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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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Dollars on My Mind

October 15th, 2012

By: Karen Colligan

Let’s continue our walk through The Get Real Guide to Your Career. We’ve been very busy in the last seven blogs taking inventory of who we are today. We’ve looked at skills we want to use, our values, the natural talents that make us who we are, and of course, we’ve even looked at the themes that are the foundation for our accomplishments and have established our career path.

No Running Away!

Now…it’s time to look at the one area people normally run away from screaming – the dreaded financial conversation. I can already hear you all saying “I’ll wait till Karen’s next blog. I’m cool with money; I don’t need to look any closer.” And…I can even hear “has she gone completely nuts? Why do we have to discuss money? I was having so much fun rediscovering who I am.” Yep…I’ve heard it all…and…I doubt there will be much that will surprise me. So, here’s a thought…just keep reading for a minute and see whether you can power through without shutting down.

The Financial Conversation with yourself…

I know that the financial conversation can bring up emotions we don’t want to deal with. The financial conversation can remind us of our upbringing, it can remind of us what we haven’t achieved and it can remind us of how incredibly lucky we are to be where we are today. My vote, let’s go with the last one and be very grateful for where we are today. Remember…success is defined by each of us individually, and we have to judge our success on ‘our terms.’ Our financial situation don’t define our success, and it is only one component of our life. As we look back at all we have learned so far, maybe we can take the “charge” out of the money conversation and realize our life is made up of multiple successes and experiences, and that darn money part is just a piece of the entire picture.

You’ve got to SEE it to internalize it!

So…let’s go for it. You might as well get out your paper and pencil because you know what’s coming. Ya gotta write it down. Ya gotta see it to internalize it and make some shifts.

As we begin thinking about what’s next, and the financial rewards we want with our new career role, we also have to think about our financial requirements today – what we will need to sustain our lifestyle while we look for that next opportunity. The first part should be fairly easy for us to define. What are your current fixed expenses? Those bills that you know have to be paid each month: mortgage/rent; auto and health insurance; car payment; child care. Well, you get it. We all have our fixed expenses, so really think that through and get it down on paper and total the amount. See that wasn’t so painful, was it?

Now let’s think about our variable expenses: groceries; gasoline; credit cards; eating out; entertainment; clothing; shoes (a girl’s gotta have a new pair of shoes – maybe that should be in the fixed category!) Again, you get the idea. Write down the approximate amount you spend in each category and get your total.

How about those savings? What amount of accessible funds do you have available (just in case you need them): savings; stocks/bonds; IRAs; change in the piggy bank; money stuffed in the mattress. Get it down on paper. I am in no way suggesting you use your accessible funds; however, it is always good to understand the amount of money you have, where it is and how to get it if necessary.

Remember, this is all so we can truly understand how much money we need/want to make in our next position. Some people will be thrilled with their current financial situation and will not want to take big risks for big rewards. Other people might want to take some bigger risks so there is a bigger payment in the end. All of this is an individual decision and needs to be based on what is best for you.

Time to do some discovery work on what you are looking for from a total compensation perspective. It is important that you understand your salary/income requirements prior to your search. This will be based on your target market – including geographic location, industry or type of organization, position/function (all coming in future blogs). Look at your requirements in the following five categories. List what you: a) would like, and b) what you are willing to take in each category. Be realistic. Or…maybe you can dream a little bit and have two lists. Why not? One that is realistic, and one that is completely out there in dreamland. You are going to write that book you know is in you, get on Oprah and become a zillionaire!!

  1. Base salary

  2. Commission

  3. Bonus

  4. Benefits

  5. Other (stock, signing bonus, extra vacation time, etc.)

See, that wasn’t so bad, was it? The salary conversation is often the hardest one to have and you need to really think it through. That is why it is so important to be clear about your requirements and be able to clearly articulate them. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be for you to answer the question “what are your salary requirements?” You don’t want to hesitate…you want to be sure of yourself…and say exactly what you want. Remember…if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.

Hope this helped, and you don’t have knots in your stomach. In fact, I hope this exercise took the knots away. You are now clear about fixed and variable expenses. You are clear about your compensation requirements, and you are very, very proud of where you are today.

Your success is defined by you and for you!

Remember…your success is defined by you and for you. Don’t let anyone else place their values on you and tell you what success looks like for you and your life!

Here’s to the greenbacks coming your way!!!

Till the next time…Karen

Bruce springsteen, Career, Jersey shore, New jersey, Performance Reviews with The Get Real Guide to your Career, Professional and team leadership

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Show Stoppers

October 15th, 2012

By: Karen Colligan

As I sit here trying to write my blog about Show Stoppers – those things that stop us in our tracks and keep us one step from achieving what we want to achieve – I think…what is stopping me from writing this blog? Oh…that’s right…I have to be creative, provide substance and most of all give the reader a reason to read. Just a little bit of pressure, wouldn’t you say? At this moment, my preference would be to stop thinking and do almost anything else instead of sitting at my computer. Maybe I’ll go do laundry. Now, that is a sad state of affairs! With that said, the important element is to “push through” the negative self-talk and write something meaningful. I’ll try my best.

Yes, we all have that little person sitting on our shoulder that says to us “are you crazy, you can’t do that” or “you do not have the guts to pull that one off” or “you’ve never done that before, what makes you think you can do it now?” There is not a human being alive who does not have doubts about something they want to achieve. For some, those doubts will fuel us. For others, those voices will stop us in our tracks and paralyze us. It is easier to go do the wash. Yes, indeed this is true.

Stand tall, be confident, provide the reasons you are the right fit and candidate for the position and push through that F-E-A-R. Own it, make it yours and get that new job.

Fear is an overwhelming emotion. Susan Jeffers says – “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Well, that’s very easy to say; however, making it a reality is taking it to another level. What we have to do is really think through what our personal Show Stoppers are. What stops us in our tracks and prevents us from getting that next work assignment? What stops us in our tracks and prevents us from taking the leap and becoming an entrepreneur, going back to school for something we’ve always wanted to learn – doing whatever will help us fulfill our dreams? It’s that darn four letter word – F-E-A-R.

As I began to write The Get Real Guide, I realized that in a lot of my personal career development work the focus was on accomplishments, skills, etc. No one was asking me, “what is preventing you from doing what you want to do?” Now, I did all types of work around what I wanted; however, I wasn’t answering that dreaded question – What gets in your way? I realized that I was very similar to others, yes, I was confident, yes, I wanted more and yes, I had “stuff” that kept messing with my head. I had to address that “stuff.” UGH…is just about all I had to say.

So, yep, if you have read or worked with me, you know what is coming next…ya gotta get stuff down on paper. If you can see it, you can own it and then you can do something about it. So, what’s on your list? Write down 5 Show Stoppers that have gotten in your way in the past. The reason I say 5 is because we don’t want you to get carried away and then completely get overwhelmed by what you think you have to “fix.” Five is plenty. This can be tough because you have to own what you don’t do well. Here are some Show Stoppers from The Get Real Guide. Do any of these resonate for you – argumentative; arrogant; closed-minded; defensive; fear of success (it ain’t just failure some of us are afraid of); insecure, lack of goal setting; perfectionist (yep, I said it – are you a perfectionist?); timid.

Now, take a look at your list. As you look at your list of Show Stoppers, think about specific times when they have impacted your life, your decisions, your career. Why and how did they make an impact? As you look at each one, write down next to it what you are going to do the next time it rears its ugly little head. An example – fear of success. As crazy at it sounds, a lot of people are afraid of success. If this is on your list, how are you going to overcome it? What success are you afraid of? When did it impact you? What do you want next for yourself where you believe it will show up? What measures are you going to take to squash it? You want to be thinking about this prior to ‘it’ showing up. If you have an opportunity for a job promotion, or you have an opportunity to interview for a new job in a new company, be prepared and show ‘em what you are made of. Stand tall, be confident, provide the reasons you are the right fit and candidate for the position and push through that F-E-A-R. Own it, make it yours and get that new job.

Doesn’t that all sound so easy? Hardly! It takes work. It takes confidence in yourself and it takes a plan. And, you know what, you are worth it!

Till the next time… Don’t Stop Believing!!!