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My Favorite Job Interview Technique

by Kathy Bornheimer
My favorite interview technique is not a question, it’s actually a request. Over the years as a recruiter and hiring manager, I developed a technique that I call “Get the candidate talking.” I want to find out what makes people tick, their aptitudes, past behaviors and mostly importantly their communication style.

Instead of the standard questions “What are your strengths?” “What are your weaknesses?” I say: “Tell me about a time when…” I set this request up as a positive situation/experience:

“Tell me about a time when you had a difficult or unique situation that you’d never encountered before. You did what you thought would be best and that would work out. It succeeded so well, that you sat back and said to yourself, “Gosh, I’m good!” Tell me about that time.”

I then listen to and watch them as they explain that situation. What I’m listening for is pride in accomplishment, logic in how they describe/explain details and flow of language. What I pay attention to is their facial expression and body language as this they are major components in human communication.

I’ve seen this displayed in a 16 year old High School student and lacking in an experienced Masters level job candidate.

After a few more “typical” interview questions, I make that request again; “Now tell me about a time when…” and set up in regards to a negative situation/experience. This is situation again, was new, unique or difficult, but it just failed miserably or fell apart. What was that situation/event and how did you react? I again, listen and watch. I key into what it was and how it affected them. I want to know if they’ve experienced failure, but more importantly, what they learn from it and how did they recuperate.

People who cannot answer this question concern me as I feel if you haven’t failed, you’re not doing enough to succeed. Another perspective is that they don’t recognize failure, which is a red flag for any employer. How do people avoid making the same mistake?

On the flip side, a savvy candidate needs to make these same requests to a potential employer. This is especially critical when you are interviewing for senior positions. You want to make sure that this employer/hiring manager has their act together. What’s their pride level, their management/communication style? Do they encourage creativity and how is it rewarded? How do they handle mistakes and what are the ramifications? A great example of this is the 3M Corporation situation with Post-it Notes (an R&D “failure” with a new adhesive formulation resulted in success, and profits). Remember, the candidate also needs to heed any warning signs that display incompatibilities or contradictions during the interview.

As a Career Coach, I often have my clients do this in an interview. They will start with “What typical happens when…” using both the positive and negative scenarios. Again, how does the potential hiring manager handle these questions/requests?

Everyone needs to put all of their cards on the table during the interview process to avoid surprises (and a bad hire/decision). Interviewing is an art and a science. The ability to listen, watch and interpret results is critical in this process. I often suggest (and practiced) the three interview process to achieve good results. It takes time and several direct conversations for both parties to make the best decision.

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How To Prepare For Job Interview Challenges

By Amit Chauhan
When it comes to entry-level positions, a resume can only tell so much about a candidate.With somewhat limited previous experience, employers need better ways to get to know the new, tech-savvy digital generation that is entering the workforce. For this reason, employers are finding new ways to engage with and get to know candidates before hiring them.

One of the ways they are doing this is by providing candidates with interactive challenges or tests. These can tell employers a lot about candidates and what their true abilities are.

As a job seeker, you need to understand what these challenges are, why companies are using them, and how to ace them:

What is a job interview challenge?

Challenges, or tests, are short projects that candidates are given by potential employers. They are used as a way to give employers a good idea of the candidate’s proficiencies and competencies.

Depending on the type of position you’re applying for, they may require you to write an article or press release, develop a marketing pitch, list technology devices and their capabilities, or design a logo. They generally don’t take more than a couple hours to complete.

Why do employers use job interview challenges?

Hiring a single candidate can cost upwards of $10,000, so companies want to make sure their hires are a good fit. Resumes can only tell employers so much about a candidate, so they utilize things like job interview challenges to get beyond the piece of paper.

Job interview challenges allow employers to determine a candidate’s technical skills for the job, as well as see their personality and ability to respond to problems. These challenges are generally very similar to actual work that the role would require, so employers are able to get an all-encompassing view of a candidate before hiring them.

What you need to know about job interview challenges

Aside from getting to know your hard skills, these challenges can also tell employers about your “soft skills.” Soft skills are different from the technical skills you learn in school and need to know in order to complete a project. Soft skills describe the way you communicate, your critical thinking abilities and attitude toward challenging work.

According to the Talent Shortage Survey, nearly one in five employers worldwide can’t fill positions because they can’t find people with soft skills. Therefore, it is extremely important that you remain mindful of not only how well you complete these challenges, but also how you’re presenting yourself before, during and after you complete them

Show off your strong communication abilities by making sure to connect with the employer about the challenge, and if it makes sense, update them on where you’re at with it and when it will be completed. If something unexpected comes up, make sure you keep a positive attitude to show that you can handle any challenges that arise.

How to prepare for job interview challenges

  • Pick a good time to start. Make sure to set aside plenty of uninterrupted time to complete the challenge. You need to put your best work forward to prove you are the right candidate for the position.
  • Do your research. Don’t start the challenge until you have a good understanding of the company and what they do. It is likely that the challenge will not only test your skills, but also your comprehension and knowledge about the industry and the company.
  • Get the details. Ask the employer what they are looking for with challenge responses and if there are any additional details you need to be mindful of. This will not only show that you are comfortable asking questions when needed, but also you are taking the challenge seriously.
  • Keep a positive attitude. Prove you are up to the challenge by showing your enthusiasm for the task. Don’t go overboard, but do small things like finishing ahead of time or sending out a tweet about how neat the challenge is.
  • Tap your professional connections. If it is allowed and possible, tap one of your trusted connections to review your work and make sure it is perfect. You should also ask for their feedback to ensure you’re submitting your best work.

The next time you’re applying to a company that utilizes some form of challenges, make sure you keep these tips in mind.

What are you experience with challenges or test from employers? Share your experiences and additional tips below!

Image courtesy of Flickr


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Brand Yourself in Your Job Search

It is estimated that the average American will have up to seven careers in their lifetime and spend an average of four years with each employer. This means that whether you are just entering the job market or have been in it for decades, you will most likely have at least a couple job searches in your future. You can have all the credentials, experience, and education in the world, but unless you know how to market yourself it could all be wasted. Just as companies promote and sell their products and services, you have to be equally persistent in selling yourself as a brand. This has never been easier than it is in 2014. Recruiters, social media sites, and the internet have made hiring agents and company personnel more accessible. The problem is, everyone now has these advantages. Here are some tips on how to separate yourself from the masses.

Cover letter and resume

The Ladder released a study in 2012 that stated that hiring managers and recruiters only spend about six seconds looking over a resume before deciding whether to consider an applicant. This means that all the time you spent talking about your achievements for the job you had in 2006 may not even be seen if you do not catch their eye. Instead, focus on selling yourself right off the bat in your cover letter.

  • Personalize your cover letter for each specific job or job type. Potential employers want to know exactly which skills you can bring to the job they are filling.
  • Select three or four key points relating to the job posting and address how your background fits what they said they want from the position.
  • This should go without saying, but keep it professional and grammatically correct. Have someone else proof read it.

Social Media and personal references

An estimated 80% of employees find jobs through referral. Social media has made this process more prominent. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are just a few of the sites job seekers and employers are using to fill jobs. This can be a double-edged sword though. To use these tools to your advantage you need to keep it professional and accurate.

  • Start by updating your professional profiles and headlines. They can act as an online resume and cover letter. They should be full of content and references.
  • Detail the career you want and the type of company you would like to work for. This will help anyone in your network help you find the right job.
  • Lock any personal accounts and keep them separate from professional ones.
  • Be active on your pages. Interact and comment on other professionals’ posts within your network and post high quality, profession related content on your own pages. You can also write blog-like posts about topics within your field. Not only will this help build your network, but also it will highlight your knowledge and show that you are digitally literate; a valuable tool in today’s world, regardless of the job.


Recruiters can be a valuable tool to help you get a foot in the door. They work for the company seeking an employee and generally the company compensates them, meaning job seekers do not have to pay for their services. There are several benefits for using a recruiter.

  • Recruiters already have an established network. Essentially, they take the legwork out of searching for the right job and instead help you find the one that best fits your qualifications. This also usually means you are in a smaller pool of applicants.
  • About half of all senior-level positions are filled with the help of recruiters. If you are already established in your career, recruiters can help you find a parallel job or the next step up for you professionally.
  • Recruiters can help with resume and interview advice and they can provide you with information about a company or job.
  • Recruiters are not paid until the job is filled, so finding a place for you is mutually beneficial. This means they are there to help promote you as a brand.
  • Recruiters are often the first to know about a new opening. This can give you a valuable jumpstart on the competition.

 Internships and freelance work

Internships and freelance work are low risk to the companies but can be that invaluable “in” you need to prove yourself. If you can afford to, seeking these assignments out is recommended, especially if you have little or no experience. This requires you to think about the big picture and long term.

  • Freelance projects are short term, low risk hires but can lead to something permanent. At the very least, you are helping build your portfolio for future jobs, while still getting a paycheck.
  • Internships are much the same as freelance. Some offer pay, but many do not. Again, it is about getting yourself out there, gaining valuable experience, and setting yourself up for a career. According to a survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, almost 70% of college interns received job offers from the company they interned with.

For most of us, searching for a job is a stressful and tiring process, but by utilizing the tools available and a few tricks along the way, you can make the search a short one. The days of showing up at a company with a job application and resume are almost outdated; however, todays conditions offer perhaps more access to those who do the hiring than ever. For those willing to evolve and adapt, this shift in the job market can be the perfect platform to promote the brand new Brand You.


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Facebook and Job Searching

What Not To Do On Facebook When You’re Job Searching


Privacy is an issue on Facebook, in general, but it’s even more of an issue when you’re job searching.If you’re not careful, everything you post on Facebook can be seen by your current employer or a prospective employer. Inopportune comments and/or inappropriate photos have cost job seekers offers and have caused employees to be fired.Given the fact that just about everyone does use Facebook, it’s smart to take the time to make sure that what you post is seen only by who you want to see it, not by the world.Jon Gelberg, Chief Content Officer, Blue Fountain Media, shares tips for job seekers looking to bolster and clean up their presence on Facebook.

What Employers Shouldn’t See on Facebook

  • Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your current employer or a prospective employer to see.
  • Avoid any comments that could be interpreted as racist, sexist or discriminatory in any way.
  • Remove or untag photos of you that show you in an unfavorable light. If you prefer not to, then be sure to carefully manage your album privacy settings. These control which people can see which of your albums.
  • Look at your wall. Remove comments from your friends that seem distasteful.
  • Look at the apps on your profile. Does their purpose portray you well? There are more than a few apps that may not be the best ones to have on your page when you’re looking to get a job.
  • What groups are you a member of? If you belong to “It’s 5 am, I’m drunk, and on Facebook” or any similar groups, you probably want to leave them.

Facebook Privacy Settings for Job Seekers

  • Make sure only friends can see your photos.
  • Make sure only friends can see your religious and political views.
  • Make sure only friends can see your posts.
  • With the privacy settings, you are given an opportunity to preview your site, a feature that lets you see what the outside world sees when they access your Facebook page.

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5 Steps to Starting a Career Transition

Career Transitions have become almost necessary since the beginning of the 21st century. Some people have been doing it since the early 1980’s; others are just going through their first one. As an experienced (and successful) career changer, I’m able to use my own experiences in my Career Coaching practice.


The one rule that remains consistent is what I call the ABC step program. When changing careers it best to go from point A to point B and then point C (if necessary). The leap from A to C is often too far, thus seldom successful. I have been through the A, B, C and now D program as I’m in my 4th career over a 35 year period.

Remember, changing jobs is not the same as changing careers. While it can be simultaneous (my choices were), it’s not necessarily.

Here are the 5 essential steps:

1. What is your motivation(s) to go through this process?  Why do you feel the need for a change? Most people already know what interests them, but your aptitude is different and more important. There are several online “tests” available, so use one.

New York 2. What’s your focus? How do you plan on making this change? Who are your role models and more importantly, what are their attributes or traits? Often family members are among them, professionals, friends, acquaintances, etc. come to mind.

3. Be able to answer these open ended questions: My key strengths are…

A savvy networker may ask you some of these questions, so be ready with well thought out answers.

4. What are your core (transferable) skills and what or where do they fit? Do you have the educational background or credentials that needed, required or preferred for your new career? You may need to get feedback from trusted people who can be objective for validation.

5. Here’s a big step; research! Find out what others are doing and how they got there. Find out what companies and more importantly hiring managers are looking for. Connect with people who are willing to share their experiences (positive and failures).

The internet makes this so much easier when you’re in initial stages of research as it’s not time sensitive and you can be passive. Find people who have changed careers and talk with them to get the details. This is critical when connecting with those who are already in the job/field/industry that you’re targeting. The two major questions are: Why did you choose… and How did you get there?

LinkedIn is a perfect venue for this phase of your “journey.” You can read about people and their history before ever contacting them. Pair that with specific business or industry publications. Use the Company and Groups features for additional information including trends or patterns. You can learn about true company culture issues this way.

Actually find a reason to talk with people either face to face or over the phone. That will take commitment from both parties. You, as the initiator will need to be prepared to get to “Yes, I’m willing to talk with you,” or rejected.

Think of this process in two ways:

It’s a journey: Know where you want to go and how you may get there. Pack according for your arrival. Have a good map but be willing to ask for directions, especially if/when you run into detours or road closed, use alternative route. Don’t run out of gas!

The second comparison is:

Jobs and Careers are like a pair of shoes; they must be a good fit! A poor fit will not be returnable; so choose wisely!

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Why Work for a Credit Union?

Carol L. Middaugh, CUDE AVP-Marketing Corporate One Federal Credit Union

I have had the pleasure of enriching my life and those of others through my career in credit unions over the past 26 years and hope to continue for at least another 20 more years. You are probably thinking, “Gee, she must be old!” Well, define ‘old’.

I started my career with credit unions at 23. Through my technical college placement service, I was sent on an interview for the CEO position at TPS Credit Union (then Toledo Teachers Credit Union) in Toledo, Ohio. Armed with an Associate’s Degree in Accounting and 2 years experience in retail sales management, the board of TPS CU took a chance on me to manage the credit union. I spent 8 fulfilling years growing it from $5 million to $16 million in assets and helping credit union members to a better life.

Since then I’ve held many positions with credit unions. The knowledge, friendships and most of all knowing that I have helped make a better life for many people throughout my career is worth more than money can buy! All along the way, I have become wealthier than any multi-millionaire will ever be.

Most people in credit unions have been as fortunate as I have and are passionate about what they do. Their main goal is to enrich ‘others’ lives and thus enriching their own life. This is why credit unions are a ‘MOVEMENT’ and not an ‘industry’. We are here to make a difference! We epitomize our slogan “Where People are Worth More Than Money”. We are not in the money business, we are in the people business.

I am constantly encouraging others to come join the credit union movement as a member, volunteer or better yet an employee. The average age of members, volunteers and staff are maturing and we need younger people to continue the passion. Try a career in credit unions. It is great to get paid for something that you will love to do. It is a decision you will never regret.

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