Welcome to SixFigureStart®

Career Coaching by Former Fortune 500 Recruiters

True Confessions of a Recruiter

Last week, I posted my “True Confessions of a Campus Recruiter”.  Here are my True Confessions of a Recruiter (of experienced candidates).  I hope you enjoy reading it:

Forgive me, job search candidates, for I have sinned.  It’s been 20+ years since my last confession.  I ran recruiting efforts 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:  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 #2:  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 process.”

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 that they should have clearly identified how they solved problems for their past employers – how they eased their pain!  I didn’t tell them that I heard negative comments in their responses to my questions because any mention of anything negative will immediately shift me to the next candidate.  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.    

Instead, I sinned and gave no feedback.  It wasn’t my job to give them feedback.  It was my job to hire the best candidates who mastered the art of the interview and who answered my questions directly, effectively and in a results oriented manner.  I hired the person who proved why they would be indispensible to my firm.

Sin #3:  When I asked the question, “tell me about your strengths”, and “tell me about your weaknesses”, if a candidate looked like they hadn’t a clue, I would move on to the next person.  If they aren’t self-aware, they could never truly improve as an individual.  And I didn’t hire anyone who wasn’t in a constant state of improvement.

I sinned and said nothing.  I didn’t give feedback, because it wasn’t my job to do so.  It was my job to award the job to the person who did a self assessment in a meaningful way.  I hired the person who invested in being the best interview candidate possible. 

Sin #4:  If candidates didn’t maintain good eye contact, I silently shouted “NEXT!” in my head.  If they didn’t look me in the eye when they shook my hand, they received a negative mark right off the bat!

I wanted to tell them how body language speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what they are saying, and that the more you looked me in the eye, the more I trusted what you had to say.

But I sinned and said nothing.  Instead, as they looked over my shoulder while talking to me, I turned to see if there was someone behind me.  There never was.

Sin #5:  If a candidate didn’t ask good, thoughtful questions at the end of the interview, I went on to the next candidate.  Not having insightful questions shows a lack of preparation and interest.  It’s a rookie mistake that I won’t overlook. 

I wanted them to know that a little research goes a long way.  They could have walked into the interview with 5 – 7 questions written down on their portfolio pad, and they could have easily referenced those questions at the end of the interview.

But my sin was my silence.  I just hired those candidates that were thoughtful and prepared, and that impressed me with their questions.

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.  My clients can now find the job of their dreams because I give them immediate tactical and strategic feedback from my 20+years of hiring thousands of individuals.  I can rest easier now as my clients are landing the jobs they want.  Amen.

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Take Your Child to Work Week is Here!

Gen Y has been the lucky recipient of “Take Your Child to Work Week” where kids can observe business first hand.  This perspective is great, and typically not what we experienced as Baby Boomers, and Gen Xers. 

Here are my comments when I was recetly interview about the topic by iVillage:  http://parenting.ivillage.com/mom/workfamily/0,,gtfffk4f-p,00.html

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“The new” Resume … How to Get Noticed!

I was recently interviewed by Forbes.com regarding how to make your resume stand out from the crowd (the link to the article is below).  The truly new thing about resumes is this:  you don’t need anything new –  just stick to the fundamentals:

1. Make sure your bullets prove your worth to your employer.  Did you decrease errors by 25%?  Did you increase client satisfaction by 50% … PROVE your worth!

2. Keep your format simple:  Name and contact info on the top, followed by perhaps a “Professional Summary” that quantifies your accomplishments.  Followed by a chronological list of positions (most recent first), followed by Education, followed by “Skills and Interests”.  It’s quality, quality, quality in every single line. 

3. Don’t use fancy paper – it’s not necessary.  And by all means, don’t have color.  I recently saw a resume with red in it … not a good move! 

4. Don’t fabricate a thing on your resume … everything on your resume is fair game to an interviewer.  Also, everything must be authentic but you can guestimate details from a while back.  We all don’t remember the minute details of improvements we made in the past.

5.  Keep it to one page if at all possible:  If you’ve worked for over 10 or 15 years, you can think about a 2nd page.

So now that you have my top 5 tips for a great resume … here is my article from Forbes.com:  http://www.forbes.com/2009/12/01/resume-writing-guide-leadership-careers-employment.html

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Top 10 Ways to Succeed in Business

I started to write this piece about career advice to Gen Y’ers … then realized it’s truly career advice to all. Follow this and good things are bound to happen!

1. Quality preempts quantity, at all times: Never hand in any report that hasn’t been reviewed for accuracy two or three times over. Ask a coworker to review with care. Spell check everything. Proof everything yourself because spell check doesn’t catch everything.

2. Create a powerful personal brand: be known for the person who puts in 150%, follows up when they say they will, and who produces quality work. Let your reputation precede you and everyone will want to work for you.

3. Network, network and network: network with your peers, with folks in other departments, join cross-business taskforces, with people that do your function at other companies (you meet these folks by attending conferences). Be the person who knows the most amount of people and make connections amongst them. You’ll be seen as a person of quality and “in the know”.

4. Learn something every day: we come to work to make each other smarter. There are plenty of people who can teach you something – people that are more senior, more junior or on your level. Be open to those opportunities and give credit where credit is due.

5. Lend a helping hand whenever you can: people remember others that help them along the way. Look for opportunities to do so.

6. Have an updated resume at all times: you tend to forget some of your quantifiable accomplishments and updating your resume every 3 months ensures you capture the very best projects you’ve worked on … and should a position present itself outside of the company, you can interview without hesitation and without rushing to put together a powerful resume. It also makes you feel more confident and professional.

7. Lead whatever initiatives you can: United Way Campaigns, Corporate Responsibility Taskforces, Softball team organizers … this allows you to get to know a lot of folks and putting on quality initiatives are always a good way to shine.

8. Find a mentor or a few mentors: mentors can help you navigate a very rocky landscape and having their input could make all the difference in the choices/decisions you make. They also watch out for you when you aren’t around, putting in good words for you when they are needed the most – like in a roundtable talent discussion

9. Ask your boss for feedback: it shows you are mature and willing to learn. Never get defensive, and LISTEN carefully to what is said. Work to improve in a passionate way, take advantage of whatever internal trainings are offered.

10. Enjoy your day: we are at work for 8 – 10 hours and sometimes more. Enjoy your day. Get along with people around you. Don’t take things personally. Ten hours is a long time to spend not liking other individuals … look for ways to like almost everyone you can. It takes a lot less energy than disliking them!

Filed under: career coaching, philosophy, , , , ,

SixFigureStart Talks About Intergenerational Differences For PCTV

See Donna Scimia, producer of Taming the Cubicle Jungle, interview Caroline Ceniza-Levine about the challenges and opportunities for companies with four generations in the workplace:


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How to Negotiate a Better Severance Package

Here is an interview I did with ABCNews.com about how to negotiate for a better severance package.  Remember – everything is negotiable so use whatever advantages you have to increase your package.


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Diary of a Job Seeker

When you are searching  for a job, sometimes it’s helpful to observe how others conduct their search.  I worked with Vinh for about 2 years at Merrill and found him to be a breath of fresh air in the workplace.  He cared about doing an exceptional job, he always did more than was asked, and he was sooo easy to get along with!   These strengths, in addition to his writing skills, will get Vinh placed … it’s just a matter of time.  Here is a window in to his job search, which is taking place in Seattle.  At the very least, it should relax you and put a job search in perspective.  Enjoy!


It is nearing two full months into the job search now in Seattle. Where I sit and write, the water glimmers in the hour before dusk. The houses across the bay of the Puget Sound waters sit like gentle giants on the bank. Their windows gaze listlessly across the waters as they wait for their owners to return from a day at the office.

These days, my office is the local library. The library is perfectly outfitted for my needs. I use the internet, ask questions of the librarians, and take a break to look up at the young people and old people who are blissfully unaware of my job search. It’s nice to know life goes on.

Today, I planned details for a local expert on job searches to speak at the library for its month of programs on supporting job seekers. It’s my volunteer effort for the library. I didn’t manage to send out the applications I intended today. However, in speaking with the local authority on job searches about the library’s program, I learned from him about an interesting job lead. This is serendipity.

I do have a job plan of course.  Thankfully, the job plan allows time for supportive activities like gym, volunteering, and serendipity. Most days I accomplish everything on my list. Other days, things of high value gets done. And at the end of the day, I make sure I come to a place where I can look at the waters and I imagine life beyond the job search.

Vinh Do is a freelance writer based in Seattle. He writes essays about art, literature, and culture.  Vinhdox@gmail.com.

Filed under: career coaching, life coaching, , , ,

Severance Packages: How to Negotiate EVERYTHING about them

A lot of people don’t realize that they can negotiate quite a bit regarding their severance package.   Yes, an employer can always say no, but remember, most managers laying people off want to help in any way possible so test your limits by following the advice I gave in this recent interview:


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SixFigureStart Interview with Liz Lynch, author of Smart Networking

I highly recommend Liz Lynch’s new book, Smart Networking.  I’ve been a subscriber to Liz’ networking newsletter for awhile, and she has put her best advice and examples in the book.  Covering both in person and online, the book is great for people new to networking as well as the experienced networker.  I especially loved her emphasis on doing what feels comfortable to you, while at the same time encouraging us to stretch.  Liz graciously answered some of my questions about networking and Gen Y specifically:

When if anytime is your networking advice different for Gen Y (or X or Boomers or Traditionalists)?

My advice to networkers is pretty universal because the fundamentals of building relationships and tapping into them are the same whether you’re 25 or 65. What might be different, though, are the tools that different generations are comfortable using. I have some older clients who can’t understand why they need to be involved with online networking, and by the same token, Gen Y’ers might think there’s no need to ever meet someone face-to-face. But I really think we’re at the stage where there are enough people in both camps that being able to integrate both in-person and online networking strategies and to do both well, will help you succeed much faster.
Are there specific networking protocols you recommend when dealing inter-generationally?

You always want to be mindful of your audience and adjust your communication style. Think about how differently you might ask your five-year old to close a door than you would ask your boss (well, maybe it wouldn’t be THAT different!). Keep in mind that making the decision to help you will be determined by that other person, so if you can make them comfortable with you by communicating with them in the words and in the methods that they’re most used to, you’ll have a greater chance of getting their cooperation.
What is the biggest networking pet peeve you’ve heard about Gen Y?

That they want instant gratification and expect things to happen quickly. Sometimes it does. You meet someone, hit it off and there’s a perfect fit. They’re able to help you right away because you happen to be at the right place at the right time. Usually, though, relationships take longer to build, and it takes a few conversations before someone gets to know, like and trust you enough to put their own reputations on the line to help you.
What is the biggest networking success story you’ve heard about Gen Y?

One of the stories in Smart Networking is about Mike Germano, who was fresh out of college when he ran for town council in Hamden, Connecticut in 2005. Being very social networking savvy, he used Facebook and MySpace to find like-minded students in his network and in his voting district, and to create support groups and fundraising events. He won by a landslide, making him one of the youngest politicians in Connecticut’s history, and throughout his term, continued to use social media to communicate with his constituency. He’s since parlayed that expertise into his own social media consulting firm, Carrot Creative, helping clients like Major League Baseball.

If someone is new to online networks or doesn’t have time to follow all, which one do you most recommend for Gen Y jobseekers?  Why? 

For jobseeking, start with LinkedIn. More and more, recruiters and hiring managers are using it to fill positions by sending job postings to their networks. Having your complete profile up on the site and building out your connections with people you already know, will help you be in the flow of that kind of information when it comes up. You can also use it for active job searching by researching companies you’re interested in working for and seeing who in your network might be able to provide an in.

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