Job Search Tips

I’m sure you’ve heard some of these from well-meaning friends and family. What worked back in the era of the 3 martini lunch—or in the era when MTV still played music—doesn’t work today. If you hear any of these bits of advice, you have my permission, and encouragement, to ignore them!

Drop your resume off in person. Companies follow strict protocol for resume submission. I don’t know of any employer nowadays that accepts unsolicited resumes in person. Don’t do this. Follow the rules that the employer sets forth in the job descriptions.

Call to “schedule an interview.” This is presumptuous at best, intrusive at worst. If they want to interview you, they will contact you.

Print your resume on bond paper. No one wants a printed resume. No one. Don’t waste your time.

Limit your resume to one page. Unless you are a new graduate, you probably have more than a page’s worth of accomplishments.

Call to follow up on your application. First, unless you sent your application materials directly to an individual, how are you going to know who to follow up with? Again, contemporary etiquette dictates that the hiring company will reach out to you if they wish to have a discussion.

Send the hiring manager a gift so that you will stand out. Gimmicks will not get you a job.

If you’re not applying to 100 jobs a week, you’re not trying hard enough. The most effective job search is targeted. Applying to every posting you see is ineffective.

Offer to work for free in order to “prove yourself.” Not only will no reputable employer go for this, you should never offer your services without compensation. You perform valuable work for which you are compensated.

Get in as a temp, and then you’ll get hired full time! This worked in the 90s. It worked well in the 90s. But now, many companies use “permalancers.” That is, they keep contract employees as temporary ones and very rarely hire them for full-time roles.

Lets Accept a Job Offer

Every executive job search has much in common with every other job search. The rules of the game don’t fundamentally change according to industry, geography, or job status.

Despite the commonalities, however, executives in particular are on a slightly different road than other job seekers. The difference manifests itself in two ways.

First, executives face some special challenges of their own, challenges that don’t often confront other applicants, and they need to recognize and master those executive-specific challenges.

Second, in our experience executives are perfectly capable of making the kind of mistakes that any applicant might make, but they are particularly prone to certain kinds of mistakes. We may not fully understand that proclivity, but there seem to be some pitfalls that executives have special trouble avoiding. One thing we’ve learned, though, is that part of the problem is that executives simply don’t recognize those pitfalls for what they are.

We’ll look at both categories, the mistakes that are executive-specific and the ones that are more generic, and at how each affects three things: the job search, the executive resume and the executive interview. At the very least, the pitfalls themselves should become more visible, and increased awareness should put the executive job-seeker in a better position to call on some tested strategies for avoiding the worst job-search mistakes.

Mistakes in the Search

It’s all too easy to handle the job search in a way that won’t optimize the outcome. Thankfully, it’s not that hard to avoid common mistakes.

Failure to be proactive

The traditional, and all too typical, approach to the search is a reactive one. It involves recruiters and job postings, and little is required of the job seeker beyond throwing your resume in the general direction of any and all opportunities that seem to meet the most basic criteria.

That’s sometimes enough for the basic search, especially if the job market is strong, but the executive search should be proactive, not reactive. Presumably, you’ve been in the industry for a while. You know the companies that occupy the space, and you know the ones you’d like to join – and the ones you’d rather avoid at all costs. If your knowledge is lacking on this front, it’s worth doing your homework, finding the companies that appeal to you and targeting your efforts in that direction.

When you know what you’re looking for, you’re in a position to target the right companies with the right openings, and if you stay tuned to what’s happening in the organizations that matter, you shouldn’t hesitate to take the first step when it seems appropriate. In a proactive search, you don’t have to wait for the jobs to come to you.

Doing all your networking online

No one would deny that we live more and more of our lives online, and that’s where a great deal of professional networking gets done.

It’s a mistake, however, to put all your eggs in the online basket. As an executive, you’ve no doubt learned the value of the personal touch in the real world. A single one-to-one meeting can accomplish more than 100 emails.

That holds true for professional networking. Keep up with your contacts, and make new ones, in person. Whether that means attending professional events, going to alumni functions or expanding your volunteering efforts, in-person contact has impact far beyond anything that happens online.

The reason when you decide to leave that job

As a career coach I am often asked by clients if I think they should take a job offer. Just because you get a job offer doesn’t mean that you have to accept it.

To help you make your decision, create a list of important criteria for taking or turning down a job. Your list might include salary, benefits, commuteHow do you answer the interview question, “Why did you leave that job?”

This post is the third in a series of excerpts from my upcoming eBook, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview, to be published January 4, 2017. You can pre-order it as an eBook now or get the softcover in January.

Does your departure indicate a problem that could derail your interview?

If you left and immediately started a new job, it’s no problem: you left for a better opportunity (or what you thought was a better opportunity, even if it didn’t work out).
On the other hand, leaving without a new job lined up is generally a red flag, so this question is tricky.

The key is this: although one reason may dominate in your mind – probably the most emotional one, such as a personality conflict or issue with the boss – usually there are more reasons. List them all on a piece of paper. Then see which of these reasons makes the best impression.

Here’s an example.

Joe quit his job for the following reasons: (1) his boss was a micromanager, (2) the company, a hospital, had toxic office politics, (3) the circumstances made it difficult or impossible to move up into a better department, (4) he couldn’t stay until he found a new job because the job left him no time or energy for job search, and (5) he also had an itch to move into the pharmaceutical industry.

Reasons 1 and 2 are a minefield that would be hard to discuss without presenting himself as a complainer who badmouths his former employer. But he doesn’t need to go there; he can build a truthful answer out of reasons 3-5:

“While Bayworth Hospital is a great institution in terms of patient care, and I had three excellent years there, with strong accomplishments like the ones we’ve discussed, there really wasn’t a path upward for me there any more (reason #3). It was time to leave and pursue my longtime interest in pharmaceutical companies (#5) like this one. The job was intensely demanding and it didn’t leave me the energy to conduct a search. (#4) So I gave notice, helped the department make a smooth transition, and then left to devote myself to a full-time process of transitioning into doing what I’m most passionate about.”

Why does this answer work? Because it’s true, tactful, brief (30 seconds) and focused on the positive. It’s also a great example of the “sandwich technique”: surrounding a negative (the fact that he left) with positives (his respect for the hospital in certain ways, his accomplishments and his passion for the current opportunity).

What if Joe had been fired? In a past chapter I said “Never volunteer a negative.” Joe doesn’t need to say he was fired, unless specifically asked. His answer could be the same as above, with a slightly different ending:

“…It was time to leave and pursue my longtime interest in pharmaceutical companies like this one. Since then I’ve devoted myself to a full-time process of transitioning into doing what I’m most passionate about.” time, do you like the people you will be working with, is the new job challenging, is the company stable, does the mission of the company resonate with your values, is there opportunity for growth, etc. Your list will be unique to you as we all have different criteria that are important to us. For example, it might be important to someone who has the responsibility of a mortgage and children to work for a stable organization whereas someone without those responsibilities might be open to more risk. Or conversely, a person who has a home and family might love the challenge of working for a start-up whereas a person just starting out in his or her career might be drawn to a company that offers security. Make your list based on what is most important to you.

After you have your list of important criteria, put two columns beside each of your criteria. Above column one write “Yes, this criteria will be met in the job” and above column two write “No, this criteria will not be met in the job”.

If the job offer meets most or all of your criteria, dig a little deeper. If anything concerned you during the interview process – the interviewer complained about the company, the job responsibilities were not clear, no one could answer your questions about benefits – ask follow up questions. Find out as much as you can about the company, its future prospects and what it is like to work there. If the answers that you get are good, ask for the offer in writing.

Don’t say yes to a job offer you really don’t want unless you feel that you do not have any other options. Remember, just because you get an offer doesn’t mean you have to take it.  Make your decision based on what is best for you and follow your instincts.

Your Job Search Plan

In a larger sense, your entire career could be viewed as made up of seasonal shifts, from your first job out of college (spring) to your retirement and possible second-act role (winter).  Your job search might not have seasonal changes that correspond closely to those you experience in terms of climate-based alterations throughout the year, but as a microcosm of the overall career evolution process, it can and often does change at least somewhat from start to finish.

Consequently, you might find it helpful to consider your job search plan from the viewpoint of seasonal changes. When you start out, you have a goal in mind and define the steps you believe are necessary to achieve that goal.  As the search progresses, though, you could well find yourself facing the need to grow and change in ways you hadn’t anticipated when you started the search.


As I’m writing this, we’re experiencing fall here in Massachusetts, and the leaves have been dropping for a while, although they’re not done yet. This tells us we’re headed for winter weather (snow, ice, etc.), probably not too many weeks in the future, and we might want to make sure our snow-blowers are in good shape!

If that’s comparable to where you are in your job search when you read this, you’ve most likely been engaged in the search for a while. In that case, now might be a good time to re-evaluate your situation and see how far you’ve come toward the goal of a new job and what you still have left to accomplish.

If you’ve been thinking that the end of the year isn’t a good time to work on your job search because “no one is hiring until after January 1,” I encourage you to reconsider. You might not be able to envision the end of your job search at this point, but even if it’s not visible on the horizon yet, you can make progress toward it and save yourself time and trouble on the other end.

Of course, the same can apply equally well regardless of which stage of the search you’re in. Starting it now instead of waiting for January 1 to join the job-seeking crowd could give you a leg-up on your competition. That’s a good thing!


Unless you want your future to be “more of the same” as the past and present have been, you need to consider building change into the pattern. For instance, if you’re well into the late summer/early fall of your career, the job search probably will look quite different from those you conducted earlier in your career. You’ll have developed a larger and hopefully stronger network, for instance, and will be tapping into that to help move your job search to a successful conclusion.

If you’re contemplating the pursuit of a higher-level management position, the time between now and the end of the year can be usefully applied to maximizing all the resources available to you, including but not limited to your professional network. You’ll definitely want to assess your strongest points from an employer’s perspective and make sure you have attention-getting stories to tell about your successes in those areas.

Tips for avoid interview mistakes

How do you answer the interview question, “What’s a major mistake you’ve made on the job?” This post is the fourth in a series of excerpts from my upcoming eBook, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Job Interview.

How to answer the interview question, “Tell me about a major mistake you made.”

The intention here is to see whether you are open to admitting, taking responsibility for and learning from your mistakes. No one wants employees who will sweep their mistakes under the rug or blame them on others. They also want to hear that you clean up after yourself where possible, going the extra mile to make things right.

Here’s an example:

“On a software project I managed, a certain manager didn’t come to the regular meetings until the final one where everyone was supposed to sign off. There, at the last minute, he objected to a great new feature the team was excited about. Later I realized how I could have countered that objection, but at the time it caught me by surprise, I didn’t make a good case for it, and the feature was left off.

“What I learned for the future was to always make sure the key stakeholders are involved early, and that’s what I’ve done since then. Anyway, I worked hard to ensure that the new feature would be in the next release – and it was!”

Are you plan for leaving your job

I was asked the same interview prep question three times last week. They all more or less went like this:

“I have a simple question. I was let go from my job this week. The reason was because:

A) I had a conflict with my boss that came to a head.


B) I was a whistleblower on a wrong practice my department was doing and instead of fixing it they let me go.


C) My department was moved to Cincinnati and I could have gone, but I’m sick of doing this job.

What do I say for my “reason for leaving (RFL)” my job?”

A simple question. Yes. Simple to ask.

Not so simple to answer.

Can you see why?

Everyone’s situation is different.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all reason-for-leaving answer.

These are the unique points you need to consider when practicing your reason for leaving:

  • Were you there a long time or a short time?
  • Is this really the only time you had a conflict with your boss or has it been ongoing?
  • Will they give or not give you a good reference?
  • Are you looking to stay in the same field or do a career change?

It’s these answers that help us devise a RFL.

The “Reason for Leaving” answer has to make sense for your situation.

For instance, you cannot say you left because you want a career change when you’re interviewing for the same job.

Constructing a truthful, diplomatic and sensical RFL is a real thing a job seeker must do to advance in the interview process.

You can’t just wing it and expect someone like me to give you a one-sized-fits-all answer.