The Inside Scoop: The 2016 DEMA Private Service Professional of the Year – Roger Cushwa

Working with Roger Cushwa in his role as President of the NY Tri-State Chapter is inspiring. He spends over 20-hours each month meeting with members, luxury service suppliers, and potential members – not including our board meetings, ad hoc committee meetings, phone calls with agencies, or emails with the national office.

Roger’s 25 years of service related experience ranges from distinguished military service and former law enforcement officer to being the general manager of a member-focused private club. In 2011, he completed the Starkey International Institute for Household Management’s four-week certification program, followed by his Associates Degree in Business Management with an emphasis in Hospitality/Tourism Management from Horry-Georgetown Technical College.

He is driven to have a positive impact on his Principals’ lives; allowing them the time to enjoy their interests. As an Estate Manager, he has overseen multiple locations, supervising the housekeeping, culinary, maintenance and landscaping staff. He excels at vendor management, gaining favorable contracts with his negotiating skills. Moreover, as with most Estate Managers, he coordinated residential, project construction, and renovation with experience substantial budgets of more than $1.5M.

As the Membership Co-Chair of the NY Tri-State Chapter, I spoke to him about being this year’s recipient.

Latricia Friend: Congratulations. How does it feel to be nominated by your peers as the 2016 DEMA Private Service Professional of the Year?
Roger Cushwa: It is a great honor and extremely humbling when I look at the past winners, and others I know in this profession.

LF: In your role as chapter president, what has made the biggest impact in your life? Professional Life?
RC: The chapter board members that I work with are the best. We have come together as a team, and we work extremely well together. We do not always agree, but I feel that we have had a very positive impact on not only the Tri-State Chapter but the association as a whole. Professionally, it has allowed me access to suppliers that I would have never known about were it not for my fellow DEMA members, and I now have a network of friends that spans the globe. I have made some wonderful friends and this list just continues to grow the longer I am in DEMA.

LF: During your acceptance speech, you mentioned several people in the room and members of the NY Tri-State Chapter board.
RC: I recognized the other chapter board members and encouraged everybody to support their local chapters. As a volunteer board, it is difficult to find folks that want to commit the time and energy to another leadership role. These folks need the support and encouragement of their chapter members to make the association reach the level of recognition and impact in our profession. By doing this, we strengthen not only the organization but every member in private service and making everyone better.

LF: You inspire me. Who or what inspired you to start a career in private service? Your work on the NY Tri-State Chapter board?
RC: Thank you, I was working as a mechanic in Myrtle Beach SC, and a customer left a section of the paper in the lobby. There was an article about a lady who had moved from California to Myrtle Beach, and she attended Starkey International Institute. I remember thinking that this sounded like something I would love to do. I went home, watched the video, and I remember getting chills and goosebumps. I started yelling for my wife to come here, that I had found what I was meant to do. It took me almost five years before I made it to Starkey, which was an incredible experience. I discovered that I have always loved to serve and make people feel special, and our industry is a perfect place for that to happen.

From my first position in Florida, I learned about DEMA and joined the West Palm Beach Chapter. I am passionate about the purpose and benefit of DEMA. This industry is so isolating for the Private Service Professional. So, to have an international association and network of professionals who understand these special needs is priceless. I had known then current Tri-State Chapter President, Steve Feldman, of Renovation Angel for almost three years before I moved to the northeast. I remember, moving to Connecticut and starting my new position on Monday, February 24, 2014, and Tuesday the 25 I was at my first meeting. I supported the chapter and in June Steve asked me to be Co-President with him. I worked with Steve until the 2014 convention and when he stepped down – I became the Chapter President.

I am passionate about DEMA, and I believe very strongly that with all of us working together, we can have a better and more positive impact on the lives of our Principals. The impact that we can have on society can boggle the mind. Imagine if my Principal was able to devote and extra three to five hours a day on curing cancer, creating jobs, reducing the debt, or improving the quality of life for not only all of their direct employees but society as a whole. This is the role that I play. I can give that person the time and space to figure out these problems without having to worry about the houses, cars, cleaning, yard work, and all of the other daily tasks that won’t lead to the cure for cancer, create jobs, or help restore balance to our planet.

LF: How will winning this award affect your work?
RC: I hope that it makes me even more committed to bringing the message and benefits of DEMA to not only Private Service Professionals but also to the Principals that we support. I want every Principal to have the best care possible, and every Private Service Professional to have the best working environment possible.
Many thanks to Christofle for their on-going support of the Domestic Estate Management Association. Christofle is a platinum-level sponsor of the DEMA convention and provided the sterling silver awards given each year.

Previous Award Recipients:
2015: Gary Cockerham
2014: Sara Recer
2013: David Barrie, Jr
2012: Richmond Schmidt


Photo: Matthew Haack, DEMA Co-Founder and President; Roger Cushwa, 2016 PSP of the Year; and Michael Wright, DEMA Co-Founder and Vice President

Photo Credit: DEMA 2016 Convention

2016 DEMA Convention


If you attended the 2016 Domestic Estate Managers Association Convention this past weekend, you are probably still processing all the people met, the conversations had, and the knowledge, technology, and products presented. If you were unable to attend, then you missed the best gathering of private service professionals to-date. Participants represented multiple states from across the country, including Hawaii. However, the member that traveled the farthest came all the way from the Principality of Monaco.

As in past years, Career and Job Fair began on Friday, August 26 at 9:00 am. More than 20 firms (placement agencies, a consulting firm, and a resume writing/career coach) spoke in-depth with candidates, gaining the rare opportunity to meet face-to-face. After lunch, Donna Shannon/Personal Touch Career Services spoke about personal branding, Bonnie Low-Kramen/Be the Ultimate Assistant led a much-needed discussion on salary negotiations, and David Gonzalez/ gave insight into the recruitment process.

The convention officially kicked off with a western-themed cocktail reception on the grounds of the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, AZ. Estate managers, private chefs, nannies, executive protection specialists, luxury service suppliers, personal assistants, household managers, staffing agencies, and several presenters networked among the cacti. Personally, I conversed with friends, colleagues, and first-time attendees, discussing such diverse topics as annual reviews and salary negotiation, evolving roles and responsibilities, and best practices of fractional household/estate management. I overheard several discussions on searching for a laundress and suggested firms to use for background checks (most recommended was Via Integrity). People openly shared requests for and advice on every type of service provider. Of course, many chapter members engaged in good-natured boasting for the coveted Chapter of the Year Award.

This year, the Saturday sessions included two tracks of workshops – one for private service professionals and the other for service suppliers. General session veterans Charles MacPherson, Bonnie Low-Kramen, Kris Coleman, and Dr. Chris Sidford held informative discussions on the future of hospitality, emergency preparedness, international security measures, and medical safety. During the day, workshop presenters included Ray Nugent, Olivia Nugent, Michael Wright, Catherine Brown, Tonya Sakowicz, Steve Feldman, Jay Bakaler, and Matthew Haack.

Rather than holding the standard Awards Dinner on Saturday night, DEMA broke out the casino chips for roulette, blackjack, and poker offering valuable prizes for the participants. Everyone enjoyed the high-spirited fun and excellent food, along with the opportunity to continue networking with each other.

Please extend your congratulations to the recipients:
Agency of the Year – Domestic Match. Chef Peter Downs accepted on behalf of Daniel Woods.

Educator of the Year – Tonya Sakowicz of Newborn Care Solutions

Supplier of the Year – Christofle Paris, a convention sponsor and international luxury brand known for its silver craftsmanship.

Chapter of the Year – Palm Beach, The Flamingo Chapter

Private Service Professional of the Year Award – Roger Cushwa, NY Tri-State Chapter President

DEMA Lifetime Achievement Award – Claudia Allensworth. Andrew Lowery accepted on her behalf.

On Sunday, a panel comprised of Mrs. Green, Steve Feldman, Roger Cushwa, and Brian Bishop discussed recycling and earth stewardship as a function of estate management. Workshops presenters Karen Brooks, Dr. Joel Cohen, Colleen Forgus, Jit Jayakumar Gary Cockerham, Richard Schmidt, Charles MacPherson, Andrew Lowery, Guy Sporbert, and Renate Mousseux spoke on a variety of personal service and managerial topics, from how to hold a proper Afternoon Tea to Managing PSP Expectations.

Throughout the weekend, an exhibition hall was populated with 23 local and national service providers. Many thanks to every company that was represented. Click here, for a full list of exhibitors.

While I am re-energized by the buzz and excitement of networking, fellowship with colleagues and friends, and meeting new members and first-time convention attendees – personally, I need a few more days to process all the conversations, presentations, technology, and energy.

I look forward to next year and hope to see you at the 2017 DEMA Convention!

P.S. I made all of my photos available to the national office and ask that you do the same. Be on the lookout for all the professional and candid shots on DEMA’s website and Facebook page.

job search strategies

6 Job searching tips to prepare for back to school – uh, work!

The summer is starting to wind down, and stores everywhere are filling up with school supplies. Interestingly enough, August also heralds the return of the year’s second hiring season. Take these 6 simple steps to make the most of the pending autumn hiring surge.

1. Review your resume

Now is a great time to make sure that your resume is in line with your target job. Do you have key words that relate to the actual job postings? Is the format clean and easy to read? Is it free of spelling or grammar errors? Have you captured important metrics or achievements? And, most importantly, does it accurately convey your story?

2. Review your LinkedIn profile

Now more than ever, employers are looking at your LinkedIn profile. According to a recent survey by LinkedIn, up to 89% of recruiters are using the social media site to source and / or screen candidates. So what are they looking for?


In particular, LinkedIn should be consistent with the resume, while adding additional information, such as the personalized summary, volunteer interests, or an extensive list of relevant skills.

3. Get involved in LinkedIn Groups

It’s not enough to have a pretty profile on LinkedIn. You need to be involved in your top Groups, especially the ones that relate to your industry. Share content, comment on discussions, and reach out to fellow Group members to build your reputation. Plus, LinkedIn favors people who are more active on the site. The more you contribute, the more often you will appear in searches.

4. Review your profiles on Indeed, CareerBuilder, and other job searching sites

Did you know that when you apply through these sites, employers usually receive your profile or summary in addition to your resume? Check your account and make sure you aren’t sending out old information, such as previous salary requirements.

5. Plan some strategic networking

Many professional associations, alumni groups, and other networking groups don’t plan regular meetings during the summer months. Check their schedules to make sure you are getting face-to-face with people who can help your job search.

6. Get in touch with your references

Speaking of getting in touch with people, when was the last time you spoke to your references? Give them a quick call not only to make sure they are still willing to speak on your behalf, but also to point out that you are currently looking for a job. This can actually turn into viable job leads.

businessman scared of networking

7 Networking tips for introverts

You have probably heard the statistics – many sources such as LinkedIn, Forbes, and the Harvard Business Review claim that 60 – 80% of jobs are found or secured through some form of networking (sources: Career Playbook, For people who are shy or naturally more introverted, this sounds like the kiss of death. However, it doesn’t need to be.


1.       Realize what networking is and is not


First of all, most job search experts and formal studies indicate that “some form of networking” is beneficial for the job search. This is encouraging because it includes one-on-one contacts, social media, tapping existing connections, and reaching out to past employers and co-workers. Networking is more than just reaching out to strangers and pressuring them to do favors for you, such as walking your resume down to the hiring manager. In fact, that rarely works.


Networking is far more expansive than most people realize. Even Aunt Martha telling you about a job opening she heard about from a friend at church is technically finding a job through networking. So don’t be intimidated by the 80% or more figure. It’s a lot easier to reach that many contacts then you think.

2.       Find the networking channels that work for you


Not all networking channels or strategies are going to be effective, especially if the entire idea of one technique strikes fear in your heart. A classic example of this are large networking groups.


While I’m not an introvert, I personally hate large networking groups. When I started my business, I dreaded going to large business after-hours events, but felt obligated to do it as I heard it was a “good idea.” What I found was a room filled with 300 people, all just shuffling business cards at each other. Of course, I never gained any valuable connections through this method, primarily because I never felt comfortable in the environment. I found myself constantly checking my watch to determine how soon I could leave.


For your own networking strategies, think about what you are most likely to do on a regular basis. Is it messaging your existing contacts? Is it attending classes? How about researching key managers at target companies and approaching them through email? Don’t forget about getting involved in Groups on LinkedIn. Write down at least 3-4 different tactics that you are most likely to actually do and then incorporate them into your weekly job search activities.

3.       Check out small groups for different interests


If the cattle call environment doesn’t work for you, focus on small networking groups.  is a great source for finding places where people are meeting face-to-face. Even better, these don’t have to be specifically related to job searching. Common interests, hobbies, and fun activities can be a great way to get used to meeting new people in a low-pressure environment.


By the way, there are small, supportive groups for job seekers, such as my own in the Denver metro area:  By staying under 20 people, this creates a genuine atmosphere that isn’t overwhelming to the introverted job seeker.

4.       Reach out to individuals before attending a large event


At times, attending a large event is extremely helpful for your job search. To ease into it, reach out to individuals that you know will be there and make a plan to meet them.


For example, one of my professional associations, the Domestic Estate Management Association (DEMA), will be having their annual conference in Arizona in August 2016. (  ) Drawing over 200 private service professionals from all over the country, it can be intimidating for a newcomer. However, several have already reached out to me personally, planning to grab lunch or coffee at the event. This way, they know for a fact they will have some one-on-one time with someone, not just walking into an event filled with strangers.


5.       Practice your personal introduction


By now, you’ve probably heard of the “elevator speech” – a prepared and practiced personal introduction to break the ice with someone you just met. Most people consider this a commercial or pitch to convey who you are, what you can do for someone, and what you have to offer.


Be sure to write out and practice your introduction before you meet with anyone. Listen for the way it sounds: is it genuine, sincere, and honest? An elevator speech that is a true reflection of who you are and not just a gimmick will be easier to remember and will make a better first impression.


6.       Listen more than you speak


This is where the introvert’s strength really works in their favor. Introverts are masters of observation, quietly taking in the details and paying attention to what’s going on.  In networking situations, this comes across as someone who listens well. In general, people like to talk about themselves, especially to someone who is paying attention. With just a few prompting questions, you can get the other person to lead the conversation and leave a great impression at the same time.


7.       Follow up


The real value in any networking tactic is following up. Whether it’s writing a personal message to a new social media contact or emailing a person after an event, following up is the key to solidify the relationship and build positive results. After all, you don’t want to go through all of the uncomfortableness of unfamiliar networking just to let your efforts fall flat.

how to negotiate a better salary

5 Ways to negotiate a better salary

For most people, one of the most intimidating aspect of landing a new job is negotiating for the salary that they really want and deserve. Many are concerned that the opportunity will disappear if they ask for more money. Others aren’t comfortable with discussing money in a forthright manner. Still others are intimidated about asking for fair market rates, especially if they were underpaid in their last position. Whatever the case, try utilizing some of these strategies to gain more of those elusive dollars in your next role…

  1. Know your worth

Even before you apply for a job, you need to do your research into what are the current market rates for your target job. Thanks to websites like and, it is easier than ever to figure out comparable salaries, both within a specific employer and a targeted geographic area. Additional resources are the Bureau of Labor Statistics ( and state-specific employment data, such as the Colorado Labor Market Indicator Gateway ( Armed with solid figures about the current state of the market is critical in gaining a fair salary.

2.  Find out their salary range before you state any numbers

The old interviewing rules stated that you never wanted to talk about salary during the interview process. However, that’s not how the game works anymore. This changed because HR now uses salary requirements as a screening factor. For example, it is now a common practice for HR to gain a candidate’s salary requirements during the phone interview. Look out – it’s a trap! Don’t ever give out your salary requirement without discovering their salary range first.

So how does find out the company’s salary range? During the phone interview or early interviews with the HR department, ask them. This can play out two different ways….

If HR asks for your requirements, state “well, I’d like to know a bit more about the job first. Can you tell me what your salary range is?” This gives you the option to either confirm that your requirements fall within that range or to walk away before wasting too much time on an undesirable position.

If HR doesn’t ask for your salary requirements, you can still ask them what their range is. As long as you are speaking in terms of range early in the process, it’s not a damning maneuver.

One unfortunate exception to these tactics is the dreaded salary requirement on the application itself, especially if it doesn’t allow you to enter a range. In that case, select a number in the middle of your acceptable salary range.

3. Avoid sending your salary history if possible

Sometimes HR wants you to send your salary history. This is another trap! If you give your salary history, you just gave away your negotiation strength.  Companies look at salary history to determine a salary offer.  HR knows that many people change jobs to increase their salary by as little as 5-7%.  If the employer knows the details of your past earnings, they may offer less based on your salary history. The only exception to the salary history rule is a professional salesperson, especially in commissioned positions.  In that case, salary history is a reflection of success.

If you are in a situation or application that won’t let you move forward without entering this information, be sure to state your salary range within your cover letter to let an employer know what your expectations are.

4.  Understand the company’s negotiation tactics

The truth is that HR and hiring managers almost always has a second offer in their back pocket. They know that a certain amount of leeway is reasonable, and even expected.  But they also know that most job seekers won’t make a counter-offer, which translates to a win for their overall budgets.

When getting a job offer, ask for that extra 5 – 15% on the salary.  Pressing for more than this can be seen as unreasonable, and those are the offers that will be pulled.  I know than nothing annoyed me more as an HR person than the salesman who suddenly counter-offered a 30% – or more – jump on the base salary.  That just wasted everyone’s time.

5.  Back up your reasoning for a higher salary with solid evidence

When you are moving into a new position, sometimes you may need to justify why you are worth all of that extra money. This could be a number of reasons, such as the current market rate. If you have added to your skills, this is another reason. Gaining a new degree, certification, or professional development courses also add to your worth. Don’t forget your progressive experience and specific projects or results that you achieved for your past employer as well.

However, one of the best reasons for asking for a higher salary is based on what you can do for the company. If you can prove during the course of the interview process that you can help them save money, make money, or solve problems, this allows them to find more dollars in their budget.

But what if they say “No?”

Even if the company doesn’t accept your counter-offer, the world didn’t end. Most reasonable employers will be forthright about not being able to increase the offer. Then you can still accept the original terms.

On the other hand, if the company completely rescinds the offer, you probably just avoided a bullet. After all, any company that will yank an offer off of the table just because you tried to negotiate tends to be a pretty negative culture that tries to take advantage of their employees.

old fashioned job search strategies

5 Old fashioned job search techniques that are still relevant today

Once upon a time, job seekers were taught a certain code of conduct. Although most modern job seekers today have abandoned these practices, the strategies are more important than ever. However, the REASONS behind the importance have changed.

  1. Submitting a cover letter

Depending on who you ask, a cover letter is either essential or a waste of time. If it’s done correctly, a cover letter can actually help win the interview.

The Old Reason: not only was this traditional, it was also considered a writing sample from the candidate. If a job seeker couldn’t draft a properly formatted and written business letter, they often did not progress in the screening process.

The New Reason: cover letters are still a writing sample, but the focus has changed into what you can actually do for the company. Since fewer candidates are bothering to send in cover letters, taking the extra effort can elevate your position in the screening stack. Plus, going to extra mile to research the company and concentrate on their specific market, challenges, or successes can do a lot to persuade a jaded audience.

  1. Bringing a copy of your resume to the interview

This used to seem like a redundant activity, because the company should have your resume from your application.

The Old Reason: providing additional resume copies printed on formal resume paper to demonstrate that you are serious about the job. Plus, it gave you a chance to review your own resume while waiting in the lobby.

The New Reason: because of app-based recruiting like and, companies may not be receiving your resume automatically. In fact, both of those sites want to send their default formats (Indeed sends their own online application and LinkedIn sends your profile). It actually takes an extra step to send your Word or PDF resume through either one of those websites. Those different applications won’t look anything like your resume, so bringing a physical copy to hand to the interviewer may actually be new information for them – or at least a prettier format.

Similarly, applying through the company’s website is no guarantee that they will receive your resume exactly the way it looks to you. Many employers’ applicant tracking systems (ATS) or online applications will deconstruct your resume to fit the information into their forms. When it spits out a candidate, the format may be destroyed. While this problem has improved over the past 10 years, it is still a possibility.

  1. Bringing samples of your work

With the rise of online profiles and personal websites, many job seekers have abandoned bringing samples of their work or even letters of recommendation to the interview.

The Old Reason: job seekers used to bring a “brag book” filled with their samples, awards, and recommendations to prove their effectiveness.

The New Reason: believe it or not, a hiring manager may not have had the time to fully review your online portfolio before meeting with you. It’s best to bring a few extra materials to show the manager to act as proof of your expertise. It’s not necessary to bring every single thing you’ve ever done. Even if you do have an online portfolio or additional recommendations on LinkedIn, bring physical copies of 2-3 of your best examples to highlight your expertise.

  1. Leaving a list of references

While some job seekers think that references are only necessary if requested on the application, this document can actually be a powerful branding statement.

The Old Reason: offering the hiring manager a list of your references at the end of the interview let him or her know that you were a serious candidate with a verifiable work history.

The New Reason: reference pages can offer a lot more insight than just names, phone numbers, and email addresses. First, consider the quality of your references. People are judged by their associates, so if your list includes top leaders from your past employers or within your industry, it reflects positively on you. Including a link to their LinkedIn profile can help establish the quality of your next work as well.  When formatting the actual references page, use the same style as your resume to reinforce your personal brand. Next, add extra information for each reference, such as how they know you and how long your professional relationship has lasted. Finally, leaving a professional references page shows that you are fully prepared for every step of the job search process.

  1. Send a thank you note

Only 10% of job seekers bother to send a thank you note after an interview, so this simple courtesy will automatically help you stand out from the crowd.

The Old Reason: to show interest in the position and indicate your gratitude while practicing traditional business etiquette.

The New Reason: pitch yourself for the job. A solid thank you note should include one to two reminders of high points from your interview to reiterate why you are a great candidate. Another bonus is that the notes can be staggered. Send a thank you via email immediately after the interview to express gratitude, then follow-up with a physical card as well. That way, when the hiring manager is making decisions, he or she will receive the card 2 – 3 days after your interview. It will remind them not only of your strengths but about your entire presentation as a candidate.

6 Ways to optimize your LinkedIn profile

It’s no secret. Recruiters and HR professionals are looking at your profile. Sometimes they do this just to verify that the information on your resume coincides with your LinkedIn profile, at least the basics of the work history. Sometimes they are looking for the rest of your story. Whatever the case, there is a lot you can do to enhance the quality of your online presence and drive more traffic to your profile.

  1. Use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics

This is one of the key differences between your resume and your LinkedIn profile. On your resume, key words screen you in, and they only have to be used once. For example, if HR sees “Microsoft Office” in your skill set, you don’t need to repeat that term within every one of your positions in the work history to get past the screening procedures.

However, your LinkedIn profile is in fact a website. As a result, we want to repeat the high value key words and their derivatives in a natural manner. (Note that this is for high value key words – you still don’t need to repeat “Microsoft Office” 10 times.) For example, I am trying to attract job seekers who might hire me to write their resume. My summary includes terms like “effective resumes, resume writing, resumes and cover letters, and resume writer” sprinkled throughout the different paragraphs and sentences. This means that I will show up in more searches because of both the frequency and the variation of the key words.

  1. Write a descriptive, key word optimized headline

When someone searches on LinkedIn, the results won’t show your full profile – it starts with a list first, which highlights your name, headline, and work history basics. That headline is a powerful branding statement. Lead with something that entices the searcher to click on your profile.

Selfish or desperate headlines like “Seeking a new opportunity in Denver” rarely work, especially if you are trying to proactively reach out to managers through LinkedIn. In those cases, it may even drive them away. Instead, think of what you can do for others. Is it building a powerful team? How about increasing revenue? Or solving persistent problems? Whatever it is, never forget to write a value proposition that matters to your audience, be it recruiters, managers, or customers.

  1. Add supporting content

LinkedIn is a great resource to show off your work. It could be an article you wrote, a PowerPoint presentation, an introductory video, or even your full resume. In fact, you can watch a 3 minute video on how to do this from my own LinkedIn profile:

Additional content can be added to your summary or work experience. Just remember that it may be publicly available, so remove your street address if you are uploading your resume.

  1. Use your Skills and Endorsements strategically

People ask me all the time if the Skills and Endorsements are valuable or not. The answer is “yes.” We know that they aren’t as valuable as Recommendations because Endorsements are only mouse clicks from your connections, usually generated somewhat randomly. The reason why they matter comes back to the SEO factor for your profile. Every single one of those Skills is a key word. You want to make sure to only keep high value key words in this area and delete anything that doesn’t fit with your target jobs.

  1. Make use of the Additional Sections

People come to your LinkedIn profile to learn more about you. This is where filling in your Causes That You Support, Volunteer Experience, Publications, Awards, and so on can really benefit you. Resumes are getting more streamlined all the time, but the extras on your LinkedIn profile can overcome this problem.

Even if you describe an award within your work history, take the extra time to fill out the optional Award section on your profile. It creates cross-links within your profile and draws more attention to the achievement.

  1. Bulk out your Interests and load up on SEO

On most resumes, it’s not appropriate to list your interests or hobbies anymore, unless they directly relate to the job. However, this is a great section to complete on LinkedIn to give the company insight into who you are and how you would fit within the corporate culture.

There is also another trick you can use in your Interests. One way to increase your SEO with lower value key words is to create a key word blast and then place it in the Interest. A key word blast is any and all variations of some of your key words. For example, here is my Interests:

“Science Fiction, Horror, Karate, hockey, baseball, Private service, domestic staff, luxury lifestyle management, employment assistance, corporate job search, recruitment, resume writer, job search advisement, consulting, writing services, interview coaching, career coach, author, teacher, professional speaker, resumes, job hunting, job search tips, career consultant, job search skills…”

The first few interests are real. When you get to “private service,” you find variations of the same term, such as “domestic staff” and “luxury lifestyle management.” These are niche markets that I serve. I want to show up in these searches, but I don’t want to give up valuable real estate in my summary with these lower value key word variations.

In conclusion, your resume may be your core document, but your LinkedIn profile gives the rest of the picture. Keep in mind that this is not a static document but its own webpage and, as such, it needs the same strategies to attract and drive traffic to it.

7 Deadly Modern Interview Questions

Throughout the history of job interviews, some have earned a reputation for being difficult questions to answer. However, many of these such as “What is your greatest weakness” or “Where do you see yourself in five years” have been so overused that most people have a canned response to them.

The latest trends in interviewing are hatching a new breed of interview questions. Instead of approaching the interview like a fencing match, companies are trying to determine a candidate’s personality as well as their abilities. With the modern emphasis on workplace culture, it’s no surprise that they need to figure out what makes these applicants tick.

How well have you prepared for these new takes on the standard questions?

  1. “What do you know about our company already?”

Considering the breadth of information available about companies and the individuals that work for them, there is no excuse in not having an answer for this. In fact, this question is a test. Have you bothered to do your research? How well do you really understand their products or services? What about the company’s history, mission statement, branding statement, or social media messaging? While it was good enough in the past to just read their website, modern interviewers expect you to really go in depth on your research.

  1. “What did you like most about your last job? How about the least?”

This question is an attempt to see how well you match the job description and company culture. For example, in a recent interview I asked this question to a potential administrative assistant. On her least favorite part of the previous job, she didn’t like being alone or having limited personal contact with others. In this role, I needed someone to man the office solo while I was out for meetings and business development activities. While a great candidate overall, this answer cost her the job because it wasn’t the right environment for her.

Consider your answer carefully. Don’t just try to give the interviewer what they want to hear. By being honest about a less desired employment condition, you could be avoiding a bad culture match down the road.

HOWEVER, look out for negativity trains. If your least part of the job was a screaming control freak boss and co-workers who threw you under the bus at every turn, don’t go off on a tangent about it. Just state that there were “communication issues with the team that made collaboration difficult.” ‘Nuff said!

  1. “What is something that you would improve about yourself?”

This is the latest version of “What is your greatest weakness?” Because of the phrasing, candidates tend to give a more honest answer because they were caught off-guard. I do believe in giving a valid answer, however, don’t choose a fatal flaw for the position. A fatal flaw is any weakness that would disqualify you for the job, like an administrative assistant who struggled with details or a sales representative who didn’t like meeting with people.

The most important thing about this answer is a strategy on how you will overcome this issue, especially if you are already taking steps to do so. For example, one of my coaching clients had a fear of public speaking. To deal with it, she joined Toastmasters.

  1. “What is your biggest pet peeve in the office?”

Any question along these lines are all about the company culture. Again, we want an honest answer but not a fatal flaw. In fact, your pet peeve can even be a positive for the job. For example, an administrative assistant who is bothered by disorganization and messy paperwork makes perfect sense.

Of course, be sure to avoid the most negative situations, even if we can all relate to it. For example, backstabbing, control freaks, rude customers, disruptive phone calls, endless boring meetings, and overbearing management may all be things that drive you crazy. But if you go into a long tirade about these negatives, it damages your own reputation.

  1. “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a conflict at work…”

This question is all about personal interactions. The employer needs to hear about a real situation to determine how well you play with others. While forming your answer, remember to keep the story straight and clear. Describe the situation, talk about the action you took and end with the clear result. Of course, it should have a happy ending, but if it doesn’t, tell the interviewer what you learned from the situation. After all, the real world can be a messy place and the person who shows that they deal with it in honest ways will earn positive marks.

  1. “Describe your worst boss…”

This is definitely dangerous territory. Most people know that you should never speak negatively about anyone in an interview. However, you can take this question to be more general than calling out a specific person.

For example, you might answer: “I’ve been pretty fortunate to work with some excellent supervisors, but I would say that I might struggle in working with someone who doesn’t communicate their expectations.”

Other possible traits to use could be shifting expectations, changing priorities, favoritism, or nepotism. After all, most people can relate to these being an issue in the workplace and can relate to those struggles.

  1. “Do you have any questions for me?”

This is a classic, but it does bear repeating. Bring intelligent questions to the interview – in fact, write them down and pull out your list when it’s your turn to ask. These questions should reflect some of the research you’ve done on the company, the interviewer, or the specific job opening. Good options include: “what’s your greatest challenge right now? If I were hired, what is the first problem or responsibility you would want me to master? What is your management style? What are the next steps in the interview process?”

In conclusion, modern interviewing is definitely becoming more challenging. Interviewers are better trained and the stakes are higher than ever before. Between the lines of honesty, self-promotion, and probing the company both you and the employers can determine if the job is a good fit for all parties involved.

Watch out for mistakes

5 Insidious Mistakes That Are Destroying Your Job Search

Recently, I posted a new job with my company. During the course of reviewing the candidates, I noticed certain disturbing trends that were seriously effecting these candidate’s job search. Some of them are new variations on the old mistakes and some are new problems that arise from the prevalence of app-based job searching. Hopefully you won’t fall for these insidious mistakes and ruin your chances of getting more interviews…

  1. New problems with punctuation and grammar

Everyone knows to check their resume for punctuation and grammar, right? Apparently not. In most cases, the obvious errors are caught with spellcheck and online grammar programs like However, modern social media has made us blind to a new problem: capitalization consistency.

For example, your name. The first letter of both the first and last name needs to be capitalized, which is true for both your resume and your LinkedIn profile. In cases where you are consciously choosing to leave everything on the resume lower case for a style choice, make sure that EVERYTHING in the resume is in lower case. Nothing stands out like a glaring error than a lower case name and capitalized job titles.

Similarly, be consistent with job titles. If your immediate job is listed as “Office manager,” don’t list the following job as “Staff Accountant.” Being inconsistent is one of the easiest ways for HR to spot a mistake and disqualify a candidate in 10 seconds.

  1. Words that slip by spellcheck

So not only does spelling matter, but usage does as well. The sentence “managed front office and supported there CEO” is technically spelled correctly, however, it is the wrong “there.” It should read “supported THEIR CEO,” as in possessive to the company.

  1. Not following directions

This was my favorite trick when I established recruiting procedures for one of my past employers – in 2000! The trick is simple: HR will place specific steps to follow or documents to submit to be considered for the position, usually the resume and a cover letter. It may further define how to apply for a job, such as using LinkedIn, their own website, or emailing to a specific address. Anyone who doesn’t follow the steps gets disqualified because they did not follow clear, written instructions.

What’s sad is that with the rise of app-based recruiting on sites like and, the application process has been sped up to a matter of simple clicks. In some cases, it takes an extra step on the applicant’s part to attach the resume, not to mention the cover letter. Even when applying to a job from LinkedIn’s website, there is only space to upload one document. Job seekers must show initiative and create a new document that includes both the cover letter and the resume. Unfortunately, many job seekers don’t take this extra step.

And “optional” documents or uploads? Those aren’t really optional. Just think about it: if 30 out of 100 candidates take the time to upload their resume and cover letter as well as their LinkedIn profile, they will gain more serious consideration because they have gone beyond just doing the minimal requirements.

  1. Not fine tuning the application

Practically every employment website like,, and the industry-specific sites allow candidates to upload their resume. The problem lies in that it will not always parse, or auto-populate, the application fields cleanly. When dealing with employers’ individual sites, the problem becomes more prevalent.

Anytime you have to upload your resume, double-check the actual application fields. Make sure everything was parsed correctly. If not, make the corrections. However, don’t replace your Word or PDF resume with the application. Send both. And by the way, even professionally-written resume will need to have the application reviewed. I personally applied to my own job with multiple different formats to test our templates. Fine tuning the application was a bit tedious, but considering that this is the first impression a recruiter will have, it is a wise time investment.

  1. So what’s your point?

One problem with using cookie-cutter resumes or cover letters is that the company has no idea why you applied to their position. Worse, you may be using an objective statement, summary or cover letter that is actually contrary to the position. I have seen resumes stating they want a Medical Assistant job (we’re not a doctor’s office), they only want full time (the job is part time,) or that they want some other criteria that isn’t even close to our job description or what our company does.

If the recruiter can’t even figure out why you applied for the job, there is no way that you can land the interview.

Four signs that your job search is in trouble – and how to fix it

Job searching can be lonely business, with very little feedback built into the process. Most of the time, companies don’t even acknowledge receiving your application, let alone letting you know when you won’t be considered for the job. With all of this radio silence, how can you tell if your job search strategies are really working or not?

Fortunately, there are some key metrics and signs to consider to gauge your effectiveness.

You aren’t getting phone interviews.

Of course, this is the most obvious sign that your job search is struggling. If the phone never rings, there is something seriously wrong. However, you should also consider the success rate. If your resume is doing its job, you should be getting at least one phone interview for every 10- 20 applications that you complete. If it’s been more than 20 applications since you had an interview, you really need to evaluate your resume and make sure that you are using the right key words, achievements, and relevant duties to survive HR’s screening process.

You only give HR the minimum required.

Ever see a job application that says “cover letter optional?” If you choose not to send one, you lost a golden opportunity – not to mention that you probably just got screened out. Think about it: if they have 200 applicants for the job and only 75 bothered to go above submitting the minimum, they will consider the candidates who go the extra mile first.

Another version of this issue is present on LinkedIn. When posting a job on LinkedIn, the employers have the option to accept applications directly through the site. In that case, your profile serves as your resume. HOWEVER, you do have the option to upload a Word or PDF version of your resume. Once again, those candidates who do the extra steps tend to rank higher.

You aren’t reaching out to hiring managers.

Thanks to many resources online, it is actually easier than ever to track down hiring managers. Of course, LinkedIn’s Advanced Search features and Company Pages should be some of your go-to tools, but other websites like or offer real-world data and insight into the leadership of key companies across the US. ZoomInfo is particularly helpful, as it often lists the direct contact information for the managers and other employees.

Don’t forget scouring the company’s own website and conducting intelligent Google searches to determine the top managers. Local business news magazines like the Denver Business Journal or the Colorado Business Magazine offer sourcebooks or lists for top companies, many with key contacts.  Can’t afford one of their subscriptions? Check the local library for the print versions.

The point is that you want to do more than just apply through the HR application process and hope for the best. Get your resume directly to the managers to make a positive impact.

You aren’t networking – either in person or online.

Networking is still an essential piece of the job search. Fortunately, this also includes proactive networking on LinkedIn, either through directly connecting with people or by getting involved in the Groups. Networking should always be a proactive approach. Start by posting quality content in the Groups to build your reputation. That way, when you start reaching out to individuals, they can see the quality of your content and more likely to accept your invitations.

When networking in person, consider different types of groups. While leads groups are great for businesses, they don’t work well for job seekers. Instead, consider professional associations, professional development groups that focus on building the members’ skills, job seeker groups, and even social groups. can be a great resource for discovering all of these groups in your area. The key is to get out and actually meet with people face-to-face.

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