How Your Storytelling Could Impact Your Job Search


If you’re sad on the inside, don’t expect to show up happy on the outside.

It’s an amazing phenomenon how our inside world gets projected outwardly. We seemingly communicate the way we think and feel not just in words and non-verbals by the way we carry ourselves, facial expressions and overall body language, but also in the confidence, energy and well-being we exude without our knowledge. What’s even more interesting is that it’s hard to mask a negative self-perception with external appearances. What’s buried inside leaks out subtly in expressions we may be unaware of and that others pick up on.

It’s almost as if there is an invisible communication and energy field that operates of its own accord and relays the context of our inner dialogue – the story we inwardly tell about ourselves.

Most people can relate to the following experience. You’re miffed at a friend, colleague or spouse, without his/her knowing that you’re angry. You camouflage what you are thinking with a smile and pleasantries and act as if nothing is wrong. Yet, tension builds. You can feel it, almost cut it with a knife. You can’t swim out of the undercurrent of your thoughts and feelings. They can pull you under even if the surface looks calm.

Our self-narrative is especially important when we seek a new career opportunity. It says more about us than we can say with words.

Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 9.26.57 AM

This is more than just self talk, though. The inner ongoing story of success or failure we choose to feed ourselves creates the way we feel, and those feelings turn into an identity we relay to others, despite what our words, credentials and crisp new suit might say to the contrary.

Get yourself in the right frame of mind by adjusting your vision of yourself for your job search. Keeping a positive self-image when a job search goes on and on can be challenging, but job seekers need to be vigilant about how they interpret, judge and speak to themselves about the circumstances surrounding their search.

If you have to tell yourself a story about yourself, tell a good one!

It’s the one everyone else will hear too when they look at you.

5 Tips for Measuring a Company’s Engagement…Before You Take the Job


Fifty-one percent of employees in the U.S. are actively looking for a new job. That’s more than half, according to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report. And that’s huge.

The biggest cause: employee engagement, or lack thereof. Seventy percent of U.S. employees are not engaged at work.

Disengagement can be an individual employee’s problem, for a number of reasons, such as personal challenges outside of work that serve as distractions, lack of interest in the work performed, ability to perform job functions, etc., but more often than not, employee engagement is a companywide issue related to culture, a mission employees can embrace, communication, management style, workplace recognition, opportunities for growth and simply having the right tools and resources to perform tasks optimally.

As a job seeker, a hiring company’s track record on engagement is an important element to consider in choosing to team up. You are more apt to work to your full potential at a company with a high level of engagement. But how do you measure employee engagement before you accept the offer?

Pose the Question

Ask the recruiter, the hiring manager and anyone who interviews you specifically about engagement and what the company does to promote it. Gallup has twelve questions companies can ask employees to help measure engagement:

  • I know what is expected of me at work.
  • At work, my opinions seem to count.
  • I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  • The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  • My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  • In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  • I have a best friend at work.
  • My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  • In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  • There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  • This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

You won’t ask these questions, but they give you a good idea of what you want in an engaged workplace. You can ask related questions, such as how the employees are recognized, how performance and progress are measured, how employees feel about and embrace the company’s mission, what the company does to create a shared vision, and how employees are mentored or developed.


Turnover Rate

It’s an old, but not outdated, question to ask. It can be an indicator of troubled waters within. Don’t stop at asking for the rate alone. Ask about underlying causes.

What’s a good turnover rate? It’s not one-size-fits-all and depends on the industry. The hospitality and restaurant industries have higher turnover rates in general as a result of the transient nature of the workforce. For example, high school and college students may fill hourly, unskilled labor positions. Turnover rates may be 16-17 percent for all industries as an average, but hospitality may have as much as 37 percent. If you are considering a professional role in such an industry, you can drill down and ask about turnover rates for their management workforce instead.

Employee Reviews

People talk, and in the age of social media, they have a platform to be heard. Glassdoor gives employees the opportunity to rate an organization. Keep in mind, however, that a disgruntled employee or even a job candidate may give a skewed review. Look for a repeated theme of negativity. Additionally, a small number of reviews won’t give you an accurate picture. Five reviews won’t tell you as much as 150 will. Look for other clues too on other social media platforms. A search on Twitter with a hash tag in front of a company name may reveal some surprising insights.

Ask Insiders

Ask existing contacts at the hiring company about their personal experiences, and more specifically ask about their sense of engagement. Do your networking homework and find other contacts working for the organization who may be willing to have a conversation with you.

The Golden Cup

Check a company’s awards and accolades for being a best pace to work and awards for engagement. Some awards and winners include:

Achievers Engaged Workplace Awards

Gallup Most Engaged Workplaces

Fortune Great Place to Work

Glassdoor Employee Choice Awards

Additionally, most local and regional business journals and newspapers host awards for best workplaces as do industry associations. Bear in mind that such awards are achieved through employee surveys and feedback. An award may measure many aspects of workplace, though, such as benefits, and may not measure true engagement, so use multiple channels to gather information on engagement to get an accurate account.

Moreover, just because a company is not on an award list, doesn’t mean it is not a great place to work or that it doesn’t have an engaged workforce. Companies apply to awards; they are not nominated by the award-granting entity.

Yep, You Should Still Complete a Job Application


Over half a decade ago, it was predicted that résumés were dead and applying for jobs would be a waste of time. Instead, networking would win you a new job and social media profiles were the new résumés.

Today, résumés are still requested by most companies and the majority of those companies still require that job seekers complete an application, primarily online. Where was the forecasting miss?

Many hiring companies do enable applicants to apply and populate online application fields by applying with a LinkedIn profile. That has made the process easier in some respects, but it also means that applicants have to have a glowing LinkedIn profile that is complete and details work history and accomplishments. The assumption was that every professional would have a LinkedIn profile leading to the death of résumés. As it turns out, five years later, that is not the case.

According to LinkedIn at the time of this writing, a high number of professionals have a LinkedIn profile, but many profiles are still incomplete and lack summaries. That in itself makes it challenging to rely on LinkedIn solely as a résumé replacement.

Additionally, employers need to collect more information than what a LinkedIn profile provides for EEOC compliance and non-discriminatory hiring practices, permissions for background and credit checks, and data for their human capital management systems once an employee is hired. Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are necessary to streamline and ensure consistency in recruitment and data capture. Having candidates complete application also means that every applicant is fairly asked the same questions.

So résumés haven’t gone away, nor have applications. In fact, new ATS solutions have continued to emerge on the market. Changes will occur, but those changes will primarily be enhancements to improve the user experience in completing applications and to make solutions more mobile. The ATS, however, is still the mainstay for organizing recruitment data.

The truth is that job seekers can’t abandon application completion as a part of their job search. It is true that more and more job deals are created and sealed through networking, but in reality a job search needs to be a three-pronged approach to make it really effective. That means efforts need to parsed out to searching for opportunities, completing applications and networking.


To really increase your odds of getting the interview, still apply to a position online, but then devote a significant portion of time to discovering who the hiring manager is for a role plus other contacts who work for the company and can facilitate an introduction or serve as a referral. Then reach out. Get your application noticed so that it doesn’t fall through the cracks in the ATS’s or résumé bot’s automatic sorting and ranking. Sell yourself. Don’t depend on your application alone to get you noticed.

Compensation Clues about a Company’s Culture


What does compensation have to do with a company’s culture? A lot, according to Payscale, a leader in compensation management solutions. Payscale’s 2017 Compensation Best Practices Report states that “Compensation is one of the number one culture-definers for organizations.”

If you are looking for a new job or in the negotiation stages, the compensation on the table tells you how much a company values your talent, but also may hint at more, including how well the hiring company treats its employees overall.

Don’t just look at the compensation on the table, though. Go deeper. Ask about the company’s history of annual compensation increases. It’s okay to ask that question. Does the company pay for performance or is tenure a bigger indicator of substantial increases? This will be important to you in judging what your potential increase will be and how fast you can possibly grow your income.

Does the company pay a standard 3-5% annual increase, and what does it take to get a bigger jump in salary? Is promotion the only way to garner bigger compensation increases? Too many candidates are so focused on the initial offer that they fail to investigate what impacts their future earning potential.

As expected, high-performing and enterprise companies typically offer better compensation as opposed to non-profits or underperforming businesses. If you are offered a compensation package that doesn’t stack up at the former, it can be a clue about overall culture and how a company appreciates its people.

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 6.05.24 AM

Image: Payscale’s 2017 Compensation Best Practices Report

Some companies play the low-ball salary negotiation game and offer a lesser amount on the first offer, waiting for you to negotiate a higher income. Be leery of that too. A really great company with an award-winning culture knows the value of its talent and communicates it from the get go. They show respect to candidates by cutting to the chase and putting the very best offer on the table—the first time.

Know your worth and know the company you are interviewing with. Look for red flags that can tell you more about the company’s culture and what it might be like to work there. Don’t be fooled by a great brand, mission or accolades that may merely amount to great marketing. Compensation may be a great indicator of what’s really under the hood.

Should You Give Away Your Secret Sauce in a Job Interview?


You’ve made it through the round of phone interviews. Maybe you’ve even had your first on-site meeting. The next step? The hiring company wants you to complete a project or create a strategy as proof of your expertise. Do you do it?

Testing as part of an interview process isn’t new. Employers want to be sure you know your stuff and can perform job requirements. It’s also not uncommon for companies to not only conduct hiring assessments to gauge your abilities, but also to measure anything from specific skill strengths, communication preferences, leadership style and dominant personality traits as predictors of success in a role. Can pre-employment evaluations cross the line into hiring discrimination, and how much is too much work to offer up for free as part of an interview process?

Pre-employment screening and assessments can be prone to discriminatory practice if administered tests violate Equal Employment Opportunity Commission laws regarding race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability, or age (40 or older). That’s certainly a concern. However, most professionals have greater cause for unease when they are asked to complete an in-depth, pre-employment assignment that may take a lot of time and require giving away knowledge and strategies as proof of capabilities.

The Problem:

If you are asked to create a strategic plan for your area of expertise, come up with a creative campaign or deliverable, you may be giving a company great ideas, plans and work products free of charge, especially if you don’t get the job.

The Solution:

You want to wow a potential employer and show them your skills, smarts and superior ability to knock it out of the park, but protect yourself upfront.

Ask for details about how the end product will be used if you are not hired. Some companies with savvy legal council will tell you upfront that your deliverable can’t and won’t be used. They may even offer added assurance with a signed agreement to that effect. Other companies may not offer such a safeguard.

Still, you can protect yourself by defining the parameters of what you can provide without pay and you can present a deliverable that meets the requirements but lacks fine details. Otherwise, you may give away your secret sauce that you’ve worked long and hard to acquire through education and experience. It can be disheartening to give it your all and spend hours on a project to find that you didn’t get the job. It may feel even worse, like being swindled or conned, to realize that you literally gave away what would be worth hundreds of dollars in consulting fees.

You may consider creating a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before accepting the project to protect yourself and your work. Having such an agreement in place can keep your work product confidential and restrict how it may be used. If you don’t get the job and end up seeing your ideas in use by the company, you may have legal recourse.

You can find online resources to help you create a non-disclosure agreement.

If you really want the position for which you are applying, by all means take on the project with gusto, but don’t spend more than a few hours on it and show your business acumen, too, by seeking protection for the end product you provide.

Be Prepared for Creative Interview Approaches


During an initial phone interview, the hiring manager throws out a random question that seemingly has nothing to do with your skills and qualifications: “Tell me all the ways you could use a brick?”

In all of your interview preparation, you didn’t plan for that one! Think fast, and that is one of the reasons for the question. The interviewer wants to gauge how quickly you think on your feet, in addition to how innovative and creative you can be.

Some hiring managers and recruiters are getting far more creative themselves in their approach to getting to know you. Why the veer away from typical interviews? New York Times writer Adam Bryant explains that taking a non-traditional approach can enable the interviewer to get to know the candidate better in a more relaxed setting. An interview doesn’t have to be an off-site excursion to be more inventive. The questions themselves can make it so.

Most people prepare for interviews with measured and canned responses to tough questions. Such answers don’t always reveal the true personality or strengths of a candidate. Whereas outside-the-box queries may help candidates open up and reveal more of their true selves.

What kind of novel questions does Bryant suggest you could encounter? A few examples include:

  1. What is your natural strength?
  2. What kind of animal would you be? And why?
  3. What qualities of your parents do you like the most?
  4. What is the biggest misperception people have about you?

You still need to prepare for traditional interview questions to highlight your experience and ability to meet job requirements, but you also need to expect the unexpected. And check out some imaginative uses for a brick in case you ever get that question!

The Art of Tactfully Interviewing the Interviewer


As a professional looking for a new job, you take all the right steps to prepare for an interview: in-depth research of the company and those with whom you are interviewing, answers in your pocket for potential questions you will be asked along with solid examples of your past work to really wow the interviewer, etc. However, as any job seeker knows, an interview is a two-way exchange. It’s your chance to also learn more about the company and culture, your potential manager and your fit across the board.

You are sure to have questions about the role for which you are interviewing, but you want to dig deeper and determine what it is really like to work for and with an individual and what the work environment is really like. Yet, you want to ask questions that are not off-putting. What, then, are some questions to help you uncover the heart of a company and the interviewer and how do you ask them?

Get creative. You don’t want your questions to sound like you are grilling the interviewer. One way to be less direct is to give scenarios and ask how the interviewer would typically respond in such cases. For instance, to phrase a question to glean information about management style you could ask, “If someone or your team has hit it out the park with great results or accomplishments, how would your recognize or reward them?” Or you might ask: “If someone on your team misses the mark on a project or task, how do you like to communicate with the team member?” In asking these questions, you want to discern if the interviewer is tolerant of mistakes and has a coaching or mentoring style.

You can ask more specific questions, too, such as:

  • What would I have to accomplish in the first three months to really blow it out of the water and prove my value to you? This will help you understand goal priorities going into a new position.
  • What’s a typical workday like? Asking this question will give you information on work-life balance and expectations for putting in long hours or working after hours. You also discover if the company has a culture of playing hard as well as working hard.
  • Does the team use any communication or project management tools or how do you like to communicate? By inquiring in this way and by using some simple follow up questions, you might learn the interviewer’s communication preferences and how well the team manages projects. You may also discover how tech savvy the team is.
  • What’s the process like for creating strategy in the department? You might discover from this query whether the hiring manager likes to work collaboratively with input from the team or if he/she prefers a controlled, lone-wolf approach.
  • Can you share some of the goals and objectives for the team for the year ahead? One of the great benefits of this question is that it gives you a good idea that real strategies with obtainable goals are in place, but it also gives you a way to think about how your skills can contribute to reaching annual targets so that you can address them in a follow-up thank you note.

Skip the common nuts and bolts questions, such as vacation time allotted, benefits and general perks. Plus, many corporate websites readily post that information to attract talent, and if not, those basic inquiries can be saved for later when an offer is extended. And you shouldn’t have to spend time asking for extensive background information about the company. Your pre-interview research should have uncovered that. Instead, focus on getting information that will help you assess how well your work style, skills and preferences align with potential teammates.