… No, no, don’t do that, Joseph!!!

Joseph has been with this company for about two years. He’d been on his last job for five years in the job before that, ten. He was first line manager at a pretty aggressive company and had followed a friend of his to the company that he had worked for a number of years earlier. Trusting his friend, when he took the job he may be didn’t get as detailed of an idea of how the compensation plan worked. He trusted his friend I was anxious to go to work for him, and the new company seemed reasonable enough with some positive nuances that his old company didn’t have.

First-line managers jobs are often the most difficult. Those blessed souls have all kinds of responsibility, not a lot of authority and, especially in sales don’t make anywhere near the money that salespeople can make. The influence that these people may have over their earnings isn’t anywhere near as great as it was when they were on first-line. This is especially true in sales but also in other professions.

After about the first eight months of his employment Joseph started realizing that the compensation program wasn’t quite “as advertised.” There were a lot of “if, ands and buts” in the fine lines of his earnings agreement and unless the planets aligned perfectly he was never going to make within $50,000 of what he had made in last job that he left. That’s when he started getting a little irritated.

He loved the job and loved the people, though. He had more responsibility than he had before. He knew when he joined the company that there were some ‘challenges,’ but he just knew he could overcome them and do well. Then his duties expanded and, in his case, his quota went up but his compensation program didn’t. He found out that it was really hard to fire people at this company and almost a lot harder to hire people. Then a “hand tieing”  policy for absolutely everything and it seemed like the corporate counsel just about ran the company.

Joseph’s region quickly became the number one region in the country and although he was getting all kinds of accolades, i.e. name recognition in the corporate newspaper, a really nice engraved watch and recognition (applause) at the corporate meeting… It wasn’t affecting his pocket book one bit. At first, he voiced his concern to his erstwhile friend, boss. But as time went on his concern became frustration and then he became downright pissed off. His boss is a really good guy but he couldn’t do much about anything and he certainly couldn’t help Joseph make more money. The longer he worked there more frustrated he became.

So, the other day, Joseph told his boss, in a moment of anger that he just wasn’t going to take it any longer and he quit. Joseph was a client of ours, so he decided to come by and talk about it.

He admits that it was a moment of great emotion when they were having a discussion (argument) about his quote and how he was going to attain it. Joseph has a tremendous amount of emotion and passion and sometimes, gets in trouble.

He quit without a job. He weakly, rationalized the fact that he quit without a jobBy stating that, “I’ve never had trouble finding another job.” But the truth is the guy his only had three jobs in almost 20 years and every time he changed he went to work for somebody that was a “friend” of his. Joseph has absolutely no idea how difficult it is going to be for him to find a job. Hiring managers off the street only happens one out of eight times. The other seven times people are promoted from within, whether they deserve it or not. And in this economy there are fewer managers and there’s ever been. The shock of Joseph’s dilemma was beginning to set in.

Don’t get me wrong. Joseph is an excellent manager. The jobs like that are very, very, very rare. One can’t just raise their hand and say, “I’m ready,” and have the job appear. In between the lines, Joseph expressed, fallaciously, but most people think, that “there’s always a good place for a good manager.” Well this just isn’t so. If Joseph (and me) are fortunate enough to find the opening in his fairly narrow discipline of business, he will have a good chance. That’s a big “if.”

When I explained to him that this could go on for months, (I’m talking, 6 to 8 months) his eyes glazed over a bit. Joseph’s a really good guy and he might get lucky. But it would’ve been a lot more prudent to find a job before he left this one.

Here’s the lesson. No matter how pissed off and irritated you get, don’t leave your (lousy) job for you secured another one. You never know how long it’s going to take to find another one.

We will keep you posted as to how Joseph’s search is coming along.

…Trump’s Interviewing lessons…OMG


It was certainly painful to watch the presidential debate a week ago Monday. We can always learn from debates. If you’re old enough to remember the Kennedy/Nixon debates where candidate Kennedy looked so “presidential”, tanned and charismatic… and poor Mr. Nixon looked like he was hung over, or remembering Ronald Reagan’s comment about Walter Mondale’s youth and inexperience when asked if his age was going to be a problem, you realize that these debates have lots of lessons.

If Donald Trump had been in an interview for a job he wouldn’t get hired. (Please, please, don’t think I’m taking sides here. I’m of the opinion that it’s sad that we have such poor choices for this election.) It was clear that Mr. Trump did very little preparing for the debate. That’s his first big mistake.

I can’t tell you the number of times over the years that I have had candidates tell me that they really didn’t need to practice interviewing, that all I needed to do was get them the interview and they could wing it with no problem at all. In spite of my coaching and teaching these folks simply think they know better than that and they will have no problem and then they go into the interview and bumble it just like Mr. Trump did. When my candidates do this it’s easy for me to think, “Well, they don’t deserve the damn job” because they just didn’t go to the trouble to prepare”. They do what Mr. Trump did and rely on three or four “lip loads” and then keep repeating them over and over. They come up with a few facts that don’t appear to really know what they’re talking about. In short, they know exactly what questions are going to be asked but don’t practice the answers.

Now this guy is getting in another two chances, And for the country’s sake, we all hope he does better. But here are the major interviewing “mistakes” we can learn from:

  • Don’t scowl or look grumpy when being asked a question. Look at the person asking the question with empathy and interest… even if you’re pissed off. This is especially true when a male is interviewing with (or debating) a female. If you are a man, you can look mean and downright ugly to another man. But not to a woman. (Trump really had a problem here because he was being “interviewed” by a guy but debating a woman. I will admit that’s really hard to do.)
  • Don’t roll your eyes in contempt when another person is speaking. You look like a jerk.
  • Don’t interrupt the person asking the question. It’s rude.
  • Don’t interrupt the other person when they are speaking. It’s rude.
  • Be prepared with a number of topics you can bring up if you don’t like a particular question.
  • Learn how to “deflect” just a bit when you get a question that is meant to trap you.
  • There are going to be essentially 10 or 12 real solid questions that are going to be asked. You know what they are and even though they will be asked in a number of different ways, for goodness sakes, practice the damn answers. Again, you know what the questions are going to be. Prepare!!
  • Know when to be humble, for God’s sake. When someone tries to nail you about a mistake you made, admit it…don’t defend it. Everyone makes mistakes and they really don’t mind if you do, as long as you acknowledge it was a mistake and asked for  forgiveness. “Looking back on it, that was a mistake that I wish I hadn’t made.” That’s it! End of discussion. Let’s move on. If pressed about the mistake, again, simply acknowledge the mistake and maybe mention what you would’ve done differently. “Again that was an error of judgment. It was a mistake. If I knew then what I know now, I would’ve…..”
  • Have a slight bit of a sense of humor. Smile once in a while. Act comfortable in your own skin, even if you’re not. Take what you say seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Or at least don’t come across that way.
  • When someone catches you off guard with a topic you are not even remotely ready for (when you should be), like Alicia Michado, shuuuuut up. Don’t say a word. Especially, don’t act surprised. Even if you didn’t expect the topic to come up or don’t even know what the other person’s talking about, don’t act like it. “I don’t remember the situation. I will have to look into it.” When you say something like, “whatch-you talkin’ about” when you know it must be some kind of big deal that you have forgotten, you really look dumb.

Unfortunately, if Mr. Trump had been interviewing for a job…which he really is, he wouldn’t have gotten hired. He just wasn’t prepared. Because he wasn’t prepared he was on his heels all night. Let’s hope he learns by his mistakes.

Whether you like the guy or not, all of us really want to see the difference in ideas and policies that he and his opponent have. All of the above issues are more mannerisms than they are content. We all want to know about the issues and not get stuck on the mannerisms. As with any interviewing situation we can all get distracted by the mannerisms and can’t “hear” what is being said. Mr. Trump has got one strike against him. Two more and he is out.

This should be a lesson to anyone who is interviewing… prepare!

P.S. Don’t TWEET nutin!


…no expectations

Dan Ariely, the behavior economist who teaches at Duke and has written a number of books, was asked in his write-in article in the Wall Street Journal White a few week ago about what the most important quality that would help a marriage survive. His answer was to have “no expectations.” Those of us who had been married for a long period of time really understand this sage advice.

The same could be said for a job search. However, based on my experience I would amend this concept just a bit…even maybe marriage. The The biggest problem most job seekers is that they have an expectations Just about everything regarding their job search. They expect that when they see a job posting they know they can do, they will get interviewed and likely get hired. When they apply to hundreds of job opportunities they expect to get interviews. They expect to get interviews when they call their friends. They expect  to find a job easily, in a short period of time. They expect to do amazingly well on interviews. They expect to get hired when they interview and often get better money and title. They have way too many expectations.

Rarely do any of these expectations ever pan out. This is one of the greatest shocks of most job searches. And the whole problem is that people have expectations.

There is a place for expectations. And it has to do with what a candidate should expect of themselves in the job search process. A job seeker has to expect the search is going to be hard. They have to expect that they had better take massive, massive action to get interviews …with great intensity. They have to expect to make more contacts about their job search than they ever imagined. They had best expect to perform well on interviews…and get lost of them. They have to expect that they have absolutely nothing until they have a job offer….that they like.

Notice that all these expectations are about themselves and no one else. Where job seekers always run into problems is when they have expectations about other people. Interesting, isn’t it…that is probably true about marriage also.

…. A $35,000 simple application of the first law of economics

It’s so very simple! So very, very simple! The first law of economics: “All money value is created through and backed by the production of commodities, trades, goods and services.” I will never quite understand why people who are looking for a job, even if they have one, don’t understand this simple law. Applied to the practice of finding a job, it simply states, “Your value is created through and backed by the (perceived) services you will provide.” It is that simple. If you show a prospective employer that you can provide better service than any of the other candidates, the more money you will receive.

A week or so ago we were working with a client who was looking for a controller and told us they would pay between $100,000 and $150,000 base salary along with some bonus. They made it very clear that the very top, top, top of their scale was $150,000 and they weren’t likely to pay anywhere close to that. They must have repeated it as a mantra at least a dozen times.

They hired our candidate. They paid her $185,000 and were so glad to do it they couldn’t see straight. In fact they were almost apologetic. The reason? She gave them so many good value propositions that she could do for them they were compelled to hire her. Now, she knew before she went to the interview that these people wanted to pay $100,000. She went anyhow. She barely even talked about money, except to say that the money was important but not the most important thing about the job. She just simply gave them so many really good reasons as to why they should hire her and what she could do for them, they raised her salary $35,000 more than the top of their scale.

If people looking for a job simply paid attention to the track record that they might offer a prospective employer and then present that value proposition to as many people as possible could they would have no trouble finding a job. She went into absolute detail, addressing just about every aspect of the financial picture of the company That she had researched from just about every source, the company’s bank, the company’s manufacturing companies, their customers, their competitors. She knew more about the company than the hiring authority did. She communicated what she suspected to be the biggest financial problems of the company and the three or four things she would do to address them. She did absolutely thorough research.

After two interviews our client was absolutely sold on her. Because they didn’t want to mess around and lose her, they simply told her, “the highest base we thought we were going to pay was $150,000, but with your skills and experience we are willing to offer you $185,000.” And she was thrilled.

What’s even more interesting about this is that she’s making $200,000 in her present job. She took a cut from her present salary because the opportunity and the company were so good. He makes both sides of the desk look good,


…”lying?!! But everybody’s doing it… look at Hillary”

This is what I heard from a candidate this week. And this wasn’t some entry-level kid. This was a 20 year veteran who been an EVP at a well-known company. He was complaining because one of our clients was considering him for a regional VP job and just plain stopped when they found out that he lied. He worked at a company for about six months a number of years ago and didn’t have it on his resume. It was 10 years ago and he figured that it didn’t have anything to do with his most recent career so he left off his resume. It so happens that one of the people working at our client company recognized his resume, said that he knew him because they had worked together a number of years ago at the company… that wasn’t on his resume. Our client interpreted this as lying, which in the strictest sense, it was. So, unfortunately, they passed on him.

It was devastating to all of us, including our client firm’s CEO. Most everyone had their heart set on hiring this guy and he had his heart set on taking the job. I have started my 43rd year in this profession and I have to admit that I’m still torn about this kind of thing. Being educated from childhood by Benedictine nuns, Augustinian and Jesuit priests, I’ve always been taught to never lie. (Of course, the Jesuits would probably also consider the philosophical relativity of lying.) Even Sister Mary Peter, In third grade told us that, “if somebody comes to the door and asks if your mother is home and she’s not, you can tell them that she is, but she just can’t come to the door right now.” Or, when we were in seventh or eighth grade and read The Diary of Anne Frank  and discussed in religion class a hypothetical question, “What would you say to the Nazi trooper who came to the door and asked if there were any Jewish people in your house.” Of course we would lie.

Regarding getting a job, I have known thousands of candidates over the years who eliminated short stints on their resumes, took sole credit for accomplishments their team actually accomplished, fudged on their title, embellished on their performance, elongated the time they were at a particular company, lied about the amount of money they made, who they knew, their name change (I still will never understand the why of this), their marital status, whether or not they had a drivers license, an undergraduate degree, a graduate degree, where they were born, how long they have been married, how long it took them to graduate from college, languages they were fluent in, their golf handicap, why they left their last job and the jobs before that, where they lived, the number of DWIs they’ve received, the ages of their children… Well, I’m sure you get the idea. Some people lie about important stuff as well as the most inconsequential, ridiculous stuff you ever heard of.

In spite of modern technology that can verify just about any fact, candidates still lie about things like having a degree when they don’t, length of time spent at a job, titles and some of their last positions etc. This is crazy! One phone call can reveal, for instance, if a person has a degree from any school. Why would someone lie about this? It can be “fact checked” so easily. The resume a candidate sent over the Internet three years ago is likely to be somewhere out there in cyberspace. If that same person’s resume is a lot different today than it was three years ago, the candidate will be eliminated if it is discovered. It’s that simple

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no right answer for this dilemma. The most moralist among us would justify lying under certain circumstances. Regarding a job search though, the job seeker needs to realize that they are going to be held to a higher standard than Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and all of the rest of the politicians who lie/embellish/stretch the truth/deny what they said/forget/reframe.

I have to tell people “don’t lie.” It probably isn’t going to do much good, people will lie anyhow. Just remember that employers are looking for just as many reasons not to hire you as they are to hire you. If anyone lies about anything in their job search, a prospective employer has no choice but to eliminate that candidate. It has nothing to do with the candidate’s ability to do the job or not. It has to do with the fact that if the candidate is hired in spite of the known lies, a hiring authority will be held responsible for an inept, downright stupid decision to hire a liar.

I can understand people feeling like the risk is worth running. The job someone had for three months 10 years ago probably won’t make one bit of difference in person’s performance on the job they are seeking today.  The same might go for a DWI a person got 15 years ago. Does it make a difference on how people perform if they have a degree? I know a number of very high level managers in the city who lied about having a degree, even the schools they attend. They do a hell of a job. But there’s still liars.

It’s pretty sad that we will accept outright lying from our politicians and be appalled by those who may “embellish” about their grade point in college. That’s reality! Cursing it doesn’t matter one iota.

Don’t lie.


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about saying stupid things in an interview even when they are sincere, honest etc., but still stupid. Well, this week we had a situation that was really difficult and a lot more understandable, but still required as much personal discipline has saying stupid things in an interview.

the issue centers around sharing with people in your company your frustration about your job, and your desire to leave as well as your activity in looking for a new job. We had two candidates come to see us a few weeks ago from the same company. They were both reeling from new management dictatorial style as well as a drastic “realignment” of their pay structure. They were both really pissed off and really ready to leave. Neither one of them could wait for that wonderful day that they can go in and tell their boss to stuff it where the sun don’t shine and walk out.

So, their job search began. We warned both of them that it would be better not to discuss their job search with anyone in the company, including each other. We emphasized that it would be better if they didn’t share where they were getting interviews, or how the interviews were going… Anything! Unfortunately, people don’t always listen to what we say and every day they would talk with each other about the interviews they were getting, how they were going etc. One of them even told one of the companies they were interviewing with about the other one and suggested that the company interview the other candidate also. In spite of our warnings this went on for at least the past two weeks. One of them, after we got the other one an interview with one of our clients, called us and wanted to know why we hadn’t gotten her the same interview as we had gotten her friend. We had been constantly telling them to quit sharing their job search activities with each other.

well, all of a sudden one day at the beginning of the week one of these candidates called and said that her friend in “crime” of looking for a job had all of a sudden clammed up and started avoiding her. She told us that they had not spoken all week and her friend all of a sudden seemed to be a little closer to and warmer to the Nazi they were working for. Now, the second candidate is worried that the first candidate is going to leak the fact that she is looking for a job to the Nazi manager. She is absolutely terrified and has called every day to ask if we had any better advice about what she should do. We advised to just keep her nose to the grindstone and, again, don’t discuss any of her job search with anybody. We will see how things go, but she’s as nervous as she can be.

a number of years ago we had two sales candidates come to see us toogether because both of them were upset with their company and what was going on. We told them the same thing we told these two ladies, to keep their mouth shut and not share with each other their job search activities. Like the ladies, they didn’t listen and were sharing everything about their job search. About a month into their job search, one of the guys got promoted to manager of the area, and the very first thing he did was fire his “buddy” because he knew he was looking for a job and, as he explained to his ex-friend as he was firing him, with his new job he couldn’t afford to have anyone on his team that was looking for a job.

I’m sure you get the message. If you’re looking for a job while you have one, keep your mouth shut. You can’t afford to have anyone at your work spill the beans.



… don’t be afraid of paranoia

There’s nothing like a good dose of daily paranoia to get you going. Don’t let anybody kid you, every one of us, even the most experienced and successful wakes up every day with a bit of paranoia wondering, “can I do it again today?”… “Am I really that good?”

Those of us that have learned to live with paranoia find it to be a tremendously healthy emotion if it’s used in the right way. There is unhealthy paranoia and healthy paranoia. We often go berserk with unhealthy paranoia when we should’ve been dealing with it in a healthy way, making it healthy paranoia a long time earlier. In fact, in the business situation, no matter what level you are, if you don’t experience some paranoia you probably aren’t doing your job. And if someone tries to tell me that they have no paranoia… even the slightest bit… that’s the time I remind them that they should be afraid as hell, because they’re probably at one of the biggest risk moments of their life and they don’t even know it. This feeling of invincibility is the first step towards self-destruction.

Unhealthy paranoia is the kind of fear that most people get. They’re afraid of everything. They’re afraid the economy. They’re afraid of their company’s ability to survive the difficult times. They’re are afraid if things are too bad, they’ll go broke. They’re afraid that if things are too good, everybody and their company will get apathetic and expect success. They are afraid to enjoy success because they know it, too, will end. They spend a few hours of their day commiserating with other paranoid people looking for things to be paranoid about. They begin every sentence with, “I’m afraid…” And usually follow it with probability of how things won’t work. No matter how successful they become they are still “afraid.” Even when they should be on top of the world, enjoying success, they remind themselves and everyone else how afraid they are. They are no fun at all even with millions of dollars and everything money can buy. Unfortunately, they have no courage. Most often they implode and “fail” internally despite seemingly external success. They most often die with their money but no one cares.

Healthy paranoia, on the other hand, excites. It puts us on edge. But it’s a healthy fear. What separates healthy paranoia from unhealthy paranoia Is that healthy paranoia leads us to take massive action. When we lay out a massive action plan and then follow it, we can usually work our way out of of our most difficult fears. These people with healthy paranoia begin every day realizing that anything can happen and they need to be ready for it.

These people with healthy paranoia look back on all of the setbacks they’ve had, from going broke, to losing their job, to losing their businesses, to losing loved ones prematurely to death, to experiencing just about every human difficulty you can imagine and somehow they learn from these experiences. They realize the words of Frederick Nietzsche, that “what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.” This awareness gives them courage. Even though they have fear in the pit of their stomach, they know that since they’ve conquered it before, they can conquer it again. These are joyous, grateful people even in the gravest of situations, even with fear in their gut.

So, if you’re one of those people who operates with unhealthy paranoia try to change the way you see and experience things. Focus on the good things paranoia has helped you to attain. Try to see how that fear in the pit of your stomach can also motivated you. Hang around, even go to work for, someone with healthy paranoia and simply ask them how they do it. Ask them what kind of “self talk” they do.

Don’t be afraid of paranoia… Make it your friend and motivator.




…Saying stupid stuff… Just plain stupid

I don’t even know whether it does any good to write about this, but I have to vent somehow. Four times this week, our organization had four different candidates say the dumbest, most stupid stuff in an interview that you could ever imagine.

These people are not high school dropouts or interviewing for their first job. They were grown people, ages 30 to 58. All had college degrees. Two had master degrees. Two of them had actually been managers in their previous jobs. One had been a regional VP. These were (supposedly) bright, intelligent professionals who had great track records. Even after all of these years in this business… our average recruiter has been in the profession 16.3 years … we are still amazed at some of the things that people say. Here were the four statements that were made in these people’s interviews:

“I sued my last employer, but I won!”

“I’m just coming off a bout with severe depression.”

“I’m going through an absolutely terrible, horrific divorce. And it’s not likely to be over for two years.”

“I want your job in the next five years!” (Ok, it was the 30 year old.)

Almost every one of these people said that the reason they gave for making these statements was that they “wanted to be transparent.” (All but the 30-year-old, who thought he was being candid.) What’s with that? Well, maybe they were. But they were eliminated for saying such stupid stuff.

Now, if you interview for a job and you think it’s too much stress because you’re going through a very strenuous divorce or you’re concerned about your most recent depression, don’t take the job. It’s okay. But there’s no good reason to tell an employer any of these things. The guy who sued his previous employer might have been 100% correct in doing so, but no employer is going to ever run that risk. A severe bout with depression or an ugly, emotional divorce says to a prospective employer, “this person might be messed up for some time and I can’t afford to run that risk.”

Don’t give me that, “they’re not supposed to discriminate against anyone who is going through a divorce or has suffered an illness!” Riiiiiiiiiight! Suuuuuuuuuure! Do you think anyone is going to admit not hiring a candidate because they said such stupid stuff. Even two of the candidates stated that they could see the hiring authority’s enthusiasm die once they said what they did.

People absolutely need to be honest. But none of these folks were asked these questions, they simply volunteered the information.

You might be able to say stuff like this and still be a U.S. presidential candidate, but it will never get you a job in the real world.


What a Great Attitude!

Every once in a while, we all run into a rather surprising but pleasant situation. I have to admit that I spend a lot of my time listening to well-paid executives complain a lot about their jobs and the companies they work for. Most of the situations I work with, for both candidates and employers, are fairly difficult ones. Finding a job is the fourth most emotional thing people do and I believe that hiring someone is likely to be the fifth. Much of looking for a job and hiring is downright scary. But once in a while I am pleasantly surprised.

One of my candidates, Thomas, recently took a VP position with a mid-size technology firm and he is working for a rather difficult CEO/founder. Now there are a lot of those kinds of guys and gals out there. They are brilliant people when it comes to developing a product or a business system, but absolutely abominable when it comes to managing people. Thomas’ CEO is just that kind. He is always the smartest guy in the room. He has a big ego. He always wants to control. And nobody can do any job as well as he can. But this CEO needs Thomas. He’s already been through a number of people like Thomas and since the company’s board is beginning to question the CEO’s ability to get along with anybody they pretty much imposed Thomas on the CEO. (I know dozens of you out there think I’m talking about your CEO! Right!!)

Thomas is a great VP and even in the short period of time that he has spent at the new company, he has made some positive differences. He was sharing with me some of the challenges that he is having and going to have with the CEO. He said one thing that was really interesting and very gratifying. He said, “It’s my job to change me and to really work with this guy so we can get something done and make the company a lot better. If I change me so I can better work with him it’ll be a good deal for all of us.” We’ll have to wait and see how this works out, because the CEO has been through quite a number of VP’s. But WOW! What an attitude on Thomas’ part.

I have to admit that I have heard very, very, very few managers in my career take an attitude that they were the ones who had to change. Most of us think that if everybody would see the world the way we did and they changed, the world would run very smoothly. Instead of complaining, bitching and moaning about what an idiot his boss was, Thomas was thinking of what he could do and how he could change to work better with the CEO and make the company better. How refreshing. Bet it works!

It made me wonder how much better our companies would be… and how much better we all would be… if more of us thought about how we could change in order to work with some of the people that we work with, rather than wishing how others would change. I get a strong feeling that Thomas is going to do really well in this new job. What a great attitude!