How To Back Out Of An Interview

So, you're out there interviewing and, even though you still have interviews scheduled, you accept a job offer. Of course, that is a good problem to have. But now what do you do about the interviews that are already scheduled?

Well, for starters, if you've not started the job, there is no reason to turn your back on the interviews with the other companies.

But if you do, here's how to do it.

Reach out to the person with whom you were going to interview. As is usually the case, a phone call works better than an e-mail. Thank them for the opportunity and graciously decline the interview. Don't beat around the bush. Thank them and tell them you won't be available to interview.

If you were working with a recruiter, they deserve a call as well.

Leaving a good impression is important, even if you're saying no.


We Versus They

I heard once that a woman need only look at the way her boyfriend treats his mother to see how he may treat her someday. The same thing applies to candidates in an interview.

When I am interviewing a candidate, I want to imagine them doing the job for which I am interviewing. I want to imagine how they would behave not just in the specific job, but as a member of our team. I want to know that they'll be part of the team even when things aren't going perfectly, and will accept responsibility for their part. And I want someone that will be proud to be part of the team.

One easy way to give the interviewer the impression that you are not part of the team is to use "they" in place of "we".

For example: an interviewer may ask you about the type of business your current employer is in. There is a big difference between, "They are a widget manufacturer that specializes in polymer widgets" and "We are a widget manufacturer, specializing is polymer widgets".

Pay attention to when you're using "their", "them", or "they". Oftentimes, using "our", "us", or "we" can come across more inclusive.


Please Don't Fist Bump

The first line of this article on Yahoo caught my attention.

Could handshakes become a thing of the past?

Thankfully, the author quickly points out that handshakes are still important. But just in case you came across this article and, based on the first sentence alone, thought that handshakes are falling out of fashion, they are not!

If you don't have a genuine medical reason not to shake hands, you need to shake hands with everyone you meet throughout the interview process.

And your handshake should be firm, but it's not a strength competition. And ladies, your handshake is just like a gentleman's: firm and with the entire inside of your hand, not just your fingers.

Why Is That Important?

One of the most effective exercises you can do in your job-search preparation is to go through everything you write and everything you may say in an interview and ask "why is that important?" Scrutinize every word you may write and ask yourself why it is important to the hiring manager? That's the important part. Why is it important to the hiring manager? It doesn't matter if it's important to you, just to the hiring manager.

For instance, you may have included on your resume a training program that you completed at a job 10 years ago, on a program used only in that company. Why would that be important to the hiring manager? Ok, I'll give you the answer to this one: it probably isn't.

If you can re-word it to put the focus of the importance on what the employer wants than it should stay, otherwise, toss it out.



What The Space Jump Can Teach Us About Looking For A Job

One week ago today, we sat in front of our computer and watched history be made. Felix Baumgartner jumped out of his balloon-lifted capsule from over 24 miles up in the air.

It took only around eight minutes for the professional skydiver and daredevil to reach the ground. But just as exciting for me was the fact that it took two and a half hours to ascend to the edge of space (not to mention the months and months of planning leading up to that).

As Baumgartner approached the jump height, retired United States Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger went through their checklist. Kittinger, now the previous record holder, was the only one from mission control that spoke to Baumgartner. Some of the items in the checklist seemed basic, but they still went through each item.

Item 29, release the seat belt.

Item 32, disconnect chest chord umbilical.

Before the jump, Kittinger said, "Release the helmet tie down strap. Start the cameras. And our guardian angel will take care of ya."

Before he stepped out of the capsule, Baumgartner said, "I know the whole world is watching now. I wish they could see what I can see. Sometimes you have to get up really high to see how small you are. I'm coming home now."

And with that, he fell toward earth.

And what can this amazing feat remind us about looking for a job?

  • Practice makes perfect. Before Baumgartner made the record breaking jump, he made several practice jumps. Before you are interviewed, ask a friend to ask you questions that may come up in the interview.
  • Have a mentor. Baumgartner worked closely with Kittinger, whose free-fall and height record have stood since 1960. During the ascent and prior to the jump, he was the only one in the Baumgartner's earpiece. Have a large support network, but having one mentor can help clear the distraction of hearing too many voices.
  • Have a checklist. If it's important, write it down and use it. For instance, before an interview, make sure you have a copy of your resume (although you will likely not need to give it to anyone), a pen and paper (again, you will likely not need them), the address where you're going and who you are meeting with - on a piece of paper, and other things you might need.
  • Don't rest. Once you've had success, pat yourself on the back, thank those that helped you and go out and find the next challenge to conquer.

For more information, and some videos from last Sunday, check out these links:



What The Presidential Debate Can Teach Us About Interviewing

Now that the first presidential debate is a thing of the past and out of our minds (yeah, right) it seems safe to tackle the debate performance of President Obama and Governor Romney. To begin with, I am not taking sides here. The point I am going to make has nothing to do with what either of the men said last Wednesday at the University of Denver.

So, politics aside, let's talk about body language.

Most of the headlines I read in the days following this debate seemed to declare Romney as the winner. If you read below the headlines you'll see there was a lot of commentary about the two men's body language.

Obama did not smile as much, and at times seemed to avoid eye contact with Romney. Comparatively, Romney smiled more and seemed more confident throughout the debate.

Body language isn't just important to those vying to be the president of the US, it's important to you during an interview. Keep these thing in mind:

  • Smile. Not just with your lips but with your eyes. Smiling with your lips only, and not raising your eyebrows, gives that "fake smile" look.
  • Sit up straight. As my 91-year-old grandmother still tells me, don't slouch.
  • Breathe. Don't let challenging questions rattle your cage. Taking a couple of extra seconds can help you prevent you from getting heated and coming across as negatively emotional.
  • Use hand gestures. Generally speaking, it is best to keep your hand gestures between your shoulders and hips. Use bigger gestures sparingly.

Interviewing for a job is nothing like squaring off against an opponent in a political debate, but last week's performance should be a good reminder of the importance of body language.

If you're eligible to vote but have not yet registered, there's still time. Visit

Early Is Best... But Not TOO Early

I grew up hearing "early is on-time and on-time is late". So, if that means it's best to show up early to an interview, then showing up really early is even better! Right? No, not at all.

Unless you have been specifically instructed to show up earlier, 10 minutes early is fine, never more than 15 minutes.

When you show up earlier than that, you might actually be a disruption to the the people with which you'll be interviewing. Additionally, the recruiter may be spacing candidates so they don't meet in the lobby.

This does not mean that you shouldn't arrive at the location of the interview earlier. Always make sure you leave in plenty of time to get their early, accounting for any traffic issues. If you planned on traffic and there was none, you'll likely get there earlier than the recommended 10 minutes. If that's the case, stay in your car until it gets closer to your scheduled interview time.

A Tool Seldom Used Becomes Dull

Today's post is written by my friend Wes Johnson. Wes has been a Toastmaster since February 2011. He continues to sharpen his skills through participation in a weekly morning club in Tracy.  He is chartering an evening club that meets in Manteca at 7 PM on the first and third Mondays of each month.  

The newly unemployed have a few challenges before them.

  • Process the loss of their job
  • Identify any obstacles to re-employment
  • Resolve or minimize these obstacles
  • Develop personal networks
  • Market your abilities
  • Finally, ace the interview

Every day Matt has a blog post that covers one of these areas.  Some of these challenges may take a little time to achieve.  So, what are you going to do in the meantime?

I’m going to use the analogy of a precision cutting tool.  A tool designed to cut material should be straight and sharp.  If that tool is not kept sharp, it will eventually become dull and perceived as useless.  Does that mean it’s useless? No, it’s a tool that could still be useful, if only someone would sharpen it and start using it again.

You are that tool.  You need to ensure that your edge remains sharp.  One aspect of employment is communication.  No matter what your position was, communication will always be an important aspect of the job.  Employers love employees or perspective employees who communicate well with all levels of staff as well as their customers.

So, how are you going to sharpen your communication skills?  Let me share my story with you.

A few years ago, I found myself unemployed in the middle of the Great Recession.  I felt like a tool that was left out in the rain; neglected, and without a place to stay sharp.  I found a group to network with, which was nice, but I was still missing something.  It seemed like there was no challenge or purpose in my life.

Fortunately, a networking connection introduced me to Toastmasters, a non-profit educational organization that was committed to helping people improve their communication and leadership skills.  They help their members improve through constant practice and feedback.

From day one, I felt at home with the group.  In the program you receive two project books. One book covers communication projects and the other book covers leadership projects.  Each project is intended to teach or sharpen a skill.  With each project completed, you receive an evaluation and suggestions for improvement.

Once you complete the basic projects, there are many other project books that focus on many different aspects of communication. (Speaking to Inform, Technical Presentations, Facilitating Discussions, Communicating on Video, Interpersonal Communication, etc.)

After I had been in the program for a few months, fellow members shared with me that they noticed a remarkable improvement in my listening and speaking skills.  When your skills are sharp, you naturally have more confidence in yourself and your ability to communicate with others regardless of the situation.

Several months after joining Toastmasters, I was given a chance to interview for one of two open positions.  It was not a one-on-one interview but a panel interview.  The interview wasn’t easy, but all the practice and feedback I had received through Toastmasters prepared me to respond to their interview questions in a brief and organized manner.  The day after the interview they offered me the position.

I know without a doubt that if it hadn’t been for Toastmasters, I would probably not have landed the job.

I will be a Toastmaster for life.

That’s a great story, but how will that help me in my situation?

The employers are looking for sharp and useful tools. They’re looking for someone with excellent communication skills.  You need to be better than your competition.  Train yourself for when the opportunity presents itself.  The time to do it is now.

Toastmasters International helps the job-seeker practice/develop skills:

  • Ability to think on your feet – Interviewing, Communication
  • Leadership roles – Interpersonal Communication, Management
  • Time management / Organization – Interviewing
  • Networking – develop professional relationships


To find a club near you visit

For more information, e-mail


Terrible Advice Masked As Good Advice About Bad Advice

I don't like quoting bad advice, and I really don't like linking to bad advice. But this is a common piece of bad advice and I'm afraid that some job seekers may actually believe it. Want to improve your odds of getting a job offer? Help a prospective employer solve their problem. That means what the interview wants is more important that what the interviewee wants.

Yet still, an "expert" actually wrote that what the hiring manager wants is less important than what the candidate wants them to hear.

You also need to shift from what a hiring manager wants to hear in an interview to what you want the hiring manager to hear in an interview.

This is not only patently offensive to the hiring process, but, can hurt your chances of getting an offer. Part of the problem with this advice is that it can lead job seekers to focus all of their preparation efforts on getting their message across. Recruiters and hiring managers want to learn about you, so you should have some key points you'd like to get across, but your priority is still to answer the questions asked of you.

Trying to outsmart the interviewer may just tick them off. Not a good strategy for trying to get a job offer. What the interviewer wants to hear is important. Answer their questions first.

What Replacement Refs Can Remind Us About Answering Questions In An Interview

We all make mistakes. Some mistakes can cost us our job. Many do not. But very few of us ever have the opportunity to perform our job in front of millions of people.

There can be many opportunities to talk about prior mistakes in an interview. Sometimes it comes in the form a question that sounds like, "Tell me about a mistake you've made at work..." Chances are that the interviewers only know what you tell them about these mistakes (unless you were a replacement official in the NFL). Don't try to outsmart them by saying you have made no mistakes. That sounds a lot like saying you have no weaknesses.

Of course you've made a mistake. Own up to it. You'll need to describe what you've done differently since making that mistake. In other words, what you learned. Don't get caught off guard by a question about a prior mistake. Prepare a list of mistakes you've made before your interview.

Thankfully, the official debacle in the NFL is over. It was announced late last night that the replacement refs have called their last game. Tonight, when the Browns take the field against the Ravens, the boys in black and white will be the regular ones. I wonder how long it will be before we realize that even the pro refs make mistakes.

Increase Your Bandwidth To Grow Eyeballs And Value-Add

What in the world does that even mean? Who knows. But if you're a desk-jockey, it is likely that you  have heard these terms. It is also possible that you have drank the kool-aid and actually used them.

Alright, enough of the buzzwords.

I've seen many cover letters and resumes lately full of buzzwords like the ones in the title of this post. I've even heard quite a few during interviews.

Buzzwordsidioms, and metaphors, can help us communicate. To be most effective, however, you need a commonality with the person you're talking to. And that's where the problem is. Most of the time, you don't have the familiarity with the interviewer to use buzzwords.

The greater risk is that the hiring manager may think you're using creative language to hide the fact that you have no idea what you're talking about. Use everyday language during the interview. For me, I use the teenager test, since we just happen to have a 13 year old in the house. I asked her if she knew what "low hanging fruit", "herding cats", and "mindshare" were. Of course, she did not. But when I described what they meant in regular language, she completely understood.

So, dump the buzzwords.

There can be an exception to the rule.

If you're interviewing with someone that uses a lot of buzzwords, not just an occasional one, then it might be okay to use them sparingly. Even then, it is still better to avoid buzzwords altogether.

6 Steps To Succeed In A Panel Interview

Few things can frighten a candidate quite like the words "panel interview". A typical panel interview has three interviewers and one candidate. Of course, there can be other variations, but it is nearly always one candidate in front of multiple interviewers, which is why it can sometimes feel like standing before a firing squad.


Performing well in a panel interview is a little different from performing well in a regular, one-on-one, interview. Here are six keys to remember:

  1. Greet all of the panel members individually and get each of their names. Using the interviewers' names is much more important in a panel interview. You may need to reference something one of the panel members said. That's easy to do if you say something like, "Similarly to what Robert had mentioned earlier about process improvement...".  Sometimes, you are given the names of the people that will be interviewing you. And sometimes there is a last minute substitution so be sure you know exactly who you're interviewing with.
  2. You should expect to get some very tough questions. The most challenging interview questions I have ever been asked have all been in panel interviews. Sometimes, the interviewers want to impress their colleagues, or there can be political undertones you may not be privy to . Some interviewers (wrongly) equate the success of an interview with how much they make the candidate squirm. Don't get blindsided by a difficult question.
  3. There is usually one person on the panel that has the greatest influence. Sometimes it's the hiring manager, but other times it's not as clear. If you are being prepared by a recruiter, or have a contact at the company, ask them about the relationships between the panel members and if there is one particular person you need to impress more than others.
  4. Answer each question to the entire panel and not just the individual that asked the question. Make eye contact with all of the interviewers during each question. It is vital that the panel members feel connected to you. Don't try the trick of only looking at a person's face when they've looked down at their notes. If you do that throughout the interview, each of them may feel that you couldn't make eye contact with just them.
  5. Enthusiasm is important in any interview, but it is much more important in a panel interview. There is always a chance that one of the panel members can become distracted (another reason for #4). Show your personality, and keep your energy level high throughout the interview.
  6. When it's your turn to ask questions, be very specific about of whom you are asking. If you mean to ask the question of just one of the candidates, ask them specifically by using their name. If you want to ask all of them, you may want to ask, "I'm interested in hearing from each of you about...".

Of course, as with any interview, you should follow up with each of the interviewers individually to thank them for the interview.

Good luck!

Four Simple Ways To Bomb In An Interview

You have worked hard to get an interview, don't blow it by making these common mistakes.

  1. Use your cell phone. Turn your phone off. Completely off, not just silent. Several years ago, a candidate's phone rang during an interview with me. He answered the phone and had a minute long conversation, which was about as long as the rest of the interview.
  2. Speak negatively about your current or former boss. Hiring managers want someone who can behave professionally. And the interviewer is likely thinking you are hiding something.
  3. Divulge confidential information about your current job. You may think this will get you extra points, but giving up company secrets in an interview can backfire. The interviewer will likely assume you will inappropriately share anything you might learn from her company.
  4. Not answering a direct question. Don't try to outsmart your interviewer. If you are asked a reasonable question, answer it. Don't beat around the bush or try to get something else out before giving your answer. On a side note, if you are asked to "tell me about a time when...", your answer should sound more like a story than an advertisement about how good you are.

Commit one of these mistakes and your interviewer may immediately decide you are not the right candidate.

Avoid them and you can then focus on impressing the interviewer and getting that offer!

Five Interview Tips

Happy Labor Day! Hopefully you have some interviews lined up this week. If you do, here are five things to do to improve your results. 1. Shake my hand. Even for the ladies, a firm, professional hand shake is customary.

2. Smile. I want to see your personality and no matter the position I am hiring for, being friendly matters.

3. Ask questions.

4. Answer my questions. Don't try to "out-smart" me by half-answering a direct question and then throwing in what you want to say. If you do well enough, you'll have the opportunity to tell me what you want.

5. Ask me for the job. But do so with care. There is a fine line between cocky and confident. Be confident. And if you're sure you've bombed the interview, please skip this one.

Best wishes to you this week in your job search.