Mistakes We Make in Job Interviews Infographic

by Pete Ferguson

I love Infographics! I subscribe to receive emails with several a day and I’m constantly surfing the Internet for new examples of how to breakdown complex information into a graphic representation.

This topic of job interviews is a great one. One of my largest pet peeves when I’m the interviewer is when I ask the applicant what they know of the company I work for – which is the World’s Largest Online Commerce with two of the most visited websites in the world – and they don’t know about and they’ve never used our services. You don’t get hired for your great personality alone … you need to do your research!

You should spend 10-20 hours researching the company, seeing who you may know who already works there through LinkedIn, etc. and use their products before showing up for the first time and trying to convince them you are a good fit.

For those who regularly screen and interview, consider a tip I read in HR Management magazine and have applicants post a 2-minute video online explaining why they are the best candidate and 2-3 questions specific to the position. What used to take hours to sift through resumes and hold initial interviews or phone screenings will be a very entertaining 20-30 minutes max.

My favorite was when we were hiring for a training expert with experience in video production and web design. Many applicants contacted our recruiter saying they hadn’t uploaded a video to the Internet before and did he know of a site where they could do that? This shortened the list very quickly as I consider publishing a video to YouTube easy enough for even me to accomplish with one thumb press on my iPhone.

Of the videos we did receive, one guy was using a headset and the webcam for his current employer’s computer, sitting in his current cubicle with coworkers walking behind him. That one was a great laugh and that was all it was.

Unfortunately, not a single applicant did anything creative, mostly just talking heads reading a monotone script or “winging it” with bad lighting and sound. I was amazed no one was willing to go out on a limb a bit and put together something entertaining to show their creative side.

It is pretty much a given that your LinkedIn, WordPress, Facebook, Twitter and other accounts will be reviewed. So don’t post anything your father or mother would be shocked to see or read. [My dad reviews my posts regularly and provides wise feedback and input.]

Last week I was conducting a phone screening interview with a candidate and so I pulled up her profile while I was talking on the phone to compare against her resume and I saw that she had stated that she was voted #1 Mom by her three daughters. I have three daughters, and that made an immediate connection that softened me up through the applicant’s nervousness. So I asked her about it, she laughed and asked if that was appropriate to put on her page. I thought it was! She then slowed down and became a lot more humanistic instead of robotic.

Painting your humanistic side is good. However, I don’t recommend using your favorite bar or beach photo for your LinkedIn profile (seen it many times), and the old saying of “what happens in ______ (Vegas or company party, or wherever) stays in _______” didn’t account for smartphones, Google searches, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

And now to the promised infographic:


How to Hire Great People

What’s the key to a great hire? It starts in how you formulate your company or organization.

You have to be able to tell a compelling story and then go out actively looking for people who can share your vision.

Find out what the Venture Capital firm responsible for Facebook and LinkedIn tells its CEOs about hiring great talent.

Continue the journey!

Why Your Passion Matters Most in Your Career

In America, following your passion traditionally can be something you may feel guilty for, wait for retirement to do, or expect others to support you as you volunteer. We are all selling ourselves short!

by Pete Ferguson

This week one of my friends was called into work early. The company has been downsizing for some time and he was greeted by the other directors and a contingency from the corporate office. The meeting was brief, they were told that their Vice President was no longer with the company.

The VP had been a stubborn protector of the jobs remaining and had refused to make further cuts.

My friend was invited to a “get to know you meeting.” As he walked into the office with his new boss – someone transplanted from corporate – he saw his resume on the desk. He was interviewed for his current position, as were the rest of the team. After many years of dedicated service and going the extra mile, he now had to justify his position.

That was where the story left off earlier in the week. I was terrified for him and his family, but also knew he is very talented and could likely find employment elsewhere, but it could require a much longer commute or reduction in pay.

But this morning we heard a very positive turn of events. My friend has been working on a project as a hobby that he didn’t think anyone was paying attention to at work and had felt almost guilty for spending very much time on it. It was something he is much more passionate about, but he didn’t think it was “real work.”

Turns out a lot of the people at the corporate offices had heard about his innovation, and very much think it is real work. So much so that he has been given a team to expand the project and, within a week, he has gone from thinking he was doomed to being the possible savior of a branch of the company.

I’ve spent the past two years working a lot more on my passion than a J-O-B.

At first I felt guilty. Like I was betraying my company. I mean, real work isn’t supposed to be enjoyable is it?

I was getting up early and staying up late to very quietly post anonymously on forums, read great books, hire a career coach, and had my resume reviewed by a number of different sources. I did get attracted by recruiters and made the final list for several different positions that would have been a large increase in pay and title.

But through the process, I realized I didn’t want more of the same. I wanted more of – well, more!

I enjoy developing people.

I enjoy helping people find ways to help themselves. And at work, I too experienced what my friend just experienced. My talents were recognized, and a new position and team created for me to do more of what I love.

I’ve gone from only enjoying about 10-15% of what I do in a week to 85-90%. And it has been fabulous.

When we are doing something with passion, it is effortless. The hours melt away. Weekends can be a distraction if we are not careful to give our same passion to family and friends.

As I look at all of the construction work outside my office I see my 18-year-old self staring back at me. I spent many years in hard physical labor to get through college.

The kind of jobs where the clock seemed to run backwards and I would think in terms of “if I can just make it to the 10 am break.” Then lunch. Then the afternoon break. Then I’d thank the heavens for the last 20 minutes of cleanup and rush home and try to forget it all until 6 am the next morning.

But as I walk into a clean, well-organized building, off to do something that really matters to me and to others, I’m glad I’m on this side of the fence, and not standing with a shovel on the other side.

What is your passion? How much time in a week are you spending in pursuit of your passion? If you are spending less than 75%, you are likely overweight, depressed, and have little energy.

It’s time to make a change. It’s time to lean into the pain. It’s time to hire a career coach. It’s time to spend a lot more time reading, writing, thinking, planning, and doing!

Have a fantastic weekend. Steph and I are celebrating 16 years together today. We have five fantastic kids who are living out their passion in school, dance, music, friends, and family fun.



Sacred Cows

Is much of your day spent solving an endless supply of problems? Are you only fighting the symptoms of a deeper problem or the problem itself?

by Pete Ferguson

I like bringing on new people to a project. The fresh perspective can immediately cut through layers of bull carefully built up by an organization.

Recently I was working on a print piece when a fresh set of eyes reviewed it and asked what I was trying to solve and who the target audience was.

I defended the position with gusto. I explained how we had taken the audience into account and that we had vetted our approach through many channels. But as I heard myself vocalizing it all out loud, it started sounding ridiculous to me as well.

I hadn’t questioned the assumption that perhaps no communication was needed at all. I had only focused on the communication itself – the words, length, images, supporting documentation.

When we grasp onto work for work’s sake, it is easy to lose sight of why we are doing something.

Each organization has its sacred cows that survive on “because we’ve always done it that way” and other sources of denial.

Tackling these sacred cows seems easy enough to a new participant. But the gravity of the old ways can be very convincing and if the organization does not welcome change, the new perspectives will soon become jaded and eventually cave in or leave.

There once was a young couple who after buying a house decided they wanted to cook a special dinner for the wife’s grand parents to thank them for all of their advice and assistance to purchase the house and move in.

The wife went to the store butcher and purchased the best cut of roast, returned home and started prepping vegetables to add to the dish. She pulled out a large 9X13 pan, and placed the roast into the large pan, and cut off one end. Her husband entered the room and asked why she had cut the roast. The pan was very large with plenty of room.

The wife looked at him incredulously. She said that it would make the meat taste better. He laughed and argued that having the open end would actually dry out the meat. She argued with more energy that he was wrong and that her recipe was two generations old. Confused, he retreated to another room.

By the time her grandmother arrived, the wife was feeling very upset that her husband had belittled her for cutting the meat. She explained the argument to her grandmother with tears in her eyes.

Her grandmother began to laugh out loud, then quickly apologized, but couldn’t stop laughing. The grandmother explained that the reason she had cut off one end of a roast was because the only pan that could fit into her small oven was too small for a full-sized roast.

The wife’s mother had never asked and always assumed that it was to make the meat taste better and had passed along the tradition to her daughter.

What sacred cows and flawed traditions are you standing on? Time to springboard back into sanity and take the cow out to pasture.

Learn: As you look at problems that have reoccured again and again, are you fighting the symptoms or the actual problem itself?

Act: Figure out how to snuff out the root cause rather than waste time flapping in the wind at the symptoms.

Share: If you can’t figure out the two items above, bring in a fresh set of eyes, hire a consultant or coach, go visit several peers in other departments or companies.


Why Job Hopping May Not Be Bad

Both of my grandfathers remained at one job the majority of their lives. My wife’s grandfather did to. Now the average job length is 13 months for people under 30 and 2.4 years for the rest of us. Are you prepared?

by Pete Ferguson

My mother’s father worked in the auto industry. For the majority of his life.

He was responsible for stretching the vinyl tops onto Cadillacs among other tasks. He was a skilled upholsterer and mechanic. And it provided for his family, purchased the house my grandmother still lives in, and taught him many skills.

I’ve been at one company for 13+ years, but I’ve changed job functions every 3-4 years. In tech terms, I’m an old timer and as recruiters have told me, my greatest asset is that I’ve been at one company for so long – and my greatest liability is that I’ve been at one company for so long.

We are in a new normal where many kids have seen mom and dad – likely grandma and grandpa as well – laid off, downsized, rightsized, furloughed, repositioned, and otherwise rejected from a job they have given their heart and soul to daily for years.

The newer generation isn’t stupid, they’ve learned not to put too much stock into a career because they’ve seen the pain it has brought those around them.

In the past, job-hoping has been considered a bad thing. According to a study by Evolv, a san Francisco-headquartered surveyor, there is essentially zero correlation between the number of jobs hourly call-center agents held and their future job tenure.

(“Job Hopping Isn’t Hazardous to Employers,” David Shadovitz – Human Resource Executive, June 16, 2012, p8)

What matters most, according to the study, is “job fit, personality and skills.”

The good news is that you and I are in control of all three of these attributes. We can choose to invest in ourselves. I was given great advice by Dr. Laurie Wilson, then Head of the Communications Department at Brigham Young:

  • Have an emergency fund of six months income, stay out of debt
  • Always be learning, researching, reading, gaining new knowledge and experience
  • Network, network, network

I’m sure there was other advice she gave, but these stuck and have been reiterated by every good business book I’ve read. It took a while to get them all going, but having all three has provided a lifeboat of peace when layoffs at my company came and went and as other changes in business have come.

Tomorrow I will talk about a USA Today article about how training cutbacks in corporate America are also the new norm as companies are seeing employees leave faster and have fewer discretionary funds.

You have to take control of your life, build up your skills, and expand your network. According to the article listed above, the average time recruiters spend on a resume is an all-time low – six seconds. Applying online is no longer going to work. You have to have a sturdy network and build a platform to establish your credibility.

Learn: We are all self employed. You may only have one corporate client. What are you doing weekly to build and improve your skills?

Act: Do you have an updated resume? Resumes are just for job searching, they are a way you can measure your skills and abilities and outline areas where you need to grow and add new knowledge. Having an updated resume on LinkedIn also allows recruiters to reach out to you with opportunities otherwise not publicized.

Share: Networking is key. Go to lunch with people outside of your normal network. Ask for help of someone with many more years experience. Mentor someone much younger than you.

Photo Credits:

When Dreams Become Reality

Daring to do what you dreamed to do as a kid can pay off in a big way.

by Pete Ferguson

As a kid, I loved to play with Lego plastic bricks. They were a door to  a world of imagination, exploration, and fun.

Over the years I collected many different sets and was always on the lookout for more tires and other parts that moved to allow for greater variations.

One of the best things that happened to my Lego addiction was the birth of my baby brother, Mark. I was eleven at the time and it gave me an “excuse” to continue to play for many more years.

It was fun to teach Mark the ins and outs of organization and construction. The “best thing” was repeated again as I’ve had children. Now our collection takes up three sets of plastic drawers and each child has their own selection.

As a kid, I had heard a rumor that there were Lego Masters, but didn’t know what it took to become one. As it turns out, there are only four official Lego Master Model Builders – who work for Lego and help drive the company’s vision. The interview process is very different than your standard Corporate America gig.

Resumes aren’t very important, creativity is key. Twenty-three-year-old Andrew Johnson of Illinois is the newest — and youngest — to earn the title.

Instead of filling out an employment application, Johnson submitted a stop-animation video featuring a Lego catapult firing a boulder at a dragon. On the basis of that video, he was chosen to battle other candidates in a three-round build-off in front of an audience of kids and parents.

Aside from the official Lego company builders, there are also a number of other master artisans who have left traditional jobs to “play” with plastic bricks.

In an earlier posting, I talked about Nathan Sawaya who left his schooling and career as a lawyer and now holds the distinction of being the first lego artisan to have a solo museum exhibit.

While I still like to create with blocks, I do not desire to build Legos as a profession. However, I do understand the transferable skills – organization, getting the right pieces in the right place, creative problem solving, and the satisfaction of building something worth sharing.

What dreams have you made a reality and which dreams still need to be explored? What skills from your play as a child – and as an adult – are transferable to other areas of competence?

Learn: Take an inventory of what you loved to do as a kid – still love to do as an adult. (One of Dan Miller’s clients loved to read history books and now makes six figures narrating history books for home schoolers for example.) What transferable skills exist, and are you using them?

Act: Have some fun, surf the internet, plan to attend a seminar on how to be a professional basket weaver, how to open a scuba diving school, what it takes to be a professional skate boarder, or skate board builder. Hopefully you get the idea

Share: Find youth with the same passions and mentor them. You will both learn and grow in the process. Scouting has been great for me to relive highlights of childhood and create new memories with my son.

Photo Credit:

Read the story of Andrew here

Are You Thriving or Surviving?

There is not enough room in the human heart for gratitude and depression to exist at the same time. ~ Jason Hall, Champion Institute

by Pete Ferguson

In your current position at work, are you thriving or surviving?

From my experience with the recession after 9/11, during down times like now, there is an influx of very qualified people taking very low level jobs. They have been laid off, down sized, right sized, been made redundant … basically had their dreams, hopes, and family budgets decimated.

But as the economy recovers, these people move back into the mainstream and find a job better aligned with their skill set, and hopefully their dreams and passions. Which begs the question of you – are you thriving or surviving?

Surviving is fine – for a short period of time. I’ve moved my family into the in-law’s basement twice to survive. But the second time we had a definite time frame – nine months to build our house – and it was a lot better than the first time when we had no exit strategy.

Your exit strategy is a list of well defined goals with a deadline. Pick a date: 48 days, one year, five years. Have milestones for each and then set out what you will need to know and experience to reach those goals.

Hope moves forward. It rarely looks in the rear view mirror.

By creating a compelling future to move into, you can more quickly escape the past. Start doing the “someday I will …” list today. You can create a dream life from 5-8 am in the morning and 6-10 pm at night. Then shorten the gap, throw in a few lunches a week and then a few 15 minute breaks. Eventually you will be thriving 24/7.

Read great books, meet great people, and dare to dream.

Another important element comes from the opening quotation by Jason Hall – gratitude. Jason is a quadriplegic who has survived two life-threatening auto accidents. He has many reasons the world would excuse for being down and out, but instead he looks for the positive and appears to live a good life.

Not all days will be thriving days. Not all days will be survival days.

Today, I choose to thrive.

To thrive during your short lifetime on this planet is not easy. It takes working smart and working hard.  Yet, it is worth every ounce of effort and financial investment you make.  As in most endeavors, if it was easy we would all be thriving wouldn’t we? ~ Nathan Teegarden, True Calling

Learn: Write down a list of everything you are grateful for.

Act: Choose what you will do from 5-8 am every morning to thrive.

Share: Plan to go to lunch with a positive person within the next seven days and talk about gratitude.


From inhouseinsider.com