Best interview tips: 7 Ways Job Interviewers Try to Trip You Up – and How to Avoid Stumbling

By Vicky Oliver

With the dramatic improvement in the job market, now is the time for all job seekers to get serious about finding a job. Landing an interview is the first step. But then you’ll need to get mentally prepared for the 45 most harrowing minutes of your life. That’s the average length of a job interview.

Job interviews are nerve-wracking for the simple reason that interviewers like to ask questions that knock people off balance. Doing so gives them the opportunity to see if the candidate can think on her feet, come up with dazzlingly brilliant answers instantly, and keep her cool.

Here are 7 types of questions that can trip you up–and how to answer them so you’ll leave the interview standing tall.

1. Questions that imply you’re too inexperienced or rusty. “I see you’ve been out of the workforce. How can you compete with people who have lots of experience in our industry?” Don’t get your toe caught in holes in your resume. Quick, talk about your social media smarts. You Tweet, you’re on Facebook, and you can navigate LinkedIn with your eyes closed. Being fluent in social technology could trump your industry inexperience. Don’t forget to show, not tell, what a quick study you are in any given field. Give examples.

2. Give-us-one-good-reason-not-to-hire-you questions. “What’s your biggest weakness that’s really a weakness, and not a secret strength?” Be honest by giving a real weakness, but demonstrate how you turned it into a successful strategy that led to a successful outcome. You might say that you’re extremely impatient, and that you expect coworkers to be competent, well-prepared, and accountable. Explain how your impatience led you to ask management for team assignments so the work could be broken down into manageable pieces and assigned to individuals according to their strengths.

3. Ethical questions with a twist or secret agenda. “How would you handle working with someone who took credit for your great ideas?” Show the interviewer how well you would manage an awkward situation. Say that, first, you’d credit the idea thief publicly for ideas that were genuinely his, hoping he would return the favor. If that failed, you’d try to work out an arrangement where you’d present ideas that were your own to your bosses. And if that didn’t work, you would try to openly discuss the issue with him, stressing that teamwork matters and positioning both of you as “strong-ideas people” to your superiors would benefit everyone. Show that you’re a problem solver.

4. Pop quiz questions designed to fluster you. “What is the best-managed company in America?” There is no right answer. The best answer is the one you defend thoroughly. If you mention a company, say, Apple, then talk about all the products they’ve introduced and how these have revolutionized consumer behavior around the world. Talk about how they survived the death of an iconic founder and have bounced back. Mention some details about their company culture, and how that has been reflected in the company’s public brand in a very positive way.

5. Questions that send you to the confessional. “What is the most courageous action you’ve ever taken at work?” These types of questions are designed to probe your values. You might say something along the following lines. You used to have a partner who’d cut out every night to be with his family, and a boss who preferred that everyone stay till 8. The boss would berate your partner behind his back. But you came to feel that this wasn’t a good position to be put in, and told the boss you felt he should talk directly with your partner. You also told your partner to meet with the boss. Together, they worked it out, even though you took a chance by giving moral direction to your boss.

6. Questions that strip off your work mask. “What are some of your pet peeves?” Employers want to know more about your personality, so give them something that shines a light on you in a good way. You might say, “False deadlines.” Explain that you feel it’s unfair to ask someone to jump through hoops to finish a project only to have it languish on a higher-up’s desk. Then say you’d rather earn others’ respect and trust by delivering tasks on deadline–a real deadline.

7. Questions from another galaxy far, far away. “If you were to give a speech to a group of executives, what topic would you select, and why?” You might be thinking, “Whaaa? What does this have to do with the price of beans?” But smile and tell them something you want them to hear. You might want to deliver a motivational speech about overcoming obstacles. Then talk about a major obstacle that stood in your way and how it offered you a fantastic learning and growing opportunity.

Vicky Oliver is a Manhattan-based job interview consultant, and the bestselling author of five career development books, including 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions, and 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions. She’s been featured and interviewed widely in the business media, including Fox News, Wall Street Journal, US News and World Report, Forbes, Fortune, CareerBuilder, and many others.

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The Internship: What interns can do to succeed in today’s workplace

Internships are more important than ever – here are tips to help interns succeed

The nation’s employers are increasingly selective in recruiting and now demand that even entry-level candidates have on-the-job experience.  As a result, the once optional summer internship has become a requisite component of any young person’s resume, according to one employment expert, who advises those embarking on internship programs this summer take steps to ensure they make the most of the experience.

“Internships are more important than ever, but not all internship programs are created equal.  Many employers do not have any type of strategy when it comes to utilizing and educating their interns.  In these situations both the employer and the intern lose.  It is critical that young people entering an internship program take a proactive approach to managing and maximizing their experience,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement and business coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

According to a recent outlook by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the entry-level job market is expected to be stronger this year.  However, the competition for these positions remains fierce and having internship experience can greatly increase the odds of post-graduation job-search success.

A survey of 2012 graduates conducted last August by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 60 percent of those who participated in paid internships received at least one job offer.  In contrast, only 36 percent of graduates with no internship experience on their resume had received job offers.

“The classroom is great for developing critical thinking skills, writing and presentation skills, and general knowledge that provide the fundamental building blocks of any viable job candidate.  However, nothing beats the hands-on practical experience that internships provide.  For those who have already graduated, internships are often the stepping stone to a full-time position,” said Challenger.

“Internships give employers the chance to evaluate a potential employee’s performance for an extended period of time in real-world conditions.  It also lets an employer gauge how the intern fits into the company culture, which is nearly as important as skills and experience.

“As an intern, it is critical to treat each day like a job interview.  You want to set yourself apart from your fellow interns by exceeding expectations.  Those who merely meet expectations probably will not get the full-time job offer,” said Challenger.

“Meeting the right people during your internship is also critical.  It is likely that the person supervising the interns is relatively low on the corporate totem pole.  In fact, he or she may be only a year or two out of college.  The intern with full-time job aspirations should make a daily effort to meet the managers and executives who make the hiring decisions.  The higher up the executive you impress, the greater the odds that a permanent position will be found for you,” he added.

“Students who do not receive an offer from the company where they interned can still benefit from the experience.  Managers and executives in the company represent the beginning of your job-search network.  Even if they cannot find a spot for you in their company, they may know executives in another company that may have openings.”

John Challenger provided the following advice for this year’s crop of summer interns to improve their chances of being offered a full-time job or the opportunity to return next summer, in the case of non-graduating college students:

Treat your internship as a real job. 

The best way to prove you are qualified for a permanent position is through action.  Think of your internship as a trial period or extended interview for obtaining the position you desire.  Always be on time and meet deadlines.  Maintain a positive attitude and show that you are eager to learn and succeed by seeking out feedback to improve your performance and develop new skills.

Take initiative and exceed expectations. 

By taking initiative you can show management what you are capable of.  Do not be afraid to voice your own ideas, offer solutions, and ask questions.  Show interest in attending meetings and seek out extra work and new projects.  When you go above and beyond the minimum, you demonstrate your commitment level and gain the attention of management.

Dress according to company dress codes. 

While you want to stand out from the pack, you don’t want to draw attention to yourself for the wrong reasons.  By dressing professionally you reinforce the impression that you can adapt to and fit in with the company’s culture.

Keep track of your contributions and accomplishments. 

Keep track of the projects you worked on, your individual contributions, and the results achieved.  Having a tangible record of your achievements with the company is a helpful tool in convincing a manager why you should be hired full time.

Network, network, network. 

Developing contacts inside and outside of your department is extremely important.  Schedule lunches or meetings with company managers and executives to give them a better understanding of what you’re about and what you plan on accomplishing.  Find a mentor to teach you the ropes of the organization and offer advice on company politics.  The contacts you make through your internship could prove invaluable throughout your time at the organization and throughout your career.

Ask about available entry-level positions. 

Let your employer know that you would like a job with that particular organization.  Ask about what positions are available and express your interest in them.  An employer will be more likely to consider you for a position if they know you are interested in it.

Stay in contact. 

If you don’t get hired for a position immediately after your internship ends, stay in touch.  Check-in with your contacts and provide updates on your progress.  This will help to keep you in the forefront for the employer’s mind when a position opens.

Related Resource

What today’s employers really think of today’s college graduate


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Job Search Advice: How to know if you are ready for a career change

By Karen Kodzik

Karen Kodzik is a Twin Cities-based career management coach, speaker and author of the book Navigating Through Now What?. She provides tips and advice on how to think through making a career change in this guest blog post below:

Thoughts of any change can be equally exciting as well as daunting.  Changing jobs or careers is no exception.  Whether you initiate change or change is imposed upon you, change does not come easily to most.  There are many stages you may want to consider as you consider making a change in your work.

Pondering.  This is when you recognize that your current work situation is no longer serving you or fulfilling you.  You see the benefits of changing jobs outweigh the negative consequences of staying.  However you may not be sure you are up for changing jobs, you may not have the time or energy or you may not believe there is a better job out there.  In this stage you are daydreaming about better days and pondering “what if?”

Considering.  This is when the idea of change moves from daunting to exciting.  You start to think of possibilities in a more concrete way.  You may seek out the counsel of someone who has made a similar change before you.  The idea of change starts to materialize however still lacks a clear goal, timeline and game plan.  Your thinking moves from “what if” to “why not?”

Planning.  This is when you start to gather concrete information, mobilize resources and create a project plan for tackling change.  Sometimes this stage can be overwhelming given the myriads of information available and not knowing what information is most relevant to you.  A plan provides the road map for career change, ensuring more likely success in transitioning to something new.

Implementing.  This is the stage when it’s time to move beyond thinking and planning to making change happen in you career. This is embarking on sustainable activity that moves you closer to your goal.  It is about addressing and overcoming set backs and obstacles.  It is where you are committed to the belief that change can and will happen.

Recognizing these stages of change are fundamental to realizing rewarding careers.

About Cultivating Careers and Karen Kodzik
Cultivating Careers was founded by Karen Kodzik, a Career Management Consultant who has worked with individuals in transition for over 15 years. Karen meets professionals at various points on their career path and works with them to gain a clearer sense of where they want to take their careers. Karen is highly regarded in the Twin Cities market. Uniquely qualified as a HR insider, management consultant and coach, Karen Kodzik holds a Masters Degree in Counseling with an emphasis in Career Development. She is a contributor and source for the Minneapolis, St. Paul media on job market trends, employment and career related topics. Her recently published book “Navigating Through Now What?” has been a valuable resource for anyone finding themselves at a career crossroad.  A popular and passionate presentor and speaker she quickly and easily engages her audience, leaving them empowered and equipped for any career transition.  She has coached and consulted various levels of professionals across industries to successfully reach that next point in their career.

The Cultivating Careers team includes top notch career professionals who specialize in LinkedIn, interview prep and practice, and standardized assessment. This team helps us provide our clients to exceptional customized individualized consultation as they prepare for the next step in their career.

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Executive Resumes: A recruiter shares secrets to writing a resume that gets you noticed

By Matt Krumrie
Executive Resume Writer

If you are an executive you need a resume that does more than just show your work history and experience. You need an executive resume that screams success, an executive resume that shows you can take the next company you work for to the next level.

How do you do that? By following these steps, says Lissa Weimelt, an executive recruiter and President of Minnesota-based Search Pro Services, a retained search firm for managerial to executive positions. There are a number of things Weimelt looks for in an executive resume, and these two stand out:

1. What problem did they identify (or were they brought in to fix) in their company and what was the direct outcome of the action they took to specifically address that shortfall?

It could be new customer development, cutting expenses, initiating new product lines, you name it. It has to be more than just initiating a program. Then, what were two or three major achievements out of that key area they drove, related to bottom line?

2. What leadership skills did they showcase in that role? Did it include recruitment of new talent, retention of key individuals, growth/investment/training in current employees? Did they leave the company in a position more secure/successful than it was before?

And, how did they motivate the team around them? What was their style, and what results did they gain from the direct use of that style?

“It speaks to what is important to them,” says Weimelt. “Words like team player or motivator mean nothing. I want to see an example of that on the resume that says someone other than them is important.”

What are five things an executive resume needs to stand out?

1. They need a good executive summary at the beginning. It must include skills sets for keyword searches as many HR professionals who read resumes are not skilled in assessing or understanding talent at this level.

“I like it in plain language, broken down into leadership, financial, operations, marketing – use categories that relate to what is needed from an executive leader,” says Weimelt.

2. It must address their leadership style – use an example if possible.

3. It must address challenges they faced and how they met or, just as importantly, did not meet those challenges.

4. It must address major accomplishments on each significant job, using an example and the result/success of that accomplishment.

5. It must be in plain language that does not put the recruiter to sleep. No more than 2 pages no matter what. A resume is not a career biography, it’s a marketing tool that quickly shows the next employer you have the skills to match their needs.

Remember, the resume doesn’t guarantee you get hired, but it does prevent you from getting hired. How so? Keep this in mind:

A good executive resume gives an executive talking points for an interview, or to use when networking with a recruiter,” says Weimelt. “It does not communicate their entire life story. When I meet with executives, I ask them to give me a five minute presentation of their background. Most cannot do it, and many want to take 20-plus minutes if I do not interrupt them. Most HR folks spend no more than 3-4 minutes reading a resume. So, they need to hear that in order to be able to condense their career experience, strengths and value into salient points. Dividing their background into topic areas as in a above helps them frame around skill sets, and then devise interesting and pertinent stories around that for the interview.”

Weimelt discusses the role a resume plays. A good resume can help lead to a good interview, because a lot of the resume is based off what’s on the resume. A poor resume can result in a poor interview and the executive not showcasing their talents – selling themselves short – because the recruiter may not have good points to expand on. They want to talk about your results.

“A good resume helps a poor interviewer interview better, stay on target, and gives them a roadmap to talk about the right things in their background,” says Weimelt. “For a poor interviewer, or worse yet, a long-winded interviewer, a resume is like a good Garmin. It gets you to where you want to go without getting lost along the way.”

A resume is also the chance to highlight some of your personality and soft skills – all important aspects companies seek in a leader.

“An executive resume should reflect something personal that the interviewer can pick up on,” says Weimelt. “Your personality, what is important to you, what you value, what you are proud of, who you are and what people think and more importantly, feel, about you. Those features help an executive stand out from the crowd, humanize them instead of just a list of degrees, accomplishments and verbiage that everyone else has. You can put those things under a category called “Personal Statement” or something like that, or embed them along the way in the resume, which I like better. I once had a client who had two jobs that were grueling. We put language in his that defined his lessons learned. He got a great job after four interviews in a down market. I thought it was very brave of him, as it told about his personality, leadership style, sense of humor and showed his human side. He also had many accomplishments, but his lessons learned made a much greater impact.”

You’ve made an impact as an executive, now show that in your executive resume.

To do just that, hire executive resume writer Matt Krumrie to write your resume, one that will show the next employer just how you can lead them to success.

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Best resumes: Why the Michael Jordan of resumes won’t get you noticed if it’s not the right fit

By Matt Krumrie

I recently had a resume client who told me these exact words after submitting his resume draft to him:

“I don’t feel like this highlights me as The Michael Jordan of Sales.”

I was a little surprised, to be honest. The resume was a good one. It highlighted all his successes, biggest achievements, sales history and revenue/business generated, proof of accomplishments and language that would set him apart as a leading sales person in his field – print advertising. It referenced him as a top producer, told how he generated new business and retained clients and listed him as a top three sales person out of 50 in his territory.

So when he got back to me and said “I don’t feel like this highlights me as The Michael Jordan of Sales” I was a bit perplexed. I thought “is there something he has done so extraordinarily well that is missing?”

Turns out, nothing was missing and this new version was a considerable improvement over the original he was previously working with. He was upset I removed his previous experience in a band and in real estate, both which did not match his future goals (more on that below).

But it got me thinking. Is there a Michael Jordan of resumes? What would it take to create the world’s best resume?

So I asked a recruiter who I trust very much, Rick Deare of Deare & Associates, a sales and executive search firm about this. I said “Rick, just what would make this resume the Michael Jordan of sales resumes?”

I told the story of this client to Rick, explained his background and goals. I told him how I had to convince this client that the fact that he was in a band, while pretty cool indeed, wasn’t going to help get hired in medical device sales. I had to tell this client that his experience in real estate was not going to get him hired in IT sales. This guy was extremely talented no doubt and I was very impressed by what he had done.

The problem was this, and what so many other people who write their own resumes encounter – they want to include their entire career biography into the resume. I always tell clients this – a resume isn’t a career biography, it’s a marketing tool that quickly shows an employer that you have the skills they are looking for and that they should bring you in for an interview to meet you and see if you can expand on what your resume says and if you are a fit for their company and culture. The resume is your step towards an interview. It’s your sales sheet when networking, it’s your bridge to a future meeting or interview, an introduction to your successes. In other words your resume should match your next employer’s needs, by taking your accomplishments and successes and tailoring it towards that industry, company and job needs.

Here is what Deare said:

“From your brief description, his accomplishments seem to be impressive but to parlay these into a Michael Jordan of sales resume may take more than the mighty pen of a professional writer,” said Deare. “In no way do I mean to discount his achievements but a “Michael Jordan of Sales” resume might require some bullets such as these:

  • Highest sales revenue ever achieved in the history of the print advertising industry.
  • Wrote and published the New York Times Bestseller “How I Became the Michael Jordan of Sales” with a forward by Harvey Mackay.

Deare was kidding (sort of), but his point was this:

“In order for a recruiter or hiring manager to be so wowed by his resume as to consider him the best that ever was, he may have to augment his accomplishments with some extraordinary eye-catching achievements that supersede those of other solid/top performers,” he said.

Deare added these additional thoughts:

“A resume for a print advertising salesperson, no matter how great the performance history, is not likely to impress a recruiter or hiring manager in the medical device, biotechnology, software and many other industries,” said Deare. “Domain/Industry experience is as much an attention grabber as the bullets. In interview selection, it’s about professional relevance. As a recruiter, the Michael Jordan of Sales resume might hit my desk but if my search criteria involves 7+ years of experience in the software arena, the resume isn’t going to get more than a brief scan. To their credit, many professional salespeople will not readily accept the idea that industry relevance, product/service or specific business knowledge/experience is as important as selling skill. While I recognize their point, you really need to be the Michael Jordan of Sales to sell that at the hiring manager level.”

Deare continued:

“If your client is following traditional job application routes as a job seeker, he may benefit from some knowledge about modern recruiting/HR technologies at the corporate level. Applicant tracking systems automatically screen resumes for specific types of experience like the industry experience mentioned above. He may also benefit from having a job search strategy that involves leveraging the new resume in pursuit of relevant opportunities. He probably needs to understand that even that Michael Jordan of Sales resume isn’t going to make it through the ATS if the content doesn’t specifically align with the nature of the position posted.”

I get many questions about resume format. I feel the format I use is clear, concise, short and to the point and powerful. I don’t like long-winded resumes that include lengthy paragraphs and are not backed up by proof of accomplishment.

Deare discussed resume formats.

“I don’t believe there is a single “best” resume format, but there is certainly a “right” resume format and a maximized individual approach,” he said. “A professional salesperson needs to produce a resume that is factual, brief and on point relevant to sales experience, performance history and selling skills. It doesn’t have to be boring, shallow or tame but it is a written resume and has some limitations inherent to the form.”

As a sales and executive recruiting specialist, Deare reads a lot of sales resumes. Here is what wows him:

  • Industry relevance: Does this individual have the specific experience we are looking for?
  • Performance ranking: “#1 national sales performer 2008-2012 in a field of over 50 Account Managers.”
  • Revenue: “Average yearly revenue 2008-2012 of $6.2m”
  • Margin: “Average yearly gross margin”
  • Relative contribution: “Contributed 54% of local revenue as 1 of 9 local Account Managers.”
  • Company contribution – how individual successes translated into team and company successes.
  • Record setting achievements and awards – single client, monthly/annual revenue, etc.
  • New business breakthroughs – new major account successes
  • Existing account increases – with strong evidence of exceptional client relationship/client service skills
  • Education
  • Public, volunteer, community, charitable giving

The bottom line is this: The best resume won’t get you noticed if it’s not the right fit. No matter how great your experience is, it has to fit what the employer needs. Show that and you will get noticed, even if it’s just the Scottie Pippen of resumes.

Want the Michael Jordan of resumes created for you, or better yet, one that will get your noticed?

Hire Matt Krumrie to write your resume and get noticed.

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Six Ways to Shift and Broaden Your Perspective–and Lead More Effectively

by Prasad Kaipa and Navi Radjou
Adapted from their new book, “From Smart to Wise”

Our leadership perspective is based on the sum total of the knowledge, experiences, and choices we made before. It defines us, shaping our thoughts, decisions, and actions. It represents the way we see ourselves and situations, how we judge the relative importance of things, and how we establish a meaningful relationship with others and everything around us.

Smart leaders tend to look at the world through colored lenses that skew or limit their perspective, which affects their decisions and actions. Some have a perspective that’s narrowly focused on short-term goals, deepening their depth of knowledge in their domain of interest. Other smart leaders are guided by broadly focused long-term visions that help them to differentiate various patterns and see how these will help them succeed. Both perspectives are limiting.

When they remove those lenses, smart leaders can gain a broader perspective. By changing their “smart” perspective and cultivating practical wisdom instead, they can lay the foundation for a wise leadership style that’s more effective.

What is a wise leader perspective? Wise leaders are able to continually reframe and reinterpret events through integration and find new meanings within a rapidly changing context. Guided by a noble purpose, they develop a flexible and resilient mindset that makes them act and lead with wisdom–and become more influential leaders.

To move from a smart leader perspective to a wise leader perspective, start by seeing the world differently. Here are six ways to do it.

Become aware of your limitations and transcend them.
Senior managers at Allianz Global Investors, a global asset management company, attended a workshop called Dialogue in the Dark, led by visually impaired trainers who conducted the entire workshop in total darkness. The goal of this experiential learning program was to shift leaders’ perspectives by making them aware of their limitations, while increasing empathy for others. What is your biggest limitation of today? How did you get to have it and how do you plan to transcend it?

Learn from desperation and spark epiphanies.
High desperation can spark epiphanies, so pay attention to what your next crisis has to teach you about perspective. While in a WWII German concentration camp for three years, Victor Frankl realized one day that although the Nazis could torture his body, they had zero control over his mind or spirit. This empowering shift in perspective helped him survive and then to inspire his fellow prisoners to take control of their own mindset. What is the fear, high desperation, that you are attempting to run away from? How do you pay attention to it so that you can walk through the other side of desperation and discover something very new?

Act on inspiration from talks or books.
The CEO of a well-known tech firm attended a talk on service-oriented organizations, including the generosity-driven Karma Kitchen, where anyone can eat for free in exchange for committing to volunteer in the restaurant in the future. He was so inspired by the talk that he acted completely out of character and drove straight to the hospital to spend four hours at the bedside of his 80-year-old neighbor. When did you last get inspired by a talk or a book? What actions did you take?

Take an extreme turn–out of your comfort zone.
Getting outside your comfort zone is a quick way to experience leadership from a new perspective. In early 2000, while awaiting the court decision in the antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft, Bill Gates decided to step down as chief executive and focus on his passion for software. This jolted his perspective, and that same year, Gates and his wife established the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, taking his leadership in an important new direction. Where is it that you are holding on to an old and unworkable mindset? What extreme step you can take to experience and lead yourself differently?

Ditch your old glasses and look through fresh eyes.
Sometimes, shifting one’s perspective is as simple as really seeing what’s in front of you. When Alan Mulally took over as CEO of Ford, the company was losing market share and facing deep losses because of increased competition and globalization. One day, when walking through the Ford parking lot at Detroit headquarters, Mulally suddenly noticed the hodgepodge of Ford brands that had no common attributes in shape or style. This moment of clear-sightedness led to Ford’s trimming its bloated portfolio of 97 models to just 20, selling off Jaguar, Land Rover, and Aston Martin in the process, and focusing on smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. What do you need to ‘unlearn and let go’ so that increased focus on what you have could make you very effective and successful?

Pursue unlikely connections and look for odd juxtapositions.
Ophthalmologist Dr. Venkataswamy, or Dr. V, created a revolutionary approach to curing blindness in India by studying McDonald’s. He was able to develop a high-efficiency, standardized, repeatable business model that organized patients in operating rooms and broke the procedure down into a series of discrete processes so that nurses and doctors could quickly move from one patient to the next. His company, Aravind, is now the largest eye care provider in the world. What unlikely metaphors and connections can help you come up with an innovative mental model and a business model for your work?

* * * * *
Prasad Kaipa and Navi Radjou are coauthors of the upcoming book From Smart to Wise: Acting and Leading with Wisdom (Jossey-Bass, April 2013). Kaipa is a CEO advisor and coach and a senior fellow at the Indian School of Business. Radjou is an independent strategy consultant. Both based in Silicon Valley, they write popular blogs for, speak and consult internationally, have been featured prominently in the national business media, and are esteemed thought leaders in the field of leadership development and innovation. Learn more at

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5 Reasons you should update your resume – even if you are not searching for a job

By Matt Krumrie

A job seeker contacted me last week. We had talked a while back, but he decided he just wasn’t ready to update his resume. He wanted to wait until he was ready, he said. Understandable, life is busy, so I figured he would contact me when the time was right.

But this time, he was frantic, and needed a resume – and  he needed it fast. Why? Because his dream job had opened up, he just found out about it and the deadline to submit resumes was in two days. He had not updated his resume in 4 years, since he was hired in his current role. Not only that, he didn’t really keep track of any of his successes and accomplishments in his current job, so he was almost in panic mode . Through some hard work, digging on both of our parts and communication back and forth, we got the resume in on time. Crisis averted. And in this case I actually knew the recruiter too, so he was able to get an interview set up because he not only applied through the company system, but was able to contact the  recruiter directly and they were impressed with his matching background and the glowing recommendation I put forth on his behalf. The lesson was learned though, updating a resume now can help out in more ways than you realize later.

Here is how and why:

1. Stress reduction: There is nothing like panic setting in when that dream job opens up and you are not ready to apply. It doesn’t even have to be a dream job – just a better job, or for some who are unemployed or underemployed – that new job they are hoping to apply to. With an existing, updated resume, all one has to do is make a few tweaks to direct it to that job and focus on networking instead of updating the resume.

2. More time to network: Notice the last statement in the above paragraph “more time to network.” If you have followed anything I write in the Star Tribune Jobs section, you will see I am a huge advocate of networking. Anytime a resume client contacts me, I ask him or her how they are networking, who they are contacting and what they are doing to reach out to people. A good resume – backed by a strong networking plan is what is needed in today’s job market. Here’s the problem though, without an updated resume, you can’t network, because you are not prepared when that colleague, former boss, recruiter or HR person says “send me an updated copy of your resume.” By this time, five other qualified candidates have already sent in their resume and are on that hiring manager’s radar. Be ready in advance by updating your resume now.

3. Skills update: Notice how the client I referenced above didn’t keep track of his skills and achievements? By updating your resume now, you are forced to look at what you have done in your current role. What new skills have you added? What additional training have you completed? What big projects did you work on? What new products did you launch? How about that promotion? What awards did you win? How have you succeeded as a manager? The list goes on. Updating your resume forces you to update and look into all those important items to be added to the new resume.

4. Fill in the skill gaps: By updating your resume now, it also covers another important step. It allows you to analyze your current skills and accomplishments and compare it to what is needed or asked for in job descriptions related to your field. For every job you are interested in, look at the job requirement, skills needed and background needed. Does your background fit? I mean, does it really fit or are you just pretending it fits because you really want the job? Are you missing key technical skills? Key leadership experience? Do you need to take on new projects to develop those skills? Are you short a few years of experience? Do you need more education? Are you missing the computer skills? An updated resume can help you fill in the missing pieces – before you want to apply for that job.

5. Confidence: If your resume is updated, you feel more confident in your job search. Why? Because you have a better understanding of what you have accomplished and how your skills, achievements and experiences can benefit and match the needs of the next employer. Your confidence will shine through when you network, whether it’s in person, over the phone or via email – a more confident you will improve your professional image and make you stand out among your more sheepish, less prepared and intimidated peers.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. The best time to prepare for the next job, or that dream job, is when you have a job. Get ahead of the game and get ahead of your competition. Update your resume today, launch a successful job search tomorrow.

Want to update your resume now? Contact or learn more about how Matt Krumrie can help you write your resume.

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Seven Steps to Hiring and Retaining the Right Person

By Beverly Flaxington

There are a lot of unsatisfied workers out there. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that about 50 percent of all employees leave their job within the first six months of being hired. And in a new survey by Right Management (here’s the link), a whopping 86 percent of employees polled said they plan to actively look for a new position in 2013.

The most basic reason for worker discontent is a mismatch between what they want out of their job and what the position actually offers. Whose fault it that? The employer’s.

When hiring, most employers don’t look for behavioral match or cultural fit. The good news is that there is a relatively simple and straightforward way to find out who this job seeker really is and what she wants, and to predict with reasonable accuracy whether she’s likely to fit in and stay for the long haul.

Here is a seven-step approach to hiring the best people every time. It’s a model that has a real-world track record of success.

Step 1: Be clear about success for this role.
Be clear about what an employee in the position would need to do in order to succeed. The job description you write should include: people with whom the employee will be involved; the role’s major areas of accountability; how performance will be measured; working conditions and other requirements unique to this position; actions and behaviors that are critical for success; and skills and knowledge required for the position.

Step 2: Match the “carrots” to business objectives.
A common mistake employers make is that they come up with a salary and benefits package that’s based on what the candidate needs or expects. Instead, consider what the firm needs to accomplish and requires of this position, and then design compensation to specifically address your company’s objectives.

Step 3: Develop an interviewing strategy.
Know in advance who will be involved in the interviewing process and how much weight each person will have in the final decision. Have a procedure in place for comparing notes and sharing thoughts and impressions after the first round, including when the meeting will take place and why they recommend for or against hiring. Create guidelines for collecting feedback so the post-interview meeting does not devolve into decisions based merely on “like” or “dislike.”

Step 4: Know what behaviors will succeed in the role.
Take time to identify the behavioral style this job requires. Your assessment of the job (and the candidate) should take into consideration how he will need to: manage problems and challenges; interact with people; handle a steady pace and work environment; and deal with rules and procedures set by others. Every person has behavioral preferences, and every role has behavioral requirements. Match them as closely as possible.

Step 5: Fit candidate motivators to company motivators.
Consider the workplace culture. Is the atmosphere relaxed, social, and highly collaborative? Or do people work independently, driven by fast turnaround and a competitive pace? How do client and customer relations shape the workplace culture? What are the spoken and unspoken values that define your company and how you want to be in the marketplace? Communicate this to potential candidates and be sure their values align with yours.

Step 6: Ask questions that provoke revealing answers.
Analyze the job and critically evaluate the major areas of accountability, how you’d measure performance, critical success factors, and other criteria that’s essential for this position. Based on this job analysis, the behavior style identified in step 4, and the cultural values from step 5, write a detailed set of interview questions that are specific to this job. Make sure you ask the same or similar questions of every candidate so you have a good way to compare them. Ask questions that will give you important information. For example, don’t just ask about background, but ask why the person succeeded or didn’t in past roles. Ask about their favorite employer and why. Ask how they specifically dealt with an issue in their past. Probe to get a window about how they performed so you can “see” them in action.

Step 7: Establish ongoing feedback and communication checkpoints.
Hiring the right person is the first part; keeping her happy and on track is the next part. Establish regular milestones and feedback check-in points. At regular intervals–monthly, quarterly, or yearly–have reviews in which you and the candidate discuss specifics of her job. What is she doing well? What does she need to correct? Be as clear as possible about what you observe and what you need her to do differently. Don’t wait for an end-of-year discussion; keep the dialogue open and ongoing.

* * * * *
Beverly Flaxington is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA), hypnotherapist, and career and business adviser. She’s the author of five business and financial books, including the award-winning book, Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior, and her latest book, Make Your SHIFT: The Five Most Powerful Moves You Can Make to Get Where YOU Want to Go (ATA Press, 2012). Learn more at   

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Best IT Resumes: Tips to make your IT resume stand out, from an industry insider

This article originally appeared on

Are you an IT professional who needs a new resume? Contact IT Resume specialist Matt Krumrie through this form or email

Kathy Northamer, District President of Robert Half Technology (, recently took some time talk about a hot topic in her industry: Resumes. Northamer, who oversees operations in Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison was asked:

What is different about IT resumes compared to other industry resumes?

“In information technology, employers are most interested in what you’ve done recently,” said Northamer. “While most resumes span your entire career, IT resumes should really focus on what you’ve accomplished in the past five years. Technology changes so quickly that oftentimes what you did more than five years ago simply doesn’t apply to what employers are looking for today. Another distinction is that IT resumes include a lot of details on specific skills and responsibilities in each position.”

With that in mind, here is a look at what you need to know to compile the ultimate IT resume:

What do employers look for in IT resumes? What things help the candidate stand out?

·         Technical skills: Clear and concise examples of projects that utilize the specific skills they’re looking for. They want to know the details of what YOU did – not what “we” or “the team” did – but your role and the impact on the project. The more details you can provide on the technologies used in each role will help you make the best first impression on a hiring manager.

·         Return On Investment (ROI): Businesses employ IT professionals to make the business more efficient or accomplish tasks in a lesser amount of time. Emphasize your accomplishments and contributions using tangible figures.

·         Job stability and progression of responsibility.

·         Extracurricular activities: Some employers want to see how passionate you are about IT during your downtime. They look for things such as writing white papers, securing patents and “playing around” with emerging technologies.

·         Tailor your resume: It’s important to mirror and match your experience to the job details. Also consider the type of company when modifying your resume (large corporation, start-up, software development company, etc.).

What skills and technologies are hot right now and in-demand?

·         Object-oriented development skills, such as .Net, PHP, Java or mobile development

·         Microsoft SQL Server database skills

·         Virtualization skills (VMWare)

·         Experience with other Microsoft technologies

·         Agile/SCRUM skills

·         Communication skills: It’s important to show that you have the ability to communicate with everyone in the company, not just other tech professionals, and can elicit details from management about what they’re trying to accomplish with a particular enhancement or new application.

What can help a job seeker show a company they’re the right candidate for the job?

·         We’re seeing demand for candidates with a broad skill set (supporting users, as well as managing systems and networks).

·         Specific examples of projects and hands-on experience.

·         Mirroring and matching the skills on their resume to the job description.

A.     Do you like to see an objective/summary statement at the top, or a value statement?

It’s fine to include a very brief, one- or two-sentence summary statement at the top. Avoid using the word objective – that’s outdated. If you don’t have space for a summary statement, however, it’s not essential.

B.     Do you like a bulleted list of skills at the top? Why or why not?

Yes, a bulleted list of skills (just below the summary statement) provides a quick overview of technical capabilities. This can be very helpful for busy hiring managers. Also, only list current technologies, and not every technology tool the candidate has ever used.

C. Do you like to see a bulleted profile of top skills or achievements, listing select achievements, or do you prefer those achievements tied to the job they did that at?

Accomplishments should be detailed under each position, so it’s easy for the employer to see what the candidate has achieved at each stage of his/her career. List each position in reverse chronological order, and include detailed bullets under each highlighting skills, successes and your impact on the company.

D. IT resumes are different than say, a sales professional, who can use numbers and sales results to stand out. How does an IT person, who doesn’t rely on numbers, standout, what do recruiters want to see in the resume to “prove” their worth?

An IT candidate should focus on ways  they used technology to help the business. This can include things such as:

·         Developing a  process that helped make the user experience better.

·         Automating a process that helped speed up turnaround time.

·         Helping the company save money.

In addition, IT candidates should provide tangible information that gives the hiring manager an idea of the scale of the job (budget managed; number of people managed; number of sites supported; number of lines of code; number of fields in a database; number of servers, workstations, end users, applications supported; number of applications launched; number of errors/defects reduced; release cycle timeline; etc.).

What should be avoided on IT resumes?

·         IT professionals should spend the majority of their resume focusing on their two most recent positions. For jobs held prior to that, a line or two detailing your experience is sufficient. Again, typically only the last five years of a candidate’s experience is relevant.

·         If you’ve had a long career in IT, avoid statements such as “25 years of IT experience.” It’s well-intentioned, but in IT, it’s all about what you know now.

·         Avoid being too verbose. Concise, bulleted statements are preferred over paragraphs.

·         Slang and spelling/grammatical errors! Remember, your resume is the first impression you make with a prospective employer.

·         Avoid first person references and always use the correct tense throughout your resume (i.e. past role = past tense, present role = present tense).

Unique IT resume tips: What other unique tips, thoughts, tips do you have that aren’t covered above?

·         Proofread, proofread, proofread – the more eyes the better! The last thing you want is for your credibility (or chances for the job) to be diminished because you have a careless typo on your resume. Ask a professional or someone with strong editing skills and an eye for detail to proof your resume.

·         When formatting your resume, be consistent to a fault. For example, if you bold the company name for one role, do so for each company listed.

·         Your resume should be a truthful representation of your current situation, skills and experience. For example, if your resume says you are pursuing a degree in IT, you should be enrolled in a program.

·         Use a professional, but slightly edgy font if you’re applying for a job with a more progressive company.

·         Review your resume from a hiring manager’s point of view. Would you hire you?

Are you an IT professional who needs a new resume? Contact Matt Krumrie through this form or email

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Interview tips: Why mock interviews should be apart of every job search

Don’t forget about one of the most overlooked part of the job search – interview preparation

Job seekers spend so much time and energy searching for jobs and perfecting their resume they often forget about one of the most crucial steps of the job search process: Interview preparation.

Some job seekers even think once they are called for an interview they can just be themselves and they are “in” and the candidate that will get the job. Not so fast. When you are called for an interview it means you have the skills, experience and are someone the company feels would be a possibility in this position. That’s it – a possibility. That’s why this is no time to relax and think the job is yours. Far from it.

Remember, a good resume gets you an interview, but a good interview gets you the job. And that’s why you need to practice and perfect your interviewing skills. One way to do just that is through a mock interview.

“If you’ve never had a mock interview you are missing out on a great opportunity to really understand how you perform, sound, and act, over the phone or in front of hiring decision makers,” says Cindy Edwards a Twin Cities-bases career development coach and President of Find Your Fit (

In addition to coaching services, Edwards also provides mock interviews. She recently talked about how a mock interview can be of benefit in the job search process.

Why are mock interviews important?

“For starters, a mock interview can help you practice answering difficult hiring questions like ‘why were you let go?’ or ‘how do you handle an unethical or difficult co-worker?’ A mock interview is also a great place for you to practice questions you want to ask the interviewer, ” says Edwards

How to get the most out of a mock interview

If possible job seekers should practice interviewing with an experienced professional such as an HR professional or career coach. Professionals can guide clients on hiring practices common in today’s job market. Be sure to ask the professional you hire if they have advice regarding different interview formats such as negative behavioral interviews – where all the questions are problem based, phone screen interviews, and team or panel interviews.

How do mock interviews work?

When Edwards meets with a client for a mock interview she coaches them on how to open the interview with a strengths statement that leaves a strong first impression – she calls this the ‘opener’. Next she teaches clients the best process for answering behavioral and traditional interview questions with results.

“I listen and provide feedback around how they answer questions and the types of questions they have prepared to ask the interviewer,” says Edwards. “Finally I help clients prepare a closing statement to leave a lasting impression at the end of the interview.  My process includes customizing the mock interview towards the type of job the client is seeking and if known, the organization the client is interviewing at. I always encourage clients to dress for success for a mock interview. When completed, Edwards provides written feedback via an evaluation form that measures a variety of performance areas.

“Preparation is power when it comes to interviewing,” says Edwards. “Whether it is your first, second or 100th interview, a mock interview can help improve and enhance your interview performance.”

Mock Interview Special

If you have an interview coming up, if you are hoping to interview soon, or just want to practice for the future, now is the time to contact Edwards for a mock interview. She is currently offering a 60-minute special for $40, which gets you all of this:

Mock Interview 60 minute Session – $40.00
Learn a sales process for interview success
Practice your pitch (don’t have one – let’s talk)
Practice answering standard and career customized interview questions
Practice asking questions
Practice closing the interview
Gain insights on what works and what doesn’t for phone, in-person and video based interviewing.

To set up your mock interview and get a chance to stand out from the rest of the job seekers contact Edwards at or 612-325-1216.

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