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.

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.

Respect the Dog, Respect the Body Language

I love big dogs.  I have had a Great Pyrenees and German Sheppard/Husky mix and currently have a Lab mix and Pit mix.  I am a person that prefers big dogs.

There are three exceptions: Bud the Pug, Brutus the Terrier and Lexi the Puggle.  They are mine, too, but the only exception to small dogs.  I am not a fan of small dogs.  It has been my experience that the little, tiny dogs I have come across are yip-yips and noisy.  I affectionately call them foo-foo dogs.

The other day I took Luke, my Lab mix who is in the accompanying picture, on a walk.  Luke is a big puppy.  He may be over five years old, but he still lives in his world of being a six pound, six month old puppy who is completely oblivious to his strength or size.

We are still leash training.

He was doing very well and I was quite proud, until we saw a foo-foo dog.

Luke is under the impression that ever person we meet and ever dog we see is there for the sole purpose of playing with him.  No exceptions.

Well before the foo-foo dog approached, I began to prepare him for the pass.  When the woman approached, I had Luke sitting, pulled up on his leash, positioned myself between me and her/her foo-foo dog, petting him and repeatedly saying, “No, we are not going to play, good boy stay.”

This could clearly be heard: “No.”

Apparently, not by foo-foo dog lady.

She walked up, brought her dog to Luke and asked him if he wanted to say hi.

Of course my dog wants to say hi.  He wants to play and in doing so there is a very good chance that he will pick up foo-foo dog by the gruff, give it a “love shake” and a little toss.

I, on the other hand, did not want Luke to say hi.  I was making this as clear as I possibly could with my body language.

Once the calamity ensued, I had to tell her that he was not used to small dogs and I did not want him to play rough (or ruff if I want to get cute about it).  I wanted to be very careful in how I told her to basically get her foo-foo dog away because us dog people are sensitive.  You can insult me, but do not insult my dog. That finally sunk in and she pulled foo-foo back and I told her how cute he was and thank you for letting them say hi.  Again, us dog people are sensitive, there is protocol.

As a Career Coach and helper of those looking to advance in their career, I tend to take everyday events and relate them to job searching, interviewing, networking etc.  This is no exception.

I would not have hired this woman for a job.

She clearly missed numerous signals and clues.  How often do we do this in an interviewing or networking situation?

When at a networking event and speaking to someone, do you notice them backing up?  Do you continue to lean forward?  They are giving you a clear indication that you are invading their space and would like it back.  During an interview do you find the interviewer lower their head, start to shake it “no” slowly and avert eye contact?  This is an indication that they are not in agreement or liking what you are saying.  Do you continue to talk anyway without clarifying your message?

On the other hand, when talking to another person, do you find them leaning in and nodding their head slightly “yes”?  This is an indication that they are interested in what you have to say, are you continuing the conversation?

It is important to be aware of your body language to make sure you are sending the right message; however, just as important is to tune in to your audience’s body language.

If you are a hand talker, you are probably aware of the movements of your hand as to not overwhelm your audience.  However, if the person you are talking to is also a hand talker, it is okay to mimic them a bit and use your hands.  This shows symmetry and alignment.

There are numerous articles on body language, some time ago I wrote a blog Don’t Let Your Body Sabotage Your Poker Face.  When reading any article on body language, be sure to utilize the information on how to control yours, as well as interpret others.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer


Stop Trying to Sell Alarm Systems to Dogs

guard dog onThere are “no solicitation” signs posted in my neighborhood; apparently, they are merely decoration.

Yesterday, I had a young man knock on my door, clipboard in hand.  After battling through three rambunctious and very noisy dogs, I squeezed through the door while holding back the troops with my foot.

They immediately went to the front window on full alert and sound.

After introducing himself, the young man asked me if I had a security system.

Without a word, I turned around and looked at my front window, complete with the boys, a Lab mix and a Pit mix standing on their back legs, now as tall as me, and Puggle sounding off on full volume and returned my look to him.

“Yes.” I answered.

I do not think he heard me or missed the subtlety of my gesture.  He then proceeded to tell me that his company was doing a promotion of installing high tech alarm systems complete with electronic key pads on the doors, electronic thermostat and video cameras that could all be controlled by my smart phone.

My smart phone is already smarter than me, I do not need to give it control of my home, too.

I politely told him that I was quite satisfied with my current alarm system.

His next selling point was that I could check in on my dogs any time throughout the day to see what they are doing when I am not home.

I know what they are doing when I am not home.  I see the remnants of it when I return.  I also know the mischief and mayhem happen in the first few minutes after I walk out the door, as I have forgotten something and come back within a minute to find utter chaos.  The remaining time of my departure is followed by naps.  Lots and lots of naps.

I do not need a video camera to watch my dogs sleep.  They afford me this opportunity while I am home.

Tried as he might, I just was not biting on the new alarm system.  Not even getting me interested by letting me know that it would make my home more energy efficient.  Unfortunately for him, two days prior I just received my energy report from the utility company and this homeowner is rated lower than an energy efficient home. 

Yay me, no sale.

I will say one thing about this young man, he was confident.  Confident that I was going to buy this.  Confident I needed it.  Confidence did not lead to a sale.

I realized after the exchange, and giving the pups treats for being such good guard dogs, that many job seekers approach interviewing and job searching the same way.

They are so completely focused on what they have to offer that they miss an important part: listening to what is needed.  It is like telling a prospective employer that you are really, really good at xyz.  The prospective employer then tells you that they don’t do xyz and you respond, “but you should hire me anyway because I am really, really good at it.”

Not going to happen.

Demonstrate adaptability.  How? Know your strengths, be comfortable in explaining them as a benefit to a prospective employer; however, make sure you are listening in order to change your pitch to match their need.

Personally, I thought it was comical that for every benefit he brought up, I already had a solution and yet he kept going.  After a few minutes of this, I went from being amused to being insulted. 

What made the switch?  The fact that he was not listening.

Listening is the key here.  By listening to what the prospective employer wants, needs and expects you can demonstrate respect, adaptability and present yourself as a solution to their problem.  Without listening, you are merely holding a one sided conversation with no positive result on the horizon.


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer



9 Ways to Exude Confidence When You Feel Like a Hot Mess Inside

confidenceConfidence is a beautiful thing; it emanates persuasion, inspiration and power.   It emits a presence about a person that others around them easily tune in to and react to positively.

It is a great attribute to have; however, it is not always consistent or present.  Everyone has doubts, fears, negative self-talk that interferes with their confidence.  Unfortunately, these things can happen when we need confidence the most.

Here are nine tips to help you exude confidence when you are feeling like a hot mess inside, focusing on internal and external factors.

Externally – Posture

It is a natural bodily reaction to want to shut down or curl up when we are feeling insecure.  This can include crossing your arms across your chest, slouching and lowering your head down.  The one move that I recommend will help straighten your posture, release tension and raise your head all in one.

The Shoulder Roll

In an exaggerated sweeping motion, while inhaling, lower your shoulders and bring together toward your chest, roll them up as though you are scrunching them up toward your ears, continue the roll toward your back squeezing your shoulder blades together and finally drop your shoulders with a little emphasis while tilting your head up about 20 degrees and exhaling in a short, forced, pushed of breath.

In doing this motion, you may not realize how tight your shoulders had become.  This allows you to tighten them a bit more and with the release breath and drop, it will allow you to relax while straightening your posture. 

Simply “standing up straight” may cause you to push your shoulders back, stick your chest out and add to the tension.  The rolling helps you achieve a more natural, confident straightness. 

If you do not feel it the first time, do it again until you do.

The head tilt forces you to raise your head at a higher degree than what you normally would hold your head.  After the exhale, your chin will lower, but not to the buried position it had started.

Hand Reset

After you complete the shoulder roll, shake our your hands.  A nice, short, vigorous shake to both of them at the same time.  Odds are if you are a hot mess inside, your hands are giving it away.  They could be clinched, buried in your pockets or fidgeting.  Shaking them out releases the tension, allows you to recognize any give away signs you were emitting and let them go back to a more natural state.


Think of something that creates an easy, mini-smile.  I saw a video of cute dogs and when I think of it, I unconsciously let out a little breath and smile.  I don’t want to think of something that makes me laugh for fear that I will have a big old goofy smile on my face that might make people wonder. 

You also do not want to force a smile.  This could come across like the Sheldon Cooper forced smile that is just frightening.  Instead, just something that makes you smile a bit.  It relaxes the muscles in your face and gives a pleasant, yet unobtrusive, impression to anyone walking up.

Fit and Flatter

Make sure you are wearing clothing for the occasion that both fit and flatter you.  When you look good, you feel good and it comes through.  I do not think there is an exam I have taken from college through my professional career in which I did not dress up to take. 

Internally – Attitude

This may sound trite, but it really is all about the attitude.  What you are thinking you are broadcasting.  Now is the time that you need to change the internal dialog.

Safe Word

Think of a word, one that you have a positive affiliation to and make it your safe word.  That way when your mind starts to wander down the negative or worrisome path you can immediately stop it in its tracks by saying to yourself the safe word.

I am a dog lover or otherwise known as the crazy dog lady.  When I start to get nervous or anxious, I say to myself, “Puppies!”  If not one is nearby I say it out loud.  Who can be negative when you think of puppies?  Not me!  Whatever will help you throw the train off the tracks.

Be Proud

Once you threw that train off that track, it is time to reroute it.  Think of something that you have accomplished that you are proud of, no matter how big or small.  I recently completed a project helping build a fence, gate, arbor and path for my garden.  It was a lot of hard work – I had the bruises, sore muscles and sun poisoning to prove it.  But the end result was exactly what I wanted and it is beautiful.  I think of this and am proud of myself for the work I put in, the team work, how much I learned and that it is complete.

Chose the Positive What If

It is easy to be waiting for an interview or to give a presentation and have our mind travel down the negative road.  We think about how we might say the wrong thing, come across in the wrong way, sweat too much, seem too anxious, talk too much, go down a rabbit hole unable to recover…and the list goes on where we create and walk ourselves through a whole scenario in which we completely bomb the interview or presentation.

It is easy to mind play the negative.  Try mind playing the positive: you speak eloquently, how the audience responds, you answer each question perfectly, you are relaxed and in charge.  Allow your mind to create the positive experience and see how it feels.

Build a Bubble

Imagine a little confidence bubble around yourself.  Some people are offset by other’s confidence, only because they are envious that they are not exuding it themselves.  This little bubble protects you from any negative reactions and allows you to keep your confidence intact.

It also isolates you from comparing yourself to anyone else.  If you are in the midst of an uncomfortably long wait, it is easy to start looking around and comparing yourself to those in your surroundings.  Your mind then might start to wander on the “should have’s”; I should have worn this, I should have done this, and on and on.  Your bubble is to keep your thoughts all about you and the confidence that you are exuding.

Create a Challenge

I am a very competitive person, sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes, well, not so much.  I am the type that if someone tells me I cannot do something, I find a way and then I go do it.  Challenges motivate me.  Before I give a presentation or facilitate a seminar, I create a challenge in my own mind. 

I can always pick out the one that does not want to be there.  My challenge is to get them to smile.  At least smile, then maybe get them to show a bit more interest.  If I am really good, get them engaged in conversation, in a positive way. 

During an interview the challenge could be to get the interviewer to nod positively after your responses.  Start with something small and when you make it happen, it will help maintain or increase your confidence.

Exuding confidence is within your power.  You would not be there if you did not have the ability to pull it off; believe in yourself, relax and allow it to come through. 


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer



So, Tell Me About Yourself – i.e. Interviewing Hell

nervous intervieweeThis is one of two questions during an interview that strike the most fear in the hearts of interviewees; the other question is, “Why are you looking?” 

Job seekers fear the “tell me about yourself” so much that they play this odd mind game with themselves.  They create this little delusion that if they do not prepare for it then maybe there is a chance that it will not be asked of them.

It is called avoidance and it is not a good strategy. 

It is an icebreaker, an opener for the interview.  Would you rather have them start with, “Why are you looking for a job?”  I did not think so.  Although, that question has been asked before anything else in some interviews.  I personally think this is very cruel of the interviewer, but that is just me.  This is a nicer, softer way to rev up to the interview.

This question is setting you up to shine or sink.

How do you sink?  That is easy and normally happens in one of four ways:

  1. Get a bad case of verbal diarrhea
  2. Talk only about your kids, grand-kids, fur-babies or non-job related interests
  3. Recite, word by word, your prepared speech in the same monotone voice as a news reporter reading a list of school closings due to snow.
  4. Answer with, “I hate that question”

 This last one makes me laugh.  Whenever I would hear that, I always wanted to ask the candidate, “Well, what did you think we were going to talk about?”

Now that we have the “what we don’t want to do” out of the way, let us look at how to shine.

It is about you, but only about professional you.

When an interviewer asks you to tell them about yourself, they really, really do not want to know about your kids, pets, high school glory days (unless you just graduated high school and even then…). Please, do not start with your winning the spelling bee in the third grade and detail every detail until the graduation of your children through college. Please. I beg of you.

It is more than a question. 

Perhaps the interviewer is really looking for something – they have a specific person in mind they are waiting to hear key words they are looking for.  They also could be listening to your response, but listening to your body language.  They are gaging your general communication ability and summing you up. Do your words and confidence match your presentation?

Do your homework.

What is the job you are interviewing for, what are the important skills, abilities, experience and knowledge that are required for the position?  What is the company like, what is their environment, their mission, their goals, their successes and their plans for the future? 

Be prepared to make the correlation between your strengths and their needs.

This is a sixty to ninety second free forum for you to give your experience, talents, education/training and skills – as they relate to the position and company.  A minute (but less than two) of All-About-Me time. Hit on a brief introduction, your key accomplishments, your strengths as defined by these accomplishments and how these are important for the prospective company based on your research.

Avoid generalizations.

This is not a time that you jump at them and say, “I am a people person, I love people, I love working with people, I love interacting with people”. I cannot tell you how many times I heard this.  It got to the point that I started replying with, “That’s nice, I’m a dog person.”

Learn to be quiet.

Once you give this wonderful introduction of yourself as you have anticipated and rehearsed (without memorizing) just one last favor I must ask of you – shut up. The worst thing you can do is mistake their silence for anything but them making mental notes of those wonderful qualities. Do not feel as though you need to keep talking. Trust me, they have more questions for you and once they process your introduction, they will ask you. Just wait for it.


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer




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