lunch.

The point is, you just do not know what they are thinking. I highly doubt ‘mind reader’ is on your resume so what makes you think you can magically develop that skill right then and there?

I know it is easy for me to say stop, breathe and relax because I am not the one that feels like I am sitting in front of a firing squad.

So, let’s look at it from a different perspective. Think about that pause as the same as when you are having an argument – i.e. ‘discussion’ – with your wife or mom.

Caveat – I am going to make assumptions and generalizations here. I am not man or woman bashing, I am poking fun of each of us to help get you through an interview.

If you are one of the significantly low number of women who do not do this or have never done this to your significant other or child(ren) I applaud you. I am not. Most people I know hear this example align with it immediately. This is for demonstration purposes – don’t shoot the messenger.

When your wife or mom is upset with you, what do they do? They ask you a short, direct question. When you answer, what do they do? They remain silent, for an extended period. They wait. They watch to see if your body language screams out a little white lie or discomfort. We wait, we watch and then we determine how to proceed.  It is a girl thing.

Now, you know we do this, we know we do this so this is not new. You have probably figured out that it is best to respond in a way that answers the question putting yourself in a positive light while at the same time not making yourself look bad.

Then you wait. If your answer was received positively, you can expand on it. If it was not received positively, you have not said enough to get into really big trouble, so you can smooth it out and refocus it in a positive way.

It is not nice, it is not always fair, but as a generality, we do it; and we are good at it.

Normally, the question we are quizzing you on is not a deal breaker. “Did you eat the last cookie?” “Did you put my cashmere sweater in the washer with your shop towels?” Things like that. We may not be all that happy, but they are not deal breakers.

By the way, we also know most men ruin at least one article of our clothing to get out of laundry. We know you do it, you know you do it, this is not new and you are good at it. But that is another story.

The next time you are in that uncomfortable space in an interview, just think of it as having a ‘discussion’ with your mom or wife. You survived that; you can survive this too, with flying colors!

Interviewing: Challenge Yourself First To Convince Others

internal confusionThis morning I gave a presentation about interviewing. I am not going to write about dressing appropriately, showing up a few minutes early, having extra copies of your resume and doing your homework before you get there. There was a theme that came up throughout the presentation that I think would be more helpful to focus on.

I’m making an executive decision – it’s my article, I get to do that.

The theme was transition.

How do I transition into a different job/career/industry?
How do I transition from school to a new job?
How do I transition from a different career, earning a degree in what I want and getting there with no experience?
How do I transition from being a stay at home mom to back in the workforce?
How do I transition from being perceived as an older worker into a new position or industry?

Transition is a funny thing; it can be the most exciting thing in the world to you and scare the crap out of you all at the same time.

We want transition, we need transition, we long for transition and then when we get to the point of transition we stand on the edge of that cliff and say, “well….maybe I’ll go back to my safe place for a little while longer.”

Safe places are fine, but they are not always best for us, we outgrown safe places. We transition out of safe places without even trying.

Darn you, transition! Why must you be so cruel!

But wait, it gets worse! Now you have to try to convince someone else that you can do this transition, that you deserve it and can knock it out of the park.

Holy cow!

That worse fear of convincing someone else, dressing up and presenting in front of an audience about something that frightens us then leads us to shut down our brain a little bit. We forget to convince ourselves before we try to convince someone else.

This is where challenging yourself comes into play.

I give a lot of presentations on LinkedIn, personal branding, executive presence, team building, leadership – I am passionate about these topics, I love speaking about them and I thrive off the energy of the room. However, even though I speak often, if I do not prepare before a presentation, I will not give a quality presentation in my mind.

Interviewing is like that. We convince ourselves that we know we can do it and we can speak to it when we get into the interview; however, when that time comes, it does not flow naturally, evenly or convincingly.

Why? Because we haven’t convinced ourselves first.

I am a competitive person. If someone tells me I can’t do something, I find a way to do it. It is a driving factor for me. It would help me prepare for presentations and interviews.

I would sit down with the position requirements and description and create a mock interview right there in my bathroom. I used the bathroom because I had a mirror there that I could monitor my facial expressions and body language.

I would take each point and imagine someone on the other side of the mirror challenging me saying, “We need you to do this quality, skill or aspect in a job yet you either don’t have the experience or qualifications, what makes you think you can do it?” I also imagine them being very snotty when they say this, it helps in my mind.

Then I let it rip. I get myself started talking about skills I have used in previous jobs, how I used them, education, certifications, life experiences – anything that equates to the position in any way possible and make my argument. I get all riled up and get on a roll. I might even throw in a couple “oh hell no”s in there.

I also take notes. When I stop over-thinking something and let it flow, that is when the good ideas start coming to the surface. So I take notes and after I go through my rampage, I go back to my notes and start formulating a more business response based on the passionate argument that I just made.

I convince myself and in doing so I gain confidence and that is then expressed when I am asked a question in person.

Once you challenge yourself you can then convince yourself. Once you accomplish that, you can paint a very solid picture for anyone on how you can take where you have been and make it successful in where you want to go.

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