Using diversity to evaluate company culture

In the modern world of job searching, finding a position that is a good match has more to do with company culture than any other factor.  However, many job seekers don’t know what to look for when trying to determine the workplace culture.  Some things are obvious, such as the physical aspects of the work environment – for example, many introverts are not comfortable working in an “open office” design, where there is very little separation from one person’s workspace to another. However, how can you gauge the real flavor of the office during the interview phase?

One of the biggest indicators of a company culture falls back into the importance of diversity.

Defining workplace diversity

According to, diversity is defined as “similarities and differences among employees in terms of age, cultural background, physical abilities and disabilities, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation.” (Read more:

When interviewing with a company, take note on if they have a diverse workforce.  Smart companies understand that it can take an extra effort to hire a diverse workforce, but it also helps them gain a competitive advantage as the company’s culture becomes more flexible thanks to the diverse points of view.

Diversity of thought

There is another aspect of diversity that is not as readily apparent as the outward physical characteristics.  This is the “diversity of thought,” which reflects how the employees actually think and approach their work.  For a real forward-thinking company, it is necessary to employ people who actually offer different perspectives in how to solve problems or to apply their area of expertise.

For example, in one of my past roles, I provided the recruitment for a small business in the Denver area.  The original founders of the company were brilliant engineers, who also happened to be some of the most introverted people I had ever met.  When it came time to hire new employees, they heavily favored candidates just like them, regardless of the role.  They valued an engineering background above all other qualities, having convinced themselves that their products were so technically complex that only engineers could properly represent what they were manufacturing.

However, problems quickly arose once the company tried to expand.  They hired several Sales Engineers – again, emphasizing the engineering aspect.  Unfortunately, they failed to understand that they really needed smart SALES people who could be trained in the technical benefits of their products.  The core problem here is that people who are drawn to sales usually have an entirely different set of soft skills and personality traits than engineers.  By only hiring engineers, their sales continued to slump to the point that the company struggled to survive.

Diversity of roles

Another common problem that a company may face is hiring too many managers.  While many people know about the challenges of large companies generating a wide base of middle-level managers, this issue can impact small companies as well.

For example, another small company that I worked with had 70% of their workforce with the phrase Manager, Director, or Vice President in their title.  Out of all 10 employees, only 3 of them were actual “boots on the ground” employees, performing the day-to-day work of the company.  Even when the company decided to expand their operations, they hired another Vice President rather than a team of employees to provide the heavy lifting to get the new venture off the ground and profitable.

When interviewing with a new potential employer, be sure to ask about their company structure and how many managers would be in place over you.  If the company is extremely top-heavy, it could be an indicator of problems to come.

Practicing diversity

Finally, take note of how well a company actually implements their diversity programs.  Some companies may make a real effort to hire diverse teams, yet struggle to retain those same staff members.  Rarely is this because of blatant racism or other discriminatory actions, but more of a case of just not thinking about things from the other person’s point-of-view.

For example, with one of my past positions, I had a wonderful assistant who just happened to be Jewish.  On December 1st, the owner of the company told her she had to put up all of the Christmas decorations for the office.  Of course, she wasn’t very pleased with this directive; however, she did as she was asked.

The real problem started when the owner came by to review her work and proceeded to complain loudly that the decorations weren’t done correctly.  My assistant defended her ground, pointing out that she had never put up a Christmas tree before and really didn’t understand what this was all about.

I almost lost my outstanding assistant that day, as she was ready to walk off of the job based on the insensitivity of the owner.  In the end, I finished the decorations because keeping her on my team was critical to our long-term success.

Knowing where you fit

Diversity can be a great indicator of the workplace culture for any job.  Along those lines, it’s important to define what you are looking for in an employer.  Do you want a loud, fast-paced collaborative environment where you can bounce a lot of ideas between team members?  Or do you favor a quiet workplace where you can concentrate on your tasks with little interruption?  Are you driven to meet new people or do you prefer to work alone?

By defining the elements of company culture that appeal to you the most, you are more likely to identify the opportunity when it comes along.  And remember, diversity in all of its forms can be one of the best subtle and covert ways to gauge company culture during the interview process.

Picking the best picture for your social media offers peer reviews of your social media pictures offers peer reviews of your social media pictures

Your picture: on social media sites like LinkedIn, profiles with a picture gain a significantly higher amount of views.  However, that picture can be either the kiss of death or the start of a professional relationship.  With so much riding on this first impression, how can you be sure that your picture is conveying the right image? is a website that allows users to upload a photo and gain insight from other users on key components on their first impression, specifically on competency, likability and influential factors.  You can do a quick, free test by earning credits by voting on other people’s photos as well.  Each picture you review earns you credits, which you can then use towards your own evaluations.

Common picture mistakes

I know that as a career coach, I cringe when I see people with a LinkedIn profile with a bad picture.  Some of the most common offenders are:

  • Poor picture quality, either in resolution or lighting
  • Bad framing – a full body shot of someone standing on a mountain trail doesn’t allow me to see the face
  • Wrong clothing choice – it’s not a good idea to use something too casual or a stuffy wedding reception photo
  • Group pictures – in this case, no one can really tell who is the right person for the profile
  • Extreme close-ups – these can make the viewer uncomfortable as a good portion of the face is hidden
  • Selfies – rarely are these the best choice, especially if it’s the mirror version or “duck face”
  • Disembodied limbs – if the other person is cropped out but there arm is still around the subject’s shoulder, that comes across as very unprofessional

Invest in your pictures

In most cases, spending a little money to get a professional headshot done is well worth the investments.  Many photographers can do this for $75 – $100.  Just make sure you get the digital rights so that you can use them online without paying royalties later on.

How to instantly increase your LinkedIn network

network connections treeFrustrated with the limited views on LinkedIn profiles?  Want to increase your exposure to second and third degree connections?  How about send emails or invitations to people you don’t know?

The answer is simple: join and get involved in the Groups.

 Join Groups

In particular, look for the large Groups in your area.  By joining these Groups, you have access to most of the other Group members.

When it comes to job searching, be sure to look for one in your geographic area, not just your field of interest.  For example, the Linked to Denver Group owned by Mike O’Neil (author, “Rock the World with Your Online Presence”) has over 30,000 members.  Once you join, you instantly create a Group connection with each and every one of those members.

Extremely large Groups can create connections across the country and even the world.  One of the largest Groups on LinkedIn is the Linked: HR Group, with over 240,000 members.

 Get Involved

Many people allow other Group members to contact them.  While you can send a message or invitation to any Group member that allowed it, make sure you create a meaningful dialogue and customize your message.

Instead of just sending random emails to someone, read what they say in the discussions.  Look at the articles they post and make comments about them.  Start your own discussions and be a part of the Group. It should be an organic relationship, which is encouraged by your positive Group contributions.

It can be difficult to make an impression in large Groups, as the discussions flow quickly.  You don’t need to read everything that is posted.  The main thing is to look for key persons within your target company and then follow the discussions that they post.

 Don’t Get Frustrated

Sometimes your target person may not allow other Group members to contact them.  Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to control another person’s privacy settings. However, even if your early contact attempts are thwarted, you can still follow their discussions.  Just like the Twitter mentality of following people to gain insight into their interests and expertise, LinkedIn Groups are another great source of information.

The key is not getting frustrated if things are not going well at first. Stay persistent and relax. If you try to rush things, you are unlikely to get the responses you want.

 Gah!  Too Much Email!

When you join any Group, you can control how often you receive updates from the Group.  If it is a Group that specifically addresses your industry, you might choose to receive daily updates.  However, if it is a large Group that you joined just to boost your connections, consider a weekly digest instead.

Settings can be changed at any time.  Simply go to the Group’s page and click on the gear icon next to the “Member” button on the right corner of the Group’s page to access your Group settings.

 Increased Search Effectiveness

Another advantage of joining larger Groups is that they instantly increase your network base.  This means that it also increases your exposure during searches, as well as increases the effectiveness of your own searches.

Even with using LinkedIn’s Advanced Search features, the website likes to show you members that are closest to you, especially in terms of connection.  So the 1st Degree Connections are shown highest in the list, then 2nd Degree, then Group Connections, followed by 3rd Degrees and, last, people with no connection to you– if you are allowed to see them at all.  When you join some big Groups, LinkedIn will reveal more members in your searches.  Plus, you will show up in other people’s searches as well, including recruiters and other key players in your industry.

 Open Door

If the Group is not serving your needs, leave it.  Go find another one that is in alignment with your goals and interests.  The great thing about the LinkedIn Groups is that you can be a member of up to 50 different Groups.  And best of all, they are free.

5 ways to destroy your new contract job

Don't smash your chance to make a good impression

Don’t smash your chance to make a good impression

Contract work is new norm for many people.  Do you know the traps to avoid when taking a contract job?

It’s quite common for job seekers to accept contract or temporary jobs with the hopes that they will turn into full-time employment.  Even without the potential of a new job, the contract assignment has become a crucial piece to any employment scenario.

However, many people are destroying this opportunity within the first two weeks.  In the contract world, these mistakes may not only cost you the immediate job, but other contract work down the road.

 1. Demanding special payment arrangements

Yes, we know that your finances are tight because you’ve been out of work for a while. However, requesting wire transfer payments before you start to work for an employer can raise eyebrows.  When negotiating a contract assignment, be sure to ask how they normally pay their vendors and try to accommodate their established procedures.

If you need to request payment in advance, do so in a professional manner – and only ask for this consideration once.  Always asking for money early plants a negative seed in the employer’s mind – such as questions about why you can’t manage your finances.


2. Unreasonable expenses

Even though you are a contractor, try to stay within the company’s guidelines for employee expenses.  For example, if you have to travel for the company, ask beforehand what the per diem rate is for meals and other expenses.  This shows that you are willing to work within their defined limits.


  1. Calling in sick

True, you might really be sick, but anytime you give short notice that you won’t be in to work it will be questioned – especially if you are being evaluated in a temporary position.  Find a way to get the work done, even if it means working from home.


  1. Skimpy paperwork trail

The IRS has very specific rules to define an employee from an independent contractor.  Keeping your paperwork straight – submitting your own invoices/ expense reports, signed contracts, completed W-9’s – will help the employer keep this relationship well defined.  Plus, if you are pro-active about the necessary paperwork, it is a positive reflection on your own follow-through skills.


  1. Scheduling interviews during your work hours

While you may still be looking for a permanent job elsewhere, make sure you do it on your own time.  This may mean scheduling interviews several days in advance so that you can give your contract company plenty of advance notice.  Saying that you “have an appointment” is a legitimate reason to step out for an hour or two, but don’t let the employer know it is to interview with another company.


To avoid all of these problems, show your contract employer that they are priority #1. You will be more likely to get a permanent job offer by being professional, attentive and focused on their needs instead of your own.

Winning the interview on first sight

More than ever, it is important for employers to understand who you are during the interview process. When they get a feel for your personality, they can picture you fitting in with their company culture. Clearly, your wardrobe choice at that first interview is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a positive first impression.

The clothes maketh the (wo)man

Fashion is the very first impressions a potential employer gains before you even get the chance to speak. So if you really want to make an impression, make it your clothes relate to you as a person and the job at hand.
Going for a job in journalism? Show up in a Superman costume and strike a pose befitting the Man of Steel himself. Not only will this make you more memorable (a very important factor in getting a job) but you will also present all of the same qualities Superman is famous for, such as honor, raw power and integrity. Not to mention that he was a successful reporter as well.
For business executives, it’s more important to demonstrate a level of class and the ability to rule a company. Most other applicants will do this by showing up in a suit of dark, commanding colors. Why blend in to the crowd? Don a powdered wig and your finest frock coat to show you know how to keep the peasants in their place. Your target company will not only admire your flair, but your ability to command all the respect deserving of the French Monarchy and the Second Estate.

"My credentials? Sir, I will have you know my pedigree includes some of the most influential families of Paris!"

“I will have you know my pedigree includes the bloody queen!”

The possibilities are endless. Just look to your favorite characters in popular culture to find your inspiration.

Act the part

Obviously you don’t want to just show up in some silly get-up for the interview. You would just look odd and the employers would just write you off. It’s important to become the person under the clothes. Superman in appearance only would not command the same level of respect unless your potential employer feels like you are truly the hero they need for their company.
Similarly, if you present yourself as a monarch you should behave as such. Speak in a refined manner, comment on their “pedestrian” attire and question the interviewer’s bloodline to make sure they are of the same quality stock as you. They will have no choice but to pledge fealty to your sovereign.

Pictured: The Board of Directors

Pictured: The Board of Directors

The same applies to any character you try to use. Just think, “How would Star Lord respond to such a question?” “Would Leonardo from the Ninja Turtles really answer the ‘what is your greatest weakness’ question?” If the interview is going poorly, you might want to make sure the window is open so you can sling your Spidey-webs and escape.

Things to avoid

Obviously, not every character has the same clout in an interview as others. It depends on your target job. For example, Batman would be great for a night shift security position, but not so great for an executive position with a company (wait, why would we hire Batman? He’s just going to spend millions and billions of company dollars on personal gadgetry and top secret projects like a personal car that can drive up buildings. Also, what’s to stop him from suddenly disappearing in the middle of a meeting every time the bat signal pops on?)



Examples of other poor choices include:
• Nearly any villain – except Lex Luthor, who is a brilliant businessman
• Mob bosses
• Obscure characters (they might not know who you are)
• The Hulk (too unstable)
• Star Trek red shirts


"What do you mean I didn't get the job?"

“What do you mean I didn’t get the job?”

In the end, a mindful choice can convey more about you to the interviewer. Choose well, young Padiwan.

Poor LinkedIn practices that kill candidates

Watch out for Linkedin mistakesEveryone knows that posting negative comments on LinkedIn is a sure-fire way to scare off employers and recruiters alike. However, many candidates are killing their chances without even knowing it by making these common mistakes on their profiles.

Improper formatting of their name

It’s shocking to see how many people are making this mistake.  Either their name is listed in ALL CAPITALS or no capitals at all – like ‘bob smith.”  The first thing employers see is your name.  This is especially true for the search results, when only your name, headline, job titles, and picture are visible.

Improper formatting is seen as a lack of detail orientation and writing skills.  As almost every job addresses this in some form, be sure to list your name correctly.

Incomplete or inconsistent profiles

Employers now make it a common practice to check a candidate’s LinkedIn profile before contacting them for an interview.  An incomplete profile is a definite red flag.  This doesn’t mean that it needs to have every single option completed, but the basic are essential: summary, work history, skills / endorsements, and recommendations.

Another problem is when the LinkedIn profile varies greatly from the resume.  It’s understandable that key skills and responsibilities may be different on the resume if the job seeker is changing fields.  Similarly, a candidate may not list the exact sales figures in his or her accomplishments to maintain the company’s confidential information.  However, when the actual work history itself is not reflective of the resume, this is a red mark.

Lacking Recommendations

Unlike Endorsements, Recommendations on LinkedIn carry a lot of weight.  These are the candidate’s verifiable, online letters of reference from actual people in their network.  Many recruiters won’t consider a candidate if they have less than three written Recommendations on their profile.

LinkedIn has changed the Recommendations management pages recently, however, the easiest place to find them is from your profile.  Look for the triangle next to the “View Profile As” button. As you roll over that, the menu option to “ask to be recommended” becomes visible.  Just click on that to manage all of your Recommendations.

link for LinkedIn recomendations

Here’s where the link to your Recommendations is hiding

Funky pictures

Your profile picture is vitally important on LinkedIn.  It needs to be a solid headshot, with a simple background and proper lighting.  Many photographers will do headshots like this for $50 – $100, which is a fair price – just make sure to have the digital rights so you can post the pictures online without paying royalties.

It is possible to take a good picture for yourself.  However, selfies, wedding pictures, or cropping out another person so that a disembodied arm encircles your shoulder should be avoided.  Remember, your picture is your brand.  Consider carefully what image you want to portray: does your industry demand the suit, or are you targeting a business casual environment?  How do you want to be perceived?

The most obvious error

I hate to say it, but some people still leave spelling and grammar errors on their LinkedIn profile.  Unfortunately, this is also a common problem when making posts in Groups or adding comments to a discussion.

I remember one time a LinkedIn member started a discussion in a group to get some feedback on why she was having difficulty landing an executive assistant job.  In the post were a number of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.  Even her profile headline wasn’t formatted correctly.  Being a nice person, I sent her a private message that she should watch out for those errors.  She replied, “Well, I was typing fast.”

Unfortunately, executive assistants are expected to type both quickly and accurately.  By posting sloppy content online, she was broadcasting to employers that she didn’t possess the necessary traits for her target job.

Fair warning

Just because LinkedIn seems like a casual environment, in truth, every word you write is an audition for potential employers and recruiters.

Benchmarks of success in every job search

We all know how hard it can be to find a job, and sometimes the task seems simply too daunting to take on. With the following guide, your milestones can be easier to track and you can see just how much time and effort goes into every job search. This content (and much more) is also available in Donna Shannon’s book, “How to Get a Job Without Going Crazy.”

benchmark job search infographic




The Entrepreneur Job Description

Being an entrepreneur can feel overwhelming unless you have perspective

Being an entrepreneur can feel overwhelming unless you have perspective

Most people are more effective in their jobs when they know what the expectations are and the typical duties.  In a normal employment situation, this is communicated in the job description from the company.  But what if you are working for yourself or have your own business?

While you may be inclined to say “I do everything,” that’s not an effective management tool.  The idea is to evaluate your effectiveness in all the areas and then see how it can be improved.  Sometimes that answer may mean hiring someone with those strengths or outsourcing that particular function.

In this sample entrepreneur job description, I share with you my own role.  How does yours stack up?


P&L responsibility, cost control, vendor management, employee management, short term and long term business plan development, quality control/ quality assurance, business valuations, contracts review, gain legal consultation


Inbound/ outbound sales calls, networking, qualifying consultations, follow up on communications, build strategic alliances, gain referrals/ recommendations from past clients, update CRM system, foster social media relationships


Create marketing plans, place and design advertising campaigns, manage social media accounts, write blogs, website creation and management, brand development and promotion (logos, company colors/ themes), special events, email newsletters, creation of marketing materials (flyers, presentations), reputation marketing, speaking engagements


Accounts Payable/ Accounts Receivable, billing, payment collection, deposits, monthly reconciliations, financial reporting, tax preparation and payments, sales tax collection, calculation and filing, monthly/ periodic financial close, annual budgets, credit and collections


Payroll, recruitment, fair hiring practices, benefits administration, 401(k)/ IRA administration, awareness of Federal and State regulations


Ensure proper operation of all equipment, internet connections, routers, on-location IT operations, new equipment purchases, data back-up, warranty information


Follow-up after services, customer surveys, oversee contractors’ work, call customers, and handle escalating customer issues


Calendar management, data entry, inbound/ outbound mail, client intake, email lists, generate class materials, networking contact follow-up, and manage office supplies


All same duties as Resume Writers
Teach classes and develop new, additional workshops and presentations
Conduct coaching with clients
Write new blogs and books; oversee book publishing

What it all means

After doing this exercise for myself, I determined that it was more cost-effective to hire a part time staff person to help with the mundane operations while I concentrated on the revenue-generating functions.  Plus, I get to focus more time on doing what I love – which is why I got into business for myself in the first place.


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How to Close an Old LinkedIn Account

When I start working with clients on their LinkedIn presence, many of them have an old account that they started years ago.  However, they don’t know how to get rid of the old account.  Believe it or not, it is extremely easy to do this – once you know how.

 1.       Log into the old account

You do need to have the email address associated with the old account. If you have forgotten your password, you can click on the “Forgot Password?” prompt to reset it.

 2.       Go to the Privacy & Settings pageget to LinkedIn account settings

To get here, hover over your profile picture on the very far right and top of the LinkedIn page.  This opens a new drop-down menu.  Click on the Privacy & Settings tab.  You may have to reenter your password, as this is the secure backstage area of your account.

 3.       Look for the “Account” tab on the bottom of the page

At the left and bottom half of the page are four additional tabs with all kinds of controls: Profile, Communication, Groups and Account. When you click on the Account tab, an additional menu opens just to the right of the tabs.

 4.       Click on the “Close Your AccountHow to Close your Linkedin account

From here, you do get a confirmation before you kill the account completely.  When this is closed, you will lose all the contacts, recommendations, etc. associated with this account.

 5.       Add the email address to your main LinkedIn account

After 48 hours, you can add the email address from the closed account to your main LinkedIn account. You can have multiple emails associated with your account, which is a good idea.  That way, everything is in one central space instead of creating multiple accounts all over the place.


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