Monthly Archives: January 2012

5 Things I Look for in a Great Job Interview

Here is what separates a good candidate from a great one.

In my career I have reviewed thousands of resumes and conducted hundreds of employment interviews for both The Trademark Company and other businesses for which I have worked. In doing so, I got to see the good, the bad, and the downright ugly in terms of resumes, interviewing skills, and the like. For other CEOs looking to hire, here’s what I think makes a great candidate stand out from the good ones.

1.  Attention to detail

How many times have you heard this one, right? Pay attention to detail. Let me say it again: PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL!

There’s a great story at the end of the movie Coming to America with Eddie Murphy. It goes something like this:

A man goes into a restaurant. He’s having a bowl of soup and he says to the waiter, “Waiter come taste the soup.” The waiter says, “Is something wrong with the soup?” He says “Taste the soup.” The waiter says again, “Is there something wrong with the soup? Is the soup too hot?” The man says again, “Will you taste the soup?“ “What’s wrong, is the soup too cold?” Replies the waiter.  “Will you just taste the soup?!”  “All right, I’ll taste the soup,” says the waiter, “where’s the spoon??” “Aha. Aha! …”

At this point you may be asking yourself, “So what does this have to do with identifying a great candidate?”

Not less than two months ago I received a wonderful e-mail from an applicant seeking to work for The Trademark Company. The e-mail was personally crafted. The note struck a wonderful tone emphasizing capability and a willingness to learn more about what we do here. Most importantly, the candidate emphasized attention to detail. I was sold. I was ready to open up the resume and see what they had to offer. And then, “Aha. Aha! …”

The applicant had failed to attach a resume. In the blink of an eye, all of the time spent preparing for this submission–researching me, the company, and the job’s requirements–vanished into thin air. Poof!

Some CEOs may have overlooked this and just asked for the resume. But you can’t say you have an eye for detail and then fail to deliver on the point. Everything job candidates do, from cover letter to resume and beyond, must prove that point. Otherwise they are just wasting your time. I passed on that candidate.

2.  Proofread

My contracts professor in law school told this one to the class one day. Although he was an otherwise socially challenged individual, this story has always stayed with me.

It seems that at some juncture he was involved in delivering a speech on some topic that involved a “public option.”  He had written and prepared the speech but had left the PowerPoint slide presentation to one of his assistants.

Well, as he began delivering his speech–a seemingly dry speech–he could not understand why a wave of chuckles and murmurs would, from time to time, arise from the audience. It was not until he neared the end of his presentation that he glanced up at the screen projecting the bullet points of his speech behind him. And right there, right in that moment, he understood with perfect clarity why his speech had evoked the unexpected reaction from the crowd.

If you omit the letter “L” from the word “public,” it won’t be flagged by spell check. It will, however, be picked up by anyone else reading the slides as you deliver your speech on the “pubic option.”

This could very well be you at your next sales presentation: pissed and embarrassed because you overlooked your employee’s failure to proofread his resume during the hiring process. So, check the candidate’s resume and cover letter for misspellings that spell check might have missed. In so doing you will make sure that you hire someone that’s thorough and doesn’t rely on spell check to do their job.

3.  Preparedness

One of the first things I always do after an interviewee leaves is to ask every single person who came into contact with them what they thought. Why you might ask? You never know what little windows into your prospective employee this may provide.

Once I asked one of our receptionists what she thought of a particular interviewee. I was very surprised to hear what she had to say. She said she thought the interviewee was pleasant but did have some trouble when she first arrived: It seems that the prospective employee had no idea who she was interviewing with, so the receptionist had to call around the office for 10 minutes until she could figure out who to notify that their appointment had arrived.

I thought this displayed a lack of preparedness on the interviewee’s part, especially as she was interviewing for a job that had primary scheduling responsibilities for me and would require her to know and keep track of all of our most important customers.

In another case, after a 45-minute interview the interviewee stood and said, “Mark, thanks for the second interview.” Big problem: My name is actually Matt. Nevertheless, I shrugged it off–perhaps I had misheard the applicant, or maybe he had simply had a momentary lapse. However, when I walked him to the door he proudly reiterated my name, “Mark, again thanks. I look forward to hearing from you.” Every fiber in my being yearned to reply, “Well, if I meet this Mark fellow, I’ll be sure to have him call you.” I did not. I also did not call him back.

A candidate should know everything about you that they can find out and engage you on a level that you will enjoy and that moves you one step closer to offering them the job.

4.  Phone and e-mail correspondence

Another thing that also gets overlooked is professionalism in e-mail and phone communications. I pay attention to the candidate’s e-mail address and how they answer their personal phone.

Sure we all have private lives, but we all have to be professional in dealing with employers–and, most importantly, prospective employers. So if a candidate’s e-mail address is “” or “,” think twice about hiring him. Gmail, Yahoo and other companies have a great price point for new e-mail addresses: free. There’s no excuse for not having a professional-looking e-mail address.

For me, an interview starts when I call you to set up the interview. Recently I called an applicant, and they must have been at a reunion tour stop of Van Halen–because when the candidate answered, all I could hear was “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” blasting through my phone. I mean, it was so loud I could actually see people in my office starting to bob their heads to the tunes.

After a few attempts shouting into the phone–“Is [Name Omitted] there?”–finally the music departed and I was able to hear once again. The heads stopped bobbing in my office and the person on the other end said, “Speaking.” Ahhhh. Well, I know they love music…and that they lack judgement.

5.  Honesty is overrated

Yes, you want your potential employee to answer questions truthfully, but answering too truthfully may also show a lack of judgment. For instance, I often ask the hypothetical question, “If you were hired and six months after you were hired another opportunity presented itself, would you go on an interview for that opportunity?” You would be surprised at how many people say they would. Wrong answer!

Let’s take one of my more infamous examples. Once I was asking a prospective employee to explain an 18-month gap in his employment history. To this day I remember his response verbatim. It went like this: “Man, the whole work thing … ya’ know … like, wow.”  I was left mouth agape and speechless. Needless to say: He did not get the job.

Cross posted from Inc.

Matthew Swyers

Matthew Swyers is the founder of The Trademark Company, a web-based law firm specializing in protecting the trademark rights of small to medium-sized businesses. The company is recognized as one of the top trademark firms in the world. The company is also ranked No. 138 on the 2011 Inc. 500 list.


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The Jobseeker’s Secret Weapon: If This Then That

Feeling tech savvy? Then read this post, cross posted from

If you haven’t used IFTTT, we think you should check out one of the greatest free web services around. IFTTT stands for If This, Then That, and the name is practically self-explanatory. If one of the several triggers you setup happens, then the service activates whatever multiple commands you designate. But how does all this help you find a job?

Turns out that many job sites have RSS feeds, and that happens to be one of the triggers on IFTTT. That’s the start of the process — the end result is all up to you.

How to Get Jobs Sent to You Via IFTT:
1. Once you’ve created a free account over at IFTTT, sign in and click on the large “Create Task” button.

2. The text will pop up, “Ifthisthenthat” and click on the word this. You’ve got tons of different triggers here, but for a job hunt, you want to find and select the RSS symbol.

3. Here, you can either choose “New Feed Item” or “New feed item matches.” I usually choose the former, because that way I get hit with every job listing in my category, just in case.

4. Now visit your favorite job search site, and enter in the parameters you want to use for your particular hunt. For example: I use Craigslist, which is a great place to find local stuff if that’s what you want. Tap the RSS button in the corner and then highlight the link in the address bar that pops up. That’s the address for the RSS feed, and that’s crucial. Enter the link in the box on IFTTT and move to the next step.
5. Here’s where you can have some fun. If you want those messages right away and have an Internet-connected phone, then you can have the service send the links via text message (to do that, just click on the SMS link and follow the steps). In this case, we’re going to do email, so select the Email box in the top corner.

6. After you’ve selected the only option for emails (“send me an email,” naturally), the screen shown above pops up. If you’re good with it as is, then just hit “Create Action” and the next time your feed updates, you’ll get an email with the name of the entry in the subject field, and the body of the email containing the links and info from the RSS Feed. Now you’ll always be the first to know about a new job, and sometimes, that’s all you need.

Bonus OmniFocus tip: If you use OmniFocus for the Mac, try this out for size. In the “Subject” field in Step 6 on IFTTT, type in the following phrase: “–{{EntryTitle}} >job apps @online #today $5″ What’s all that mean?

OmniFocus allows you to sync with Apple Mail, that way you can send yourself an email and it will automatically put up a task for you in the system. The trigger for this can be anything you want, but in my case, I use two hyphens in the first part of the subject to start the process. Then, anything after the “>” refers to the “Project” field in OmniFocus, “@” refers to the “Context,” “#” is for what day you want it to appear in the task manager (with today being the best way to pop it to the top of your to-do list), and “$” is for the amount of time it will take to get it done.

Now not only do you get your job searches emailed to you right away, but they’re added into OmniFocus automatically so you don’t forget to tackle them. Now that’s some organized job hunting.

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Inside the Recruiter’s Head: What He’s Really Asking You During the Interview

You applied for a new job, and you’ve been called in for an interview. During the interview process, there are three main questions that need to be answered to help the HR person determine if you’re the right fit for the job:

Can this person do the job?
Will he do the job?
Will he fit in with the company culture?
By asking what I call “the question behind the question,” hiring managers have a better chance to making the right hiring decision. As job seekers, your task is to answer them honestly and fully. Here are 10 top questions that the interviewer might ask, along with the hidden agenda behind each one. Tread carefully — the way you approach the answer might tell more than what you actually say.

1. As you reflect back at your last position, what was missing that you are looking for in your next role?

This question gets at the heart of why you’re leaving the current job or, in the case of a reduction in workforce, it helps the interviewer understand what was missing. If you answer with, “I didn’t have access to my boss, which made it difficult to get questions answered,” then the interviewer might follow up with, “Can you give me a specific example where you had to make a decision on your own because your boss was not available?” This follow-up question will help the interviewer determine your level of decision making and how much access to the manager you’ll need.

2. What qualities of your last boss did you admire, and what qualities did you dislike?

This is precarious territory because your answer needs to have a balance of positive and negative feedback. It will show if you are tactful in answering a tricky question and if your leadership style is congruent with the admired or disliked ones. If you name a trait the interviewer dislikes or that’s not in line with company culture, then you might not be a fit for the position.

3. How would you handle telling an employee his position is being eliminated after working for the company for 25 years, knowing they would be emotional?

This question is not unrealistic in today’s job market, since companies continue to downsize as a way of conducting business. Knowing that you might have to deal with this situation, the interviewer wants to know how you would tell the long-term employee the bad news. Would you tell the business reason why the company is downsizing, and would you thank the person in a genuine, heartfelt way for years of service?

4. How do you like to be rewarded for good performance?

As simple as this question is, it helps the interviewer get a sense of what motivates you — is it money, time off or more formal recognition? If you’re interviewing for a management role, the follow-up question could be: How do you reward the good performance of employees who work for you? Are you a “do as I say, not as I do” type of manager? The interviewer is looking for congruency in behaviors, because if you don’t practice what you preach, then it might not be a cultural fit.
5. Can you give me an example of when your relationship with your manager went off track and how you handled it?

The interviewer is listening for the reasons why the relationship went off track. Are you taking responsibility for your own actions first or placing blame on the manager? The interviewer wants to learn more about your communication style and how you approach conflict.

6. When a person says “I have integrity,” what does that mean to you?

The follow-up question is: “How have you demonstrated integrity in your work?” Integrity is broad, and most people think they have it, but can you really articulate what it looks and sounds like? The interviewer is looking for congruency of words and actions with this question.

7. Can you tell me about your experience working with the generation X or Y? What are the three qualities you admire about them?

There’s been much talk about the work habits of various generations. At a startup, you’ll likely be working with younger people, and employers want to know how you will integrate with this population. And young people will be working with baby boomers at bigger companies, like Dell and Apple. The interviewer will be looking for ways you’ve collaborated with workers of all ages and used each others’ talents to achieve a goal — do you have the energy, drive and attitude to work well with others?

8. Do you think age discrimination exists in the job market and if so, why?

Some job seekers use “age discrimination” or “I make too much money” as the reasons why they did not get the interview or the job. In reality, they have applied for a job for which they are overqualified. They have too many skills for this particular job and the employer can find someone who has the exact skill and salary that commensurate with the job. Don’t make that mistake.

9. Can you convince me you are the most qualified person for this role based on what we have discussed?

The interviewer wants to make sure you clearly understand what the problems are and what would be expected of you in the event of your hire. This is the opportunity for you to sell yourself effectively for the job.

10. As you look at your previous companies, can you describe in detail which company culture did you excel in the most and why?

The interviewer is looking for a culture fit, which is one of the essential criteria for job satisfaction. They want to hire someone who will do his best work for you, so do your research before you go in for the interview.

What other probing questions have you been asked at interview? Let us know in the comments.

Jayne Mattson

Jayne Mattson is Senior Vice President at Keystone Associates, a leading career management and transition services consulting firm in Boston, Massachusetts. Mattson specializes in helping mid-to-senior level individuals in new career exploration, networking strategies and career decisions based on corporate culture fit.

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How to Write a Thank-You Note That Matters

I work with some of the nation’s top marketing communications professionals. Every day. So you might think I receive a constant stream of well-crafted, even artful follow-up correspondence. Or maybe just thank-you notes that feature correct spelling.

If only that were true.

It is scary how few people take the time to say “thank you.” The notes I do receive often have typos and grammatical mistakes, even though they’re sent by professionals in a line of work where perfect copy ought to be second nature. This doesn’t build my confidence in them, and it doesn’t do much to help build the type of relationship they intended.

There’s no faster way to create a positive impression than with a handwritten note or card. For your employees. For partners. For customers. Keep some simple, professional correspondence cards handy. Then push away the keyboard and write one or two sentences — by hand.

A masterful thank you is so rare in this digital age that it speaks volumes about the sender. Rarer still is a handwritten note from a business owner or executive. When the sender is a busy executive, handwritten notes are so remarkable that they easily earn awe and admiration.

It’s perhaps a reflection on the state of working professionals right now that one of the nicest, most memorable thank you notes I’ve received recently was from a college student. It was emailed, but it still stood out.

My son attends the University of Southern California. One of his fraternity brothers, Stephen, is interested in a marketing career, so my son introduced him to me. I looked at Stephen’s resume and offered some suggestions. Stephen is interested in speechwriting, so I introduced him to someone who is experienced in that area.

In return, I received a lovely voicemail message and a thoughtful thank-you note that covered:

The thank you:

  • A stated desire to stay in touch with me
  • A brief reminder of his tremendous experience
  • Appreciation for the introduction I made for him
  • A compliment about my son—always the quickest way to a mother’s heart

I know Stephen is still in college, but this young man is smart and savvy. You can bet I’ll be happy to give him my attention any time –no matter how busy I am. Working professionals can learn from Stephen’s example.

Want to knock some socks off today? Write a meaningful thank you email or, better, send a handwritten note.

René Shimada Siegel is Founder and President of High Tech Connect, a specialized consultant placement firm for marketing and communications experts. The company represents more than 1,000 select consultants around the world for more than 400 clients, ranging from technology, consumer and medical industry giants to high-growth firms and startups.


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Want to feel more powerful? Do a Barry White impression.

As a rule, big beasts tend to make deep noises, whereas little creatures squeak. Perhaps it’s little wonder then that we tend to rate human speakers with deeper voices as seeming more powerful. Another finding is that if you put a person in a position of power they will tend to lower their voice. These previous results prompted Mariëlle Stel and her fellow researchers to find out if speaking with a deeper pitch than usual would lead people to feel more powerful.

In an initial study, 81 student participants were split into three groups. Participants in the control group read a passage of geography text silently to themselves. The other two groups read the text out loud, either in a deeper or higher pitch than usual (by three tones). To make sure the participants didn’t guess the true aims of the study, the students were next asked some filler questions about the text. The final stage of the experiment was then presented to them as being unrelated to the reading exercise. This involved the students answering seven questions about how powerful they felt (for example, indicating how much they felt dominant versus submissive). None of the students guessed the purpose of the study.

Reading the text with a deep voice didn’t affect the students’ answers to the questions about the text, but it did appear to affect their feelings of power. Students in the deep voice condition rated themselves as more powerful than students in the other two groups.

A second study was similar, but this time students read some text in a high or low pitch, or they heard someone else doing the reading with a high or low pitch. Only reading the pitch oneself affected feelings of power, with students who read in a low voice rating themselves as more powerful than students who read in a high voice.

One last study involved reading out loud in a deep or high voice, and then the participants completed a memory task that’s designed to reveal abstract thinking (mistakenly believing a word was seen in an earlier to-be-remembered list, just because it’s got a similar meaning to one of those earlier words, is taken as a sign of more abstract thinking). This time, reading out loud in a deep voice led to more abstract thinking. Stel and her colleagues said this makes sense when considered alongside an earlier study that found people in power tend to think more abstractly than low power people, perhaps because power makes people feel more “psychologically distant”.

Throughout these experiments, the effects of lowering one’s voice pitch on feelings of power were presumably subconscious. After all, the students weren’t able to guess the aims of the study. The researchers said it would be interesting for the future to see if it’s possible to deliberately lower your voice in order to feel more powerful. “If so,” they concluded, “this would add a simple and generally available instrument to your strategic arsenal: your own voice. The lowering of your own voice could then be used not only to influence others but also to influence yourself.”

From the British Psychological Journal

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Forward My Resume Please

Networking for Mutual Benefit is a key part of the job search.

Introducing yourself to others who may be able to introduce you to good job opportunities can only happen if you network well. This activity is important to get your resume in front of the right person. Especially since over 80% of all jobs are not published. Your friends, family and growing network contacts are the path to these jobs.

Here are some tips for doing this:

1. Make sure the person you are talking with learns enough about you.
You do not want someone to talk about you unless they know enough to be able to introduce you to the right people. They do not need to know your life history, but they do need to know the key points about your skills, experiences, passion and career goals.

2. Ask them to review your resume so that they know what it says.
You may have told them one thing, but your resume may say it differently, or include something that you did not tell them. Talking with you about your resume content can help make sure they are better informed to share your resume with the right people (not organizations, but people).

3. Have your networking contact only share your resume where it is relevant and with people they know.
There is no value to the job seeker to use networking as another means of getting your resume scattered around town. This is what Monster, Careerbuilder, Ladders, LinkedIn and the other Job Boards are for. Having your resume delivered directly to someone who can benefit by seeing it is far more important and successful to both the job seeker and recruiter/hiring manager. Also, anyone knowing the true value of networking for Mutual Benefit will not flood their contacts with random and irrelevant resumes. This is rude and can tarnish a good relationship.

4. Ask that your networking contact to tell you where they plan to send your resume before they do so.
This is important for the job seeker for a few reasons. You may not want your resume shared at a business where you do not want to work, especially if you are still working and the business is a sister or partner company. Additionally, you want to be able to follow up afterwards and talk directly with the person your resume was forwarded to.

5. Thank your networking contact anytime they share your resume.
A good honest thank you followed by an offer to help them in any way goes a long way to nurture the relationship you have with a new contact as well as a long time friend.

You need to use Networking for Mutual Benefit to get your resume in front of the right people. Do this right and you it works.

This article is from Teddy Burriss’s blog @

Teddy Burriss

Networking Strategist at Burriss Consulting, Inc.

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New Year Career and Job Search Resolutions

Are you finding it hard to make a career change decision? Are you looking for a new job position? Are you planning to start a business of your own? Making New Year’s resolutions is not a tough job. What is tougher is keeping or sticking those resolutions. Given below are some essential tips on how to make and keep resolutions.

Develop a plan
While making career resolutions, remember not to make compulsive resolutions. Studies show that career resolutions that are not developed according to a plan are very less likely to be achieved or fulfilled. Therefore, follow a series of essential steps to develop an effective plan for achieving the resolutions that you have made for your career.

Prepare a list of all your career goals
What are the changes you want to make? What goals do you want to achieve? Those who are faced with crossroads in their lives need to enlist all the future goals which they want to work towards and achieve. Setting up goals also requires you to be specific. You can not just say that finding a new job is your goal. The goal should be to find a job with the employer that offers you workplace flexibility and meets your specific requirements, in terms of your personal values, unique skills and strengths.

Rank your goals in order of priority
If you really wish to make your career resolutions work for you, break your larger goals into multiple smaller ones and prioritize them. Be realistic about resolutions you make and what you expect from your career. Do remember not to have too many goals at one time. This will only lead you to losing your focus. If a change of career is on your career resolution list and you require some additional training, your first goal should be to complete the training and acquire the skills you need. Next comes the step of changing a career .

Think of all the possible ways needed to reach your goals
Whether it is about finding a new job or changing a career, you need to think of new ways of achieving your career goals. For example, if you have been unsuccessful in getting a new job and are still trying, you certainly need to polish your job search skills. You need to review each single step involved in the process, right from resume making to landing a job of your choice. Be prepared to think new and different and use all the possible means that can lead you towards your goals.

Make changes in your lifestyle
Making resolutions and achieving your career goals relate to your surroundings. If your surrounding supports your efforts, it will help you a lot stick to resolutions you have made and lead along the path of career success . But how do you create a surrounding that supports your efforts? Well, you do it by making changes in your lifestyle, by reprogramming yourself, by replacing old behaviors with new one and by reorganizing yourself.

Be ready to celebrate your successes
So, you have broken your larger goals into smaller ones or smaller manageable tasks. Now be ready to reward yourself and celebrate each time you take a successful step or achieve a smaller goal. In this way, you will be able to record your progress and know that you are actually on the right path and progressing towards your ultimate goal.

Be mentally prepared to face setbacks
No path to success can be free of obstacles. Whatever career goals you have set, you need to include this in your new year’s career resolutions and stick to it. When you are trying to find a new job or planning to change careers, you will always come across many hurdles in your career. When you are prepared in advance to handle these setbacks, you will never by discouraged by such circumstances. And the setback will never become your excuse for giving up on your goal.

The most important thing to remember is that resolutions should never be created only to please others. At the end of the day, only you will be responsible for keeping to your resolutions and achieving your career goals. Making a career change decision or finding a more fulfilling new job always head the list of New Year resolutions people make. No doubt, New Year is a good time for making resolutions. However, you should not wait for an arbitrary date to start making resolutions.


Courtesy of

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