Welcome to SixFigureStart®

Career Coaching by Former Fortune 500 Recruiters

True Confessions of a Head of Campus Recruiting…

Forgive me, career services professionals, for I have sinned.  It’s been 20+ years since my last confession.  I ran campus recruiting for Fortune 500 firms that included Citigroup, Warner-Lambert, and most recently Merrill Lynch and during that time, I committed many sins.  I seek atonement through this article.    

Sin #1:  During company presentations and marketing events, I secretly wished that candidates would stop flapping their lips at record rates, talking about their focus, their past experiences, their talents, their wants, their wishes, their GPAs, their GMAT scores, their successes – even before they said hello to me, before they knew who I was and what business I represented. 

I wanted to tell them that they need to have posture and presence, as that got my attention much more than lip flapping.  I wanted to tell them to ask open-ended questions during marketing events such as “How did you get into this business” and “What trends have you seen recently?” and actually listen to the recruiter’s response.  I wanted to see their sincerity and their confidence even though they were truly nervous, because if you have tenacity, if you differentiate yourself, and if you create a support system, all will work out in the end. 

But alas, I sinned and said nothing.  I just targeted the students that had posture, that prepared, that were a pleasure to speak with, and that go to the events early. 

Sin #2:  I made instant judgments about what types of candidates they would be in the first three seconds I met them.  It’s true, I sized them up.  I’m guilty. 

I wanted to tell them that they should have tried that suit on two days before the event, so they could have gotten than stain off of their tie or jacket.  I wanted to tell them to look me in the eye versus over my left shoulder. I wanted to tell them to use breath mints, because they were leaving dead bodies in their wake. 

But alas, I sinned and said nothing.  I just selected the candidates that had polish, that prepared, that took care in their appearance from their hair to their nails to their shoes.

Sin #3:  When candidates asked why they didn’t make the cut, I never truly answered them.  Instead, I avoided any potential litigation and simply said “It was a competitive year.”

I lied.  I didn’t tell them they didn’t answer my questions directly, or completely, or enthusiastically, or in a “results oriented” way.  I didn’t tell them it was because they were five minutes late to the interview and I feared they would be late to a client meeting as well.    

But alas, I sinned.  It wasn’t my job to give them feedback.  It was my job to hire the best candidates.

My atonement has been found in my past three years as a career coach.  I tell the truth now:  the good, the bad and the ugly, so candidates can improve, and so they can launch effective and successful job searches, both on and off campus.  With immediate tactical and strategic feedback from a career coach, who is not beholden to any company, my clients can find the job of their dreams.  Amen!

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Is It Possible To Over-Prepare For An Interview

In just this past week, several of my clients have sounded tired during our interview practice.  I even got a very detailed response that was related to, but not quite exactly on point to what I had asked.  These are hardworking jobseekers who I know are diligently working through the coaching assignments.  Is it possible to over-prepare for interviews?

Most jobseekers don’t prepare enough.  So don’t use this column as permission to slack off your search.  You still need to research the company, industry and specific individuals you will be meeting.  You still need to stay abreast of current events and be able to engage in timely discussions.  You still need to have the 3-4 key message points that will present you in the best light and position you appropriately for the specific job at hand.  So there is much work to do, and over-preparation is a rare problem.

Still, I’ve seen over-prepared candidates and other recruiters have seen them, so it’s worth discussing.  Over-preparation is when your answers sound rehearsed.  You lose the spontaneity and thoughtfulness in your responses.  Your answers may be relevant but not exactly on point because you sidestep the exact question and instead jump to the points you’ve memorized in your head. 

There is a better balance between under- and over-preparation, and the secret ingredient is listening.  For all interviews, you need to research and prepare your overarching message.  But with each interaction you need to listen to what is uniquely happening at that moment and adjust accordingly.  This means that you laser focus when you have an anxious or tough interviewer.  You let the story structure meander when you have a conversational interviewer.  You are ready with details or you move on depending on your read of what the interviewer wants.  In other words, you prepare in advance a wide range of responses but react to the moment at hand.  Preparation and practice is not a substitute for listening in the moment.  A good interview is a conversation to experience, not a monologue to prepare.

 Caroline Ceniza-Levine, career coach, writer, speaker, Gen Y expert and co-founder of SixFigureStart™ (www.sixfigurestart.com), coaches jobseekers using a recruiter’s perspective of what employers really want and how the hiring process really works. Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline has recruited for Accenture, Citibank, Disney ABC, Time Inc and others. Caroline is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Professional Development at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs and a life coach (www.thinkasinc.com).

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Book Review: Improv Wisdom By Patricia Madson

I have to love the book that introduced me to the term, bricolage, or as Madson puts it, “use what is there artfully.”  Improv Wisdom by Patricia Madson is a must-read for improvisers but still a good read if all you know about improv is Drew Carey in “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

Madson, chair of the undergraduate acting department at Stanford and creator of the Stanford Improvisors, lists 13 maxims of improv and coaches on how these relate to life at large, not just on stage.  The subtitle of the book, “Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up” are two of the maxims. Bricolage was in the chapter on Make Mistakes, Please.  Other insightful chapters include Be Average, Face the Facts, and Stay On Course. 

You will likely enjoy the book more if you have improv in your experience because Madson doesn’t take too much time explaining the concepts.  But her ability to draw parallels between what could be seen as pithy improv rules and important life concepts is impressive.   This book is a fast read, thoroughly enjoyable, and incredibly deep.

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Ask A Recruiter/ Free Career Coaching Teleclass

Free SixFigureStart Career Coaching Teleclass on Friday, March 6, 1p EST


Hear the answers to your career and job search questions from two former recruiters who know how the hiring process really works

Dial-in instructions:  call 712 775 7100/ use participant code 151675#

No need to preregister, but email caroline@sixfigurestart.com in advance to submit the questions you’d like to have answered on the call.

If you can’t make the live call but want to hear a recording of the teleclass email caroline@sixfigurestart.com to get playback instructions


The call will be led by SixFigureStart co-founders Connie Thanasoulis and Caroline Ceniza-Levine.  Connie and Caroline have a combined 40 years of HR and business experience.  Connie led campus recruiting and new hire programming for Citigroup, Pfizer and Merrill Lynch.  Caroline led campus recruiting and new hire programming for Time Inc and has also recruited for Accenture, Booz Allen, Oliver Wyman, Disney ABC, TV Guide, and others.  Connie and Caroline are the online coaches for Vault.com and Wetfeet.com, career columnists for CNBC.com and Conde Nast’s Portfolio.com, and adjunct assistant professors of Professional Development at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. 

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Introducing the SixFigureStart Coaching Gym…and A Free Teleclass To Start

This is a 6-month group coaching program that gives you access to expert information, ongoing motivation, and accountability for your search:


  • Start with our 60-question SixFigureStart Career Assessment and 40-question SixFigureStart Life Assessment.  See exactly what you are doing well and get a customized road map of where to focus;
  • Then get ongoing group coaching via telephone every week:  if you can be on the call live, get laser coaching on the spot.  Or email questions in advance, and we’ll cover it on the call.  Calls are recorded with playback available so you will never miss a call.  Weekly coaching calls are Sunday evenings at 7:30p EST, starting March 1; 
  • Finally get additional coaching with guest interviews, including recruiters, guest coaches, and industry experts, outside of the regular weekly calls.  Guest interviews will vary based on scheduling. 


Remember, all calls are recorded so you can listen at your convenience. 

A 6-month membership to the SixFigureStart Coaching Gym costs $300.  Special offer for 2009:  all memberships purchased before June 30 2009 expire December 31, 2009 so the earlier you purchase the more months you get for free

Contact caroline@sixfigurestart.com or 212-372-0277 for more information and to register.


New to teleclasses?  Try one out on Friday, March 6, 1p EST.  SixFigureStart is hosting a free teleclass to answer your career questions.  Call 712 775 7100/ use code 151675#

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How To Handle Performance Reviews

Tips for the dreaded performance evaluation meeting were the subject of my last GlassHammer.com article:


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Job Search Lessons From Sports

I talk running and Chariots of Fire, and Connie talks tennis and Rafa Nadal but both in counsel to jobseekers in our Feb  17 Vault.com post:


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Career Coaching Tips for Maximizing Your References

References should not just be an afterthought in your job search.  Find out how to choose and use your references for maximum impact in my latest GlassHammer post:


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What Does Your Resume Really Say About You?

Find out why a resume is useful not just to jobseekers in my latest post for CNBC.com Executive Careers:


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Career Coaching Lessons From Sports, Part 2

Last week on CNBC.com I wrote about career lessons from offense in sports.  This week I write about the importance of good defense:


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