cover letter

For job searches and dating, we match our response to the individual ad

Cover letters

get a bad rap. It’s unfortunate, because I would say that most of the folks that are hired include cover letters. Don’t get me wrong, I throw out a lot of cover letters. It isn’t because of a rule that states “Cover Letters are never read, so don’t write a cover letter”. That rule is a lie, don’t listen to the haters. 

I make it a rule to NOT read cover letters which list skills irrelevant to the job posting, use the phrase “I am perfect for the job” or fill an entire page. That is the gospel. 

No candidate was ever offered a job based on the cover letter so let’s start with the following premise.

The cover letter is not a resume and it is not going to land us a job offer. The cover letter is the introductory announcement that gets the hiring manager excited to read the resume. It is not a narrative of the resume. FULL STOP.

Based on the 1000’s of cover letters and resumes I have read over the years, I am convinced that most candidates create their cover letters and resumes with the wrong goal in mind. I know for a fact that most of these documents are not accomplishing what they set out to do because after reading most of them, I am NOT interested in reading the resume. Honestly, I get bored, pissed or both.

A lot of readers are thinking I am on my high horse and I get that. After reading 5 – 10 cover letters a few patterns start to surface. I am going to share those patterns with you so you don’t fall into the trap and YOU CAN write a compelling cover letter. 

The number 1 goal of the cover letter is to tease the reader so they are interested in the resume. The cover letters should not be lengthy. 

When was the last time you proofed a cover letter or resume for a friend and were given the job posting of the targeted position? I bet it has never happened. It is tough to proof a cover letter if we don’t know the desired position. 

So, let me put it into terms we all understand. Even if we are not dating, we understand the concept of attracting a potential +1. 

Requisite dating analogy: SWF looking for SWM, aka, recruiter looking for qualified candidate. We are looking for a hook up. 


SWF: Single woman looking for a +1.  Attractive, has a healthy relationship with daddy and is a professional. She posts a dating ad on the dating site of the month and waits for the responses to roll in.

Recruiter: The recruiter is looking to fill a position. She works for a company with a great brand and good benefits. Our recruiter posts a job description on and waits for the responses to roll in.


SWF and BFF / Gay Boyfriend: This is not hot – single woman’s first rodeo. SWF knows what she is looking for. She worked with her BFF / gay boyfriend to put the ad together and they didn’t just bang something out in two minutes. They agonized over the phrasing and the words chosen. They both have a specific vision of Mr. Right. (Like, OMG, I am not high maintenance. I can’t help it if I happen to know what I want and have high standards. Fer reals though!) Yes, the headshot got a LOT OF RESPONSES.

Recruiter and Hiring Manager: This is not the recruiters first rodeo. The recruiter and hiring manager know exactly what they are looking for because they pitched the position and skill set to their VP and requested a specific budget. They worked together on a job description. Because the company is a well-known brand, the recruiter received A LOT OF RESPONSES. 


SWF: Our single woman is hot, has a great sense of style, and a headshot that shows she knows how to have fun. Her inbox is flooded with responses.

Recruiter: Our recruiter wrote an interesting ad that talks about a great company culture, opportunity for growth and a cool product. Her inbox is flooded with responses.


SWF: Single Male comes along and responds to the SWF dating ad. He sends an email and attaches his own headshot showing he knows how to have fun. 

Recruiter: Unemployed Candidate is interested in the posted job and responds with an email. His email contains his cover letter, and attached resume. 


SWF: Because hot single woman has more responses than she can handle, she is NOT able to read each and every response line by line. She reads the first half dozen, but soon sees a pattern. She opens each response and within the first three lines she knows if she is interested or not. If she is interested, she reads on. If she isn’t interested, she moves on.  

Recruiter: Because the recruiter has more responses than she can handle, she will only sift through the responses. She will open each email, which contains the cover letter, but she doesn’t read each and every response line by line. She knows within the first three lines if she has a qualified candidate, or not. Some candidates apply without a cover letter and she thinks:

  • “What! Am I not worthy of a cover letter? This is Acme Publishing dammit, we made Best Place to Work 3 years running”
  • “I guess this candidate was just too lazy for a cover letter, his loss not mine.”
  • “So special that your resume speaks for itself? I see Johnny Candidate sent me a cover letter. Hmm, extra points for him, none for you”


SWF: After reading the first three lines of the response, hot single female forms an opinion and a mental picture of the potential suitor. Misspelled words just keep Single Guy single. SWF talked about Yoga, red wine and walks along the beach. If Single Guy talks about Football tailgating and NASCAR, we just don’t have a fit peoples. No need to read further.    

Recruiter: After reading the first three lines of the response the recruiter / hiring manger has formed an opinion on our unemployed candidate. If the position is for a bank teller and we are talking about our experience as a chef, plumber, product manager or real estate agent the search continues. Our recruiter is looking for a bank teller or an accounting major. 


SWF: If the response was interesting and relevant, hot single girl reads the entire email and is getting excited about opening the attached photo. The email uses proper grammar so she is hopeful our potential Mr. Right paid attention in school and has half a brain. He isn’t vulgar so she imagines he is a gentleman. Single guy lets her know that he has future goals and she can already see herself making a life with him.  She is hoping that she is in the suitors league. If he talks about how he is into physical fitness and enjoys Red wine all the better.  She is getting tingly.

Recruiter: The absence of misspelled words, proper business letter format, and bulleted accomplishments will make the email easy to read. After reading the first three lines of the response, the recruiter / hiring manager is already hopeful about us as a candidate. Yes, we may have a player! I hope I can afford this candidate and yes getting tingly.


Write an effective cover letter and the resume will be reviewed with intent. If the online dating ad is looking for Yoga and Red wine, you respond with Downward Dog and Burgundy. If you don’t want a response, list Yogi Berra and Red Bull in your cover letter.

  1. Write an ineffective cover letter and even a great resume will be reviewed with a distracted attention span.
  2. A strong cover letter will put the hiring manager in a very different mood for the resume that will follow.
  3. If the cover letters are eliminated, the candidates first comparison will be to the candidates that DID send in a cover letter.

Think bad appetizer, bad foreplay and uninspiring movie trailer. What are we mentally and emotionally expecting after all three? Bad, Bad and Uninspiring. For a cover letter format that is simple to write and effective, see my earlier post here and  here.     

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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How HR F’s-up an exit interview

Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Company Culture, What HR Really Thinks

exit interview

We should have the same courtesy to exiting employees as we do when we welcome them

Exit Interview

I have a friend that is going through an exit interview process. She is leaving her current job for a new gig. Her current HR department is taking it personally. This friend is a VERY gracious individual and when I say doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, I mean it. She is always smiling, always has something nice to say, and makes everyone around her feel welcome. FULL STOP. She is in a high-profile job that connects her with anything and everything related to fashion, restaurants, entertainment, and retail in the Pacific Northwest. You don’t land or keep this job acting like a biatch.                  

So it scares me for the HR community when I hear she is treated like shit on her way out the door as she moves on to her new gig. We wonder why HR has a bad rap? Short sightedness people, short sightedness. We talk about candidate experience, we should consider the exiting employee experience as well. I am here for the long game and invite other HR Pro/Am’s to play the full 18 holes, and not just the front 9. Win the battle not the war and remember that we live in very small towns and HR reputations are shared AFTER we leave the room.   

HR needs to accept change

As employers, we are not going to hang onto everyone. We don’t want to hang onto everyone forever and we shouldn’t take it personally when employees leave us. HR  shouldn’t be jelly, we shouldn’t be pissy, and we shouldn’t be childish. We want our employees to grow and have new experiences. Growth isn’t always going to be within our company. I am not saying I am a fan of the 18-month average tenure in tech as it is here in Seattle. We do need to accept that employees grow and change personally and professionally and we have to accept that employees will leave.

The Rub

The company she is leaving does not pay out for unused PTO. She has 2 weeks of un used PTO and they are not going to pay her for that. It is company policy and I get that. Working in tech, where so many technologists do not take vacation, there can be business reasons behind the decision. Not paying out for PTO is a forcing function and works in a couple of ways.

  1. Not paying out PTO forces the employee to take vacation. Use it or lose it. The company wants employees who take breaks and has the opportunity to spend quality time outside of work. It is the employees responsibility to schedule that PTO.
  2. The employee doesn’t get an opportunity to save up PTO in the case they think they are going to be fired or laid off. We don’t want employees taking this sort of defensive posture. This is a mindset that is playing defense or thinking we are going to fail. “This company (or me as an individual employee) is going to fail. I better put some PTO in the bank so I can walk out of here with a couple of weeks of pay.” Uhh, no, that is not what PTO is designed for.
  3. If employees don’t take time off, that is their fault. We as employees need to be proactive. I haven’t heard of too many instances where employees were declined in PTO requests so often they were not able to use it up. I can’t think of a single instance.

Civil vs. Condescending

The rub is that this employee does have a couple of weeks of PTO and politely asked for it when she turned in her two weeks. What she got was a scathing reminder that there is a policy in force and PTO is not paid out. It wasn’t civil, it was condescending.

On hearing this response, my advice was to take the next two weeks off, but her company had a big product release and she wanted to ensure her customers were going to get the features they wanted. I stood my ground and recommended she take the time off and skip the exit interview. 

Thoughts on exiting employees

If our company doesn’t have the growth for an employee and they leave for a larger position, I should celebrate that. More than likely, they were not able to get the more senior position without the experience they received at our company. I should be proud that our company helped them on their journey. I should not be angry they are leaving because the company doesn’t have opportunity.  

Employees don’t leave a company; they leave a manager. If an employee leaves for what they think is a better manager, we as employers should take a real hard look at our managers. If an employee is poached by another company, that is a reflection on the company left behind as much as it is a reflection on the employee. I understand one offs are going to happen but if there is a trend that folks are exiting a single department / manager or we keep hearing about a lack of benefits, we shouldn’t make excuses. If any of us were offered more money, talked to a more inspiring manager, or offered a shorter commute, we would all consider the new opportunity and shouldn’t be chastised for taking a chance.

Why treat employees with respect

I have worked with plenty of employees that have left and returned.  They found out the grass wasn’t greener on the other side of the fence. Employees that have left our company have referred friends that we have hired to us. I have worked with employees who have left our company and returned to reunion parties. It doesn’t matter if the decision to leave the company was the voluntary or involuntary. We try to treat the employee with the same respect we did when they were first hired. We can be confident the exit interview information was worthless when the employee was pissed at HR. Any credibility the HR department built over the employees tenure was pissed away in the last 2 weeks. It’s the right thing to do dammit! 

Personally, I love it when an employee talks with other companies and decides to stay with us. I want employees to be 110% confident in their decision throughout their tenure. I love it when an employee tells me they just interviewed with another company and turned them down. That is a good day my friend and a reflection of what we have built, who we have hired, and how we treat employees.

Requisite dating example

When a couple breaks up, there are good break ups, there are bad break ups and there are ugly break ups. Regardless of the break up, no one wants to be remembered for having a public fight in Walmart or the one that is throwing personal belongings out the window for neighbors to see. When we see the word “ASSHOLE” scratched in a car, as much as I am confident the driver was a probably an asshole, I also think that the driver is better without the author. If we are with someone who is going to key a car, there is a problem.

When an employee leaves, HR shouldn’t be the petty. HR should not be condescending or creating drama. I am personally encouraging this employee to leave her company and their short-sighted HR department. She is better without them.  If your ex is the type that is going to key a car, there is a problem. If HR is going to cause drama, there is a problem.

Graceful exit

I said my friend is the epitome of grace. She did stay for her vendors. She didn’t like it, but she took the high road and it didn’t surprise me one bit. I wish the HR department could have done the same.


See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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Thanksgiving, Artful Ashes, what I am thankful for

Posted: by HRNasty in Personal

Artful Ashes

Artful Ashes artisan at work

Thankful For

Artful Ashes, you made a huge difference for me in 2016, and this a post of thanks to Greg, Christina, Minhi and the crew there in Ballard Washington. Readers of this blog know that 2016 was a tough year for Mr. and Mrs. HRNasty.  

In 2015, Mrs. HRNasty was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through a partial and then a full mastectomy, radiation then declared a survivor. In 2016, the cancer had returned to her lungs and after having 1 lung removed, she passed in July of this year.

Glass half full

It sucked then, it sucks now and there isn’t a night that goes by where I don’t question the meaning of life. Despite that, I have a lot to be thankful for and if I can be thankful, anyone can. This post is a thanks to Artful Ashes, and looking at the glass half full.

What am I thankful for? Here is a very incomplete list.

  1. We had 20 years of marriage that only got better. We became stronger in the last year and I am proud of what we did together both personally and professionally. I couldnt be more proud of Mrs. HRNasty.
  2. All the friends that helped and continue to support the both of us. I tried to thank folks here. 
  3. Well wishes and support from the readers of this blog. Long time subscribers who email regularly, and folks I haven’t heard from. Thank you for the support.

I am putting one foot in front of the other and putting a smile on my face. Mrs. HRNasty wouldn’t want to see me moping around or feeling sorry for myself. If the situation were reversed, I WOULD be raising my voice if I saw her giving up. No one wants to be around “The guy that gave up” and I don’t want to become “that guy”.


What got me through and continues to be the game changer in my life moving forward?  Simply put, a compassionate group of folks at Artful Ashes. For those of you who are not familiar, Artful Ashes creates glass art with a very small amount of the ashes of loved ones. Mrs. HRNasty was related to the owners Greg and Christina and her wish was that her ashes be made in glass art. (It takes a VERY small bit of ash) 

I wasn’t familiar with the process or the group, but when I saw they had 500K + Facebook likes, I took notice.  

So why was working with Artful Ashes so important to me? It was important at a lot of different levels and a few are listed below in an effort to help others that have lost loved ones.

I didn’t know what I was missing

Per Mrs. HRNasty’s wishes, she was cremated. Her ashes were presented to me in a nice wooden box with the standard brass plate. My mother was cremated when she passed of ALS so I was familiar with the process and knew what to expect. I like the wooden box, I have the box in a prominent place in my home office, and I get good juju from her presence. But I didn’t realize how much I was missing until I took the journey with Greg, Christina and Minhi at Artful Ashes. 

Greg and Christina are the owners and Minhi is one of the artists working with the glass. For the record, they did not and are not paying me for this post. In fact, they didn’t want me to go through the effort on their behalf. As much as I am trying to articulate how grateful I am to them for the experience, I am trying to share how this helped me so that it may help others.

We all deal with grief in a different way and Artful Ashes was instrumental for me. The biggest difference is that I can see, touch, and hold the creation from Artful Ashes. This is much more personal than looking at a wooden box. They provide a lighted base that the glass sits on which makes the sculpture come alive at night. I feel much more connected to the glass and see something different in it each time I spend time with it. You can literally see the ash in the glass. The experience for me is much more personal and the feeling of connection is much greater. 

It’s all about the people

But it isn’t just the “thing”, it is the experience. A great meal at a restaurant sucks if the waiter is a snob. I hadn’t met Greg prior, and had only met Christina briefly years ago but they both made me feel as if I were immediate family. Greg is a soft spoken individual and knows how to make you feel comfortable in unfortunate times. Christina is the outgoing personality that gives you confidence you are going to have fun. Minhi is a real artist and I appreciate all the effort she took to make sure everything was done right.

Minhi creating glass sculpture

Minhi creating glass sculpture

I was fortunate enough to meet the folks that work with the glass in the studio and watched as the ashes turned into a beautiful piece of glass art. I watched in awe as Minhi took shapeless glass and created the perfect heart. There were probably 4 people on the crew working the glass, all with art degrees, a few post grad degrees and over 50 years of experience. This team took the job seriously and the thing that struck me was the respect shown for the ashes and the glass.

Artful Ashes, respect and sincerity

The respect was emphasized when I gave Minhi the ashes. She looked me in the eye, smiled and said “I will take good care of her for you”. I hire people for a living and feel I can see through the bullshit. You don’t present yourself this way unless you are serious about your craft and her sincerity really stood out for me. In their spare time, all the artists work glass projects. You know how I like to hire people who don’t stop their craft after 5:00? This was that crew.

They engraved the glass with Mrs. Nasty’s first name. When I asked about adding the year she was born and passed, Greg schooled me and I am glad he did. He explained that engraving years into the glass puts a start and a finish to the name, and that Mrs. Nasty isn’t finished. She is still with us. He explained he would add the years if I wanted to, but I really appreciate his perspective and the glass just has her name. I am not a religious person, but I literally think about her differently after learning about this perspective. Yoda he is.   


Over the course of going through the process with Artful Ashes, I saw a lot of families drop off ashes and pick up finished glass sculptures. I initially said to Greg and Christina that I thought they had a very hard job because I initially only saw folks dropping off ashes and based on experience it isn’t easy. There were a lot of tears of joy when I saw the glass picked up and I felt the same. I didn’t think this would have as much of an effect on me and yes, I cried. When I saw families picking up the finished glass, I realized quickly why Greg and Christina do what they do.

They are literally healing individuals and families. They are re-uniting, and giving loved ones a way to work through loss. I thought I had a good job because I offer folks meaning via their work and a job offer. These guys have it good.

Don’t feel bad for me

So, this Thanksgiving, I am sad, but I am also grateful for the friends and experiences I have had with Mrs HRNasty. Don’t feel sad for me or Mrs. HRNasty. I and Mrs. HRNasty had 20 great years and the last 9 months were our best work together.

Finished glass

Finished glass

I was able to hold her hand when she was scared and she held my hand when I felt helpless. I am proud of what we had and thankful for the memories she gave me. I think Dr. Suess said it best,  

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.

No matter how hard things are, try and find something to be thankful for, and have an extra helping of stuffing for me.

See you at the after party,



Overcoming a negative reputation in 4 easy steps

Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Manage your Manager

negative reputation

just 37 easy steps

Normally this time of year, I would post on the topic of inappropriate Halloween costumes and make a prediction of what NSFW characters are going to show up at the company and create a negative reputation.  I have done that a few times over the years and those posts are listed here:

2011:  How HR views Halloween costumes

2012:  Celebrities of 2012 that made the news and employee costume list

2013:  How costumes effect your career

2014:  Tasteless costumes of 2014

Been there, done that. Moving on. 

In last weeks’ post, we shared examples of language that was well intentioned but often interpreted as a negative attitude. Negative language doesn’t mean we have a negative attitude. It is easy for the intent and impact of our message to be inconsistent. What we say and what the listener experiences can be two different messages. Last week I provided specific examples of how we can unintentionally come across with a negative attitude. We also provided examples of how to communicate the same negative statement with a positive message.  

I don’t believe anyone is purposefully negative, but if we come across as having a poor attitude, our careers will stall.

This week I share a method for overcoming any perceived reputation for a weakness that may be holding back your career. This methodology works. I have seen it work many times and it is adaptable. These simple steps can be used for changing perception on just about any weakness. For today’s example, we will use the desire to overcome a “negative attitude” reputation.  

Below are the 37 steps needed overcome most weaknesses. (there are only 5)

  1. Reset expectations with your audience*
  2. Give examples of what new behavior will look like
  3. Enlist help from your audience
  4. Check in with your audience
  5. Rinse, lather, repeat

*Audience can be your team, your manager, customer or your peers. Often, it is our manager whose opinion matters the most. 

If you are thinking “HRNasty, you are a dumbass. If you want to shed a reputation for a negative attitude, just don’t be negative.”  You are probably are not alone in your thinking. (I know that attitude is a teensy bit negative. Hear me out peoples.) I only wish it were this easy. If it were that easy, everyone would get along and we wouldn’t need the HR department. I am working my way out of a job as we speak. Booyah! 

There are a couple of problems with the “Just stop the bad behavior” approach. WE as individuals know we are changing our attitude. Unfortunately, because we have already established our brand as a negative person, its what the audience expects and looks for. Because we branded ourselves in a way that identifies us as negative, we need to go about marketing a new image. It isn’t us as individuals we need to convince. We need to convince our audience that we are changing. Our prior behavior has already been engrained into our audience. Our colleagues come to us with the pre conceived notion that we are going to display negative behavior. When they are expecting negativity, negativity will be seen. We need to break the cycle.   

37 steps

If we THINK we have a negative attitude, we probably do. If you suspect you have a negative attitude, your manager is not only aware of it, they are hyper-sensitive to it. Your negative attitude effects their day to day. The reason they aren’t going to bring it up with you? They don’t want to deal with your negative attitude.  DOH!!!

It is an easy reputation to overcome.  Just follow the 37 step process below.

1:  Reset expectations:

Explain the following to your intended audience:

“I have been thinking a lot about my career. My goal is to get into (management, more opportunity, your goal here.) and know I need to change my negative attitude. Moving forward, I need to be more positive. I would like your help and am going to work on how I am perceived moving forward.”

2: Give examples of what new behavior looks like

“These are some examples of the things I am going to start trying differently. Moving forward, I am going to try to stop using the work “NO”, and instead use “Yes, if. . .”. I am going to try and use the word “we” instead of “You” and “Me”. I believe the word “We” denotes team work.  “You” and “Me” insinuates two opposing teams. I am going to try and be encouraging instead of putting ideas down”.    

This does a few things for us:

  1. Breaks the cycle of what the listener is expecting. It changes their focus from an expectation of negativity to an expectation of a better attitude.
  2. Shows initiative to your manager on your self-improvement.
  3. Plants the seed that you want to be a manager / more opportunity / etc.
  4. Commits you to the change in communication style (manager will be on the watch for a difference in behavior)
  5. Your manager can start sell your positive changes to the VP or department head.

3: Ask for help from your audience

“If you see me projecting a negative attitude or body language, can you help me with feedback and alternative ways of presenting myself? I consider you a role model and know I could learn from you.” 

The above may sound a bit over the top, but you get the idea. Get them engaged in your efforts. This gets the manager on your side. Instead of being sensitive to negativity and expecting a bad attitude, this changes their focus. They become an ally.

4:  Check in with your manager

Schedule a check in with your manager after a couple of weeks. Let them know what progress you have made, let them know what you have learned and what you are going to try and do over the next couple of weeks to continue on your path to nirvana. This is a retrospective and all managers love retrospectives.

This allows them to become participatory in your journey. It changes their status from a by stander waiting for you to fall on your face to that of a Sherpa helping you summit Everest. Someone who can help you achieve your goal.

Example number 2

The above steps can be applied with a little adaptation to anything. Have a reputation as being a weak public speaker and want to shed that perception?

Reset expectations: Explain to your manager that we know we are weak in public speaking. We know public speaking will help us achieve our goals and is holding us back.

  1. Examples of new behavior: Give them examples of what to look for in your next public speaking engagement. “I am going to use the entire room vs. just standing behind the podium and I am going to use fewer “umm’s” and “you know’s” in my speech.
  2. Ask for Feedback: Ask your manager to listen to a practice run of your presentation and provide feedback.
  3. Check in with your manager after the presentation or meeting. Give them a status update and let them know what you are going to work on at your next presentation.

Trust me, the above can be done. Changing behavior isn’t enough because until our audience is made aware of the change, they are not going to notice and our negative reputation continues to suffer.

Requisite dating example:

Let’s say you and your significant other are fighting because yesterday was garbage day and we forgot to take out the garbage. The usual argument ensues. He says, “Wednesday is garbage day. Last Wednesday was garbage day and the Wednesday before that was garbage day. What part of Wednesday do . . . . blah blah blah”.

If we tell ourselves and only ourselves we are not going to forget about the garbage next Tues, our significant other is STILL going into the situation expecting us to forget. Things go much better if we admit that we forgot, explain we will handle our business next Tuesday AND ask for a help.

So, if you have a weakness or negative reputation that you want to over come, think about the above 37 step process.

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, (I promise, no spam)  “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!

Positive attitude, career accelerator

Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Job Interview Tips, What HR Really Thinks

Positive Attitude

Attempt to avoid the traditional HR “positivity quote” of the day

Positive attitude vs. Negative attitude

A positive attitude is an asset and anyone that tells you otherwise sucks. All kidding aside, a negative attitude is one of the personality traits that will keep an individual contributor out of management. It doesn’t matter how technically proficient we are at the job. Without a positive attitude, the career ladder will only reach so high. Most of us are reading this post and thinking “HRNasty, you state the obvious. I don’t have a negative attitude so I don’t need to continue reading.”

Au contraire mon ami.

90 percent of employees think they have a positive attitude. Mangers think 90% of their employees are neutral to negative. My Vegas odds say that most managers feel only 10% of their team verbalize a positive attitude. We may be positive thinkers but if the team or our manager “perceives” us to be negative, then that is how we will be branded. This brand will not help us climb the ladder. 

The thing about a negative attitude is that most of us do not know we sound negative. We may think we have a positive attitude, but what is heard by others is often different. Below I will provide examples of common responses to request that most of us take for granted. 

It’s not what we say, it’s what people hear

HR observations

Three observations after years of seeing employees passed over for promotion and declined in interviews:

  1. Having a neutral tone in conversation is better than having a negative tone. A neutral tone won’t get you promoted.
  2. We may have a neutral tone. We may not sound negative, but if we don’t sound positive, we won’t be perceived as positive. Let me say that one more time. We may not sound negative, but if we don’t sound positive, we won’t be perceived as positive.
  3. We can be positive about our friends, our colleagues and our projects, but if we are negative on our selves, it will be tough to climb the ladder. 
Positive Attitude

In the immortal words of Rob Schneider from the movie Water Boy “You can do ittttt”

I used to be the guy that rolled his eyes when someone was talking about PMA. I wasn’t just THAT guy I was the guy that had eyes rolling like a giant Ferris wheel.  Over time I trained myself to see the “other side” of every situation and trust me, in my field, there is always the “other side”. 

Fast forward to the present. I roll my eyes when I hear anyone poo poo an idea, tell me a project cannot be done, or comes into an interview and the answers end on a negative sound byte. In most cases, these party pooper’s don’t even know what they sound like. After all, who would come into an interview with negativity or present themselves as less than positive to their manager?

Why demonstrate a positive attitude?

For starters, no one wants to be around Negative Nelly. Gather any 5 people, ask them about the traits they want to see in their next hire or co-worker and “positive attitude”, “fun”, and “open minded” will be at the top of the list.

Requisite dating analogy

It doesn’t matter how easy on the eyes a potential plus one is, or how much we have in common with our future ex. We will grow bored and frustrated if they possess a negative attitude. We will put up with the potential +1 longer than normal, but the end result will be the same. 

When it comes to management roles, having a positive attitude is key. Managers aren’t really needed when the times are good, deals are rolling in and everyone is making their bonuses. Any monkey can hand out a raise or a bonus. Managers are needed when times are tough, when deal flow is drying up and when the results are not there. Good managers are paid to solve problems and it is tough to follow or be inspired by a manager who is always thinking “we’ll never get it done” or “that’s impossible”. Managers figure it out. Great managers solve problems. The expectation is that managers produce results.  Most leadership teams believe they can teach technical skills and do NOT believe they can teach a positive attitude. F-U-L-L S-T-O-P.

Moon Shot

If you say any of the below on a regular basis, you probably aren’t getting into management any time soon.

  • “No”. Extra steps backwards in the ladder to management if you say “No” without a reason why it is a “no”.
  • “That can’t be done”. I have said it before and will say it again. If we put a man on the moon in the 60’s, we can do anything. It may cost more money and take more resources than what is initially available, but it CAN be done. The United States proved it. Our first rocket didn’t make it to the moon, we made baby steps, but we did it.
    • NASA shot a moon into space.
    • The United States put a monkey into space.
    • We orbited the moon.
    • THEN  we landed on the moon.
    • The United States put a man on the moon.
  • Any sentence implying an idea is stupid, dumb or useless. We don’t have to state the idea is stupid, dumb or useless, but if that is the impression we leave, we probably are not going to hear any further ideas.

Positive Examples

One of the most creative biz dev guys I know and admire taught me that the answer should never be “No”. The answer should always be “Yes” or “Yes, if”. As in “Yes, IF we can do X or Y”.  So, if someone asks if we can haul the piano up the stairs to the 4th floor, we don’t say “No, it can’t be done”. We try some version of “Yes, IF we just have the right equipment including a crane and we can take the window out of the room it is supposed to go in. We will put the piano through the window.

The CEO pulled me aside and gave me an edict: “Don’t ever let me fire Creative Biz Dev Guy. He and TL are the only two guys that understand where I am coming from when I am thinking forward and dreaming big. Everyone else thinks I am on crack and shit’s on my ideas but those two guys can see the potential”. Two lessons here:

  1. If you want to hear ideas from your team, don’t shit on them when they are suggested.
  2. Anyone can see the potential of an idea with the right frame of mind.

These two guys didn’t think about how it “couldn’t be done”. They were always figuring out how it CAN be accomplished and this is why they were able to keep up with the CEO. Are you an AmericCAN or an AmeriCAN’T?

There are no impossible tasks. There are “interesting problems” and “tough challenges”.

Alternatives to negative answers

Instead of saying “No”, “No, it can’t be done.” or “No, that’s stupid.”

Try: “That is an interesting challenge. That could be tough. Let me think about that for a minute?” If we say “It can’t be done” and someone does get it done, we will have mud on our face.  

Try: “I can see where we could come to that conclusion. Have WE thought about it this way?”

Instead of saying: “We don’t have enough people / budget to get that done.”

Try: “Let’s figure out how many / how much it will take to get what we need and back off from that number.” Then follow up with:  

  • “What is the minimum that we can get away with?”
  • “What can we do to make an initial viability test?”

Instead of saying, “It isn’t MMYYYYY fault”

Try: “I am sure what ever happened wasn’t intentional. Let’s figure out how to improve the situation.”

Instead of saying “I don’t like that.” Or “I hate that”.

Try: “I haven’t learned to appreciate that yet. What should I be looking for?”

Instead of saying “Johnny is stupid, dumb, an asshole, etc”. 

Try: A small personal dose of STFU.  OK, that sounded horrible, but I am pretty sure you will remember it. BOOYAHHH!

Glass half full

The goal is to think before we speak and try and present ourselves in at LEAST a neutral tone. It’s not going to happen overnight. Change will be a process. 

Look at the glass as half full instead of half empty and if the glass is less than half full, find a smaller glass.

Next week: how to shed a reputation for having a negative attitude.

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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Presidential Debate 2016, the ultimate job interview

Posted: by HRNasty in Job Interview Tips

presidential debate

Presidential debate or job interview

Presidential Debate Disclaimer:

Any political opinions as it relates to the presidential debate in this post are not intentional and merely coincidental. The writer does not take any financial compensation from advertising or placements. This blog is intended to provide tips on interviewing and career advice only. Political opinions are not intentional and intended for learning purposes only. All data and information on this site are for informational purposes only. makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness or validity as it relates to political views.  

Debate or Job Interview

Like many people, I have been sucked into the train wreck of politics. I have been watching the presidential debates and seeing job interview lessons to be learned from both candidates. Both candidates are interviewing for one of the most powerful jobs in the world. The candidates are in the largest panel interview of their lives.

presidential debate

Interviewers Holt, Raddatz, Cooper, and Wallace conducting the interview on behalf or the American public.

Instead of walking into a room where there is just a panel of 3 or 4 interviewers, the candidates are being interviewed on behalf of the American public.

Rest assured, I am NOT going to discuss politics in this post

My one and only goal is to leverage the presidential debates as a platform for job interview lessons.  Instead of using my normal dating analogies, I will be using presidential debate analogies. Wish me luck. 

There are a number of lessons that can be demonstrated as it relates to interviewing for a job within this presidential debate. We are only going to focus on one, Behavioral Interviewing.

Behavioral Interviewing

The theory of Behavioral interviewing says that prior success is the best indicator of future success. Recruiters want to find a track record of success and candidates want to prove that track record of success. I am a big believer that this is one of the best ways a candidate can prove their qualifications into a job and have blogged on the topic here.

In the first presidential debate, the 1st question asked of both candidates was on the topic was “Achieving prosperity”.

Lester Holt asked both candidates,

“Why are you a better choice than your opponent to create the kinds of jobs that will put more money into the pockets of American workers?”

Hillary response:

The central question in this election is really what kind of country we want to be and what kind of future we’ll build together. Today is my granddaughter’s second birthday, so I think about this a lot. First, we have to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. That means we need new jobs, good jobs, with rising incomes.

I want us to invest in you. I want us to invest in your future. That means jobs in infrastructure, in advanced manufacturing, innovation and technology, clean, renewable energy, and small business, because most of the new jobs will come from small business. We also have to make the economy fairer. That starts with raising the national minimum wage and also guarantee, finally, equal pay for women’s work.

I also want to see more companies do profit-sharing. If you help create the profits, you should be able to share in them, not just the executives at the top.

And I want us to do more to support people who are struggling to balance family and work. I’ve heard from so many of you about the difficult choices you face and the stresses that you’re under. So let’s have paid family leave, earned sick days. Let’s be sure we have affordable child care and debt-free college.

How are we going to do it? We’re going to do it by having the wealthy pay their fair share and close the corporate loopholes.

Not about politics

This is not about the answer being right or wrong answer. This post isn’t about politics so please don’t read into it this way. (Noticing a theme?)  But I am an interviewer and I cringed when I heard the above answer as it relates to a job interview question. Behavioral interviewing says that “Demonstrating prior success is the best indicator of future success.” With this in mind, candidates want to demonstrate prior success and give details of prior success as it relates to the question.

Politics aside, and with only job interview lessons in mind, (recurring theme) I didn’t hear anything about prior success in Hillary’s answer. The answer we heard is what typically gets candidates declined from hiring managers and department heads. The answer was simple arm chair quarterbacking.   

Breakdown of the answer

The very first sentence of the candidate’s answer doesn’t relate to the question. There is talk about the grand daughter and the connection to the initial question is tough to make. As an interviewer I am IMMEDIATELY wondering “Where is this answer going?”   

Hillary then goes on to list off what we should do on a number of various topics including equal pay, companies implementing profit sharing, affordable child care to name a few. But she doesn’t give evidence that she CAN make the changes. 

Towards the end of the answer, Hillary stated the following but in my opinion, she didn’t close the deal. 

“How are we going to do it? We’re going to do it by having the wealthy pay their fair share and close the corporate loopholes.” 

But at no point in her answer did we hear how she is qualified to implement the solution, has deep knowledge about the situation, or had solved anything similar in the past. 

When it comes to being qualified for the role of president, Hillary Clinton is much more qualified than HRNasty but I wouldn’t have been out of bounds if I had given the exact same answer. She could easily differentiate herself from HRNasty as a candidate if she listed prior successes. ( I would not be able to list prior successes)

(Again, politics aside)  Hillary has worked in public service and in politics for a long time. I have done nothing even close. I could have easily given the exact same answer and not been out of bounds. The answer didn’t contain specific examples. She could have easily separated herself from a monkey like me by talking about her prior successes as it relates to politics and change.

She could have followed up her initial answer with a demonstration of prior success. “And I have helped put more money into American pockets when I did X, Y and Z.)

As it relates to Behavioral interviewing, Trump said something very similar.

Trump explained that jobs are leaving the country and that US companies are going overseas. Trump then pointed to a reduction in taxes to keep the United States as an attractive place for companies and corporations. 

But at the end of the day, I could say all of the above with just as much credibility because the answer doesn’t give any specific examples. And this is exactly what happens in a job interview. The candidate tells the hiring manager what they want to do, or what they think should be done. What we as candidates need to do in a job interview is articulate how we have had success solving a related problem the past. A hiring manager hears candidate and employee ideas every day of the week. It’s all just hot air to the manager.  The candidates that receive job offers are the ones that have been able to articulate prior success and the steps taken to accomplish the desired outcomes.  

A history of success creating jobs or higher salaries would have been a demonstration of prior success. Demonstration of providing tax breaks to corporations would have shown prior success. In the context of a presidential debate / job interview, the above examples are talking points that I personally would NOT be able to demonstrate. HRC has the ability to separate herself from a monkey like HRNasty as a candidate for the position.   

Demonstration of success

Hillary DID articulate prior successes when she addressed Trumps comment about her being in government for 30 years. Hillary responded with “So let me talk about my 30 years in public service, I’m very glad to do so”.  She then went on to tick off a laundry list of accomplishments directly related to a presidential position. Hillary was able to demonstrate she is more qualified to fill the job of president over HRNasty. I would NOT be able to rattle off even one of the below bullets.

  • Eight million kids every year have health insurance, because when I was first lady I worked with Democrats and Republicans to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
  •   Hundreds of thousands of kids now have a chance to be adopted because I worked to change our adoption and foster care system.
  • After 9/11, I went to work with Republican mayor, governor and president to rebuild New York and to get health care for our first responders who were suffering because they had run toward danger and gotten sickened by it.
  • Hundreds of thousands of National Guard and Reserve members have health care because of work that I did.
  • Children have safer medicines because I was able to pass a law that required the dosing to be more carefully done.
  • When I was secretary of state, I went around the world advocating for our country, but also advocating for women’s rights, to make sure that women had a decent chance to have a better life.
  • N egotiated a treaty with Russia to lower nuclear weapons.
  •   Four hundred pieces of legislation have my name on it as a sponsor or cosponsor when I was a senator for eight years.

The above bullets are more effective in proving qualifications over “What we need to do” or “What we should be doing.” “What I could do” and “What we should do” is just arm chair quarterbacking and not effective in a job interview. The above bullets demonstrate she has plenty of political experience and success. Candidates that provide examples of prior success are a higher percentage bet.

Again, I am NOT trying to show one candidate in a better light as it relates to the presidential debate. (Plug for neutrality) I am trying showcase behavioral interviewing as it relates to a job interview.


Numbers can lend credibility. Both candidates demonstrated this tactic in their answers. Hillary stated she was re-elected to office with 67% of the vote. Trump spoke to numbers when he talked about being endorsed by 16,000 border agents. Numbers put everything into perspective. 

EG: Instead of saying “I am a hard worker” try the following. “Yes, I believe I am a hard worker. I put myself through school in 4 years while working 30 hours a week. I am proud of this because I maintained a 3.0 GPA.” 

What other lessons can we learn about job interviews from these candidates who are both interviewing for our votes? Share them in the comments below and let the games begin!

For my Behavioral Interviewing style answers to the top interview questions click here. 

See you at the voting booths!


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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HR professional brand

Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Personal, What HR Really Thinks

professional brand.

protect and reinforce your professional brand

Professional brand

I was recently asked to sit down with a small group of HR professionals and the intent was to talk about our professional brand as an HR professional. The session was a lot of fun and turned out to me more of a round table Q&A than me just presenting. The group was very insightful. I thought that regardless of what you do for a living the discussion was applicable to all professions. The talk was a good reminder for myself as to what I stand for personally. My hope is that the below comes across in the way I hope it did person. The below helped me move my career to be an executive in HR and then a COO with responsibility beyond HR.  

What is the most important thing HR can do?

Make sure that employees are paid on time and accurately. When in doubt, clear up questions ASAP. Employees don’t come to work because they like the product or the people. Product and people are the icing on the cake. They come to work for the cake and the cake is the paycheck. Do everything you can to make sure that people get paid and their expenses are taken care of in a timely manner. Miss this a couple of times and employees will always be suspect of you.

I believe that individually, we alone are ultimately responsible for our own careers. Despite the manager, despite the VP, despite my nosy, bitchy, or dick headed co-worker that I am sitting next to, it is up to me to take responsibility and actions for my own career. I should NOT rely on my manager to read my mind or just hand me opportunity. We need to show we are ready for more responsibility by doing more than just our job and we need to let our manager know what we want to do. we need to make it easy for my manager to give me more responsibility and by easy, I mean, they need to be able to defend WHY we are worth more money, more responsibility, more of anything to their boss.

What is an HR no no?

Responding with “No”, “It can’t be done” or “It is impossible”. Nothing is impossible. If we could put a man on the moon in the 60’s with 64 kilobytes of memory, then in todays age where we can buy terra bytes of storage off the shelf for PERSONAL use, we can do anything. It may take more time and more resources, but we can do anything. Start any answer with with what it takes to get something done and work backward from there. This is a very different mentality than starting the conversation with “That can’t be done”.

I am NOT here to look out for individual employees. My primary – job one, is to protect the company and make a return on investment for our investors. By protecting the company I am looking out for the individual employees. When I help create a fair and welcoming environment, I make it easier for our co-workers to do amazing work. By looking out for the company I AM looking out for the employee.

As an HR practitioner, all I have is trust. As soon as I lose the employees trust, my value as an HR professional is worth nothing. Protect the trust.


If an employee wants to tell me something in confidence, then I need to let them know up front that if an employee or the company is at risk, I will need to get help. I am here for the company first.

There are no rules, just guidelines. I worked in Corporate American and we had an employee manual. Rules, Rules Rules. I now work in technology and I believe in a book of employee guidelines. We are dealing with people and all people and situations are different. A single rule is not going to cover our diverse workforces. We are all adults so providing the “intent” of the guideline is much more mature than providing a hard rule.

HR sitting at the table

If we want a seat at the table, we need to act like we deserve a seat at the table. This means presenting our ideas in a business fashion that the executive team can relate to. This is going to sound harsh but most exec teams are alpha males and most HR practitioners are folks who got into HR because they wanted to take care of individual employees. Communications styles need to adapt to the audience. Execs don’t think about individual employees, they think about the entire work force. I could not stress the upside of a mentor here. 

No asshole rule

For me personally, it doesn’t matter how smart they are, no assholes. I would rather have a hole on the team vs. an asshole. That being said, and I say this all the time.

If I had an ENTIRE team of assholes, I can probably put that company on the best place to work list. Everyone is on the same page, everyone understands and appreciates the asshole culture. It is when we have random employees that don’t abide by the culture of the company that things go badly. If we want an asshole culture, then I would go out and hire nothing but assholes and explain up front that we have an asshole culture. All the assholes are on the same page, and no one is surprised when they encounter asshole behavior.

It isn’t a place I want to work, but I believe it can work.


Culture is not ping-pong tables and beer Fridays. Too many CEO’s think that adding a ping pong table and a kegerator is a culture dial. Culture cannot be turned up or down with “more or less stuff”. Regardless of the values, corporate cultures happen when the entire workforce is engaged with the leaders vision and values. You can have a corporate culture that works for some individuals and doesn’t work for others. As individuals, we need to find company we can believe in not just from a product standpoint, but a corporate culture point of view as well. See asshole rule above.


I want to explain business decisions 5 different times and 5 different ways. Not every employee can relate to the same message. The executive team should not expect the employee to understand a decision that is explained in 2 minutes at a company meeting or in an email. Execs are the ones that created new policy and were involved in the discussions. They had time to adjust to the new ideas. My goal is to have employees understand why a business decision is made. They may not like the decision at a personal level, but I want to explain the decision so they respect it from a business perspective (vs. a personal perspective). Once they can respect a decision, they can get behind it and we can move forward. Too many HR people don’t take the time to explain the WHY. 

Successful HR practitioners understand that they are not going to be able to please all employees all the time. Successful HR practitioners understand that there will ALWAYS be someone that doesn’t agree with a business decision. We will not make business decisions in anticipation of a single employees reaction. We need to make decisions for the good of the company goals and the employee force. Too many times, decisions are made with the intent that the small group of offenders will hear the message. Trust me they won’t. Small groups or individual offenders should be addressed by individual managers.

professional brand

Being successful in HR means being able to hold the respect of the team while executing on hard and painful business decisions. Any monkey can hold respect on the easy and obvious decisions. Being upfront and transparent will move your credibility a long way.


Do everything you can to hook up with a mentor. Buy that person coffee on a regular basis and pick their brain, let them know what you are up to and ask for their advice on projects and presentations. Managers have 4-8 others people on their team and they don’t have time to be your mentor. Network and find a mentor! 

As a stereotype, HR people look out for others and not themselves. They can make a case to give someone a raise, but won’t ask for anything on behalf of themselves. If you don’t ask, you won’t get. Ask!

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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Job offer

It started when we accepted the wrong job offer

Accepting the wrong job offer

In the past 3 weeks, I have met with three different job seekers and I noticed a common thread. With each situation, the candidates DID NOT realize they were working against themselves in their job search. Frankly, I think that this phenomenon is happening with 90% of the candidates out there and I want to give folks something to marinate on.   

To provide some quick background on the candidates:

The group consisted of a product manager, a project manager and a business analyst.

  • I consider all three candidates to be very smart. All three candidates had a Masters or MBA, all had at least 5 years of experience post MBA. No dummies here. These folks are very purposeful about their careers and don’t just “take a job because they don’t have options”.
  • All three are successful in their current / prior jobs and wanted to pursue jobs in similar industries. The product and project manager wanted to stay in tech and the business analyst wanted to stay in corporate finance.
  • All three candidates told me a little bit about themselves and all three had a list of strengths and weakness. In addition, they all came prepared with ideas of where they could be successful.
  • 2 of the three had job postings they were interested in applying for and were wanted advice on how to get into these respective roles. Like I said, “Purposeful”.  

Interesting conclusion

After asking a few questions, I came to the same conclusion with all three candidates:

None of the roles were interesting to any of the candidates. All of the candidates assumed that since their prior experience was X position and Y industry, their next gig should be X position and Y industry. The candidates that came from technology companies wanted to stay in technology and the analyst wanted to stay in banking. To a person, they all admitted that they were not super excited about receiving a job offer for these positions.

I understand why they would come to this conclusion. They had success in their prior gigs. Why wouldn’t anyone continue down a similar path and increase their record of success? My hesitation was that although they may be successful, I didn’t think any of these smart candidates would be “happy” in their desired roles. They had boxed themselves into a traditional thinking mindset. I am a project manager in X industry, I should continue to be a project manager in X industry. Never mind that these industries were not that interesting to our candidates. “I got bills to pay and kids to put through college, I need to get a job offer dammit!”   

HRN and candidate conversations


HRN: “What would be your dream job? What would you love to do? What would the job offer look like?”

Analyst: I love to travel, I wish I could write reviews on travel destinations, but who is going to pay me for that? I have been in the finance industry all my life, I have an MBA.”

HRN: “One of the largest cruise lines is based here in the city. Alaska Airlines is also based here. You may not be working as a travel writer, but you can be working in the industry and getting a great discount on your travel. 

I could see the gears turning in the Analysts mind. “I never thought about either of those companies or that industry. Both of those companies have GOT to be collecting big data, I would love to analyze data based on travel.” 

If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.

As a guy working in HR, no matter what we do, there will be aspects of the job which we won’t care for as much as others. To overcome this, we can work in an industry which we find genuinely interesting. I don’t expect any job to be all fun and games, but a job can be less of the salt mines.   

Trust me, when we find a company or industry we are interested interviewing becomes much more interesting. The answers that we know we should be giving during an interview for a Jay-Oh-Bee suddenly become answers we WANT to give because we are looking at a potential career. The interview isn’t an fake act where we are trying to show interest in a position. The interview becomes a dialogue and a conversation because both hiring manager and the candidate genuinely want to be working with each other.

If you are looking for a job or considering a job change, my suggestion is avoid trying to fit your skills to the job. With this mentality, the company might make a hire, but the employee loses because there isn’t a genuine interest. Figure out what you LIKE to do, and fit the job to you. This way the company benefits because you are genuinely interested in the work and you benefit because you are working on something you are already interested in.

A VP of Sales gave me this mug years ago and I use it to this day. Concidently, I find myself working with him again 10 years later

Perfect HR mug: A VP of Sales gave me this mug years ago and I use it everyday. Fortunately, I find myself working with him again 10 years later. Thanks MM

Make the company work for you

Applying to a company or position that only fills the requirement of paying the bills. We could be applying to a company that not only pays the bills but is genuinely interesting. We are settling (for the position) before we even explored options (other industries) and are literally forcing a square peg (candidate) into a round hole (position).  Lets fit the square peg into the square hole.

Requisite dating example

If you are a single person and using online web sites to find a potential +1, it helps to use a dating site that caters to your desired demographic. If you are a country girl and want to find a country boy, yes, go to Bumble and go to Match, but also check out If your parents are pestering you to find a nice Jewish boy, yes, check out Tinder, but also check out Look for happiness in a target rich environment.

Today, I talked with an person relatively young in their career. She wants to go to school and then pursue a Masters so she can become a counselor. She is currently working part time in an industry unrelated to counseling while she goes to school.  Because her part time job is literally “just paying the bills” and she has no long-term interest in the field. I believe she could expand her job search and land a job offer in an industry of interest. 

Although not be a counselor now, working in the counseling industry while going to school can help her long term. It doesn’t really matter what niche of counseling she works in at this point. We want to add a track record of interest to our resume so when we do apply for our first career job, we get a relevant job offer.

More than one way to skin a cat

My other suggestion is to explore working with a company that will help pay for school. We have a LOT of large companies in this town and we can name a dozen that have tuition reimbursement programs including the colleges themselves. 

The point is, don’t feel boxed in with your job search. If you have a passion, although we may not find an exact job, we can probably find something with our industry of interest.

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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LinkedIn Connections

LinkedIn isn’t just about the numbers

Linkedin connections question

I recently received a question on LinkedIn connections from one of our interns.  His goal is to become a wealth manager where network cultivation will be critical. I thought it was a great question and should be shared. The guy asking the question is smart, has initiative and holds leadership positions within his school and fraternity (not your stereotypical douche fraternity guy) and I am confident he will be successful. Consequently, I figured if he is asking this question, others are as well.  

His initial question is below (with permission):

“Is it the objective to make as many LinkedIn connections as possible  For example, I have had multiple recruiters invite me to connect, but I am curious if it (LinkedIn) is meant more for the personal/meaningful connections or is the shotgun – “connect with everyone you can”, approach the best? 

Before I present my answer to this question, I know there are very different views on this topic. I am at a point in my career where I am limiting my LinkedIn connections and social media in general. Currently, I fall into the quality vs. quantity camp. I know some very smart people that I look up to and admire that will accept any and all invitations to connect. The below is my opinion and I expect there will be some counter points. Comments welcome.   

Advice to the intern

Until you are a couple of years into your career, no one is going to look at your profile and say “This guy only has 50 LinkedIn connections, he is a loser.” As a junior in college, we are at a point in our career where I don’t think it is fair to expect as many professional connections. With only a few years of experience, we haven’t had an opportunity to meet many professionals. Folks with a 5 plus years of experience will have had many more opportunities and more time to build a network.

LinkedIn profile, have or have not 

Before I go on, I need to say the following: If someone is looking for a corporate job and doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile (or I am not able to find it) THIS IS BAD. This is veddy veddy bad. The hiring manager is using LinkedIn, the recruiter is using LinkedIn and the head of the department is using LinkedIn. We should make it easy for these decision makers to find us. I blogged about LinkedIn profiles here, and I take the above paragraph one step further. I recommend that candidates add a hyper link on their resume that directs the reader to the LinkedIn profile. This would be at the top of the resume right next to the contact information. If we know that hiring managers will search for this profile, we should make it easy on them. Let’s not ask them to do a Google search on John Smith + LinkedIn.  OK, I got that off my chest. 

LinkedIn connections as a ratio of years worked

If someone is in a business development role / sales role, holds a senior position (7-10 years of experience) and doesn’t have 500+ LinkedIn connections, that is bad. Roles like these are being paid to network and it is assumed if you are in this group, you are shaking the bushes.  These candidates will have a tough time gaining credibility when they are not able prove they have a network. Yes, we can artificially inflate the number of connections, but the number is a lead indicator.  

Quantity vs. Quality

Back to our intern’s question: Personally, I am striving for a network of quality vs. one built around quantity. I am not sure what a recruiters motivation is to connect to someone that is a junior in college. I don’t think they are reaching out to you with the hopes of recruiting you or asking for financial advice. Make sense? Accept a couple and see what happens.

I think it is similar to our Facebook and Instagram profiles. When we first created our social media profile, we wanted to connect with anyone and everyone that was interesting, attractive, or both. We literally asked our friends, “How many friends do you have on Facebook?”

With experience, we realized that our social streams were filled with chaff and we began to limit and cull our connections. We are OK with fewer connections and want relevance in our networks.

As an HR person, some managers will get paranoid that employees with large networks could get recruited away. I say this is short sighted and these employees with large networks can help bring in revenue or candidates for job openings. Candidates are not leaving because they have large networks. They are leaving because the current employer / manager isn’t doing enough for them. 

My question to the intern:

If we are asked: “Hey, I see you are connected with John Smith on LinkedIn, can you make an introduction?” and we don’t know them from John, all we can say is:

“Uhh, Dude, I don’t know that guy. He must have just reached out and I randomly accepted. Sorry, I wouldn’t feel right making an introduction to a stranger.”  

If the only thing we have done with a LinkedIn connection is hit the “accept connection” button, will that help either of us? Will we use that connection to make an introduction for a job posting or to do a deal? What do we think when we are approached by someone we don’t know or remember? 

For the record, I think it is completely OK to connect with a stranger on LinkedIn. As long as their profile picture isn’t a windowless van with “Free Candy” painted in Krylon AND our intent is to start a dialogue. But to just start reaching out to build up the numbers may be short sighted. 

Requisite dating analogy:

I ask a super-hot girl to hang out with me. She says yes, but when we are sitting down to coffee, she is answering texts, checking out guys and not paying attention to me. It takes two to tango. If we are not going to put equal effort into the relationship, then it doesn’t matter who we are connected to. One sided relationships, whether we are face to face over a glass of wine or over the inter webs are not helping anyone. The connection should be beneficial to both. 

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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5 year plan

Have you thought about your 5 year plan?

What is your 5 year plan? 

The “What is your 5 year plan?” and “What is your 3 year plan?” are both very common interview questions. I admit I ask the question on a regular basis when I am conducting interviews and there are a couple of things I am looking for in the answers. There are definitely answers that will move you along and answers that will result in the candidate being declined. Recently, I was colleague-ing  with a good friend who is interviewing for a senior position with THE premier search company and one of our practice questions was “What is your 5 year plan?”

This friend is one of the smartest people I know. To put this into perspective, she has a PhD, and an MBA, studied music all her life and leads a disciplined life. In other words, she isn’t just smart, she isn’t just horned rim glasses smart, she is intellectually horsepowered Asian smart. She showed up with a 3 ring binder of research, interview questions, and examples. I love working with folks with this much initiative. Yeah, I was more than flattered to be asked to work with her. 

Before I launch into her answer to the “What is your 5-year plan?”, let me try and explain what I am looking for when I ask this question based feedback from hundreds of hiring managers.

When I ask “What is your 5 year plan?”, what I am looking for is “purpose” and “direction”. Specifically, I will weed out candidates who do NOT have a plan. A lot of readers will say that culling candidates because they don’t have an answer is harsh and typical of an arrogant and self-righteous recruiter.  Guilty as charged, just hear me out and listen to my logic. Comments welcome below.

Requisite dating analogy:

You are on one of the first couple of dates with Mr. Potentially Right, and we ask all the normal questions:

First date questions:

  • What is your sign?
  • What foods do you like?
  • Favorite movie?
  • Do you have any brothers or sisters?
  • Blah blah blah. Just checking for chemistry here, not going to ask anything potentially argumentative just yet.

Things go well on the first date and on the second date, we up the ante with Mr. Potentially Right.

Second date questions:

  1. “Do you want to have kids?”
  2. “How many kids?”
  3. “What presidential candidates are you going to vote for?”
  4. “What are your career goals?” AKA “What is your 5-year plan?”

If the answer to question number 4 is:

“Well, I am finishing up my degree in Information Systems after which, I hope to study for the GMAT and then get my MBA at Michigan State.  My goal would be to work for Acme or one of the big search companies. I have been working during my summers saving for grad school and I will need to take out a small loan, but I can’t wait to study advanced business topics and combine them with technology.”

Wow! I am a straight dude and I want a third date with this guy. He has his shit together and could be a great life partner.

Bad answer

If I hear:

“Career goals? Hmmm, hadn’t really thought about a career. Just trying to get through school.”


“Well, I am in my third year of school, but I am not feeling it. I don’t feel right about corporate America, the presidential candidates and where the country is going. I am thinking about dropping out.”

Uhhhh, yeah, you were Mr. Potentially Right, but now you are just Mr. Loser Wrong. Dropping out after racking up 3 years of college debt with no plans? WTF Dude? I don’t want any part of that. If you said you were on the verge of inventing a paint that goes on dry or had a mobile app that was getting 1000’s of downloads a day, I could dig it. Sadly, you don’t even sound like you are dreaming at this point. Show’s over, no +1 here.

Back at our interview

The hiring manager just asked our candidate, “What is your 5 year plan?”

Candidate: “Wow, I hadn’t really thought about a 5 year plan. I don’t have the experience to know what is out there. Having just graduated from college, my goal for the past 4 years was to just get through school. Right now, I am just trying to find a job”

Mr. Potential New Hire is now Mr. Declined.

Most of us want to date, hang out with, and hire folks that have a sense of purpose and direction. If we are going to pay someone, we definitely want to know they have some ambition. We may not know what is out there, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for not having a plan. What I am looking for is someone with a purpose. Said with the right backup, I can be happy with all of the below:

  • “I want to be CEO of the company”
  • “5 year plan? I want your job”
  • “This is easy, I want to make $300K a year”

All of the above can be perfectly good answers as long as we back them up with a path to get there. Just saying I want to make $300K isn’t enough.

The “Why” lends credibility

But, if I hear:

“My father is in sales and makes a comfortable living. I want to do the same. He has taught me that the sales people have the ability to control their salary. Most positions have a comp band. Sales positions provide commissions. Consequently, the more you sell, the more you make. I am not going to make 300K my first year, but in three years, my hope is to have a job where I am making 75K as a base and 75K upside in commissions.”

This candidate has thought about his goals and has a plan. 

What I usually hear:

I want to be a manager, I think I am a good people person, I have leadership potential and want to have a team reporting to me”.  Full Stop, end of sentence. 

10% of candidates provide the following:

“I want to be a manager. I think I am a good people person, I have leadership potential and want to have a team reporting to me. In the past I was in a leadership position at my fraternity and enjoyed it.”

Our PhD / MBA friend provided a very similar answer to 10 percenter’s above. Even though she was articulate, she lacked emotion. In the end, I didn’t believe her. 

What I really thought:

I asked her again, “What do you really want to do?” She provided a little longer answer thinking that her answer wasn’t detailed enough. 

My response:

I like your answer. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like it is YOUR answer. The answer you provided is the answer you think I want to hear. It is the answer that you think you are supposed to give, and what you think managers want to hear. (She nodded her head in agreement) I didn’t feel any passion behind the answer, I didn’t feel any emotion. I’m not buying it.”

I asked the same question a little differently: “What do you want to do? What do you want to be known for?”

Her response: “I don’t know that I really want to be a manager. I want to be a multiplier. I am a data scientist that takes business questions and translates them into data analysis. With my findings, the department or company will make exponential improvements and I really like being behind the scenes and making that kind of impact. For the past 10 years, I have made a career out of leveraging data and improving results. Ultimately, my 5 year plan is to do this at a larger scale and build my reputation for improving performance based on data.”


This is the answer I am looking for. This is what SHE wants to do, and not what society or her parents or her manager wants her to do. She has thought about what she wants to do. She wants to scale her talents and I heard it in her voice. 

The answer that will decline a candidate is an answer that shows the candidate has no direction about the future and no plans to self-improve.

A good answer doesn’t have to be about landing a management or leadership position.

Your answer should show that you have thought about a future, you can articulate it and you are on a path to getting there. Just saying what you want without explaining the prior progress towards the goal is just trash talkin’. She was excited about her answer because it was HER answer and it was the truth. Her answer explained what SHE really wanted to do. She had a 5 year plan. 


See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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