Career Advice

Work smart – how to succeed at a great company

[mks_dropcap style=”letter” size=”52″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]I[/mks_dropcap] sucked at my first job. It was 1992 and I had just been hired during a recession at Metropolitan Bank. Barely out of training, my boss Michael called me into his office and explained that my coworker Jean had blamed me for missing her deadline.

What I learned working for Michael and in the last 20 years of hiring and managing my own team will help you work smart to avoid career-ending mistakes and help you succeed at a great company where the standards are high. Below, I share how you can be better than 95% of your teammates and get consistently promoted.

I just got promoted cartoonBack at the bank, when Michael reviewed my work he couldn’t tell if I had screwed up or not because my documentation was weak and unorganized. Even if I was a little humiliated to be put on probation just a couple months after starting my first permanent job, Michael turned out to be an awesome boss. What he wanted was simple and correct. He just wanted me to work smart.

It’s easy to suck at your job if you don’t know what your boss wants. Today, if you follow a lot of career experts, you’d think your boss wants you to ‘brand’ yourself. ‘Personal branding’ might be hot now, but we don’t want it. It’s a lot of crap. We crave honesty and sincerity. You’re not a corporation or a cow.

Creating a brand image or personality for yourself is empty marketing – a CYA policy that gets in the way of doing real work. Work smart and everything you do builds trust and value – you won’t need a CYA policy because you’ll always be in demand.

knowing what your boss wantsIronically, your boss doesn’t want to take time to teach you what working smart means. In fact, most bosses would have difficulty listing 20 specific teachable ways to ‘work smart’. Most will say it’s an inherent talent you’ve either have or don’t. I don’t buy it. Below you’ll find 20 ways to earn your boss’s respect and admiration for your work. So, decide for yourself if ‘working smart’ can be learned or not.

It’s not about becoming your boss’s pet. Ultimately, working smart is a step on the path to finding satisfaction in your work. Until you can match-up what you do with who you are as a person, you’re unlikely to find happiness at work. The problem with sucking at your job is that it gives you very little power to make changes.

would you like a new boss?You need some leverage to get flexibility in your career — that might mean money in the bank (also called f*ck-you money) or a good relationship with your boss and previous bosses (for references). You can get all those things by working smart. You can also quit your job and start a business (if you do, your boss is now the customer and all the lessons below still apply). This is about being effective, nothing else – about becoming a diamond in the eyes of your boss.

If you’re in a job search and want to work at a great company, the rules are the same. The only difference is that everything you write and say will be scrutinized more closely for clues as to how you will perform on the job. If you suck in the job search, we know you will suck on the job. Want to get it right? Use “The complete job search guide – how to land a job at a great company“.

The stakes are high. Twenty-five years ago when I was starting my career, the difference between being average and working smart was the difference between a good career and a great career. That was before the Internet. Today, working smart can make the difference between having a career and having nothing. Your competition is radically tougher today — game on!

a raise and a promotion?Your thoughts become actions so choose the advice you take to heart wisely. There’s a career expert on every corner today. Most have not built companies as I have. Most have something to sell you; I don’t. These lessons exist because I love to teach and write, which is why offers free career advice and tips you won’t hear anywhere else. OK… I also hope you’ll share these pages with your friends and use our job search engine.

You can graduate from Harvard, Princeton, or Yale and still suck at your job. They don’t teach you how to work smart at school. If you do have a fancy degree, expectations on you will be sky-high. If you don’t deliver the goods, your boss is going to think you’re overpriced and may just let you go. On the other hand, put these lessons into practice and you’ll carve your name on the world without an Ivy League degree or even without any degree at all.



1. Don’t suck at e-mail
2. Don’t suck at instant messaging
3. Want to be taken seriously? Do this.
4. Know the shortest path to succeeding in your job?
5. 2 habits that show you are trustworthy and mature
6. Is your attitude subtly toxic?
7. Don’t interrupt me
8. Don’t make me interrupt you
9. Be precise, be specific and be blunt
10. Fail to do this and you may get fired

Above and beyond: Tame your ego


1. Got ‘the ace factor’?
2. Never do this
3. How to handle your mistakes like a pro
4. 10 ways to improve your emotional intelligence
5. Are you blocking conversation (when you think you’re listening)?


1. Perform like a surgeon
2. What your boss doesn’t want to tell you (and you need to know)
3. Stop whining – take ownership
4. Show up ready for battle
5. Know yourself and follow your bliss


  1. Rules are meant for breaking, but master them first and then break them.
  2. My team knows I don’t always lead by example. I’m better at some of these than others. Especially where I’m weak, I like to see corresponding strengths in my team.
  3. Like any good boss, I hope to hire above me – to hire a team that’s smarter and better than I am!

Get the ebook!

If you liked what you read here, and think you may want to refer back to this guide later, grab the e-book version for Kindle – we’re hoping you’ll thank us with a five-star review on Amazon if you found this material helpful. The ebook also includes our job search guide.

For comprehensive advice on the entire job search process, read our complete guide to landing a job at a great company or visit our career advice hub.

Career Advice Job Fair Tips

Job Fairs: Prepare to Stand Out

So you’ve RSVP’d to an upcoming job fair. You may now be thinking How do I make the most of it?

Congratulations! Your priorities are in the right place. Preparation and forward-thinking will get you noticed. The number of talented job seekers at these events can be overwhelming, so we’ve prepared this guide to help you stand out!


1 – Research

[mks_dropcap style=”letter” size=”52″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]U[/mks_dropcap]pcoming job fairs are announced online along with the employers who will be in attendance.   Your job is now to discern which employers you intend to engage. Let me stress that word – employers.  Plural.  Do not make the mistake of thinking, I only want to work for Employer Z so I will only hand over my résumé to Employer Z.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”16″ bg_color=”#1e73be” txt_color=”#ffffff”][mks_icon icon=”fa-hand-o-right” color=”#ffffff” type=”fa”] Pro Tip: If you do not see any open positions posted on an employer’s webpage, the company is likely hiring but may not have updated their listings. Research as well as you can about what the employer does and if you think it’s a fit, be prepared to hand over a résumé. Some jobs are not listed online as the employer may be interested in job fair candidates only.  You may have a shot at a job not even listed![/mks_pullquote]

Your ambition as a job seeker may be present but that doesn’t mean your experience and skills are a match to the employer’s needs. Understand where you are a good fit based on research and do not limit your interest to one employer. It’s very common at our events to find healthcare employers also hiring for IT positions, or IT companies hiring for sales roles.

Go to the company’s website and browse through their job openings. Get an idea of what education, experience, and skills they expect to hire for any given role. This knowledge should be used to tailor your self-marketing efforts: résumé structure, talking points, and on-site interview expectations. Your background knowledge of an employer is everything.


2 – Résumé Updates

[mks_dropcap style=”letter” size=”52″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Y[/mks_dropcap]our most professional self has to be summarized in one or two pages. Make sure your résumé is on point. Review and edit. Ask yourself, is my information concise? Is my language strong? Did I stay in the appropriate tense? Do I provide concrete examples of my accomplishments? If you need in-depth assistance for résumé writing, see the ‘resumes’ section in our job search guide or contact our team for recommendations.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”16″ bg_color=”#1e73be” txt_color=”#ffffff”] [mks_icon icon=”fa-hand-o-right” color=”#ffffff” type=”fa”] Pro Tip: Did you graduate from a college, university or graduate school? Do yourself a favor and contact your alma mater’s career services office. Most colleges and universities provide résumé services to their alumni for free, in-person or email. Just don’t ask for help the day of the fair. Résumés take time to review, even for professionals. Be proactive and make sure you’ve given yourself, or someone else, the proper time to review your materials.[/mks_pullquote]

Ensuring that your résumé is updated and edited before attending any job fair is imperative. Many career fairs provide the attending employers with a searchable database where they can access your résumé online. Make sure to upload your resume for the specific event, and also expect to make several hard copies on plain copier paper.

Here is an estimate of copies needed:

  • At least one copy for each top-priority employer based on your research.
  • 4-10 copies for “middle-fit” employers.
  • 5 copies for chance encounters and unknown employers.


3 – Talking Points

[mks_dropcap style=”letter” size=”52″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]B[/mks_dropcap]e prepared to speak up about yourself while realizing it’s not about you.  Use big-ticket sales techniques to stand out. You should be prepared to speak about the employer as easily as you should be able to express your own background and experiences. How would you be of benefit to the business and its mission? What value do you bring? A proactive candidate should nail these standard talking points:

  • Introduce yourself (first AND last name) with a handshake.
  • Based on your research, make a brief statement on what you understand the employer is looking for in a candidate.
  • Briefly verbalize your experience or education (whichever area is your strongest lead) and indicate how you think you might be a good fit.
  • Ask if the representative would like a copy of your résumé.
  • Ask for a business card and indicate you’d like to learn more about the company.

If you are encouraged by the representative to apply, listen to instructions. If the rep advises you to follow-up with them via phone or email, do so.


4 – Interview Preparation

[mks_dropcap style=”letter” size=”52″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]A[/mks_dropcap]t job fairs, it is not uncommon for candidates to be pulled aside for an interview, or to be scheduled for an interview at a later date.  If it’s been a while since you’ve interviewed, there are standard questions you should practice to mentally prepare yourself. Make sure you do more interview preparation than any other candidate. Modify the questions below to fit your experience and industry and you will build interviewing competence.

  • Tell me about yourself.[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”16″ bg_color=”#1e73be” txt_color=”#ffffff”][mks_icon icon=”fa-hand-o-right” color=”#ffffff” type=”fa”] Pro Tip: Talk. Out. Loud. When you practice your questions, literally ask yourself the question out loud and provide the answer out loud. Practicing in your head does not count. You need to HEAR the words so that questions and responses will not sound strange to you in a high stakes situation. The more you practice out loud, the less likely you are to stumble during the interview. Of course, you can practice with someone else too.[/mks_pullquote]
  • Why are you interested in working for us? OR Why are you interested in this position? OR What do you know about the company?
  • What can you bring to this position that someone else can’t?
  • Give me an example of taking the initiative.
  • Tell me about a difficult situation (professional, not personal) in which you overcame the problem or found a solution?
  • Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses.
  • How would a co-worker, supervisor, or director describe you?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

You know your industry. Think hard and get creative with your practice questions. The more in-depth and specific to the job you can make them, the better prepared you will be. The question(s) that cause you the most anxiety are the ones you need to work on the most.


5 – Dress

[mks_dropcap style=”letter” size=”52″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]P[/mks_dropcap]rofessional dress is expected. All clothes worn should be clean and wrinkle-free. Tend to your personal hygiene: shower, shave and brush your teeth. Don’t forget the deodorant!

Clothes – Slacks or professional skirts with pockets is preferable (you will be picking up a lot of business cards). Wear a long-sleeved, button-down shirt or blouse. If your dress shirt is sheer, wear an undershirt. Ties are acceptable; consider skipping a jacket for a business casual look or the reverse: jacket and no tie. Shoes should be professional, clean, low-heeled, and are traditionally not open-toed.

You’ve heard the old adage: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. You don’t have to out-dress everyone but understand that how you appear will impact a recruiter’s first impression of you.

Accessories – Minimal jewelry: a watch, a ring or two, a pair of earrings, and that’s about it. [mks_highlight color=”#eeee22″]Representatives are attracted to the streamlined look.[/mks_highlight] Look as unencumbered as possible: no tote bags, luggage, bulk purses, or wheeled carrier carts. Carrying accessories should include a padfolio (a manila folder works too) that can hold your résumé, a writing pad, and a pen. If you have your own business cards, then a card holder is also appropriate. One hand holds your padfolio, the other should be free to shake hands. Remove excess facial piercings and cover tattoos.

Additional – Take it easy on the cologne and perfume. Scents are amplified in packed places. Too much scent can leave a negative impression and that defeats the purpose. Facial hair should be groomed. Makeup is optional but should not be elaborate if worn. The goal is to have recruiters remember your face, not an untidy beard or ornate makeup.



If you’ve heeded our advice above, you will have confidence. Nervous? Sure. But confident, nonetheless. Walk and talk with that confidence. Employer reps are trained to zero in on the attendees that look purposeful in their walk and presentation.

  • Walk with intent.[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”16″ bg_color=”#1e73be” txt_color=”#ffffff”][mks_icon icon=”fa-hand-o-right” color=”#ffffff” type=”fa”] Pro Tip: Finding a job is a job. Never stop applying. Never stop attending career fairs. Keep on top of your correspondence with every recruiter you meet. And remember, preparation is key.[/mks_pullquote]
  • Speak with clarity.
  • Use your talking points.
  • Don’t forget to shake hands.
  • Meet your goal. Do not leave until you handed out every résumé you intended to.


Do not be passive. Follow-up with every recruiter that handed you a business card, and do not forget to personalize your email correspondence. No generic templates. Refer to the conversation you had with the representative in your email. Remember, she/he also met with dozens of other candidates, so remind them about something specific that only you might have highlighted. Mention your excitement about the company and their open positions. If you scheduled an interview at the fair, reference that and state to the rep that you look forward to the interview.


For comprehensive advice on the entire job search process, read our complete guide to landing a job at a great company or visit our career advice hub.

Career Advice

You won’t be promoted if you do this – and you may be fired

When your boss reviews your work, typically she’ll suggest some improvements and correct some errors. It’s the errors that are really dangerous to your career.

There are two kinds of errors. First, there’s the harmless kind, where you make a mistake that just about anyone in your shoes would make. You are new on the job, for example, and still learning the ropes. There are lots of other acceptable ways in which you might screw up.

The second type of error is the career-killing sort. If your boss finds easily preventable errors in your work, you will be lucky to keep your job and definitely won’t be promoted if you repeat them regularly. What’s an easily preventable error? That’s an error that –

  • you could have detected yourself by checking your own work or
  • you’ve been trained not to make and to watch for or
  • is due to haste, inattention and carelessness.

When you make easily preventable errors, you’re telling your boss that you need babysitting. Trust me, she doesn’t want to be your babysitter! If you really want a promotion, you will need to show your boss the opposite, that you are ready to babysit others.

catching your own mistakes

Show your boss you don’t need babysitting by checking your work carefully before delivering it:

  • Proofread by reading out loud – you will catch many more mistakes, if not all of them. Next, scan your writing backwards. Yes, I mean that – start with the last word on the page and work your way from right to left, bottom to top. Both of these techniques prevent your brain from running on autopilot, which is how you miss mistakes.
  • Have a coworker or friend review your work. Sometimes you are too close to a project and know too much about it to step back and see it the way it will be perceived by others.
  • Give it a real-world test. Run through the process from beginning to end without skipping any steps or making any assumptions.

Make checking your work a habit and you’ll build trust with your boss that will eventually get you promoted.

Get the ebook! If you liked what you read here, and think you may want to refer back to this guide later, grab the Kindle version – we’re hoping you’ll thank us with a five-star review on Amazon if you found this material helpful. The ebook also includes our job search guide.

For comprehensive advice on the entire job search process, read our complete guide to landing a job at a great company or visit our career advice hub.

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Career Advice

A critical ingredient in working smart and exercising good judgment


It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble.
It’s what you know that just ain’t so. Mark Twain

First Officer:  We did something to the altitude!
Capt. Bob: What?
First Officer: We’re still at 2000—right?
Capt. Bob: Hey—what’s happening here!
Control tower:  Eastern 401, I’ve lost you on radar—and your transponder.  What is your altitude?
Pilot: Miami Approach, this is National 611.  We just saw a big flash—looked like it was out west.  Don’t know what it means, but we wanted to let you know.
Pilot: Lan Chile 451—we saw a big flash—a general flash, like some kind of explosion.

Capt. Bob Loft’s last words were spoken on approach to Miami International Airport on a clear December night with 10 flight attendants and 162 passengers on board. With 30,000 hours of flying experience, Bob piloted his airworthy Lockheed L-1011 (Eastern 401) into the Florida swamp in 1972.  Pilots call this CFIT or Controlled Flight Into Terrain and it’s a leading cause of airplane accidents responsible for over 9,000 deaths in the history of aviation.

When you want something, whether it’s landing a passenger jet safely or asking for a raise from your boss, it helps to pay attention to your surroundings. That’s called situational awareness. It helps you get what you want, and it helps to practice.  Practice will help you detect danger when it exists and dismiss the source when it poses no threat.

Better situational awareness would have saved the lives of the crew and passengers on Eastern flight 401.  The pilot and first officer got wrapped up in solving a tempting little puzzle and lost sight of the big picture — flying the plane.  The distraction? An indicator for the landing gear in the nose did not light up as expected.

Because the captain failed to delegate, everyone in the cockpit was involved in troubleshooting and flying the plane became an afterthought. In the middle of it all, First Officer Albert Stockstill noticed an increase in airspeed and assumed it to be an acceleration in level flight, but he should have checked to see whether the plane was accelerating in descent. As a result, he eased off the throttles making one of several deadly mistakes made by the crew.

Asking your boss for a raise seems harmless compared with piloting a passenger jet, but there are still potential dangers to your career. How’s your timing? Who are the real decision-makers? What’s on your boss’s mind and what is his decision-making process like? How is the company performing financially? How does your boss feel about your performance? What does your boss’s voice tone and posture tell you? Ask at the wrong time and place in the wrong way and you’ve just performed the equivalent of controlled flight into terrain with your job.

You develop and practice situational awareness by asking questions. Notice the questions above? You ask yourself the questions when the answers can be learned by observing and you ask others when you can’t learn the answers on your own.

Backup and you’ll see that the very first step is for you to believe that your awareness is incomplete, that what you don’t know is important. Then you will start asking more questions, listening more and paying closer attention to changes in the scenery.  As you gather more information, you’ll find some clear-cut situations where additional information will point to better decisions and more successful outcomes. However, more information won’t always lead you to obvious answers.

Fortunately, when you are paying attention to your surroundings, often your body and your subconscious mind will know things you can’t put into words. Trust your gut – listening to those gut feelings is an important part of developing situational awareness.

Situational awareness requires practice so it won’t interfere with your activities or your performance. Until it becomes second nature, it will be uncomfortable and may get in the way. Practice is about getting through your day relaxed but aware and only shifting gears into focused awareness when you perceive threats.

Ultimately, situational awareness is not just about getting a raise from your boss. It’s a critical ingredient for working smart and exercising good judgment. Without it, you’ll always be the one in your group that needs babysitting. With it, you’ll be the one your boss relies on and promotes.

In fact, author Mike Spick asserted in his book about air combat that good situational awareness is “the ace factor.” He concluded that the top-scoring aces of  World War I and II typically avoided high confusion entanglements preferring to pick off stragglers. They succeeded through awareness of their own limitations and by keeping out of situations they could not cope with – essentially good situational awareness.

How to develop better situational awareness (developed by the military and aviators):

  1. cross-train on group members’ tasks – learn your coworkers’ jobs
  2. discover the mindsets and motivations of group members
  3. use checklists for tasks and keep them up-to-date
  4. get briefed on internal meetings you can’t attend
  5. spot-check your group’s activities
  6. monitor public communication traffic
  7. listen to information that is not directly relevant to your group
  8. cross-talk with other small groups
  9. develop strong communication with your boss and other higher-ups
  10. get shift changeover briefs
  11. develop technical proficiencies
  12. shadow a senior group member when you are new
  13. learn the mission, functions, and intricacies of groups above yours
  14. brief your leader more often with progress reports
  15. share experience and information
  16. if you are a leader, avoid handling technician duties
  17. make sure the correct group leaders are participating in discussions/events
  18. check information within the team
  19. communicate relevant information to others
  20. coordinate activities with other small groups

Pay attention to signs that you are losing your situational awareness:

  1. information from two or more sources doesn’t agree
  2. fixation on one thing to the exclusion of everything else
  3. confusion or bafflement and possible anxiety about a situation
  4. failure to look around – everyone has their heads down
  5. failure to meet checkpoints or milestones on plan
  6. failure to adhere to standard operating procedures
  7. failure to comply with expectations or limitations
  8. failure to resolve discrepancies
  9. existence of unresolved personal conflicts
  10. communication is partial and ineffective with vague or incomplete statements

I didnKnow what kills situational awareness:

  1. task saturation – when you lack a plan or you are unprepared, small surprises can overload you quickly
  2. physical stress – hunger, temperature, noise, fatigue, and lack of physical endurance
  3. mental stress – workload, death, divorce, demotion, and economic factors
  4. rebelliousness – when you don’t like to be told what to do you overlook rules and procedures designed to protect you
  5. impulsiveness – when faced with a decision, the need to do something, anything right away
  6. invulnerability – thinking that “it won’t happen to me.”
  7. macho – feeling the need to prove you’re better than others
  8. resignation – feeling that everything is out of your hands and chalking it up to luck

Know what happens when you experience stress (due to chance, poor planning or lack of preparation which causes demands on you to exceed your ability):

  1. omission — you let things drop by failing to respond to important signals
  2. error — you make mistakes
  3. queuing — you delay some things you can’t handle
  4. approximation — you accept lower standards of performance
  5. fixation — you concentrate on one item while ignoring another
  6. regression — you revert to an earlier procedure or action
  7. tremor — you tremble or shake from increased tension
  8. escape — you give up, panic or freeze

In an emergency, remember this:

  1. stay calm — think for a moment, weigh the alternatives and choose one
  2. remember that fear and panic are your greatest enemies
  3. don’t hesitate to declare an emergency
  4. let other people know about your situation
  5. don’t delay until it is too late
  6. move around, get some air, stretch your arms and legs
  7. if you make a mistake that you were able to correct, forget about it and focus on what comes next
  8. focus on the situation, not the emotion
  9. always have a “plan” and a “backup plan” and leave yourself an “out”

Finally, thanks to Verne Harnish for reminding us to consider Amundsen’s philosophy:

You don’t wait until you’re in an unexpected storm to discover that you need more  strength and endurance. You don’t wait until you’re shipwrecked to determine if you can eat raw dolphin. You don’t wait until you’re on the Antarctic journey to become a superb skier and dog handler. You prepare with intensity, all the time, so that when conditions turn against you, you can draw from a deep reservoir of strength (knowledge). And equally, you prepare so that when conditions turn in your favor, you can strike hard.

Get the ebook! If you liked what you read here, and think you may want to refer back to this guide later, grab the Kindle version – we’re hoping you’ll thank us with a five-star review on Amazon if you found this material helpful. The ebook also includes our job search guide.

For comprehensive advice on the entire job search process, read our complete guide to landing a job at a great company or visit our career advice hub.

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Career Advice Job Interview Tips Preparing a Great Resume

The complete job search guide checklist

[mks_dropcap style=”letter” size=”52″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]T[/mks_dropcap]o get hired, you need to be number one on a recruiter’s shortlist and it helps to ask for the job directly. Here’s how to do it – in a nutshell, spend more time preparing than any other candidate. Use the checklist below (like a good surgeon might) and nail every single “little” item.

Recruiters like me are desperate for these simple things you can deliver with a bit of effort. Okay… taken together it’s much more than a little effort, it’s more like a full-time job. And remember, if you screw up these “little” things, the recruiter is thinking something like, “Wow, he didn’t even bother to _______!” as he crosses your name off the list.

The complete job search guide is an important read for anyone who hasn’t had the privilege of running an organization. That’s because when you know how managers think, job-search becomes a little like shooting fish in a barrel. So, read the long version first and then use this checklist to track your progress with every job application:

The starting line

  1. Know yourself. Know what you are good at and what you enjoy. Search out positions that will engage you fully.
  2. Hunt down companies that are thriving in your neighborhood. If willing to relocate, hunt down thriving cities first.
  3. Go off-line and send a value proposition letter. It will get read because they are so rare. Follow up with phone calls.
  4. When you find a company you love, go after it and keep trying. Stay in touch.
  5. Spend about a third of your time on job boards, but no more. Remember that employers make roughly 33% of their hires using job boards, that means 66% come from other sources.

the importance of perfection in job search

First contact – cover letters and value proposition letters

  1. Talk about the needs of the employer – not what you want.
  2. Keep it short – two or three short paragraphs (6 to 9 sentences total).
  3. Say what you do, how you do it and what the outcome is (what impact you’ve had).
  4. Explain why you are job searching and, if this is an unsolicited value proposition letter, include desired salary range.

Your resume

  1. Use a clean, minimalist format.
  2. Talk about your accomplishments, not your responsibilities. Describe the impact you’ve had.
  3. Make a connection with the recruiter by showing what’s relevant to the position you are applying for. Use keywords from the job description.
  4. Include important details – numbers. How many people did you supervise? How many clients did you manage?
  5. No abbreviations, no industry jargon, and no typos. Read it out loud to yourself to eliminate every last error.


  1. Do informational interviews to build relationships (not to get a job) with people who can help you.
  2. Look for work at companies where you already know someone.
  3. Keep an updated profile on LinkedIn and collect a handful of recommendations.
  4. Volunteer at a trade or professional association in a position that will bring you into contact with speakers.
  5. Write a blog about a professional interest and introduce yourself to other bloggers in your niche.



  1. Research the company, management, and your interviewer. This is critical – take your time and read everything you can find.
  2. Know why you want to work for this company and be ready to explain it.
  3. Write down a couple of high points and low points for every job you’ve ever held. Be ready to tell a story for each that illustrates your strengths, the impact you had or what you learned from a mistake.
  4. Write down a list of questions that emerged from the research you did (but ask about compensation at your own risk).
  5. Ask your interviewer to describe the qualifications of the ideal candidate, early in the interview. You want to confirm what you think you already know about the job before leading the interview in the wrong direction.
  6. Practice answering common interview questions without babbling.
  7. Bring copies of your resume and a notepad.
  8. Proofread all the materials you plan to offer – read them out loud to yourself.
  9. Pay attention to your body language and your interviewers.
  10. Make a connection: Don’t smoke before the interview, be on time, dress well, no perfume or cologne, turn your phone off, shake hands firmly, make eye contact, smile, and use the interviewer’s name.  Treat everyone you meet equally well and remember the name of everyone you meet. Look for mutual friends or shared interests and bring them to the interviewer’s attention. Be confident and positive – don’t badmouth a previous boss.
  11. Ask for feedback in the interview, then ask for the job (the close).
  12. Follow-up quickly with a thank-you e-mail after every phone call or in-person interview and give the recruiter something to remember you by. Here’s an incredible example (yep, she got the job).


  1. Keep in touch with your previous supervisors and coworkers so you can offer them as references.
  2. Know what they will say about you before you offer them. Ask them how they would rate you on a scale of 1 to 10, ask for the reasons, and what it would’ve taken to increase your rating.


  1. Understand that cultural fit is an important factor in every hiring decision and you are being scrutinized for it.
  2. Research the company so you can fit in better by dressing, looking and speaking like the team.
  3. Don’t smoke or use perfume, cologne or anything else that smells.
  4. Get feedback from someone who will tell you the cold hard truth about your clothes, your grooming, your speech, your handshake, your blog/website, and your writing.
  5. Show up ready for battle – upbeat and energetic.  Drive the process.

For comprehensive advice on the entire job search process, read our complete guide to landing a job at a great company or visit our career advice hub.

Career Advice

Want your boss to delegate more to you? Never do this…

Want your boss to trust you and delegate more responsibility to you?

First, be very careful to separate fact from opinion in your mind and in your speech. Your boss wants the facts first and your opinion second. Give them in that order and make it clear which is which. Separating fact and opinion is the foundation for good judgment and good judgment is the foundation for trust and responsibility.


your opinion second

Second, never bring your boss guesswork without also bringing two ways to fact check your guesses. If you feel compelled to speculate — offer to research or experiment as necessary to draw a solid conclusion. So, if you speculate, follow it up with – “I’ll find out by…”

Why go to the trouble of researching answers? Because you’ll:

  • discover you can answer a lot of questions yourself
  • become a source of positive energy
  • build confidence in yourself
  • show you understand that your job is not to pose riddles but to solve them

Show your boss that you are good at gathering facts, telling the truth about what you found and forming reasonable opinions around those facts. Do that and you’re well on your way to making yourself indispensable!

Get the ebook! If you liked what you read here, and think you may want to refer back to this guide later, grab the Kindle version – we’re hoping you’ll thank us with a five-star review on Amazon if you found this material helpful. The ebook also includes our job search guide.

For comprehensive advice on the entire job search process, read our complete guide to landing a job at a great company or visit our career advice hub.

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Career Advice Job Interview Tips

Informational interview e-mail templates

[mks_dropcap style=”letter” size=”52″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]I[/mks_dropcap]nformational interviews really work (as Steve notes below). But, not all interview requests are created equal – I’m regularly asked to have coffee with someone wanting to pick my brain.” I struggle to reply politely because I have a strong allergic reaction to this offensive phrase (reasons why at the bottom).

While not everyone will respond so poorly, I promise you can do much better searching below for a template that fits with your personality and situation. First though, a little motivation from Steve:

The informational interview works! 5 years ago I called my now current supervisor and started asking him questions about the company, the department I am now in, its roles, responsibilities, challenges, and other pertinent information. We talked for at least an hour. We exchanged contact information, and I spoke with him one other time afterwards when I inquired about specific software that is used. 5 months later I received a call inviting me to apply and interview for the job. I was hired in 2007. –Steve

 Email templates

  • When you try these e-mail templates out, please come back and share your results in the comments!
  • Note that the ‘ask’ shows up in bright blue in each template – that’s the alternative to ‘pick your brain’.

When you have a mutual friend:

Subject: Eric – request to chat from a friend of [warm contact]

Hi [Name]!

I’m a [your profession] who has worked with [name of warm contact] and I’m currently making time to develop my skills and focus on what’s really important in [profession] when it comes to hiring a [professional] for a project. I’ve had a look through your website and especially enjoyed the [whatever].

I’d love the opportunity to spend 20 mins with you to discuss your decision making process with regards to [professionals] and what your expectations are when working with them. Would it be possible to drop by your office or chat by phone sometime next week?

If you are free, I’m available during the following times:

    Fri 2/12 from 3 to 6 pm
    Sat 2/13 from  noon to 4 pm
    Mon 2/15 from 6 to 8 pm
    Tue from  2 to 4 pm
    Wed from  1 to 4 pm
    Thur from  4 pm – 6pm

Best regards,
[your name]
[your phone]

With a mutual circumstance:

Subject: Eric – request from a [use connection here]

Greetings [Name],

My name is [your name]. We [shared some connection] and [probably ate the same lousy cafeteria food] day in and day out. Now after [whatever happened since] I continue to study [fill in your topic] on my own to reach next level. When I look at your career journey I’m inspired to ask for your guidance on a few questions – would you have about 15 minutes to meet on the phone or over coffee?

Best regards,
[your name]
[your phone]

Cowboy approach to meeting someone potentially at colleague level:

Subject: Eric – request to chat from a fan

Hey [Name],

I was hoping I might be able to stop in and grab 15 minutes of your time sometime over the next week or so.

Quick intro: my name is [your name] and by day I work for [your company]. I also manage [this], do [that], as well as some previous work with [the other]. [Another name] is also an old friend and it’s awesome to see how [something or other].

I’m a big fan of the job you guys are doing [with whatever], and it would be great to meet up for 15 or 20 minutes to chat about the strategy behind the success you’ve had in [something].

Let me know if you have a few minutes to meet up over the next week or two – it would be great to connect!

Best regards,
[Your name]
[your phone]

From a friendly blog reader approach:

Subject: Eric – request to chat from a reader

Hi [name],

My name is [your name]. I first started reading your blog [why and/or when] and noticed you recently [something].

I’d love to hear your take on the future of [something not in the blog] for 20 minutes, if at all possible. I currently work on [whatever] at [your company], but have felt the itch to work on [something better] that [whatever].

I know you’d be a well of information about [here industry] and hope you can shed some light on your work at [your company]. I’d especially love to know what your transition has been like with [some change you know about].

I can meet you for a coffee whenever or wherever is most convenient for you–I hear [name of coffee shop] down the street from your office is great. Either way, I’ll work around your schedule.

Think you’d be interested?

[your phone]

From a follower:

Subject: [name] — request to chat from a fan

Hi [name],

Your recent work on [subject] was very inspiring, and I’m quite passionate about your particular [something]. My name is [your name] and I currently work for [your company] doing [whatever]. Could I ask for 20 minutes of your time over coffee or lunch to ask for your insight on [something more specific]?

I understand you are very busy, and would appreciate even a quick response to point me in the right direction should your schedule be inconvenient.

If you are free, I’m available during the following times:

    Fri 2/12 from 3 to 6 pm
    Sat 2/13 from  noon to 4 pm
    Mon 2/15 from 6 to 8 pm
    Tue from  2 to 4 pm
    Wed from  1 to 4 pm
    Thur from  4 pm – 6pm

[your phone]

From a recent graduate:

Subject: [name] — request to chat from a recent grad

Hi [name],

I saw the article about you [somewhere] and as someone who just graduated and has been interested in [whatever] over the past couple of years, I was really impressed and inspired by your work. I know that it’s tough to make it in the [something] world and I’d love to hear your story if I could have 20 minutes of your time.

If you are free to talk, I’m available during the following times:

    Fri 2/12 from 3 to 6 pm
    Sat 2/13 from  noon to 4 pm
    Mon 2/15 from 6 to 8 pm
    Tue from  2 to 4 pm
    Wed from  1 to 4 pm
    Thur from  4 pm – 6pm

Let me know and congratulations on the awesome work you do!

Best regards,
[your phone]

Someone who might remember you:

Subject: [name] — hope you remember me

Hi [Name],

I’m hoping you remember me from [somewhere you met or worked together] in [month and year]. I enjoyed my time [wherever] and felt I learned a great deal about [something] from your [teaching,etc].

Would love to hear your perspective on [whatever] and hope you might be willing to meet me for a cup of coffee in the coming weeks. Your advice and insight would be valuable to me as I prepare to [graduate or whatever].

Thank you for your time!

Best Regards,
[Your name]
[Your telephone]

From someone who helped you:

Subject: [name] — thanks and request for to chat

Hi [Name],

I’m a [profession] and have benefited from your [writings] – particularly the [specific detail], which helped me land a job at [company] doing [something].

Would you consider sharing 15 minutes of your time on the phone or Skype to discuss a couple questions I have on how to approach my first 90 days on the job?

Thanks so much for the help you’ve given me.

[Your name]

[Your telephone]

Here are some more interesting approaches to consider using:

  1. I have three specific questions on XYZ that I would love to get some insight on over a cup of coffee. Can I ask for 20 minutes of your time?
  2. I’m new to this field, and have great respect for the work you have done, particularly in [something] and [something else]. I…
  3. I would love to hear your story and ask a few questions about your career path.
  4. I’d really value your input and professional advice.
  5. I’d really love the chance to talk to someone who can offer personal insight on [this position, this company]. Would it be possible for me to sit down with you to ask why you went in this direction with your career and what steps you took to reach this level of success? As a [something you have in common], I’d really value your advice.
  6. Do you have 10 minutes to talk with a young person?
  7. I’m trying to find out more about the challenges facing [profession/industry] teams in today’s business world, and I’m hoping you’d be willing to answer a few questions about your group over coffee or on the phone.

A deeper understanding

When you say ‘can I pick your brain?’ you sound like a parasite. That’s the last impression you want to give when you want somebody to be your mentor – instead, you want to do your homework on this person. A lot of it! You spend an hour or three reading everything you can find in Google, any social media stuff like Twitter and Facebook feeds, and blog posts. Read their book if they’ve published one.

Let the person know how it impacted you and ask a question about what you learned – how it might apply to something you are doing. This is a great reward for the person you are contacting. You are showing them their impact on the world and helping them reap the good karma of their actions. But, you must do your homework to give this gift.

Can you see how different this approach is to the ‘can I pick your brain?’ strategy? One is about giving and the other taking (with an air of entitlement).

Here’s an example of a masterful email pitch sent to F.W. de Klerk (Nobel Laureate and former President of South Africa) in 2010 and his reply here. This e-mail nicely illustrates the sort of success you can have when you approach someone sincerely after doing your homework:

Dear Mr. De Klerk,

I’m a student who attended a speech you made at DePauw University in May, and was inspired by one of your comments to contact you.

In the few months before hearing you speak, I’d heard many speakers list the world’s challenges (terrorism, famine, climate change); but, when you made your point about “diversity as the main challenge” facing society today, I felt as though you’d identified the deeper cause that linked together all of the superficial challenges listed by the other speakers (Steven Levitt, Karl Rove, Howard Dean).

For the past few months, there have been two questions on my mind that I’ve desperately wanted to ask you. First, was there a specific book, person, conversation – life experience – that led you to this conclusion? Was there an epiphany? Second, if you could insert one experience into the education of every American student, in the hopes of leading them to the same conclusion as your own, what would it be?

I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Kevin McLoughlin

Now you know how to do it, so go out and knock ’em dead and let me know how it goes!

For comprehensive advice on the entire job search process, read our complete guide to landing a job at a great company or visit our career advice hub.

Diversity Statistics Government Workplace Diversity

Congressional Diversity Grade Leaps From an ‘F’ to … well, it’s still an ‘F’

Even with record turnout from an increasingly diverse population, a record number of women and people of color being elected, and many notable firsts that are changing the face of our leadership, our 116th Congress will remain overwhelmingly white – and male – compared to the overall population.

And because Congress is under no obligation to report on the gender or ethnic diversity of its members, has done the work to show you.

With our own unique analysis of diversity below, we’ve illustrated how far we’ve come – and just how far we have to go – when it comes to the equal representation in Washington.

Congressional Diversity Index

The following chart shows our Congressional Diversity Index, which illustrates overall diversity in Congress over time.  To arrive at the score, we used the mean between the gender and ethnic diversity scores we’ll discuss below (which helps avoid double-counting women of color, for example, who fit into both categories).

As you can see, by 2018, Americans had elected women and people of color as representatives to both the House and Senate at three times the rate they did in 1980. But since we determine our score by calculating the percent of women and people of color in Congress in proportion to their makeup of the U.S. population, simply put, a diversity score of 50.3% means that we barely see diversity in Congress at half the rate seen in our population.  And this is our most diverse Congress ever!

The next graph dives deeper with an analysis of two groups – women (of all ethnic backgrounds) and (all) people of color. Here, we have provided a score for six Congressional classes since 1980 based on gender and ethnic diversity in relation to the U.S. population that particular year. In a Congress perfectly representative of its constituents, each group would reach the 100% line, resulting in a combined index score (above) of 100%.  This is a powerful way of visualizing how far away we remain from equal representation amongst our federal lawmakers.


Currently, people of color make up about 38% of the U.S. population, so a perfect score would mean they also make up 38% of Congress.  Instead, non-white lawmakers represent a little more than half of what they should in relation to the population this year, earning our newly elected Congress a diversity score of 54.2% – or in grade terms, an ‘F’.  Ethnic diversity for men and women in Congress increased by roughly 30% since 1980, a mighty feat indeed, but the gap between ‘equal’ and ‘current’ representation is still glaring.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”450″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#d51a1a”]…a diversity score of 50.3% means that we barely see diversity in Congress at half the rate seen in our population. And this is our most diverse Congress ever!”[/mks_pullquote]While the number of women in Congress shows steady growth since 1980, our current gender diversity score for Congress is a measly 46.4% – a failing grade by any standard. People of color are doing better, but women of all ethnicities have made the least headway. Even as the most recent votes are tallied and we can celebrate the victories of our first two Muslim women, first two Native American women, first female senator from Tennessee and first two Latina representatives from Texas, white men still make up the vast majority of Congress.

Even more striking is that the U.S. lags behind 102 other countries in gender diversity in politics (Rwanda, Cuba, Bolivia, Mexico, and Granada lead the world and countries from Sweden to Afghanistan are far ahead of us). American women have had the right to vote nationally for almost 100 years, but at this rate, it could take another hundred to reach full legislative parity.

Of course, you might look at the graph and find it staggeringly progressive – there has been over a 500% increase in females elected to Congress since 1980!  Hooray!  You might be less impressed when you consider this is an increase from almost no gender diversity in 1980.  And the number of female representatives has only increased from 18 to 126 (currently projected for the 116th Congress) over the last 38 years. Compare this to the 428 men in the current Congress and you’ll see we’re a long way from equality since women make up 50-51% of the U.S. population.

On a related side-note, it should be pointed out that the underrepresentation of women and people of color shown in these charts is eerily similar to what we see in America’s top companies, where leadership remains predominantly white and male.

It’s expensive to run for Congress and candidates need education and experience to get their names on the ballot. This serves as a barrier to anyone who doesn’t come from money or power. And yet, the biggest barrier still seems to be gender.

Is this phenomenon simply explained by the low number of women who run for Congress versus men? After all, a record number of women (309) were running this year, which was a 90% increase over 2016, and is still a fraction of the 1,103 men who ran.  Is this a byproduct of our democratic system which forces women to contend with sexism and stereotypes in the general public to win the vote, as opposed to countries with a parliamentary system where women are chosen by the party?

It’s all very controversial and deserves deeper investigation.  But no matter the reasons for this disparity, women are often the writers and advocates of bills on gender equality, reproductive health, and issues affecting families and children, so this could have much larger implications for us and our nation’s children.

Making progress, slowly

While the 115th and 116th Congresses are the most diverse in history, with record numbers of Hispanics, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and women of color joining the ranks – particularly among Democrats – we get a different perspective when we break down these stats in relation to the demographics of our population over time.

Since 1980, the largest gains in terms of equal representation have been seen among black/African-Americans and American Indians/Alaska Natives (for which the 116th Congress earns a solid grade of 73.9% and 73.8%, respectively).  The meteoric rise of American Indians/Alaska Natives looks particularly impressive on the graph, but until this week, that only accounted for two representatives in all of Congress.

Hispanic/Latinx people are particularly underrepresented in Congress relative to their presence in the population, and there is less Hispanic representation in our new Congress than there was in our last.  Still, the number of Latinx representatives has doubled since 2001. Their increasing population, advocacy, and engagement efforts, as well as their increasing incomes, mean we might start to see this group get closer to full representation in Congress faster than any other.

America’s fastest-growing population are Asian/Pacific Islanders, who had the best relative diversity score back in 1980 – at 73.3% you might even convince a nice teacher to call that a ‘C’ instead of a ‘C-‘. But that population was also the only one to experience a decrease in diversity in the period we examined – their scores went down for three straight decades between 1980 and 2010.

A new look at diversity in our 116th Congress

When we break down each ethnic group by gender in our 116th Congress, white males (representing 64.2% of Congress while making up roughly 30.3% of the population) still dwarf the number of representatives of every other group.  Their proportional representation of over 211% is nearly three times that of African-American males (79.1%), four times that of Hispanic males (54.1%), and over seven times that of Asian males (30%).

The privilege in play here, while certainly white, does not extend to white women – they have less than a quarter of the equal representation of their male counterparts.  In fact, white women rank lower than men in every ethnic category (except Asians) and rank eighth out of the ten groups.

The lowest proportional representation for any group is Hispanic females, who make up the second-highest percentage of the general population.

Why do we need a diverse Congress?

Diversity isn’t just some politically correct buzzword.  It’s an important factor in how well our country operates.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”450″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#d51a1a”]…in our 116th Congress, white males…still dwarf the number of representatives of every other group. Their proportional representation is nearly three times that of African-American males, four times that of Hispanic males, and over seven times that of Asian males.”[/mks_pullquote]Seeing people who look like you in positions of power makes you feel empowered, and makes you feel like your voice and concerns are capable of being heard. Encouraging the growing number of Hispanic, Asian, black, and multiracial Americans in our population to recognize that a political career is within reach enriches their participation in neighborhoods, cities, and organizations, and expands their career goals.

This “seeing is believing” phenomenon actually works on all of us – women are empowered by seeing female role models, and working-class white men have been beneficiaries of seeing men of diverse socio-economic status rise in the ranks in politics and business as well.

Equal representation is one of the founding guidelines of American democracy, but it also saves us time and money. Diversity in Washington increases federal agencies’ ability to successfully serve and protect people who come from different backgrounds. We know from experience that we cannot create effective public policy if policymakers don’t understand the issues and concerns of the citizens they serve.

Plenty of science provides evidence that diversity is good. Being around people different from ourselves makes us smarter by allowing us to see other perspectives, anticipate problems, and incorporate alternate viewpoints into policies that will do the most good for the largest number of people.

How has progress been made?

Diversity doesn’t just happen in places of power without the hard work and advocacy of both the underrepresented and their allies. In the 38 years covered by our graphs above, various historical events led to the acceptance of women and people of color as lawmakers.

African-Americans, in particular, found much success in local elections prior to the 1980s. When a large number of seats opened up in the 1990s following retirements and scandals, a large group of diverse candidates with legislative experience who were both qualified and visible were ready to run for office. As a bonus, they were Washington outsiders, untainted by things like the House banking scandal in 1991.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”450″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#d51a1a”]The privilege in play here, while certainly white, does not extend to white women – they have less than a quarter of the equal representation of their male counterparts. In fact, white women rank lower than men in every ethnic category (except Asians) and rank eighth out of the ten groups.”[/mks_pullquote]In 1992, the so-called “Year of the Woman,” a large voting block of women materialized and elected more women to Congress (specifically the Senate) than ever before, which is why we see the largest percentage increase in female lawmakers between 1990 and 2000.

The mid-to-late 1990s saw a shift in national funding priorities away from national security to areas such as education, health care, welfare reform, and the economy – areas where women were a significant part of the workforce and advocacy movements.

Moving forward, we can undoubtedly count on recent events like the Women’s March, the visibility of the #MeToo movement, and the increasing number of women serving in the military to have an impact on the number of female lawmakers in office.

Celebrate, with perspective

This week’s election provided some hopeful moments for the future of Congress. Rashida Tlaib (D – Michigan) and Ilhan Omar (D – Minnesota) became the first Muslim women elected to Congress; Sharice Davids (D-Kansas) and Deb Haaland (D – New Mexico) will join them as the first two Native American women; we elected our youngest congresswomen ever with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D – New York) and Abby Finkenauer (D – Iowa), both 29; Finkenauer joins Cindy Axne (D) as the first women from Iowa to serve in the House; Ayanna Pressley (D) was elected Massachusetts’ first black Congresswoman; Lauren Underwood (D) became the first black woman to ever win Illinois’ 14th District; and Kansas elected its first LGBTQIA+ representative.

While it’s important to celebrate these victories and applaud the great strides we’ve made as a country, it’s also imperative that we keep these in perspective and recognize the amount of work that still needs to be done to achieve a Congress as diverse as our population.


Visit our workplace diversity hub for further reading relating to current challenges faced by women and people of color, wage gaps, successful inclusion strategies, diversity in corporate and government leadership, effective talent acquisition and diversity programs, and how artificial intelligence affects diversity outcomes.

Special thanks to Dr. Jessica Baron (@baronatrix) and Norika Francis-Mezger for your contributions.

Career Advice

How a lack of doubt is toxic to your career

Lack of doubt and overconfidence are toxic to your career. A curious mind, on the other hand, is invaluable in business and a healthy sense of doubt is one of the most important characteristics of effective people. People in power know that learning and growth start with questions. We pay attention to the questions you ask in job interviews and meetings.

Questions like these really matter and change people’s lives (from big to small):

  • What should I do with my life?
  • Is this job a good fit for me?
  • Where am I going in my job this year?
  • How valuable is my work to the company?
  • What will I accomplish this quarter?
  • Am I getting enough feedback and guidance from my boss?
  • Am I on track this month?
  • How does this work? Why?
  • How could I improve this?
  • What can I learn from this?
  • Am I prepared for my conference call this afternoon?

a curious mind is invaluable in businessHow do I know when a new member of the team is unlikely to work out? It’s usually someone who asks few questions during training, then sits down to work and charges ahead with full confidence (usually doing the wrong thing) without checking in for feedback until I request an update.

Some people are naturally more curious than others — but forget about that because you can create your own healthy sense of doubt with practice. Our minds generally do what we ask them to – ask and ye shall receive.

So use this checklist:

  1. Hang a list of daily questions for yourself in your bedroom and/or your office.
  2. Put questions in locations that will remind you at the right time in the right place. I keep a card on my monitor that says “Prepared? Specific enough? Documented?” No, it doesn’t always work, but I’m still a little better with the reminder than without.
  3. Ask yourself “What am I missing? What other possibilities are there? What consequences might flow from this? Consider a longer list of options and try to include some wacky ones. Get outside your comfort zone for a moment.
  4. Spill your guts. When you’re tempted to ask something but feel inhibited or fearful about asking, pay close attention – it’s usually a question that needs asking. Just ask. You’ll find the cost of not asking is almost always higher.

Get the ebook! If you liked what you read here, and think you may want to refer back to this guide later, grab the Kindle version – we’re hoping you’ll thank us with a five-star review on Amazon if you found this material helpful. The ebook also includes our job search guide.

For comprehensive advice on the entire job search process, read our complete guide to landing a job at a great company or visit our career advice hub.

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Career Advice

Will your blog get you screened out?

In the best job search guide online, I recommend that you blog to show your talent and passion. But, that’s not the full story – I’ve screened out more job-seekers than I’ve hired because of their blogs.

To make sure no one ends up unemployed because they followed my advice, here’s a guide to making sure your blog doesn’t kill your chances of getting hired.

First, let’s look at the blogs that have killed my interest in a candidate – they’ve included a job-seeker:

  • promoting himself as an online marketing ‘get rich quick’ expert
  • with pictures of himself firing his automatic assault rifle
  • talking enthusiastically about his binge drinking
  • and a few with tragically ugly websites

There’s a lot of common sense advice to give about blogging which I’ll dish out before moving on to my favorite topic – the easiest mistakes talented writers are prone to make.


  • badmouth your previous bosses or employers
  • talk about religion, politics, or sex
  • post unflattering photos
  • babble – keep your posts short and sweet


  • post consistently and keep it up-to-date (once a month at least if job searching)
  • include your resume in an attractive format (word or pdf)
  • share your personal life (family, friends, pets, interests, and hobbies) but keep it PG or G rated
  • be genuine – let your readers hear your thoughts
  • be positive – you can bleed some, but always find the silver lining
  • talk about what’s happening in your profession
  • keep an updated blogroll to show who you follow and read

Now, for the mistakes most easily made by talented people! That’s the presentation – your book cover. You can write great, meaty, wise, or brilliant content, but if the cover of your book is terribly dull, ugly or error-riddled – many recruiters will write you off at the cover. Aim to fascinate with your blog‘s elegance. Give yourself some mystique!

First, your grammar and your spelling should be nearly perfect. Use spellchecker! Beg your friends and family to proofread you. Here’s why – easily preventable errors tell your future boss that you’ll need babysitting.

Second, you need a pretty dress. Ugly does not sell. If you’ve been told you don’t have much fashion sense, that’s a sure sign you’ll need help making sure your blog isn’t ugly. Sure, you can find a few examples of ugly blogs written by rich and famous authors like Mark Cuban. Don’t let those throw you off the trail.

Look at these fashion makeovers! Are those really the same women? By the way, if you don’t see much difference in the before and after pictures, you need to let someone else make your blog design decisions. Let me show you a few examples of good/great blog design, the simple and clean look you want for a professional blog:

If you’re using WordPress, here are some minimalist theme choices that will do the job:

So what does your blog look like?

For comprehensive advice on the entire job search process, read our complete guide to landing a job at a great company or visit our career advice hub.