How to Eliminate or Explain Your COVID Resume Gap

They are going to ask, so you better have an answer. And it better be a good one because given the choice between someone who worked at anything during the time the government was paying people to stay home, and someone who decided to stay home, it’s the person who did not let their professional ego get in their way and did what they could who will get the job offer.

So how do you explain the COVID resume gap? There are four acceptable justifications for having let the government pay you to not “work,” and they all relate to real “work” you were doing, although (sadly) most people don’t consider it “work.” They should all appear on your resume, listing your responsibilities and accomplishments, so there is no gap! Here they are:

  1. Child care. You had to stay home while your spouse went to work. Nothing wrong with that. Good for you. Or, you are a single parent and had to stay home. More power to you!
  2. Adult care. You had an elderly parent/relative/friend for whom you had to care. Ditto.
  3. Education. You spent the time to further your professional education. You can prove it with certifications in this, that and the other thing. You are now a better employee. Well done!
  4. Death. A loved one died and you had to take care of the estate. My condolences.

All of these should be a source of pride. And when you are proud of something, it will come across in a job interview. What you did was important. Just itemize on your resume what you had to do, your responsibilities, like with any other job. The patience you had to display, the self-control, involved in child or adult care, could be, should be, a ticket to a customer service or trainer position at any forward-thinking company. Education speaks for itself. As for learning probate, it shows, as does being a caregiver, that you learned how to navigate a new (complicated) bureaucracy.

Going back to child care, literally list the skills you taught your children. Instead of watching television, playing video games, or going on the internet, you taught them to be responsible and that (school) work comes first. You taught them discipline. You taught them the value of work. You taught them the importance of keeping to a schedule and a daily regimen. Those are all skills smart employers want in their employees.

And they also want honesty. So if you foolishly just took advantage of the situation and let the government pay you not to work, admit your mistake. Most people can be forgiving. Just say, “I was an idiot. I made a mistake. I know now I should not have done it. I learn from my mistakes which is the only thing I can say in my defense. I don’t make excuses. I never repeat the same mistake twice!”

Depending on the type of professional you were pre-COVID, it just may be enough to convince an employer to give you a try.

Need personal advice? Schedule a free 15-minute career counseling consultation today!

When Hiring, Job Searching and Communicating You Need a Soft Landing

The following is based on a presentation I made to the PRO-G Networking Group in Parsippany, New Jersey.

PILOTS ARE NOT THE ONLY ONES WHO NEED A SOFT LANDING!

Hiring, job search, and communications all share one thing in common: If you mess up it could cost you dearly. A bad hire can be destructive to a company. A bad interview can be devastating to a job candidate. And amateurish communications, whether verbal or in writing, can be damaging to the communicator. So how can you increase the odds of success – a soft landing – and decrease the odds of embarrassment – an ugly crash? Let’s consider each separately.

Hiring

If you are using a recruiter, in-house or external, and they tell you they have never made a mistake, they are either new to the business or lying through their teeth. We all make mistakes. It’s called being human. The key is to know how to minimize those errors and increase the odds that the candidate, if hired, will remain on the job for a long time.

The first thing is to conduct a reference check. You want to speak to the reference. They may say the right thing but their tone of voice may send a contradictory message, and that’s the message that’s important! Letters of reference are worthless. They could be forged. Or, they could have been handed to the person simply to get them to vacate the premises. And, for the record, LinkedIn references are meaningless. The candidate has complete control over their profile and can reject any reference they do not like. Moreover, and this has happened to me, many people offer to write positive references in exchange for receiving one. And if that does not convince you, one person told me that he had the most references of anyone on LinkedIn. So I printed out the first page of references, told him to send me the phone numbers of the first ten, that I would choose three, notify him in advance before I called them and…I never heard from him again!

You want to conduct a reference check because the most important thing for a successful hire is to make certain the person will be a good fit with your corporate culture. You can only find that out by talking with people who have worked with them in the past. More on culture in a moment.

The opposite side of the reference check coin is the background check. Some people believe that a background check should be conducted on all hires. I don’t argue the point. Just make sure (and I believe the law requires it) that you inform them of the results so they can dispute anything negative. (I had one candidate whose background check came back stating that there was an outstanding bench warrant against him for a crime he had committed when he was four-years-old! The court officer had made a mistake when recording the Social Security number…!) In any event, a background check should be conducted for any hire who will come into contact with money, financial data, or any confidential information.

The way that I provide my clients with a soft landing, the only way I know, is to offer a six-month guarantee that if for any reason a placement does not work out, I will find a replacement at no charge. If the recruiter does not offer a guarantee, or a short one, weeks not months, that tells you everything you need to know about them.

The reason my guarantee is so long is because I believe in my process. Which brings me back to culture. Culture is not free lunches, being able to take a vacation whenever you want, or showing up for work at your pleasure. Those are all fads. True, they speak to a certain mentality, but not culture. For me, and I am stealing from Tolstoy, culture is how you think. If you will, it is your decision making processes. And the most important part of that process is providing a safe environment where employees can disagree with their supervisors and the boss without fear of retaliation. If a person wants to hire someone who will agree with them all the time, I advise saving money and simply buying a mirror.

The way the employer reaches decisions informs their culture. The same is true for candidates which brings me to my next topic: Career Counseling or, for present purposes, the Hiring Process. (Job seekers should note that the following is from the employer’s perspective which is important as it never hurts to think like an employer when you are looking for employment!)

The Hiring Process

Ask for a cover letter. If all you receive is a form letter, move on to the next candidate. If they could not be bothered writing a unique letter for you, don’t waste your time with them. If they forget to send a cover letter, you know they can’t follow simple instructions. If they can’t follow simple instructions, they won’t be able to follow the complicated instructions involved in the job for which they applied, so, again, move on to the next candidate. And if they do send a cover letter, and they can’t write a proper business letter, you don’t want them.

Obviously, ask for a resume. But before you read the resume, look at it. It will tell you everything you need to know about how the applicant organizes their thoughts and how they prioritize. How they market themselves will be the best indication of how they will market you. Everyone is involved with marketing and selling. If they cannot market and sell themselves to your satisfaction, move on.

Also, check to see if they understand the latest technology, Applicant Tracking Systems. Many companies simply scan resumes into their data base without a human seeing them. The bad systems, and you always have to assume the worse, have difficulty “reading” anything in headers or footers, printing on a colored background (black background/white font), and get confused by hyperlinks (for example, for email addresses and LinkedIn profiles). It should not disqualify a candidate, just raise something to be pursued in the actual interview.

In the interview, although this should have been done by the recruiter, confirm that they are qualified for the job. Then ask what I call personality questions.

The first “question” is not a question but an opportunity: Tell us about yourself. If all they do is summarize their resume, then they do not recognize and do not know how to take advantage of a golden opportunity. So why would you want them?

Next, ask them what is the accomplishment of which they are most proud. Then, ask them why they did what they did. How did they reach the decision to do things one way and not another? What you are really doing is checking to see if they can handle criticism, are open to other options, are willing to learn, and if they can think on their feet. Now you will know if they are a cultural fit. Their decision making process must complement yours. Period.

Since you are hiring a complete person, and not just a salesperson, marketer, controller, CIO, or whatever, ask them about what they are curious. You may learn a lot from their answer. Also, ask them for examples of how they have dealt with adversity. The advantage will be to the older, more experienced, candidates, but it’s an important thing to know even for someone with limited experience.

During the interview, pay attention to their body language. Can they read the room? Do they know when they are doing well? Are they animated? Do they appear to be truly interested in the position? Sadly, because of all the Zoom conversations we have all been having, this is a lost art. But non-verbal communication is still important.

My two favorite questions are: How did you prepare for this interview? and What do you know about us (the interviewers) and the company? The answers will tell you everything you need to know about what they do to prepare for a meeting and how accurate are those preparations. If they can’t do it for a job interview, they can’t do it for a meeting with a client or a prospective client.

It’s all about presentation, which brings me to my third focus: professional communications.

Professional Writing Services

The first thing about communicating, whether in writing or verbally, is to know your audience. Your presentation must be relevant. With a written document, it is best to get right to the point. The fact is, people don’t like to read. And if the document is too long, that may indicate that the author can’t prioritize.

On the other hand, if you are making a speech, it is best to start with a story. Just make certain that at the end you connect your conclusions with the story. In any event, tell the audience what you are going to do and then do it. Don’t turn a speech into a commercial.

I can remember (being conned into) attending a presentation where the presenter said he was going to tell us how to double our sales within 30 days. He spoke in generalities and then, at the end, he told us that if we signed up for his services on the spot, he would only charge us $999.99 and he would provide us with the specifics to reach the goal! To the best of my recollection, everyone walked out disgruntled, to say the least.

That said, you do want to end your speech with a call to action. Tell the audience what they should do to justify the time they spent listening to you. Which reminds me, always keep in mind if you are writing to be read or writing to be heard. There is a huge difference.

If you follow this advice, I am confident that you will have a soft landing with your hiring, job search and communications processes.

How to Debate at Work and Maybe Get a Promotion

Whenever I am asked by a high school student what they should study in college, I always tell them that their major does not matter. What matters is that they take a couple of classes in English. No matter your profession, the only way to advance, to get promoted, in your career is by having, at a minimum, a good command of the English language. You have to be able to write well and, just as importantly, to speak well.

In Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, Jon Meacham writes,

[John] Adams said, “A public speaker who inserts himself, or is urged by others into the conduct of affairs, by daily exertions to justify his measures and answer the objections of opponents, makes himself too familiar with the public, and unavoidably makes himself enemies”

To write public papers or to negotiate quietly, away from the floor of an assembly or even away from a largish committee, enabled a politician to exert his will with less risk of creating animosity. [p.108.]

Put differently, if you have a problem with something at work, sit down, shut up, and put it in writing. Adams, as he was so often, was correct. And for one very simple reason.

When you debate someone verbally, it is almost always viewed as an attack. The other person feels a need to immediately respond. Immediate responses can be emotional. Rarely does the person have time to think. However, if you write something, and take the time to proofread it, you’ll also, literally, add oxygen to the equation (as in, taking time to breathe) and you may calm down. As the saying goes, “Calmer heads will prevail.” Similarly, saying, “Let me think about this. I don’t think it is as simple or clear-cut as it appears at first. I’ll send you something later today,” gives you time to properly think the matter through and, more importantly, to word you response carefully in a way that cannot be misquoted. A person can honestly, or dishonestly, misquote something that has been said, but not written – at least not for long.

You don’t want to be the victim of “telephone,” the children’s’ game where the first child whispers something to the second child, who then repeats it to the third. By the time it reaches the fifteenth child, any resemblance between the original statement and the final one it totally coincidental. That does not matter when playing a game; it most certainly does matter when trying to create policy.

Most people think that Lincoln won the debate again Douglas. Most people think they were debating for the presidency. Most people are wrong. But that’s not what is important. What’s important is that most people think the foolishness that we call “debates” today was what they did. They didn’t. The first speaker spoke for an hour. The second spoke for an hour and a half. The first had a half hour to respond. Can you imagine any of the candidates who have recently run for public office being able to do that? And I am not talking about the physical stamina and dignity. To stand for 60 minutes and speak, and then to sit for 90 minutes and not say a word, takes more than physical strength. Both men, whether you agree with them or not, were as brilliant when they began as when there time finished.

I’m no Lincoln. I’m no Douglas. And, respectfully, I doubt any of you are either. Our formal education is certainly better today than in ante bellum America, but not the informal. I just don’t think we have it in us. But Socrates…that’s a different subject.

If you have to publicly debate, by which I mean to defend a proposal in the office, your responses may be seen as attacks, unless you follow Socrates (and even then, an immature opponent still will not understand). The Socratic Approach, as it is called, is to ask questions to cause the other side, and force the audience to think critically. Asking questions, instead of making declarative statements, appears to be less confrontational but, in truth, it is a far more effective strategy and can be devastating because it requires the person to logically, rationally and, most importantly, dispassionately, defend their position. If they respond with emotion, they lose!

Being Lincoln or Douglas causes the audience to think but not, necessarily, to stay awake. Being Socrates, causes the audience to think and keeps them engaged, awake, because the “debate” is rapid fire. But this means that you, the questioner, have to be prepared. You have to understand what the other side is going to say. You have to appreciate their logic and know how to attack it not them.

I have always found that a higher level of debate results in better decisions. Allow your staff to ask probing questions, in fact, let them know that they are expected to ask and respond to probing questions, and, most importantly, to do so respectfully. Do that and your decision making will be exemplary and the results exceptional.

Overcoming Shyness

Congratulations! You got the interview. Now you have to get the offer. And that comes down to your perspective. It’s all about your attitude. To coin a phrase, It’s attitude, stupid.

You have to be able to see the big picture. What does the employer need? Can you provide it? What does the employer want? Do you have it to give? As with everything else in life, needs are more important than wants. But you have to be able to see the big picture, understand the needs AND appreciate the wants.

This means listening. This means asking the right questions. But it also means taking possession of the room. Showing that you can take charge.

But beware: That will intimidate some people. They will see you as competition. On the other hand, it will make others happy because they don’t like taking or having responsibility. How do you know? Body language. It’s called “reading the room.” You proverbially take out your binoculars and look at the interviewers. Are they smiling, frowning, or not reacting to you. You need the binoculars because some reactions are very slight, very important, but very slight. And you can’t even proverbially (or is it “metaphorically?”) bring a telescope into an interview. Are they moving in their seats to get comfortable because you have made them feel uncomfortable? Are they leaning forward to listen? Or, are they leaning back to contemplate what you are saying? Or, are they leaning back to take a nap because they have already decided against you?

The truth of the matter is, you can never know for certain. As long as you are not rude, lie or make claims which you cannot support, you can only do your best. One person can lean back because you fascinate them, and another can lean back because you bore them. Who knows?

So you can spend all of your time second-guessing yourself, in which case I can almost guarantee that you will not get the job offer, or you can bring with you the secret sauce of successful interviewing. It’s a secret, so don’t tell anyone.

The secret sauce is confidence. It is not over-confidence, which is arrogance. It’s confidence. Pre-COVID, you could establish confidence with a firm handshake. You can’t anymore. So now you have to do it with your body language. You have to look the interviewers straight in the eye (camera). You have to speak with a firm tone of voice, friendly, but firm.

Some people, perhaps many, are shy. They do not enjoy public speaking. For them, a job interview is public speaking. There is a trick I was taught about overcoming shyness. Pick an actor or actress whom you respect. Whose performance resonates with you. In my case it could be a Humphrey Bogart. A Cary Grant. A John Wayne. This does not mean that I touch the corners of my mouth like Bogie. It does not mean that I employ Grant’s voice modulations. And it certainly does not mean that I imitate Wayne’s walk, tone or mannerism. What it means, or actually because I no longer need this tool, what it meant was that I said to myself that I should pretend that Bogart, Grant, Wayne, whomever, was in a movie playing me. And then I would play them playing me. It sounds crazy but it worked.

Don’t Overthink in a Job Interview

Years ago I had a candidate for a senior sales/business development position. While he was a candidate, and not a career counseling client, I naturally gave him some advice. It may have been a mistake.

What are they really asking? That’s a question a lot of career counselors or coaches pose to their clients. They tell them that employers ask one question but really have something else in mind.

For example, What are your strengths? Do they really want to know what you are good at? Don’t they already know from your resume? So what are they really asking? They are trying to figure out whether or not you will stay on the job if offered to you. Will you be bored? Will they be able to utilize all that you have to offer? Or will you feel that you are being underutilized, not being allowed to contribute to your full potential, and leave? All of which are quite true.

Now the reverse question: What are your weaknesses? Yes, they want to know. But they really want to know that you are self-aware and that you do something to overcome your weaknesses. “I have a problem with X. To deal with it I do A, B and C.” They also really want to know if they are going to have to provide you with training to overcome your weakness. All quite true.

But the problem is, sometimes, (I think) to paraphrase Freud, a question is just a question. There is no hidden agenda. But, if your mindset is that there is something sinister behind every question, you may overthink things. That is what happened to my candidate.

Both he and the employer, my client, gave identical reports on what had happened at the interview, so I know this is accurate:

Everything was going fine. The owner of the company was asking questions focused on the job description. The candidate was able to answer each question, giving examples of work he had done. And then it happened. The employer ask a question right out of left field. “What was the last movie you saw?” The candidate’s brain went into overdrive. What does he really want to know? What will he think if he knows I like stupid comedies? What will he think if I admit that my girlfriend dragged me to a “chick flick?” Will he think I am weak? Will he think that I’m the type of person who can be manipulated?

It took him what appeared like a lifetime to respond. According to the employer, it was only about 10 seconds. And he finally said, “I honestly don’t remember,” which could have been a perfectly good answer if it were not for the fact that the employer thought he was lying, which he was. He had been dragged to the “chick flick.”

Of course, it is always best to simply tell the truth. If he had said, “My girlfriend dragged me to this God-awful movie. I don’t remember the name of it and it will be two hours of my life I will never get back,” he probably would have gotten the job. But he lied. And he knew it. The owner of the company knew it. And the candidate, immediately regretting the lie, was thrown for a loop and, from that point on, performed poorly.

The employer’s motive in asking the question was simply to see if the candidate was any good at small talk. He failed that test, miserably.

The moral of this story: Don’t overthink an interviewer’s motivations. And, most importantly, never lie!

What Job Seekers Can Learn From Johnny Carson

This article is based on the e-book edition of Henry Bushkin’s biography, Johnny Carson, published in 2014 by First Mariner Books. Johnny Carson was the undisputed king of late night television, reigning over the airwaves for some 29 years. Mr. Bushkin was his attorney, financial adviser, and “fixer.”

Ed McMahon was Carson’s “sidekick” for the entire time he was hosting The Tonight Show. It was a rather an odd pairing: Carson had served in the Navy as a Lieutenant Junior Grade while McMahon was a Colonel in the Marines. So for the first lesson for job seekers, and everyone else for that matter, comes from McMahon: leave your ego at the door! A colonel can work for a lieutenant, and very successfully at that!

But Bushkin, and now I am getting to the book, has a great quote from Carson on this very issue. When he was asked to which movie star he would compare himself, Carson answered, “Lassie. We’re both lovable, and we both come when we’re called.” (Page 14)

The second lesson comes from a quote from McMahon about Carson: He “was comfortable in front of [a television audience of] twenty million but just as uncomfortable in a gathering of twenty.” (Page 13) I remember watching Carson and how, when interviewing actors, he would bring about the issue of shyness. Carson was a shy man. Yet he had to overcome his shyness to become a success. So the lesson is, no matter how much you hate networking, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you, you have to overcome your discomfort. Networking is the major way to get a job and public speaking is the only way to reach the pinnacle of your industry. So, literally, take a deep breath (oxygen is a proven cure for tension), and start introducing yourself to strangers. If Carson could do it, so can you!

The third lesson is this: Carson “knew audiences and was pleased when they liked his work. He knew ratings and took pride in what they proved about his appeal. He treasured the respect of his peers in the industry. Awards were all but irrelevant.” (Page 146)

I remember reading not too long ago that if you post something on social media a third of people will buy from you but half (of everyone seeing your post, not half of the third) will buy less. The fourth lesson from Carson: When talking about why he never shared his political views with his audience he said, “Why lose fifty percent of my audience?” (Page 154) Keep politics out of the workplace and especially out for a job interview!

It can be very frustrating looking for a job, having the phone never ring and never getting an offers when it does. The fifth lesson for job seekers is a remark Carson made: “If life were fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead.” (Page 183)

Finally, the sixth lesson is going to sound misogynistic and sexist. It is also going to explain the source of a popular commercial that has not aired in a while. But it is excellent advice. Always keep your personal and work life separate. This includes, with rare exception, during job interviews. As Bushkin explains, “Maybe the protocol was influenced by the old mobster tradition that is part of the DNA of Vegas, the one that dictates that family and work be strictly segregated, but it was made clear early, often, and explicitly that this was the custom on Las Vegas Boulevard: whatever you had to do, leave the wife out.” (Page. 185) For the record, he was talking about the rampant marital infidelity that went on among the star performers and, while they were given rooms in the hotels where they performed, wives never stayed the night!

Remember these six and you may just get that job offer!

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Bruce Hurwitz, the Amazon international best selling author of The 21st Century Job Search and Immigrating to Israel, is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that! A five-star rated speech writer on Fiverr, he is the host and producer of the live-interview podcast, Bruce Hurwitz Presents: MEET THE EXPERTS

What Job Seekers Can Learn from LBJ

President Johnson was crude, rude and lewd. He was probably also a pathological liar who may only have been bested by the Clintons. And, as they say, “if it was not for” the Vietnam War, he would have gone down in history as one of our greatest presidents. (As would Nixon if not for Watergate. Polk if not for Mexico?) But he was highly intelligent and a legislator without equal. That is why his unofficial biographer, Robert Caro, titled one of his books, “Master of the Senate.” He was and, despite his many flaws, we can learn a great deal from him.

(As you have no doubt guessed, this article is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography. References are to the ebook edition.)

Dr. Goodwin writes, “The judgments of history are neither immediately rendered nor are they set in stone.” Contemporaneous accounts of presidents, predictions of their ultimate place in history, are almost always wrong. The most recent example was probably President Ford. At the time, he was roundly vilified for having pardoned President Nixon. But today, many experts on leadership cite him as an example of just that, leadership, and for that very decision.

The point for job seekers is that you do get a second chance to make a good first impression. Many a time I have disliked a candidate when we first met. A weak handshake, a button undone, perhaps an unfortunate initial comment/attempt at humor. But as I began to interview them, I changed my minded. My initial reaction was wrong. First impressions are not “rendered in stone.” That does not mean that you should not make every effort to make a great first impression, just that if you think you failed there is always a chance to recover. For that matter, as some of my career counseling clients, and a few candidates, have learned, a poor interview can be saved by a great thank-you letter. There is always a chance for a second chance.

Of course, there are times…

Quoting Arthur Schlesinger, Goodwin recalls: “Once an American diplomat met him [Johnson] at the Rome airport and on the way into the city methodically instructed him, as if he were some sort of uncouth backwoodsman, on how to behave. Johnson listened to this singular performance with unaccustomed patience. When they arrived at the hotel, the diplomat said, Mr. Vice President, is there anything else I can do for you? The Vice-President, looking stonily up and down at his model of diplomatic propriety, replied, Yes, just one thing. Zip up your fly.” (Loc. 7970-7912)

LBJ wrote in his college paper, “The very first thing one should do is to train the mind to concentrate upon the essentials and discard the frivolous and unimportant. This will ensure real accomplishment and ultimate success.” Great advice for job seekers. Don’t let your concerns about what you perceive to have been a poor start to an interview result in a poor interview. First, you might be wrong. Second, in the interview, if you have the answers, and, at least as far as I am concerned, more importantly, the questions, you can turn it around.

It is true that a job search is a numbers game. But it is not simply luck. Once recalling LBJ’s childhood hero and then Sputnik, Goodwin notes, “Just as the young college editor told his fellow students that Lindbergh’s success was due not to luck but to pluck, so now the Majority Leader told his fellow Americans that the Soviet success was due not to magic or superior resources but to determination—a determination we could match and surpass. ‘Our people are slow to start,’ Johnson later said in analyzing why America had originally lagged in the space effort, “but once they start they are hard to stop.’ ” (Loc. 2604-2608). Pluck, patience, perseverance and persistence usually win the day!

Finally, one problem a great many job seekers face is constantly reevaluating their decisions. “What if I had just…?” or “What if I hadn’t..?” are very popular questions. And very foolish questions! LBJ respected President Truman (so much so, in fact, that he took Washington to Independence, Missouri so that the former president could witness the signing of the Medicare Act which he, Truman, had tried so hard to get passed!) especially when it came to doubting his decisions. Goodwin recalls that LBJ once told her, “You know the great thing about Truman, is that once he makes up his mind about something—anything, including the A bomb—he never looks back and asks, ‘Should I have done it?’ ” (Loc. 6489-6491)

Don’t overthink or dwell on the past. Someone must have said, “God put our eyes in front so we would look ahead, not backwards.” And whoever said it, was right!

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Bruce Hurwitz, the Amazon international best selling author of The 21st Century Job Search and Immigrating to Israel, is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that! A five-star rated speech writer on Fiverr, he is the host and producer of the live-interview podcast, Bruce Hurwitz Presents: MEET THE EXPERTS

Links to LinkedIn Posts You May Find of Interest

Ten Things for Veterans to Keep in Mind When Conducting a Job Search

10 Things to Do to Get over the Holiday Job Seeking Blues

Why I Believe I am Correct in Accepting Connect Requests from Everyone

The 5-Second Resume Skim

Two Jobs to Think Thrice About Before Taking

How I Got a Former Prostitute Hired

5 Steps to Successful Career Change

Closing the Salary Gap

9 Questions Every Candidate Should Ask in an Interview and Why

Before hiring, meet the wife!

Why reading the classics is important

Check Your References

What is an Informational Meeting and How Should You Conduct One?

The Dangers of Frivolous Accusations of Sexual Harassment

Why Volunteering is so Important for Job Seekers

What is appropriate to share with colleagues and what isn’t?

Is this the Dumbest or Most Brilliant Reason for Working on a Straight Commission?

On Time Management

What will the 2018 Resume Look Like?

How to Overcome an Interview Error

It’s called being human. It happens to everyone. You are asked a question and blow the answer.

Now there is one answer that is always useful. “I don’t know, but I’ll find out!” No one is expected to know everything. According to Einstein, a clock that is moving runs slower than a clock that is at rest. Similarly, a rod is shorter when moving than when at rest. I don’t understand it. I can’t explain it. (I think it’s because the clock or rod are pushing up against gravity, but my Ph.D. is in International Relations, so what do I know? And what if the clock is digital – something that did not exist in Einstein’s day?) But if Einstein says it, it’s good enough for me.

Of course, I would never be interviewing for a job where I would have to explain the Special or General Theory of Relativity (and, I admit, I am not certain which one is relevant here, although I think it’s the Special). But what if you are interviewing for a job for which, heaven forbid, you are actually qualified?

That happened to me years ago. I was asked a very simple question. “How are your communication skills?” What’s easier to answer than a question where you can engage in self-praise and brag?

As I began to answer the question I heard myself saying what I was about to say and I could not stop myself. I actually said,

“I write good…” Luckily, I knew I had a big problem which I had to fix in a nanosecond, if not sooner.

Humor is never a good idea in a job interview. I guarantee the joke will bomb or someone will be offended. I was once asked, in an interview, to tell a joke. I chose this one (compliments of Buddy Hackett):

A duck walks into a pharmacy. The druggist asks him, “How can I help you?” “I need Chapstick.” “Will that be cash or charge?” “Put it on my bill!”

OK, it’s a terrible pun. But offensive? No. Yet, for some reason that no one could understand, one woman in the room did not react with a chuckle or a moan of feigned disgust, but almost with disdain.

But there is one type of humor that you may get away with: Self-deprecating. When you make fun of yourself, people should laugh with you, not at you. It’s also a sign that you have no ego issues.

So how did I get out of my grammatical conundrum?

“I write good…and speak even betterer.”

Everyone laughed and no one was the wiser. (And, yes, I got the job.)

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that!

Bruce is a recognized authority on job search and career issues, having been quoted in over 700 articles, appearing in some 500 publications, across the United States and in more than 30 foreign countries. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 300,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador.

An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.

How to Learn How to Listen

I have been an executive recruiter since 2003 and formally a career counselor since 2009. During this time I have been asked hundreds of questions, some of which have almost made liars out of those teachers who had assured me that there was no such thing as a stupid question.

Today I was asked a question I have never been asked before. And it’s a good one.

While discussing interviewing, my new client explained that she has problems listening. “Shut up and pay attention” was not the answer to her problem. That she knows. The question is how to get practice so it becomes a natural process.

I have been through this myself and I told her about the one thing that has helped me to overcome difficulties listening. First, I do shut up. Second, I remind myself that day dreaming is a no-no. Third, I really think about what the person is saying. I concentrate on their every word and jot a few things down. But those are the mechanics, not the skill.

The way I learned to listen, which is another way of saying “concentrate,” was by listening to old radio show mysteries. You have to pay attention. Some are rather complicated. If you day dream for a minute, you may miss the clue and then you will not understand the ending. So Google “mystery radio shows” and find ones that interest you. A good many appear to be free. So for no money you will not only be entertained, you’ll also learn possibly the most important skill for having a successful interview.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 300,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.