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.

is your resume hitting it out of the park

Is your resume striking out or knocking it out of the park?

The job seeker steps up to the plate. You can feel the determination coming off of him like waves spreading across the field. The HR manager pitches the job, a hard fast ball that flies past the job seeker, who just misses it. Setting up for the second pitch now, a deceiving curve ball.  The job seeker swings hard and fans it, catching nothing but air.  It’s all riding on this final pitch.  Another fast ball, but all he does is watch it sail across the plate to have the umpire call the last strike.

Ever feel like that when sending your resume out to employers? When looking for a new job or opportunity, it can feel like the bottom of the 9th and the entire game is riding on your shoulders.

Follow these simple tips to knock your job search out of the park!

Batter on deck

Having a solid resume is very much like having a quality bat. You never see professional ball players at the plate with a whiffle Ball bat; it wouldn’t be able to compete. Nor do you see them trying to swing something they can’t lift.

Your resume is very similar. If your resume is lacking critical information and key words, it acts like a light piece of plastic that shatters on contact with a professional pitcher on the mound. If your resume is overloaded superfluous fluff or excessively old work history, it becomes slow and unwieldy in the hands of anything less than a superhuman.

When writing your resumes and cover letters, be sure to include things like contact information, key skills specific to the target job, and relevant duties. Don’t forget to highlight past achievements, such as sales metrics, customer volume, call volume, awards, and any other quantifiable metric appropriate for your target job.

One of the latest trends in modern resumes is to “get to the point.” Recruiters and hiring managers alike need to understand your strengths and abilities within 30 seconds.  If your resume is filled with too much padding just to be fancy, you can easily strike out.

Gotta swing to be a hitter

In baseball, the Strike Zone is based on the batter’s height and the width of the plate. Every batter’s ideal pitch is different, much like every job seeker’s ideal job is different. When considering different positions, think of each one as their own pitch. Something outside of your strike zone – for example, way out of your skill set, experience, or education – is not something you should swing at. Typically, HR uses those differentiators to determine their top candidates.

HOWEVER, you can’t tell what the top qualifications are just by reading the job description.  In every job posting, there are factors that the employers value more than others. For these reasons, you should apply to any job that catches your interest, especially if you hold most of the skills and experience desired.  You gotta swing to be a hitter!

Transitioning to a new role or industry?  Remember, HR tends to be pretty literal in screening candidates based on key words and qualifications, just like the umpire calling each pitch.  HOWEVER, you can still land a new job by reaching out to the hiring managers directly.  Many successful major league players are known for chasing a pitch outside of their normal strike zone and turning it into a single, double, triple, or even a home run.  The trick is knowing that they can make it work – and then proving it to the world.

Step into the box

Even before seeing a pitch, a baseball player performs a unique ritual as he steps into the batter’s box to get fully focused.  When the pitch comes screaming at him at 90 miles an hour, he is so focused that he can see the stiches on the ball.  As it gets into range, he raises his front foot, twists up from the feet and drives that sucker into the ball. He uses his whole body to drive power into the bat and launch that ball into the stratosphere.

Technique matters for job seekers too. Just doing the minimal effort when applying to a job is like swinging a bat with noodle arms.  If you really want to get an employer’s attention, track down the HR manager or even connect with higher-ups in your target companies using things like LinkedIn. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” is very much alive in this day and age. Exercise the muscles of your network to fully engage all of your strengths to hit it out of the park.





Spring has sprung (almost)

Spring may not “officially” be in season quite yet, but that all changes this upcoming weekend. Soon there will be fluffy bunnies, robins, flowers in bloom and leaves on the trees that spent their winter dormant waiting for this moment.

We humans have a tendency to “hibernate” in the winter seasons, preferring to stay indoors where it is nice and toasty, binge watching Netflix and feasting during the holiday seasons. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but our homes tend to get kind of gross in that period of time. Thusly did spring cleaning become a thing.

Every spring, you can find spring cleaning messages in advertisements online and on television, even the radio if you can tolerate the commercials.

“Woah, hold on there a minute, James,” you may be saying, “What does that have to do with careers?”

Well, random person whom I have never met, yet seem to be able to voice in a static writing…everything!

We are creatures of habits and patterns. Every spring, we clean up our living spaces. Plants and animals go through changes, so we strive for a change ourselves. Many job seekers start looking for a career shift around this time of year, riding the optimism carried by the bright flowers and birdsongs. However, many job seekers do not apply the aforementioned spring cleaning bug to their resumes and other career documents.

Your resume, cover letter and even your LinkedIn profile can grow just as stagnant in the winter seasons as your living space. You grow comfortable with it. You may no longer see where it may need to be cleaned up and changed. Well, time to dust those suckers off and get to work!

1.    Resume

Even if you have recently updated your resume, you want to make sure it is as current as possible. Did you take on additional responsibilities at your current position? Did you recently leave a position? Did you move? Change your phone number? These are just the basics in terms of editing your resume, but if you don’t address the basics first, you are basically shooting yourself in the foot.

Your current resume should focus on the last 10-15 years of career experience and development or in your current industry. Take a look at some of the job descriptions for the job title you are looking at getting in your next career move. How much experience do they require? What skills are all of the job descriptions looking for? Use this as a road map for updating your resume that you send out to employers.

2.    Master Resume / Application

This is a little different than your resume. A summary of your employment history is modeled after your resume, but includes a few extra details, such as the employer’s address, your supervisor, contact information, starting/ending salary and reason for leaving.

This kind of document is a fantastic tool for interviewing, but also useful for filling out online applications. When it comes time for interviews, have this document with you and ready, and a lot of that pre-interview stress will be mitigated.

Use this template:

Company         Dates Worked

Job Title


Supervisor Name, Title, Contact information

Starting Salary:

Ending Salary:

Reason for Leaving:




Private Company, LLC 9/2011 to 4/2014

Private Chef to Mr. and Mrs. John Successful

Confidential Work Location, Any town, USA

Jane Smith, HR Coordinator, 123 Main Street, Any town, USA, (123) 456-7890,

Starting Salary: 87,500/year

Ending Salary: 98,000/year plus discretionary bonus

Reason for Leaving: Spouse relocated to San Francisco, CA

3.    Cover Letters

Like a great suit, everyone should have more than one cover letter.  Ideally, you would write a fresh cover letter for each job, or at least have three or four letters that you can easily adapt to job postings.  Have a few that are ready for a quick tweak, especially for an email message.  Do not forget to put in extra effort to customize the letter for your dream job. Including research specific to that employer or situation will help you stand out from the other applicants. This applies to follow-up letters and thank you letters as well.

4.    Reference List

Rather than stating “references available on request” on your resume, have a prepared reference list.  This is a single document that includes three or four professional references and up to three character references. Ideally, you want to select people who would be willing to speak with a potential employer, discussing you, your achievements and the attributes that make you the best candidate for the job at hand.  If a written recommendation letter exists from an individual and you plan to add it to your application package, make a note of it on this list.


In fact, when was the last time you communicated with the people on your list?  Now is a good time to reconnect.  Find out what they are up to and fill them in on all the happenings in your life.  If a colleague mentioned writing you a recommendation letter the last time you spoke, then follow-up on their offer.  Make it easy for them by directing them to your LinkedIn profile.

5.    LinkedIn

Speaking of LinkedIn, once you have finished up your polishing of your other documents, your profile is a great next step, especially if you plan to use it you reconnect with your references. With LinkedIn, you can update any of the information you changed on your resume, naturally, but you will also want to talk to people in your network and strengthening those professional relationships. Get recommended, ask your references and others to endorse your skills and do the same for them. Trust me, it goes a long way.

Need more help with LinkedIn? Check out our free and paid webinars on Eventbrite, HERE


Just clean up your career documents a little this spring. Follow this guide, and you will be sure to get more out of your resume, cover letter and profile than you have been.




Safety tips for your job search

Scammers are preying on desperate job seekers.  Are you conducting a safe job search?

One of my Denver clients recently called me with an unfortunate but common problem:

“I just got called by the police – they discovered an identity theft ring which had stolen my information from an online job application,” he said, totally despondent and heartbroken.  “I guess I’m lucky because the cops caught them, but I still have to deal with cleaning up the mess they made…”

In the past year, identity thefts and other scams that target job seekers has seen a sharp increase.  It is estimated that 50-70% of job ads on are fraudulent.  Compared to a rate of approximately 30% in 2008, it is easy to see that the thieves are banking on the desperation of the job seekers.

Fortunately, you can easily protect yourself from such scams.

Protect Your Information

One of the common tricks is to direct job seekers to an online application.  While many legitimate companies use online applications, or Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), look out for ones that require too much personal information.

If the application asks for any of this information, do NOT fill it in:

  • ·         Social Security number
  • ·         Birth Date (they should only ask if you are over 18)
  • ·         Bank account information (often disguised as trying to set up your direct deposit)
  • ·         Mother’s maiden name (often needed to establish credit)
  • ·         Previous names used
  • ·         Insistence on full salary history when you apply

If you are still interested in the job after running into these requests, call the company first. Sometimes legitimate companies will ask for these details, especially the salary history.  For example, the private service industry will frequently ask for some of these details, especially since they are recruiting people to work in private homes.

However, if you are suspicious about any opportunity, look for ways to talk to an actual person at the company, even if it is only the receptionist to verify that the job listing is real.  If the company’s name is not listed on the website, definitely run the other way.

A New Twist: Cloned Job Postings

The other day my husband called me to verify a customer service job he saw posted on  This was for an advanced customer advocate with a stated salary range of over $60,000 – obviously, much higher than the typical rate.  The problem?  The job posting was a clone that led to a dummy application system.

What the scammers did was find a legitimate job in another state, copied it, and pasted into the Denver job listings.  The website with the application used the original company’s logo and descriptions, but it didn’t have the supporting pages built around the rest of the site.

How did I find this out?  I went to the real company’s main website, which I found through Google.  They only had this same job available in Ohio and Tennessee, but certainly not for a Denver call center.  Had my husband filled out the fake application, I’m sure we would be dealing with some identity theft today.

Private Resume Posting

Scammers are also contacting people who place their resumes online.  Generally speaking, do NOT post your resume online unless you can do so in a completely private manner.

For example, when you load up your resume on or, you do have the option to list it as “Private.”  This means that your resume will not show up in a general search of the data base – only jobs that you actually apply to will receive your information.

Recruiters pay money to search the data bases, which is also known as data mining.  However, these jobs tend to be high-turnover jobs, such as 100% commission sales jobs.  You won’t be missing many great opportunities by posting your resume privately.

A private setting not only protects you from thieves that pay to search resumes, it will also decrease the amount of spam job listings that are targeting you.  Want to get rid of the pesky “opportunity to own an insurance franchise?” Only post your resume privately.

In cases like Craigslist that offers no privacy settings on resume posting, do not post your resume at all.  If you choose to upload a Word or PDF version of your resume onto your LinkedIn profile, be sure to remove your contact information first.

Don’t Accept Packages

Another twist from scammers is the offer to help someone run their purchasing business.  Usually coming from someone across the country or who “travels a lot,” the job sounds like a great way to make part time money.  All you have to do is receive the packages and ship them forward.

The first few deals may work out.  However, as you “prove yourself” on the job, you may get asked to make purchases on the employer’s behalf, with a promise to pay you back plus interest. Here the scam can run two ways: either you never get reimbursed or the employer asks for your banking information to send you money.

Anytime someone asks for banking information is a bad sign…

Legitimate professional shoppers or art dealers do not operate this way. They already have a network that they use for these services.

Work at Home

While there are many legitimate work-at-home opportunities, you do need to be careful.  Here are some of the common work-at-home scams:

  • ·         You have to pay for training
  • ·         You have to buy materials to assemble items for resale (either you can’t sell the items, or the “employer” won’t pay you for the work performed)
  • ·         Bogus direct deposit forms

If you are serious about a work-from-home opportunity, check out  While you do have to pay to see the full jobs listings, Flexjobs researches each and every job to make sure they are a legitimate offering from a real company.

Check Their Reputation

Before you apply for any job, you should research the company.  In particular, resources like Colorado’s Better Business Bureau, local Chambers of Commerce (including the internet Chambers of Commerce) and local news sources like the Denver Business Journal all carry information on local businesses.  In the case of the Better Business Bureau, they have free information on most of the businesses, whether they are members or not.  Seeing the number of complaints – or a lack of records – are all indications that a potential employer is not on the level.

One of my favorite tools for checking out companies is a simple Google search.  Try “company name scam,” or “company name reputation,” or “company name reviews.”  What I like about this tactic is that it will also reveal real companies that have a negative reputation or bad company culture.  After all, the job may be real, but you may not want it.

Use Common Sense

While the job search may be driving you crazy, don’t let desperation override your common sense.  If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Building and Protecting Your Reputation

As my friend and trusted business advisor Denny Basham of Subsilio Consulting says, “Reputation matters.”  Never has this been truer in business than it is today.  With Google at everyone’s fingertips and reviews available for everything under the sun, both the business owner and the job seeker need to be very conscious of what their reputation is.


Why does reputation matter?

In today’s marketplace, it’s very easy to find out a lot of information about individuals as well as businesses.  For job seekers, this equates the need to build positive, online reviews – just like a proactive reputation marketing campaign is important to a business.  One place we see this is on LinkedIn.

It is now standard practice for recruiters and managers to check out a candidate’s LinkedIn profile before offering them an interview.  Some of the main things they are looking for are the Recommendations, the size of the candidate’s network, the Endorsements, and his or her Groups.  All of this additional information gives insight into the candidate beyond just the resume.  Of these, the written Recommendations matter the most.  Endorsements for skills may be valuable key words, but when one of your connections actually writes a paragraph or two about your work, the recruiters will take notice.

Finally, one piece of the online reputation is consistency – if the work history is widely different than what was received in the resume, this reflects poorly on the candidate.  Of course, the work history and a LinkedIn profile shouldn’t be just a verbatim listing from the resume.  However, if dates, locations, company names, and other facts are inconsistent, it makes the job seeker look like they lack attention to detail.

Action builds reputations

Another factor that recruiters and managers check is how involved a candidate is online.  If he or she only has 20 connections and isn’t involved in the Groups, this doesn’t reflect well on how much they are willing to contribute to the industry as a whole.

Whenever you post a discussion or reply to a conversation, you are building your reputation within that Group.  Obviously, intelligent conversation is preferred, but sometimes just being involved is enough.  Of course, if you have something negative to say, don’t say it online!

Defending your reputation

Sometimes, things go sideways and your reputation may be attacked.  This happened to me recently.  One of my clients let me know that a former past connection of mine was tearing apart my work, stating that he would never get a job because he was following my advice.  This was especially hurtful because I have supported this business owner and his endeavors for years – both verbally and online.  Of course, my first reaction was to retaliate; thank goodness I’ve been self-trained to have greater restraint than that.

When faced with a reputation attack, first consider:

  1. The source – does this person have their own reputation problems or history of attacking people? If so, don’t take ownership of their character defects.
  2. Is it true? If yes, take the necessary actions to correct the behavior.  If not, think about what you can do to build on your positive reputation.

Now that the main questions have been addressed, come up with a plan to deal with the tarnishing event.  Your course of action may include:

  • Do nothing and let this person’s own karma catch up with them.
  • Reach out to your network and promote a positive achievement, idea, or action to counteract the reputation hit.
  • Journal writing about the incident. It’s normal to be mad or upset about the situation, but you don’t want to accidentally post a negative attack online or in an email that could come back to haunt you.

One of my mottos for my company is “Act with Honor.”  When faced with a reputation attack, I must keep this commitment first in my mind.  It’s very tempting to react to anger and bitterness with more of the same, but rarely does it lead to positive results – in business or in life.

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