Thursday, February 26, 2015

New Interviewing Trend -- Are interviewees being scammed?

I've had my share of interviews. In this day in age, due to the lovely economy in my region, there's one job for every few hundred applicants. And I'm not joking. I was picked to interview for a part-time job for the state -- and I was told over 100 people had applied. That's how bad it is here.

There is a trend I have grown to notice -- interviewers asking inappropriate questions, then -- turn to each other saying, "Can we say that?" They begin laughing -- like they don't really know -- as if just showing their fun, human side. "I don't think you can ask that," they'll laugh. And yet, people will answer that question because they've been offset with the feeling of "laid back."

Scam? Is this a growing trend among interviewers to get information they could not otherwise get?

Most interviewees answer, "It's OK ..." And actually answer the question.

Recently, I interviewed with a company where the hiring manager outright said to me, "There's a lot of questions that we can't ask you during an interview [and proceeded to name several], but you can tell us stuff. The more you tell us about you that's not on your application, the better."

I refused to say anything more than my hobbies and passions ... which are writing and editing.

Also, watch out for inappropriate or illegal application questions. This company also had the following question on their application:

Are there any medical conditions (physical, mental, etc.) that may affect your performance or attendance? 

I'm not joking. This was on the application. What does that have to do with anything?

Interviewees need to be on their guard during every interview. While the interviewers may get comical and joke, that doesn't mean you let your guard down. All interviewers MUST know the law before conducting an interview because there's too much risk for suing. They know the law, but may try to ease you in to sharing information. It's not illegal for YOU to volunteer information and that's what interviewers are trying to do.

Interviewees can be easily scammed into giving more information than legally necessary to be hired for a job. Know your rights and don't give in to the "friend" feelings. It's a psychological game to get more information from you.

Friday, February 20, 2015

SEO 101: Content and Crawlability

If your content isn't updated frequently -- assume a minimum of twice a week -- then you will not
rank high in search engines. Rankings in search engines are referred to as "organic" results.

How you get higher organic reach is by making sure your website has excellent crawlability.

Crawlability refers to the ability of a search engine to crawl (using the term "spiders") through the entire text content of your website. The spiders look to see how easily the website is to navigate -- to every one of your webpages, without encountering an unexpected dead-end. It also looks to see how often your information is updated because if it is outdated, the "spiders" (the term used for how search engines "crawl") think the website isn't useful and will make room in the top spots for relevant, sought-after websites.

If spiders can't access your content because of a broken link (for example), then that information beyond the broken link will not be indexed.

Updating your information doesn't guarantee your rankings will improve. If people don't find it useful, they won't click and stay, and; therefore, the spiders won't think it's useful. Make sure the writing your put on your site is relevant, has depth, meaning, or purpose.

Many newer companies are adding a blog to their website, which helps take care of the content quality and frequency.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

SEO 101: Overview

Marketing is ever changing.

While I recommend marketing companies for your mass marketing needs, there are basics you can do yourself. You can set yourself up a nice foundation so that you don't have to pay a marketing company to begin from scratch.

SEO means Search Engine Optimization. This is a long-term project to help your website rise to the top of search engine results. These results are also referred to as "organic" because you aren't paying for ads (I'll go into PPC after this SEO series). The traffic that comes through is strictly based off of

Now, to be successful, you have "On the page factors" and "Off the page factors." On Page factors include what you can control (but not limited to):

1. Quality/fresh content (update frequently -- 2-3 times a week)
2. Catchy titles
3. Keywords (research keywords people actually use to find products/services like yours)
4. Content has substance, depth or meaning
5. HTML page contains keywords relevant to page topics
6. Does the site load quickly?

Off Page factors are completely influenced by readers or visitors. They'll be looking for (but not limited to):

1. Are your links trusted?
2. Are many links spammed?
3. Has the site been flagged?
4. What country is it located in?
5. Has it been favored on social media?

There are many factors to creating a positive and successful SEO campaign. This is just a brief overview of some of the elements it will take to work towards this. I'll be going into more detail in the next series of posts.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

5 Reasons hiring managers see you ... and a warning flag

You've been sending out tons of applications, but aren't getting any interviews. You're exhausted and disheartened from working so hard for ... nothing. 

You may be well-qualified for a position, but it's possible you suffer from one of these three automatic-interview-killers.

Or you interview a lot, but don't get a job. There are two big warning flags that will make managers run from you. 

Be your own PR person. Everyone must adopt that they are a PR person -- even if their degree is in basket-weaving. You have to sell yourself and that, if hired, you'll make the company look good (no matter what position you are trying to get).

 Never stop being a top professional. But, according to hiring managers, at least 90% of people fall into these categories lately.

1. You naturally become LESS professional just because you found a job posting on Craigslist.

You find a job on Craigslist and send an email:

To whom it may concern:

I would like to apply for the ____ position I found on Craigslist. I have attached my resume as requested.


John/Jane Doe.

You will NOT get an interview. Countless times I have heard hiring managers pass on applicants just because they don't WRITE anything. Emailing your interest is not the same as emailing a cover letter. Every initial email is a COVER LETTER.

If you can't be professional first thing -- you clearly won't be on the job. 

2. There are errors in your cover letter/resume.

This goes without saying. Have other people check your work, but if there is no one else, read your work backward. Right to left. You'd be amazed at the errors you find. Of course, always read your work aloud to find errors.

Errors means that you'll have errors in your work. And, if you don't care enough to put your best foot forward, you certainly won't for their company.

Hiring manager's thoughts: pass.

3. Emailing a form letter to jobs. 

Managers know when they're getting a form letter (a generic cover letter that fits any job application), which is a clear sign you are mass emailing. Sending a form letter shows little-to-no interest in the actual job you are applying for. Managers want nothing to do with you.

4. The first thing you discuss in an interview is how much money you'll be making. 

Clearly, you're only in it for the money and, when the money isn't enough anymore, you'll abandon ship. Companies don't want a large turnaround because it costs money to recruit and train people. This shows that you're a flight risk.

5. You're not professional.

Have you ever seen the show "Friends"? I love that show. With a passion. There's an episode where Chandler is applying for a new job, but he can't get over being silly. He holds it together through the interview, thanks to prepping help from a friend, but it takes work because he naturally makes light of everything.

While most every company is OK with finding room for light-hardheartedness, there's very little room for levity in an interview. It's good to get people to laugh: promotes relaxation and a positive image, but too much will make you come off as careless, immature and irresponsible.

Show that you WANT to be there, you want to work, you want to make the company look good and that you'll do your best every day. 

This also goes for initial phone interviews. A lot of companies phone interview people before bringing them in for real interviews. Find a quiet place to talk -- not taking care of your kids while they scream and watch TV.

Friday, February 13, 2015

How hiring managers can ruin your company's image

All hiring managers should see themselves as MORE than just a hiring manager, but as a PR professional. How you deal with applicants reflects directly on the company's image. If you're rude to your applicants, they will pass along those sentiments, which will reflect in people not wanting to work for you, with you, or purchase your products/services.

When companies open a position for hire, people begin talking about your company.

The following are examples of real hiring manager / applicant scenarios that every company should be aware of. Why? It could be happening in your business.

First example:

Let's assume you've applied to a position with a well-known company. Any company. Maybe you've shopped there before. You either have a set opinion already, or your don't.

You apply for a job. And you never hear anything. Nothing.

What are you thoughts on the company now? Would they change?

To me, I would assume they've gotten a ton of applications and are only contacting the most qualified. I wouldn't take too much offense to this, but it is annoying.

Second example:

Apply the same guidelines: you applied for a job with a well-known company.

You applied and got an interview.

After the interview; however, you don't hear anything. Nothing.

Now, how has your opinion changed?

This has happened to me before and I think it's very, very rude. All applicants coming in to interview gave up their time to come speak with you. The very least they deserve is a response.

Now, I'm sure I'm not the only one to have this opinion, but this action by the hiring manager has hurt the image of the company. With applicants now seeing the company as rude, what do you think they'll do with that information? Tell their family and friends. Your hiring manager has just started negative press circulating.

Third example:

You apply for a job. You are asked to interview.

You've been job-hunting for a while and have been ignored a few times (post interview). This time, you ask the hiring manager if they will let you know -- either way -- what their decision is regarding your resume.

The hiring manager says "yes."

And you hear nothing.

This is even more rude than the second example. This does happen to applicants.

For some reason, many hiring managers have adopted apathy as their go-to because they're in the power position. The problem with this approach is that it is extremely rude and does, in fact, hurt your company.

Fourth example:

Some jobs, like for editor or executive position, there's more to the hiring process than the resume and interview. Sometimes, there's multiple tests. Like, for example, going out to interview and write a profile or something like that -- if it's a writing position. Hiring managers do have interviewers put in HOURS of time to prove themselves.

And you can still not get it.

After an interview, the interviewer tries to make themselves feel less guilty about not hiring you by saying, "You never know -- it may not work out with this person. You're next on the list!"

... through an email. Rejection and false hope in one blow.

What makes it worse is that the hiring manager continued to say how you are his/her second choice and, in case the first choice doesn't work out, THEN you'll be picked up. As if that's supposed to make you happy? 

And lastly, if you know you're one of TWO top choices and you get an email rejection -- this is a very bad PR move on behalf of the hiring manager. Your top two should ALWAYS get a phone call.

I'd appreciate that the hiring manager feels bad about not hiring me, but if he/she felt this bad -- then why not hire? It's cruel to hold hope over an applicant you have no intention of hiring.

How do you fix this?

I recommend that every hiring manager be given a set of "Etiquette Rules" they must follow. Even if the ONLY rule is to follow-up with every applicant they interviewed.

I also recommend the generic rule:

Have a form rejection letter.

This will save time when following up with applicants, save face for your company, and negates the unnecessary emails or calls where managers try to make themselves feel better by giving false hope to applicants.

In the end, it's important for all companies to know how their hiring managers are conducting themselves during the interview process. They are directly representing you, your business and its ethics.

Friday, February 6, 2015

How to get the most out of your writer's conference

As a writer, the most important thing you can do is network. The best way to network is through local writing/critique groups, but -- even more so -- writers conferences.

These multi-day events will give you unyielding access to other writers of varying levels, editors, publishers, owner's of self-publishing companies, agents and more.

There is ONE, mind you -- ONE, way to get the most out of your conference. (Also note that these conferences are no cheap, so you don't want to waste time.)


And that doesn't mean make one friend and stick to them like glue.

That means step outside your comfort zone (let's face it -- a lot of writer's are natural introverts), and meet new people.

For example:

In 2012, I went to my first writers conference: The San Francisco Writers Conference. It's amazing, by the way.

My inclination was to stick with one person ... but I fought it.

Ironically, I had someone trying to do that to me. Don't let that happen, either. Make friends -- please, make friends.


Don't spend your whole time with them. Don't cling to them. Don't let them cling to you.

Even if you meet a publisher who is crazy about your work, don't take up all their time. They are there to make lots of connections and find clients.

I had another conference attendee trying to stick to me like glue. I'm more than happy to make contacts, but if one person is sticking to me on one side ... all the time ... there's less room for me to surround myself with possible new contacts.

So, go to a conference. Never sit by the same people twice. Period. Take business cards and HAND THEM OUT. People collect them like candy.

Think of a conference as a business meeting. Even if you are brand new to writing -- you're still making connections that will further your future in the field. Guaranteed.

You will only make the connections you need if you consistently surround yourself with new people ... and actually talk to them.

Also, don't be afraid to talk to the agents, editors or publishers. They're there to talk to you. They're people just like you.

In conclusion:

Since I forced myself to move around and meet new people at the conference in 2012, I made connections with:

- a young woman who currently interned for the Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency. She recommended me, when she was ready to leave the position, and I got her job.

- a young man who is now an up-and-coming editor in the industry.


 I found multiple people interested in my work. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Why You Should Interview Your Interviwer

Interviewing isn't just about letting a potential employer see if you're a good fit for the position and the company, but about YOU seeing if the potential employer or company is right -- for YOU.

Have you ever gotten a job that, once in it, you realized that it's a terrible fit? That you hate the working environment or it just isn't what you thought it would be?

It's important to change your perspective on interviewing -- a new perspective on self-respect:

It's important to interview your interviewer.


After learning about you, an employer makes a decision whether you're a fit or not. But don't you want to know if YOU will benefit from working there? You deserve to know what type of atmosphere you will be dedicating about nine hours a DAY of your life to. You deserve to know what type of people you will be surrounded by, dealing with directly, etc. You deserve to know why this company is worth your LIFE.

While every person's situation is different, some must work and some don't have to, it's still a good idea to respect yourself enough to learn all you can before accepting a position.

PERK: You look good in front of your potential boss. It shows you care. It shows you've done some research. It shows you want to know how you will fit in.

The following are questions I ask potential employers:

* How would you describe the working atmosphere?
* Why do you choose to continue to work here? AND/OR: What do you like most about working here?
* What is the single largest problem facing you and your team and how would I be able to help solve this problem?
* Is there room for advancement?
* What are the company's goals for the next five years?
* What are the next steps in the interview process?
* Do you have any concerns about my credentials?

Asking questions is very important to potential employers. It's OK to ask clarifying questions, such as: What would the schedule look like?

You're being interviewed because you have something they need/want. Respect yourself enough
to know what you're accepting.

Friday, November 14, 2014

How to Interview with Confidence

I am a freelance editor ( Portfolio ), but am also trying to get back into a company setting because I love helping businesses grow. I want to stay in the media/entertainment field, which includes publishing, TV/radio, etc.

With this comes interviews. Everybody has been faced with the butterfly stomach, the sweaty palms, the nervous "blanking" that comes when faced with the person determining your eligibility for a position.

It sucks.

But, there is a way to combat those nervous habits: controlled body language.

Among the myriad of beliefs and scientific proof that your mind is capable of practically anything, even healing oneself, is the truth that you can make yourself behave or feel a certain way based on how you consciously use your body language.

For example, it's hard to feel jittery, sweaty or stressed-induced-blank-mind, when you consciously (after sitting down in the chair to begin your interview) lower your shoulders, and open your arms to sit on the arm rests (minimally: open your shoulders -- forces you to put your chest out).

Also: Depending on the seating, if there's a table between you and your interviewers -- sit however is comfortable. For example, I always sit on one leg bent underneath the other. If there's a table, I will sit however I feel comfortable. Comfort = RELAXATION. Relaxation = Confidence. Keep your upper half completely professional as I recommended in the previous paragraph.

Add in controlled slower breathing, and consciously speaking slower -- it all helps to promote the view that you are confident. Even if you don't feel that way at the moment. You wouldn't be in an interview if you weren't qualified.

Take the comfort: I am good enough because I've been asked to interview.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Query-me-dos and dont's

As an assistant (AKA: Literary agent in training), for a well-respected literary agency in San Francisco, I read a lot of queries.

And by a lot -- I mean hundreds. A week.

One thing I like to remind people is: submission guidelines are there for your benefit. How do they benefit you?

It will get your work read, which is the entire point -- right?

An agent is more inclined to respond (generally, no response means "no, thanks," but in my case, I am much more likely to respond with some feedback if I felt the presentation took effort) if you properly prepare your work. These guidelines help agents get through queries quicker and more efficiently. 

If you are unsure what the guidelines are, it is perfectly acceptable to email the agent to clarify.

How to gain brownie points with an agent:

* When sending an SASE -- make it self-sealing.
* Sending work that has been reviewed by several people, other than yourself, for simple errors. 

How to sabotage yourself:

* When mailing your full manuscript, upon request only, do not send in READY POST MAILERS. They tear easily and are a HUGE mess.

* Don't follow the guidelines. If you can't follow simple rules for submission, then clearly you aren't going to follow the rules of your contract, etc. You want to show that you're willing to work with them -- not do you own thing. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

How public speaking will catapult your business

Think speaking engagements are just for motivational speakers?

Think again.

Anyone can speak -- and the beauty of speaking engagements is that it immediately brands you as an expert, which is an invaluable tool for building a client list.

Think about your career. What do you do? From that -- what lessons could you speak about? Tips? Tricks? You can be a motivational speaker, too, but it can be more specifically geared toward your profession.

Don't know where to get speaking engagements? Try posting that you're available for speaking engagements or are looking for some on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Someone is bound to have a place. Also, look at your town. What kind of events are going on? Will they have speakers there? You can contact them to find out how to become one.

People want to hear what you have to say. So say something.