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Professional Associations: Helping Professionals Progress Their Careers

Professional associations are some of the most helpful (but often under used) resources for networking.  There are literally thousands of professional associations representing every different type of industry and profession.

A professional association is a group of professionals within a career field who come together for:

  • Individual professional development and advancement
  • Promoting the field as well as educating the public on issues related to the industry
  • Networking and collaborating
  • Sharing new ideas and practices that set standards for the industry and workplace
  • Representing interests of industry before federal, state and local governments

To explore and discover the professional association that would fit your goals, visit the American Society of Association Executives at www.asaecenter.org or you can visit their searchable directory to find associations in Colorado by clicking here.

Following is an interview with Mark Beese, who was recently inducted into the Legal Marketing Association Hall of Fame.  Mark is also a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management.

Mark is President of Leadership for Lawyers, a consultancy dedicated to helping professionals become better leaders and business developers. He is the former Chief Marketing Officer of Holland & Hart, a 450 attorney law firm based in Denver.  Mark also serves as adjunct faculty at the University of Denver Sturm School of Law, where he teaches Strategic Marketing and Business Development. Contact him at mark@leadershipforlawyers.com and www.leadershipforlawyers.com.

How can job seekers benefit from engaging with professional associations during their job search?

Hopefully you haven’t waited to get involved with a professional association before you had to start a search.  Even if you did, find the one or two associations that best fit your career interest, attend meetings and work the room.  Look for highly connected people (ask the Chapter President or Program Committee Chair) and ask them for introductions to people who do what you want to do.  When you find them, ask them for help in the form of an informational interview.  You would be surprised how willing people are to help others.  Take them out for coffee, lunch or drink and pick their brain.  Ask:

–    How did you get into the business?
–    What advice would you have for someone trying to break into the profession/industry?
–    What skills, training, experience or background is critical to land a job in this area?
–    What companies in this area hire people like you?
–    Do you know of any companies hiring in this area?
–    Whom else should I talk to in order to learn more about the profession and job opportunities?

Don’t sell, be pushy, self-centered or ungrateful.  Keep in touch with the contact so that when you land your dream job, you can thank her or him for the role they played in your success.

And if you are the someone lucky enough to be asked out for coffee, lunch or drink:

–    Say yes when asked for help.  You likely benefited from a mentor, coach or kind person years ago and you need to pay if forward.  Pay for said cup of coffee, lunch or beer.  Money can be tight for a job hunter.
–    Be open about your story – your successes and failures – and take the opportunity to encourage the job seeker.
–    Search your network for people who might be able to open doors, give advice or offer assistance to the seeker.  Make an email or personal introduction.
–    Don’t feel like you have to hire or refer the seeker to others for employment.  You don’t have to solve their problem, just help them along their path.
–    Keep in touch so that if an opportunity pops up in the future, you can offer additional help.  Keep an eye out for educational and networking opportunities you can pass on to the seeker.

What advice would you give to professionals contemplating becoming involved with a professional association?

Choose the organization wisely.  Go to a few meetings and work the room.  Find a board member and ask for introductions.  Are these “your” people?  Can you learn from them?  Are there ways that you can contribute?  Did you have fun?

You have to give to the organization in order to benefit from the network.  Look for opportunities to contribute your time, expertise and energy.  The program/education/activities committee is a great place to start.  Look for the best way to meet the most people.  Be vulnerable and open to making new friends.  Go the extra mile to have substantive conversations with people and offer to help others and the organization whenever you can.

Be generous.

Consider a multi-year plan to increase your involvement, run for a board position and consider a regional or national committee or board position. At each level you will enrich your network and leadership opportunities, as well as have an opportunity to help others.

Don’t forget to bring your firm or company along for the ride.  Seek their support in your quest for networking and leadership development.  Bring back great ideas and share them with your company.  Bring members of your company’s leadership team along with you to appropriate programs or conferences and use the time with them to build your relationship and discuss each others vision for your company.

What point in your career did you become involved in professional associations and why?

I joined the Society of Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) as soon as I started at Kideney Architects as their first Marketing Director.  Frankly, I didn’t have much of a clue what I was doing.  The local chapter gave me an opportunity to meet other marketing folks from architecture, engineering and construction companies.  I was fortunate to meet a number of veteran marketers who took me under their wing and let me drill them with questions.  They informally mentored and coached me over the years.

I attended local meetings and the national conferences. The education programming was very helpful to me as a young marketer. I joined the board in the second year of my career.  Our board meetings were frequently held in restaurants.  We would trade secrets over dinner, then conduct business afterwards.  The most valuable thing for me was learning how other people dealt with common issues.  After being on the board for a few years, I felt a need to give back, so I ran for President of the Upstate New York Chapter, which opened doors for networking and learning on a national level.

That was 1990.  I’ve been involved with either SMPS or the Legal Marketing Association ever since.

How have professional associations helped you in your career?

SMPS and LMA have been my main source of mentors and mentoring for 25 years.  I have been very fortunate to develop friendships with some of the kindest and smartest people in legal marketing and law firm management.  These role models have been generous in their advice, direction, encouragement and referrals.

Some time ago, I was at my wits end working for attorneys.  I was ready to either go back to marketing architecture/engineering or finding a new line of work.  I was fortunate to have a few close friends through the LMA with whom I could share my frustrations. They were generous in their support and advice, leading me to find a new CMO job with Holland & Hart in Denver, a job that I enjoyed for nearly nine years.  I am forever grateful for their help in getting through a difficult time.

In late 2008 when I left Holland & Hart to start my consultancy, it was my LMA network that helped me find some of my first clients and speaking gigs.  I would never have gotten Leadership for Lawyers off the ground without their support, confidence and connections.

Associations also give people an opportunity to build professional skills and credibility. I started speaking at association meetings in 2002.  I wasn’t very good at first, but over time I gained confidence and competence in designing substantive sessions and delivering them in an effective and entertaining manner.  Speaking is now an important part of my marketing mix and has helped me develop credibility as a consultant, trainer and coach.  I am now a professional member of the National Speakers Association (NSA), an association for professional speakers that has opened a whole new world of learning and networking.  BTW, Denver has a great chapter that offers world-class training for professional speakers.

Building a strong network is critical to success.  Not only do you know whom to call for help or advice, but you have an opportunity to help others as well.  In the 16 years I have been involved with the Legal Marketing Association, I have met some of the most creative, energetic, strong, resilient and brilliant professionals on the planet.  I look forward to seeing them at regional and national events to trade stories, learn from each other and hopefully helping each other.  The network has evolved to a very active online discussion forum on Facebook and LinkedIn – a place were we help and supports each other.

I have been consulting as a sole practitioner for five years.  Most of my work and inbound referrals come from contacts gained through the Legal Marketing Association and the Association of Legal Administrators.  I frequently speak and write to these audiences in order to keep my brand fresh and to expand my network among possible referral sources and clients throughout the country.

As a member of a professional association, how have you been involved? (volunteering, board of directors, committee, events, speaking, writing, etc.)

Professional associations are a great way to learn leadership, management and communication skills.  One of my earliest roles was doing PR for a professional association.  I had to learn how to write a press release, fax it to media outlets and follow up by phone.  Those activities introduced me to local and industry media contacts, which helped me with PR duties for my firm.

The same goes for management and leadership.  Getting involved with a professional association allows you opportunities for delegation, mentoring, creating vision, developing strategic plans and networking.

When I arrived in Denver as the new Marketing Director of Holland & Hart, one of the first things I did was to track down Lisa Simon, the local president of the Legal Marketing Association Chapter.  I went to a few meetings and then conspired with Chancey Green to be the program co-chair the following year.  It was great way to meet other marketers from other professional service firms and to benchmark my firm’s efforts with our competitors.  I learned a lot from my fellow marketers and developed strong friendships with many of them.

Over the years I served on the Rocky Mountain Chapter Board, including a stint as President.  This served as an entry to serve on the International Board and on several national committees including the Your Honor Award (National Award) Committee, Strategic Planning Committee and others.

After I stepped down from the National Board, I focused on speaking and writing on the topic of leadership to chapters and associations across North and Central America.

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For job seekers, modesty is over-rated but confidence never goes out of style.

I was in the park with my young kids the other day and heard a conversation between a child, his mother and one of his mom’s friends.

“David, how have you been?”

“I’ve been great!  I play baseball now!”

“How’s that going?”

“Terrific!  In my last game, I had three hits and a homerun!  I also pitched and got four strikeouts! My coach named me the player of the game!”

Mom chimes in:

“Now Davey! You shouldn’t brag! Remember, there were other kids on that team that helped win the game too!”

Everyone probably remembers a conversation like this from their own childhood. Ever since we were kids we’ve been reminded that it is impolite to brag, take all the credit or boast about our accomplishments.

In my job seeking consultancy the most difficult question to answer is, “So, can you tell me about yourself?”  Our awkwardness in taking ownership for our career accomplishments is also often reflected in resumes and cover letters.

So here’s the deal, job seekers:

Your ‘aw-shucks’ modesty is not endearing; it is hurting your chances of getting a job!

Employers will not correctly guess what your strengths are nor will they safely assume that your skills and accomplishments are a good fit for the job you are applying.

Your ‘aw-shucks’ modesty is not endearing; it is hurting your chances of getting a job!

The only way others will know how your hard work, education and background is tied to your success is when you TELL THEM.  The only way your future employer will know that you have the best skill sets, the most relevant experience and the differentiators that set you apart from your competition is when you make these things crystal clear in every touch point of the job application process.

So, how do you this?

The number one strategy of the successful job seekers I’ve interviewed is a focused, red-hot confidence.

Confidence is not bragging nor is it boasting.  It’s simply and directly stating and describing your very real accomplishments.

Start with your resume.  If you are using ‘wimp’ or ‘fluff’ words and phrases like “Coordinated,” “Helped,” “Highly talented,” “Motivated,” or “Hard working,” your resume will most likely not be seriously considered. If you describe yourself using results-oriented words such as “Senior level,” “Expert in….,” “Led,” “Managed,” “Created,” followed by result-oriented accomplishments, a recruiter will put your resume on the top of the pile.

In addition, if you have quantifiable results use these results to emphasize your accomplishments. For example, “increased sales by 30%,” “Improved customer satisfaction by 25%,” “Increased website traffic by 25%,” “Increased revenue by $25 million in one quarter.”

Lastly, if you are having a hard time talking about yourself in an interview or feel awkward taking credit for your success, ask yourself the following question, “What is your proudest career accomplishment?” Was it a project?  Was it something you did to earn a promotion?  Was it an accomplishment that relied on all of your skills, expertise and integrity? What was required of you to be successful? What part of your background — your education, your experience, your intuition — did you call on to be successful?  Did you have to inspire others?  Did you have convince your boss? How did you measure the results of your accomplishment?

When you start thinking about the things in your career that have made you successful, you start to understand and recognize that describing your successes is NOT bragging, it is simply taking ownership of all of the things that make you, YOU!  That is something every employer wants to understand — what makes you tick? What are the things that made you successful in the past that are going to make you successful at our organization?

Bottom line?  Confidence means not being afraid to take ownership for your successful career. It means providing a deliberate and detailed explanation of how your talents and skills, your accomplishments, your promotions, your leadership and your results are tied to the job your are applying and how those things are valuable to your future employer.

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The Job Interview: Preparation Leads to Job Offer


To many job seekers, the interview is the most difficult part of the job-seeking process.  In fact, it is the most crucial point in deciding whether you will be offered a job and it is extremely important that a tremendous amount of thought, research, anticipation and preparation are put into your upcoming interview.

Let’s face it:  When you are in a final interview situation, you are probably one of a handful of candidates who are being considered.  You, like the other candidates, have proven that you match the requirements of the position; in other words, any of the finalists probably COULD do the job.  But at the interview, the hiring manager is now trying to determine other things that will identify the ‘unspoken’ qualities and differentiators that will help them decide who is the best fit for the team.

Before the interview

There’s a sweet spot you want to aim for in any interview – it exists between desperation and arrogance – it’s called ROCK SOLID CONFIDENCE

If you make it to the interview stage, there are several things that you want to do to prepare.

Give yourself an inner-pep talk to get yourself motivated and excited about the interview opportunity; there’s a sweet spot you want to aim for in any interview – it exists between desperation and arrogance – it’s called ROCK SOLID CONFIDENCE!  You only get there by believing in yourself, adequately preparing for the interview and having solid examples from your qualifications, your past experience and your accomplishments that demonstrate your relevance and why you are the best person for the job.

In any interview, you want to feel as if you have confidence and are in control of demonstrating why you are the best fit for the job.  The goal for any interview is to make it more of a relaxed conversation than it feeling like its ‘them against me’ where they are rattling off pre-written questions and simply copying your answers down.

Think about it: if you’ve ever interviewed somebody for a job, you know how challenging it can be, but also how refreshing it is when the right person comes along and confidently demonstrates all of the traits you are looking for in that new employee.

Eye contact, body language, consistent and precise answers to questions all help you to engage the interviewer.  Relax, but try not to drone on and on as you answer a question; often that shows a sign of desperation in trying to make your answer ‘fit’ the question.  In addition, as one HR executive recently told me, “If they are boring to me, it’s a good sign they will be boring to my important clients.”

Most importantly…  SMILE!  A smile is disarming not only to the interviewer but it also helps you to relax.

Here are five tips to help you prepare for the interview:

1.) Re-read the job posting, your resume and cover letter.  This will immediately get you thinking about how your qualifications and background are connected to the job you’ve applied for.
You obviously impressed the company by being able to connect your background to the job requirements as spelled out in the job posting. Now, you have to make this same connection in one-on-one, person-to-person interview.This is a critical element!

One recruiter I talked to compared it to reading a really good book and then being disappointed by the movie that was made from the book.  In other words, translating what is on your resume to your live interview must connect the expectations you’ve set on paper to how you now present yourself in person.

2.) Research.  This will show you understand their company, their industry and connect how your background adds value to their mission.
There are literally dozens of research tools at your fingertips to gain a full understanding of the company you are applying to. From the company’s website, to online news sources that give you the latest news about the company to industry reports that can help you put their organization into context of the industry they operate.

At the interview, while there won’t be an expectation that you are an expert in their business, you should be able to talk intelligently about the company. You should also be able to show WHY you want to work for the company and how your skills would add value to the company. Having a thorough understanding of their business is one of the only ways to make that authentic connection between your background and their business.

As one HR recruiter told me, “It’s an automatic ‘F’ if the job seeker doesn’t have a solid grasp of our company and what we do. There’s no good reason for this and it demonstrates they have little to no ambition if they can’t do some simple research on us.”

3.) Practice answering the question that you will be asked at every interview: “Can you tell us about yourself?”  This will allow you hit the highlights of your qualifications and experience and allow you set the direction of the interview from the beginning.
The way you answer this question can put you in the driver’s seat for the rest of the interview. It is your first and most important opportunity to give a short synopsis showing the chronology of your career and most importantly begin highlighting and tying the relevance of your experience to the job you are applying for.

4.) Anticipate the questions that will be asked of you and practice answering them.  This will help you connect your qualifications to the job posted and control your strengths that YOU want to get across during the interview.
When you read a job posting, you can tell there are probably five critical things in terms of both the job description (what you will be required to do) and the requirements of the position (experience/skills required for the job). You should be fully prepared to talk specifically about your past qualifications and specific experiences to show how they are relevant to the job you are applying for.

Consider asking yourself, “What are three-to-five good reasons why I’m the best fit for this position?” File these reasons away in your head as they are your mantra throughout the interview – the things you want to get across during the interview. You also should have examples from your past work (past projects, accountabilities, accomplishments) connecting how your qualifications are matched to the job you are applying.

At the end of the interview, there will be a question of you, “Is there anything else you’d like to add?”  At this point, think through the things you wanted to get across that prove you are most qualified for this position. Were you able to connect them to the job you are applying for?  If not, now is the time to summarize for the interviewer why you believe your qualifications, background and experience are best for the position.

One successful job seeker I coached told me, “When I really started anticipating obvious questions, I found myself more prepared for the interview.  In the past, some of the questions left me feeling like the proverbial ‘deer in the headlights.’ Truly thinking about how I would answer questions gives me a lot of ammunition in terms of putting my qualifications and accomplishments on full display and a side effect was that I developed a deeper passion for the position which also helped me convince the employer I was the right person for the job.”

5.) Conduct a mock interview with a friend/mentor.  This will help you practice and refine your answers speaking out loud in front of another person.
Write down the questions you have anticipated that you might get asked and have a friend ask you the questions to practice your answers. Have your friend critique you. Are you getting the main points you want to get across? Are you engaging? Are your answers concise, clear and understandable?

Remember, being prepared for the interview is one of the most critical parts of ‘acing’ the interview and getting a job offer. It helps you relax, and you enter the interview with a great deal of confidence.

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Touch Points.

One of the most common strategies in successful branding is to develop a believable brand promise that creates a positive perception about a product in the eyes of the targeted audience the product seeks to influence. Through that perception, the brand will trigger a response from the targeted audience, which, if successful, will initiate a ‘trial’ of the product.

If, through the trial of the product, the product lives up to the brand promise that initially influenced the audience to action, then the audience will repeat their behavior and ultimately, if the product continues to deliver on its promise, will create the ultimate in branding success – brand loyalty.  

At each stage – trial, repeat and loyalty – there are specific marketing touch points the brand is using to connect to and influence its audience.

And as a ‘product’ in the marketplace of employment, we also have the power to create our own brand promise and influence the perception of ourselves in the eyes of a targeted audience – in the job seeker’s case, the audience being a potential employer.

The resume, the cover letter and the interview are the three most common touch point opportunities a job seeker has to influence an employer’s perception and opinion.  The job seeker wants to persuade the employer that they match the requirements of the job posting in every way – from the experience, the talents, the qualifications, the skills and expertise; and prove that they will add value to the company and to the department.

In most cases, it is not too difficult to interpret the job posting to determine the most essential requirements and skills the employer is searching for, but in each stage, it is up to the job seeker to connect their relevance to the job posting’s requirement.

The resume and the cover letter are the first touch points and it is up to the job seeker to make the connection from the job posting requirements to their ‘brand’ in order to influence an employer to contact them.

The interview is commonly the most difficult part for job seekers.  It is at this point where you must translate in a person-to-person conversation the elements of your ‘brand promise’ that came across in the resume and cover letter that influenced the employer to contact you (trial) for an interview.

While this is a simplified explanation of branding, job seekers need to think much the same way, because let’s face it, when you are looking for a job, you are the Chief Marketing Officer for yourself.

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Ace the Job Interview through Building Bridges


Let’s face it:  the job search process seems a little silly.

Your resume is supposed to spell out your years of experience, expertise and accomplishments using a dozen-or-so short, bulleted synopsis with the hope that someone ‘gets you’ and sees that your background, above everyone else, is the right fit for the position.

Now, saying that, resumes and cover letters are necessary and there are clearly effective ways to write impactful resumes and cover letters that help you to stand out.

Assuming your resume does open the door for you and you are now in the formal recruitment process, you are now faced with an even more daunting challenge: convincing the hiring manager at the interview that you are the right person for the job.

It’s during the interview where you not only must connect all of the relevance to the position they detected on your resume, but also where you must display a true passion and desire for the company and for the job for which you are applying.

I spoke with an HR manager at one of Denver’s biggest ad agencies last week and he told me that the thing that really stands out with him when interviewing someone is that the job seeker displays a level of self-assuredness not only about their skills, but how they can display how their skills translate to the specific job they are interviewing for.

“Often I see job seekers in interviews who are trying to convince me that their breadth of background would be a perfect fit for the company; I need you to connect your background to the specific job your are interviewing for – that is what I will be ultimately be judging you on.

“If someone appears desperate, then they will probably go overboard in describing how they can do anything we ask of them. Often, this also translates to long-winded answers which give us the impression you are boring.  If you are boring me, I’m left with the impression you will also bore our clients.

“Give me short, specific examples of how your background connects to the specific position.   Paint the picture in my head of how you will be the most effective person for this job.  Convince me that you are right for this job.”

Building Bridges

I’ve found that most job-seeking advice sounds good when you describe it, but in fact, is much more difficult in practice.  This is particularly true with advice about how to effectively interview.

The fact is that the end-goal for any job-seeking interview situation is to influence the perception of the person who is doing the interviewing in your favor; you want them to leave the interview believing you are the right person for the job.

One of the biggest mistakes people in interviews make is trying to quickly determine the answer you believe the interviewer wants to hear. There are a couple of things wrong with this approach.  The primary mistake is that you simply don’t know what the interviewer wants to hear; and secondly, you are giving up a great opportunity to display your true grasp of the issue.

When I was the Chief Spokesman for the Mayor of Denver, I perfected a few tricks that helped the Mayor to navigate through tricky media interview situations.

In any interview, we would prepare the Mayor to concentrate on 3-5 messages that HE wanted to get across in the interview – in other words, we worked with him to control weaving these messages into the interview.  So no matter the question, he would tailor his answers back to the points HE wanted to make.

This technique is called bridging and is completely applicable to the job-seeking interview process.

In bridging, the goal is to lead your answer to one of the 3-5 points you want to make – again these 3-5 points are going to be connected to your relevance to the job.  When you think about it this way, you can see that you are in much more control of the interview and can communicate with a much greater level of confidence and assuredness.

For example:

Q:  Our company is still coming to grips with using social media effectively.  What are the things that you would do broaden our reach using social media and how can we use a blog for our CEO to promote the company?

Wrong Answer:  Without question, you need to be on Twitter, Facebook and also we should create a CEO blog that will help promote your CEO.  I’m familiar with all social media and could really help this company promote itself using social media.

Right Answer:  My experience with social media tells me a couple of things.  Primarily, it requires a serious assessment of the need and as importantly the time, effort, and resources that are required to use social media effectively.  In my last position, we looked at all the tools we were using in our overall marketing efforts and developed a specific campaign that included social media to see how our customers would respond. Through Twitter alone we increased traffic to our point-of-sale website by 22% in the first 3 months.  But the blog we created was more difficult because of the lack of time and commitment from upper management. But the critical issue is this: before committing to using one social media tool over the other and to set realistic expectations about what social media can deliver, its important to test different social media tools.

As you can see, the second answer uses the bridging phrases ‘My experience…tells me a couple of things’ and ‘…the critical issue is this.’  Using these types of bridging phrases immediately sets up an expectation of an authoritative response.  Bridging gives you power – it allows you to use past experiences to demonstrate a point and it highlights your expertise and how it would apply to the job your applying.

Here are several other bridging phrases that can help you:

From my perspective…

I have heard that too, but the real focus should be on….

If I may, let me pick out another point that is equally as important….

Based on a similar project I was involved in, I might describe it differently…

Looking ahead, I believe…

Here’s a related point I’m even more familiar with…

That’s an important point, but here’s my view on the issue…

The question might also be…

Opinions might differ on this point, but here’s my bottom line…

Let’s use another perspective…

Some people might consider this is the most important issue, but my experience tells me that…

Bottom Line
Bridging works.  Remember, don’t always answer the question in the way you think the interviewer WANTS to hear the response, think about how you can get to the answer that is most helpful to demonstrate your 3-5 points you want to make in an interview.

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Job Doctor: One recruiter’s five-step plan for job seekers to get noticed

Dear Job Doctor:

I’ve sent my resume in response to dozens of job postings but am not getting calls back.  What am I doing wrong?

Going Bonkers in Denver

Dear GBID:

This is a very common problem – probably the biggest frustration I hear from job seekers.

What are things that will get your resume noticed and help your resume land in the pile for consideration?

Think about it from a human resource recruiter’s perspective.

An HR recruiter at a company is typically what we call a ‘generalist.’  They are professionals who are trained to hire the best possible talent for their organization and, in fact, their own jobs depend on it.

When you think about it that way, you can understand how important it is to prove to them why you should be considered; they WANT you to prove to them that you are the best candidate for the position.

One HR recruiter from a mid-size IT company explained the five-step-process she goes through when sifting through a pile of resumes on her desk.

1.)  Impactful resumes and cover letters that show in clear and organized ways the chronology of a career progression.

“I have about 60 seconds to look at a resume and determine if  a job seeker is a stellar candidate for the position,” she said.  “First, I look for basic criteria like years and type of experience, college degree, and chronology of employment.  I don’t have a lot of time to search for these things, they need to be laid out in a simple and easy-to-read, organized fashion.  The longer I have to search for these things, the less likely its a resume that will be considered.”

2.) Red flags.  You’ve heard it before – typos, including misspelled words and grammatical mistakes, matter.  But there are other red flags recruiters are looking for.

“Typos are the easy red flags.  But I’m also looking for red-flags such as multiple jobs in a short period of time, gaps in employment,  confusing or inconsistent dates as well as other things that might give me pause.  If things are not clear and transparent and I have to spend an inordinate amount of time questioning a resume, chances are slim it will get through my filters.

“If you have a unique situation, explain it in the resume or cover letter.  Have you been a stay-at-home parent for five years?  Have you been on the unemployment lines for 6 months without a job?  People think these and other situations will automatically disqualify them and that’s not necessarily true.  What has a greater chance of disqualifying you is if we don’t understand the situation.  Don’t make us guess or assume.”

3.) Clearly identified skills, accomplishments and experiences that are relevant to the position that is being applied for.

“If the resume gets through this initial screen, I then determine if this candidate’s background – their experience, skills, expertise, career progression – is relevant to the job they are applying for.

“No matter what the position, in both the resume and the cover letter, the candidate has to show me why their background is relevant to the job.  I want to believe you are the best candidate and it is in my best interest that you are,  but you have to help prove that to me.

“Tell me specifically what you did and what you accomplished.  Don’t use weak language to describe your background!  Impress me! Show confidence in your skills.  Use specific examples of past job responsibilities that are tied to the job you are applying for.  Did you manage people?  Oversee large budgets?  Do you have specific projects that drove the bottom line?  Were you promoted?  Tell me your story!”

4.) The pre-interview

Often, recruiters will call candidates that make it through their initial screen before they invite them in for a formal interview.

“I want to have a conversation to see if the resume really matches with the person we are considering.  Remember, ultimately, the people I send forward are based on my recommendation…I want to make sure they are the right candidates.

“Based on the initial resume review, I’ll usually have several questions relating to their background and I also want to get a sense over the phone if they are really serious about going through the recruiting process.   I’ll probably also discuss initial salary range to gauge whether the salary is a fit.  There’s nothing worse than going through the whole recruitment process only to find at the job offer that salary expectations are inconsistent with what is being offered.  It is helpful for candidates to be clear at the beginning about their expectations.

“Job seekers should always be prepared to discuss their background.  The most effective interviewers are the ones that anticipate the questions that will be asked of them.  We try to outline the job description in great detail and it is helpful if job candidates are prepared to speak to how their background is relevant to the job.”

5.) Little things matter! Politeness.  Attitude.  Prompt return of phone calls.  Gratitude.

“I often find job candidates who carry a disrespectful attitude toward HR recruiters.  They think the HR recruiter is a barrier to their opportunity; they’d prefer to immediately talk to the hiring authority or their new boss.

“We are trained professionals who are committed to the best interests of our organizations. Through the recruiting process, we also become advocates of the top talent we think will make the best employees for the position we are trying to hire.

“Many times, our first impressions will be deciding factors.  Be polite and respectful of our time.  Recognize that while we understand your anxiety, we are probably recruiting for several positions at one time and only have limited time throughout the day.

“Thank you notes are essential.  It shows us you ‘get it’ and it is a simple, respectful and appreciated gesture.

“There can be a lot of moving pieces in the recruiting process and you can do yourself a favor by being as helpful as you can throughout this process.”

Bottom line? Help the recruiter become an advocate for you.  Prove how you are clearly the best candidate.  Your resume shouldn’t read like a crossword puzzle – it should clearly show that you meet the basic criteria and most importantly, demonstrate in an organized and detailed fashion how your background is relevant to the job you are applying for.  Show how your skills, your background, your experience and expertise are a fit for the position.  Be polite and respectful and be clear about your expectations.    Answer all questions and ask the recruiter what are things that you can do to be most helpful throughout the process.

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“How do you feel about a monkey in the office?” The worst job interview questions ever

Today’s  job seekers try to prepare for everything.

They diligently research the background of companies to try to match their specific talents, experiences and expertise with what is required in the job posting.  They spend long hours customizing their resumes and cover letters.   They have incredible patience and perseverance, waiting by the phone and willing to jump at a moment’s notice for an interview.

And when they do get an interview, they rehearse their answers to the most commonly asked interview questions.

But even the most experienced job seeker would be at a loss when asked the questions below.

These are all real questions asked at real job interviews.  Perhaps the recruiter was trying to be cute or trying to see how the job seeker would handle an odd question, but these have got to be some of the worst questions asked at a job interview…..ever.

Some of these questions are illegal to ask.  At the very least many of them are inappropriate.  Others are just silly.   Some of these zingers are born from bizarre workplace  profile tests in which they are attempting to somehow judge whether your personality would fit in the corporate culture of the company.

Nevertheless, if you get asked an odd question, take a deep breath and don’t say the first thing that comes to mind.   Take a moment and decide the best response.  Granted, in some cases that best response might be standing up and walking out.

The Worst Interview Questions Ever

“If you were a salad, what kind of dressing would you want poured on you?”

“How do you define sexual harassment?”

“Pretend I am an Eskimo and sell me a freezer.”

“We’ve already made a hiring decision, but I’m required to ask you  some questions anyway.”

“It’s OK if you don’t know a lot about our industry.  Our CEO’s kind of an idiot about what we do as well.”

“How do you feel about a monkey in the office?”

“Are you sure you are Hispanic?  Your last name sure doesn’t sound Latin.”

I was asked “Why are pothole covers round?” while interviewing for a reception job years ago. WHAT? Luckily I got it right (so they don’t fall in), and still didn’t get the job.

“You’re not the type that would sue your employer, are you?”

“When was the last time you did something illegal?”

“What is the airspeed of an unladen swallow?”

“We don’t allow personal calls at work.  Would your children ever call you?”

“You’d be the fourth person in this position in the last six months.  What traits do you think will help you stay in this position?”

“Are you dating anyone? Well don’t date anyone here.”

“If you were to pick the theme song that would be played when you stepped out onto home plate at Coors Field – what would it be?”

“Do you care if your boss reads your email?”

“If we don’t hire you, which of our competitors would you want to work for?” Followed by:  “If we finally offered the same wages as them, would you work for us?”

“If we hire you, do you promise not to quit?”

“How do you feel about working unpaid overtime?”

“Do you speak Japanese?”   Uhhh…shouldn’t they have put that in the ad??

“Are you pregnant, or going to get pregnant in the next 12 months?”

During a phone interview – “Are you as sexy as your voice?”

“Why do you want this job when you should be home having babies?”

“If you were a celebrity, who would you be?”

“If you could be a teacher, a jet pilot or an actor, which would you be and why?”

and lastly (after the interview) –

“We know we offered you the job, but our new CEO asked us to hire a friend of the Mayor’s instead.”

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