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Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill

August 28th, 2018

By: Karen Colligan

There’s an old saying among recruiters and other hiring professionals – “Hire for attitude, train for skill.” Yet how many companies really do that? Look at any job description or posting and you’ll see plenty about the technical skills required and very little about the personal qualities or soft skills needed to succeed in the role.

This, despite the stat I talked about in my last blog – 85% of job success comes from soft skills, not hard skills.

The benefit of well-developed soft skills is borne out pretty quickly in an employee’s job tenure. A study by Leadership IQ, a research and training company, found that 46% of new hires will fail within their first 18 months. Why? Not because of a lack of technical skills, which only accounted for 11% of the failures, but because of their lack of soft skills.

According to the study, “26% of new hires fail because they can’t accept feedback, 23% because they’re unable to understand and manage emotions, 17% because they lack the necessary motivation to excel, 15% because they have the wrong temperament for the job.”

I say it’s time we rethink how we develop job descriptions and go about attracting and developing the right people for the right positions within our organizations. In addition to requiring that candidates have the right job-related skills, include the soft skills that will help the candidate succeed in the role. Then, in addition to creating questions around technical skills, train your hiring managers and other interviewers to ask well thought-out behavioral questions that will determine whether the candidate has the personal qualities and interpersonal skills that are needed for the job and to be a contributing member of the team.

Create a culture where the “soft skills” are valued as much or more than the “hard skills.” Review your learning and development strategy to ensure that employees have opportunities to build their capabilities in problem solving, innovation, emotional intelligence and other competencies that will help them succeed. Promote people to leadership roles not because they are the best at the function or have been there the longest, but because they demonstrate the personal qualities that will set the bar for the organization in creating the workforce for the future.

And, for those of you who are job seekers, take an inventory of your soft skills. Which of those skills have contributed most to your past success? Have you included them on your resume? Do you have specific examples of how you’ve leveraged those skills to achieve success in previous roles? What skills or behaviors do you need to work on to be ready for your target role/organization? What’s your plan for improving those skills and behaviors?

Till next time,

Hiring, Interviewing, Leadership, Soft skills


Preparing for an Interview? Avoid These “No-No’s”

June 26th, 2014

By: Karen Colligan

You would think that a person would strive to be sensible when they are in job interview mode. Sorry to say that’s not always the case. I have heard some hilarious stories from hiring managers and recruiters.  Although I have complete faith in mankind, I feel compelled to remind people of some No-No’s as they are out interviewing. Yes, they seem like common sense. And yet I’ve heard real-life examples of each of these. Don’t let that be you! Here are my Top 10.

    1. Women – stop with the cleavage already. I don’t care what your age, I don’t care what type of job you are interviewing for, do not show cleavage. It is as simple as that.  Cover up!

    2. Gentlemen – is it really necessary to unbutton that third button? Really? No, the interviewer does not need to see your hairy chest.

    3. Be careful of your aroma. Go easy on the deodorant, cologne, perfume, hair spray, make-up.

    4. Don’t eat before your interview. You don’t want bad breath or something stuck between your teeth. Now THAT would be a distraction.

    5. Do NOT wear blue jeans to the interview. It does not matter how casual the environment. Dress smart. You can show you have style and will fit into the environment wearing something other than blue jeans. Wait until you have the job, then knock your socks off. (And oh by the way, even if you do have the nicest loafers in town and are into the preppy look, DO wear socks!)

    6. Do not check your phone while waiting in the lobby. What could possibly be as important as making a good first impression? What you need to do is pay attention to the employees walking through the lobby and try to get a feel for the culture of the organization.The last thing you need is to have someone walk up to you while you are engrossed in texting. And don’t forget to turn your phone off! Can you imagine having to dig through your purse or pocket to find it, and then shut it off with all the associated apologies and distractions?

    7. Do not slouch, slump back in the chair, or lean on the interviewer’s desk. No one hires a wet noodle. Sit up straight, smile, and make good eye contact.

    8. Do not show up with scuffed shoes. As cool and hip as you might think it is to have scuffed shoes – polish them before your interview. It is a small detail that an interviewer might notice. If you don’t notice that your shoes need polishing, what other detail might you overlook?

    9. Do not ask questions that are answered by the company’s website. Yes, be prepared with questions and be certain they are smart questions.

    10. Do not under any circumstances badmouth your previous boss, your horrible last company, your nightmare teammate. Rise above it. Find something nice to say, or, as my Dad used to say “if you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

    Yes, these are actually hysterical. Yes, they happen. Startling, I know.

    While on your interview, be yourself, stay positive, smile, say good things, be smart and think before you speak.

    Till next time,


    Career, Interviewing, Job search

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Attention Interviewers: No One Is Perfect!

February 26th, 2014

By: Karen Colligan

The job interview process has turned into the “perfection process.”

It used to be that if you had 80% of the requirements you could attain the other 20% on the job, since every company is different and requires some level of acclimation. And a little “room for growth” was a good thing. Not so today. Organizations believe that they should be able to ask for the moon and if someone doesn’t have one competency on the requirements list they are bounced from the process.

It’s a plug-and-play world out there, my friends.

And that’s just to get your resume past the applicant-tracking monster that chomps and spits out resumes lacking the appropriate key words and phrases. Passing that hurdle, you begin the tortuous journey through the perfection process, often consisting of six or more interviews over a four month period. Or more. And then you are told they will get back to you in a few days, which turns into a few weeks, which may turn into not at all.

A friend of mine recently was subjected to this craziness. Multiple interviews over several months, all with positive feedback. She did all the right things to prepare, to ask good questions, to “check in” as the process progressed. She could fill the role in a heartbeat. She had been brought in by a former colleague. And in the end they told her that it turned out they weren’t hiring in the group where she would fit best. Really? Could they not have determined that earlier?

Why do people in organizations believe that inflicting this type of pain on someone is acceptable? It’s not even humane. Perhaps the perpetrators of pain were similarly tortured during their “perfection process” and feel it only fair to pass it on. It’s insane.

I used to be a recruiter for a hi-tech firm. We had very specific requirements for each position. We selected people for interviews based on those qualifications, and then we paid even closer attention to whether they would be a good fit for the organization. We were building an organization based not on perfection, but on values: what I call the two Cs – Competency and Culture.

The fact is, no one is perfect. No one has every single competency listed on the job description. And yet we have somehow created the expectation of perfection.

I say, let’s get back to basics. Instead of rejecting someone because they don’t walk on water, find out who they are as a human being. Certainly they need to be qualified for the role; yet that doesn’t need to be a 100% match. Consider whether they are someone you would want to work with side-by-side. Are they a team player? Will they “have your back” or throw you under the bus? Can they leave their ego at the door and be willing to learn? Will they put the good of the company ahead of their personal needs? Do they have a life and interests outside of work? Will they be able to bring their personality to work and be an individual versus a company drone that speaks the same, looks the same and acts the same as everyone else?

And…let’s incorporate some civility into the process. Let’s interview in a humane way that makes people feel good as they go through process instead of feeling “less than.”

“The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.” - George Orwell

Till next time,

Interviewing, Job search, Leadership, People

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How to Recognize and Adapt to Your Interviewer's Style

February 27th, 2013

By: Karen Colligan

Interview StyleIn my last blog - Want to Ace That Interview? Make Time to Prepare! - I gave you some tips on preparing for your interview. Now that you’ve done your research, practiced your elevator pitch, and prepared your answers and questions, it’s time to gear up for the actual “event.”  One of the keys to succeeding in that event is to develop a connection with your interviewer. This goes beyond the small talk at the beginning of the interview to build rapport. It involves recognizing their communication style, and then adapting your own style so they will hear you throughout the entire interview.  If you have a contact within the company, you may be able to find out a little about your interviewer’s style in advance. If not, here are some clues you can look for to help you “speed read” your interviewer and adapt accordingly.

For simplicity sake, we’ll talk about four different styles. Let’s call them A, B, C and D. Most people are a combination, but they’ll have some dominant characteristics, which are the clues below.

Style A is detailed oriented, likes structure and process, and values practical and evidence-based information.

Clues: Reserved, brief handshake, formal demeanor, measured tone, tidy and well-organized office.

How to adapt: Minimize small talk, be prepared with facts and figures to back up your achievements, highlight your credentials, present information in a logical sequence.

Style B engages on a personal level, is a good listener, prefers a harmonious environment.

Clues: Makes good eye contact, warm and welcoming, soft-spoken, family pictures / plants in office.

How to adapt: Engage in some introductory small talk, use a softer tone, connect through sincere eye contact, discuss how your values align with those of the company.

Style C is creative and energetic, sociable, and prefers big-picture thinking over too many details.

Clues: Warm handshake, animated greeting, changes topics quickly, somewhat disorganized workspace.

How to adapt: Convey energy, provide context when discussing your achievements, focus on presenting big-picture results versus every detail, keep responses brief and be prepared to switch topics quickly.

Style D is confident, decisive and focused on results. They are brief and purposeful in communication.

Clues: Firm handshake, good posture, confident demeanor, functional, uncluttered workspace.

How to adapt: Answer each question fully but briefly, don’t waffle, convey confidence, make direct eye contact, be prepared to be challenged.

Want to learn more about your style and how to recognize and adapt to others? Check out the PeopleThink assessments.

Till next time,


Career, Communication, Interviewing, Job search

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Want to Ace that Interview? Make Time to Prepare!

February 15th, 2013

By: Karen Colligan

Ace your interviewYou’ve done a lot of work to make your resume focused and compelling. You’ve networked.  You’ve found what you consider to be the perfect position and you’ve landed an interview.  But you’re not done yet!  Repeat these three little words after me: Prepare, prepare, prepare!  Here’s how.

Learn everything you can about the organization. Review their website. Read their annual report. See whether anyone in your network has information about culture or challenges.  Understand their products or service offerings. Know their competitors and core competencies. What are their goals and objectives? How could you help them achieve them? What are their pain points? How could you help? Think about how you can help your interviewer picture you as part of their team.

Create a 60-second personal infomercial. Often the first question is: “Tell me about yourself.”  This is NOT the time to launch into the highlights of “My Life So Far.” This is the time to respond with a prepared but fluent 60-second response that briefly summarizes who you are (profession), your expertise, your strengths and the scope of your experience. Make it short. Make it snappy. Make it YOU and practice, practice, practice. Prepare a basic one and then tweak it to map to the position you are interviewing for.

Leverage the Rule of 3. People have a tendency to remember things in threes.  Think about the top three accomplishments that you want your interviewer to hear – and to remember.  Be sure they relate to the position. Practice saying them to yourself (or to someone helping you prepare) so they’re at-the-ready in your brain even if you’re nervous. Write them down. Even better.  Whatever happens in the interview, if you get these three accomplishments across you will have succeeded.

Prepare answers. Think about questions that might come up in the interview and prepare answers. Think back on previous interviews and any questions that caught you off guard. Be ready this time. Prepare for behavioral questions by jotting down specific examples of how you have demonstrated your skills and competencies. Do a search online for the most commonly asked questions. Prepare an answer for: “What is your weakness?” Be prepared to say how you are addressing it. And prepare an answer to the salary question. It comes up much sooner these days. Do some research and at least be prepared to give a range.

Prepare questions. Remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Ask questions that couldn’t have been answered by your research on their website.

Lock down logistics. Know where you’re going. Do a trial run, if necessary. Consider the traffic at that time of day. Plan to arrive 10 minutes early. Prepare what you’re going to wear. Know whom you’ll use as references. Make additional, clean copies of your resume. If possible, get the names and positions of all the people you’ll be interviewing with. Use LinkedIn to learn a little about them. When they become a “familiar face” you will feel more comfortable.

Interviews can be stressful no matter how many years you’ve been doing them. But the more you are prepared, the more you practice, the easier and more successful they will be.

Till next time,


Career, Career planning, Interviewing, Job search

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