Category Archives: Job Search Blog

… Your first impression

The recent cover article in Psychology Today summarize the latest research regarding first impressions. This is one of those topics that people are aware of but they hardly ever apply them to the interviewing situation. The article summarized:

  • We look at a person and immediately a certain impression of his or her character forms itself in us. A glance, a few spoken words are sufficient to tell us a story about a highly complex matter.
  • People depend on first impressions to assess a person’s extroversion, openness, agree ability and conscientiousness. Studies have shown that the judgments of these characteristics made after knowing someone for a minute are usually as accurate as those made after knowing the same person for years.
  • First impressions are almost perfectly accurate 30% of the time.
  • The presence or absence of physical warmth similarly sways first impressions. Psychologists found that subjects holding a cup of hot coffee as opposed to iced coffee rated the person they met as especially warm and generous.
  • People who sit at a wobbly table or sit on a wobbly chair judge the people they meet as unreliable.
  • A person’s face at first glance can form a strong impression. For instance thin lips and wrinkles at the I corners elicit judgments of distinguished, intelligent and determined. Persons who were baby faced were perceived as physically weak, naïve and submissive, although also honest, kind and warm.
  • The more a face resembles the viewers face, the more the viewer is predisposed to like it.
  • A single piece of highly negative information undoes a positive first impression, but it takes a lot more… Like doing something heroic… To overcome a negative first impression.
  • First impressions are most unreliable when there’s a narcissist in the room. Narcissist are just plain hard to read. They make incredibly good first impressions.
  • Getting to know people over an extended period of time alters first impressions. But for the most part it takes a long “getting to know you” period To alter those impressions.

A study at McGill University as far back as 1965 found that people decide to hire other people based on the impressions they get of the candidate in the first four minutes.

The facts about first impressions have a lot to do with the interviewing situation. For a candidate, they need to know that it is really important to make a good first impression. Dressing appropriately, looking people in the eye, having a firm handshake and all of the things I’ve discussed in previous blogs about first impression and the first interview apply. Most candidates totally underestimate the impact of that very first impression. They will give it lip service and say things like, “Tony, I know that… But everybody dresses casually for interviews.”

If you’re a hiring or interviewing authority you want to be aware of the pitfalls of first impressions. Get to know candidates over a period of time, preferably in different environments to confirm, deny or alter first impressions.

Realizing the psychologist findings you might want to reconsider going on a job interview on wobbly stiletto heels or interviewing at a noisy Starbucks after buying the interviewer and iced coffee.



…your telephone interview

Telephone interviews are becoming more popular. They can be a disaster. Recently, one of our candidates was scheduled to have one at 8:30 am one morning. The interviewer ran late and emailed her at 8:30 asking to postpone it till 9am. She agreed. By 9:15am he hadn’t called, so, having to get her kids to school, our candidate was driving at 9:30am. The guy calls her. She is in the car with her daughter running late to get her kid to school. She answers the phone, while driving and tries to do the interview. As she drives through a school zone, she gets pulled over by the police. So what kind of interview do you think she had.

Now I know this subject doesn’t have much sizzle, but more telephone interviews are failed than are successful. So here are some simple instructions to make them successful:

Don’t take it for granted. It is a real interview.

Create a checklist… Review the job posting or information you have about the job your qualifications.

Have your resume in front of you.

Any research you’ve done on the company, have the highlights, especially ones that would support your skills and experience… The more prepared you are the better.

Use landline… Only a cell phone if you don’t have a landline… Turn call waiting off. Be sure you are where the reception is excellent.

Interview in a private quiet space… no kids in the background dogs in the background, noise in the background

Have a glass of water nearby …talking can dry out the throat.

Take notes and feed back to the interviewer any important points about what makes you a great candidate.

Have a mirror in front of you and remember to smile.

Focus, listen and enunciate well focus on the interview just like it was a face-to-face interview. Be sure to listen to questions asked for clarification if you don’t understand the question… Speak slowly carefully and clearly when you respond

Pay attention to your own body language, even if you’re on the phone… just like you would a face-to-face meeting

Multitasking does not work in a telephone interview very well… don’t be reading emails or writing emails. Focus and pay attention. Rustling papers, noisy chairs…any background noise is distracting.

Have questions to ask the interviewer ready… Make sure their good ones. When in doubt, or when you can’t think of any questions, ask the interviewer about themselves! that is the most important subject they have. “I noticed on LinkedIn you are at XYZ Corporation before this one, why did you move and come to this one? Why do you stay there? Get people talking about themselves and they will think extremely highly of you.

Follow-up after phone interview with an email… Make sure you have the address of the person the email address of the person. Use the thank you note to reinforce what you might have spoken about on the phone.

These tips will make your telephone interview a success.

96 million people who can work, but don’t… Walking dogs

Recently the Department of Labor published a report that there were 96 million people in the United States who could work but don’t. Academics, psychologists, economists and all kinds of experts try to figure out why this is happened. From their academic, 500 foot view, They come up with all kinds of theories as to why. Government entitlements… And there are close to 40 different kinds of government assistance programs where people can get money for doing relatively nothing If you are out of work (BTW, there 1840 subsidy programs run by the federal government). Many would say that these programs encourage people not To work. And maybe so.

I’m in the trenches finding people jobs every day and have been since 1973. I’ve placed minimum-wage people all the way to CEOs, Presidents, vice presidents etc…. wages anywhere from $5 an hour (in 1975) to over $1 million. I’ve probably seen just about every situation you can imagine and people looking for a job. I even had some candidates over the years commit suicide, partly because they were having such a difficult time finding a job.

I submit to you that there is one major reason 99 million people give up and one minor reason. The first reason, is emotional. Most of these people gradually… very gradually.. give up looking for a job because it’s darn hard to do and they don’t get very much success doing it. They get laid off or lose their job they go on unemployment. Maybe they try to get a few interviews. They spend all kinds of time sending their resume over the Internet to job postings that may or may not really exist. They go on a few interviews and because they don’t perform very well and because the competition is phenomenal, they don’t get hired. Maybe they get offered a job at less salary than they were making before, or the job “just isn’t the right fit,” When they send a resume they rarely even get a response. They go to support groups, at least in the beginning of their search along with hordes of other people who are out of work and those are the stories they hear.

They decide that, since they are on unemployment for a while, the house needs fixing up so they do that. They convince themselves that they hadn’t had a vacation in a number of years and since they are out of work, this should be a great time to do it. They hadn’t been back home, to visit their home town in years, so it’s a good time to go visit family and old friends. They begin to do anything and everything that  doesn’t have anything to do with trying to find a job. The inertia sets in.

Emotionally, after a few rejections, they become more disheartened. They read the papers about how even though unemployment is somewhere around 5.3% this country has the lowest labor participation rate since 1978. For many of these people their skills are becoming outmoded and after being told that in a number of interviews, They begin to say “there just aren’t any jobs out there,” and they begin to believe it. Even what little the phone was ringing before, it pretty much stops now. They may get a call from a few friends who talk to them about jobs at substantially less money than what they were making before and they defensively think, “if I was worth $xxxxx before, there’s no reason for me to take less now. And they don’t even interview.

By now, seven or eight months have gone by and they still don’t have a job. They may mount a new effort to get interviews. When they send their resume screening and interviewing authorities see that they have been out of work for more than six months and wonder “what’s wrong with this guy?” And now the interviews are even more seldom. If he gets an interview, he has to explain why he’s been out of work for seven or eight months and, no matter what he says interviewing and hiring authorities are suspect of them. After all they have other candidates available to them that aren’t carrying this risk. Employed employers think, “well, if this guy such a good employee why is it taking them so long to get a job?”

By the time 12 months runs around our erstwhile job seeker is absolutely convinced that there are no jobs out there and that he’ll never find one. And his prophecy becomes reality. He is so emotionally debilitated and often, downright depressed, he couldn’t perform well on an interview even if he got one. If one comes along he rationalizes that it’s too far to go to work, not enough money, not the kind of firm that he would like, etc. So he turns the interview down and the spiral continues.

The minor reason that people have problems finding a job is that they just don’t know what to do. They don’t know to develop a systematic approach to looking for a job. A systematic approach that involves making boatloads of calls, trying to get as many interviews as possible, then performing well on those interviews and doing this over and over and over and over again until they find a job.

Last week one of our placement managers was called by one of our clients. The client needed to hire a quasi-accountant for his firm on the temp to perm basis. The client wanted to pay $13 an hour with the understanding that the position may become permanent after the first of the year. Our recruiter called a guy who fit the description really well who had been out of work for 18 months. the guy had been in the zone business for a number of years making $45,000 and he had done a lot of accounting and bookkeeping to manage his own business. He closed the business 18 months ago and has been doing odd jobs since. We described the opportunity to him thinking that he be phenomenally excited and go on the interview. At the initial phone call candidate listen to what we had to say and asked if he could call us back. He called back 15 minutes later and said that he wasn’t going to go on the interview. It sounded good but it was only temp to perm, it was too far away to drive and on top of that he could make $1500 a month walking dogs. If he took a job like that he wouldn’t be able to walk dogs. He was mentally and emotionally unemployed and so emotionally unemployed that it was simply easier to rationalize not going to work because he needed to walk dogs.

This is why 66 million people are permanently out of work. Kind of sad.




It happened twice this week, and happens all the time. Candidates are asked a reasonable question and give not only Too Much Information, but way too much information and it ends up costing them the job. We had a well-qualified candidate for senior-level inside sales manager’s job. She made it past the first interview and when she went to the second interview for some reason or another she felt compelled to explain to the female hiring manager why she wore a wig. It was a very expensive wig and unless you look closely you couldn’t even see that she wore one. She went on and on, according to the hiring authority, for five or 10 minutes about the condition of her hair. It had absolutely nothing to do with the job… nada! On top of thinking that the conversation got weird, the hiring authority totally lost interest in the candidate. And what’s worse, the candidate didn’t even detect it.

The second situation had to do with a very well-qualified V.P. This guy is in his late 40’s and has 20 years of solid experience and you think you would know better. Somewhere in the conversation with the CEO of one of our clients, he started talking about all of the problems he was having with his 16-year-old. Now most of us who have raised kids know parents always have problems with a 16-year-old, especially a male 16-year-old. For some crazy reason our candidate felt so relaxed with the CEO, he told the CEO about his kid’s problems at school, his kid’s challenge with hanging around the wrong kinds of other kids and, can you believe this, his kid’s drug problem. End of interview! Although the CEO had a tremendous amount of empathy for the candidate’s situation he didn’t feel comfortable at all hiring someone who might be so distracted by his 16-year-old that he might not travel or work like he should.

Some years back, we had a very accomplished female candidate. She had recently gone through a rather ugly divorce and didn’t mind sharing her woes over the divorce with prospective employers. We warned her not to do this under any circumstances. Many people however in situations like that can’t help themselves. She made it past three interviews with one of our clients and was a finalist. In fact, we were told it was hers to lose. In the final interview with the executive VP she ended up telling her personal story. After the interview she told us that even though she had gone into her personal story more than she would like, the hiring VP totally understood her situation. The executive VP told our candidate that she had recently gone through the same kind of ugly divorce and they spent 20 minutes commiserating. Our candidate knew that, this time, talking about her ugly divorce only helped her, because the executive VP really understood and empathized with her because he executive VP had just gone through the same kind of ordeal. Unfortunately, she was totally wrong. The Executive Vice President wasn’t going to hire her because, according to the EVP, she knew what a basket case someone is when they go through that kind of thing and since it had just happened to her she knew, from experience, that a person going through that ordeal wouldn’t be focused for at least a year.

Here’s the lesson:Don’t give TOO MUCH INFORMATION !!!It will work against you

“We Just made a mistake in hiring the last person and we don’t want to make another one”…”


When a job seeker hears this from a prospective employer, he or she had better be prepared for an arduous interviewing process. In fact, this kind of situation where a company has started to replace what they consider to be a big hiring mistake is the hardest interviewing environment that a job seeker can experience.

Hiring authorities are so afraid of making another hiring mistake, they start operating from fear of loss rather than vision of gain. They are so obsessed with the fact that they made a mistake, they start thinking of ways they (think) will keep them from making another one. The first mistake they make is they keep telling themselves, and candidates, “We don’t want to make a mistake… We don’t want to make a mistake… We don’t want to make a mistake…” It becomes a mantra that they keep saying over and over before every interview and before every conversation about hiring a new person. The second thing they do is to contrive more “steps” in the interviewing process, thinking that if more people interviewed the candidates they wouldn’t make a mistake. The truth is that more people involved in the interviewing process does not decrease the probability of making a poor hire. In fact, having more than three people involved in the interviewing and hiring process increases the odds of hiring a “safe” candidate but not necessarily a better one.

Recently we had a client get 16 people involved in the interviewing process for a major accounts salesperson. They had made such a disastrous mistake in hiring the last person, they figured if 16 people were involved in the interviewing process, they wouldn’t make another mistake. There are very few candidates that will be liked by 16 people, especially if the previous employee was a big mistake. I have now been interviewing for three months, primarily because the logistics of getting 16 people to interview one candidate is a nightmare. Nobody in the organization has guts enough to say, “This is stupid. We’re never going to get anybody hired this way.” Another client we have recently worked with… a $250 million company… has the CEO do a final interview with everyone the company is going to hire. They were applying this idea to inside sales/business development people (even after six interviews). The CEO travels worldwide and he’s gone a lot. In the last six weeks they have lost hiring three really good candidates because the CEO simply isn’t  around to speak with the candidates, even by Skype, and the candidates have moved on to other opportunities. They had made two recent mistakes in hiring business development reps and they figure this is the way to keep it from happening again.

Another strategy companies have after they’ve made a disastrous hiring mistake is to “hire” third-party consultants to interview the candidates or come up with a battery of tests and assessments for the candidates to take. At least that way, if they make a hiring mistake, they can blame someone else instead of themselves or say, “Well, she did really well on the tests.”

Enduring this process can be a nightmare for a candidate. First of all, the candidate needs to be damn near perfect. Since there are very few “perfect” candidates, most candidates that are well-qualified and should be considered get eliminated. When a candidate knows that they are being interviewed for a position recently vacated by a “hiring mistake” he or she should expect a difficult process. Whatever risk factors the candidate may have will be accentuated and magnified at least 10 times. Getting frustrated over this will not do any good.

So, if you’re a job seeker and you’re pursuing a job vacated by a “mistake,” be prepared. The proctology exam will be long and painful.


Ned: “I just made a mistake in the job I have now and I don’t want to make a mistake again.”

So, we get Ned an excellent interview. We warned him when we interviewed him that he was focusing so much on “not making a mistake” and that he wasn’t selling himself in the right way. He kept going over and over and over the fact that he had made a mistake and he didn’t want to make a mistake again. We totally understand Ned’s situation. When anyone makes any kind of mistake, especially in taking a job, they don’t want to make another one.

Unfortunately, Ned went into the hiring authority and, according to the hiring authority, “he interviewed me. He had a whole list of 15 or 20 questions that he asked me before I got a chance to even interview him. Apparently, he made a mistake in his last job and he is so worried about making a mistake again, he interviewed me. I’m not interested in him.”

The lesson here is real simple. No matter how much of a mistake you made in the last job decision you made, you have to focus on interviewing well for the next job. You have to sell your features, advantages and benefits to the prospective employer. If you sell yourself well enough, the organization will give you every reason in the world that you should… or shouldn’t… go to work there.

Ned got so wrapped up in protecting himself that he didn’t interview well. What’s even worse is that when we mentioned this to him in a follow-up conversation after we spoke to the employer, he further justified the way he approached it by saying that, “he just couldn’t afford to make a mistake again.”

Ned isn’t going to get hired by anyone if he keeps approaching interviews in this manner.

… Spiritual virtues in your job search

No matter what anybody ever tells you there is a spiritual side to our job search. There’s a spiritual side to every human endeavor but the job search is often so traumatic that it’s important for us to “feed” our spirit while we are searching for a job. Along with the emotional ups and downs of a job search, a person’s spirit is affected by the difficulties the body and mind go through. In speaking about feeding our spirit it’s really important to be reminded of  the four cardinal virtues.

Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and choose the right means of achieving it. No matter how difficult the job search can become with phenomenal instances of rejection and refusal, we have to be convinced that good will come of it. That’s really easy for someone else to say about our personal circumstances. When a person’s been out of work for six months or so and just can’t seem to get a break in finding a job, trying to find the “good” in their experience is hard to justify. But it is there. Even if for no other reason than to keep us humble there can be good in the experience.

Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of good. This is one of the most important virtues the job seeker has to pray for and practice. The firmness in difficulties… the difficulties of either being out of work or having to find a job when you already have one… the difficulties of being rejected so many times that you can’t count them… the difficulties of doubt, uncertainty and fear… and still have the firmness to continue on looking for the good.

Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. In the job search it is temperance that keeps us from going to play golf when the weather is nice when we know we should be on the phone trying to get an interview. It is temperance that keeps us on track with our routines daily to ensure we do all of the things we should be doing to get a job. Its temperance that keeps our ego and anger in check when things don’t go our way.

Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will give due to God. This is a really hard virtue to come to grips with, especially when you’re looking for a job and it’s been a long hard road. For some reason, we all expect justice and fairness on this earth. Life isn’t fair nor is it Just. Justice is in God’s hands. Searching for fairness and justice in this life, especially regarding a job search is futile. Understanding that releases us emotionally from the emotional drain of the rhetorical question of “why isn’t life fair?”

Seeking to practice these virtues in our hearts and minds makes our job search… and life.. a little easier.



Have No Expectations About Outcomes

One of the most discouraging aspects of a job search is for job seekers to continually get disappointed about the unsuccessful outcomes of their activities. When they don’t get an interview they get frustrated. When they do get an interview and don’t do well on it and get rejected, they get frustrated. When they are told that they are a great candidate or when they come in “second” and are chosen, they can get downright mad. In fact this may be one of the biggest reasons people stopped looking for work. They are so frustrated at the outcomes that didn’t live up to their expectations, they quit.

We should look to the example of elite athletes to find that they have no expectations for outcomes. They do, and I repeat, do have expectations for their own performance, but they do not have expectations for the outcomes. A batter doesn’t go to the plate thinking about winning the game. An elite basketball player doesn’t shoot the ball worried about winning the game. They focus on their own expectation of themselves doing their best and letting the score, the result, take care of itself.

Job seekers would have a lot less emotional strain if they had no expectations about outcomes. They should have expectations of their own ability to get a lot of interviews. They should have expectations about their ability to perform really well in initial interviews, but no expectations about moving beyond the initial interview. They should have high expectations of themselves to perform well on secondary interviews, but no expectations about why they did or didn’t go beyond the secondary interviews. They should have high expectations of themselves being able to negotiate a job offer, but no expectations about getting the job offer. If jobseekers have expectations about outcomes, they will spend most of their time being emotionally flattened.

Maximizing expectations of ourselves and minimizing the expectations of the results allows us to channel our emotions toward what we can control and not lose energy over what we can’t control.




Spiritual Beings Acting Human

Let me share with you a practical way of “giving”…and the wonderful return.

It was Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit philosopher who wrote: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” In the everyday world, our human experience and being human seems to grossly overshadow our desire to reach the higher level of spirituality. In fact, people are a pain in the butt… and so are you!

Unfortunately, most people in a job search are going to painfully “experience” the human side of lots of people…the pain in the butt side. And that human side ranges anywhere from insensitive to downright rude. These are the people, hiring authorities, interviewing authorities, even friends of yours…anyone you encounter in the job search, who don’t return your calls, leave you hanging with the statement, “We’ll get back to you” and never do, or tell you what they think at the moment that turns out to not be the truth…(lie!), like, “You’re perfect for this job…” and then after the interview, perpetual silence.

You know that you are vulnerable; looking for a job is very emotional and difficult…you are sensitive to what people tell you and how they treat you…and often, it just isn’t nice. It’s very hard to deal with and almost impossible to understand from your point of view. You are sensitive, often times, downright afraid. You take it all personally.

By recognizing that these people are spiritual beings acting human, it will be easier for you to be kind, patient, understanding and even forgiving. Your anger and frustration is understandable. Realize that these people are often bumbling through their lives the way many others, including you, are.

By recognizing that they are “acting human” you will feel better. It might make you more sensitive to the times that you are more human and spiritual.



Holy Indifference….a great approach to the job search


…Holy indifference….St. Ignatious of Loyola describes it as

…A complete indifference with regard to all created things, not preferring health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to humiliation, a long life to a short one…

The concept is that one accepts things just the way they are…being respectful, accepting, reverent…yet holy.

It is the spiritual equivalent of being peaceful with what you get rather than seeking happiness in getting what you want…

How does this apply to your  job search…well, it teaches you to accept the rejection, refusal, neglect and disrespect you perceive you are getting from companies and individuals you are trying to go to work for…folks you have interviewed with …who have lied to you about getting back to you…about hiring you…with holy indifference.

You do your best at getting interviews, performing well on them, selling yourself as hard as you can…then accepting the results with grace, and, yes…holy indifference..

It makes looking for a job a lot easier…soon you focus on the process and not the result…you even accept a new job with holy indifference.