The Career Spectrum Blog

Archive for January 2010

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Happy job hunting!


In high school, I hated biology. So when we had a test in the subject, I’d show up, try to apply common sense from all those programs I watched on television, and hope for the best.

Well, as you can imagine, my plan backfired on more than one occasion, and my grades weren’t where I wanted them to be. Moreover, after I completed the first quarter of the school year and I learned that biology was the one subject keeping me off honor roll, I was upset.

Then I had a heart-to-heart with one of my teachers, a woman who taught creative writing (one of my favorite subjects). She told me that if I prepared for the biology exams, I could overcome my disdain for the subject and conquer it.

Yeah, yeah, I knew that. I mean, it’s elementary, yet when it came to studying for biology, I would have rather sat in the dentist’s chair for a root canal.

What does my experience have to do with today’s topic of researching a company before interviewing? As an interview coach, I see so many people who when they are contacted for a job interview not prepare for it that they unknowingly sabotage their chances of being hired – even if they’re the best candidate for the job!

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When I was in graduate school, I majored in Corporate Communications. One of my course electives was a course in effective advertising copy. In that class, I was introduced to one of the all-time GREATEST ads ever produced, an ad done for McGraw-Hill Magazines, entitled “Now…What was it you wanted to sell me?”

The ad, which you can see here, featured a stern-looking businessman circa 1950 purported to be addressing a sales person who was attempting to close a deal. 

Ah, but only one problem. The salesperson didn’t come in with a strong enough pitch, hence drawing the ire of the fictitious businessman in the ad.

That ad, which has been modernized at least once that I know of, still packs a wallop and underscores the importance of why a person needs to come into a business meeting, such as a job interview, ready.

When you show up for a job interview, you are, in fact, trying to “sell” your product (which of course is you). You want that employer to see you as the best candidate.

The reality of the situation is you’re one of several candidates competing for the job. And unless you have a stellar industry reputation, you’re really going to need to develop a strong sales pitch to convey to that employer that they simply MUST hire you.

That’s where interview coaching comes in. A trained interview coach can help you with developing a strong sales pitch in which your key selling points are woven into a tapestry of different scenarios which are right for nearly any question you’ll be asked.

An investment in career coaching often pays for itself, often times in your first paycheck. So if you’re really serious about getting that new job and you’re just not having success in making it past the interview stage, isn’t it time to consider interview coaching?

I’ll admit to being a sucker for a fresh, innovative design — I did spend the first few years of my professional career in desktop publishing and graphic arts, after all.

However when it comes to resume layout, I’m a firm believer in keeping designs simple, yet elegant for several reasons (unlike this very creative, but also very confusing layout done for a curriculum vitae).

1) Employers are pressed for time, so the last thing they need is to try to figure out a creative road map in trying to assess if a candidate has the necessary skills for further considerations.

2) An innovative design such as this doesn’t fax well, it doesn’t scan well, and I just don’t see how the person could even begin to post this on a  job board (unless he/she had a text version to go along with it).

3) The design is probably better suited for a younger audience who can appreciate colors and graphics. 

Last point about funky resume designs. When I was recruiting for an assistant back in my MARCOM days, I will never forget this one male candidate who presented me with a gorgeous — and I do mean GORGEOUS — resume that was just a work of art as far as design and layout. It was simple, it was elegant and it just was really that beautiful to look at.

BUT it lacked strategy, it lacked vision and it lacked impact. When I went back later on to read it, it was also arrogantly written, touting this candidate as “da bomb” as the kids say nowadays, but not really convincing me that this candidate was the best one to hire.

The moral of the story is that you can put a pretty dress and lipstick on a pig, but that doesn’t necessarily transfer it into a beauty pageant contestant.

Again, I’m all for a creative twist on resume design, but it has to be simple and elegant enough to where it transfers over well, and doesn’t attempt to mask deficiencies in a client’s background.

As a certified professional resume writer, I’ve reviewed thousands of resumes in my career written by the job-seekers and in some cases, by people who purport to be “experts” in resume preparation. Suffice to say I’ve seen a lot of blunders made which the resumé holder fails to even notice — and I’m not just talking about a  poor branding strategy, either.

Anyway, a really neat web site was brought to my attention that I just had to share. It’s a blog post entitled 150 Funniest Resume Mistakes, Bloopers and Blunders Ever — it’s definitely worth a read.

I’ll share one of my favorite job-search bloopers. A few years ago I was at a job fair when this young man who I guessed to be about 25 approached my table to receive a complimentary resume review  that I was offering that day. Behind him was this older-looking woman who at first I assumed was either a friend or colleague.

Anyway, I go through his resumé and it’s probably one of the poorest resumes I had ever seen. Trying to be nice about it, I started going over the weak areas  and offered some constructive feedback on how to improve the overall document.

The young man interrupts me and says, “Wait a minute. I need my mother to hear this.”

Sure enough that older woman who was trailing him was his mother — and talk about a “mother hen.” This woman absolutely refused to believe that her “precious baby” was anything less than perfect and  that his resumé (which she had personally prepared) was lacking.

She was also of the opinion — expressed loudly at that — that “every employer in that room should be lining up to meet him.”

It goes without saying that the young man wasn’t very successful in his quest to find a job that day as I happened to catch a glance of him interacting with a company whose table was a couple away from mine. there was his mother, front and center interfering every chance she had. 

Later that day, during the vendors’ lunch break which was held in a smaller meeting room, the “mother hen” was the topic of the day, as those who met her a good laugh about how adamant she was about her son.

Personally, I felt sorry for the son who in his quest to be a good boy, was too hen-pecked to find his own way in the world. This was several years ago; I hope he eventually realized that despite his mom’s good intentions, she was dragging him down and not helping him.

You’ve got that big interview coming up and you’re naturally nervous because you don’t know what questions you’re going to be asked or how to answer them.

There’s an interesting site called List of Interview questions that features a growing repository of  basic questions that scratch the surface of the various interview question categories you might face.

If you’re in need of some practice before you set out on your journey to your next job, this is a good starting point to get an idea of some of the question types that might pop up.

The one drawback to the information presented on that site, in this coach’s opinion, is that in having looked at some of the responses, none really address the importance of establishing a presidential statement and weaving that throughout your answers. Still it’s a great starting point which will hopefully put your mind at ease and help you in your preparation.

Start the New Year off right by getting on the right path to success. If you’ve found that your job search has yielded very little results up until this point, that could be because you’re just not looking in the right industries.

According to some stats posted on, fields such as Education, Hospitality, and Retail are on the rise  while other past favorites such as IT, Real Estate, Construction, Media/Newspapers, and Financial Services/Banking have suffered massive declines in their demands for qualified persons.

What does this mean for the job-seeker? If you’re trying to get into a field that has seen a steady decline, you’d better have a powerfully written resume and career portfolio to convince employers that you’re worth hiring — and keeping. A professionally trained resume writer can help you find your personal brand and craft a strong set of documents to help you penetrate your target market.

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