Monthly Archives: March 2010


Don’t work for free in a job interview

by: Aaron Crowe

One thing I’ve run into again and again in job interviews is being asked for my feedback on the employer‘s Web site and how to make it better.

I usually offer a few ideas and offer some ways to improve it, but don’t go into an exhaustive overview. After all, I’m not working for the company and don’t want to give them all of my ideas without getting paid or researching it more with other workers.

So I was a little taken aback last month when after a job interview, an employer e-mailed me and invited me to a second interview and asked me to review its Web site for content. I’m a journalist, so doing that is no problem, but the same situation could apply to any job seeker being asked for feedback.

It’s great to offer original ideas in job interviews, but throwing out everything you have at a job interview is giving away too much. I called and interviewed, via e-mail, a few career experts, and while some of the advice they offered is conflicting, it’s probably best to offer at least some strong feedback before courteously declining to offer more until you’re hired.

Don’t give free advice.

“I would tell people if you want to hire me, hire me, and I’ll fix it,” said Mitch Beck, president of Crossroads Consulting, an employment agency and executive search firm in Monroe, Connecticut.

“I am firmly against people giving away something for nothing,” said Beck, who likens such requests from hiring managers as robbery.

A consulting fee should be arranged if the work adds up to a few hours or more, he said. Otherwise it’s just free temp work being provided. Beck said he has a friend who did $2,000 worth of work for a company he was interviewing at, but withdrew his application when Beck told him to not do any more work for free until the company made him a job offer. If the company wanted to talk to him more without a job offer, he’d bill them for the work he had done.

“Anything worth doing is worth doing for money,” Beck said.

Companies can get away with this tactic because the economy is so bad and what used to take two weeks to fill a job can now stretch to a few months as they interview 10 people instead of three, Beck said. Companies can afford to be picky.

Give a little.

“You should not give away all your cookies,” but give the interviewer two ideas but not the entire thinking behind them, said Kevin Donlin, co-author with David Perry of Guerilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0.

Businesses will spend a tremendous amount of time getting people in for interviews, so gathering ideas for a problem they have makes sense for a short-term solution, but it won’t lead to the unique thinking each job candidate has, Perry told me in a telephone interview.

“You’re not necessarily going there to solve the problem,” Perry said. “You’re going there to show them you can think.”

What you don’t want to do in a job interview is close the door by accusing an employer of ripping you off and that you’ll give more ideas when you’re hired, Perry and Donlin agreed. It’s a bad foot on which to start a business relationship, they said.

Solve another problem.

Instead of answering their question directly and giving specific responses to their company’s problem, get them to explain what they’re looking for and tell them some stories about situations in which you’ve solved similar problems, recommends Stephen Balzac, president of 7 Steps Ahead, a management consulting firm.

Focus on the results you obtained, not how you arrived at that solution, so the employer can see you as “the” person to solve their problems.

“Don’t be afraid to give examples on-the-spot about how you would go about doing something because it shows the interviewer you’re results-oriented,” career expert Heather R. Huhman, who founded Come Recommended, said in an e-mail.

“However, don’t give away the farm. Add something along the lines of ‘If I’m selected for this position, I can produce those results and more’ to the end of your suggestions,” Huhman wrote.

Stress other factors.

You can give them an answer, but explain that anyone can pick up a book or read a case study and arrive at the same solution you’re suggesting. But the solution is a long way from applying it correctly on the ground, said J.R. Rodrigues, co-founder of a company that makes the Job Hunt Express software.

“My advice is to freely and wholeheartedly share your thoughts and opinions and experiences with the inquiring party,” Rodrigues wrote in an e-mail. “Just be sure to continually remind the person that it is the nitty gritty details, the perseverance, the discipline, the ability to adapt quickly to changes, etc., that makes implementing such a solution most effective.”

If it’s a problem you could solve in a few hours, then what would you do on the job after the first few hours? Show your insight and good decision-making skills — those are what employers want to hire and not just someone with a quick solution in an interview, recommended Steven D. Davies, president of PerfectJob Software.

Turn the tables.

Perhaps the most interesting advice is from Donlin, the guerilla marketing expert. When asked for solutions to a company’s problems, he suggests asking them what keeps them up at night about their competition.

Find out five things that worry them about their competition. After the interview, go to your car and call the company’s competitors and tell them that you’ve just learned what is keeping the company you just interviewed at up at night. Or at least entice them with that information. It should get you at least a few more job interviews.

It’s fair to use that information to further your own needs, Donlin said. If an employer wants to pick your brain in a job interview, you might as well pick theirs.

All is fair in love and war, and in the job search.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area who can be found at


We were contacted recently by Amanda Koehler, Associate Editor for ADVANCE for Medical Laboratory Professionals and asked, along with some other experts in the field our thoughts on interviewing. Here is the article:

Interview Don’ts

Stay away from these snafus.

By Amanda Koehler

Sure, you’ve been told what to do during an interview. Maintain good posture. Have a strong handshake. Be timely when arriving to your interview. Wear appropriate clothing. But have you ever been specifically told what not to do during the interview process?

Sometimes it’s important to be aware of the interview “no-nos.” “If you know what not to do, you will decrease the probability of making choices during an interview that will likely prevent you from getting hired,” explained Brent Peterson, PMP, MS, MBA, creator and president, Interview Angel. “You do not have to conduct a perfect interview to get a job offer, but you do need to avoid some fatal mistakes.”

So what should you not do during an interview? Read on to avoid some specific interview faux pas and help yourself get that dream job.

Don’t Arrive Too Early

Punctuality is an important trait to have, especially when it comes arriving on time for your job interview. However, can you ever arrive at an interview too early? Our experts say “yes.”

“Think about it. If the interview is scheduled for 10 a.m. and you arrive at 9:15 a.m., the receptionist will call and announce your arrival, or the interviewer will see you are very early and feel pressured to begin the interview early,” noted Julie Bauke, owner, Congruity Consulting LLC, and author of Stop Peeing on Your Shoes: Avoiding the Seven Mistakes That Screw Up Your Job Search. “When I was in a hiring position, it would mildly annoy me the person apparently couldn’t tell time. It could also say, ‘I’m desperate or I don’t have anything else to do.’”

Being “on time” for an interview means being 10-15 minutes early maximum. Bauke advised if you do arrive to the facility early, sit in your car and review your résumé. If you’re driving in an unfamiliar area, do a dry run a few days before your interview to find the location.

Don’t Dish on Your Current Employer

It’s pretty much inevitable: the interviewer will ask you about your current job and why you want to leave it. This is not the time to talk about your hateful boss, your lazy coworkers or your awful hours.

“You should not say anything negative or personal about your current employer. Keep all comments professional and positive, regardless of how you may feel,” Peterson advised.

Bauke noted it’s OK to say your current job isn’t a good fit for you, but don’t go into too much negative detail. “It may be 100 percent true your current job is a place full of crazies, but your interviewer has no context of that. He may be thinking, ‘Maybe she is the crazy one,” she said. “Don’t put him in the position to decide who to believe.”

Don’t Wing It

Not preparing for an interview is a huge “don’t.” Always remember to review your résumé and think of answers to possible interview questions (such as, “Tell me about yourself? Why did you leave your last job? What are your strengths and weaknesses?”). It’s a great idea to have a family member, friend or even a career coach give you a mock interview to prepare.

“Don’t walk in cold. That’s a guarantee you won’t get the job,” stressed Mitch Beck, president, Crossroads Consulting LLC.

Beck also noted knowing information about the place where you’re interviewing is crucial. “Companies like to know you did the research. Google the company, read articles, look up financials and their stock ticker, if that’s available. Even Google the gal who’s going to interview you,” he said. “People think they have to think on the fly [during an interview]. If you’ve already done your research, there’s nothing to think about than to answer the questions as best as you possibly can.”

“Even in a strong economy, there is competition for job opportunities. Today, competition for jobs is intense,” Peterson told ADVANE. “If you wing it and an equally qualified candidate thoroughly prepares for the interview, who do you think will get hired?”

Another good reason not to wing it is the interviewer might assume you’ll “wing it” while doing your job as well, Bauke added.

Don’t Be a Blabbermouth

It’s easy to understand why people might talk too much during an interview. For some people, excessive talking is a sign of nervousness. That being said, try not to do it.

“The interviewer has a lot he wants to learn about you–let him ask the questions he wants to ask,” Bauke said. “Answer the questions and shut up. The interviewer may be thinking you will also talk non-stop on the job.”

If nerves are your problem, remember the interviewer is probably just as nervous as you are, but she just isn’t showing it, Beck said.

Don’t Forget to Ask Your Own Questions

This interview is a two-way street. Just as it’s important for the interviewer to ask you questions to determine if you are a good fit for the facility, it’s also key you ask the interviewer questions about the job to see if the facility is a good fit for you.

Beck suggested bringing a notebook with questions you have for the interviewer. This is helpful in case you get nervous and forget the questions you wanted to ask. “If you don’t ask questions, it shows you have zero interest. If you have any interest at all in the job, it’s now your turn to interview them,” he said.

“Organizations want to hire people who want to be there, someone who is truly interested and has invested time in learning about them,” Bauke explained. “They don’t want someone who just wants a job. If he has answered everything you could possibly want to know about the company and job, ask the interviewer about himself–how long he has been there, what he likes about it, etc. Remember, people love to talk about themselves!”

Peterson mentioned having good questions for the interviewer can make you stand out in the candidate pool. An example of a smart question to ask is, “What is the most important contribution you would expect from me during the first 90 days?”


Phone Interview Don’ts

Phone interviews are becoming more popular, sometimes as an early screening process or if you are currently living far away from your potential new job. But just because you aren’t sitting in a conference room face-to-face with your interviewer, that doesn’t mean you should take a phone interview less seriously.

Don’t sit around in your pajamas with your hair a mess during a phone interview. You don’t have to wear a three-piece suit, but take a shower and dress up a little. It’ll make you feel more professional during the phone interview.

Bauke also said to make sure you are not multitasking during your interview. Don’t answer e-mails, make lunch, watch TV or drive while you are speaking to your interviewer. Peterson added to make sure you are in a place without a lot of background noise.

Other Don’ts

Salary is always a touchy subject during the interview process. Bauke suggested not bringing the subject of your paycheck up during your first interview. “Let them get to know you first. The more they decide they have to have you, the more flexible they will be when it comes to salary,” she added.”

She said if salary doesn’t come up by the end of the second interview, it’s OK to ask, “Can you give me an idea of the salary range for this position and the company benefits?” Even though you should know what your personal expected range is when it comes to salary for that position, don’t reveal your bare minimum number to the interview.

Even though it might seem like common sense, Beck said don’t ever go to an interview in unacceptable attire. “I don’t care if you’re going to an interview for a dog groomer or a car mechanic position, you wear a suit and a tie,” he noted. “Even if the place is a casual environment, it’s about showing respect.”

No matter how much you may need this job, don’t let it come through during the interview. “You could be down to your last dollar, but never, ever, ever act desperate. They don’t need to know that. You don’t want to give the impression this is your last chance in life. If they are interested in you, they then know they don’t have to pay you as much; they’ll know you’ll take anything,” Beck explained.

Peterson said his most important “don’t” deals with the “who you know” concept. “Don’t ever assume your résumé and connections will automatically get you hired,” he stressed. “Those two factors may get you the interview, but it’s the interview that gets you the job.”

Bauke said not to forget to ask about the hiring process works and when you should be expecting a response so you can follow up appropriately. “Your follow-up strategy–and your expectations–will vary greatly depending on whether they will be making a decision tomorrow or 3 weeks from tomorrow,” she said.

Amanda Koehler ( is associate editor of ADVANCE.

Additional Don’ts

Don’t leave your cell phone on during the interview. “I don’t care if your wife is 8 months pregnant, shut off your cell phone. Nothing is so critical it can’t wait an hour. This shows respect during the interview, and it’s important.” –Beck

Don’t get thrown with the “what are your weaknesses?” question. “No matter what you say, it’s going to bite you in the butt. What I’ve learned over the years from my experience is people want to know whether you can follow directions or not. So for example, you could say, ‘I don’t see any glaring weaknesses, but I can tell you this, I know I’m not perfect. I know you’re going to find different things you’d want me to work on, and I will be willing to work on them. I’m open to constructive criticism.’” — Beck

Don’t assume the interviewer has your résumé. “Have extras available. If they tell you you’re going to be meeting with three people, make sure you have six copies. This shows you are prepared, and you never know, you may need all of them.” — Beck

Don’t lie. “Tell the truth. The truth is the easiest story to remember.” — Beck

Don’t give a limp handshake. “Don’t ever give somebody the dead fish grip. It’s gross. What kind of a handshake is that? Fist bumps don’t work either!” — Beck

Don’t wipe your hand on your pants post-handshake. “What you do with your hand after you shake someone else’s says a lot. If you wipe your hand on your pants, it’s like saying, ‘I want your disease off of me.’ Even if his hand is sweaty, don’t do that. If your hand is sweaty, make sure to wipe your hand off before you have to see him.” — Beck

Don’t be afraid to ask what you did wrong during the interview. “There’s nothing wrong at all in asking someone for a critique. It’s showing you care. People are terrified to find out they did something bad, but wouldn’t you want to know if you screwed up so you can make it right the next time?” — Beck

Don’t give the wrong answers. “Sometimes your answers simply are not good enough. This usually happens when your skills/experience/strengths are not directly connected to the position. Many people will have a set speech in all interviews; however, if your skills are not catered to that specific position and interview, then this will come off as unprepared.” — David Couper, career life coach

Don’t forget to react. “An interview is more than just question and answer time. You need to connect to your interviewer and prove there is a spark, a personality behind the words. Make eye contact, smile, use your hands, concentrate on your mannerisms and show enthusiasm. After all, no one wants to hire a robot, even if he has all the right answers. You need to make your presence known.” — Couper

Don’t come sick. “Be sure you are healthy or take over-the-counter meds to be sure you are not sniffling, coughing or sneezing.” — Jim Villwock, founder and chief job doctor, Job Doctors International LLC

Don’t cross your arms. “Even if you have a faulty internal temperature control device like me, do not fold your arms around yourself to keep warm. Crossing your arms makes you appear insecure, uncomfortable, defensive or close minded, none of which will be received positively during an interview.” — Abby Kohut, president and staffing consultant, Staffing Symphony LLC

–Don’t forget the interviewer’s name. “Using it during your interview will help you remember it and create a connection.” — Heather R. Huhman, founder and president, Come Recommended

Don’t argue with the interviewer for any reason. “This will not get you anywhere.” — Huhman

Don’t forget to thank them. “Always–I repeat, always–send a thank you note at every stage of the hiring process, to every individual with whom you speak or meet. As usual, send an e-mail thank you within 24 hours and for that added touch, also send a shorter, handwritten thank you note via snail mail.”– Huhman

–Don’t take yourself too seriously. “Laugh with the hiring manager. It could help you land the job!” –Huhman

Don’t come to the interview with moral support. “Bringing your parents or a friend will not impress your potential employer.” — Huhman


In this, the last of our rour part series we look at some of the most important factors in the process.


Be prepared for the difficult questions like, what is your area of weakness? What would you most like to improve on? These are known as knock-out questions. They are designed for you to expose some area of weakness that would prevent a company from hiring you. Over the years we’ve heard candidate after candidate tell us they know just how to answer them and we listen and have to correct them as they’ve answered in a way that, quite frankly, explains why they’re still interviewing and not in the job they’re after. We’ve found that answering the question any way other than what we’re about to share with you kills your chances.   

Can you keep a secret? We can’t let too many people know it or it might stop working? SSSssshhhh! Here it is…he says in a whisper. 

“I consider myself to be a very good (whatever) but I am not perfect and I am sure over the course of my employment here you are going to find things that you want me to work on and I want to assure you that I am open to constructive criticism when it arrives.” 

Now, keep that one to yourself. It could be the difference between you getting the job and the others not. This answer speaks to your confidence in your abilities and also says to the interviewer that you are open to constructive criticism which is always good. The whole point is not to give them something to rule you out over but to leave them with a positive.  


Close the Sale…When you are on an interview with the hiring manager…not HR, more on that in a moment, and you like what you are hearing, and ONLY if you are ready to move forward, (this is EXCEPTIONALLY important for people on Sales job interviews) ask for the job. Tell the interviewer “I like what I am hearing here today and I know I’ll be successful here at (whatever the company’s name is). So, how do I become a member of your team?” 

Asking for the job can be the difference between getting hired and not. 

Nobody likes to ask someone to the prom if they don’t think they are going to get a yes. It also  demonstrates to this potential employer that you can make decisions. 

When you are with Human Resources remember that unless you’re interviewing for an HR job, someone in Human Resources can only say, “No” and not “Yes.” You should also ask them, or any subordinates or other interviewers during the process if their recommendation to the hiring manager is going to be a positive one or not? If you get an honest person they will tell you and then you can work on turning that frown upside down. Ask them f they are not sure how you can change that view. In other words what additional information do you need to make clear to that person and what will it take to get a positive recommendation moving forward. 

Understand this; once you leave that interviewer there is nothing you can do about their reaction to you. If it was positive for them then, mission accomplished. If it’s not, then you didn’t get it done. Rule number one in the guide to show business, and it applies here as well, “Always leave them wanting more…” 


We could write a whole book on this, but let’s make it clear.  Never tell a company what money you want. You tell them your currently base, and if you have additional earnings that you can PROVE with a tax return or W2 and that’s it. 

The bottom line in salary negotiation is, “He who talks first loses.” Let them make you an offer and deal with it then.  


Get business cards with their e-mail address from everyone you meet and interview with. DON’T snail mail a thank-you note. Those days are gone. As soon as you get home write an email, individualized to each person you met including something that made that particular meeting of note and get it out to them immediately. We’ll go over poper thank you notes at another time. 

Should you wish to contact us or discuss anything feel free to give us a call at 203-459-9969 or email us at info at crossroadsconsulting dot com (sorry that we have to have you spell it out…we’re tired of spam…aren’t you? :) 



We’ve had two posts to this point discussing interviews and proper preparation. We’ve come to the third part of  our four part series.


Be sure to arrive at least 15-20 Minutes early to fill out whatever paperwork/application the company has.



If asked to fill out an application of some sort, fill it out completely and do NOT skip anything. The single most important piece of advice would be to NEVER write “see resume”. A company is looking to see if you can follow directions and not take unnecessary short-cuts. Many interviews have been blown right there.


Establish the Tone with a FIRM Handshake. Skip the disgusting dead fish or leper grip. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of one of those you understand it…its pretty gross. Giving an interviewer an unsettling feeling before you’ve even said a word is almost impossible to overcome.



To eliminate that terrible “Pit feeling” people can get in their stomach during an interview, sit up straight in the chair. Put your butt all the way to the back of the chair and make sure you can feel your shoulder blades on the back of the chair as well. This does two things.

1)     The slouched seating position collapses the diaphragm which will makes it more difficult to breathe & to talk which is where the “pit” feeling and nerves come from.

2)     The other benefit is that when you sit up straight it lifts your chest up which creates an image of confidence and someone who is in a “Position of Authority” In other words, this situation does not intimidate you and neither will anything that is thrown at you in the course of your employment.


Be very outgoing and personable. Remember to smile…people hire those people that they like and a smile will make your interviewer feel all warm and fuzzy.


Make direct eye contact. Eyes darting all over the room gives interviewers the impression that you are lying… making things up or searching for something to say. You also come off looking weak and unsure of yourself.


ABSOLUTELY shut off any cell phones or pagers!!!


DO NOT INTERRUPT THE PERSON SPEAKING WITH YOU! Remember that’s why you brought your notepad with you in the first place. When someone is speaking and they say something that you want to ask about, write down some key words and come back to it at an appropriate time.


Under NO circumstances should you ever make personal or NEGATIVE Comments about former employers. Interviewers feel like “what would they say about me?” It’s a super NO-NO!

We would like to have this blog be more interactive. If you have a comment, a question or a suggestion we would love to hear it from you.

Should you wish to contact us or discuss anything feel free to give us a call at 203-459-9969 or email us at info at crossroadsconsulting dot com (sorry that we have to have you spell it out…we’re tired of spam…aren’t you? :)