Video Interview Tips in the Pandemic World

[This article was updated in July 2022]

One of my favorite cartoon TV shows from childhood was The Jetsons. For those of us who grew up with George Jetson and his world (or caught it later in syndication) it was an ultra-cool vision of an imagined future told from a 1960’s point of view. Like many other science fiction shows of that era — most notably Star Trek — many of the fictional technologies and tools that those shows’ writers portrayed have proven to be amazingly accurate predictors of things that we actually now use here in the 21st century. Who can forget George video-chatting with his wife Jane, or being yelled at by his boss, Mr. Spacely, on a video screen — the standard way everyone communicated in The Jetsons’ world. Video conferencing was a concept that seemed so far-fetched and futuristic at that time. Well … welcome to the future! In today’s Pandemic World, the seemingly overnight acceptance of Zoom, Teams, Skype, Facetime and numerous other video conferencing applications has made this once futuristic looking technology a commonplace everyday occurrence.

The world we now live in has made working and collaborating remotely the new normal. Companies have jumped onto the Video Conferencing bandwagon as a way of replacing in-person meetings that are simply no longer possible or practical — not to mention that video meetings are safer and more cost-effective. (No more commute times, travel & lodging expenses, masks, social distancing, plexiglass barriers, etc.) Meetings with multiple participants in far-flung locations are now routinely conducted online, using web-based video conferencing programs. And when it comes to hiring practices, companies are now regularly interviewing job applicants using these same video conferencing tools. Even if the job itself will require being on-site, video interviews are typically conducted as a first step before a candidate is invited in for an in-person interview. While seeing someone on a computer screen is certainly not as effective as an actual face-to-face meeting — there is no question that it is WAY better than a mere audio phone conversation. The added dimension of seeing a person’s facial expressions, body language, eye contact, etc. gives a much more in-depth impression of the person you are communicating with.

I thought it might be useful to publish some advice and tips for job-seekers on how to be more effective during a Video Interview. I’ve already posted two other essential blog articles with interview tips: “Phone Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips” and “Face-to-Face Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips.” Both of those articles contain many universal interview-prep ideas that would certainly also apply to a Video Interview. Those include:

► Research the industry, the company and the players.
► Study the job description and prepare stories.
► Plan ahead to be in a quiet place, and to avoid any interruptions.
► Use the “Nuggets” technique to establish rapport.
► Project a Positive Attitude.
► Be a good listener, and never interrupt.
► Don’t bring up salary or benefits … but be prepared to answer the Dreaded Salary Question directly if asked.
► Prepare a list of questions you can ask.
► At the end of the interview, clarify the next steps.

Each of the above listed steps are detailed in those two prior interview-prep articles I mentioned, and I strongly suggest reading both of them before any Video Interview. In addition, the following are some very video-specific tips and tricks that should be useful to anyone who will be interviewed using video conferencing:

Test your video and audio BEFORE the call.
Open your video application and search for the “Device Settings,” “Tools,” or “Options” menu to test your video and audio. You’ll see a preview of your own video image, and be able to test your microphone. Make sure your equipment is working properly before your interview. You certainly don’t want to start things out with a technical glitch. When you do start the actual video session, make sure your camera is turned on. If the other person can’t see you — and you’ll know because you won’t see your own preview — then click the little “camera” icon on the Toolbar (floating either at the top or the bottom of your screen … you may have to “mouse over” it to make it appear) to activate your webcam. Then during the actual interview, periodically glance at your own preview in the corner of the screen to make sure you are lit and framed correctly, as explained below.

Choose a good setting and background, and be aware of your lighting.
Try to be in a quiet place with no distractions, like in a room with the door closed. If you are at home, or someplace where there are others around – tell everyone that you need quiet and privacy for a video interview to avoid interruptions. (Nothing sounds more unprofessional than a crying baby, screaming kids or a barking dog in the background!) One of the most common problems I’ve seen with video conferences is a person sitting with their back against a bright window. The camera auto-adjusts to the brightness of the window light, and the person’s face ends up looking like a dark silhouette. Avoid that problem by positioning yourself against a wall, with any windows being either to your side or in front of you. Adding a desk light or an inexpensive ring light aimed at your face also helps. Make sure you can see your own face clearly in your preview. Also, be aware of what’s behind you. It’s best to have a non-distracting background — a blank neutrally colored wall, or a bookcase is effective. (A view of your kitchen or your bedroom is also not likely to impress anyone with your professionalism!)

Position your camera to center your image.
Make sure your camera is steady and on the same level as your face. If it’s a laptop camera, you might have to put your computer up on a stack of books to get it centered on your face and avoid an extreme angle. (No one wants to see a view looking up your nostrils!) If you’re using a cell phone or tablet, prop it up against something solid to avoid movements — or better yet, use an inexpensive phone tripod to keep it steady and angled properly. Do NOT hold it in your hand during an interview. Position your camera (or re-position yourself) to center your face on the screen. I see this all the time — people positioned at the extreme top or bottom of the screen, with the camera cutting half of their face off at their chin, or their forehead! Pay attention to your preview. If you shift or move around during the interview, try to stay centered. Also, move in or out so that you are framed from below the shoulders to just above your head — not too extremely close, or too far back. Most webcams are fix-focused at a medium distance, so being too close or too far will make the image look blurry.

Dress for an interview.
Treat this like a traditional face-to-face interview. It’s a common mistake to think that because you are at home, you can dress casually for a video interview — that it won’t matter. Wrong! The impression you make on your video interviewer can be just as powerful as it would be in person. What you are wearing matters, and you will be judged by how you look. That’s kind of the point of video, isn’t it? They want to know how you look! Dress appropriately. I’ve actually seen candidates for executive-level positions wearing t-shirts on video interviews! Needless to say, that was not a first impression I’m likely to forget. Men: collared, button-down dress shirt, with an optional jacket. Women: wear a conservative business suit. I’ve never heard of any candidate for any job getting eliminated because they were too well dressed! Also, avoid wearing loud patterns, like stripes, that can sometimes look distracting on video.

Silence your phone and nothing in your mouth!
Before the interview starts, make sure to silence your cell phone and turn off notifications. And do not chew gum, eat or smoke. I feel like I shouldn’t even have to say that, but unfortunately I’ve seen people acting so relaxed and informal during video interviews that they actually ate their lunch, or smoked a cigarette. Needless to say, that was a huge turnoff to the interviewer — and those candidates were immediately rejected. Remember: this is not a friendly Facetime chat with a friend. It’s a Job Interview!

Look at the camera (not at the screen) to make eye-contact.
This is one of the hardest things to do. It’s everyone’s natural tendency to look at the person’s face on the screen as you are talking. The problem is, the camera is not there — it’s at the top of the screen! When you look at the middle of the screen, the other person feels that you are looking downward. As often as possible, you should look directly at that little camera when you are talking. This is a technique that TV newscasters (and media-savvy politicians) spend years learning and mastering. Instead of following the text on their teleprompters, they are taught to read with their peripheral vision while looking directly into the camera lens. Otherwise they don’t make eye contact with their TV audiences, and are perceived as being untrustworthy or “shifty.” Try practicing this technique on a video call with a friend before you do an important interview.

Inform the interviewer if you take or use notes.
If you plan on taking or using notes during the interview, tell the interviewer at the beginning. The reason for this is that your notes will most likely be below the camera’s view, and if you don’t tell them what you are doing they might assume you are looking at your phone when you look down. That would be another red flag that could get you rejected.

Pay attention to your posture.
Sit up straight in your chair. Do not slouch or lean back. From time to time, a good trick is to lean forward towards the camera a bit. When speaking, leaning forward transmits the message that you want to emphasize your point. When listening, leaning forward transmits the message that you are fully engaged in active listening.

Remember to speak clearly, and try to convey enthusiasm and energy through your tone of voice. Smiling helps (really, it does!) Smile as much as possible during the conversation. Try it … you’ll notice that you actually sound very different when you talk through a smile.

Pump up your enthusiasm.
It’s a well known fact that actions and reactions can come across somewhat differently on video than they do in a live situation. It’s a good idea to compensate for that difference by projecting extra enthusiasm, and by trying to keep your answers concise and to the point. Try to not allow too much silence or “dead air” to occur between questions and answers. At the same time, never interrupt or talk over the other person. Sometimes the audio on a video conference can have a slight delay or echo, so make sure you hear the end of the person’s last sentence before you speak. Be aware of your facial expressions and body language at all times. Remember: the video light is on … action!


February 20, 2021 at 6:36 pm Leave a comment

“Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?”

“Why did you leave your last job?” That question comes up during almost every interview, and on most job applications. Explaining why you left your last job – or for that matter, pretty much every job listed on your résumé – is something that certainly requires some thought. The answer you give must be both truthful and somehow palatable. It should ideally be easily understood and logical, and yet at the same time not cast you in a negative light to your potential future employer.

If you do not provide an explanation for why you left a job (particularly if it was a short stint) the person screening it could read it as a negative: you might be a job-hopping flight risk … you seemingly can’t hold down a job … perhaps you don’t get along with others well … there may have been performance issues that got you fired – the imagination creates all kinds of possible scenarios!

There may be perfectly acceptable reasons for why you left each job on your resume. I would advise briefly listing those reasons right next to the dates on your résumé to avoid this obvious red flag. The idea here is to be pro-active, and answer questions about why you left each job before those questions are even asked. It’s a simple thing, and yet very few people do it. You don’t need to go into long-winded or detailed explanations. All you need is a brief phrase, in parenthesis, following the dates of each short-lived position. For example: “Laid Off Due to Economic Circumstances” … or “Position Eliminated Due to Company Restructuring” … or “Company Went Out of Business,” etc. What this does is provide the screener with a perfectly valid explanation for why you left each job, and eliminates the possibility that they will imagine something much worse – i.e., that you were fired “for cause” (meaning your actions caused you to be fired) or poor performance, etc. Of course, if you actually were fired “for cause” … well, that’s another story!

Naturally, if it was your decision to leave a company and move on to another job elsewhere – it’s usually pretty easy to say something like: “Left for a better opportunity.” The problem arises when leaving was not your idea. If you were let go “for cause” it’s the most difficult scenario to explain going forward. You need to tread carefully. On the other hand, if you lost a job due to circumstances beyond your control (e.g. company-wide layoffs, poor economic conditions, etc.) then using the right euphemism can often satisfy an interviewer’s questions and explain why you left, and why there may be gaps between jobs.

Below is a list of miscellaneous terms and phrases I’ve heard over the years that one might use to explain why you left a job. Many of these phrases can be used in combination with each other. They are ordered from the most commonly used and professional-sounding, down to the most ridiculous, ill-advised and just plain funny. (Warning: Use the ones near the bottom of this list at your own risk!)

Euphemisms for Why You Left a Job:
● Laid Off
● Laid Off Due to Economic Circumstances
● Position was Eliminated
● Position was Eliminated Due to Economic Circumstances
● Downsized
● Position Required Relocation
● Department was Eliminated
● Department was Relocated
● Office was Closed
● Company Relocated
● Company was Sold
● Company Went Out of Business
● Contract was Not Renewed
● Company Streamlined
● Company Restructured
● Took Early Retirement
● Transitioned
● Optimized
● Rightsized
● Offered a Buyout
● Offered a Package
● Severenced
● Severed
● Career Downgrade
● Made Redundant
● Turned Loose
● Given Walking Papers
● Fired Without Cause
● Fired For Cause
● Axed
● Riffed
● Sacked
● Canned
● Discharged
● Let Go
● Displaced
● Decommissioned
● Involuntary Separation from Employer
● Involuntary Retirement
● Terminated
● Terminated with Prejudice
● Shown the Door
● Received a Pink Slip
● Given the Boot
● Voted Off the Island
● Put Out to Pasture
● Shit-Canned
● Went Into the Light

If you’ve heard any other euphemisms for leaving a job that aren’t already included on this list … feel free to add your new terms in the comments section below!

July 24, 2018 at 4:45 pm Leave a comment

What Recruiters Say vs. What Job-Seekers Hear

I recently came across an interesting InfoGraphic published by an organization called MedReps — a job site geared towards Medical Sales jobs. While that site focuses on a specific industry niche, the InfoGraphic is quite universal in its message to job-seekers of all types. Basically, it uses a number of well documented statistics (annotated at the bottom) to illustrate the typical gap between what recruiters say to job-seekers, and how those things are often misinterpreted by job-seekers who “hear what they want to hear.” Many of the messages shown in this InfoGraphic are great pieces of solid advice on how to best work with recruiters. [Read “The Real Truth About Working with Recruiters” for more info on this topic.]

Among the many messages contained in this InfoGraphic that I think are especially important for all job-seekers:
► Constantly continue your personal networking activities in addition to working with recruiters.
► Only apply to jobs that you are truly qualified for — don’t try to stretch your qualifications or mislead recruiters with exaggerated information.
► Try to clarify the hiring timetables for any positions you discuss, and the expectations for follow-up communications with recruiters you speak with.
► Keep in touch with any recruiters you are working with, but don’t over do it. Remember: recruiters don’t find Jobs for People … they find People for Jobs — a very different concept!

So here it is. (You can click on the image below to open a full-sized version in a new tab. Then click it again in the new tab that opens to zoom in.)

February 14, 2017 at 11:47 am 2 comments

The Dirty Truth About Misleading Unemployment Statistics

(This article was updated in December 2020)

It seems like everywhere you look these days, there are headlines screaming with unemployment numbers. Statistics purporting to show how many people are working or not working are thought to be an indicator of the general health of our economy. Now we all know that news organizations have a natural tendency to sensationalize things to gain ratings. They tout numbers designed to show us that things are either getting better or getting worse, depending on what flavor of news you choose to follow. Viewers of FOX News will likely get a very different picture of things than viewers of CNBC or CNN. Lately I’ve been seeing headlines with statements like “Unemployment Rates Dropping,” and “Applications for Jobless Benefits Falling” and “Employers Adding New Jobs.” The government loves to brag about their wonderful accomplishments. Presidents love to claim that things are better than they used to be, and take credit for improving our lives during their time in office. But are those statements and statistics meaningful and accurate? Do they tell the whole story?

Statistics are an interesting thing. It’s been said that you can prove or disprove just about anything with statistics depending on what your sample is, how you count things, and how you interpret the results. At the height of the most recent recession — around the end of 2009 — the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the national unemployment rate to be around 10%. By February 2020, that number was down to 3.4%. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and by April 2020 the number shot back up to 14.7%.   By November 2020 as a slow recovery began to take effect, it came back down to 6.7%.  But here’s the dirty truth about those numbers: they are only counting a small percentage of the actual potential workforce population. They are NOT counting people who are “underemployed” — i.e. people who have taken low-paying jobs well below their experience level just to pay their bills. They are NOT counting people who have taken part-time jobs — in some cases just a few hours a week, and usually without any benefits. And most importantly, they are NOT counting people who have been out of work for so long that they’ve become discouraged and have “given up” looking for a job altogether. For anyone in those last categories, these government statistics are a cruel joke, indeed!

Check out this 2-minute video cartoon that explains how the government arrives at their unemployment statistics. It’s both hilarious and depressing at the same time:

So, what is the “truth” about the current unemployment picture? Again, it depends on how you count things … but here’s an interesting tidbit I came across: According to the Gallup organization, 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. Gallup defines a “good job” as one that is at least 30 hours or more per week with a company that provides a regular paycheck. Using that definition, they’ve recently determined that in the U.S., only 44% of adults age 18 and over have “good jobs.” They go on to say that in order to restore America’s middle class, the target for this should be at least 50%, with 10 million new good jobs.

Elsewhere, AP reported that U.S. employers added hundreds of thousands of jobs, but despite widespread job growth, overall there is a shrinking workforce. As as recruiter, I can certainly attest to the fact that in almost every specialized job category, there are more job openings than there are qualified candidates! I keep hearing the term “Talent War.” Among my peers in the staffing industry, there is a widespread feeling that qualified talent is getting harder and harder to find in almost every category.

One of the most obvious explanations for this growing talent shortage is simple demographics. In 2011, the oldest of the Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) started turning 65 — the traditional retirement age. Of course more and more people now expect to keep working past the age of 65 … but sooner or later just about everyone reaches an age where full-time work is no longer a desirable option. We are now seeing the beginning of a mass retirement movement unprecedented in American history – a radical demographic shift in the makeup of our work force. All told, there are about 76 million people in that Boomer generation who will, over the next couple of decades, drop out of the work force. By contrast, there are only about 51 million “Generation X’ers” (people born between 1965 and 1976) who could potentially step into all those higher level jobs that the Boomers are retiring from. That leaves a huge talent deficit: at least 25 million fewer potential experienced workers!!!

OK — so what does this all mean to the average job-seeker? Honestly, not much. It’s really mostly just background noise. For anyone in job-seeking mode, my advice is to take most of what you see and hear in the news with a grain of salt and just concentrate on the basics of job-seeking strategies as expounded in the numerous articles here in Recruiter Musings. Work on your résumé, work on your elevator pitch, work on your interview presentation, and most importantly, concentrate on the activities that will get you in front of actual decision-makers at your target companies: “Networking, Networking, Networking!”

July 23, 2015 at 2:57 pm 4 comments

Job-Seekers’ Top-10 Lists and New Year’s Resolutions

Every year around December, people in the media seem to feel compelled to wrap up each outgoing year with various Top-10 Lists – usually featuring news events, movies, songs, TV shows, books, etc. Each December since I started Recruiter Musings back in 2009 (our visitor count recently surpassed 1 Million hits and we’re still going strong!) I’ve been posting a couple of my own “Top-10 Lists” for Job-Seekers, as well as a list of suggested New Year’s Resolutions for Job-Seekers. In reviewing those prior lists, I found that they are mostly still very relevant and timely! Oh sure, a lot has changed in the world during the last few years. But in terms of my view of the most annoying and the most helpful things for job-seekers … well, my opinions and suggestions have aged well! I’m still very annoyed by people who don’t return phone calls, and I still think Twitter is a huge waste of time! And I’m still a firm believer in the power of Networking as the number one job-seeking methodology with the best chances for success. Likewise, my suggested New Year’s Resolutions from the last few years are still the same ones I’d advise today’s job-seekers to aspire to for the coming year.

Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, I simply went back and re-edited the past year’s postings to make sure they were still accurate and up-to-date so that I could simply refer back to them. (By referring back to those newly edited original posts instead of re-posting them as new, the readers’ comments at the bottom of each of those articles have also been preserved.) SO … here are the links:


 Top 10 Most Annoying Things for Job-Seekers

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things for Job-Seekers

 New Year’s Resolutions for Job-Seekers


December 1, 2014 at 11:56 am Leave a comment

The Truth About Lying On Résumés

When I was just starting my career as a recruiter, a well-known trainer at my firm would often utter a phrase that used to bother me a lot. He’d say: “All candidates lie on their résumés.” (It reminded me of Hugh Laurie on the TV show House M.D. and his famous pronouncement: “Everybody lies … the only variable is about what.”) Maybe I’m just naive — or perhaps I’m just a trusting person by nature — but I’d like to believe that most people are honest and ethical, and would not intentionally lie or deceive me with false information on their résumés. Still, I know that sometimes people exaggerate, omit things, or stretch the truth here and there to inflate their profiles.

Over the years I’ve worked with a multitude of job-seekers on how to improve their résumés. While I would NEVER encourage anyone to lie or fabricate anything, I do often tell people that unlike a job application, a résumé is not a legal document and there is no requirement that it must contain a complete history of everything you’ve ever done. It should be truthful … but it’s up to each person to decide what to include or not include. For example, I sometimes tell people to not include the months in the dates listed next to each job – instead, showing them only as a range of years. That can often avoid the red flag of seeing brief periods of unemployment between jobs. (See example.) I’ve also advised people that it’s OK to leave off jobs in their work history (especially if they were short-lived) that were unrelated to their main industry or niche. But those omissions are very different than outright lying, or making claims about positions you’ve held or degrees you’ve earned that are simply not true.

The following is a fascinating InfoGraphic I found called “The Truth About Lying on Résumés.” The statistics quoted below were compiled from surveys conducted in 2012 by Accu-Screen (a background checking company,) ADP (a Payroll Services company) and The Society of Human Resource Managers. I have no way of knowing if this is a truly accurate picture of today’s truthfulness (or lack thereof) of the multitudes of résumés I review every week … but I can only hope that the ones I see are more honest than this suggests …

(You can click on the image below to open a full-sized version in a new window. Then click it again in the second window that opens to zoom in.)

Now one would think that in today’s Social Media-saturated world, and especially with the advent of LinkedIn, false claims on résumés would be a rare occurrence. After all, everyone’s past employers and co-workers can now easily view everyone else’s profiles. If someone was less than truthful about their work history, they would be immediately exposed … right? Well, perhaps not. Unless someone is called as a reference, or has a particular axe to grind, most people probably wouldn’t take the time to blow the whistle on someone else even if they see blatantly false information on their online profiles.

Of course, anyone in a highly public position is much more vulnerable than the average worker. Certainly, there have been many examples over the years of famous people who have been caught lying on their résumés in order to get jobs.

Famous Résumé Liars:

► President Joe Biden first ran for president in 1988, but during that campaign it was discovered that he lied about attending law school on a full scholarship (he had only a partial scholarship) and about graduating in the top half of his class (he was 76th out of 85.) When the truth came out, Biden had to abandon his presidential bid. Apparently voters in 2008, 2012 and 2020 had either not heard of that earlier history of lying — or didn’t care!

► In 2012, Scott Thompson, CEO of Yahoo!, was fired after only 5 months on the job when it was discovered that he had lied on his résumé. He had stated that he earned degrees in both Accounting AND Computer Science, when in fact he never received the latter.

► In 2007, Marilee Jones, the Dean of Admissions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology resigned after 28 celebrated years at M.I.T. when it became know that she had fabricated her own educational credentials. She claimed to have earned degrees from 3 different colleges: Albany Medical College, Union College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In fact, she had no degrees at all! Rensselaer said she only attended as a part-time student during one school year. The other two colleges said they had no record of her.

► In 2006, Dave Edmondson, the CEO of RadioShack, was fired after 11 years with the company when it was revealed that he had lied on his résumé. He had claimed he held degrees in Psychology and Theology from Pacific Coast Baptist College in California. In fact, he never graduated. The school’s records showed Edmondson completed only two semesters, and that the school never even offered degrees in Psychology!

► In 2005, Michael Brown, Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), resigned after his mishandling of the response to Hurricane Katrina. To get that job, Brown had claimed he oversaw emergency services for the City of Edmund, Oklahoma and that he’d worked at the University of Central Oklahoma as a political science professor. In fact, it was later revealed that Brown had only been an assistant to the city manager, which is more like an intern. And school officials at the University of Central Oklahoma said Brown was never a member of their faculty.

► In 2001, George O’Leary was fired from the Head Coaching job at Notre Dame College after only 5 days on the job. O’Leary had claimed to have a Master’s Degree in Education from New York University and had lettered in college football at the University of New Hampshire. O’Leary attended NYU but did not receive a degree. In fact, he had taken only two courses at SUNY – Stony Brook, and never graduated! And he never earned a letter playing football in New Hampshire and never even played in a game there.

Of course, the above examples are only some of the most well know liars who had the misfortune of getting caught in very public positions. It kind of makes you wonder how many other résumé liars fly under the radar, and never get caught!

November 7, 2014 at 11:53 am Leave a comment

Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 6

It’s been a long time since my last “Comic Relief” posting … so I think it’s about time I took another break from my usual “advice for job-seekers” mission to offer up this 6th blog of pure job-seeking humor! [See “Volume 1”, “Volume 2”, Volume 3”, “Volume 4” and “Volume 5” for the last five editions of this series!]

Once again, I’ll include my standard disclaimer: I fully realize that being unemployed is generally not a laughing matter. However, much like “gallows humor,” the intention of “job-seeking humor” is quite simple: to lift the spirits of people who are in an otherwise depressing situation. I’m a firm believer that maintaining a sense of humor is a key component to positive mental health. And I’m a still a tough critic when it comes to job-seeking humor. I figure, if it makes me laugh out loud, it’s worth sharing here!


In the category of Videos, the following clip is a classic scene from the TV show “Seinfeld.” George Costanza has just impulsively quit his job in real estate, and is now struggling with what he should do next. Like so many people I’ve actually talked with over my years as a recruiter, George hasn’t quite figured out what he wants to do when he grows up, and is having a hard time identifying his own marketable skills. (I certainly remember feeling this way a few different times in my own life!) I hope this doesn’t hit too close to home for any job-seekers watching this now …


In the category of Cartoons, the following are some miscellaneous funnies that I couldn’t fit into any other blog articles, but I think are hilarious nevertheless … and deserve to be shared here. (You may need to click to enlarge some of these images, since I had to reduce them to fit in this space.) Oh, and this first one below — while technically not a “cartoon” at all — may not make sense to anyone but my fellow recruiters … but trust me, it’s funny to us! And the second one is a companion piece to that first one.



Finally, in the category of Letters of Recommendation, here’s a posting I found on LinkedIn by one of their most distinguished “Influencers” — Conan Obrien:


LinkedIn Influencer Conan O’Brien here. Today, I’ll answer a question that’s plagued mankind for countless millennia: “What’s the secret to getting hired?” Is it education? Job experience? Unique skills? NO. None of those matter. All you need to succeed in today’s competitive job market is a letter of recommendation from a politician or celebrity. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.

I’m well-aware that getting a letter of recommendation from a celebrity is easier said than done—until now. Below you’ll find a form letter of recommendation from ME to your next potential employer. All you have to do is circle the appropriate option in each sentence and voila, your own personal letter of recommendation from Conan O’Brien. You’re as good as hired.


Dear Madam or Mister,

My name is Conan O’Brien, a respected public figure and LinkedIn Influencer. I am pleased to recommend (Amy/Bill/Marco) for the position of (manager/senator). I’ve had the pleasure of working with (him/her) for over 60 years. (His/her) multitude of abilities are evident through exceptional (leadership/sheer blouses) and a refined (personality/pill connection). Not to mention (he/she) is one of the most (industrious/anti-union) employees I’ve ever encountered. If (Amy/Bill/Marco) has a weakness, it’s that (he/she) is TOO (diligent/serotonin deficient).

The first thing you’ll notice about (Amy/Bill/Marco) is a prominent (neck tattoo/well-connected father). But, with such a (passive/aggressive) outlook, you’d never know that (he/she) comes from (political/orphanage) royalty. (He/she) is loyal to a (fault/vengeful god). (Teamwork/Naming names) is always at the core of everything (he/she) does. Plus, you won’t find someone better at (connecting/sleeping) with customers than (him/her). I’ve got the (sales figures/tears) to prove it!

Of course, you’ll also be relieved to know that we never proved (Amy/Bill/Marco) was responsible for setting the fire that destroyed our headquarters (two/three) years ago. You may have (heard/read) about the ensuing trial and (appeal/settlement). The flammable residue discovered in the (clothes/trunk) of (Amy/Bill/Marco) was found to be inadmissible due to a (technicality/bomb threat). Personally, I think it would be a (shame/mistake) to hold such a small (incident/episode) against someone for longer than (necessary/30 days).

Once again, with (his/her) relentless motivation and knowledge of (Windows 95/carburetors), I believe (Amy/Bill/Marco) would make an excellent addition to your (company/embassy). If you have any questions, please do not contact me, as I take my privacy as a public figure very seriously.


[Forged signature goes here]

Conan O’Brien

P.S. – Please do not sell this letter on eBay.


More Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 5
 “In Transition” and Other Awkward Euphemisms
 Candidates Gone Wild: Recruiter Horror Stories

April 24, 2014 at 2:24 pm 1 comment

Let the Jobs Find You: Making Yourself More “Searchable”

If you are an active job-seeking candidate, then I think it’s safe to say that you are in pursuit mode, right? You are probably spending the majority of your time searching for and pursuing target companies, networking contacts and decision-makers within those companies, HR people, recruiters and any job opportunities you hear about that match your background and experience. All in all, these can be very time consuming and often frustrating activities. Wouldn’t it be great if the reverse were true: if jobs would find you, instead of the other way around? Wouldn’t you like to be the one who was being pursued instead of you always trying to chase others down? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if hiring managers from companies, HR people and recruiters would search for and then contact you about jobs they thought you matched???

First of all, we need to start with the assumption that you possess all the necessary skills and experiences that truly match a particular job’s requirements. If that is true (and that’s a huge assumption) then connecting you as a candidate with a specific job opportunity is the name of this game! In my world as a recruiter, there are basically two types of candidates that are considered targets for us to pursue: Passive and Active. The difference between these two types of candidates is fairly easy to describe:

Passive Candidates are people who are currently working and not really looking for a new job at all. However (and this is a key point) they might be open to new opportunities, depending on how they are approached. Companies with jobs to fill rarely solicit passive candidates directly. Instead, they will engage Executive Search Firms and recruiters who specialize in placing people in permanent, full-time positions and who usually target passive candidates on behalf of those client companies. Passive candidates are highly sought after by so-called “Head-Hunters,” whose goal it is to get someone to leave one job and go to another. [Read “The Real Truth About Working with Recruiters” for more on how “Head Hunters” differ from other types of recruiters.] For a variety of reasons (not all of which are logical) candidates who are currently working are perceived in a better light than unemployed job-seekers by most potential new employers. This is especially true if someone is working for a client company’s competitor!

Recruiting passive candidates is not an easy process … but can actually be a lot of fun and quite a challenge for many recruiters. It involves a lot of networking, cold-calling and old fashioned sleuthing. It boils down to pure consultative sales techniques. Once a passive candidate is identified and contacted, the recruiter has to establish trust and rapport with that person, find out what their career goals and desires are, and then convince them to consider interviewing for a job with their client — something they were not looking for, or really even thinking about before that initial call. There needs to be a compelling story to be told by that recruiter which explains why moving from company A to company B would be in that candidate’s best interest. That usually comes down to one of three things: higher compensation, opportunities for career growth/advancement, or a better company culture — or some combination of all three.

Active Candidates on the other hand, are people who are actively looking for jobs. These are candidates who are either “in transition” (i.e. not currently working full-time) or are actually employed somewhere but unhappy and seriously looking to make a change from their current job. Companies with temporary or permanent jobs to fill, as well as staffing firms and recruiters who specialize in contract-consulting jobs tend to target active candidates since they are generally available immediately. Unlike passive candidates, active candidates typically post their résumés on job boards and respond to job postings. For recruiters, active candidates are not as difficult to find as passive candidates — or at least they shouldn’t be! If you are an active job-seeker, it is obviously in your best interest to maximize your online visibility as well as your “searchability” in order to be “found” by recruiters and HR people at companies searching for candidates with specific matching skill sets.

LinkedIn Frustrations
It’s no secret that LinkedIn has now eclipsed all the standard job boards as the number one go-to place for recruiters to find candidates. LinkedIn has radically changed the way potential employers and recruiters find candidates, and companies search for and uncover details about potential employees. Many companies are now actually dropping their Monster and CareerBuilder accounts and relying on LinkedIn as their main source for talent acquisition. Creating an effective online profile on LinkedIn is one of the most important things a job-seeker can do right now. From a recruiter’s point of view, one of the most frustrating aspects of LinkedIn is that it is not always easy to figure out if a person is an active job-seeker or not. Many people portray themselves on LinkedIn as working full-time, when they may actually be active job-seekers who simply don’t want to reveal their true status. They might think (as per the reasoning explained above for passive candidates) that they will appear more desirable if they are not unemployed. The trouble with that reasoning is that if I, as a recruiter, am looking for active candidates — I might not contact someone who appears to be working full-time! Another LinkedIn frustration is that even active job-seekers who say they are looking for new opportunities usually fail to provide any direct way to contact them (i.e. an email address or a phone number.) If you are not a first-degree connection, the limitations of LinkedIn’s messaging system will be a big road-block to anyone trying to contact you with a job opportunity.

Making Yourself More “Searchable”
If you are an Active Job-Seeking Candidate with marketable skills and experiences, there are several things you can do to increase your chances of being seen and pursued by those jobs instead of you being the one doing all the chasing. Following are some tips on how to maximize your chances of being “found” by either a company or a recruiter:

  • Keywords
    Keyword searches are usually the first method used to find résumés and LinkedIn profiles with specific skills that match job descriptions. If the right words or phrases are not present in your résumé or profile, you simply won’t come up in a search done by a recruiter or an HR person. You should make sure that your résumé uses the language and commonly used buzzwords or phrases that appear in the typical job descriptions within your industry niche. Study those job descriptions and copy those buzzwords and phrases into your résumé and profile. Also look up other people who do what you do, and see what keywords appear in their profiles for more ideas. Try using a free keyword search tool like “WordStream”, or any number of other keyword generating tools that you can easily find online. When someone searches for keyword matches on LinkedIn, the results are ordered first by how closely connected you are to them, and then by how often those keywords appear in your profile. Test your own profile’s effectiveness by using LinkedIn’s Advanced Search function: pretend that you are a recruiter and search for people who do what you do in your own geographical area. Try copying and pasting some key phrases from a job description you think fits your background into the keyword search field, or a job title you are seeking into the title search field. Does your profile come up anywhere near the top of the search results? If not, look at who does and try to figure out why: what do their profiles have that yours doesn’t? What keywords do they have that you don’t — and how frequently do those keywords appear? Now add those things to your own profile (if they truly apply to you) and try the search again!
  • Frequently Refresh your Online Résumés
    In addition to LinkedIn, you should also have your keyword-optimized résumé posted on all the major job boards (Monster, CareerBuilder, etc.) Companies, Staffing Firms and recruiters pay lots of money to subscribe to and be able to search in those job-board résumé banks. Did you know that when someone searches the job board’s résumé banks, the results are often displayed in the order of who is the most recently updated? Anyone who has ever done a basic Google search already knows how that process works … you click through the results on the first two or three pages, and most people rarely go any further. Does anyone actually look to see what’s been found on the hundreds of pages that follow those first few? If your résumé doesn’t appear on those first few pages of a keyword search, your chances of being found drop off dramatically. How can you fix that? Easy: edit and then re-post/refresh your résumé posts at least once or twice a week. Change something/anything on your résumé or profile to refresh/re-post it online. It can be something as small as one word! Refreshing/Re-Posting it will bring it back closer to the top of the search results.
  • If You Are an Active Candidate, SAY SO!
    Make sure you clearly declare the fact that you are seeking new opportunities in such a way that it is crystal clear to anyone who views your résumé or LinkedIn profile online. Put it in your headline. Put it in the Summary section. List it in your professional goals. Use phrases like: “Seeking New Opportunities” or “Available for Projects.” (Recruiters actually use the words “Seeking” and “Available” in their keyword searches for active candidates!)
  • Add Contact Information to Your LinkedIn Profile!
    As explained above, failing to include basic contact information (email address or phone number) somewhere in your LinkedIn Profile will make it much more difficult for anyone who finds you to contact you … unless you are already a first degree connection. Relying on LinkedIn’s internal communication tool is much too limiting. Add your contact information in such a way that anyone who views your public profile can see it and email or call you.
  • Include a Photo on Your LinkedIn Profile
    Speaking strictly from personal experience as a recruiter, I am much more inclined to reach out to people on LinkedIn who have photos than those who do not. I always prefer LinkedIn profiles with photos, as long as they look professional and not goofy. I tend to spend more time reviewing the photo profiles … they seem more honest and inviting. Plus, it helps me remember people I’ve met, puts names and faces together, and makes me feel I am more connected to people. Profiles without photos seem more generic, incomplete and anonymous. I always suspect that they are hiding something!

The goal of all of these steps is quite simple: make it easier for recruiters and potential employers to find and then contact you. Instead of you doing all the chasing, you want to make yourself more “Searchable” which will increase the odds that the perfect job will find you!

January 10, 2014 at 11:50 am 2 comments

Cool InfoGraphic: “What You Wish You’d Known Before Your Job Interview”

Recently, while surfing around on LinkedIn and exploring articles that seemed to be of interest to job-seekers, I came across a cool InfoGraphic called “What You Wish You’d Known Before Your Job Interview.” It’s filled with various statistics and lists that may be helpful to anyone going out on job interviews. The original source of this InfoGraphic was apparently a website called “Classes and Careers” aimed at students who are picking colleges and/or courses. The website’s stated purpose is to match students with schools and programs.

I tried to poke around and investigate how they came up with these statistics and numbers … but alas, I could not even find this InfoGraphic anywhere on their website, much less any information on how they arrived at these statistics. The actual InfoGraphic was simply re-published on multiple unrelated sites while the original research information supporting it somehow got lost in the viral re-shuffling on the web. Nevertheless, my gut feeling in studying this InfoGraphic is that it has the ring of truth to it. I can’t swear that the numbers are accurate … but based on my own experience as a recruiter who has coached thousands of candidates through interviews and then debriefed countless interviewers, the overall content shown seems pretty right on.

The items contained here that I think are especially apropos are:
► A third of the interviewers surveyed made up their minds about whether or not to hire someone within the first 90 seconds of the interview starting.
► Over half of the first impressions were created NOT by what was said, but rather how the person dressed, walked through the door and acted.
► Almost half of the failed interviews were caused by candidates not knowing enough about the company they were meeting with.
► Over two thirds of the failed interviews were caused by candidates not making eye contact.
► The number one reason for not hiring someone was that they didn’t ask for the job!

Now there’s nothing new or earth-shattering about any of this. I’ve actually written about most of this stuff elsewhere in other articles here on Recruiter Musings. [Check the Index for more specific interviewing advice, tips and tricks.] Still, seeing it all in this graphical format is very entertaining and enlightening. (Oh and yes, the retro sixties-style caricature of the job-seeker is kind of goofy, but I like it anyway! It kind of reminds me of the TV show Mad Men.) I would even say, it’s worth blowing this up, printing it out, and pinning it to a wall near your work desk as a refresher before each interview you have coming up.

So here it is! (You can click on the image below to open a full-sized version in a new tab. Then click it again in the new tab that opens to zoom in.)

July 3, 2013 at 4:19 pm 3 comments

“So, Do You Have Any Questions?” Nailing the Interview Closer

Anyone who has ever been interviewed for a job of any kind has most likely heard some variation of this line: “So, do you have any questions?” It’s the standard way that most interviewers wrap things up, and signal that the interview is coming to a close. It’s a query posed near the end of practically every type of interview: Phone Interviews, Face-to-Face Interviews, Video Interviews, etc. It sounds like a rather innocent question, and could easily be dismissed by a job-seeker as a mere formality — not worthy of a thoughtful response. Well, don’t make that mistake! The truth is, how that question is answered can often make or break someone’s chances of landing a job.

Candidates are judged by the quality of the questions they ask during an interview. Candidates who have no questions at all might be perceived as having no interest in the position. Even worse than that, inappropriate or off-track questions can be viewed as a huge red flag by any interviewer. Asking the wrong questions can easily sink an otherwise successful interview.

There are literally thousands of possible variations of typical questions that could be used as interview closers. I certainly don’t intend to list them all here. And obviously, the specifics of each interview (the nature of the position, the type of company, the level of the person conducting the interview, etc.) will often determine what questions make the most sense to ask. Rather, I hope to list some general do’s and don’ts, and suggest some specific examples of successful questions that are likely to score points and head the conversation in the right direction.

What NOT to ask during an interview:
Let’s start with obvious no-no’s that will most likely get you eliminated from consideration by any interviewer:
►  Don’t ask what the company does, what products they produce, or other basic questions that anyone could find the answers to by simply reading the company’s website. (Do your homework, and don’t sound like an idiot!)
►  Don’t ask about compensation, vacation, or benefits. Those are clearly things that fall under the category of “what’s in it for me” — but certainly won’t show what’s in it for the interviewer! On the other hand, if the interviewer brings up the salary issue first, be prepared to address it head on. [Read “Answering the Dreaded Salary Question” for suggested strategies on how to deal with this controversial issue.]
►  Don’t ask about anything sensitive or negative that you might have read or heard about the company — e.g. recent layoffs, poor financial performance, bad press reports, lawsuits, complaints or any other negative issues you are aware of. Most interviewers would rather keep the discussion focused on the positive aspects of their company, and will be very uncomfortable if those types of issues are brought up by a candidate.
►  Don’t ask generic, standard questions that sound as though you found them on a website (like this blog!) and are reciting them from a script. Most savvy interviewers will be able to spot those types of canned questions a mile away, and easily distinguish them from more thoughtful, insightful questions that pertain specifically to their company or the exact position you are interviewing for.
►  Don’t ask personal questions about the interviewer’s family, marital status, children, hobbies, political opinions, religious affiliation, etc. Unless you have a prior history with the person, issues like that are totally inappropriate for an interview with someone you just met. (On the other hand, if they bring those things up first then simply follow their lead … but tread carefully with these topics and don’t offer up too much personal information of your own. Try to stay focused on the business at hand.)
►  Don’t ask point blank if you are going to get the job. That tends to put the interviewer on the spot, and makes people feel very uncomfortable.

What you SHOULD ask:
Here are some general categories that you can use as a guide to formulating winning interviewee questions:
►  Ask open-ended questions, as opposed to yes-no questions. “Can you tell me more about …” “What is your opinion of …” The idea is to get the interviewer to talk more — to reveal more information about the company, about the position, about themself and about their expectations. Ideally, you can then use that information to say things that will demonstrate that you truly fit whatever it is they seem to be looking for.
►  Take something you learned beforehand about the company, and probe further. Show that you’ve done your homework about the company. Ask specific questions about those things that you learned. Start out with something like “During my research, I read that … I was wondering …” Demonstrating that you’ve read up on the company, and that you are curious and interested can be very impressive!
►  Take something discussed during the interview, and probe further. Expand on topics already covered, and ask for more details. This shows that you’ve been paying attention, and that you are curious, interested and eager to learn more.
►  Ask about the company’s culture and work environment. Those are issues that tend to be rather abstract, and less likely to be explained on their website. Therefore, they are good topics to ask the interviewer about.
►  Ask about what qualities they look for in a successful employee. How can someone succeed and grow within the company? What are the specific goals and expectations for the position you are interviewing for? What do they hope to accomplish — both short and long term — with this hire?

Sample Questions:
Here are some suggestions for questions that fit into the categories listed above. The key is to modify them, and formulate your own versions of these questions that are tailored specifically to the company and the position you are interviewing for:
►  “What do you like best about working here?”
►  “How would you describe the daily work environment / company culture here?”
►  “How would you describe the best people you have in this company?”
►  “What characteristics have made your best employees successful here?”
►  “In my research, I noticed that (blank) is a big priority with the company. How does your team contribute to that company mission?”
►  “Earlier, you mentioned (blank). Can you tell me a little more about how that works in your department?”
►  “What are your expectations for this role during the first 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, 6 months, year?”
►  “What are the biggest opportunities facing the company/department right now?”
►  “What are the biggest challenges facing the company/department right now?”

Nailing the Final Closer:
In the end, if you are interested in this job, make sure to say so! Your final question should really nail the closer: “I just want to let you know that I am very interested in this opportunity, and hope we can move forward. What are the next steps in the interview process?” Don’t leave without determining what the expectations are for the next steps, and how and when YOU should follow-up. Ask what their timetable is for hiring, and how their hiring process works. Also make sure you get a business card with the email address and phone number of your interviewer, and send them a thank-you email that same day. If you met with more than one person, get everyone’s cards and do the same with them. Then immediately make a note on your calendar of when your pro-active follow-up call will be if you don’t hear back from them first. If you really want this job, don’t just sit back wait for them to make the next move. You have to go after it!

January 1, 2013 at 6:04 am 7 comments

Older Posts

Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for over 20 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / Midwest Region for Jefferson Wells, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, and Executive Recruiting positions with two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit social-services organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

Résumés & Cover Letters:
 The "T" Cover Letter - The
         Only Type Worth Sending

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours

 Beating the Résumé-
         Elimination Game: Where
         Do Recruiters' Eyes Go?

 The Truth About Lying on

 "Why Did You Leave Your
         Last Job?"

 How to Network: A
         Step-by-Step Guide for
         Job Searching

 Looking for Networking in
         All the Wrong Places

 Targeted Networking: How
         to Effectively Reach Out

 The Art of Giving: the Key to
         Effective Networking

 Face-to-Face Interviews:
         Secrets, Tricks and Tips

 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Video Interview Tips
         in the Pandemic World

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

 "So, Do You Have Any
         Questions?" Nailing the
         Interview Closer

 Cool InfoGraphic: "What
         You Wish You'd Known
         Before Your Job

Age Discrimination:
 Age Discrimination: Secret
         Conversations Revealed

 Age Discrimination:
         Exposing Inconvenient

 Are You "Overqualified?"
         Handling the Age Issue

 Baby Boomers to the
         Rescue! An Idea Whose
         Time Has Come ...

 Overcoming Job-Search
         Obstacles and
         Redefining Your Career
         After 50

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

 Contract/Consulting Jobs
         Explained ... Available in
         3 Different Flavors

►  What Recruiters Say
         vs. What Job-Seekers

►  The Dirty Truth About
         Unemployment Statistics

►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More

 "Help ... I Need a Job!" A
         9-Step Guide for Newly
         Minted Job-Seekers

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 Time Management: Recipe          for a Well-Balanced Job          Search
 Getting Un-Stuck from your

 The Double-Whammy of
         Rejection and Isolation

 "Unemployed Need Not
         Apply" - Working Around
         This Scary Message

 Using Social Media to
         Enhance Job-Searching

 Warning: That Rant You
         Posted Just Went Viral!

 The Golden Rule for
         Business: Never Burn

 The Power of a Positive

 Why Job Hunting is a
         Consultative Sales

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things
         for Job Seekers

 Top 10 Most Annoying
         Things for Job Seekers

 New Year's Resolutions for
         Unemployed Job-

Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Volume 5
 Comic Relief: Volume 6
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

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