• My proven question for getting the job

    Sometimes the career advice business is about finding what works and sticking with it. This week’s newsletter is about the best question for you to ask in interviews.

    Over the past decade, I’ve tried a lot of different thoughts, tricks and tips for getting you the job. But the one which I’ve found has been the most consistently successful for people is to ask their future or prospective bosses:

    “How do I help you get a gold star on your review next year?”

    This bit of advice has helped more people in more interviews than any other bit of advice I’ve shared over the years.


    Well, the interview process lends itself to our being self-absorbed bores. You’re asked so many questions and do so much of the talking that you can end up coming across as self-interested and selfish, to the detriment of showcasing your teamwork and thoughtfulness in the best light.

    Or, conversely, we become “job analysis engineers” and ask all sorts of questions about the job, and the reporting structure, and how that fits in with the company’s five-year plan, and so on, and so on. I love getting questions from prepared candidates in interviews, but I do have to admit to feeling that they’re not quite getting the point of the interview process when they pull out six pages of typed, single-spaced questions and proceed to grill me on each one in succession.

    We can get so obsessed with the details of the job that we forget about the work that goes along with a job.

    Working together and being a good addition to the team mean being concerned with how you are making the team successful. And that means being concerned with how you are helping to make your boss successful.

    Asking the “Gold Star” question shows that you have empathy. It shows that you have an interest in your boss’ career and future success. It shows that you are not just a self-absorbed “what’s in it for me” kind of person. And it shows that you know life is about “give” just as much as it is about “get”.

    As Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics said:

    “Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that say ‘Make me feel important.‘ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.”

    Subscribers to my newsletter often say that with the “Gold Star” question, their interviewer’s face lights up, their eyes smile, and their interviewer will respond with a big grin about what you can do for them when you’re a part of the team in a few weeks.

    I’ve heard time and time again from our five million subscribers how effective it’s been in interviews:

    It’s an easy tip to implement in your job search. It’s easy to do, easy to understand, and easy to measure.

    So why not add the “Gold Star” question to your repertoire, and make your next interview… golden?

  • Why your critics don’t count

    With the 4th of July coming up on Wednesday, it’s a good time to reconsider this advice from a great American:

    It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

    That was Theodore Roosevelt speaking at the Sorbonne in 1910, but he could have just as easily been speaking to you.

    Those critics, those naysayers, the nags and the negative people in our lives who want to tell us: “No. It can’t be done. Don’t try. Give up. Why do you have to stand out? Why won’t you just be sensible and give in to the inevitable?”

    They don’t count. And you mustn’t mistake their words for truth.

    Don’t buy into their message of settle-settle, underachievement, and muddle-along-now.

    Because you’ve been blessed with talent, because you’ve had the fortunate happenstance to be born in this great country (or emigrate, or visit!), because you’re one of the leading professionals in this land, you have a higher calling this Fourth of July.

    Use the great gifts you have been given, find the forum where your talents will shine, discover that place where your spirit soars and the work smells like… victory in the morning.

    Enjoy this week of the Fourth, and then go find your new arena.

  • One-armed man knocks out kickboxer

    There are a lot of reasons why you might not want to be a kickboxer.

    You could be timid, you could not enjoy fighting, you could prefer kung fu, and so on.

    But let’s take one really obvious reason why you can’t be a good kickboxer:

    You only have one arm.

    You know, it’s great to have dreams in life, but, hey, you also need to be realistic.

    Because half of kickboxing is boxing, sometimes you have to realize that you actually can’t do it; that it’s better to lower your expectations so that you don’t get your hopes too high and wind up disappointed.

    Sometimes, when your fantasies are unrealistic, you need to be reasonable. You need to be prudent. You need to let your dreams — let’s admit it, they were “crazy dreams” — pass on by, so that you can grow up and be an adult and be responsible.

    Like, for example, if you wanted to be a kickboxer, but, during a difficult childbirth, your right arm had been entangled with your umbilical cord and been amputated below the elbow.

    And that left you with just one arm and one hand.

    Then, you know, it’s pretty obvious that you…

    Well, you just can’t be a kickboxer, y’know?

    And maybe it’s even really disappointing to you because that was your crazy goal in life, and you were willing to do anything — work out in any gym, run any number of miles on the backroads of Winnipeg, jump as much rope as your father would turn for you — you were willing to do anything to be who you wanted to be.

    But it’s important that you trim your dreams in life to match your abilities.

    So let’s just face it and talk straight:

    If you only have one arm, you can’t be a kickboxer! That’s so obvious that I can’t believe I have to keep on telling you this…

    You. Can’t. Be. A. Kickboxer!!!

    That is, unless you’re my hero, Baxter Humby, and you think that’s all a bunch of baloney that other people are trying to push on you, and you don’t care that you only have one arm because you were born, and you breathe, and you beat, not just the opponent, but every excuse we ever tried to weigh down on you…

    You know, in some ways, it’s a totally unfair fight.

    Sure, the other guy’s got more hands, but Baxter’s got more heart.

    Guess who wins in life?

    Now, if you would be so kind as to do me the favor of writing down on a piece of paper all the reasons that you can’t be successful this week — please, really, right now, take the next sixty seconds to just write down on paper the reasons and the hassles and the obstacles to your being successful this week.

    And now take… (lucky you!)… both of your hands, grab that little piece of paper between them, and then rrriiiiiiiiiiippppppppppppppp those terrible little lies into teeny, tiny shreds. You won’t be needing them anymore…

    Now go out and be who you were born to be: today, tomorrow, the rest of the week, and the rest of your life.

    UPDATE: An even more compelling fact about Baxter Humby is that he is not just “a” kickboxer, he is the World Champion in his weight class! Which is really astounding. For more, you can visit his homepage or check out his Wikipedia entry.

  • It’s not about me, it’s about you… the 20 questions you need to ask in a job interview

    What’s an interview about? It sure feels like it’s about you, but it’s really not.

    An interview is actually about how you can help your future boss and future employer succeed. It’s about finding out what their requirements and hopes are and matching up your background and experience with what they need.

    Overlooking these basic facts about the interview is all too easy. There’s so much else going on in your work, your life, and in your job search, that you can forget to look at the interview from the interviewer’s point of view. And that’s a shame, because, after all, you need the interviewer to walk away from the interview thoroughly impressed.

    With that in mind, I’ve updated my collection of my twenty best interview questions below. My aim here is to arm you with easy-to-ask, revealing-to-answer questions for you to take with you into an interview.

    The last time I ran these questions back in the Fall, commenter LBRZ wrote in and said:

    I have to thank you! I had an interview yesterday and it went great. When I asked about his leadership style and reward system his face lit up like a christmas tree.

    After he answered the question “how can I help you receive your next promotion?”, he began to give me advice on how I should negotiate for a higher starting salary.

    And that’s exactly the point, Readers. By asking these questions, which focus on the needs, traits, and preferences of your future boss and future employer, you’re demonstrating that you are somebody who is genuinely interested in their well-being. And the more interest we show in others, the more commitment they show to aiding our cause.

    And with that, here are my twenty best questions to ask your interviewer:

    1. What’s the biggest change your group has gone through in the last year? Does your group feel like the recession is over and things are getting better, or are things still pretty bleak?

    2. If I get the job, how do I earn a “gold star” on my performance review? What are the key accomplishments you’d like to see in this role over the next year?

    3. What’s your (or my future boss’) leadership style?

    4. About which competitor are you most worried?

    5. How does sales / operations / technology / marketing / finance work around here? (I.e., groups other than the one you’re interviewing for.)

    6. What type of people are successful here? What type of people are not?

    7. What’s one thing that’s key to this company’s success that somebody from outside the company wouldn’t know about?

    8. How did you get your start in this industry? Why do you stay?

    9. What are your group’s best and worst working relationships with other groups in the company?

    10. What keeps you up at night? What’s your biggest worry these days?

    11. What’s the timeline for making a decision on this position? When should I get back in touch with you?

    12. These are tough economic times, and every position is precious when it comes to the budget. Why did you decide to hire somebody for this position instead of the many other roles / jobs you could have hired for? What about this position made your prioritize it over others?

    13. What is your reward system? Is it a star system / team-oriented / equity-based / bonus-based / “attaboy!”-based? Why is that your reward system? What do you guys hope to get out of it, and what actually happens when you put it into practice? What are the positives and the negatives of your reward system? If you could change any one thing, what would it be?

    14. What information is shared with the employees (revenues, costs, operating metrics)? Is this an open-book shop, or do you play it closer to the vest? How is information shared? How do I get access to the information I need to be successful in this job?

    15. If we are going to have a very successful 2013, what will that look like? What will we have done over the next 18 months to make it successful? How does this position help achieve those goals?

    16. How does the company / my future boss do performance reviews? How do I make the most of the performance review process to ensure that I’m doing the best I can for the company?

    17. What is the rhythm to the work around here? Is there a time of year that it’s “all hands on deck” and we’re pulling all-nighters, or is it pretty consistent throughout the year? How about during the week / month? Is it pretty evenly spread throughout the week / month, or are there crunch days?

    18. What type of industry / functional / skills-based experience and background are you looking for in the person who will fill this position? What would the “perfect” candidate look like? How do you assess my experience in comparison? What gaps do you see?

    19. In my career, I’ve primarily enjoyed working with big / small / growing / independent / private / public / family-run companies. If that’s the case, how successful will I be at your firm?

    20. Who are the heroes at your company? What characteristics do the people who are most celebrated have in common with each other? Conversely, what are the characteristics that are common to the promising people you hired, but who then flamed out and failed or left? As I’m considering whether or not I’d be successful here, how should I think about the experiences of the heroes and of the flame-outs?

    I hope you find these questions useful in your interviews, Readers!

    A final note. Last time, another commenter, “Lenore”, asked:

    Hi Marc. Awesome questions!

    My question for you is…..how do you ask questions when you are meeting with more than one interviewer. I met with 3 to 4 interviewers, one at a time. I didn’t want to come off generic by asking each of them the same questions. I guess you can go by their role to determine what questions you are going to ask. Sometimes they are all top executives. I’m guessing there are enough questions to divide amongst them all. I had asked so many questions in an interview once, that I didn’t want to seem redundant. Do you think this is ok?

    To which I replied:

    Great question Lenore.

    Three options:

    1) Change the wording a little bit each time so you’re not asking the same question in the same way.

    2) Mention that “You know, I already asked your colleague about this, and I’d love to hear your thoughts…”

    3) Divide the list and ask different people different questions, as you suggested.

    Hope that helps!


    OK, Readers, have a great week in the job search!

    I’m rooting for you!

  • What if you got fired today?

    We used to think that 100-year-old firms were somehow safer than the brand new start-up on the corner, but the past few years have given us plenty of examples of how dangerous it can be to be in any industry, at any time: Lehman Brothers, GM, American Airlines, Dewey & LeBeouf, Chrysler, and other famous names have all found themselves in bankruptcy since the crisis broke.

    So the worrisome thought for you — with your family to support, mortgage to pay off, and bills always coming in — is…

    What would you do if you got fired today?

    And the important thing to realize is that the best time to put together a plan for “what if I got fired today” is the time well before you actually need it.

    That time is now.

    So I’ve put together nine tips for insuring against unemployment by keeping yourself employable:

    Be thankful. At the end of each workday, write down one thing you enjoyed or appreciated that day. Just send yourself an email with two sentences: “What I liked about today was how Abby handled the new client call. It makes me proud to be a part of her team.” Small bits of gratitude remind you of why you took the job in the first place, and help reinforce your willpower to handle the rough times. If you do this every day, you’ll find yourself being more appreciative for your work and your colleagues.

    Show gratitude. At the start of each workday, email one colleague, vendor, or partner, and thank them specifically for something they’ve done for you. Showing your gratitude to others is just plain nice, but it also lets others know what you enjoy and would like to see from them. It doesn’t have to be long: “Steve — just wanted to say that you did a great job at the planning meeting yesterday and I thought you handled the question about the 2013 budget cycle very professionally — Marc.” The world will become appreciative of you for being so gracious. Over time, you’ll find that makes working together a richer and more enjoyable experience.

    Have an opinion. Write one contrarian and one trend blog post on your industry per month. 350 words is all you need. That’s literally two minutes of talking out loud. You can talk for two minutes out loud, can’t you?

    Become the #2 person in a local Meetup group in your area of specialty. Meetups are local groups that meet to discuss areas of common interest. There are over 100,000 Meetup topics that cover everything from Marketing to PHP to Business Law and more. Find one you like, start attending and contributing, and see how you can help organize. And if the right Meetup doesn’t exist in your town yet, you could even be the founder!

    Keep up with the latest. Read the NY Times Tech reporters Jenna Wortham and Nick Bilton — they write on cutting edge technology. Sign up for one of the services they mention and play with it for 15 minutes. You don’t have to love it — sometimes being able to explain why you don’t like a service or product is more valuable to an employer.

    Get 100 followers on Twitter that you don’t know. Interact with people in your industry and your area and build yourself a little safety net. It might take a week or it might take a year, but getting a community outside of your immediate work can actually feel very liberating.

    Stay connected. Once a year, reach out to your old bosses and let them know how you’re doing. Anybody who has invested the time, effort, and attention in getting your head screwed on straight will likely enjoy hearing how you’ve turned out (and take credit if the result is positive!)

    Stay in touch. Once a month, go to lunch with an old colleague, a former co-worker or a college classmate. Face-to-face, nacho-to-nacho, is the only way to keep true human relationships going. So break bread, grab a drink, or meet before work to share your experiences and trials.

    Keep connections warm. Go through all your contacts, e-mails, Rolodex, whatever and find fifty people from your industry that you wouldn’t ‘normally’ speak with in the next year. Assign those fifty people to the next fifty weeks — one person per week.

    Each week, e-mail just that one person with a reminder that you exist and that you remember them: “Hey Jerry, I was just thinking about how great it was to meet you at the annual show in Chicago. I wonder if that re-engineering project of yours ever finished! Well, stay in touch, and let me know if you’re ever in my town or want a few tips on the golf course/ Settlers of Catan / sample sales sites I was telling you about….”

    With these nine tips, and just 15 minutes a day — between meetings, between flights, in the car — you’ll keep yourself safe by purchasing the best type of unemployment insurance, employability.

    Have a great week in the search,

    I’ll be rooting for you!

  • Oh no… are you re-re-re-re-re-re-re-writing your resume? Again?

    Not feeling confident about your resume leads to a lot of wasted days like these:

    Writing your resume. Saving it. Worrying about it later at the ballpark. Going home, re-writing it.

    Getting nervous about your resume while you’re picking your daughter up at summer soccer camp. Going home, re-re-writing it.

    Feeling confident about the way you described that internal promotion a decade ago. Sharing your confidence with your friends. Discovering that none of them agree. Going home and re-re-re-writing it.

    Printing it on kinda fancy paper. Taking it to an interview. Discovering with horror that you’ve written “form” when you meant “from” (spell-check doesn’t catch goofs like that). Going home and re-re-re-re-writing your resume.

    Feeling like perhaps you ought to explain a bit more about your college activities because maybe your time as Club Vice President really is a bit more indicative of your leadership capabilities. Re-re-re-re-re-writing your resume. Discovering, three hours later, that everything you’ve written isn’t as good as the original. De-re-re-re-re-re-writing your resume.

    And on and on and on and on…

    Re-re-re-re-re-re-writing your resume is a waste of time that can go on forever.

    Whenever you’re tackling a “do-it-yourself” project that you’ve never done before, frustrations, false starts and fake progress can get in your way. When there’s a lack of confidence about what the end result should look like, or your ability to achieve that end result, hours and days can disappear into the abyss.

    That’s why my colleagues invented the “visual resume critique” — our way of helping you through the resume-writing process — which looks like this:

    As you can see above, when you get your resume reviewed and critiqued at TheLadders, one of our resume experts will walk through your resume, and attach little orange numbers to the specific areas on your resume that need improvement. And we’ll give you our thoughts on what you need to do to improve those areas.

    So if you’d like for us to handle the re-writing for you, we’ll re-write your resume for our lowest price ever… $395 for a professional resume re-write. You can get started by clicking here to get your resume critiqued by our experts at no cost.

    Or, if you’re more of a “do-it-yourself” type, we’ve written a book with Wendy Enelow, America’s leading resume expert, author of 30+ books on resumes, and founder of the Resume Writing Academy, that walks you through what you need to know to craft a perfect resume on your own. The book is titled “Guide to Crafting the Professional’s Resume” and is available from us, for free, by clicking here to download the 302-page PDF.

    Either way, we’d like to see you with a resume that makes you proud and productive on the job hunt this summer.

    So that, hopefully, you’ll never have to re-re-re-re-re-re-re-write your resume again!

  • You should follow me on Twitter

    You should follow me on twitter here: @cenedella.

    Can you use Twitter to get ahead in your career? Two-and-a-half years ago I decided to find out.

    What I’ve learned is that Twitter can be very useful for establishing yourself as a thought leader — or even just a very interested participant — in your industry.

    Here are recent tweets from @cenedella and @TheLadders showing you six ways to get noticed:

    You can share observations:

    Provide industry insights:

    Highlight your activity in your community:

    Comment on hot topics:

    Share thought leadership:

    Provide helpful tips to your followers:

    A common question I get is “You say ‘follow your passion’; but how can I show future employers what I’m passionate about?”

    Twitter is an awfully accessible way to share that passion.

    If you want to demonstrate to your industry, your community, and future employers that you stay connected, you’re interested in and passionate about a subject area, and you’ve developed influence in a sphere of activity, Twitter is the easiest, least technologically challenging, most widely distributed platform that allows you to do all of those things.

    When you develop a following, interact with others who share your interests, and discover what’s fascinating and new in your areas of expertise, you’ll not only be better informed, but better respected and better able to explain and show how you’ve put time, thought and effort into your career.

    Using Twitter is the best way I know to prove yourself a leader and an influencer.

    So good luck in the search this week, Readers!

  • Fifty companies hiring right now…

    Last week I shared with you fifty examples of jobs accepted in the past month by members of TheLadders. And I also mentioned that the reason we see so much hiring, even in a sideways economy, is because most hiring is replacement hiring — companies looking to replenish their ranks after departures, retirements, and other separations.

    So I thought this week I’d look at the other side and dig up fifty of our friends that are hiring… right now!

    It’s companies such as Amazon, which is on a tremendous growth tear as reported in The Wall Street Journal this week; or Georgia-Pacific, makers of Dixie, Brawny and Vanity Fair; or Accenture, adding professionals all the way across the country; or Microsoft, the venerable tech giant that went public in one of the first spectacular IPOs over 25 years ago.

    The full list of our favorite friends hiring hundreds on TheLadders right now is below:

    Kforce, Inc.
    Resources Global Professionals
    Coventry Health Care
    Sears Holdings Management Corporation
    UnitedHealth Group
    Thomson Reuters
    Visiting Nurse Service of New York
    Pitney Bowes
    Ingersoll Rand
    Enterprise Products
    Compliance Search Group
    Starbucks Coffee Company
    US Cellular
    Pacific Dental Services
    Life Technologies
    Arrow Electronics
    Novo Nordisk
    The McGraw-Hill Companies
    Aon Hewitt
    Central Division
    StaffPointe Technology Search
    NorthEast Division
    DaVita, Inc.
    GE Energy
    Home Depot
    Matrix Resources

    Good luck in your search this week, Readers!

    I’ll be rooting for you.

  • Interested in advertising on ‘thefacebook’…

    Just dug out my e-mail correspondence with facebook from my email archives… this young fellow in this thread has done quite well for himself…

    (this must be the article I am referring to in my e-mail below…)


    > —–Original Message—–

    > From: thefacebook – Advertising [mailto:advertise@thefacebook.com]

    > Sent: Saturday, May 08, 2004 5:36 PM

    > To: Marc Cenedella

    > Subject: Re: interested in advertising



    > Dear Marc,


    > I look forward to working with you. What are your advertisement

    > intentions, in terms of placement, timing, duration and level of

    > exposure. We will target your campaign only to alumni from the class

    > of 1998 and before.


    > Sincerely,


    > Eduardo Saverin

    > CFO, thefacebook LLC

    > business@thefacebook.com

    > advertise@thefacebook.com

    > (305) 345-9638


    > PS. We are considering the Google Adsense Program, but we have not

    > made a decision yet.


    > On Sat, 8 May 2004, Marc Cenedella wrote:


    > > Hi Facebook folks -

    > > I’m HBS ’98 and was up speaking on campus yesterday where I saw the

    > article

    > > in the Harvard Crimson.

    > > TheLadders is a high-end jobs newsletter and we’d be interested in

    > > advertising to the alumni population of your audience.

    > > Can you please provide details?

    > >

    > > Warmest regards,

    > >

    > > Marc

  • Hired!

    The full list is too large, but here’s a selection of about fifty of the jobs accepted this past month by members here at TheLadders:

    Job Title Salary
    Account Executive $140K
    Account Manager $200K
    Associate Commercial Manager $110K
    Associate Director $130K
    Business Development Manager $115K
    Director $150K
    Director Finance $160K
    Director of Facilities $140K
    Director of Human Resources $110K
    Director of Operations $120K
    Director of Regulatory Affairs, Advertising $240K
    Director of Sales $200K
    Director of Strategy $145K
    Director, Sales and Marketing $135K
    Director, Program Management $170K
    First Vice President $123K
    Global Sourcing Manager $103K
    HR Director $110K
    Human Resource Manager $100K
    Manager, Logistics $130K
    Marketing Director $165K
    National Director of Business Development $108K
    Ops Support Team Mgr $100K
    Plant Manager $120K
    Principal Engineer $113K
    Principal Platform Specialist $125K
    Product Marketing Manager $120K
    Program Manager $160K
    Program Manager $121K
    Project Manager $125K
    Regional Business Manager $140K
    Sales Director $120K
    Security Product Marketing $150K
    Senior Consultant $125K
    Senior Embedded Hardware Engineer $102K
    Senior Project Manager $105K
    Sr. Manager $105K
    Sr. Product Marketing Manager $138K
    Sr. Vice President $150K
    Sr. VP of Sales and Marketing $200K
    Strategic Account Manager $100K
    Technical Analyst $120K
    Telecom Manager $100K
    Vice President $150K
    Vice President of Human Resources $180K
    VP of Engineering $160K
    VP of Finance $125K
    VP of Operations/COO $150K
    VP Product Manager $160K
    Western Regional Sales Manager $135K

    How can all of these people be getting hired?

    Well, the answer is in this graph:

    Thousands of hires per month in the US 2002 - 2012

    Thousands of hires per month in the US 2002 – 2012

    This graph shows the number of hires, in thousands, each month over the past decade here in the US.

    Most importantly, what this graph shows you is that even when the economy is rough, most hires are replacement hires — hires, that is, to replace employees who have departed the firm.

    Now, there’s no doubt that things have gotten tougher:
    - The average number of hires from January 2002 through December 2008 was 5 mm hires per month. (4,999,000 to be exact)
    - Since January 2009, that number has been 4 mm hires per month (4,024,000 to be exact).

    So the overall level of hiring has dropped by one million hires each month. That’s why unemployment is stubbornly high, and why millions have given up looking.

    But, looking on the bright side, what this graph also tells us is that even in a crummy economy, there are still about 4 million new hires every month.

    And that’s because companies are always replacing people who have left. Yes, some who have been fired or laid off, but the vast majority to replace those who retired, quit, or left for better opportunities elsewhere.

    So the important thing for you to remember is that while the economy as a whole might not be creating more new jobs, companies are still hiring plenty of people, all the time, to replace those workers who have moved on to greener pastures.

    Hiring people like you.

    So keep up your good spirits this week,I know there’s one job in those four million for you…

    Have a great week in the search!