Category Archives: Finances

How to Blow a Job Interview on the First Question

What You Can Do to Avoid This Trap

2 minutes to read

You finally got a meeting to discuss a job. Congratulations! Maybe your job-board spamming finally paid off. More likely you connected with someone at the company who got you the meeting. Notice I didn’t call it a job interview. I’ve explained why in a previous post. This is your big chance to get the job you want. You both sit down. The person asks the first question. After you respond, you notice a cooling in his attitude. You don’t know how. But you know you’ve blown it already.

How to Blow a Job Interview on the First Question

The First Question Sets the Tone

During the first 30 to 120 seconds, the person you’re meeting with will check out:

  • Your personal appearance – even breath and tattoos (even on Skype – okay not your breath)
  • How nervous you appear
  • Any signs you lack self-confidence
  • How much consideration you show other people
  • Your values

Many people don’t realize they’re doing it. You do the same thing. Everyone quickly sizes up new people. But most don’t draw conclusions until the talking begins.

You get your first question. The MOST frequent one is: “Tell me about yourself.”

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Wanting to keep things light or appear humble, you smile and answer: “What would you like to know?”


You Fell Into a Trap

Most people get nervous when meeting someone new. That goes for you AND the person you’re meeting with. He’s not trying to set you up. “Tell me about yourself” is his way of politely giving you the floor. You have about two minutes to make yourself stand out from the other people he’ll meet with.

Given the time limit, he doesn’t want your life story. What he wants to know, but isn’t asking outright is:

  • Why are you here? Why my organization and not another one.
  • What can you do for us? Connect your skills to what know about my organization.
  • What makes you unique? Distinguish yourself from the other candidates.
  • What kind of person are you? Explain how you will fit into the culture here.
  • Can I afford you? Address this when you’re offered the job.

Now you can’t answer all of these in two minutes. Respond to one question in a way that he’ll remember you.

Use your Unique Value Proposition. If you don’t know what this is, download my 5-Steps Checklist and check out Step #2. Having done the self-examination and research to develop your UVP, you can come up with at least one powerful response to: “So tell me about yourself.”

Proper preparation will prevent your blowing the meeting on the first question. It will also improve your first impression. You won’t feel nervous, or at least as nervous. You’ll appear self-confident. Both of these will allow you to focus better on other people.

Avoid the first question trap. Set the tone for a productive meeting between two professionals so you can get the job you want.

How will you answer: “So tell me about yourself?”

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10 Books that Will Improve Your Life in 2017

2-1/2 minutes to read

You may know I read at least 50 books a year. With so many goods ones even at one per week it seems to make hardly a dent. My reading focuses on personal development, history & biography, business, and literature. My guilty pleasures are detective and historical fiction. It all unites to help my family and me live the life we’ve charted.

10 Books that Will Improve Your Life in 2017

I keep abreast of current works But I also look back to see what older books and classics I have missed. Here are the best. Why not treat yourself to one for a Christmas or Chanukah gift?

Personal Development:

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz

We live amidst great abundance yet don’t seem to be happier. Is it nostalgic yearning? Barry Schwartz makes the case that too many choices bring about unhappiness as surely as no choice. He also gives you actionable steps to relieve yourself of this burden.

The Miracles in You: Recognizing G-d's Amazing Works in You and Through You by Mark Victor Hansen

If you sit around hoping for a miracle it’ll be a long wait. Mark Victor Hansen (the Chicken Soup Book Series) challenges you to become a miracle maker. He explains how to see them in your life and make them happen.

Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love by David Sturt

In many ways, David Sturt’s book is a companion to Geoff Colvin’s Talent is Overrated. No matter your IQ, talent, educational level, gender, or the circumstances of your birth, you can create a difference the world loves. The ability to innovate comes through the five skills that Sturt reveals. His illustrative stories prove you can execute them.

The 2-Hour Job Search: Using Technology to Get the Right Job Faster by Steve Dalton

Steve Dalton fills in a crucial piece of the job-hunting puzzle. His book will teach you how to connect with people who can help you get the position you want. I used his system. It works.

The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard

This 34-year-old classic details more than a sound strategy for managing people. Kenneth Blanchard gives you the formula to boost the quality of all your relationships. His simple steps yield clear communication leading to mutually agreeable outcomes.

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History and Biography:

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

Orville and Wilbur Wright were not extraordinary mechanics, businessmen, or thinkers. David McCullough shows their success came through sheer tenacity. This story will inspire you to redouble your commitment to your life’s mission.

Bull Halsey by E.B. Potter

Arguably the navy’s most beloved admiral, William Halsey’s life testifies to the power of personal connections. E.B. Potter reveals how relationships with his sailors, peers, and family propelled Halsey’s legendary success.

Business and Entrepreneurship:

The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki

I’m not a Guy Kawasaki groupie. I checked out his work from the audio books section of the library so I wouldn’t run out of things to listen to on a car trip. His step-by-step breakdown of entrepreneurship converts a daunting process into manageable pieces. For veteran entrepreneurs and rookies, this book will accelerate your success.

Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul by Howard Schultz & Joanne Gordon

I am a Howard Schultz fan. I loved his first book, Pour Your Heart Into It. In Onward, he emphasizes the bond between business success and foundational values. You don’t need to like Starbucks coffee to get inspired by this story of its rescue.

Guilty Pleasure:

The Road to Samarcand: An Adventure by Patrick O’Brien

If you saw the movie Master & Commander you got a taste of Patrick O’Brien’s rollicking adventure tales. A group of hardy sailors treks across 1930’s China to exotic Samarcand. This is old-fashioned excitement, breakneck horseback rides and hand to hand combat.

If you want to succeed you must read. If you have a specific challenge that none of these books address let me know. Happy to recommend material to help you.

What books did you read this year that you recommend?

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Are You Using This Excuse for Not Reaching Your Goal?

2-½ minutes to read

You need to take action. You won’t accomplish your goal if you don’t. Finding the job you want. Improving your physical fitness. Getting closer to your spouse. Becoming closer to G-d. All require doing something. The problem is what you did in the past didn’t work. And acting for the sake of being busy is pointless. What do you do?

Are You Using This Excuse for Not Reaching Your Goal?

Not Knowing What to Do

Procrastination tops the list of things I bawl myself out for. Work time has to be productive. I’ve learned to alternate easy tasks with those that take intense focus. This keeps my momentum going.

When I start putting off a difficult task, I need a quick way to get back on track. Once I’ve identified the source of my procrastinating I can overcome it.

You learn a lot from helping people get past their barriers. Having coached over 1,300 veterans in the last eighteen months, I’ve found most procrastinate because they’re unsure. It comes in two forms:

  1. Lack of information.
  2. Lack of self-confidence.

Of the two, the first one is by far the easier to solve. You need a couple of things:

  1. Data. The Internet puts a massive amount of information data at your fingertips. You know you need inside connections to get the job you want. Research their names. Proceed.
  2. Process. Figuring out what steps to take and how to execute them is more challenging. If you don’t know how to build relationships you can learn from trial and error. Or you can get trained.

At times you may overload on information. In that case, arrange your options from best to worst. Better choices will stand out. If they don’t, order them at random. Then act on option 1. If it works, great! If not, move on to option 2.

Working the process gives you momentum. Agonizing over it produces idleness. Careful choosing won’t guarantee success. Acting consistently will.

Not Wanting to Do It

The real problem comes when lack of information conceals a lack of self-confidence. The scenario usually plays out like this:

If I only knew ______________, I could ________________.

For example, fill in the blanks with “how to better write my resume” and “get the job I want.” If you're relying on your resume to get you a job you'll be waiting a long time.

Often this attitude comes from having tried things that didn’t work. Here’s where you have to be careful.

Are you sure you don’t know what you need to do? Or do you just not like doing it? Think of how many nasty things you had to do in basic training. Many seemed useless. Now you laugh at them. Civilian life isn’t any different.

The worst case comes when you get discouraged. Motivating yourself to take the right steps yet again seems pointless. You convince yourself it’s a waste of time. There has to be a better way, right?

Do that long enough and you’ll kill your self-confidence. At that point, you won’t take action because you’re sure it won’t help.

Be honest with yourself. Don’t give yourself an out. Do you really want to reach your goal? Just plow forward no matter what.

Teddy Roosevelt famously said:

If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your troubles, you wouldn’t sit for a month.

How about giving your backside a break in 2017?

What information do you need to reach your goal?

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How to Get a Company to Give You the Job

2-½ minutes to read

It’s aggravating when you’re not asked to come talk about a job. It’s worse going to a bunch of meetings and still not landing one. Nothing fuels self-doubt more than having a great meeting with the hiring manager, walking away feeling it’s in the bag, only to have the phone remain silent. If you keep coming up short you’re committing job search sin #8: Not asking for the job if you want it or not following up properly or at all.

How to Get a Company to Give You the Job 

When You Want the Job, Ask

To a large extent, job hunting is a numbers game. If you have been diligent about identifying your skills, understanding your passion, and determining market demand you will get a job. When you work from the inside, as I suggested in last week’s post, you’ll reduce the time it takes. But you’re not going to be offered every job you apply for. You may not get offered any of them if another candidate has the gumption to ask at the end of a meeting, “given everything we’ve discussed, can you offer me the job?”

The company may choose to speak with all candidates before making a decision. But the hiring manager may not want to risk losing an excellent employee. So if a previous candidate makes his wishes clear, you’ll be out of luck.

It seems so basic. But a lot of veterans don't do it. If you want the job, ask for it.

The purpose of the meeting is for you and the hiring manager to assess the mutual benefit of your working there. When you ask for the job it should be clear you believe this is good for you AND the company.

You won’t be ruled out for making your assessment clear. Nor will it impact your position when negotiating compensation. In most cases, such decisiveness will work to your advantage.

If the hiring manager doesn’t see the fit, aren’t you better off knowing immediately. And if he disagrees with your assessment or doesn’t like your assertiveness what does that bode about a future work situation?

Alleviating the Fear of Asking

Asking for the job can have three results:

  1. No, you’re not the person we’re looking for. Great, you know where you stand. Perhaps you thought the meeting went well. Was your perception correct? Ask questions. The hiring manager may be reluctant to discuss the matter. If the reasons sound harsh he may have legal concerns. Ask for suggestions on how you can improve for your next meeting.
  2. No, not right now. Great, you know you’re still in the running.
  3. Yes. Great! You got the job!

There is no downside to asking for a job you want. You may feel uncomfortable. Practice what you’ll say. Stand or sit in front of a mirror and watch yourself. Better, rehearse with a friend and video yourself. Before long you won’t feel awkward.

If the company needs time, make a plan to follow up. What happens next in the process? Will they be assessing the people they spoke with? Or will there be a second or third meeting? What is the timeline? Be polite but don’t leave matters vague.

Establish the latest that you can expect to hear back. Confirm you can follow up after that time. Do so, even if you’ve found another job in the meantime. Show you follow through. Don’t burn any bridges.

Within a day of the meeting send a handwritten thank you. A quick email right after is fine. A card or note the person will keep on his desk keeps you front of mind.

If you got a flat out no, before you leave the meeting ask for referrals to other companies looking for someone with your qualifications. Most people don’t like rejecting a candidate so they’ll be happy to help if they can. You can’t lose anything by asking.

To get the job you want you’ll have to ask for it. Most likely, you’ll have to ask more than once. A proper follow plan and execution will make the process easier and more comfortable.

Do you think it’s better to know right away if you didn’t get a job?

Please comment on this question or ask another question below.

How to Be Proactive Hunting for a Job

3 minutes to read

With all the time and effort you spent writing your resume how come your phone doesn’t ring off the hook? Maybe you paid a professional resume writer to review or edit it. You posted it dozens, even hundreds, of times on,, and every company website you could find. Still no luck. After months of searching, you’re ready to give up. You’re committing job search sin #6: Thinking all you have to do is post your resume on job boards.

How to Be Proactive Hunting for a Job 

How the Internet Makes Getting a Job Harder

It seems the Internet has made searching for employment easier. You can get information on thousands of jobs while sitting in front of your computer. Job boards give you the ability to search all kinds of parameters so you can find exactly what you want. Then you can submit your paperwork online. And there you have it. The requests to have you interview should roll in.

While this sounds logical, it ignores one basic issue. Hunting for a job used to be a local matter. This limited the applicant pool to people who lived reasonably close to the company. The Internet turned almost every employee search into a national one. Before your competition was the town or city. Now it’s the entire United States.

Since 2008 between 118 and 250 people have applied for each job. The cost to apply for a job seems low. Just fill out an application and submit it with your resume. With so many applicants, employers have to efficiently sift out the best. They turned to automated Applicant Tracking System, which screen resumes to eliminate up to 50% before a human will look at them. As many as 20% of those not ruled out will get an interview. But often only three to six people get called. Of these, at least one or two will usually be internal referrals.

So a lot more people are applying. You and the employer are passive participants in the beginning of such a job hunt. Unless you can consistently convey your unique qualities to a machine you’ll be overlooked. Those on the inside have a bigger advantage than ever before because they circumvent the automated screening.

Can you say deck stacked against you? Only 4% to 10% of people who use the post and pray method exclusively get a job that way. One expert says it’s closer to 0.4%.

Adopt Proactive Hunting

Can we agree you should stop spamming job boards with your resume? Then you’ll have plenty of time to do what does work:

  1. Focus on LinkedIn. In 2014, 94% of recruiters were active on LinkedIn but only 36% of job seekers were. On Facebook, 65% of recruiters are active but 83% of job seekers are there. LinkedIn is designed to showcase your professional credentials. Which gives you the better odds?
  2. Optimize your profile. Don’t think of LinkedIn as on online resume. Listing the billets you had is useless. Start with the summary. What value can you deliver to an employer? What does your target job look like? When describing your military service emphasize your accomplishments. How did you help the command meet its mission? What improvements did you make to personnel and processes? Quantify them.  Use Matthew Fritz's guide, Leveraging Your LinkedIn Profile for Success.
  3. Provide evidence. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, video’s worth a million. Do you have a two-minute clip of you doing the kind of work you’d do for an employer? Post it. Have you written an article that got published? Post it. Likewise with whatever you have that demonstrates your expertise. If you don’t have anything, create it.
  4. Endorsements. Post excerpts from your performance evaluations (FITREPs, evals, etc.). Get testimonials from the highest-ranking people you can. Civilians equate generals and admirals to CEOs. Include impressive job titles like Wing Commander or Commanding Officer. Have your endorsers focus on achievements related to specific skills.
  5. Make strategic connections. Find the thought leaders for the business or industry you want to work in. Connect with them. Build relationships. Read my six posts on cultivating relationships starting with How to Go from Contact to Relationship.

Besides decreasing the time it takes you to get a job, following these steps will improve your career progression.

Posting resumes to job boards fits the rigidity of the military mindset. But it doesn’t work in the open-ended, ad hoc, civilian world. The longer you wait to alter your plan of attack, the more your enthusiasm will wane.

Relationships will deliver the job you want. Next week I’ll talk about how.

What prevents you from being proactive in your job search? Please comment below.

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