Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Why You Didn't Get a Second Interview

It can be pretty demoralizing not to get a second interview, especially since you believe you did so well in your initial interview.

Don't be too hard on yourself. I know from my experience in hiring people that sometimes other things come into play that have nothing to do with your qualifications for the job or how you did during the interview.

For example, the CEO's nephew really needs a new gig and so the CEO decides his nephew is the best fit for the job. Not you. Or, the head of the department is relatively new to the job, and so she decides she needs someone with more experience for the job since she really needs all the support she can get. Another reason: They don't see you in the job. You're a free-wheeling kind of person, and love the blue streak in your hair and the tattoo of Sponge Bob on your neck. But the company is very conservative and so are its clients.

Those are some of the things that you can't control and so you can't sweat not getting a second interview.

But.....there are things you might be doing wrong in a first interview that are affecting your ability to get a second interview. Some things to consider:

  • You weren't prepared. Maybe you're trying to finish your last semester of school or your current job is crazy. The point is that you just didn't spend enough time researching the job and the company and so you weren't really ready with great answers in the interview. When they mentioned the CEO's name, you said "Who?"
  • You clammed up. An interview should really be a conversation. They will ask you questions, and you will need to respond with more than "yes" and "no." You don't want to be long-winded, but be prepared to discuss your strengths and weaknesses (and how you're working to overcome them). You also should ask questions or otherwise the employer may believe you're not really interested in the job or the organization.
  • You were dumb. You showed up late, you weren't dressed properly, you kept looking at your phone (it should have been put away and turned to mute) and you never said "thank you." This is basic stuff -- you need to show good manners and good sense or the employer will quickly pass you over for someone easier to deal with, no matter how skilled you may be.
The best way to get a second interview is to do your homework for the first one so that you do your best. If you don't get a second interview, think about how you can improve and then don't worry about the things beyond your control.

Monday, May 27, 2019

3 Tips for Writing a Better Cover Letter

I remember the first time I wrote a cover letter for a job.

It went something like this: "I'd really like to work for you. I'm sending you my resume."

In my defense, I was pretty young and inexperienced. But, it still was a lousy cover letter and I cringe when I think about it.

Please don't do what I did.

Writing a cover letter is important. It needs to spark the interest of the employer and show a little of your personality and why you're drawn to the job or the industry. It needs to reveal why you're such a great fit for the job and how you can help the employer more than any other job applicant.

That's a tall order, I know. But with a few tips, you'll soon be on your way to writing a cover letter that will help you get your foot in the door.


  • Don't be repetitive. A cover letter is not supposed to just restate what's on your resume. It's really more about selling yourself -- your passion for teaching, or how you knew you were a born salesperson after your first lemonade stand when you were 5-years-old.
  • You make a difference. Think about how you helped your former employers be successful. Did you lead a team that doubled new orders in one year? Did you volunteer to lead a community outreach program that sparked brand loyalty? Did you pull an all-nighter as a support staff person so that a project could meet it's deadline?
  • Customize. You should always customize your resume for a job opening and the same is true for your cover letter. Do your research so you can mention the CEO's recent comments of the company or a cause the organization is supporting in the community.
Finally, make sure you proof the cover letter as carefully as your resume. A cover letter filled with mistakes -- no matter how engaging -- could get you disqualified for consideration.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Is Your Workplace Toxic?

Is your workplace toxic?

A survey of 9,000 tech workers by Blind finds that more than half of those surveyed believe they are indeed working in a toxic environment. Half of workers at Amazon and Intel agreed they were working in such an environment, along with about 25 percent of Google employees and more than a third of Facebook workers.

Unfortunately, tech workers are not alone, and more Americans now believe that a toxic work environment is the new normal.

It doesn't have to be that way.

While you may not be the CEO or even someone in a management position, you don't have to just sit there and accept toxicity. For one thing, such an atmosphere can damage your physical and emotional health, and for another....well, it's just wrong.

There are several ways to combat toxicity in your workplace:

1. Take a reality check. Is the feeling of toxicity being fueled by outside sources? Try taking a break from negative social media or dwelling on news that pits one side against the other.

2. Enlist support. If you're feeling that things are toxic at work, you're probably not alone. Look for someone else who would like to break the cycle of negative thoughts and actions. Think about supporting one another with a more positive frame of mind by countering negative comments at work with ones that are  grounded in fairness and optimism. It's been shown that civility can spread.

3. Choose your response. When you're around negativity, it can be easy to let yourself be controlled by it. But if you make a commitment to yourself that you're not going to let someone else control your reactions, then you're on your way to combating toxicity. Surround yourself with positive messages and people to stay in a positive frame of mind.

4. Speak up. Sometimes we fall into bad habits without even realizing it. If someone is making offensive comments about another worker, for example, you can speak up and simply say that such comments are not appropriate. That may be enough to alert the colleague that he or she has crossed a line and needs to get back on track.

Finally, don't forget that you can't let workplace toxicity dominate your life. Find hobbies or activities to break your negative mindset, or call on friends or family to help you talk through your concerns and then re-frame events to stay more positive.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Best Way to End a Job Interview

"Is there anything else you'd like to add?"

This has always been the question I ask last in an interview, and it usually produces some great results. Sometimes people will say, "No, I think we've about covered everything...." and then jump in with some new information.

The reason I ask it is because I wouldn't be doing my job as a journalist if I didn't do everything I can to conduct a thorough interview. But I also find it's helpful because it can give me real insight into what the person considers important.

I'm not the only one who asks such a question. Hiring managers often ask some version of it, such as "Is there anything else you feel we should know?"

That's when many job candidates stumble and say, "Uh, no, not really." Or, they really screw up and say, "When can I take my first vacation?"

When a hiring manager asks this question, don't waste an opportunity to leave a positive lasting impression.

For example, reiterate your interest in the job and what you have to offer: "I think this job sounds like a great fit for me and I'm excited about the possibilities. With my education and strong work experience in generating sales through social media, I think I could hit the ground running on Day 1."

Or, it could be that the hiring manager didn't touch on the fact that you speak two other languages, which could be a real plus in dealing with customers or partners overseas. "I know we covered a lot, but I just wanted to mention that I also speak Mandarin and Spanish, which I think could be helpful to this company as it expands into markets overseas."

Don't be too long winded -- you don't want to repeat the entire interview. The hiring manager is a busy person, so focus on the highlights and concisely review your strengths so she is left with a positive impression,

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

5 Ways to Successfully Join a New Team

It can be very exciting to join a new team. But it also can be a bit daunting when you realize the successful track record of that team.

How can you make your mark? How can you get others to listen to your ideas? What if they don't like you or what you have to say?

These are pretty normal questions, so don't feel like you're the only one who has ever felt this way. In fact, it's probably a good thing to be concerned with how others may feel about you because it shows that you're ready to be tuned into others and won't be a know-it-all that others may immediately dislike.

At the same time, your ideas are valuable. You would not have been asked to join the team if others didn't feel that way, so don't be shy about speaking up when you have something to contribute.

Here are some way to smoothly join a new team:

1. Listen. The only way to fully understand the team members and their goals is to spend time asking questions and gathering information. Once you have a better picture of how the team functions, then you can contribute more effectively. For example, it doesn't make sense for you to jump in on Day 1 to suggest recreating a process or product that failed earlier.

2. Widen your circle. Just talking to the current team members isn't enough -- you need to get the bigger picture of how things get done. Talk to support staff and outside partners (as long as you get permission to do so), who can provide a more complete picture of needs and concerns.

3. Leverage your strengths. You don't have to make a huge splash from the beginning. But you can also start making a difference pretty quickly if you know your strengths and begin using them to help the team. Help various team members understand your strengths and vice versa. When you combine your strengths with someone else's, the impact can be seen right away.

4. Curtail your ego. You didn't get put on this team because you're a mediocre employee. You were invited to join the team because people felt you had something critical to offer. Still, that doesn't mean you're going to be hailed as a hero from the first day. More than likely, one or two other team members will feel they need to knock you down a peg or two. If you stay focused on how to achieve results, you'll soon earn respect from everyone as a professional who is more concerned with quality work than gaining recognition.

5. Find ways to connect. Invite team members out for coffee or join them after work at the local pub. Those connections are just as important as the ones you make inside the company walls and will make it easier for other team members to accept you.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Are You Burned Out? Here's What to Do

"I'm so burned out."

I overheard the comment while on a subway recently as a young woman talked to someone on her cellphone. I was surprised to see how clearly distraught the woman was -- and how young she appeared to be.

I thought about that young woman several times that day, especially since I had just read statistics saying that one in five adults in this country experience mental illness in a year. While "burnout" isn't a medical diagnosis, it is a very real concern for many people.

Doctors say that job burnout is a work-related stress that can make someone feel mentally and physically exhausted. People begin to feel they are losing who they really are and don't have much to show for their lives -- they don't even really recognize that it's their job that is real reason behind how they feel.

While some believe that depression may be behind job burnout, there are a number of symptoms. The Mayo Clinic suggests you ask yourself:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?
Job burnout can lead to insomnia, high blood pressure, diabetes, fatigue, anger and sadness and heart disease. If you feel like you may be suffering from it, the Mayo Clinic suggests you:

  • Evaluate your options. Discuss specific concerns with your supervisor. Maybe you can work together to change expectations or reach compromises or solutions. Try to set goals for what must get done and what can wait.
  • Seek support. Whether you reach out to co-workers, friends or loved ones, support and collaboration might help you cope. If you have access to an employee assistance program, take advantage of relevant services.
  • Try a relaxing activity. Explore programs that can help with stress such as yoga, meditation or tai chi.
  • Get some exercise. Regular physical activity can help you to better deal with stress. It can also take your mind off work.
  • Get some sleep. Sleep restores well-being and helps protect your health.
  • Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of focusing on your breath flow and being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling at every moment, without interpretation or judgment. In a job setting, this practice involves facing situations with openness and patience, and without judgment

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Don't Be a Jerk When Rejecting an Offer

A Robert Half survey finds that six in 10 workers in a variety of fields and industries say they've received two or more job offers simultaneously when applying for jobs. When weighing their decision, candidates say they look at salary, benefits, advancement potential, commute and the job's responsibilities or challenges.

Those are all important criteria, but it doesn't always make the choice a no-brainer. You not only have to make the right choice for you (and pray you are right) but you have to figure out a way to say "no" to the other offer without sounding like a jerk.

Not sounding like a jerk is very important. Why? Because the world is often very small and you may run across that hiring manager again one day. If you act like a jerk -- and she tells everyone you acted like a jerk -- then you could damage your professional reputation. Hiring managers often talk to one another and if they start telling others about your poor behavior, they may steer clear of you. The one thing we know for sure is that one day the job market will tank again, and where will you be when everyone thinks you're a jerk?

Here is the right way to reject a job offer:

  • Don't wait. As soon as you're sure of your decision, tell the hiring manager. 
  • Don't be chicken. Sending a text is not cool. The person deserves to have a phone conversation, but an email is the next best thing.
  • Offer a reason. Job seekers always want to know why they didn't get a job, so have the same courtesy for a hiring manager. You don't have to go into a lengthy explanation, but you can say something like, "The commute was going to be much longer to your company, so along with the salary and benefits they were offering, it just made more economic sense for me to choose them," you can say.
  • Be polite. It costs money and time to recruit a candidate, so always be appreciative of that investment: "I want to thank you for the time you spent talking to me and I'd appreciate you also thanking the others who shared their thoughts about the job. I hope one day we run across each other again."

Monday, May 6, 2019

Should You Follow Up After an Interview?

You may be feeling great after a job interview and believe a job offer is just around the corner.

Then, nothing. Silence. No phone calls or emails from the hiring manager.

Now your worry kicks in. Did you say something wrong in the interview? Have they already hired someone else?

Should you follow up? How? When?

There are lots of questions and worries probably swirling in your brain about now, but there's no need to panic.

First, the hiring manager is probably interviewing other candidates, which is pretty common. Second, the hiring manager probably has to check in with others about making a job offer. Third, hiring manager have other duties, so it may be that she's simply so busy she hasn't had a chance to consider candidates and make an offer.

But if a week goes by and you've heard nothing, now is the time to follow up. You can send an email again citing your interest in the job and highlight your qualifications that make your a great fit for the job. If you feel like you didn't mention something that makes you right for the job, you can mention it in your follow-up.

If you get the elusive "we're still considering candidates" response from the hiring manager, then you're going to have to wait another week to follow up or just be more patient and await the decision.

Whatever you decide, don't sit on your hands waiting on an offer. Keep your job hunt going so that you don't lose momentum. If you get a job offer, great. If not, you know that you're being proactive and won't have time to dwell on not being selected for a particular job since there may be a better fit just around the corner.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Are You Ignoring This Simple Key to Success?

When was the last time you wrote a thank-you note?

I'm not talking about an email or a text. I'm talking about a handwritten note to someone expressing your appreciation or gratitude. The kind, you know, that has to have a stamp and be put in that thing known as a mailbox.

For many people, the last time they wrote such a missive may be when they were in school (elementary).

But for those who are really savvy about their careers, a handwritten thank-you note is a key to their success. They have a box of nice thank-you cards in their desk drawer. They may even carry some with them so they can jot a note when they have time while commuting or waiting in a dentist's office.

While you, on the other hand, spend all your spare time watching the guy putting weird things in his air fryer on YouTube or posting what you ate for lunch on Instagram.

A career is not something that has it's own momentum. You have to create it. You have to maintain it. You have to plot where you're going before it goes off the rails because you're not  paying attention as you're in a deep discussion about "Avengers: Endgame" on Reddit.

One of the simplest things you can do to help your career -- and maintain important network contacts -- is to hand write a thank-you note. It's so old school it's new again. It's so unexpected that whoever gets your thank-you note isn't going to forget it, or you.

If you're not sure how to write a thank-you note, there are numerous examples, such as here.

Sometimes it's difficult to stand out when you're courting new customers, trying to get a job or land a promotion. A sincere, hand-written thank-you note may be just the ticket you need to put you in the lead.