Archive for May, 2009

48 Days to the Work you Love by Dan Miller:  Book Review

This is a continuation of the in-depth review of the book:  48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller.  To read the Previous Chapter, follow this link: Chapter 9:  Show Me the Money

Chapter 10:  Do You Have What It Takes


This chapter offers a lot of tips on how you might be able to leave the regular 9 to 5 jobs and make it out on your own.  I have a lot of mixed feelings about this chapter.  On on hand, I really like some of the advice the author offers.  On the other hand, I don’t know if I agree with how easy he makes it sound to go off on your own.  Maybe it’s better to view this chapter as a good starting point, but more research would have to be conducted before making a major change.  

The chapter starts off asking the reader if they are tired of looking for a regular job.  If you’re tired of working in the corporate world, maybe it’s time to be the boss you always wanted to have.  The author does point out that the main reason most people go into business for themselves is not for the money it brings in, but for the freedom their own job gives them.  They can set their own hours and start their own business anytime out of a spare bedroom using minimal effort.  

Questions and Answers

This chapter is also chock full of a questions list to see if one has what it takes.  I’m not going to write out and answer all 18 of them, but here are a bunch I thought were important to me. 

2.  Do you get along well with different kinds of people?  Every  business, even small ones, require contact with a variety of people: customers, suppliers, bankers, printers, etc.  

For the most part, I would say yes to this question.  I enjoy speaking with customers at a service level.  I don’t know if I would be able to sell products to strangers or even existing customers.  In order for me to sell something, I have to completely believe in the product or service.  But I can support customers.  I always try to create win-win situations so the relationship is kept intact when issues arise.

3.  Do you have a positive outlook?  Optimism and a sense of humor are critical factors for success.  You have to view setbacks and small failures as stepping stones to your eventual success.  

I think I have a realistic view on life with an optimistic outlook.  I always try to look for the best of situations.  If I have a setback somewhere, I treat it as a learning experience.  I currently am doing that with my investments…I realize I’m in a couple of funds with high fees and expenses, and am switching out of them.  Rather than beating myself up for being in them in the first place, I treat it as an education cost.  

7.  Do you have willpower and self-discipline?  Self-discipline is the one key characteristic that makes all these others work.  Without it you will not succeed.

Self-discipline is one of my strong characteristics.  I am very self-disciplined in my eating habits, my workout routines, and with money.

8.  Do you plan ahead?  Every successful businessperson develops a long-term perspective.  Going into business with a detailed plan dramatically increases the likelihood of business success.  If you are already a goal-setter, you are more likely to succeed on your own.

I always try to plan ahead.  I like to plan expected outcomes for a given problem, and then plan multiple scenarios on how to reach the desired outcome, while also planning on how to handle scenarios for expected but undesired outcomes.  

9.  Can you take advice from others?  Being in your own business does not mean you have all the answers.  Being open to wisdom and experience of others is the hallmark of a leader.  People who are willing to listen spend more time doing what works the first time, rather than having to experience every mistake.

This is probably one of my favorite questions in this section.  I know I don’t have all the answers.  I also know that sometimes I can be so focused on my idea that I think it’s perfect.  Getting advice from others brings me back to reality.  It also shows me that my idea might not be perfect, and it might even have some serious flaws in it.  Additionally, someone may have done what I’m thinking already, and know that there is a better way to do it.

10.  Are you adaptable to changing conditions?  Change is constant in today’s marketplace.  In every change there are the seeds of opportunity, thus successful people view change as an opportunity not as a threat.

Well one of the subheadings of my blog right now is ‘the only constant is change’.  Change is going to happen whether you like it or not.  You have to embrace it.

12.  Do you have a high level of confidence and belief in what you are doing?  This is no time for doubt or second thoughts.  You must absolutely believe in what you are doing.  If you don’t have total belief, you will not be able to sell the idea, product, or service to investors or customers.  Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that you can do well something you don’t really believe in.

I could have wrote this question myself.  One of the problems I had in a prior job was that I thought we overpromised and underperformed in what we told customers.  Their expectations of us were high, and then we couldn’t deliver on our promises.  It made me lose confidence in our product and ability to deliver quality to the customer.  You have to believe in what you’re doing if you are to convince customers.  If you don’t believe in something, they will see right through you.

There are other questions I’m omitting that are more entreprenurial/self-business related that I do not think apply to me at this point in my life.  

Are You a Candidate?

One part of this section I want to point out is the author mentions that the characteristics that make a person a good employee are often the exact opposite of those that make a successful self-employed individual.  “Being loyal, predictable, and doing what others expect may, in fact, sabotage your best entrepreneurial efforts.”  

I thought of some of the crazy entrepreneurs in our time.  I’m sure many weren’t loyal, they definitely weren’t predictable, and they went to the beat of their own drum.  Moreover, you don’t have to be a genius to be an entrepreneur.  Studies have shown that IQ determines 20% to the factors that determine life success, and the other 80% are other forces (attitude, enthusiasm, energy, etc.)  

Multilevel Marketing

The author takes a section of this chapter noting that we should avoid multilevel marketing offers.  I talk all about my own run-in to this scenario here.  Basically, in my opinion, these should be avoided like the plague.  There may be successful people in these jobs, but they are few and far between.

Result Driven Compensation

This is another good section.  Basically, we’re transitioning to a payment system that rewards people based on performance, not on time.  Think about it.  We might pay $500 for a new TV.  We don’t care whether or not it took the worker 2 hours to make our model, when it normally takes him 15 minutes.  We know what the TV is worth to us, and aren’t willing to pay more just because someone put more time into producing the product, only to have the same output.  

Ideas for Successful Nontraditional Businesses

Again, I’m not going to list all the ideas, just the ones that I found of interest.


This may be the type of business I could see myself doing at some point.  I don’t know if I’m creative enough to do something entirely on my own, but I think I have the willpower and charisma to run a franchise on my own.  I like the fact that you can compare one ‘franchise’ to another, and I’d want to be the best.  

Home-Based Businesses

There are plenty of things someone can do right out of their own home, or act as a consultant for.  Just use your skill set to do some of the following:


-graphic designing
-house painting
-selling used cars
-wedding planning
-wedding photographing
-computer consulting
-newsletter writing
-nutrition counseling
-pet sitting


Continue to Chapter 11:  Skunks, Rags, and Candy Bars

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48 Days to the Work you Love by Dan Miller:  Book Review

This is a continuation of the in-depth review of the book:  48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller.  To read the Previous Chapter, follow this link: Chapter 8: Do They Like Me?  Do I Like Them?

Chapter 9:  Show Me the Money

This chapter is all about salary negotiation.  The author reiterates many times throughout the chapter that you should never mention anything related to salary until AFTER an offer has been made.  The author also mentions that the reader shouldn’t assume that salaries and benefits are set in stone.  Many times these things can be negotiable.  In a change management lecture I attended at my previous job the speaker mentioned that vacation time is one of the easiest things that can be negotiated.  Thinking about it, it makes sense…it doesn’t cost the company any real money to give you more time off.  (They will lose productivity time, but it can be argued that you have a fresher outlook coming back from vacation and work harder as opposed to being sluggish when you’re burnt out and overworked.)  

Proving a point the author said in an earlier chapter, the author mentions again that it is difficult for a person to recognize opportunities if he stays in one place and remains in one job.  Most self made millionaires have had many experiences working various types of jobs.

To the point that the author doesn’t want you to discuss salary until the appropriate time, he mentions that the following things should be true:

  • you know exactly what the job requires
  • they have decided they want you
  • you have decided you want them

An interesting point the author also makes is that the responsibilities of the job determine the salary, and not your education, experience, or previous salary.  I thought this was a good point…so many people I know rush to get MBA’s just to have the title…but you have to have the skills to perform the job (which you may learn while getting your MBA) to get the offer.

The author mentions an obvious no-no where he mentions not to ask about salary, benefits, vacations, and perks until you know you want the job.  Then he offers tips to win at salary negotiation.  One tip I liked was to say “Let’s talk a little more about the position to see if there’s a match” if they ask too early in the interview process.  

In terms of timing when it’s okay to talk about salary, there is a bar graph in the book, shaped like a mountain.  The carat character ^, is the best example I can think of.  As your climbing the mountain, it’s still not okay to talk about it.  From bottom left of the mountain to peak, the process sounds like this:  

1.  Why would we hire you?
2.  We think we like you.
3.  We really like you.
4.  We’ve got to have you!  

Then the mountain is at the tip.  This is the perfect time to talk about salary.  Then the mountain slopes down to the right, and if you haven’t asked now, you’ve missed your shot.

5.  We’ve got you! 

The author lists many things that can fall under compensation when negotiating an offer.  I won’t list them all but some I thought worth mentioning are:

  • country club or YMCA membership (my old company offered to pay for your gym membership)
  • tuition reimbursement
  • additional time off (enforces what the change management guy mentioned at the lecture)
  • sign-on bonus
  • your birthday off (this one’s new to me)

The author then tells a story of a woman who worked in a clerical job making $19,000.  Tired of doing that type of work, she applied for a graphical design job.  The salary was posted at $32,500 yet her total compensation package ended up being $54,000.  The company never asked, and she never told, what her previous salary was at her old job.  She simply mentioned what she could bring to the table and was compensated based on her apparent value.  

But What If You’re Asked?

One point that the author did not mention in this chapter is what one should do when flat-out asked what their salary was in their previous job.  Sure you can try and dodge the question at first, but if the interviewer is persistent I think the candidate has to give up the information.  Additionally, many job applications that a candidate would have to fill out have it listed as question…sometimes there’s no getting around it.  

The author mentions towards the end of the chapter that our work is intangible, and very few salaries are written in concrete.  Companies might budget $38,000 for a position yet post the job for $31,000.  We need to recognize that the first offer is probably not what the company has in the budget.

Very good advice that I have used in the past is that once agreed upon, you should always get the offer in writing.  This way you don’t have to defend what was said later on.  

Lastly, in one of the questions at the end of the chapter mentions that in changing companies we may be able to increase our salary 40 to 50 percent.  A salary increase of this magnitude is unlikely to happen while moving up in one company.   In my experiences, my largest salary increases were achieved by moving from one company to another.

Continue to Chapter 10: Do You Have What It Takes?

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48 Days to the Work you Love by Dan Miller:  Book Review

This is a continuation of the in-depth review of the book:  48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller.  To read the Previous Chapter, follow this link: Chapter 7:  Finding Your Unique Path

Chapter 8:   Do They Like Me?  Do I Like Them?

This chapter is all about preparing and making an impression during the interview process.  The interview is probably the most important part of the job hunt.  If a person cannot interview well, they will not get the job offer.  A person who interviews well leads to job satisfaction and higher income.  We need to project confidence and enthusiasm during interviews while remaining professional.  If we cannot do this our job search efforts will have been for nothing.

The author makes a point that the interview process is a two way street.  Not only is the interviewer trying to find things out about you, but we should also be evaluting the interviewer, potential bosses, and the work environment.  Later in the chapter he mentions arriving 15 minutes early, not only because it is the standard thing to do, but that extra 15 minutes will give you time to evaluate your surroundings.  Do people seem happy?  Are they smiling at you and saying hello as they walk by?

Preparing for the Interview

There are two main components that are necessary prior to the interview.  The candidate has to know themselves, and they have to know the company.  This sounds pretty basic, and most people will think it’s obvious, but it should not be taken lightly.

Know Yourself

We should have canned responses ready that uniquely describe our (1) skills and abilities, (2) personality tendencies, and (3) values, dreams and passions.  Questions surrounding these areas inevitably come up during the interview.  They are usually in the form of “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”, or “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

“Tell me a little bit about yourself.” This question is guaranteed in almost any interview.  It is the most important question.  It should tell a story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end, while being no longer than 2 minutes.  This is your time to shine, and your opportunity to sell yourself to the company.  The person interviewing you expects you to have developed answer for this question.  If you don’t, you’ll come off as ill-prepared.  Touch upon information you wish to bring back up later in the interview.  Here’s my stab at it:

“I graduated from Quinnipiac University in 2004 with a degree in Computer Information Systems.  Right out of college I worked for a small start-up company that developed software that streamline the billing, clinical and administrative processes for ambulatory  surgery centers.  I started out as a trainer and traveled to surgery centers all over the country training the staff on the use of our application.  When I wasn’t travelling I would work with clients over the phone and through web demos giving personalized or group training sessions on specific topics.   After two years the company was acquired by a larger, more established company.  This opportunity allowed me to be promoted to business analyst.  In that role I worked closely with existing customers conducting focus groups to find out things they liked about our software, and areas where they thought needed improvement.  I would also do site visits with key clients to get a better idea of their wants and needs.  After doing that for a year, I was promoted to implementation manager.  I worked with new clients on managing schedules and key dates  to get them up and running on our software.   I managed 5 trainers and would coordinate their schedules and send them on-site to train the new clients.  One of my things I accomplished as an implementation manager was creating a project plan template that was used with new clients going forward.  After working at the same company for the past three and a half years, I wanted to challenge myself and acquire new skills so I took a job as a Technical Writer/Jr. Project Manager for an energy retail company.  I wrote documentation and user manuals for some of the in-house applications the company used.  I worked on creating templates so we could standardize the documentation process going forward.  On the project management side, I worked on life-cycle projects for one of our billing systems.  I conducted weekly meetings with key staff to make sure we were on target and within budget, as well as monthly  meetings with vendors to review requests for the upcoming month.  My current company is relocating to Pittsburgh which is the reason I am pursuing this opportunity.”

I believe my pitch has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  I suppose I could add some personal information, perhaps “In my spare time I enjoy reading both fiction and non-fiction books, playing video games, and spending time with friends and family.”  The book also mentions slipping in a career achievement somewhere in the speech.  In my pitch, I focused on how I was tasked with creating a new project plan template for new clients.  Your response to this question should answer the question, “What can I contribute to the company?”  Therefore, although you may have a canned template response, you may want to focus on some of the details and change it up a little for each opportunity.  Review your response with friends and family and let them critique it for you.

“What are 3 of your strengths?” We need to be able to identify and talk about our key strengths.  If we cannot describe them clearly, how can we expect an interviewer to realize them in a short interview?  Here’s my take on the question:

“I’d have to say that I have great organizational skills, time management skills, and can remain objective during difficult situations.  To my organizational skills, I try to get things done as efficiently as possible.  An example with email for instance, is I have a detailed folder system where nothing stays in my Inbox at the end of the day.  I am typically the same with with storing files.  I like to have detailed tracking systems so I don’t have to look too hard when I’m trying to find something.  This compliments my time management skills as well, because my system allows me to find files or emails quickly.  In managing people or projects, I try to use time efficiently.  I prioritize tasks in ways that make the most sense from a time and cost perspective.  Additionally, with employees, I try to strike a balance so they are working efficiently without getting burnt out.  In regards to remaining objective with issues arise, I try to analyze the situation from every possible angle, to see what is driving people’s emotions.  I’ll then try to come to the best possible solution that makes the most sense for the people involved as well as the company. “

“Tell me about a weakness and what you have done to work on it.” You need to be honest here.  You  need to be able to show that you were weak in a specific area, and what you have done to work on it.  Don’t pretend to be perfect, they won’t buy it.  Here I go:

“Well to play to one of my strengths for just a moment, I’m always striving to find ways to become better organized.  In the past I had trouble keeping up with emails, and tracking emails that needed appropriate follow up.  I used to just flag everything in Outlook thinking I’d look at it later.  I realized that didn’t work when I had over 60 red flags by the end of the week.  With my organized file system, emails are designated to appropriate folders.  I’ve incorporated tasks for emails and phone calls that need follow up.  So I would say that is an area that I am always trying to improve.  Another area I am always trying to improve is my public speaking skills.  I have to force myself to talk more slowly and clearly at times, because I realize I talk too fast.  When working with clients, I always follow up my instructions with them, to make sure they understand what I’ve said.  If they do not, I’ll try and say them in a different way so they can understand.  With co-workers, I am always working on my assertiveness.  I like to strike a balance when I work with colleagues so they can realize the necessity of the situation without sounding weak, needy, or pushy.”

“What skills do you possess that have prepared you for this job?” I really can’t supply my own answer here, because I believe the response to this question has to be specifically tailored to the job you are applying for.  What I would do, is incorporate the strengths mentioned earlier, and describe how those strengths and skills make you the best candidate for the position.  Make sure you prepare yourself for this question by researching the company and the job description in detail before the interview.

“What are your short and long range goals?” This one should be a no-brainer as far as having responses ready.  It’s okay to talk about both personal and business goals, sometimes they may be interwoven.  The main reason for including some personal goals in this response is because companies are looking for individuals who can strike a balance between their work life and their personal life.  Be realistic and sensible in your response.

“On a professional level, I hope to go back to school within the next 3-5 years and get my MBA.  I hope it will give me the appropriate skills and knowledge to do well.  I hope after proving myself I can move up within the company.  On a more personal level, I plan to get married in the summer of 2010.  Personal finance is an interest of mine, so I’m always reading books, magazines, and blogs on that topic.

Knowing the Company

The author mentions that it is essential to know the facts around the company’s organization, products/services, involvement in the community, and key employees prior to the interview.  It may also be important to know the company’s financial information, number of employees, any major changes, etc.  The information gathering efforts can lead to good questions later in the interview.  Obtaining this information should be easy enough.  The book lists a couple of business periodicals, city business directories, etc.  However, I think the majority of what one would need can probably be obtained directly from the company’s website, in addition to a few Google searches to see what other sites have to say about the company.

The Interview

There are a lot of factors that go into an interview than just the words that are exchanged back and forth between the interviewer and the interviewee.  The interviewer may already have his opinion on you within 10 seconds of entering the room.  Of course, some of the reasons for this may be beyond our control: height, age, appearance, etc.  So let’s focus on the things you can control.

  • Timing the Interview:  If you are allowed to choose a time for the interview, avoid Monday mornings and Friday afternoons.  The reason for this should be pretty obvious.  On Mondays, people are stressed because they are coming back to work after a nice weekend, and have to plan the week ahead.  On Fridays, all their minds are on the upcoming weekend and they might not focus so much on the interview.  The book recommends choosing morning appointments from Tuesday-Thursday.  It mentions how research indicates that executives are more likely to hire morning job seekers 83% of the time.  If you have to schedule it in the afternoon, make sure it starts no later than 1 hour prior to the close of the day.  I am guessing  the main reasons for this is people are drained by the end of the day, and the only thing on their minds is how soon until they go home.  Pyschologically, they might think negatively if they’re forced to stay at work late because a candidate took too long to interview.
  • Timing the Arrival: Arrive about 15 minutes early.  This will give you enough time to observe your surroundings to see if it is a place you would enjoy working.  Arriving too early is inconsiderate, as they may not be ready for you.  It also shows that you are over anxious.
  • Taking Names: Make sure you know the names and job titles of anyone you will be speaking with before the interview, but don’t use their first names unless you are asked to.
  • Appearance: Shine your shoes.  When I was in college, a professor told me it might not be a bad idea to have a set of shoes just for interviewing.  Make sure your suit is clean.  Brushing your teeth in the morning might not be enough, I’d recommend having a mint as you walk from your car to the building.  Don’t wear cologne or perfume.  If you have a tattoo or odd piercing, it might not be a bad idea to or cover it up or remove for the interview.  Make sure your hair is clean cut.
  • Etiqutte: Leave the cell phone on silent, or in the car.  Sit straight in the chair.  Don’t cross your arms, this shows you’re being defensive.  Make eye contact.  Don’t fidget.  Don’t chew gum.  Speak clearly.  Don’t put your hands over your mouth, it shows you are trying to be deceptive.  Don’t speak badly of any former employers.  Have a positive canned response for leaving any former position.
  • Body Language: I’ve read this in other articles, and I’m not sure if the percentage is the same, but the book mentions how body language is 55% of the communication process.  In other articles I read, it mentioned that the tone of your voice is something like 35% (the book mentions 38%), and the actual words you say only account for 10% (the book mentions 7%) of the communication process.  Make sure you’re smiling when you give your handshakes.  Speaking of the handshake, make sure it’s nice and firm, but not too hard.  The web of your hand should touch the web of the other person’s hand, and maintain eye contact the entire time.  The hand shake should last a couple of seconds.  Maintain your posture while seated, keep your shoulders straight.  Leaning forward is okay, this expresses interest.
  • Language: Watch for common filler words.  Uh, uh-hum, er.  Interviewers probably get this all the time and I’m sure it annoys the heck out of them.

The Warm Up

Interviewers will make small talk at the beginning to warm up the candidate.  This is usual conversation starters that you would probably make with a stranger while waiting in line somewhere:  the weather, sports, maybe a hobby they found on your resume.  It’s done to help you feel relaxed and develop a comfortable environment.  The author points out that the candidate should remember that they are still being evaluated at all times, so be careful in your responses.  As always, sex, religion, and politics should not be mentioned the entire time.

Question and Answer

This will take up 75% of the interview process.  You’ll be asked to review your qualifications as they are documented on the resume.  You must be ready to talk about anything you have listed.  The author recommends to only have items on your resume that are sales tools for where you want to go.  Once you are done talking about your qualifications and skills, the interview will move onto the company.  At this point you’ll most likely be given the opportunity to ask questions.  You should have 4-5 questions ready to ask the interviewer.  I’d recommend having them written out in your portfolio so you do not forget to ask them.  The questions you ask may create more of an impression than the ones you answered.

Questions Asked by the Interviewer

The author lists out some sample interview questions.  He recommends we write out our answers to these questions, as just thinking about them is not sufficient preparation for the actual answering.  He reiterates that the interview isn’t just a formality because the interviewer has seen our great resume, but that the interview is the most important part of the whole process.  We should have 1-2 minute responses for each of the following questions.  Any longer than that and we might give the impression that we are trying to take over the interview.  So again, here are the questions and my responses:

1.  Tell me a little about yourself. See my section above for the answer to this question.

2.   What are your greatest strengths?  What are 3 characteristics that would make you a good candidate for this position? Again, see my section above for my answer to this question.  I would also add that you can’t have a canned response to the second part of this question.  I would still be prepared for it by making a few bullet points of characteristics that relate to the job you are applying for in your portfolio.  That way you will be prepared to answer the question easily and won’t forget to mention a good characteristic you thought about earlier.

3.   What would your previous employer list as your greatest strengths? My current employer would probably say that I am good at managing budgets and keeping costs to projects within their allocated amount.  From a technical writing standpoint, probably writing clear and concise documentation that can easily be understood by the target audience.  I would think that my previous employer would emphasize my loyalty to keeping customers happy.  I feel I always would go to great lengths to try and keep them satisifed.

4.  What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort? I like the outcome of my work to be tangible in some aspect.  If I’ve worked hard on a document, the final product being used by end users and seeing them be able to do their job based on it is helpfulness.  From a customer service standpoint, to hear customers praise you to superior service always feels good.  I guess it all comes down to recognition when appropriate.  If someone worked really hard and put out a quality product or service, they should be recognized for that effort.  That will motivate them to do well going forward on other projects.

5.   What have been some of your most significant accomplishments?  How were you able to achieve those accomplishments? In a previous job, I sat with the CEO and VP of Client Services to discuss revamping the documentation process for implementing new clients on our software.  I created a detailed Excel spreadsheet with important tasks and milestones for the Implementation team to track with the customer.  Both the CEO and VP were pleased with the final document.  Another example at my current employer was creating a matrix document for a specific project that displayed how far along we were in the enrollment process with each Gas utility in the state of New York.  When I showed the document to the project stakeholders they were pleased that they could quickly see at a glance where we stood with each utility.

6.  What have you done that has contributed to increased sales, profits, efficiency, etc.? I believe this ties in with the previous question in terms of efficiency.  The implementation spreadsheet let to more effective tracking on client implementations.  Any user can quickly open the spreadsheet and see what has already been completed for clients, and what needs to be completed, all without having to contact the client.  The gas matrix document accomplishes similar goals.  Prior to that document being created, users would have to contact managers of different departments to try and find out what was done and what needed to be done.  The process was very time consuming for all parties involved.

7.  What types of situations frustrate you?  What are your weaknesses?  What have you attempted and failed to accomplish? Inefficiency and ineffective processes as well as people’s resistance to change frustrate me.   Programmers in the development world are reluctant to try new ideas.  This can lead to design flaws that can lead to customer dis-satisfaction which can lead to weaker sales.  I would hope that programmers had more of an open mind when it comes to trying to satisfy customers.  My weakness related to this question is I may not be assertive enough in describing the priority of the situation to a programmer.  If I was more assertive I may be able to do a better job of getting design changes into an upcoming version of the application.  A side project I attempted and failed to accomplish was to try and improve the CRM at my former employer.  We had a poor system for tracking client issues.  It was very slow, and buggy.  I once counted the steps it took to track one customer call, and it was something like 23 steps.  Because the information was ‘too deep’ into the CRM system, I wasn’t able to convince anyone that it was a good idea to look into alternatives.

8.  What are you looking for in a new position?  Why do you want this job?  What do you find attractive to this position? I’m always looking to learn new things.  I think this position will allow me to enhance my current skills and learn new ones.  (The rest of the answer really needs to be tailored specific to the job being applied for.)

9.  Why are you leaving your current job? Well this one is easy for me…They recently acquired a competitor and have decided to consolidate their offices and move their main headquarters to Pittsburgh, PA.  Our office is closing June 1st so I’m trying to be proactive in finding a job….Now I know this answer won’t apply to many job seekers, so the answer I used when I left my previous job was more like this…I’ve been at my company for the past 3.5 years.  I’m not feeling challenged in my current position, and this new opportunity really excites me.  I think I could make a good contribution to your company and it will present a challenge for me at the same time.

10.  What important changes or trends do you see in this industry?  How do you think these changes will affect the way we succeed in this company? Retail Energy: Well I think given the state of the current economy, we may see more regulation put in place.  Since our company is focused on deregulated markets, this may impact where we are allowed to do business.  We have to be careful to follow the news and be aware of any changes that may come into effect.  We may want to focus on areas where we make the most profit and try to make sure any changes have little impact on those markets.   Healthcare: I think we’ve saturated the ASC market as much as we can at the moment.  With the slowdown of the economy the number of new ASC’s being constructed has slowed considerably.  We need to evaluate which customers we make the most profit on, and continue to make sure they are receiving the best customer service possible.  In checking in with customers, we may come to find that there are certain add-ons they would be interested in purchasing, so it’s a win-win for both parties.  We will maintain profitability and maintain customer satisfaction.  We may need to look at other markets to enter.

11.  How long would it take you to make a meaningful contribution to our company?  What are the areas in which you would need more training?  Do you feel you may be overqualified or too experienced for this position? (Again my answer to this really depends on the position I’m applying for.  If it’s something totally new to me but challenging, I would probably ask for more time.)  I hope to start making contributions my first day on the job.  I realize I will have a lot to learn, but I’m a quick learner and through the proper training I hope to make an impact as quick as possible.  I will probably need some training on how “ABC” is processed and transferred to “XYZ”.  I feel I have the proper skills and abilities to do this job well.  I’m really looking forward to it.

12.  What do you look for in a supervisor?  Describe the relationship that should exist between a supervisor and his employee.  What do you see as your most difficult task as a manager?  What is your management style? (I believe there is no black or white answer to this question…but there are probably right and wrong answers.  Here’s my take…)  I look for a supervisor who can provide guidance and mentoring.  I would want them to tell me what they expect from me.  At the same time, I would hope that they are available to answer any questions I might have.  After that, I would like to be given the opportunity to accomplish my tasks on my own.  I think it can be difficult for a manager to see how much attention his employees are looking for, and how much they actually need.  Each person is different, and some will need or want more or less than others.  I would want a manager to strike a balance with making sure I am getting my work done, continue to feel challenged in a good way, and look forward to working for them.  My management style is to try to empower my employees to find the answers on their own.  I like to point them in the right direction without always giving them the answer right away.  I am always there to mentor them if they ever need it.  I like to keep them motivated through positive or constructive feedback on an ongoing basis.

13.  Do you prefer working alone or as part of a team?  Are you better working with things, people, or ideas?  Are you better at creating or doing? I think I can work well alone or as a part of the team, I’m very flexible in that regard.  I think there are pros and cons to both.  Working alone is nice because you can go at your own pace, but you can’t get creative feedback from others.  When you work with others, you can get good ideas from your team members, however issues can arise when people have conflicting ideas.  I enjoy and am good at working with people.  I do well working with things but don’t find it as gratifying as working with people.  I’m probably better at doing but enjoy the creative process.

14.  Describe an ideal working environment.  In  your last position, what were things you liked most/least?  How do you handle pressure and deadlines? Ideally I like being pointed in the right direction when initially taking on a project.  I’m great at working on projects but sometimes knowing where to start can be tough.  In my last position, I was most frustrated with the lack of communication between departments.  We would log customer requests into a database for form creation.  At that point it was up to the Data Services department to create and load the forms.  They would often get overloaded with work orders and client requests would get lost in the shuffle.  I would have to follow up with Data Services on these requests and then the forms would get created in a rush and would not be exactly what the customer wanted at that point.  I do very well at handling deadlines where the task or finished product is within my control.  I typically finish tasks on time or early.  I sometimes have difficulty when tasks or products are dependant on another person or department outside of my control.  In my previous job there was more work than people, and I would often have to assuage the customer when deadlines weren’t met on time.

15.  Where, on your list of priorities, does your job fall?  What kind of things outside of work do you enjoy?  What magazines do you like to read?  Name 3 books you have read in the last year.  Are you achieving personal goals you have set? Those are great questions.  I would have to say that my job probably comes third on my list of priorities, right after family and personal health.  My job is important to me, and I want to do well in it.  Outside of work, I enjoy reading up on personal finance and investing, working out, playing video games, and reading.  I enjoy financial magazines such as Money Magazine, Kiplinger’s, or Consumer Reports; cooking magazines like Bon Apetit, and business magazines like Inc. and Business Week.  The last couple of books I can recall are “Holes” (my girlfriend is a 4th grade school teacher and wanted me to read it), “Geek Mafia” (a fiction tech adventure book), “48 Days to the Work you Love” by Dan Miller, and “The Little Book of Common Sense Investing” by John Bogle.  I try to read one fiction and one non-fiction book at the same time.  Next in my queue are “Now Discover Your Strengths” and “The Yankee Years.”  I’m achieving my personal goals slowly but surely.  I have a bunch of financial goals that I am on track with, and I’m always trying to educate myself.

16.  Where would you like to be 5 years from now?  What would you expect to be earning 5 years from now?  Are you continuing with your education?  How are you staying current with changes in this industry? 5 years from now I hope to  have completed my MBA.  I hope this will allow me to find new opportunities within the company.  With the completion of my MBA, I hope to be earning around $XX a year.  After I get my MBA I hope to keep educating myself through books, magazines, and attending seminars.

17.   How long do you feel a person should stay in the same position? I don’t think you can set a specific time limit to how long a person should stay in a particular position.  I think they can stay in a position forever as long as they are comfortable doing the tasks within the position, yet continue to challenge themself and learn new things.  Once they stop feeling challenged it is probably time to try something new if they wish to continue to grow professionally.

18.  What does a typical weekend consist of for you?  What do you do to relieve boredom? I usually wake up anytime between 7am and 9am.  I check my emails, check my financial accounts, and catch up on blogs I like to read.  I’ll have my breakfast and read one of my magazines in the kitchen.  I might catch up on my DVR’d TV shows, watch a DVD, or play a video game.  When my girlfriend gets up we go do something out of the house.  In the near term I’m finding places to get married, have a reception, where to spend our honeymoon, etc.  In the summer time, I like to find places to go running, walking, or hiking.  To relieve boredom I enjoy working out, playing video games, or reading.

19.  What other kinds of positions have you been looking at?  If we do not select you for this position, would you be interested in another (office, sales, administrative, etc.) position with this company?  How does this job compare with others for which you have interviewed?  What makes this job different from your current/last one? I have been looking at positions that have aspects of implementations tied to them.  I enjoy jobs that involve project management but not actual project manager positions.  I think one of my good qualities is that I am very flexible so I would be willing to explore other opportunities within the company.  This job seems like a great opportunity and I would be excited if given the chance to fill the position.  It allows me to try and improve the quality of one of your product lines.  Since I’m always look for quality and efficiency improvements, I am excited to make an impact in this area.

20.   Why should we choose you for this position?  What can you do for us that someone else cannot do? I think I bring a fresh perspective to this position.  I can try new things that haven’t been attempted in the past, and I think it will yield positive results.  I have experience with the product and know how we should focus our efforts.  Someone else probably does not know the product as well as I do.

21.  Do you have any questions? Here is where you should have 4-5 questions in regards to the position as well as the company.  I can’t provide concrete examples because the position and the company should dictate the question, but one that I always like to ask in interviews are, “Can you describe what a typical day, week, and month would be like in this position?”   The author lists a lot of good questions that can be used as well.  Some to note are:

-What would be a typical day’s assignments?
-What is the typical career path in this position?  What is a realstic timeframe for advancement?
-What criteria are used to evaluate and promote employees?
-What type of training is available?  What kind of ongoing professional development programs are available to help me continue to grow?
-Whom would I report to in this position?  Can you tell me about that person’s management style?
-How does this company maintain an advantage over it’s competitors?
-Is this a new position, or would I be replacing someone?
-What qualities are you looking for in the right person for this position?
-What do you enjoy about working for this company?

The author mentions that 85% of a person’s success in the workplace is due to personal skills and only 15% is due to technical skills.  I believe this to be true.  I look at my technical skills the same way I look at the  learning Spanish languge (I took 3 years of Spanish).  I can read basic Spanish, and understand it well enough if you talk slowly, but that’s about it.  I can look at programming code and as you explain it to me I can get what’s going on, but I can’t write code from scratch.  I am pretty good at offering advice as to how something should be coded though, or maybe an alternative way to code something.  But I think my personal skills explains why I have succeeded so quickly in my career.  The author then explains some tricky questions that an interviewer might ask:

“When was the last time you used illegal drugs?”  The American Disabilities Act does not protect the employer from using illegal drugs.

“How old are you?” is an illegal question.  But there are ways around it.  They can ask when you graduated from college and then just do the math.

They can’t ask about family plans, but usually get the answer they’re looking for with the “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” question.

Exiting the Interview

Stand up straight, shake hands firmly, make eye contact, and then pick up your portfolio. Absolutely make sure you confirm what the next step in the process is, and when you can expect to hear back from them.  Since few offers are made after the first interview, it is important to initiate a follow-up with the interviewer.  Being persistant may make all the difference in landing the job.

Make sure to write a follow-up thank you letter that expresses appreciation for the time the interviewer took to meet with you and show your interest in the position.  This allows you to show off your writing skills and profrsesionalism to the interviewer.  Between the introduction letter, cover letter, resume, phone follow up, interview, and now the follow up letter, you may have created up to 5 contact points where the interviewer has heard your name.  Continue to be persistant in your follow-up and don’t be afraid to call every 4-5 days until you hear a decision.

Handling Rejections

Now I’m not done reading the book, so I’m not sure if the book handles this or not, so I thought I would mention it just in case.  If a company rejects you, always thank them for giving you the opportunity.  Then, and this next part is important, follow that up by asking them what qualities they were looking for in the position that you lacked, or if there was something about you that made them think you weren’t a good fit.  This is a good opportunity to get some good criticism on your interviewing skills or any other aspect of the process.  If you think you can make an arguement for what they said, go for it, but remain short, and polite.  Finally, thank them again and mention if anything changes to keep you in mind.  I know it sounds silly, but you never know.  The person they picked could quit for another company 2 days later.  Maybe there’s another position in the company that opens up, and they think you’re a good candidate.  If you remain in their good graces you just might be the first person they think of when that door opens up.

Continue to Chapter 9: Show Me the Money

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