Archive for the ‘General Advice’ Category

Interview Guide, Part Four

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Let’s talk about telling the truth in an interview. Too often, depressed people use the phrase, “BUT IT’S THE TRUTH!” when they say horrible things about themselves. I like to tell them to feel free to rot in the hell of their own creation. It’ll save me some time when I rise from the depths of Sunken R’Lyeh to ruin everybody’s day. People say that’s harsh, and I respond back with “Not as harsh as you’re being on yourself. Lighten up, bub.”

And that’s the truth: job hunting is a massive beat-down in so many ways. It extracts a spiritual, intellectual, and even physical toll on the job-seeker. Your job as a job-seeker, your number one job as a job-seeker, is to stay positive in spite of the storms that beset you. That is the hardest thing to do, but the most necessary thing to do. No matter what you’ve got on your resume, no matter how impressive your history may be, one lousy interview and you’ll never have the job you seek. If you go into an interview ready to tell the truth in the best way possible, you have a strong chance of coming across as the best fit for the job.

It’s a simple thing, really… often, it’s easier to train someone in technical areas than it is to teach someone how to be a more enjoyable person to be around. You will work with other people, and they want to know that you’ll be someone that fits in with the rest of the team. Not knowing how to be positive or upbeat will destroy your chances in the interview. So, you go in, you tell the truth, and you make it sound good.

Say you’ve been out of work for a year or two. That’s harsh. The wrong way to explain that gap is to say, “I was out of work for two years.” Sure, that’s the truth, but that’s a way of putting it that makes the speaker sound like nothing special.

“I couldn’t find a job for two years.” Oof. Even more depressing. I won’t give you a job, but I might give you a hug and tell you to cheer up.

“I’ve been out of work for two years. It’s been a tough local market, but now I’m able to start looking outside my area.” Better. What else can you add to it? Have you taken training classes? Have you volunteered for charity work? (A word on charity – even if it’s not in your field, if you have nothing else, do that. It tells your potential employer that you’re willing to do hard work and that you have a good heart. What could be wrong with that?) Did you do any internships? *Can* you look outside your area?

However you dress it up, don’t lie, but also don’t be depressing. My minions have observed people with hard felony time and unusual gaps in their job history go into interviews with a good attitude, tell the truth in a positive light, and – here’s the payoff – get the job. That’s right, they get the job. Ten years in prison, twenty years of parole served, no IT job worth mentioning in the last few years: with a good attitude, this guy can get an IT job.

When you think of reasons why you left previous positions, think more of what you were walking towards than running away from. Even if you hated a job, it still gave you experience, and it wasn’t totally without merit. Be positive. If you have hopes and aspirations, here’s where they come out as you discuss your leaving past jobs.

When you talk about one of your weaknesses, remember that you have strengths and that, compared to your strengths, you have skills that aren’t as strong. Those are your weaknesses. Personally, I’m a great motivator. Compared to my motivation and leadership skills, I’m not as good of an administrator. That’s a great way of introducing my weakness. I don’t leave it there, though: I mention what I’m doing to improve my weakness. If it’s something that’s not true right now, then I need to make it true right now so that I won’t be lying in the interview.

If you’re asked something technical and you don’t know the answer, just say that you don’t know. That will help your employer figure out what training you need when you get hired. Worst case, you may be interviewing for the wrong job – the one that will make you miserable – and revealing that you don’t actually have the expertise for the role will help you avoid being in a job you are not prepared to do properly. If you really want the job, be honest about what you don’t know and ask what needs to be done in order to close the gap between where you are now and what you need to have to be qualified for the job. Then, go and do those things.

Above all, learn about where you’re going to interview at and get some genuine excitement for the possibilities. Read up on your potential employer and think of three great things that would go with working there. Is it close to home? Is it a growing company? Does it have an interesting focus? Does it provide a needed service? Do other people like working there? Find out what’s good about it, and use that in your answer when you’re asked why do you want to work there. If you say something along the lines of how it’s just another job, then you’re just another applicant. If you can be excited to be there, they can be excited to have you be there.

Interview Guide, Part Three

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Body language is very simple, really. Lots of people think that it makes a huge difference and teevee shows are full of guys that study body language for “tells” into the mind of the person they’re studying. Set all that pop psychology stuff aside and focus on one big, happy truth:

If you are comfortable and not hiding anything, you look and feel relaxed and confident.

And, its corollary:

If you look like you’re relaxed and confident, employers will think better of you over someone that looked nervous, sad, agitated, angry, or comatose.

That’s key to getting a job. People want to hire people that they like. People like people that are relaxed and confident. So, get your body language in order.

Step one is to take a good shower, get a clean shave, fix your hair nicely, wear appropriate makeup, ditch the facial piercings (see part two for the rest of looking the part), and wear clothes that both look good and feel good on you. You don’t want them causing you to have a pained expression, do you? Comfy clothes that look good let you relax and feel confident.

Step two is to smile. Smiling is the most important form of body language. It’s reassuring, comforting, cheery, and pleasant. Do you think employers want to hire the depressing, abrasive, gloomy, or unpleasant? They don’t, so smile and you won’t be part of that group.

Step three is to play to tell the truth in the best way possible. You may have to drop your smile when you explain a serious bit, like, “I had to be out of work for a year while I took care of my aging mother,” but if you can smile at the end of it, there’s a happy ending and the truth wasn’t so bad. If you plan to tell the truth, you’ll have nothing to fear. If you have nothing to fear, you can relax and feel confident. That’ll put a smile on your face, won’t it?

Do keep your posture open, but don’t go into a panic if you discover that you’ve accidentally crossed your arms. Just uncross them and keep smiling. Do sit up straight, but don’t give up hope should you find that you’ve developed a bit of a slouch. Sit up, roll your shoulders back, and smile. If you commit any other pop psychology faux pas, just fix it and smile so that you stay relaxed and confident.

As you can see, body language is easy. It’s not a matter of following a list of what to do and what not to do. It’s a matter of putting your own mind at ease and where the mind goes, the body will follow.

Inerview Guide, Part Two

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

What do you wear to an interview? It’s hard to overdress. It’s not hard to wear the wrong thing. The key to dressing correctly for an interview is to not argue with anyone giving you advice on what to wear to an interview that is writing this article. Got that? No arguments. Not a peep. Just do what I say.

For men and women, wear a suit. It’s that simple. If you don’t have a suit, get one. Make sure it fits. You should not put it on and say, “Well, that’s good enough.” You should put it on and say, “Wow, that really fits well and doesn’t look too tight or too loose.” It should cover everything from the neck to the ankles and the arms down to the wrists. Women can open the top button or two, but men still need to put a tie on. The exception to the tie rule for men would be if you have a build of a true athlete, are well-tanned, and have enough spiky hair gel to make yourself look like you’re about to get the highest bid at the bachelor auction later that night… and you’re interviewing for a sales, marketing, or other con-man type position.

The suit itself should be black or dark gray or navy blue. No stripes, no checked patterns, nothing. You should look like a Pilgrim with a tie if you’re a man. Women can choose between slacks and a skirt, but that skirt really should go past the knees when you sit down. As far as accessories go, conservative is the watchword. The earrings, necklace, and brooch you wear should be simple, unassuming, and certainly not overpowering. You want the people interviewing you to look at your face, not your bling.

Speaking of your face, you need to let it shine. Hair should be pulled back or cut close. Facial hair should be trimmed close or absent. Tilt your head up when you talk so that the light shines on you and you look great. Women, you’re going to have to do a good, conservative job with your makeup. Too much makeup is as bad as not enough. Dial it in just right and go with that. What is just right? Look at any woman in an executive position and copy her. That’ll do.

The tie for men is simple: dark red or dark blue. Simple pattern is OK, simple quiet stripes are OK. Anything loud or complicated is out. Remember, you want them to look at your face.

Shoes should be nice, clean, and not sneakers. Get a good pair that’s comfortable, shine ’em up, and go to that interview.

Should your interviewer tell you to come as you are, you have the green light to not have to wear the tie if you’re a man. Everything else should be as above, though. If you’ve already done a great phone interview and have already accepted the offer letter, *then* you can show up in flip flops and a Hawaiian shirt. Otherwise, “as you are” is actually quite nice, as it turns out.

Above all, wear a smile. Humans love to see smiles, even forced ones. Smile through your interview as much as possible. You’ll appear relaxed, confident, comfortable, and energetic – all components of the BIG WET (See part one for that acronym).

Interview Guide, Part One

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

All the skills in the universe don’t mean a thing if you can’t put them to use in a job. Jobs aren’t handed out like candy at a kid’s party: you have to go and get them. To get a job, you have to interview for a job. I’m going to write up a series on interviewing to help all you miserable mortals be a little less miserable, so that when I come to destroy the world, you’ll have something to lose and you won’t be looking forward to the end of your misery. Those kinds of things are important to me. So, here we go with interview advisements.

The most important thing about advice is that it be easy to remember. So here you go: BIG WET. You are not likely to forget that. BIG stands for being big. If you feel larger, you project strength. It’s the way animals raise up when threatened: getting bigger means they’re less likely to get whacked. If you sit openly and assertively – in a big way – you can send a message that you’re in charge of your side of things and that you can add something to any enterprise. Before you go in, look in a mirror with your hands over your head, standing tall, stretching out, being BIG, in a word.

While you’re doing the big thing, go with the W, which is for win. If you visualize yourself winning, you enter the interview with confidence. Confidence tells the interviewers that you’re the kind of person that they want to be working with. As you do your big moves, tell yourself that you’re a winner and that you might very well be the best. Not one of the best – the best. Imagine that and go in smiling.

Smiling is part of the E, energy. You can never have too much appropriate energy in an interview. You might think it’s ridiculous, but the interviewer will think you’re the only person that’s really excited about the opportunity. You won’t be applying because you’re desperate for any job or because you decided to show up for another interview that might actually deliver. No, you will be happy to be there and eager for what lies ahead. Win.

The T is for truth. You need to tell the truth about yourself in the best way possible. If you leave gaps in your responses, the interviewer will wonder if you’re trying to deceive him. Be forthright, but be tactful. Find the best way of saying things and that will build off your winning energy.

I can elaborate more on each of these areas, but for now, just remember: BIG WET.

Affordable Benefits, Part I: Healthcare

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

I hear all the time CEOs complaining about Obamacare this and regulations that. Frankly, I’m fed up with all the jibber-jabber. Where’s the action? You’re an executive, so your job is to execute, not whine. Creative approaches to health care a possible, and can provide your workforce with world-class benefits at underworld prices.

I’m being literal about the pricing. You’ve got to go the route of mob doctors, or you’ll be bled dry by creeping costs. Do you think that, for one second, an unlicensed physician that has a Consigliere with a bullet in his arm on his kitchen table is going to order up unnecessary procedures or charge ten bucks for an aspirin? Absolutely not. He’ll charge fair market rates for both parts and labor. Organizations everywhere are already going the route of keeping part-timers to 29 hours/week and professionals as 1099 contractors. Your firm will do the same thing, but if you keep a stable of medical school graduates that are desperate to pay off their med school loans, you can offer affordable, effective health care that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

How good will the care be? The great news is that since it’s all part of an illegal enterprise, you can extend the illegality into how you manage your health care professionals. In the legitimate world, a doctor that screws up can fight a malpractice case and can walk away with little, if any, damage should he win. In the underworld, what a doctor saves in malpractice insurance he makes up for in accountability. Mess up with an off-the-books job, and you’ll be encased in an oil drum filled with concrete. Those guys have incentives to provide the best care imaginable.

Your employees will be eternally thankful to you when you go the mob doctor route to both cut health care costs and improve the level of coverage. Rivals will at first wonder how you do it and then go that route themselves eventually. At the end of the day, it’s a win-win-win for management, employees, and doctors that don’t make mistakes.