Tag Archives: networking

Articles for job seekers

No — I Won’t Supply My References Before The First Interview


I agree. I think this practice runs the risk of companies contacting references without the candidate preparing them for what to emphasize (always within their ability to ethically do so!), or even giving notice. References are job search treasure, and must be cherished and protected. It also has the potential to be a sneaky way for companies to gather other names of people to solicit for employment. And depending on how long you’ve been employed, you may want to customize the reference list you give depending on the interview and the directions taken while you were there.

And I’m only semi-cynical in predicting this, but at some point I can see health testing, even DNA testing… all as a condition of being considered for employment. DNA testing brings to mind this cartoon:

Job Search Humor Cartoon


And yes, I have this gene.  (Some would doubtless opine a deplorable excess thereof…)

4 Behavioral Interview Questions That Reveal What a Job Candidate Is Really Like


Insights from the interviewer’s playbook. Good stuff. Related:

5 Non-traditional Interview Questions That Can Help You Select the Best Candidate


With respect to the fourth question specifically: while the question itself is quite legitimate and can lead to great insights, I believe the implicit assumption that if the candidate can’t think of anything then the candidate is assumed to be the one with the problem, is not legitimate. I call BS. There are, sadly, some very bad people in management out there (recall the “conventional wisdom” that people leave managers, not companies) – to de facto assume that problems always reside with the employee, and never with the person’s manager (or the company in general), is naïve. And another question, which I think is actually a very good one, so prepare:

How You Answer This Interview Question Reveals Your True Character


Anyone can “song and dance” their way through an interview and shine. This is a “penetrating” question and gets to a person’s character. I like it; one can train for skill, one can inspire and motivate for attitude… but one cannot implant ethics, integrity, or basic character (at best one can get someone to stick to the “letter of the law” out of fear of punishment, but GOOD behavior and GOOD character – that’s inherent in a person). And it’s actually a good question to ask of a hiring manager too!!

How A Story Database Will Make You More Persuasive


Written for sales, but also vital for job seekers. Stories ENGAGE not just factually, but EMOTIONALLY. The trick is to get in front of someone – a human! – who is willing to have a conversation and listen to your stories… and also have the perception to jump to what your background and stories could do for them.

The tech that hiring managers are using to screen all of your social media posts


I wonder… this could be a good software for someone to purchase, and then have people pay to screen their SM presence. And I have to wonder – I don’t have a FB account. Does that affect me positively, or negatively? I do find this to be a “catch-22”: too much SM presence, and that’s bad, too much of the “wrong” content, that’s bad, not enough or even if you’re not on SM altogether, that’s bad too. In my first essay on this, I came up with a quote which I think very much applies to vetting people through their SM presence:

“Hiring managers and human resources people search the internet for indications about a candidate’s personality, character, opinions, and human failings – and then are shocked and horrified to discover candidates have personalities, characters, opinions, and human failings.”

Consulting Firms: Strike back & stir the pot


Always good stuff from Nick Corcodilos! 

Networking Tips for Awkward People


Good overview thoughts. Especially if, like many technically-oriented people, you tend to not be comfortable in social settings.

7 Toxic Traits Of A Bad Employer


I’ve said this before: if you have time, search on LinkedIn for people who used to work at the company, and see if they’ll answer some questions. Also, if you are a member of related professional societies, ask around. Companies develop reputations. And if you know some good recruiters in the space, they also can be a good place to get off-the-record scuttlebutt. (One recruiter I know told me about a company they’d FIRED as a client because of all the negative feedback about the company they’d received from potential candidates – one of whom actually said “I’d rather be homeless than work for that place.”) 

9 Scary Reasons Overqualified Job Seekers are Rejected


Which only highlights the value of networking in and having conversations with decision-makers. Get to someone who can see beyond the scariness of someone “overqualified” to what you could do for them. And at the risk of shameless self-promotion, consider changing the rules of the game entirely with these thoughts:

The “O” Word 2


Don’t Overshare: What Not to Say During a Job Interview


It used to be, with people building careers at one company over decades, that friendships formed with so much time spent with the same people for so long. (Aside: growing up, my parents would often hold dinner parties; guests were, very regularly, co-workers from either – sometimes both – of my parents’ places of work… even in my next-generation case, some of my still-close friends come from former employers). In interviews “back then”, personal details would come out in anticipation of that long-term relationship. That’s done and in-the-past these days. Today, always ask yourself if the details you are about to share really are their business (and, potentially, could be things held against you for employment purposes, or as potential “leverage” against you should you join).

The most important trait for a successful job search


An absolutely key ingredient.




I am a senior-level Mechanical Engineer with, primarily, a background in plastics where I started my career. I am seeking a full-time engineering role, ideally in medical devices or defense, from Burlington MA to Concord NH, as a:

  • Plastics Design Engineer / Project Engineer
  • New Product Introduction / Design-Manufacturing handoff
  • Cost Reduction “Tiger Team” Engineer
  • Manufacturing / Process Engineer

For those interested, you can see some target companies on my blog:

Target Companies


And please do look at my portfolio of things I’ve done, and topical (i.e., engineering / manufacturing) essays I’ve written:



And lastly, I do urge you to “Pay it forward” yourself. I don’t NEED to post articles, job leads, etc. I WANT to do it because it’s a way to help people. Character matters. As I said in my essay:

The Hairs-Breadth Challenge


“Life is about helping people; if you aren’t elevating others, you’re diminishing yourself.”

Articles for Job Seekers

10 CV Mistakes That Put Employers Off Your Candidates 


It never hurts to keep fundamentals in mind.


9 Killer Questions Candidates Ought to Ask the Interviewer


All good; I would like to stress #6. At one job I had, the person who led the interview process, who called to extend the offer, and to whom I thought I reported – was NOT my actual direct supervisor / manager. And even after I attempted to engage the thought-he-was-my-boss person to firm up a six month plan with priorities, it was NOT made clear to whom I actually reported for a good couple of weeks. 


What Parking Says About Your Character


I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, this has the potential to be indicative of character and I do see the argument. On the other hand, this has the feeling of “reading tea leaves”; i.e., if they WANT to find something wrong (or good) about you, they can. IMHO, ultimately, this is much too subjective and open to interpretation. But do be aware that you are potentially being watched and evaluated even before you go in… and potentially as you drive in. You never know that the person you cut off (or worse, flip off!) might be the hiring manager coming back from lunch! 


How to get to love networking


It doesn’t HAVE to be scary. 


Employer Unfairly Blacklisted An Employee. Here’s What Happened… 


The problem is that it’s almost never this obvious (or contestable). One recruiter I know well, who has placed me in multiple interviews over the years, said that MOST of this happens at HR society meetings. He described several as nothing more than verbal sessions of “Don’t hire X, Y, or Z.” This is a problem! And I disagree with J.T.’s observation that most companies understand it’s partially both employer and employee… from both my readings AND from experience, the potential employer gives full weight to the other employer, and very little credence to the candidate’s side of things. 


I Would Never Have Taken This Job If I’d Known About The Hours


60 seems to be the new 40, hours-at-work-wise. And 70 is the new 100, salary-wise. IMHO this is not sustainable. And I find it interesting that the “conventional wisdom” is NOT to ask about typical work hours… for fear of branding yourself as a 9-to-5 type, but Liz recommends asking specifically. Let me be clear: no professional objects to crisis OT – it’s part of the territory. But if you need to work 60 hours a week to get your regular job done… something is very, very wrong.


How to make age less of a factor in your job search


Read the comments; some very penetrating insights, comments, and questions about / objections to the article. 


Avoid This Salary Negotiation Mistake


Not only some straight advice, but a bunch of video snippets too. Related to salary: 

Doing the Salary “Dance” in Job Interviews



The value of employee loyalty revealed


The irony is… loyalty needs to go – MUST GO! – both ways, and IMHO must be shown TO the rank-and-file before people reciprocate. 


5 Steps to Take When Using LinkedIn to Network for a Job


Some great advice on using this tool. 


Answering Tough Interview Questions: What Kind of Tree Would You Be?


If someone actually asked me this question, depending on how much I wanted the job, I’d counter with:

  1. “And how does this pertain to my ability to do the job here?”
  2. “One of those moving trees from the ‘Lord of the Rings’ – Huorns – because I’m walking out of here.”


Don’t Make These Body Language Mistakes!


While body language IS important, the more obsessed over it you become, the less you will be perceived as genuine.



I am a senior-level Mechanical Engineer with, primarily, a background in plastics where I started my career. I am seeking a FT engineering role, ideally in medical devices or defense, from Burlington MA to Concord NH, as a:

  • Plastics Design Engineer / Project Engineer
  • New Product Introduction / Design-Manufacturing handoff
  • Cost Reduction “Tiger Team” Engineer
  • Manufacturing / Process Engineer

For those interested, you can see some target companies on my blog:


And please do look at my portfolio of things I’ve done, and topical essays I’ve written (including two that were republished by the Society of Plastics Engineers!):


Given my accomplishments, i.e., proven examples of saving money, developing new products and processes… what could I do for you?


Articles for job seekers

Please do keep in mind, I’m on a job search too.

  • Product Design Engineer (strength in plastics design, but I can do other things too)
  • New Product Introduction Engineer
  • Cost Reduction Engineer
  • Manufacturing / Process Engineer

North of Boston, MA, ideally in the medical devices or defense industries.


7 (Really Hard) Interview Questions You Must Answer Properly


There’s a fine line between penetrating questions and interrogations. In the best of all possible worlds, an interview should be a conversation. Not necessarily an easy one at all times, but a conversation nonetheless! If you’re being treated like a suspect, or you feel you’re having to prove – at every step – the veracity of what you say, then that’s a red flag about their culture.

Boomerslang: The Clues in Your Resume That Can Out You as an Older Applicant


Even if you can hide your age in a resume, they’ll know when you walk in the door. That happened to a person I know – they’d be all enthusiastic at his resume, and excited after the phone interview… and he described how, time after time, he’d go into a place that was gung-ho about his visit, and their faces would fall when they saw his white hair and wrinkles. More:

55, unemployed and faking normal: One woman’s story of barely scraping by


The comment that age discrimination starts at 35 YEARS OLD was frightening. We’re approaching a world where, at 40, you’re thrown on the trash heap. What a waste of capability and experience! Related:

The Recruiter Said ‘At Your Age, You’d Better Take What You Can Get’


An open question: Do people who commit ageism truly believe that, when they get older, it won’t happen to them?

3 Reasons Baby Boomers Are Getting Fired


In the details, there’s some good advice here. In the grand scheme, however, I think J.T. O’Donnell is full of it in this essay (she’s done a lot of other, very good, ones). IMHO the single biggest objection companies have to older workers is NOT “tech savvy” or “higher salary” or anything else typically cited… but rather the strength of character of older workers to:

  1. Not sign on to the latest frenzied craze; life experience teaches that this is often a lemmings-off-the-cliff scenario. Experience breeds an ability to resist drinking the faddish Kool-Aid but, instead, say “Let’s take a serious and considered look at this, not scurry like ants that have had a wet lollipop dropped on the nest”. 
  2. Having a brain and a spine, and a willingness to NOT accede to insane demands on time. Crisis OT is one thing – no white collar professional objects to that. But when, to get your regular job done, it is necessary to spend 60 (or even more) hours a week at work, and to be expected to be accessible 24/7, older people push back.

 Side anecdote: A friend of mine from a former employer had his boss send him a meeting request for Monday morning at 8 AM… that prior Sunday afternoon. Had my friend not logged in to check, he’d have missed it.

Also, don’t forget the dreaded THREAT TO THE HIRING MANAGER’S CHAIR.

3 Common Negotiation Pitfalls And How To Avoid Them


I read this and think of the scene from “Devil’s Advocate”… “Are we negotiating?” “Always!”

Answer to Interview Question: “Have You Ever Been Fired?”


The trick, IMHO, is not to song-and-dance, or worse, lie, but to give them enough to answer the question without uncovering the rabbit hole for them to pursue. That never ends well.

Long-Term Unemployed? 5 Options to Fill that “Employment Gap”


The trick can be getting contract work too. And… a quote: “Remember, in this economy, it is not uncommon to hit a bump in the road during your career. How you handle it is what makes the difference going forward.” >> While I agree with all this, in my opinion there is still a huge “empathy gap” for people who are in the situation on the part of people who – purportedly – value EQ. Mentioned at the end of the article:

Overcoming the “Unemployed Bias” https://www.job-hunt.org/recruiters/overcoming-bias-unemployed.shtml

My one objection to this: Cranking up the confidence can lead to being perceived as arrogant. Where’s the window on that? One person’s confidence is another’s arrogance; one person’s low key is another’s passivity. And so on.

10 Powerful Headhunter Interview Tips That Will Help You Land the Job http://www.youtern.com/thesavvyintern/index.php/2017/03/15/headhunter-interview-tips-land-job/

Questions you may be asked!

The Cover Letter Formula That Skyrocketed My Interviews From 0% to 55% http://www.payscale.com/career-news/2017/02/cover-letter-formula

Worth reading, but I don’t think it’s something that can be reduced to a formula.

The last remaining human skill


Excellent point. And those that help people are better off than those that just absorb.

The best kept networking secret for jobseekers


Everyone out there is networking (if they’re paying attention). The trick is to network in places and in ways that sets you apart.


If They Say “Dead” You’re Buried

A friend of mine just lost his job. After five-odd years at his now-former employer, he transferred to a new department within the company. A few months later a new boss took over. Talking with my friend regularly, he described how – within a month of the new boss starting – he started to get dinged. Pretty soon it became clear that the new boss was starting to document my friend’s “poor” performance. He was put on an improvement plan, with objectives without quantifiable metrics, vague or impossible goals, and so on. Classic, particularly as my friend – a knowledgeable Six Sigma Black Belt – was describing the situation and it became obvious his boss had no understanding of statistics, what a SSBB meant (I have a green belt and would love to be in a situation where I could get a black belt), or how what he was asking my friend to do was, in fact, impossible.

He was desperate to try and save his job. He’s a family man, with several children. He was clearly at a loss as to what to do. He pushed back, working hard to set quantifiable objectives with deliverables and timing that were realistic and have his boss’ agreement to these new, proposed milestones for improvement. Without success, of course.

An Old Yiddish Proverb

In talking about the situation with him, an old Yiddish proverb came to mind: When they say ‘dead’, you’re buried.

Too often such plans are nothing more than pretexts to make employees think there’s a chance when the reality is the decision has already been made, and the time is only being used to document and legally justify and defend the planned firing – dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s. After all, the article What Your HR Person Won’t Tell You About Being Fired states this quite clearly. In particular note #3:

“If you’re put on a performance-improvement plan, you’re cooked. I might look you in the eye and say we’re going to do everything possible to make this work, but that’s just total BS.” –HR director at financial services firm

I counseled my friend to make the assumption he was doomed, and to start looking for another job elsewhere immediately. He sent his resume to me for review and started looking.

Once is Incidence, Twice is Coincidence

The situation reminded me of another person to whom this happened; this senior manager was instrumental in my hiring at one company (during the interview I mentioned using QFD; he exclaimed, with a smile, “You just said the magic word!”). With no warnings or informal communication about any performance issues, he was put on an improvement plan after receiving a bad performance review.

He doubled down; working 10+ hours a day. In his words – and I remember the desperation in his voice as we talked afterwards – “I’ve never worked so hard in my life.” Yet before the six months he’d been given had passed, he was brought into a meeting with HR and shoved out the door. We haven’t talked for years, but he was in his late 50’s then… draw your own conclusions about his having found another job in any reasonable amount of time.

Based on experience with these two and other people who have been put on “improvement plans” – with the same result 100% of the time… it confirms the HR person’s quote.  When they say “dead” – you’re buried.

Expendable Assets

In the movie Predator, “Dillon” (Carl Weathers), thunders at “Dutch” (Arnold Schwarzenegger): “You’re an asset.  An expendable asset.  And I used you to get the job done.  Got it?”

Let’s be realistic: companies do not hire people to be charitable. People are hired (not “talents”, people) because they bring value to a company – more precisely, they are hired because they are perceived to be able to bring value and kept because they do bring value.

But the mentality of expendable assets seems to be metastasizing. Between the move towards smaller permanent staffs supplemented by contractors, and the chorus of “Fire fast!” advice on handling people who aren’t meeting expectations, the churn rate of people in-and-out is accelerating. Whether intentional or not, the attitude of managers towards people is seems to be moving towards that of “tools of the moment.” And tools, when no longer useful, are put away – driven, no doubt, by the economy and perception of an infinite pool of tools, er, people to pick from as needed. (And then employers wonder why employees have no loyalty.)

Prepare Yourself

Your world as an employee can come crashing down any second. Whether there is warning – e.g., you are put on an “improvement plan” – or you are suddenly let go for whatever at-will reason, you need to be prepared to jump from zero to job search mode in the time it takes you to drive home. I will opine that this is a sad and horrible state of affairs; every direct-hire job I’ve ever taken has been with the assumption – and hope – that this will be where I’ll be for the remainder of my career.

Why You Need to Keep Your Profile, Brand and Resume Up to Date is an excellent article, and a good starting place. I’d like to add a few things to their recommendations of keeping your resume, LinkedIn profile, and connections updated, etc.:

  1. Get supporting documentation for your resume.  This is not a license to steal confidential information, but work through your accomplishments and be able to justify any quantification you can.  Even if only taking notes abstracted from more detailed documentation, have that background available… you won’t need to produce it in an interview, but have it so you can review it and then build an informed discussion around every accomplishment you claim.

  2. Stay in regular touch with references from prior positions.  Even if only to say hello and ask how they are, few things can put off a reference than having the only time they hear from you being when you need their help.  If you have interesting updates, share them.  If you know of something that can help them in their own endeavors, share it.

  3. If you suspect that a relationship with your possibly-former boss might not be conducive to asking them to be a reference, who else could you ask?  For example, internal customers, co-workers/team members, or even vendor representatives?

  4. Proactively cultivate relationships with your internal purchasing people, and with external vendors.  Both sets of people know a lot of potential networking contacts.

  5. Leverage your current employer for paid memberships to relevant organizations, and start to attend meetings.  These contacts and the information will help you currently, but it’s the people you meet that are your real goal – again, cultivate relationships with people outside your employer.

  6. Develop a list of potential target companies (and industries) ahead of time.  Have some idea where you’re going to try and go, and then proactively cultivate relationships with people there before you need them.

You may not need to use any of these preparations. If you are lucky you are valued by your employer and will remain so for as long as you value staying there.

But the balloon may go up on your job at any moment. Better to be prepared and not need it, than find yourself in need and scrambling – already weeks behind as you are escorted out the door.


© 2014, David Hunt, PE

The Cost of Crazybusy

It is perfectly understandable in hard economic times that companies ask for more effort from fewer people.  But there are numerous, unquantifiable costs to this time-austerity. 

I recently had lunch with someone I’ve been trying to meet for months; a C-level executive, he also had an extended period of unemployment and thus was sympathetic to my situation.  Not only that but we shared two deep outside-of-work commonalities.  The issue was getting onto his schedule.

During that conversation he mentioned this was the third time he had managed to get away from his office for a lunch outside the company… in almost three years of having been there.  He said that he routinely is putting in 10-12 hour days, that his employer is running incredibly lean, and that most of the time lunch is eaten while working at his desk.

This months-long pursuit is similar to the dismal results of my other attempts to even have “cups of coffee” with people to create the beginnings of a face-to-face relationship which is so essential in networking.  I finally had lunch with the CTO of a local company after half a year of trying.  Too busy.  I’ve stayed in touch with two people at a local company where I’d actually gone in for a face-to-face interview, only to learn later the position I wanted – and still want! – had been closed without hiring anyone for budget reasons.  These two people know of my standing invitation to take them to lunch… and have recently put me off, yet again, until the end of the quarter.  Why?  Too busy.  (Please note that I don’t blame them; work has priority over networking, and when things need doing, they need to be done – I just hope that things settle down enough for them to have time to take me up on my offer even if there is no open position.)

To be fair, I understand that if people indulged all the requests for their time, they’d never get their own jobs done… but my success rate, even with a warm referral from a person known to them, or knowing them already from prior face-to-face conversations, is staggeringly and depressingly low.

Hidden costs of crazybusy

So if you’ll indulge me… it is perfectly understandable in hard economic times that companies ask for more effort from fewer people.  But there are several costs associated with this hyper-lean way of doing business that should, in the view of senior managers with perspective, be considered.  Here are some of these unquantifiable costs to this time-austerity:

First, health.  People need “down time”; between the commute, 10-12 hour days, chores, other obligations (e.g., family), and the need for sleep, working people this hard takes a physical toll.  Add to this always being “connected” and the stress 24/7 access can create.  Wringing people for more and more hours at work is a short-term payoff only.

Second, work-life balance.  Many people, especially as they get older, have families, friends, and outside interests.  It’s one thing to have a crisis at work, and need to put in extra hours – no white collar employee I know objects to this.  Families understand.  But when overtime becomes SOP children wonder why daddy or mommy can’t be there.  And I guarantee you that there is not a person who, on their death bed, will think back and wish they’d spent more time at work rather than with their family.

Third, loyalty and retention.  The internet is abuzz these days with increasing numbers of articles discussing employee loyalty and retention.  One of the fears voiced by many such articles is that as the economy improves, people will seek to jump.  Why would they want to jump?  Among reasons given, like challenge and career growth, is a better balance between work and a life outside work.

Fourth, hiring.  Yes, I said hiring.  One of the things I and others have noticed is that job descriptions are getting ever-more-specific.  Why?  Because running lean means that roles overlap.  In order to get things done, people take up responsibilities caused by things needing doing that are not done because of running so lean.  This creates aggregate positions for which nobody can prepare, because each position is unique to the company.  Along that line, when a person is in a position over time the role becomes customized to their responsibilities and preferences.  When they leave, a hiring manager often views this as a need to find a replacement, not a successor.  Not a mere semantic different, it means writing a job description based on the person who just left, a person who had grown into and customized that job.

Most peoples’ careers have grown at least semi-organically; the majority of my own changes have been involuntary, not planned.  There is no “candidate factory” out there, yet job descriptions are written razor-sharp as though there were.  Thus the Goldilocks syndrome is born.  No wonder employers can’t find perfect fit employees, and leave jobs open for month after quarter after year – further creating the need for even more overtime.  Which causes more stress.  Which drives people to want to find a new job.  Whose openings after people jump create more openings with Goldilocks job descriptions.  And so it goes.

Fifth, most companies expect to grow sooner or later.  While there are concessions necessary in hard times, when employees – and especially managers – have time to cultivate relationships with people outside, this reduces the risk factor in hiring by establishing relationships with potential candidates.  Managers can thus, over the development of a relationship, vet possible employees over time.  By working people so hard they have no time to do this, senior management actually increases the risk of making a bad hire when an opening is created and nobody internally has relationships with suitable people on the outside… because they’ve been too busy.

“What can’t go on forever, won’t.” – Glenn Reynolds

When things improve, company leaders need to make it up to those who sacrificed for the company’s sake – the “employment continuation award” is not sufficient.  And one of the things those leaders need to do is to lighten the work load when economics allow it, and to make it clear they intend to do this as soon as feasible.

The harder companies squeeze to wring more productivity out of their people, the more resentment that squeezing will breed.  Is this really the emotional state employers want their people in?

Update 3-3-2014: Thanks to Al Quadros, who commented on my essay when I posted it to a group; his post got me to realize there is another cost to crazybusy.  Specifically, when one is judged by the hours one spends at the office, there is every incentive to be inefficient, thus generating the need to be at the office more.  Aside from the obvious concern of activity vs. progress, this creates the habit of being inefficient… and if/when things return to a more normal pace, that habit will remain.

© 2014, David Hunt, PE