Forget Buzzwords

Posted on: August 12th, 2014 by
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What are buzzwords?   When it comes to resumes and interviews, a buzzword is a word or abbreviation that has meaning to you, but may not have meaning to the reader/listener. In those cases, the hiring person/organization may have no idea what you’re talking about.


Some buzzwords have industry or functional definitions like CPA, PMP, or MBA and may not need to be spelled out.  But to be on the safe side it might be helpful to just once write it up like this:  MBA (Masters of Business Administration).  It’s kind of like using a belt and suspenders at the same time.  On the other hand, abbreviations like ABA, UMAT, CNC or similar designations may be totally irrelevant if the reader has no idea of the connection with the open position and your background.


Buzzwords that begin a sentence about your activities can also be irrelevant or misleading.  Words like motivated, innovative, talented or dynamic can obscure your experiences and diminish a hiring manager’s interest in you.  Why?  Because you’re declaring yourself a  judge of your own performance in place of an objective external reference.  The real question is:  What did you contribute to a past employer?  Self-appraisals seldom work.


Rather than describe yourself as creative, why not demonstrate with an example of a project on a resume or a “story” during an interview that proves it.  Example:  “Increased revenue 10% by creating a new ‘consultative marketing plan’ for new customers in a new market”.  The words you use creates a “word picture” of who you are, what you have done, and how you are uniquely different from all other candidates.  Focus on the professional achievements and experiences that are specific to you and the job to be done.


The hiring manager wants to know the skills you bring that will assist the organization in reaching its objective.  Profile yourself in a way to match or exceed the requirements set out in the position description.


Don’t use words that the hiring agent is tired of looking at and has no meaning:  Proactive, energized, committed, engaging, creative, and so on.  Your resume and interview must give the hiring manager confidence that you can do the job.  That is accomplished by using action verbs followed by a metric that demonstrate results.


To the hiring manager, you should be able to do achieve results, not give empty words.


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The Perfect Fit

Posted on: August 5th, 2014 by


How do you find out if you’re a really good fit with a company during an interview?  What questions can you ask?  Is there a foolproof way to guarantee a perfect fit?


First, there are no foolproof answers, only carefully prepared steps to get a sense of the culture.  Why aren’t there better ways to get more definitive answers?  Simply because all organizations have multiple departments managed by different managers with distinctive operating styles.  No two managers are exactly the same, even with a common philosophy.  The “perfect” manager that hires you today may move on shortly after you move in.


Here are some helpful strategies.


Interviewing:  There may be a difference between what an interviewer says and what your potential manager does.  The key is for you to ask the hiring manager (your potential boss) questions like:

  • “How would you describe your management style?  What kind of employee are you looking for in this position… an initiator or someone only implementing your decisions?”
  • “ Describe a highly successful relationship between you and the chosen candidate”

The more targeted your questions the more specific the answers should be.


If you don’t feel comfortable asking these kinds of questions, you’ll not get the answers you need.  You also need to respond to questions honestly and not answer what you think they want to hear.  You might fool them during an interview, but not day-to-day in the job.


Research:  Find out what current or past employees have experienced.  You have that opportunity through the interview process or research on LinkedIn, Vault and Glassdoor.   These are unedited comments from people who may have valuable insights into the organization.  The more information you can acquire from people who are or have been in the organization will give you the best sense of your fit.  If you’re an active, achievement driven person and find a passive, reactive organization, make sure you’re being hired to create a new environment or you’ll be dragged down to the norm of the work group.


No one can accurately determine how or if you’ll fit within any organization as there are too many variables:  Competitive peers, organizational change, management pressure points or internal politics.  You’ll only get a few insightful snapshots into what lays ahead.  It all comes down to a gut level, “Do you sense a bond between you and your potential boss?”  If your not comfortable during the interview, the chances are slim that it will become a job made in heaven.


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Stages of Change

Posted on: July 29th, 2014 by
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Negative change comes  in many forms:  A termination, the merging of organizations, a bad performance review, a reorganization, to name a few.  You may not be able to control a negative change, but you can control how you respond to it.  But first you’ll need to understand how individuals and organizations typically react to change.  If you can understand the dynamics of the change process, you can position yourself in a positive and proactive way.

INDIVIDUAL REACTIONS: Individuals behave in a different ways depending upon how they are affected: Is your job at stake? Are you highly marketable? Are your skills critical to the organization? Are you highly paid? Are you close to retirement? No matter what the cause, there are common stages that most individuals will move through.

As an individual, moving through these stages more quickly can position you as an early supporter and leader, versus a detractor and impediment.  As a supervisor, if you understand these stages and are flexible in your approach, you can move performance and productivity of your group to a higher level more rapidly.

The following stages of major change are credited to psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, supplemented by Bill Kaufmann’s experiences:

STAGE I:  SHOCK/DENIAL- (This can’t be happening to ME / us !!)

STAGE II:  ANGER- (Who do they think they are!!!)

STAGE III: DEFENSIVENESS/ DEPRESSION- (I don’t know if I can do this)

STAGE IV:  RATIONALIZATION – Maybe it won’t be that bad if …)

STAGE V:  ACCEPTANCE- (This may turn out OK after all)

ORGANIZATIONAL RESPONSES:  Organizations respond to change in somewhat predictable ways.  The following stages tend to be sequential. However, depending upon how the changes are managed will determine if the next progressive stage is reached.  In other words, where top management is clumsy, non-communicative and insensitive to the needs and feelings of the organization can lead to a situation where the behaviors of STAGE I remain for a very long time.





To understand how people and organizations respond and react to bad news is a valuable asset.  Effectively managing change is a skill and career accelerator.

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Saving Your Bacon

Posted on: July 22nd, 2014 by
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A few unmanaged loose ends at the end of a job search and you’ll never know why you didn’t get the job of your dreams. They are:  Background checks, references, inconsistencies, a social media gaffe and honesty.

Background Checks – Some people don’t think a company will look microscopically at their past experiences.  Think again.  When a company is looking for the perfect candidate, they first need to screen out those that fudge on their dates, schools, degrees, certificates, past companies or responsibilities.  If you have a problem area, you have two choices:  Either leave it out or come clean early in the process.  Don’t lie or you’ll never make it to the next step.

References – Don’t provide references until you know you’re a finalist candidate.  You don’t want to overwhelm them.  Your reference should be your best supporter.  Help them remember your most outstanding performance by giving them a list of accomplishments that parallel what the hiring company is looking for.  You don’t want references to draw a blank when they get the call.  Draft a script for them.  Understand that up to 50% of references are rated poor to mediocre by companies.  Make sure your references are top notch.

Inconsistencies – One of the ways to get eliminated from a job candidacy quickly is to have different information in different places:  Resume, interview, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on.  Surveys of hiring organizations have found that about half of all applicants have inconsistencies or worse.  Crosscheck and look for holes in your resume. If you don’t, the hiring company will.

Social media gaffes – About half of hiring companies check social media.  What are your friends saying about you?  Be careful about inside jokes that can be misinterpreted. Scrub out your past either by eliminating questionable items or add articles to bury them.

Honesty – Be honest, but tilt information to your advantage.  When asked for your compensation target, give a range not a specific number.  Benefits, incentives, bonuses, and commuting costs may have to be factored in.  You may have an Associate Degree leading to a full college degree.  Leaving it off isn’t a lie.  Put your highest degree, not an intermediate one.

What if you have a problem?  You can preempt issues by surfacing them early so you’re not hiding anything.  It’s all about how you present the information and when.  If you have a “hole” in your dates, present it as a positive:  “took a year off for a travel, education and language emersion “, “took 6 months to care for an ailing parent”,  “started a doctorate program”, “was promised a position that went away with a merger”, successfully sold time-shares after the merger to keep my sales skills sharp”.

Not managing these loose ends may cost you big time.  You can’t win the race until you cross the finish line.

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Assumptions and Success

Posted on: July 15th, 2014 by
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Be careful about your assumptions as they may help or hinder your success. If you approach situations with faulty assumptions, you lower your probability of success.

Assumptions affect behavior. If you assume you’ll not do well, chances are you won’t. Your behavior will be influenced and determined by your assumptions. Here are some thoughts about assumptions, behavior and change that you should test against your own reality.

  • All behavior is caused, whether it makes sense to you or not. Find out why someone else’s behavior makes sense to them. Understand the motivation to understand the behavior
  • Resist accepting quick first impressions of people. Your assumptions are most likely wrong.
  • You are what you believe, yet you have choices and alternatives
  • At different times we can either be rational or irrational. Ask yourself what is true?
  • We all want a chance to accomplish something worthwhile
  • We all want recognition and appreciation for our contribution
  • We are sensitive to criticism and yet we want “feedback”
  • We may not want change. We need a compelling reason to motivate us to change
  • We more readily understand people who are more similar to us
  • We aren’t usually motivated to understand people who are a lot different from us
  • Some people don’t practice participate management because they lack the skills and/or they’re afraid of the risk of change
  • On the other hand, some people do not wish to share power at all, with anyone, at any time, for any reason
  • Some of us want and yet are afraid of real responsibilities
  • Sometimes hard working people are working on the wrong things
  • Sometimes people confuse a high level of activity with results
  • In order to survive we will have to change some
  • In order to prosper and reach our personal and professional goals, we will have to learn new things, experience more and change a great deal over time
  • The primary factor for any strategy for change is “time”. The shorter the time for dramatic change, the more traumatic. The longer the time available for change with an effective strategy, the more smooth the change process.

What are some of your assumptions?

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