How To Use “I Don’t Know” In An Interview To Convey 5 Positive Business Attributes

It’s okay to say “I don’t know.” Sometimes it is better than okay, it is absolutely the right thing to do. Trying to come up with (or fake) an answer can be unintentionally amusing, or it can be be detrimental to your career.

Recently, I got a funny instead of an “I don’t know” A little TMI warning – I’m exploring HRT. I was given a new script and asked the pharmacist what’s the problem of too much estrogen and how will I know. His answer:

“You cry a lot.”

Oh my. He was serious. I thought it was hilarious, thought I don’t know that anyone else would have thought so. I have a weird sense of humor. Maybe next time an I don’t know followed by check with your doctor, let me ask, let me look it up…. anything really.

I used to be afraid of admitting that I didn’t know something. I was told it was a sign of weakness. How can anyone take you as an authority, a leader, if you don’t know the answers.

The problem was, I’m not good at faking. But I was good at learning. So I decided if I was going to be seen as an unauthoritative weak leader, I was at least going to be helpful.

I learned to say, “I don’t know, but I will find the answer.”

Do you even realize how powerful that statement is?

It’s liberating!

It freed me from trying to be perfect or something I wasn’t. I did not have to meet some unrealistic expectation.

And the lucky break! I would get excited because I saw it as a golden opportunity to learn something new. I love learning. Phyllis Diller attributed her longevity and success partially to learning something new every day.

You are never so far advanced in your career that you know everything and no longer need to learn.

To anyone who is like I was, afraid to admit not knowing something, either in an interview or early in your career, I say:

Don’t be.

Here’s something that will take this liberating phrase up a notch to make it even more powerful. I wish I would have figure this out back then… Here how “I don’t know” can be a positive differential in your interview.

Don’t say you will learn or find the answer. Prove it.

How?

Use an example. There is some time in your past you did not know something you needed to know. How did you find it out, how did you solve the challenge, how did you win over that problem?

A solid example with a positive result will prove at least five positive attributes:

  1.  Credibility – backing up your words with demonstrated past action
  2.  A problem solver – able to discover or use resources to find a solution
  3.  Self-aware – willing to admit when they don’t know something
  4.  A go-getter – willing to go after the next step, or create it
  5.  A self-starter – able to craft a solution

There is one slight ring of truth to the don’t know equals a weakness – if it stops at “I don’t know.” If you don’t go beyond, prove your power, and learn from it then yes, “I don’t know” can be seen as a weakness.

You are a lot more powerful that you give yourself credit. Amp it up by admitting you don’t know then ferociously go after that knowledge. What a rush of satisfaction to learn something new!

With my last I don’t know I did learn the symptoms and some interesting alternatives. What’s the last fun thing you learned from an “I don’t know” moment?

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As a triple certified as a Professional Resume Writer, Career Coach and Social Media Brand Analyst I help amazing professionals get career happy.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more.

Don’t Let an Assumption Kill Your Job Search or Its Progress

fender bender

 

Chief is going to get a new truck because someone is going to hit his.

Let me clarify two things here. First, Chief is the boyfriend. He is a Chief in the Navy hence the moniker.  He has waned back and forth about getting a new truck. It is time for an upgrade, he’s done a lot of research but yet he hasn’t pulled the trigger just yet.  Second, I am not willing or hoping for this accident; I just noticed a pattern and realized someone hitting his truck will be the catalyst in pushing him into that decision.

Every morning we go to the gym at an ungodly hour. On our way back, we pass a school. Sometimes, if we are running a bit late, we pass by when parents are dropping off their kids early. The road in front of the school bends to the left, which takes us back home.  Immediately before the bend is an entrance on the right into the school. Most people leaving this entrance turn left, crossing in front of us.

I noticed almost every single person leaving the school assumes we are turning into the school and therefore whip out in front of us. We have had several near misses. Even using the turn signal indicating we are turning left, they still whip out there. I can understand the assumption as this is not a well-traveled road and most people would assume the only ones on this road are parents or teachers heading to the school.

This is a dangerous assumption and at some point, I am going to look down from the truck and see the hood of a Nissan stuck in my door.

My brother helped me learn how to spell assume with the little tidbit of “never assume, it makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’”. Yes, I know he didn’t make it up himself, but he was my big brother and one of my heroes so I’m giving it to him.

This tidbit got stuck in my head forever. It has helped me beyond remembering how to spell the word, it has been a sage piece of advice.

I normally find I assume in two situations. One, when I am being lazy.  I make a quick evaluation of facts, act quickly to save time and if I was wrong, telling the other person that ‘I just assumed’ is my half-hearted apology.   The second is when I am fearful. I assume I didn’t hear back because they didn’t like me.

Some things I think are in our general nature to assume. Face it, if you see a seven-foot tall man walking down the street – doesn’t the word ‘basketball’ immediately come into your mind?  People make assumptions about me all the time based on my size and height. That’s fine. It’s pretty harmless.

But when you make assumptions during your job search, it can be like looking down at a Nissan buried in your door.

Just because you had a great interview, do not assume you are a shoe-in for the job. Follow up with a thank you maintaining professionalism and interest.  They may be assuming you are no longer interested in the position because you have not expressed a continued interest after the interview.

Just because you have not heard back from the interviewers, do not assume you did not get the job.  There may be an internal snag in the process or the decision makers have to focus on another priority at the moment. You just do not know.  Reach back out respectfully and professionally to remind them of your interest and ask if you can provide any additional information for their consideration.

Just because you landed the job, do not assume that you know everything to know about it. Every job, even if it is a lateral move, is an opportunity for growth and learning. You are the new kid; take a look at this environment with fresh eyes. Take it all in to see where you can improve yourself or the system.

Just because you are not employed, due to termination, downsizing or your choice to leave, do not assume this is a negative for the next employer. Life happens. Companies downsize and people are let go. Sometimes we recognize it was a horrible place to work. As mentioned before, every job is an opportunity. Find the positives in that last one and speak from that perspective. Do not bad-mouth anyone or any company. It comes across as bitter.

Just because you are on either end of the age scale – too young or too old, do not assume you won’t or can’t get hired. Everyone has valuable qualities to bring to an organization. Youth brings fresh perspective, a willingness to learn, adaptability, more of a mindset that anything is possible. Age bring maturity, life experience, ability to stay calm during storms having been through them before and patience. 

Just because you have only done this one thing throughout your career, do not assume you cannot change careers. The skills you developed in that one thing are probably a good match to another field. Take a step back and analyze what it takes to do the new thing. What are the underlying skills needed to complete the tasks? Communication, relationship building, working with cross-functional teams, organization, some financial aspects? Now take a look back at your old thing and see how you used these skills. That is your common denominator and the value you bring to the new field, industry, company.

 

Give yourself a break. Before you act upon that assumption, take a moment to ask yourself where is it coming from. Is it a bit of slacking or a bit of fear? If either of these are the root cause, take a deep breath and either ask the question or take a more bold action.  This can save you a lot of headache, heartache and damage to your vehicle.

 

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A little about me: I do what I love: help professionals break out of a suffocating job existence and into a career, position and place that renews their brilliance.

As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career personal branding firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging personal branding as applied to LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about how we can help you.

★ To get all my latest articles, click the “Yes Please!” button on the right ★

 

How to Keep Your Foot Out Of Your Mouth When Interviewing

Foot in Mouth

Let’s face it – interviewing is no fun.  I could say that in a clearer and more colorful way, but my mother reads all my articles so I am being nice.

It is nerve racking and I always equate it to dating. Before my boyfriend I hated dating. It was no fun.  It was torturous having thoughts of:  

“Am I making the right impression, will he like me, will he call me back, do I want him to call me back, do we have anything in common, do I look alright, did I spill something on myself, have I made a complete fool of myself…” all in the first five minutes of your first date.

Interviewing is really the same thing. You are hoping to make the right impression and a good connection. If you research interviewing, you will find almost overwhelmingly everyone will tell you to research and practice. 

This article is not about preparation or speaking to your abilities and attributes as they align with the job or company.  This article is about keeping your foot out of your mouth when trying to establish a connection.  If you want help on preparing and nailing the interview, here is an article I wrote for Recruiter.com:  Interview Like a Pro 10 Tips to Boost Your Confidence.

We want the interviewer to like us, right? We try to find common ground or a spark that we can have a conversation and make that connection.  But sticking your foot in your mouth by assuming or saying something (there is not nice way to say this) stupid when talking about something non job related is when all your hard work of research and preparation can come crashing down.

I think examples would help illustrate this point, so let me give you a couple snippets from when I was interviewing candidates.

During one interview of a very professional woman, she noticed a picture of me and my son on my credenza. I don’t remember exactly how she asked, but somehow it lead to me being a single mom and divorced.  Apparently this hit a nerve for her because what I do remember is her saying something very disparaging about ex-husbands (translating to bitter) and tried to get me to agree that all ex-husbands are good for nothings and how lucky we are to get out while we can.  I simply looked at her and said that I was sorry, I could not relate as my ex-husband was one of my best friends.

During an informational interview a young man was trying to bond by sucking up.  I am not a fan of sucking up in general, but this kid was swinging for the fences.  The investment firm I was working for was affiliated with a bank. He told me that he had talked to someone in a certain department of that bank and they knew nothing, and how refreshing it was to talk to someone like me who was an expert and able to give him such great information (gag).  I asked him if he remembered who he talked to at the bank. Since he was trying so hard to impress and had apparently turned off his brain, he told me her name.  I told him that is funny, she is my best friend.

Here are a few ways to keep that foot out of your mouth:

Don’t try so hard.  If you have done your research, you might have been able to find out some information about the interviewer.  Use it like spices in a fine dish – sparingly, gently and appropriately.  You are not trying to be their instant best friend, just establish a rapport.

Be yourself. Do not try to be someone you are not or someone you think they want you to be.  If you create this illusion when you interview, how long do you think you can keep that up if you get the job? 

Be aware of your surroundings. You can’t prepare for everything, so be aware of your surroundings. If you are interviewing in someone’s office, scan it for possible items of conversation.  But do not assume!  They may have something with a college in their office but that does not mean they went to that college.  Maybe their kid went or goes there.  Maybe it is a lost bet.  I worked with a couple of guys – one went to Indiana University the other went to Purdue University – and during any sports season, whoever had the better record, the other had to keep their rival’s memorabilia in their office.

Just don’t. Stay far, clear and galaxies away from talking about anything anywhere near politics or religion.  Just don’t.  That is too dangerous a territory to try to build a bond in this situation.  Just don’t.

If you do find that you start dipping a toe in your mouth, stop.  If I was doing the college rivalry thing in my office and you saw a Purdue pendant which led you to say, “Hey, how about them Boilers!” I would let you know I graduated from Indiana University. At that toe dipping moment you could rebound by saying, “Oh, see what I get for assuming!” with a light laugh or “then I bet there is a really good story behind that Purdue pendant”.  Make light of it and yourself.

Some gentle reminders:

The interviewer wants you to like them, too.  This is not a one way street of building rapport.  Listen to them, observe their body language and identify when you have an opportunity to further a connection.

You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.  Ask questions, get a sense of the environment, culture, position, trajectory, opportunities, challenges – ask, listen and ask some more.

Building a rapport may not have anything to do with something personal.  It may easily come from your career history so run with that.

In summary – be yourself, mind your manners, ask questions and it will be much easier to find that nugget to start a rapport.

 

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I think they should have chocolate flavored shoes for all the times I have stuck my foot in my mouth!  I have plenty of examples of saying something awkward during an interview – what is the most awkward moment that you created for yourself in an interview?

 

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A little about me: I do what I love: help professionals break out of a suffocating job existence and into a career, position and place that renews their brilliance.

As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career personal branding firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging personal branding as applied to LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about how we can help you.

★ To get all my latest articles, click the “Yes Please!” button on the right ★

Write Your Resume Because Your Mother Said So

mom-because-i-said-so

 

When my son Jake was growing up, “because I said so” was not – in his mind – a valid reason for a request.

He was, and is, stubborn, intelligent, quick witted and a challenge-any-establishment-kind of kid. As he gets older, I can appreciate these qualities, most of the time. Of course there are still times that I have had enough of the challenge and the old, “because your mother said so” comes out signaling an end of discussion.

What I found most helpful when dealing with my son was to explain, in a manner which he understood, the why emphasizing the benefit to him.  Of course, there was normally another benefit, but that was hidden behind the ‘him’ reason because, quite frankly, that is the only reason he really cared about.

For example cooking.

All my boys learned to cook.  It was a requirement. Once a week they were responsible for planning and executing a meal.  Not a pop tarts with a side of mac and cheese meal, a real meal.  I taught them how to budget and shop for the necessary food; prepare and serve; and clean up after the meal.

My reasons were it gave me a break from cooking meals and eliminated any whining about what was for dinner. I also did not want to hear years later from a potential daughter-in-law that her husband never cooks.  That would be on her because my boys were going to learn to fend for themselves.

The reason I gave them: girls really like a guy who can cook and cooks for them.  Worked like a charm.  Of course, years later my son told me I was right, girls loved that he could cook; and his friends were also quite impressed with his budget/cooking savvy.

So what does this have to do with your resume?  A slightly odd parallel, but one nonetheless. You are learning to fend for yourself in writing your own resume.  During job searching and networking, people really like a person who knows their value, how they can contribute to others and can communicate it clearly for them to understand.

That is the baseline of your resume – to discover and be able to communicate your value – even if no one ever reads it.

Your resume is the baseline for everything for career transitions, whether looking for a change in industries or moving up in your current profession.  You have to know what you are cooking, what ingredients go into it and how to present it before anyone is going to be daring enough to take a bite.

There is a lot of preparation that goes into a meal. You have to know what ingredients you need, have a budget for the food, plan cooking times knowing some items will take longer than others, understand what seasonings or add ins are going to make or break each dish.

That is your resume.  A detailed look at what you have done in the past knowing the intricacies that make you unique and valuable.

Simply giving a description of what you were hired to do in the past is like opening a can of beans and plopping it in a bowl and calling it a side.

Start breaking your position down into pieces. Start with a general statement: what did you do?  Let’s stay with the cooking theme, and I am going to be very generic on this as it is an attempt at a fun example.

  • What did you do? I was a cook.
  • What does that mean, what did you do as a cook?  I prepared food.
  • How, what was involved? I had to get all the ingredients, plan and prepare the meals.
  • Who did you work with? I had staff that helped prepare and order.
  • How did you work with them? I oversaw some to make sure we had an accurate inventory and when to order; I worked with others making sure they got their items prepared at the right time before and during the dinner rush.
  • How did you do that? I met with the order staff weekly to go through all the items, plan meals and prepare orders. The assistants I trained them on how to cook, prepare and present food.
  • Who did that benefit and how? Our customers – they had good food; the company – it made more money; me – it gave me more time; my staff – they did better at their jobs, more efficient and more skills so they got better reviews and some moved up into better cooking positions.

Go deep to start having the ‘who did you work with, how, what did you do and what was the benefit’ conversations.  This will reveal your value and allow you to translate that to a document that will be easily understood by the reader.

But what if no one ever reads it, like I said before? Not a problem.

Once you detail out your value, you will be able to communicate it to any audience.  The parameters of the format above are similar to the behavioral based interview style The STAR Method: Situation, Task, Action, Result.  Most interviews are behaviorally based.  Having completed the resume exercise you will be fully versed and comfortable answering behavioral based questions.

When networking you will be able to answer the question ‘what do you do’ from a value perspective which will generate much more interest than responding with simply your title. You will be able to translate your value in a manner that your audience will understand which will engage them.

Writing your resume is a great exercise to rediscover and reengage with the things you love to do, what ignites your passion, what drives you, what is fun for you to do and what you do best.  It gives you a little spark and jazzes you by remembering that you are pretty darn good at what you do. It helps you better communicate with your network or potential employers so they can clearly understand your value and see how it would benefit them – translating to wanting to have you on their team.

If those reasons are not enough for you, write your resume because your mother said so, or at least because Jake’s mom said so.

 

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As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about how we can help you.

★ In order to be kept up to date on all my articles Click the “Yes Please!” button on the right side. 

 

 

You Want to Be Remembered After the Interview – Just Not as the Crazy or Desperate One

crazy follow up interview

I believe there are many universal truths:

  • Wash your car and it will rain that day.
  • The cat will leave you a freshly hacked hairball right inside the door where you feel it before you see it
  • Polish the floor in one room and that is the room the dog picks to display puppy prints after finding a mud puddle on a desert dry day
  • Be prepared for a meeting and it will be cancelled
  • Forget something for a meeting and it will be the only thing discussed
  • Wearing white and eating spaghetti is a dangerous combination
  • Kids can sniff out if you have actual cash in your wallet
  • Look amazing and you won’t see a single person you know if you go out
  • Roll out of bed looking like death warmed over and you will see everyone you know
  • Drop $50 in a slot machine win nothing, the guy behind you puts in a quarter and hits big
  • Job searching stinks

Except for that last one, most people can laugh off or at least shrug off.  But job searching, that is a completely different story.

The agony of putting yourself out there day in and day out only to be rejected by nameless, faceless people  – if you even hear back at all.  Not knowing why. Feeling insignificant, invisible or unworthy.  It is not fun.

It may come to a point where you decide desperate times call for desperate measures. Before you cross that line, please wait.

There is a fine line between unique and crazy. You want people to notice you and remember you; however, you want them to do these things for the right reasons.

If you are planning a shtick, there are some questions that you need to ask yourself:

  • Who is my audience?
  • How will they interpret this?
  • What is my intent?
  • What is the worst way they could interpret this?

Knowing your audience is very important.  For example, a friend of mine owns her own business and had a job opening.  One candidate had a freshly cut, beautiful live Christmas tree delivered along with chocolate and his resume.  An office of mostly women were good with the chocolate; however, my friend is Jewish and there was no space whatsoever for a huge, live Christmas tree in the office.

The type of job and company should give clues to the type of environment.  For example, there was a woman who was applying for a higher level position in a law firm.  One might naturally assume that the environment was conservative, especially after interviewing with them.

So sending a box of pastries as a follow up is not a bad idea, but the poem describing why you want to work there going so far as to rhyme with the name of the company was way over the top – and eliminated her as a candidate.

Shticks are not always good, they may have the right intention, but the perception is not at all what is intended.  Clever play on words only lasts for so long – about a millisecond.

Receiving a box containing a shoe with a resume crammed in it topped with a note saying, “I’m the perfect fit” goes from clever to eww in less than a second.  Who wants to extract a resume from a shoe?  Let’s hope it was a brand new shoe.

Following up does not necessarily mean that it will speed up communication; however, it will keep you more in mind of the interviewer.

Assuming that you have asked about next steps at the end of your interview, some simple, professional steps to take in following up include:

  • A thank you note.  This is a must.  Reiterate the positives from the interview, as well as your interest in the position
  • Connecting on LinkedIn
  • An email the following week, this can be a simple note checking in to see if there is anything else they need from you in consideration for the position (rather than “when will you make a decision?”)
  • Sending an industry related article

Keep it light, short and business related and remember, filling this position is not their only job and perhaps not their number one priority.  It can take time.  Be patient, be professional and please, be shticky with your friends, not potential employers.

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As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about how we can help you.

Keep The Conversation Going After The Interview By Saying This

Interview - how do they know you are still interested

Many candidates have performance anxiety about interviews.

Here is a very interesting tidbit I learned from a panel of recruiters and Human Resource professionals: they have performance anxiety, too.

They are not only trying to find the right candidate; they want to sell that candidate on their company.

The key thing the panel agreed on was the simplest concept: most of the time they do not know if a candidate is still interested at the end of the interview because they do not tell them.

The panel said unless a candidate tells them that they are still interested at the end of the interview they are more likely to assume they are not. Assuming incorrectly is costly.

Recruiting takes a lot of time, effort and money. If a candidate shows no interest at the end of the interview, they do not want to pursue a dead end.

They do not like rejection either. It is not a good feeling to think you have the perfect candidate, excitedly call them to set up the next round and be rejected with a flat “thanks but no thanks” response.

Perhaps you heard something during the interview that took the bloom off the rose for the position or company.  I have yet to hear one interviewee at the end of the interview say, “Thank you for your time, this job is not for me.”

Interviewers do not know what you think – you have to tell them. Just showing up and participating in the interview is not a demonstration of continued interest.

To keep the conversation going after the interview, say this one thing:

“Thank you for your time, after hearing more about the company and position, I am very excited about this opportunity.  I look forward to speaking with you soon!”

This ends the interview on a high note and the interviewer is clear where you stand and confusion eliminated.

Let them know even if you ask about next steps. Only asking about next steps is not the same as being interested. For all they know you could be asking because you have another offer on the table or might weed them out if it takes too long.

Job searching and career transition is difficult as it is without adding confusion, doubt or assumptions into the mix. A simple statement at the end of the interview helps clarify your position while letting them feel more comfortable about moving forward.

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As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am a Brand Strategist, Professional Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, sales teams, leadership and companies to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.

I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about what we can do to help you.

The Interview Was Perfect…So Why Haven’t They Called?

waiting on interviewer phone call

Does this sound familiar….

You got set up with “the one”
You two have so much in common – what you do, where you want to go, what you like doing, it sounds like a perfect match.
You dress to the nines to make the best impression when meeting them.
When you see them, there is an immediate connection.
As your time together progresses you start to get butterflies inside, this just seems so perfect.
They are interested in you, listen to what you have to say, are impressed with your background and even laugh at your little jokes.
You ask the perfect questions and the conversation is effortless.
At the end you know, just know, you have definitely made a connection. This is it, no more going out or talking to anyone else, this is it!
You wait anxiously for the call. That call. Wait…and wait…and wait some more.

What, what happened? It was perfect –why didn’t they call???

Sound like the perfect first date, maybe, how about the perfect first interview?

It is the same excitement, wondering, rejection with the exact same question: “Why didn’t they call, I thought it went perfectly?”

Let me say the same thing any of your friends would say –it is not you, it is them.

Although, we all know this doesn’t help in any situation; yet it really could have nothing to do with you.

  • They could have had an internal candidate already picked for the role and did cursory interviews to appease HR.
  • They could have tried to hire before they got budget approval.
  • They realized that you were over talented and would leave them in a heartbeat if a better offer came around.
  • They could want to hire you but that thing called work is getting in their way; inundated with other responsibilities hiring now becomes the last thing on their list.
  • They could realize they do not know what they need for the position and need to re-strategize the role in the best interest of the department.
    They got hit by a bus.

All of these things have nothing to do with you. What seems to be a major frustration for job seekers is the overwhelming lack of communication from prospective employers.

Throughout the entire process there was exceptional communication until the decision-making then – dead air.

Why?

No, the world has not turned into a cold-dead-hearted place, it could be a matter of time and fear.

It is a buyers’ market therefore HR professionals are getting buried with potential candidates. They have to scan through 300 resumes to find the one.

As hard as it may be, take a look at it from their perspective. They spend a lot of time reviewing, narrowing the field and qualifying. It is a huge investment of time, energy and ultimately money. When they narrow it down, the desired candidate declines at the last minute.

The “why didn’t they call/accept” shoe is on the other foot now.

They get gun-shy, perhaps they delay the process to make sure the potential candidate is truly vested in accepting the position.

They get snookered. They find the ideal candidate and right after they start, it is discovered that there is some little skeleton in the closet that disqualifies them for the position. This can happen to anyone – remember the very public, very large organization that found out one of their leaders had completely falsified their resume – after they were hired and working the role?

Beyond fears of rejection, there are fears of accusations. If they take a candidate too far down the road and do not hire them, are they going to sue them for age or sex discrimination? Companies do not want to get sued and there are quite a few individuals who look for an opportunity to do so. Remember the very large, very public chain of fast food restaurants who got sued because someone burned themselves on a cup of coffee, which was labeled as very hot?

There is no one size fits all answer for why they did not call. Sometimes it is reasons beyond your control and sometimes it is reasons beyond their control. Sometimes, you were just not a good fit.

Just because you have a lovely conversation with someone and they laugh at your jokes does not mean you are a shoe-in for the job. It was a good conversation and they are polite.

There are three things you should do during the dead air time:

1. Stop dwelling on why they didn’t call.

2. Remain upbeat and positive, while sporadically checking in.

There is a fine line between follow up and stalking.

Immediately after the interview, send the thank you note.

A week later (if there was no agreed upon follow up time) send a short message. Something as simple as, “Thank you again for your time last week. I am still very interested in the position and if there is anything you need from me in consideration as a candidate, please let me know. I look forward to speaking with you soon about the next steps.”

Send an article or link to something relevant about their industry or interests a week or so later.

Follow up should have a reason, other than it is driving you crazy not to hear from them.

3. Keep active and pursuing other opportunities.

You may never know why you did not get the call but that does not lesson your value. Do not take it personally, there are plenty of other fish in the sea and the right one will call you back.

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As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am a Brand Strategist, Professional Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, sales teams, leadership and companies to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.

I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about Career Polish and what we can do to help you.

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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.

Preparation

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.

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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

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.

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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

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?

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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

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.

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