Tips from a Retained Search Recruiter

This week I listened to a Blue Steps webinar on Recruiter Tips for Interviewing and would like to share some points that answer questions I hear from clients frequently.

One of the recruiters was asked “How often should you keep in touch after an interview?” The response was that during the interview you should get a time for the next step and then contact the recruiter on that date and then every week until you get a yes or no.

Another question was on how to be memorable in a good way. The answer was to make a personal connection with the interviewer and to do so by researching the people beforehand. See if you went to a common school and then bring that up. If the company sells a product, go buy it and if it sells a service, use it and be able to discuss the product or services with enthusiasem.

How to Answer the So Tell Me about Yourself Question

Today’s Tip from the Harvard Business Review—I most certainly agree

How to Answer One of the Hardest Job Interview Questions

“So…tell me about yourself.” Although this job interview question seems simple, answering it is anything but. Should you share your life story? Your job history? It’s tempting to turn your LinkedIn page into a monologue, but don’t — the interviewer already has your résumé. Instead, talk about what the company really needs from the role you’re vying for. Before the interview, scrutinize the job description for phrases like “required,” “must have,” and “highly desired.” Go to the About Us section of the company’s website and read up on the corporate culture and core values. Then think about how to connect your background and interests to what the company is looking for. Practice your response so that you’re ready when you walk into the interview room. You want to sound like your career has been building to this role and you are the best person to fill it.

This tip is adapted from “How to Respond to ‘So, Tell Me About Yourself’ in a Job Interview,” by Joel Schwartzberg

What not to wear on an interview

A client asked my advice on what to wear for a Web Interview as he planned to wear his usual suit and tie as he would have for in in-person interview but thought he would check it out. I suggested he ask the HR contact at the company. The HR contact replied, "We are a casual 'no suits allowed' organization so please feel free to dress in business casual attire.” My client and I were both glad he checked with HR.

Don’t Brush Off Positive Feedback — Study It

July 1, 2019


From The Harvard Business Review—more excellent advice


Most of us remember critical feedback. Because it’s jarring and threatening, it tends to stick in our brains. But positive feedback is an invaluable way to learn about your strengths and growth areas. Create a space (digital or physical) where you save the praise you get, anything from thank-you cards to written notes in your evaluations to comments in email threads. When you get mixed feedback, tease apart the positive and negative aspects, and put the positive ones in your kudos folder as well. Set a time in your calendar to periodically review and reflect on what you’ve saved. Ask yourself: What patterns or themes can I identify? How could I use my strengths in new situations? What else can I learn about my strengths, and who might provide that perspective? It may feel immodest or uncomfortable to bask in the positive feedback you get. But think of it like this: Someone has gone out of their way to highlight what you’re good at — so use it.

Adapted from “To Become Your Best Self, Study Your Successes,” by Laura Morgan Roberts et al.

3 Ways to Become More Optimistic

June 7, 2019


There are benefits to optimism. Some studies have found that feeling optimistic can help fight stress and improve health; others have found that optimists earn and save more money. To build your optimism, try a few things. For one, practice gratitude. When you wake up each morning, think of three things you’re thankful for. It only takes a minute, and it puts a positive spin on the day. (Also, resist the urge to immediately check the news, which often does the opposite.) Second, find ways to make progress toward your goals. Whether you want a new job or you’re launching a new project, taking even small steps forward can give you a larger sense of momentum. Third, prioritize connecting with others. Get lunch with friends you haven’t seen lately, or send a coworker a note that you’re thankful for them. Social connection is one of the top predictors of happiness.

Adapted from “The Financial Upside of Being an Optimist,” by Michelle Gielan

Should You Apply for a Job If You Don’t Meet Every Qualification?

 From the always helpful Harvard Business Review:

If you come across a job posting with 10 qualifications listed, and you have six or seven of them, should you apply? Yes. Think of a job posting as the company’s wish list for the role. While the hiring manager may hope to find candidates with all 10 skills, organizations want new hires to grow into their roles. That’s why you should look for positions that will stretch you, not ones where you already tick all the boxes. It can be tempting to seek out jobs you’re very qualified for — even overqualified for — since you know your chances of succeeding are high. But a job you’re immediately great at won’t teach you anything new, which means your opportunities for growth are limited. (Plus, you might be more than a little bored.) So don’t be afraid to apply for a job that makes you a little nervous. If you have some of the skills needed, and you aren’t afraid to ask questions and make mistakes, you’re probably a good candidate.

Adapted from “You Don’t Need to Meet Every Qualification to Apply for a Job,” by Art Markman


I just heard Rory Vaden, author of TAKE THE STAIRS, speak about time management in a webinar for the World Business and Executive Coach Summit.  You can sign up for lots of free stuff from him but I wanted to share one aspect of his talk that I found very insightful.  He said that how we chose to spend time is emotional not logical.  It can be based on our desire to feel important, fear of rejection, looking like a good parent, like a good manager, etc.  Therefore there is no time management but there is only self-management.  So when we say to ourselves that we have no time, there is probably much underneath our choices that have things to do with our emotional well-being, as well as our calendars. 

He added:  You multiply time by giving yourself the emotional permission to spend time on things today that will give you more time tomorrow.

We are bright people who can automate, delegate and ignore what can be ignored and he suggests we do so.

How to Get Unstuck

I just heard Dr. David Drake, founder of Center for Narrative Coaching and Leadership, speak in a webinar for the World Business and Executive Coach Summit. I’d like to share a meaningful exercise he shared with us. He had us close our eyes and think of something in our lives we wish were different. Then he slowing asked us the following questions and please pause between each and you might write down the answers:

  1. What are you doing now about this situation?

  2. What are the results of what you are doing?

  3. Are these what you were hoping for?

  4. What are these telling you?

  5. What will you do differently to get more of what you want?

Remote Job Search Sites

I added four work from home job sites to my website and they are interesting.

Remote Job Search Sites - lists work at home jobs. - devoted to full and part-time telecommuting jobs. - includes programming, sales and other telecommuting jobs - lists tech, management, marketing and other jobs.


Sometimes we don’t follow our dreams or don’t go after a good job because we fear failure. The following from the HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW’S book review gives an interesting perspective.


Overcome Your Fear of Failure by Redefining It


The fear of failing at something — of doing it wrong, looking foolish, or not meeting expectations — can be paralyzing. But avoiding challenges that make you anxious isn’t going to help you grow. To overcome your fear of failure, redefine what the concept means to you. For example, instead of thinking about failure (or success) in terms of what you achieve, reframe it in terms of what you learn. No one gets everything right, and a “failure” can still provide invaluable experience for the future. It’s also important to focus on what you want to do rather than what you want to avoid. When you’re dreading a tough task, you may unconsciously set goals around what you don’t want to happen. Creating a “fear list” can help: Write down the challenge’s worst-case scenario, how you can prevent it, and how you’ll respond if it comes true. Creating a plan for a bad outcome can give you the courage to move forward.

Adapted from “How to Overcome Your Fear of Failure," by Susan Peppercorn


This is especially helpful in job search where we get single minded about “being rejected” or no one will hire me and it isn’t the case and isn’t helpful. Someone else got chosen. There is a better job there for us. That might have been a miserable job. Perhaps we do need to be open to a new tactic and the ever interesting Harvard Business Review’s book review has a helpful idea.

Want to Be More Open-Minded?

Open-mindedness at work — about new products, strategies, business models — is one key to success. But how do you develop it? Research has found there are several things you can do. For one, travel, whether it’s to another country or somewhere closer to home. As you encounter ways of living that differ from the ones you know best, your brain will get better at accepting new approaches and ideas. For a cheaper option, read fiction. Books can train your brain to be curious about others’ experiences and opinions. Another low-cost option is mindfulness meditation, which has been shown to help people be willing to revise their ideas. And if you’re someone who tends to get stuck in their ways, there’s a simple trick you can try: Start sentences with “I could be wrong, but…” This conveys your openness to others and forces you to start conversations with a willingness to change your mind.

Adapted from “A New Way to Become More Open-Minded," by Shane Snow

A Way to Handle Stress

Stress Doesn’t Have to Short-Circuit Your Creativity

 From the always helpful Harvard Business Review—it really helps to handle stress in job search and to be creative.

When you’re stressed out, it’s hard to decide what to eat for dinner, let alone get work done. How can you produce ideas when you’re feeling this way? First, take a breath and relax. Trying to force yourself to be creative will only lead to more frustration. Instead of thinking, “I must be creative right now,” tell yourself, “I’m going to play around with some ideas.” Then do an activity that will let your mind wander. Going for a walk or napping, for example, naturally loosens up your brain, which can lead to new insights. If you still feel stuck, give yourself more material to work with: Read about the topic you’re tackling, take a field trip to observe other people’s solutions to similar problems, or talk to experts. Above all else, give yourself time. You’ll have a much better chance of success when you let creative thoughts percolate.

Adapted from “How to Be Creative When You’re Feeling Stressed," by Elizabeth Grace Saunders

Shift Your Perspective at Work by Telling Yourself a Different Story

From the Harvard Business Review:

We all tell ourselves stories about work, and these stories shape the way we think, lead, and make decisions. For instance, if the story that runs through your head all day is “Everything’s a battle in this office,” you’re more likely to expect hostility and be primed to attack. Negative stories like this one generally don’t help you, so consider shifting to a new narrative. Start by identifying a challenge you’re facing, and then ask: “What is the basic story I’m telling myself about this issue?” Consider how the story is affecting you and your team. Is it constraining or liberating? If the latter, think about what you’d like to change and how your story needs to shift. What reimagined (and true) version of the story would be more useful for pursuing your goals or doing things differently? Rewriting a story is often a matter of choosing to see a situation from a different, more-positive, perspective.

Adapted from "To Make a Change at Work, Tell Yourself a Different Story," by Monique Valcour and John McNulty

Getting Better at Handling Disappointments

From the Harvard Business Review:

Disappointments are inevitable and unpleasant —­ a missed promotion, a failed project, a poor investment — but you can always learn something from them. To constructively deal with your next setback, think through what happened. Distinguish situations that were predictable and preventable from those that were unavoidable and beyond your control. Ruminating over something that didn’t go your way — and that you couldn’t control — will only frustrate you further. For situations that you could have handled differently, consider them in positive terms: What can you do differently next time? What lessons can you learn from the mistakes you made? And remind yourself of what’s going well in your life, so you don’t let the disappointment take an outsize role in your brain. It might sound like a cliché, but keep the setback in perspective — and try to let it go. You may be tempted to play the situation over and over in your head, but staying preoccupied with it will only create unnecessary stress.

Adapted from "Dealing with Disappointment," by Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

How to Deal with a Difficult Boss

I recently listened to a webinar led by Annie McKee, best selling author and internationally recognized leadership adviser on “How to be Happy at Work.” She was asked a question about how to deal with a difficult boss. A part of her answer was to ask yourself,

  • What do I think is riding my boss?

  • How can I see him/her as human?

  • How can I set emotional boundaries and keep a good sense of self?

She then reminded us that much of what is going on is the boss’s problem and to try a little empathy.

Having worked with difficult bosses, I know how easy it is to get into negative spin. I talked to a former peer after leaving one challenging job and she replied that our company President had calmed down after a few years and was probably nervous his first years in such a role.


Eons ago, when I had a particularly hateful job, I had what seemed like 52 interviews in 52 weeks until the boss whom I had written up for sexual harassment laid me off.  I was eminently qualified for the jobs where I interviewed.  I had the experience, had a Master’s degree and Senior Level Certification but no offers.  As someone who interviewed candidates for a living, I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong or what was wrong with me.  A retained search recruiter friend told me that I was going for jobs for which I was over qualified and that firms like to compare their ideal candidate with the top of the heap (but not hire them) and were merely using me as a measuring post.  The more I interviewed the more my self-confidence decreased and the lower down on the rung were the jobs I chose.  It was a self-defeating cycle.  So if this reminds you of anything you are experiencing, try to put on your big person pants and go seek the job you deserve.

Good Advice on Job Search

Read online


From the Harvard Business Review

July 31, 2018


When You’re Looking for a Job, Focus on the Process


When you’re applying for jobs but aren’t getting them, it’s easy to feel desperate. But don’t lose your confidence — it’s a key trait that hiring managers look for. To keep desperation at bay, shift your focus from the outcome you want (“I need a job!”) to the process you’ll use to reach it (“Here are the specific steps I’ll take”). Check for job openings and apply for positions that suit your experience. Attend networking events to get to know potential employers. Talk to friends and colleagues to find out who’s hiring. And take classes to improve your skills. Keeping your attention on these small-scale goals will ease your frustration and help you feel productive, especially if finding a job takes longer than expected. And many of these tasks are things you need to do after you get hired as well, so you’re laying the groundwork for your future success once you do land a position.

Adapted from “Stay Confident During Your Job Search by Focusing on the Process, Not the Outcome,” by Art Markman


LinkedIn Hint About Key Words

I heard this suggestion at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management bi-annual coach's meeting last week and perhaps it is old news to you.  To see what key words people are using to search for you:

1.  Click on your name on your profile to get to your Dashboard

2.  Under your Dashboard, Search Appearances

3.  Scroll down to see Keywords that searchers used.

When I did, I was pleased to see that the words were mostly ones used in the "title" under my name.  See what comes up when you do this search.


For Those Who Don't Know What They Want to Do

Thanks to Sarah Hyche, fellow Kellogg Career Coach, for bringing this article to our attention on LinkedIn.  Please read Stacy Kim's WHY YOU NEED TO TRY THE LIGHTHOUSE METHOD; Want more out of LIfe--but you're not sure what?  This non-goal goalsetting method can help.

Dr. Kim, not only a PhD but a life coach helps women (but I strongly suggest that men can adapt her suggestions as well) find enjoyable work by using what she calls the Lighthouse Method.  See the link below to read the whole article for a description of the method and simple steps.

A Perspective and Way to Handle Conflicts

To Get More Comfortable with Conflict, Stop Making It Personal

Conflict is a normal, healthy part of working with other people. And yet many of us avoid it at all costs — often because it feels personal. To get more comfortable with disagreements, and to reap the benefits of productive conflict, let go of the idea that it’s all about you. If you model that you’re comfortable with productive conflict, you’ll show your team that it’s OK to disagree, encouraging people to raise their ideas. To move a work conflict away from the personal, think about the bigger picture and the business’s needs. Disagreements often arise over objectives and processes, for example. When you and a colleague have different views about something, ask yourself: Why is this difference of opinion an important debate to have? How will it help the organization or the project you’re working on? The more you can keep a conflict focused on the business, the better chance you have of resolving it in a way that benefits everyone.

Adapted from “Why We Should Be Disagreeing More at Work,” by Amy Gallo and as mentioned in the Harvard Business Review's Management Tip of the Day from May 16, 2018.