Category Archives: interviewing

…how to take tests

Well, just this week we had a wonderful candidate get rejected for a position because he blew the test. I’ll tell you what happened after we discuss how to take tests. Unfortunately he just didn’t listen to our teaching.

First, what ever you do, don’t bitch and moan to the prospective employer that testing is a lot of nonsense. In some cases, it very well is, but if a prospective employer does it as a routine part of the selection process, Your opinion isn’t going to matter. If you voice your negative opinion too much, you’ll be eliminated for that reason alone. So, just decide to take the test in stride and resolve to do the very best you can. And, don’t say something stupid like, “Oh, my God, I’m absolutely awful when it comes to test.” This may be true, but for goodness sake don’t tell that to a prospective employer.

Second, before you take the test, get lots of rest, eat a good meal, and relax. Do the very best you can. Look at it as a challenge. Take it in stride. Trying to prepare for a test is hard, but there is a bit of salvation. Find out what kind of test you are going to be taking. Is it in the intelligence test, a personality test, etc.? You might even be able to get the name of the test before you take it. This can be valuable because if it is a test that you might be able to find online, you can practice taking It. For instance, the Wonderlic test is used to measure how quickly a person thinks. A person can buy the test online and take it….as many times as they want. It’s one of those kinds of tests where the score can be improved upon rather drastically with practice. Certain types of sales personality tests can be mastered by doing the same thing. So, if you find out about the testing early enough and find out what kind of test it is going to be, you may very well be able to improve your score by practicing.

If the test is either paper and pencil or taken online do not be over analytical and agonize over each answer, nor be flippant about the answers that you give. Be thoughtful in your answers and above all be consistent in your answers. Don’t try to read into every question what the interviewer is trying to get at. That is a losing proposition.

Whatever you do, do not try to outguess the test! Don’t sit there and ask yourself, “What are they trying to find out when they asked that question? Because if they’re trying to find out ‘that’ then I will answer ‘this” so they will think ‘that’ when I answer ‘this’ so they will think ‘that’ of me,” you’re finished. Every one of these kinds of tests asked the same question in three or four different ways. No one is good enough to outguess them. Besides when people try to outguess the test their scores are usually so goofy they invalidate the thing.

Next week, an example.


…does testing work?

Well, testing certainly creates an environment of homogeneous people. Being included or eliminated in the interviewing process by testing procedure is just as valid or invalid as any other crazy reasons by which you may be included or eliminated. And it’s like the old joke of the guy who snaps his fingers to keep the pink elephants away. Since he keeps snapping his fingers and no one sees any pink elephants, the system works. If companies never hire anybody who doesn’t do well on whatever kind of testing they have, they never really know how valid it is or isn’t.

My gut… and it’s only my gut… tells me that the companies that use any kind of testing don’t have any more or less success or turnover than companies that don’t. But, hey, what do I know? They ain’t asking me my opinion, and they don’t care. If they invest in testing, claim that it gets them better employees, and so on, then I guess it does. (I worked with a company five or six years ago who hired a CEO from me. The company had had a succession of three CEOs in three years, all miserable failures. After a couple of weeks on the job, the company discovered that my candidate hadn’t taken the company’s testing. She was given the tests, and the test indicated that she would not be successful and that she shouldn’t of been hired. Well, the company certainly couldn’t let her go over that, so, as with a lot of stuff that goes on in business, nobody said a word and just let it be. She was not only one of the most successful CEOs the company ever had she grew the organization 115% in four years. When the company was sold, she and the major stockholders made millions of dollars. The company is now a division of a major corporation and guess what, it still uses the testing to qualify candidates before hiring them. Go figure!)

Bottom line, tests work if the company believes they do!

Next week, how to take tests.

… taking tests

hardly a week goes by that at least 10 or 15 of our candidates are asked to take some kind of test… These things can range anywhere from IQ tests, psychological tests, math aptitude tests, personality surveys and so on. We’re constantly asked if there are any “secrets” to doing well on them.

The concept of testing intelligence was first successfully devised by a French psychologist  in the early 1900s to help describe differences in how well and quickly children learn at school.  Thus began the argument that continues today between those that believe  testing is an indication of a lot of things and those that believe  that testing  really can’t measure much of anything.

Since 1973, I’ve seen candidate testing admin flow in popularity.. Believe it or not, it seems to Evan flow depending on the economy. Testing of job candidates can be very expensive, so it’s one of the first things that companies stop doing when the economy gets difficult.

Job candidates  should be prepared for what I call the “paradox of testing.” Every company that has ever used testing as part of its selection process is going to tell every candidate that at most the test accounts for only 25% of the final decision. Don’t believe a word of it! Whatever kind of test that is used, from graphical analysis to psychological interviewing, is a qualifier that you must pass with the minimum standard arbitrarily set by someone or some group in the organization or you aren’t going to go further in the interviewing process. Whether hiring authorities are companies will admit it or not, the test becomes a binary, black and white, proceed or go home qualifier. Don’t let anybody tell you differently.

So, when a hiring authority tell you something like, “oh, by the way, we have some psychological (or aptitude, or skills, or intelligence)  testing you need to do as a candidate, but don’t worry about it. Everybody comes to work here has to take it and it really doesn’t account for much more than 10% (or 25% or 50%) of the decision,” don’t believe a word of it! Testing becomes the gate that has to be passed through before you can be considered as a viable candidate.

Testing objectifies the hiring process. When supposedly objective tests decide on your viability as a candidate, no hiring her interviewing authority involved in the process of hiring has to have her butt on the line, has to take a stand  on your candidacy,  or has to run the risk of being the only person who likes you and wants to hire you. Now a hiring authority is still going to have to make a decision in choosing someone to be hired. But the convenient thing about testing is that it also functions as a cover your butt issue.. If hiring you turns out to be a mistake, but you did well on the company’s battery of tests, the hiring authority can turn to everyone else and say, “well, she did well on the testing!” It’s just another way of passing the buck of responsibility. The test becomes the qualifier, screening out tons of candidates should know one person has to and it’s convenient and easy.

Please don’t tell me that testing is stupid and it doesn’t work. Part of my graduate studies-admittedly more than 45 years ago-included extensive studies about testing. I can make the case that testing will never measure passion, commitment, focus, and, in general “heart,” the real things it separated top performer from an average one. But as you know, the people who manage companies don’t really care what you or I think. If somebody sells a company on the idea that any kind of testing will help it hire better people in the company invests thousands in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars in this testing, it’s going to use it-no matter what.

—–next week—does testing work?



malapropism (noun): the mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one, often with unintentionally amusing effect,

Well, it’s not a very amusing effect if you’re a candidate using these kinds of things in an interview… In fact, it’s not amusing at all, it’s downright disastrous… Like in can cause you to lose a perfectly good job… I’ve written about this before, but admittedly it’s been a while just this week I had candidates tell me that they wanted to “hit the ground moving… Hit the floor running… Hit it off the bat… Hit it off the ball

In the recent past I have had candidates say things like: “pass mustard“…instead of “pass muster”…”took off like haywire”…instead of “wildfire”…”preaching to the congregation“…instead of “choir”… “give their best foot forward,” …”I’m living fat on the hog” and “the cream will rise to the crop”…ok, we are amused and kind of laugh…

But in the interviewing situation, they can be disastrous…especially if they are repeated…repeatedly…at best, they are distracting and, in most cases, don’t reflect well on the person being interviewed…at worst, they can cost the candidate a job. They are so distracting in an interviewing situation that a hiring authority will often remember your malapropism and not remember anything else about you or the interview.

Now, you say “well, people shouldn’t be so harsh. It really doesn’t reflect on the candidates intelligence or ability to do the job. So what! It’s no big deal.” It is a big deal… It is a big deal. Employers are looking for just as many reasons to eliminate you as they are looking for reasons to hire you. And don’t think for one moment they’re not going to think “this candidate just isn’t very bright.”

What to do? Ask the people around you… Your spouse, friends, coworkers… If there’s anything in your speech patterns that seem odd or are incorrect that they’ve noticed. Analyze your own speech and see if you use these kinds of things at all and be sure they are correct. If you’re not sure, don’t use them.

We’ve emphasized before that interviewing takes practice. But you have to practice  in the right way. Eliminating these kind of things from your speech patterns will make sure that you don’t “kick yourself in the foot.”

…more misguided (… Stupid) advice

So this week some job search guru goes on LinkedIn and writes an article about how interviewing and hiring authorities have an obligation to give you feedback about your interview with them… The guy goes on and on about how hiring authorities should and ought to give you feedback on the interview you had with them and how if you keep calling them, the good ones realize their obligation and will give you feedback…

Hokum… Garbage… BS… Laughable… Like what planet are you living on?… It’s obviously clear that this guy has never spent much time finding people jobs… It’s totally misleading to tell people that they’re going to get feedback from an interviewing or hiring authority more than, maybe once out of 15 times…

This guy goes on and on about how good managers, interviewers and hiring authorities should and will give you honest feedback  about your interview…DON’T BUY ONE WORD OF IT… I don’t know what this guy is smoking or where he dreamed this idea up… But the truth is 99.99% of all of the people you will interview with, unless they are really interested in hiring you and are incredibly nice,  are NOT going to give you any feedback about you or your interviewing…

Should they be willing to give you feedback? … Yes!… Will they tell you that they will?… Yes! Do they know it’s courteous to do that?… Yes!… Will they do it?… NO!!! is it rude?… Yes!…  Is it discourteous?! …Yes!… But, are they going to do it?…NO!

It’s not a matter that they are intentionally mean, or insincere, or rude… They are simply unintentionally mean, insincere, and rude… So you ask “how can people be that way?”… Really easy… They just are! You notice me writing about ‘spiritual beings acting human?’… Well, this is a manifestation of spiritual beings acting human…

So, you may ask for feedback from folks you’ve interviewed… Just plain don’t expect it… If you get it, you are blessed… but just don’t expect it. Don’t waste your time wondering why, hoping, wishing, begging, wondering, speculating… Just accept the fact that you’re not going to get it, quit cursing the darkness and move on to the next opportunity…

Having done this for more than 40 years the only reason I can imagine that people will be, at best, inconsiderate is because they are so busy and so wrapped up in their own lives that giving you feedback on your performance in an interview is just  not a high priority to them… Ironically,  when they become a candidate and go to look for a job they can’t believe that interviewing and hiring authorities are so rude…

So, quit losing any emotion over this and move on…

…Teaching folks how to get a job

I’m firmly convinced that the majority of people that are out of work and claim they are looking for a job really aren’t… When you look on the Internet about “how to find a job,” 90% of the stuff you see talks about how to craft a resume and how to send a resume to a company…Sending a resume is NOT Looking for a job… It just isn’t… On top of the entitlement attitude of “where’s my job?…can you email it to me?” People really don’t do all of the things they need to do to get a job… To get a job, you gotta get interviews… Face-to-face interviews… those are absolutely the only things that matter… and then you have to do a lot of it… It’s gonna take, on average, 16 interviews to get a job offer… even if you don’t like that job offer… In the last blog post I wrote, I explained how many calls and how many presentations of yourself it’s going to take to get one person that might listen to you and how many of those it’s going to take in order to get somebody interested in you and how many of those it’s going to take to get somebody to interview you… I can’t change the stats… your effort to get interviews is going to take one hell of a lot of work… And then you have to sell yourself, really, really hard… most people just plain don’t interview very well… they don’t sell themselves… they say stupid stuff… they don’t ask for feedback… they don’t ask for the job… so they don’t get hired… 60% of the people who were hired are hired through personal contacts… relatives, friends, acquaintances, present and previous peers… Everyone knows at least 200 people… Remember there are 7.4 million business establishments in the United States with an average of 15.4 people working in them… and every one of them needs help… every one of them!… If one person made an offer to one business that they could show that business how to make them more money or save them more money and really did it,  7.4 million people could go to work tomorrow… Pretty simple!

…practice, practice, practice

…”just get me in front of them”…my candidate said..”i’ve always done great in interviews…it won’t be a problem”…

he blew the interview…thought this was 1998 or 2005 when you could do a mediocre job of interviewing and still get hired…

it ain’t that way any more…you gotta be really good…too many good candidates that sell themselves very, very, very well…

so, you gotta practice, practice, practice interviewing…the structured interviewing techniques i recommend in are the way to go..but you have to practice

don’t think interviewing comes doesn’ have to practice…you can get eliminated so easily if you don’t really present a feature, advantage and benefit value proposition about yourself and about what you can do for them… 

…”i’m very interested”

…this is sooooooo weak …and it is the last idea most candidates give a hiring authority…

mamby-pamby…has absolutely zero impact…if that is the best emotional effort you can express to a hiring authority…go home!

your competition is gonna eat your lunch…

try this: “your opportunity is an excellent one…you should hire me because ………(and if you can’t think of two or three short, compelling reasons to be hired, you don’t deserve the job)….what do i need to do to get the job?”

even if you may not want the job…you have nothing without an offer…

i had a candidate that was simply “practicing” this technique with one of my clients..he didn’t think he wanted the job even if it was offered…

he got the offer…$42,000 MORE than what he was making for a salary…not bad..especially in this market he took the job! 

…another career coach advice..”don’t act like you are looking for a job”

…i read ’bout every book on finding a job i can find…new one on the market “Get the Job You Want Even When No One’s Hiring”

now, being an author and wanting people to like my books, i am real flexible and forgving about most errant stuff about finding a job..

but this guy actually tells you to act like you aren’t looking for a job when you interview

go ahead, do that…other candidates, especially mine, will eat your lunch…that is the biggest piece of terrible advice you will ever get…it is clear that this guy never found anyone a job, or if he did it was an accident..

…”Do you have any questions?”

One of our candidates was eliminated because he was asked this question…in a phone interview, no less…He said, “I guess I don’t …you have told me everything I need to know.”


Oh, my…not good…first of all, always have decent, intelligent questions about an opportunity…if you can’t really think of any…and you can if you try…ask the interviewing authority about themselves…”tell me, why do you like it here at ABC Corp.?”…” I have heard a lot about you and your success here, how have you done it?” If you can’t think of any business questions…ask them about their favorite subject….themselves!


Secondly, an interviewing authority doesn’t care about what you need to know…they care about what they need to know…so keep that phrase out of the conversation…So you say, “Damn that is really picky!”…you are right…it is…even unfair…what is even more sad about this particular situation, is that our candidate was exceptionally qualified…a top performer…


In this market, where companies and the hiring authorities in them think that there are hoards of quality candidates available… (There are hoards…but not necessarily qualified)… you have to interview almost perfectly…Every interview guide and coach teaches you to have one or two questions to ask…our candidate had been one of our client’s top competitors…he could have had a dozen questions…He thought he had done so well on the interview that he didn’t have to ask any questions…very sad