Want to Work at a Company Where the Culture Is a Positive One?

“Businesses often forget about the culture, and ultimately, they suffer for it because you can’t deliver good service from unhappy employees.”

— Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappo’s

A job is more than just a place you go for 8+ hours a day—you also need to deal with coworkers, bosses, and office politics. Here are some clues to determine a company’s culture before you take the job and it’s too late.

It’s important the culture of the company is one you think you’ll thrive in. The work environment significantly influences how you’ll feel about your job. This includes everything that forms employees’ involvement with the work itself, such as co-workers, supervisors, company culture, personal development opportunities, even hours and surroundings.

A positive work environment makes employees feel good about what they’re doing and encourages employee engagement.

Our colleagues and especially our boss, have a huge impact on our work experience.

If you’re looking for a new job, assessing a potential work environment is a crucial consideration you shouldn’t skip.

Check Out the Company Using Multiple Tools to Learn More

Start with the corporate website. What news and updates do they put out to the public, because what’s on their website is generally relevant to new products, ideas, conferences, or volunteer activities that are happening at the company. If there’s nothing there, that may evidence they’re not concerned about their image. So, they may react the same to their employees.


Check the feedback about the company on sites like Glassdoor. Take the reviews you see there lightly, but if you see common threads between reviews, you’ll know what to watch out for. If everyone leaving a company complains nothing is worth the long hours and demanding management, it may not be what you want to get into. On sites like Glassdoor, don’t just read what employees say, but look at what people who interviewed said too. And, if candidate interview reviews suggest a strenuous or disorganized process, consider it a reflection of what’s happening behind the doors.

Check out the company’s social network profiles, specifically their pages on LinkedIn and Facebook.

See what they share on Facebook to the public, and visit their corporate LinkedIn presence will reveal people who work there, what their skills and backgrounds are.

Ask Questions About the Culture in Your Interview

If you’ve done your homework and the company still looks like a great place to work, you have an opportunity to learn more about the culture in your interview. The one question that usually comes up (and often near the end) in most interviews is “Do you have any questions for us?” That’s your opportunity to learn more about the culture, information you can’t get from just your research. Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  1. What’s the company culture like from your perspective?
  2. How does this group work with other teams?
  3. How do the different roles on our team interact?
  4. What’s the intrateam dynamics?
  5. How would your employees describe you? What have you been told by more than one person?

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, one of the strongest advocates of culture, makes a solid point when he says ‘the people you hire represent your company even outside of work. If you meet someone and learn where they work, your perception of that place is influenced based on what you learned.’

So, What Elements Make a Great Company Culture?


Let’s start with what is Corporate Culture. It’s probably a word you hear often, but what is it exactly?

According to The Business Dictionary corporate culture is: “The values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization.”

This is the reason a positive culture matters. Culture sustains employee enthusiasm.

8 Elements of a great company culture

  1. Positive Values – A positive mission statement outlines the goals and demonstrative the company values and strives toward.
  2. Relaxed and Productive Atmosphere – People enjoy coming to work and feel appreciated, acknowledged, and rewarded.
  3. Open and Honest Communication – Everyone communicates in a cards-on-the-table manner, solving difficulties in a positive way. They view constructive feedback as an opportunity for growth. And constructive feedback is given frequently if needed, and they don’t wait for your annual review. Constructive feedback should also offer workable solutions.
  4. Cooperation, Support and Empowerment – Employees have a sense of camaraderie, cooperation and empowerment.
  5. Humor – Employees keep things in perspective, laugh, and have fun even when change is occurring or everyone is busy.
  6. Flexibility and Transparency – The employees embrace change, accommodate new trends and technology, and incorporate new skills. Companies where management is transparent about the direction, current challenges, and even mistakes creates an environment that builds trust.
  7. Positive Reinforcement – People need acknowledgement, appreciation and gratitude to be motivated. And frequent, specific and timely positive reinforcement is best.
  8. Approachability and Support – When employees feel they can talk openly with their boss and will be supported when faced with challenges. At some point in a career, everyone faces challenges and managers who support their employees


Tony Hsieh, now CEO of Zappos, believes that interactions–both between employees and with customers–are the key to a business’s identity. “At Zappos, we really view culture as our No. 1 priority. We decided that if we get the culture right, most of the stuff, like building a brand around delivering the very best customer service, will just take care of itself.”–January 9th, 2010, The New York Times

In the end, there are no magic pills even when you’ve thoroughly done your research. Business, like everything else today can change on a dime, so if you’ve decided to join a company and learn the culture is toxic, start looking for a new opportunity, and do research on how to handle a toxic environment before you find yourself just reacting to it.



Nuances of Successful Phone Interviewing

Phone-InterviewIt all starts when the recruiter reaches out to you about your availability for a phone interview. When they do, and they will, offer a couple blocks of time, not just one. If you only offer one time, it often requires multiple back and forth emails that delay your interviewing. Also, consider that the person interviewing you may not be in the same area code, so provide availability that would accommodate multiple parts of the country. Many companies may have an office in your city, but their recruitment may be in another or a different state. Even if you know where the home office is, the recruiter could be somewhere else. Again, suggest multiple blocks of time you’re available that could be accommodate east coast and west coast callers if needed. And, include the phone number that you can be reached with your area code. Plain and simple, doing these two simple tasks can speed up the entire process for you.

The Day of The Interview

Plan to be available for the call a minimum of 15 minutes before and 30 minutes after (in case it goes longer). Most phone interviews last 30 minutes, but keep 60 minutes available. If you can’t do that, alert the interviewer up front to your time restraints. Use a comment like, “I’ve got another meeting at 1:00 I can’t be late for”, rather than “I only have 30 minutes” or ” I have a hard stop at 12:30″. That will take pressure off you to get the interview wrapped up at a specific time and possibly rushing the interview.

Start with a smile on your face. Not so easy to plaster a fake smile on your face? Think about yourself talking to someone who always make you smile or laugh as you answer the phone.

Greet the caller with your name immediately, and let them know you’re pleased to be speaking with them. I always appreciate when someone says, “I’m glad we could find a time that works.” It tells me they’re excited about the opportunity and starts the conversation off on the right note.

Phone interviewers rely heavily on everything you’re saying and how you’re saying it. There are no non-verbal cues here except how you’re saying things, so keep it upbeat and eliminate distractions, whether it’s music or pets or family. While many people recommend dressing up or making sure you’ve got another person to field distractions, sometimes they can still happen. I used to go into the bedroom, lock the door, and tune out the outside world. Not the recommended environment, but it worked. Whatever it takes.

Phone-InterviewDress comfortably, wear whatever inspires you to have your best conversations, so wear whatever you can be comfortably relaxed in.

Critical to any successful interviewing is building rapport, and it can happen in a phone interview two ways. First, you just connect with the p
erson (maybe because their voice if friendly, or because their background is similar). But, that rapport can sometimes hurt you if you get too friendly and don’t come across as knowledgeable in your field. The other problem is sometimes it might cause some to reveal too much and on the phone, you won’t get to see the interviewer’s non-verbal responses to the messages you’re conveying.
The second way to build rapport is to be upbeat and knowledgeable. When offering responses, they should come across as well thought out, thorough, and concise. Often people have good examples of their successes, but the story they tell about them goes on and on, and by the time they’ve told the entire story, I’ve lost interest. Especially when they do it multiple times in a 30-minute interview. At that point, I’ve also determined they don’t have the sense of urgency we do and won’t be effective in this fast-paced business world we are all a part of today. Unfair? Maybe, but I, the recruiter, must decide on this candidate’s next step and I only have so much time. So, here’s where being prepared becomes your advantage. If you’ve prepared for the interview ahead of time, knowing your strengths and why you consider them strengths, having several responses to questions like, ‘Tell me about a time you solved a complex problem,’ or ‘Explain what you’ve done that shows you’re an analytical thinker’ if you’re applying for a job that has analysis involved, then the interview should go smoothly. Many companies today focus on customer service, both inside and outside the company, at all levels, so be prepared with a response, even if you don’t have external customer contact. Who are your customers? Explain how you’ve taken extra steps to insure they’re satisfied.

And if you have additional constructive comments on a topic don’t hesitate to bring them up during the conversation. But again, be concise.

One of the advantages of a phone interview is that it diminishes the difference between an introvert and extrovert, because generally everyone is friendly on the phone. It also removes your appearance which can help, because it’s not a distraction. Bottom line, what the interviewer is looking for is knowledge, experience, and cultural fit. And, regarding culture fit, while every company is different, most look for someone who’s motivated, energetic, positive, and exhibits high integrity. And often, these characteristics come through in something as simple as a phone interview.

Have your resume handy, so you can easily reference it. Also have your prep work available and don’t forget to have the job description next to you too.

After you’ve answered a question, a great suggestion is to ask the interviewer if you’ve answered their question. It’s a great opportunity for them to bring up something that may need clarification. And, while the interview is your time to highlight yourself, don’t dominate the conversation, wait for the interviewer to ask questions. And then respond to the question and be as specific as you can. With that said, it’s also your time to get some of your questions answered, and you can ask right in the beginning or at the end, if you can ask a few questions if the interviewer hasn’t brought it up.

At the end of the interview, show interest and ask what the next step is, and/or what the entire process will be, and at what point will there be an in person interview. More and more companies never meet you in person, but conduct all interviews via phone or Skype. So, the more you know, the better you can prepare.

After the Interview and ‘The Thank You’

Shortly after you conclude the interview, send a thank you note. Today, the preference is an email and a generic one is nice, but nothing more. Including a specific topic or detail in the thank you can get you bonus points. And, it doesn’t need to be the reasons you’re a good fit, but what you appreciated about the interview that will stand out. You can include information if it’s additional information that wasn’t discussed during the interview and can benefit you, but keep it concise and brief.

Follow-Up After the Interview

How long do you wait to reach out to your interviewer to check on your status? In general, allow 5 business days before you make any attempts and done by e-mail is always the best, and most appreciated by companies. The only exceptions would be if the recruiter or screener told you they should have an answer in a specific time, then allow another 2 days and follow-up. Your career is critically important to you, and all companies understand that.

Summing this up, have a positive attitude, be flexible with your availability, and be prepared!



Must-Have Interviewing Tips

Interviewing There’s a solution to make your interviewing more comfortable and successful.  The solution is practice.  Interviewing is a skill you can learn. Yes, it’s a skill that’s learned.  Very few people do it well without practice, like any skill.  So, I’ll provide some simple tips and then it’s up to you to practice. With the right tips and practice, you can become comfortable sharing your background and strengths with potential employers, making a good impression, getting your questions answered and ultimately landing your dream job. And, in the end you might even say you enjoy interviewing.

The first step is preparing for the interview

Develop an authentic and motivating story. Everyone thinks their job, hobbies, accomplishments, and education are like everyone else’s. But that’s not true, each of us brings a unique perspective to every moment of our lives, and it’s up to you to pick the most compelling pieces and build a ‘short story’ of you that is authentically you and motivates the interviewer to get to know you, your skills, and your strengths.

Create a ‘short story’ about yourself that explains why you’re looking for a new role and what you’ve accomplished at your current job.  This short story should be brief, because you’ll expand later during the interview, but it should compel the interviewer to want to learn more.  Therefore, it’s important to frame your story in a positive way.

Prepare for The Interview

Do research about the company, check out recent news and updates, look at the company from sources like Glassdoor to learn more about the role, salaries, benefits, and interviewing there. Do you know anyone at the company or have any connections there?  If so, connect with them and let them know you’re interested in learning more about the company and the role.

Once you’ve done research about the company, it’s time to prepare for the questions. Make a list of your strengths and while you’ll likely only ever discuss three strengths in one interview; every interview is different, and if you’re interviewing with more than one person, you won’t want to repeat yourself to each interviewer. Be prepared to provide supporting information to one or more of your strengths.

Practice typical interview questions and then practice strengths-based interview questions, Behavioral based interview questions, using the STAR approach. For more information about behavioral based interviews, check out this blog: Alison Doyle, “Behavioral Interviewing Techniques and Strategies” The Balance@

Prepare by providing examples of when you demonstrated problem solving, providing solid customer service, or building collaborative relationships within the organization.  And now comes the most important part of your preparation, don’t just walk yourself through your story or think through anticipated questions, write it all down.  Consider great storytellers you’ve heard…their message is authentic and true, and it’s generally been practiced.  Most good speakers start with a written draft, which has been reviewed and edited, and then memorized.  Once memorized, the storyteller can relax and authentically and naturally relay their story.  The same holds true with interview questions.  The more you practice by preparing ahead, and then practicing with a family member or friend, the better you’ll get. And, because you don’t want to do a lot of interviewing to get practice, practicing before your first interview.

Next, put together a couple of interviewing outfits so you’re ready to go when you need them.  And dress a little ‘up’ beyond the company’s current employees. It used to be that wearing a suit was a must, but that’s no longer true at many companies, so learn what the company culture is and then dress slightly more formal. Not significantly, just a little. So, don’t wear a suit when everyone at the company wears tee shirts, but business casual would a perfect choice. I once had a seasoned professional come to an interview in a suit that had clearly been kept for only infrequent formal occasions.  We were a start-up where business casual was ‘dressed up’.  It was a huge red flag to the interviewers.  It said, this person isn’t as adaptable as we need for this role.  And unfortunately, the candidate’s first interview didn’t turn into a second interview.

At the Interview

business-interviewAs you respond to questions, remember to provide candid, upbeat answers. And be thorough.   Even when asked about weaknesses or failures, these are opportunities to tell the interviewer what you’ve learned and are learning from those experiences. It also establishes that you don’t make a mistake over and over, but are a continuous learner.  Everyone makes mistakes, everyone has failures, but successful individuals learn from them.  Show how you have.

Ask insightful questions when the time is right.  Ask about what to expect the first 30 days on the job, and what you need to accomplish in your first year to be successful.

The interview is your opportunity to sell yourself and to learn about the company.  This isn’t the place for you to make demands or reveal all your secrets or dreams.  It’s also not the place to discuss your specific compensation or the perks you want to join the company.  That is done after the interview once you get an offer.  And, if you get asked what your five year or long term goal is, make sure your answer aligns with the company’s perspective and future opportunities at the company.  This is not the time to reveal that you’d like to be an entrepreneur in five years and this role would help you learn what you need to get there.

At the end of the interview ask the interviewer about next steps and tell them you are interested…even if you’re not sure.  It’s easy to turn down an offer, but if you  never get an offer, you don’t get that choice.  And, whether you want the position or not, getting an offer builds your confidence.

After the Interview

Take a deep breath, because you just did it, you interviewed, and got some real practice, even if it didn’t go as well as you’d hoped.  Now is the time for reflection.  What questions could you have answered better? What conversations were left unsaid?  Are there questions that you asked that can be improved?  Homework time again, go home and right your improved responses and/or questions down.  Don’t expect that you’ll remember everything.  You may want to just add what you learned to your arsenal of questions and answers, so you enhance your ability to respond to the unexpected in the future.

successful-interviewLast, send a thank you. It’s no longer required or even necessary to send a formal written letter.  Today’s business is moving too fast and a decision about you will often likely be made in a day or two, so the best ‘thank you’ is often an email, sent within 24 hours of the interview.  That means before you leave the interview you should get the interviewer’s business card, or at least their e-mail address.  Most interviewers appreciate the ask, especially when you tell them why you’re asking for that information, and if they won’t reveal it, sending a thank you email to HR or the recruiter and asking them to forward the email is a good alternative.  Even interviewers who don’t give you their email appreciate a forwarded thank you for HR. I’ve seen it multiple times where a forwarded thank you to the hiring manager helped the manager ultimately decide between two promising candidates.  The one that sent a thoughtful, but brief thank-you got the offer.

The Key to Becoming Good at Interviewing, Practice!


Resume Guidelines

Resume Ideas and Guidelines

Resume Guidelines

Step One for A Successful Job Search!  Start with Your Resume.

Let’s Get Going.  You’re either just entering the job market, or you’re frustrated where you are.  So, how do you go about creating a resume that will land you an interview?

Golden Rule, The NEW Golden Rule

Include ‘white space’ within your resume. You don’t need full sentences, as in an email; take out avoidable words within sentences. And, you CAN have more than one page.

Let’s repeat that one.  You CAN have more than one page.


First, about resume formats –  Chronological or Functional?  My recommendation – use Chronological, because almost everyone knows a Functional resume hides lack of work, or lack of recent experience; and because of the volume of resumes companies get, and the speed they see them, yours will never get considered if you use a Functional resume.

Start with easy to read, preferably not a template, pre-formatted resume templates can get caught in resume databases and not download correctly, leaving you with an incomplete resume.


Pick a font that’s used frequently in business, like Calibri, Arial, or Times New Roman.  Stay away from anything that’s unique, or too artistic; they are challenging to read, and most people won’t bother reading it….no matter how solid your resume is.


Use the following headings:  SUMMARY OF QUALIFICATIONS, PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE, VOLUNTEER AND/OR ACTIVITES AND/OR HOBBIES, EDUCATION, and if you’ve published any blogs, articles, or books, you can add a title, PUBLICATIONS.

Objective Statement

Don’t use it!  Why? Because if it’s not exactly what the reader wants you can end moving forward before you begin.  So, once more, don’t use an Objective Statement.

Summary of Qualifications

Use this section and use it at the top of your resume, even if you’re fresh in the job market.  A Summary of Qualifications tells the reader that they’re going to learn a little about you, what you consider strengths, as well as where your strongest professional experiences are. (Only use for experience if it demonstrates experience relevant to the job posting).


college-gradIf you’re a fresh graduate, it’s time to tell people! List the degree in all caps and FIRST, then the college name. With the degree first, the reader sees immediately you have a Bachelor’s degree/Master’s degree.  If you took interesting and relevant classes, or classes that show you are a strategic thinker, analytical, or creative, then include those.   For two reasons, one is sometimes it can show a more creative personality or more analytical, or even skills in a specific area, like Accounting/Finance, or a Digital Marketing class, which they’d never know, unless you’ve put it on your resume.  The second reason is sometimes in an interview, the interviewer sees a class that’s interesting and asks you about it…and this is a good time to ‘break the ice’ and show your interest or knowledge.

IF, you have one year of professional experience, put your Education at the end and I’ll write about that in a moment.

Professional Experience

corporate professionalMost recent first!  Never, ever, start the with your oldest position because the typical reader spends less than 30 seconds reading your resume, and may never spend the time on yours to see you’ve changed the order.

Some companies aren’t headquartered near you, or may not be familiar with an industry, include a brief description (1-2 lines) about the company’s line of business.

While you should include a brief description of your responsibilities, the bulk of what you include should be accomplishments, unique projects, or contributions you made.

Key Results of Key Accomplishments are a good way of ‘highlighting’ specific accomplishments.  It will make your results stand out, and is good for roles in Sales and Leadership.

Education and Credentials

When you add a degree or degrees, list the degree first, so the reader spots you’re it quickly. Then add the college or university name.  This is true whether you’ve been at a prestigious school like Harvard, Amherst or Stanford, or a state school/university.

If you hold a post graduate degree, like an MBA or MS, then list it first.

Do NOT list high school graduation if you’ve completed a degree or are including any post-secondary education.


Think it’s unimportant?  Well consider this, most people hire people they like, and the quickest way to connect with an interviewer is if there’s a common interest, or an interesting detail to ask you about.  Then, if it comes up, and often it will, you’ve created an opportunity to kick-off your first meeting on a great start.  Note, political and religious affiliations are highly discouraged because they could be misinterpreted.

And, when you’re done with your first draft, show it to others and get feedback. Make edits and draft separate versions for different roles you apply for.

Now you’re ready to hit the market!