The Problem With Job Interviews

March 31st, 2015

Check out this article by TechCrunch’s Jon Evans: The Terrible Technical Interview

The the tech interview is terrible?


I remember going to an interview, after a two day training for job seekers, and thinking “did the interviewer prepare in any way for this interview?”  It was horrible. It was embarrassing (for the interviewer).  It was a waste of time.

I remember the interviewer reading questions from a printout (thanks Google, five minutes before our interview!), and not really listening to the answers.  No eye contact, just reading the next question, then the next question.

An interview is not a checklist task to just get through the questions… it should be an engaging time to figure out if the person can do the job and will fit nicely into the culture of the company/team.  But somehow we haven’t figured this out very well.

We let things… discrimination and stereotyping… get in the way of the job search interview.  Sometimes how a person looks, or what they where, or how charming their smile is, will trump how anyone responds.  I’ve seen this in real life.

Jon proposes that the format of a programmer’s interview is scrapped, and they are tested with real situations to solve… kind of like puzzles, from the work environment.  I read Jon’s proposal and think “wow, that sounds intense….!”  But here’s the line that really caught me:

“Now, this does require one huge prerequisite: every candidate must have a side project that they wrote, all by themselves, to serve as their calling card.”

A side project… their calling card.  In the creative world this might be considered your portfolio.

Whatever you call it, I totally agree with Jon.  What can you point to that you have done/accomplished/figured out?

This becomes part of your personal brand messaging.  Swap spots at the interview table for a minute and image that you have 10 final resumes in front of you… and they all look kind of the same.  They all have similar education, similar years of experience, similar titles at similarly impressive companies… they all look great, but none really stand out.

Except one.

The one who has had a side project, and talks about it.  Perhaps there is a website or blog where you can learn more about this person or their side project.  Where the other 9 resumes are just names on resumes, with nothing else to distinguish them, this person’s resume stands out because you read a few blog posts, and saw pictures, and got caught up in the stories.  You read about their project and realized that they have skills and experience that didn’t quite come across in the resume.

You learned about their portfolio because they had one.

Jon has a lot of great points, but this one stuck out the most.

What’s in your portfolio?  What are your side projects that you can point to?  


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Understanding What HR Does For You (and thinks about you)

March 30th, 2015

When I took my internship programming internal web stuff on the intranet for Simplot, a billion dollar private company, I worked a lot with and for HR. It was exciting to learn some of the ins and outs of HR, and what made a company run.

Fast forward a few years and I was in a situation where I wanted to talk to HR because I believed I was in a hostile work environment. I was frustrated, my health was suffering, and I felt wronged.

But I had been in enough meetings to know that HR was not there to protect or coddle me.  The #1 role of HR, as I understood it, was to protect the company.  Sure, they were nice people, but they weren’t there to help or protect me before they protected the company from lawsuits, harm, financial loss, etc.

If you don’t get that, read this article on Lifehacker: Understand What Your Company’s HR Department Will and Won’t Do for You

And then read this article on Lifehacker: The Company You Work For Is Not Your Friend

What does this mean? Well, it doesn’t mean they are the enemy.  It simply means they are not your work BFF… understanding where they fit and what their objectives are will help you understand how and why you would work/interface with them.

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Be Nice: Honey vs. Vinegar

March 27th, 2015

One of my old bosses used to say “you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  This was a guy who was always pleasant, even in some very tense meetings.  He knew how to hold it together, and it didn’t seem hard for him.  When you were around him you felt like you mattered, as an individual.

This advice is excellent, and I think of it regularly.  Too often, my first inclination is to be defensive, on-guard, or somehow protect myself. Maybe this is because of the fair amount of teasing we did as kids (4 boys, close in age)… of course, it was all in love or whatever, and I never really felt unsafe, but perhaps that has kept me on my toes.  Who knows, maybe it has nothing to do with my brothers and all to do with my personality.  Anyway, my first inclination is to be vinegar, not honey.

I’ve learned over the years that Vinegar Networking is not good.  No one likes to be around vinegar, and the vinegar person usually ends up bouncing from conversation to conversation, or alone.

Take this idea and transfer it to online communication, whether it’s a “private” email or a very public social posting… what happens is that you start to develop a brand.  People think “oh boy, this person is posting again… I better watch out!”  Or, I better protect myself. Or I can’t believe what they are going to say, or how they are going to say it.

You don’t need to muddy up your brand with vinegar.  You are doing a good enough job muddying up your brand with confusing taglines and messaging :)

Recently I got a blog comment that I decided to approve… but I had to edit out almost a half dozen offensive words.

Folks, if you need to do that, do it in a closet, or scream into your pillow.  If you are here to help others, or get help from others, try some honey. You don’t have to be that lame professor in college who “never gives A’s”… we don’t all need to be critics, or critical.

Choose honey :)

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The Hardships of Layoffs (“It’s Just a Business Decisions” with Real Impact)

March 24th, 2015

“It’s just a business decision.”

You’ve heard that before, right?  The message is “we don’t hate you… it’s not about you or your personality or your skills… it’s just bottom line dollars and the health of the company.  And, by laying you off, we can still have a company where we employ others… so while this is hard, at least we aren’t causing everyone to lose their jobs.”

I get, and in general, agree with, that message.

However, there’s an interesting side-effect of the layoffs that seem to be unprecedented…. or at least different than what happened in the 60’s and 70’s, when (I’m guessing) the notion of job security was really made part of the thread of the idea of careers.

Check out the first line from this article from Bay Today (a newspaper):

“A young man who just bought a house, and whose wife just gave birth to a child is among 21 more layoffs announced today at Ontario Northland.”

Does Ontario Northland have any obligation to protect someone who “just bought a house”?  Or someone who “just gave birth to a child”?

Usually those factors are not decision-makers/breakers on whether someone should keep their job or not… but is a company somehow responsible for their soon-to-be past employees, and the life-changing decisions they have made?

Initially, my response is “no.”  I think of the board meetings I’ve been in where I know the board members would have sympathy/empathy, but they would be clear that the company is not responsible for helping you make your house payments.  After all, that was a personal choice… probably not dictated by the company.

After my initial response wore off, I remembered when I got my first real, out-of-college, career job.  I bought a house and a newer car, and was immediately burdened with a debt load that I wasn’t used to.  We could handle it, with my new salary, but it was a lot of money going out the door!  If I lost my job then I would have been in a world of hurt.

It would have been my fault, but, as I’m writing this my impression is that when a company hires us, they give us a life-changing event.  Usually it’s a step up, financially and professionally.  There are expectations of us bringing our best to the job, and them “taking care of” us.  There is an idea that they’ll pay us enough to do our job so that we don’t have to sleep on the streets, or worry about how we are going to pay our bills.

But if companies don’t take their role seriously, and have more loyalty towards employees, and they continue to dispatch employees like they are simple pawns, people will have a harder time making other life-changing decisions, like purchasing a home, settling into a community, getting married, having kids, etc.

Maybe I’m off my rocker on this one, but this morning as I read this line about the young man who just bought his first house, and his wife who just gave birth, I wonder how different things would be if there were a different kind of loyalty towards employees so making life-changing decisions was less stressful.  Like I think it was just a few decades ago.

But maybe I’m just naive. 


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Even Experts Have a Hard Time With Personal Branding

March 23rd, 2015

I saw this post from my Arizona friend Pamela Slim (Escape from Cubicle Nation):



You have to understand, Pamela Slim is a rockstar.  She has authored multiple books on careers… she lists her customers as Google, Dell, Harvard, etc. and she is a TED speaker.  On Pam’s speaking page there is a section at the bottom titled Crafting the Story of Your Personal Brand.  In that section she has these two bullet points:

  • Creating a full-color, full-contact communication plan
  • Sharing your story with the world in a way that gets results

Why am I sharing this with you?  Because there is a fact that is often-times overlooked: developing your personal brand message is HARD.  Even experts, people who live and breath this stuff, find it hard!

Did you know that for 2 years I could not give you a one-liner about JibberJobber?  It probably took another year before I could give you a one-liner about myself!


The same reason it is hard for you:

You don’t want to mess this up.

What if you say too much?  What if you say too little?  We are so complex, how could we possibly put all of our awesomeness in one line??

Sometimes we come up with something really cute, clever, or catchy. That usually has cliche or jargon, which does nothing more than confuse our brand.

Sometimes we get into analysis paralysis, and don’t come up with anything (which is another way to mess up our brand).

As important, you need to understand that our brand statements can and should be FLUID.  I’m sure that Pam has half a dozen taglines that she has used over the years…. but “bumbling through” this conference, with this type of audience, at this stage in her company and career, made her rethink each of those taglines she has used.

It’s okay to change your tagline.  It’s okay to let your tagline grow with you.

If it’s hard, that means you are thinking about it. Keep thinking… keep trying. If someone like Pamela Slim needs to rework her personal branding statements, and she gets stuck and confused, then please know that this is hard stuff.

Keep working on it, and come up with something that is true to you, and easy for others to understand and communicate!



Is Technology Hindering Your Job Search and Networking?

March 20th, 2015

There was an interesting article in the news last month titled: Technology inhibits millennial job performance, according to managers

I don’t think this is just a millennial thing…. people texting someone while you are talking to them, or spending too much time on Facebook while neglecting family and friends… this is our new normal.  The disrespect we have for others because we got beeped or buzzed, and heaven forbid we ignore a call or text or facebook message or whatever… even while we blatantly ignore the person we are spending time with, is unfortunate.

It goes further than disregard for others.  In the article they talk about how we’ve become bad at inter-personal relationships because we spend so much time on technology that we aren’t skilled at interacting with real people, face-to-face.

So, I’ll let you read the article if you really want to get into that, and I have an invitation for you.  It is not to go on a media fast, or a social media fast, or to turn your phone off at a certain time, or stop checking emails after hours, or any of those things. Instead of those things that you already know to do, and expect someone like me to challenge you to do, here’s my invitation:

Go to an in-person networking meeting once a week this year.

It could be the same group of people, or it could be different meetings… but each week dress up, get out of the house, leave your phone in your pocket, and MEET and TALK WITH other people!  Look in their eyes!  Shake hands, laugh, and have real conversations!

Magic can happen when you get away from your technology… I challenge you to do this.  Imagine how much better you’ll be at in-person interviews if you haven’t spent the last 500 hours behind technology, barely LOL-ing in real life, with other people!

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Diane Darling’s Open Letter to LinkedIn (regarding search limits)

March 19th, 2015

The search limits on LinkedIn have really stirred the pot… especially for college career center pros who do LinkedIn trainings.  You might not have heard about it, but I blogged about it here:

How To Get Around the Ridiculous LinkedIn Search Limitations

Diane Darling’s open letter to LinkedIn about this issue is here. She said she hit her quota in 8 days, and then asked LinkedIn to please consider the sensitive budgets that career offices have. I think the only answer for LinkedIn is to remove these limits, and make LinkedIn usable again.  This is one of the most disrespectful things that LinkedIn has ever done to their users.  I think Diane is right asking for a break, but instead of just representing the career offices, I think she should represent the job seekers, who will undoubtedly get up against these limits too early.

Diane’s workarounds, and my comments:

>> “Google vs. LinkedIn – I’m now suggesting people download their LinkedIn connections so they can use Google to search instead of LinkedIn.”

Actually, there are two suggestions here.

The first is Google vs. LinkedIn, which I address in my post on the work-around. That is, use Google to search on LinkedIn’s database, and not use up any of the quota.

The other thing Diane is suggestion is completely different: download your first degree contacts…!  I recommend you do this at least once a year, simply to have a backup of your first degree contacts!  You then have the name, title, company name, and email address of each of your contacts as a backup.  This can come in handy in a variety of scenarios (like, you get booted out of LinkedIn, or worse, your employer steals your account and the connections).

>> CRM vs. LinkedIn – I’m also teaching people to import Linked Inconnections to a CRM (I suggest Insightly) so they don’t have to go to LinkedIn to look up people (I teach ways to use LinkedIn as a CRM but will have to change that.)

I have been a long-time proponent of having your own CRM, and not using LinkedIn as a CRM.  I think that using LinkedIn as a CRM is a bad, bad move.  Aside from my observation that it just isn’t a CRM (even though they acquired a CRM startup a few years back), the policies that a social network have to have and enforce are different than the policies needed for a CRM.  For example, if you do something against their Terms of Service, like put your email address in your name field (yes, even though people do it, it’s against the rules), would you want your access to LinkedIn (social network + CRM??) to be taken away?  Yes, I’ve had people contact me because their LinkedIn account has been disabled for this violation, or other super minor violations, or for things they had no idea were violations.

In other words, if you use LinkedIn as a CRM, be prepared to have problems that have to do with their policy issues.

Furthermore, what if they take away features (like LinkedIn Answers and Events)?  Or if they decide to move certain CRM features behind the paywall (like the search limit)?  Do you trust LinkedIn enough with your CRM data and functionality that you’ll hope and bet that they won’t disrespect you, as a user?

I certainly recommend you use a different CRM for CRM stuff, and use LinkedIn as a social network (to find others, and to be found by others).  I think they are two very different tools with different value propositions.

You might not know, but JibberJobber is technically a CRM.  CRM historically stands for Customer Relationship Manager. I like to think of JiberJobber as a Career Relationship Manager.  Instead of focusing on sales, we focus on relationships.  We focus on helping you network into companies and opportunities.

Because most of our users start when they are in transition, we’ve priced it so that it’s very affordable.  You can use the free account forever (meaning, we don’t delete your account or data if you don’t pay), and there is an optional upgrade level that comes out to $5/month when you pay by the year (otherwise, it is $9.95/month).  A couple of years ago we even moved most of the Premium features to the free level… it’s all about making these tools accessible to you, whether you are on the free account or have invested $5/month in your career.

If you haven’t checked it out, look at the youtube video on the homepage of (a bit dated… we’ve changed the UI a few times since we posted that video), or join one of our orientation webinars.

Still use LinkedIn to find and be found, but definitely use a CRM to keep track of and organize the what and how of your networking!

This is important stuff.  Since we can’t rely on the old fashioned “job security” anymore, we need to be more vigilant in our career management!

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Trap Interview Questions with Ford Myers

March 18th, 2015

You know, when you are in a job interview, the question the interviewer asks might not really be the question they want you to answer.  Or, to put it another way, they might ask a question just to see if you have… issues.

Here’s a great youtube video where Ford Myers addresses the why’s and how to answer specific questions in a job search interview:



Pluralsight Videos and JibberJobber Upgrades, 30 Days Clarification

March 17th, 2015

I need to clarify something about this 30 days thing.

The offer to watch my videos on Pluralsight for 30 days is, hopefully, indefinite.  That is, the offer doesn’t end at the end of this month.  Hopefully Pluralsight let’s me share these videos (and their entire library) with JibberJobber users for 30 days this month, and next month, and next year, etc.

In other words, you don’t have to do this before March 31!

The 30 days means that from the time you sign up on Pluralsight, through JibberJobber, you get a 30 day window to watch all the videos you want.  If you sign up today, you get 30 days from today.  If you sign up on October 1st, you get 30 days from October 1st.

So, sign up when you are ready, and consume all of the learning you want from Pluralsight over the next 30 days.  And when you are in a position to recommend online learning at your company, recommend Pluralsight :)

And, this means you can share this great offer with your job clubs, your friends, family members, etc. So, share!

Here’s a video showing how to access Pluralsight for 30 days, and get additional JibberJobber upgrades:

List of Jason Alba courses that get you additional upgrade days on JibberJobber

Step-by-step, with pictures, guide of how to get your 30 days from Pluralsight (NO credit card required)



More JibberJobber Certified Career Professionals

March 16th, 2015

Last month I introduced the first four certified career professionals… and today we add two more professionals to the list:

Carrie Luber: Messenger Associates (Syracuse, NY)

Ann Brody: Career Solutions (Chicago)

Congratulations, and welcome to the list!

Shahrzad ArastehCareer Consulting Services (Maryland)

Jennifer BradleyJBradley & Associates (California)

Robyn FeldbergAbundant Success Career Services (Texas)

Kelly McClellandTransition Time Coach (Florida)

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