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Mentor Blog

Welcome to our mentor blog. Here you will find posts from
industry professionals on such topics as:
  • Resume & Cover Letter tips
  • Interview Tips
  • How to succeed at work
  • How to get a Mentor
  • What every Mentee should know
  • I lost my job. Now what?
  • Healthy habits
  • 03 Apr 2022 10:37 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    Reference Checking 101

    Newsletter cover image

    (I am not an attorney, so I am not going to get into the legal aspects of giving a false reference, praising someone who is not worthy of praise, and then, based on that recommendation, they get hired. Suffice it to say, as with everything else, never lie.)

    There's no point in checking references. No one is going to give the contact info for someone who will not praise them. No one gets a bad reference.

    I have heard many an employer utter those or similar words. And they are wrong.

    Now, to be perfectly honest, part of me likes it when they make that statement. The lazy part of me. Because checking references extends the hiring process and I like to be paid as quickly as possible. I'm funny that way. But, I also give a six-month guarantee that if for any reason a placement does not work out, I'll find a replacement for free. I don't like to have to honor that guarantee and the fact that references are checked (either by me or the employer/client) means I rarely have to.

    Bottom line: check references. Let me give you two examples of great references.

    The first was from a man whose tone of voice immediately changed when I mentioned the person about whom I was calling. (Obviously, he was not expecting my call. More on that in a moment.) He said all the right things, but his tone of voice told me what he really wanted me to know. She was not a good employee and others confirmed it. That was a great reference because it was honest.

    The second reference was stellar. I called a surgeon, in fact, a brain surgeon. He was only available to speak with me at 7:30 AM. I called just before 7:30. I introduced myself and told his receptionist/nurse/assistant/whomever why I was calling. She said, "One moment please."

    The next voice I heard was the doctor. He said,

    "This is Doctor X. I know you are calling about Y. I wanted to take your call but I am about to perform surgery on a young woman with a brain tumor. Y was great. We were all devastated when she left. Is there anything specific I can tell you?"

    Ya, right. I'm going to keep a surgeon from a patient lying on the table about to have her head cut open!

    I thanked him and wished him and his patient the best.

    Around 9:00 AM, I called my client, told him what had happened and asked if he wanted me to check the other two references. (You should always get three references.) He laughed and told me to offer the position to the candidate.

    A good reference does not have to be long!

    In any event, be aware that some companies have a no reference policy. It is not a reflection on the candidate. All they will do is confirm dates of employment, title and salary range. (I think we can blame the lawyers for this one!) In those cases you have to be flexible and instead of demanding a reference from a past supervisor (which is the best reference), a past colleague or a current (since the rules don't apply to them), client/customer will have to suffice.

    There is one other reference which should be noted:

    As alluded to, before giving out references candidates must contact their references. This is for a number of reasons. First, to make sure they are available. There is nothing worse than calling a reference and not hearing back from them. Second, the candidate has to tell them about the position so that they will know on what to focus. And, third, they have to know that the person is willing to provide a reference.

    (These are also the reasons why references should never be listed on resumes. And there is one more: You don't want an employer making sales calls to your references, using your name! There are plenty of unethical and unscrupulous employers out there. Don't make it easy for them. Never provide the name of references before an employer makes you a conditional offer of employment.)

    One day my phone rang and it was the owner of a staffing agency that provided social workers. She said that Jane Doe had given my name as a reference. I told her I had no idea who the woman was. She told me where we had worked together. I said I remembered a "Jane" but her last name was not "Doe." Perhaps, I suggested, she had gotten married in the ten years since we had worked together! I also told her I do not provide references unless the candidate reaches out to me in advance.

    I figured that would be that. (Who's going to hire someone who gives a reference who does not remember her, who doesn't check with the reference prior to providing their contact information, and who has not worked with them for ten years?) But, no, Jane Doe, who I had known as Jane Smith, called. (She had, in fact, married.) I told her that I really did not remember working with her on any project but if she wanted me to speak with the business owner I would. I figured that would be the end of that.

    But, no, the owner called me. I told her, "I really don't like social workers. I never had a good experience with any of them. But, in her case, the best I can say is I don't remember her messing up, which, coming from me, says something." The owner said, "That's good enough for me!"

    So, a woman who did not have the common sense to first contact me, whom I had not worked with for a decade, and for whom I could not provide anything more than a "non-negative" reference, got a job. But not for long. A couple of months later, having learned from the experience, my former "colleague" called and said she was looking for a new job and wanted to know if she could give my name as a reference. I declined, suggesting that she find someone with whom she had worked more recently. (Pleased, she was not.)

    As I said, not all references are good but, then again, some business owners, apparently, don't care! Desperate times call for desperate measures. And, this was a good ten years ago, before the Great Resignation. I hate to think what may be happening today...

    One last thing: Letters of recommendation are not good enough. Many employers give them out simply to get the employee out of the building with a smile on their face. Following up, to confirm what was written, is crucial, and can be very revealing. The best example I can give was the time the employer told me he never gave letters of reference, asked me to fax (this was a long time ago) it to him, and then told me it was a forgery. The logo was perfect, but the address was wrong!

  • 10 Feb 2022 11:54 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    A cover letter coexists in the three sections of linear time: past, present and future. (Sorry, I forgot to take my medication this morning. I'll be right back.)

    OK. I'm better now. But the sad truth is that some consultants actually talk that way. They want to give the impression that they are scientists (This was even before Covid!) and not simply oracles who some believe should sit on the top of Delphi while others think they should be buried under it! What job seeker has time for this nonsense? None with whom I have ever worked.

    Yes, a cover letter deals with the past, present and future (the aforementioned nonsense about linear time), but the purpose of the cover letter is simple: To get the recipient to look at the resume. That's it. Period. End of discussion. But it can be more than that.

    Sorry, but now we have to do some math:

    For sake of argument, let's say that when someone posts an ad for a job, they get 50 applications. (This can actually be a very conservative number.) That's 50 cover letters to read. Figure an average of at least a minute per cover letter since some (the really bad ones) are well over a page in length, that's an hour's worth of reading. And that's why, based on my unscientific surveys of recruiters and hiring managers, most simply throw them away and go straight for the resume. Which is a shame, because a cover letter can help differentiate a candidate from their competition and complement the resume, getting them the interview. That is why it is so important to write a cover letter that will actually be read. Mine are read!

    There are basically two formats for a cover letter. As you will read, I prefer the traditional. The other is a "T-Bar" where the candidate lists the responsibilities/qualifications for the job on the left side of the chart, and their experiences/qualifications on the right. The logic is obvious: You are looking for X, I have done X. Clean. Neat. Simple.

    The problem I have with it is that the employer already knows the responsibilities and qualifications for the job. It's called "the job description" and they wrote it. So why waste time telling them what they already know? If you list them all, then you are sending the message that you cannot prioritize and don't know what is their key demand or need.

    Think of the cover letter as a "tease" or a "movie trailer." You are trying to entice them to see the movie, i.e., your resume. If the cover letter tells your entire story, why should they read the resume? That is why I prefer a more traditional approach:

    First, the cover letter must be short. You, the candidate, want the recipient to know that you can get to the point. You also want them to know that you understand their workload. So you want to make things easy for them. You want them to know that you care about getting the job (you don't send a form letter) and, given that it is so rare today, that you can actually write a professional letter in English. (If I see one more "u" for "you" or "ur" for "you are" or "you're,"...)

    Second, there is no need in the cover letter to summarize your resume. If you need to summarize your resume because it is not clear, you need a new resume. If you need to summarize your resume so there will be content in your cover letter, you need to continue reading this article because you do no know what you are doing.

    Allow me to sort of digress. If they don't ask for one, should you provide a cover letter? I think the benefits outweigh any negatives. Yes, the recipient might think that you do unnecessary work. (If I wanted a cover letter, I would have asked for a cover letter!) But the fact that you know how to write an effective cover letter says enough positive things about you that it is worth the risk which, I believe is, at best, minimal. And this is why I believe employers should demand receipt of a cover letter. A short, to the point cover letter is a pretty good indication (not perfect, but pretty good) that the candidate won't talk too much in meetings and will not digress from the topic.

    So how do you write a cover letter?

    In the first paragraph simply state "I wish to apply for the XYZ position you advertised on 123." Now you have told the recipient that you appreciate the fact that they may be working on a number of searches at the same time and you want them to know which job you want (granted it should be in the subject line of the email along with any code) and, perhaps more importantly, that you get to the point. So many people start their cover letters by introducing themselves, telling the recipient about their career goals, and some even mention their hobbies, so, assuming the recipient will read the letter, they only know why the person has written them when they get to the bottom of the first page (if they are that lucky!). You appreciate the stress they are under. Again, you know how to get to the point. You know what is appropriate to be included in the cover letter and what can wait for the interview. That is why you keep it simple, just one informative line. So far, you are doing great! You have their attention. They are reading the letter and since they see, basically, that there is only one more real paragraph left, they continue reading.

    In the second paragraph you tell them about the one accomplishment that you have had that speaks to the position for which you are applying and will convince them that they want to consider you before you reach out to their competition. You are showing them that you know what they want to hear and can refrain from wasting their time telling them the subjective things that you want them to know. No one wants to hear how great you think you are, they want to know what you can do for them. So: "Having successfully done such-and-such, saving my current employer X dollars, I am not only confident that I can fulfill the requirements of the position, but exceed them." The unspoken questions are: You want me to save you hundreds of thousands/millions of dollars or your competitor? You want me to raise your client retention rate or your competitor's? You want me to lower your employee turnover rate or your competitor's? That's the message of the second paragraph: I did it for someone else and I can do it for you! The unspoken message is: I am not a big risk to interview nor to hire.

    The rest is simple:

    Attached is a copy of my resume for your review. (Self explanatory.)

    Thank you in advance for your consideration. (Always be polite.)

    I look forward to hearing from you. (Self explanatory and not pushy. HR does not want you to call them. Imagine if all candidates called; they would not be able to do any work. You emailed them; they got your email. Now move on!)

    Sincerely, (That's how professionals end their letters.)

    Your Name (And that's why you don't have to start your cover letter with, "My name is Joe Jones." They know your name because it's either on your email address, at the top of the letter, or your signature. When I get one of those I almost expect the next sentences to be: "I am five years old. When I grow up I want to be a fireman.")

    This letter can be read in about 10 seconds which is all the time you have. And that's the primary evil secret of the cover letter: No one is going to spend more than 10 seconds reading a cover letter!

    The Evil Secret of the Cover Letter | Employment Edification (

  • 03 Feb 2022 11:30 AM | Deleted user

    I am a recent graduate from Berkeley College, where I completed the Associate's Degree with Legal Studies as the Major. 

    I am looking for a job in the legal fields so that I can gather some experience as a paralegal. As a raw graduate, without any relevant experience there is hardly any possibility to get into any bread earning job.

    I need a mentor to help me find something substantial so that I can get some food on the table for me and my family.

    Would be grateful, if someone can stand by my side and help me stand up straight in my legal field and walk through the future successfully.

    Appreciate any help and assistance.

  • 20 Jan 2022 8:06 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)


    By: Nikky Brown

    We should all aim to have healthy work habits. While many of us are now working full time from home due to the pandemic, it may be a bit harder to do. I have been working from home for almost a year now and I thought it was going to be a piece of cake. To my surprise, you actually have to be extremely disciplined, dedicated and motivated to ensure that you are as productive as you would be (if not more) if you were in the office. There are many things we can do to create healthy work habits and to be and remain productive while working from home. Here are five things that you can start doing right now: Create a routine: Getting into a routine is so important when working from home. Sticking to that routine is crucial. In the beginning I thought I could just roll out of bed, get ready in a few minutes for my first zoom meeting and be okay for the rest of the day. But by doing that, I actually felt tired and a little lethargic even though I had gotten a full nights rest and it was only the start of the day. I implemented a morning routine and quickly realized how much of a difference that made. My morning routine never really varies now because when I stick to it my energy is up and I am more focused and ready to tackle the day. Take a mental break: It is very important to take a few mental breaks throughout the day. We are not robots. No one should be working 8 to 9 hours with only a lunch break. Taking mental breaks allows you to: give your eyes a rest from the computer, give your mind a break from working and the opportunity to recharge and help you to feel less fatigued. Have a designated area to work: I thought it was ok for me to work in different areas in my apartment throughout the day. I quickly realized that was not a great idea. If I was working in the kitchen or living room, my family would often come and chat with me. Even though they were not trying to be disruptive, I found myself being distracted easily and not as focused as I wanted to be. I eventually purchased a work desk and set up a designated work area in my apartment to work. Upon doing that, it actually felt like I was really in the office and I also found that my family tended to bother me way less when they see that I am at my workspace. Decorating your workspace with files and work supplies as you would in the office helps to give it that in office feel. Work only on work during work hours: It is so tempting to do other things while you are at home but your work hours should strictly be for work and work only. We should not be away from our computers for a long period of time, with lunch being an exception. Now is not the time to catch up on that Netflix series. It is normal to want to take a quick break to grab a snack, stretch your legs, walk around for a bit, but running to the supermarket because you realize you are out of pesto sauce and plan to make pasta for dinner is not a good idea. Stay connected: Remember, you are still at work. It is important to stay connected with your co-workers and what is happening in the company. Try to engage with others as much as possible by zoom or group chat. Having daily zoom calls is a great way to stay connected and engaged with your team. Don’t completely isolate yourself and be responsive and available to help when needed.

  • 06 Jan 2022 10:15 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)


    BY: Nikky Brown

    Knowing your worth requires you to believe in who you are, your skills and abilities and to know with absolute surety that you are very capable of doing all it is that you say you can do. This is extremely important, especially in the workplace. I find that a lot of employers will know that they have an all-star employee on their hands but will still try to convince them to take less, and if they are successful, that’s a win for them. They get to keep costs low while also scoring an all-star employee. But, you have the power to stop this from happening by simply knowing your worth, bossing up and applying pressure. When you go for a job interview and you are totally killing it, they love you and want to hire you right on the spot do not let this excitement cloud your judgement, especially when salary is being discussed. They know you are good, otherwise they wouldn’t want to hire you right on the spot. Use this to your advantage. Don’t ever be afraid to negotiate. If they want you as bad as they say they do, they will work something out to where all parties are happy. Also, don’t ever be afraid to walk away if what you are asking for seems like too much to them. I have been in situations where I walked away from an offer that I felt did not commensurate with my experience. Weeks later, I get a call back from them asking me if I was still looking. They also offered me my original salary requirement, yes the one they felt was too much the first time around. Stand firm, you know all that you bring to the table. Do not let anyone mark down your worth. Remember, you know all that you are capable of and the right job for you will be able to see that and compensate you accordingly.

  • 28 Dec 2021 5:06 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)


    By: Nikky Brown

    Knowing when to leave a company is a skill that many of us haven’t quite mastered. We always seem to have all the perfect reasons for not leaving a company, even when we truly aren’t happy with the company for a plethora of reasons. I remember back when I started my legal career in 2012. After obtaining my paralegal certificate, I landed a job at a law office as a Paralegal. It was my first real legal job outside of interning at law firms. I was so happy to have found this position and I felt as though I had to put in enough time there before I could move on elsewhere. I was getting paid minimum wage yet I had it in my mind that I had to stay there and deal with it so that I could have a certain amount of years under my belt before I could move on. I know now in my adult career that isn’t the case. A lot of us fall into this idea of having to stay and commit to a place of business so that we don’t look like we are jumping around from company to company. Even when there are so many things the company is failing to provide us, we still stay. While I am all for longevity and being loyal to ones company, there are just certain things that lets you know that it’s time to start looking for better. Work life balance is not a reality: There isn’t a great work life balance. You find yourself dedicating more time to work than to your family, friends and loved ones. You begin to neglect your body and/or your health because all of your time and energy is invested in work leaving you with no life. Work is work and it’s important to have some down time from work to not only give your body a break, but also your mind to rest and recover. If you feel as if you are forced to work around the clock, often staying late and even working weekends because there just isn’t enough time in the day to complete your work responsibilities, then you may want to start looking for other opportunities. That really is no way to live and there are places that actually believe in a healthy work life balance. They won’t run you into the ground until you’re completely depleted because they know how important it is to have their employees well rested and energized. You’ve stopped learning: Ok, you never really stop learning, but with some roles you get to a point where you’ve learned your position so well that you’re just going in day to day and executing what you already know how to do so well. You're not really taking in anything new. I don’t know about you guys, but for me, once the learning stops my mind tends to get bored and I start to crave something new. If you happen to be that unlucky one that’s in a company that has no opportunities for you to take on new tasks, or learn a new role, it may be time to start looking outside of the company. Lack of support and encouragement from management: It’s the absolute worst when you have a terrible boss. Like literally the worst feeling in the world! I’m speaking from experience. We spend more time with our co-workers than we do with our family members so for me it is crucial to have a drama free, stress free, hostile free environment at all times. I’ve come to realize that some people just don’t know how to manage a staff and they wind up making terrible bosses because of it. Crappy salary: You took the position because they spoke highly about the company and its work environment and it seemed like a good career move. You agree on a salary at the start of your employment with the understanding that as you learn, grow and contribute more to the company your salary would grow as well. You soon realize that isn’t the case. Often times a company is prospering, business is flowing, the company is expanding and doing very well, yet you are still stuck with the same salary, raises are hard to come by and when they do, it’s like pulling teeth trying to get a few extra dollars in your pay check, even though you know you are making a valuable contribution to the company. You can literally layout all you’ve accomplished for the company and can relate them to what you can achieve for them in the future, and they still won’t pay! It takes me about 6 months to figure out the likelihood of financial growth with a company. I am hoping some of you realize that sooner and make the decision to get out sooner, especially if you are working towards making a particular salary. Once you evaluate the situation and realize that your salary most likely will not grow at the pace in which you want it to, leave. It’s not worth waiting around and “sticking it out”. Little to no benefits: There are careers out there that require you to come ready with a Bachelors degree, “X” amount of years of experience, ability to do this, skilled in that, and the list goes on. They have a laundry list of requirements for the position but they are only offering a salary (pray that it is decent) with little to no benefits. The bare minimum that some places offer is medical benefits and 401K, be lucky that you end up in a company that matches in your first year of employment. Turn over rate: When a company is constantly hiring and people are coming and going and they aren’t staying for very long, it’s a bit worrying. Constantly having to adjust to new faces can take a toll on anyone especially in the workplace. There’s also that period of time where it’s very possible that additional tasks are temporarily tacked on to your work load from people who have left the company until the company has time to adjust and find a new hire. All of this can be draining especially when it’s happening constantly and in a short time frame. The fact that people are coming and not staying says a lot about the company in many different ways. Combine this with the fact that you’re underpaid, the benefits aren’t great and you get no support or encouragement from management— definitely time to chuck up the deuces beloved.

  • 08 Nov 2021 6:59 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    Here Are 15 Possible Reasons You’re Not Getting Hired—and How to Fix Them

    by Lily Zhang

    Job searching is a grind. And the longer you’re at it, the worse it seems to get. It can be so discouraging to put yourself out there and get rejected over and over again or be met with radio silence.

    But rather than keeping your head down and sending out another flurry of applications, you may benefit from taking a step back and considering why you’re not getting the results you want. What’s the real issue keeping you from landing your next gig? Accurately diagnosing the problem now will save you time in the long run.

    Here are 15 reasons you might not be getting hired and how you can fix them—broken down by when in the job search you’re running into trouble.

    If You’re Not Getting Callbacks or Interviews

    1. Your Resume and/or Cover Letter Isn’t Tailored to the Job

    If you’ve submitted a whole slew of applications and haven’t heard back from more than a handful, a likely culprit could be that you’re sending out the same generic resume and cover letter each time without changing how you present your experience to match the job.

    Employers are looking for someone who matches their job description—and since they’re probably getting hundreds of applicants for each open job, they’re not going to do the extra work to figure out how you measure up. You have to be sure to tell anyone reading your application how you’re suited for the role by tailoring your resume and cover letter. That means figuring out what skills and experience they want and then highlighting them in the form of accomplishments in your materials. You don’t necessarily have to do this for every single role. But at the very least you should tailor your application for every type of role—for example, you might have a software engineering resume and cover letter and a different product management resume and cover letter—as well as individual roles you’re especially interested in.

    2. Your Resume Isn’t Formatted Correctly for an ATS

    Maybe you’re doing plenty to tailor your resume and still hearing crickets. Your application could be getting trapped in applicant tracking system (ATS) limbo and never actually getting read by a human being. If you’re applying for jobs through online applications, your resume is probably being sent through an ATS—a computer program that scans applications, tracks applicants, and generally helps recruiters and hiring managers manage the search on their side. Hiring professionals can also use ATSs to search for resumes that contain keywords that are relevant to a given job.

    To make sure your resume is being read correctly by the ATS:

    ·        Don’t try to get too fancy with your formatting: Avoid tables, graphics, and columns.

    ·        Include keywords in the right context: Recruiters and managers are likely to use terms directly from the job description to search for relevant applicants, so scan the job description for the skills and experiences they’re looking for, then pick out the ones that you have and include them in your resume—using the same language.

    ·        Use standard section headings: Go with headings like “Experience” and “Education.”

    3. You’re Applying to the Wrong Jobs

    Look at the job description and honestly ask yourself if you have the skills you’ll need to do the job—or get up to speed quickly—to ensure you’re not underqualified for the roles you’re targeting.

    That being said, job seekers usually do a fairly good job of making sure they’re qualified before applying to a role. One thing they are less great at is being honest about whether they are in fact overqualified. Hiring managers obviously won’t hire someone who doesn't have the skills or experience to do the job, but they’re also hesitant to hire someone who has gobs of experience for an entry-level role. How will they keep you interested and challenged? Won’t you just leave once something more suitable comes along? The last thing a company wants is to have to fill the role again after you’ve gotten bored and quit. Make sure you’re targeting the right jobs for your background. (And if you genuinely do want that job that might seem too junior for you on paper, follow this advice.)

    Need to find more of the right jobs to apply to? You can search thousands of openings on The Muse.

    4. You’re Not Applying to Enough Jobs

    As a career coach, I’ll occasionally work with a client who only applies to dream jobs or dream companies, and then gets frustrated when their search drags. It’s fine to be extra picky about what roles you’re considering, but if you’re only applying to a job here and there, then understand that your job hunt will absolutely take longer.

    If your situation doesn’t allow for that, then you may need to be more open to “stepping stone” roles—jobs that are not exactly what you’re looking for, but could get you there someday. For example, you might apply for jobs that will help you gain the skills you’ll need to be a more attractive applicant for your dream role.

    5. You’re Not Telling People about Your Job Search

    You probably already know you’re supposed to be networking when you’re job searching. Some of what networking entails might be obvious. For example, if you know someone at a company that you’d like to work for, try to apply with a referral or at least use any additional insight you may have gleaned from your conversations in your application.

    What’s less obvious is that you should really be broadcasting your search as widely as possible, even to people who have no obvious way of helping you. Talk about your job hunt at non-work events or make a post about it on a private non-LinkedIn social media account. You probably don’t know everyone another person knows. First-degree networking—a.k.a., getting help from those you know directly—is great, but second-degree networking can be really powerful too! A fellow career coach once witnessed a student who groused loudly about her job search in class and found out that the classmate next to her had a close relative who could help. Networking!

    If You’re Getting Phone Screens or First-Round Interviews But Not Moving Forward

    6. You’re Not Fully Prepared for Phone Screens

    Phone screens can feel pretty informal. Some recruiters even tell you they just want to schedule a “quick chat,” but don’t be fooled. A phone screen is an interview and you need to be preparing like you would for a formal phone interview. Even though phone screens can be quite short and cover just the basics, do your homework. Research the company. Prepare your pitch. Know how much you want to get paid. Be as ready as possible. I say “as possible” because sometimes recruiters don’t even bother to schedule phone screens ahead of time. They just call. In this case, at least having your pitch and salary expectations ready to go at all times will get you most of the way.

    7. You Don’t Know Enough About the Company

    You might dismiss the common advice to research a company before an interview, because really why would a recruiter care if you know who their CEO is if you can do the job? Well, one thing employers evaluate before they extend an offer is your likelihood of accepting it. And a good way to show that you’re likely to accept is to show interest in the company. How do you show interest beyond simply saying you’re excited about the opportunity? By knowing a lot about them.

    Research a company’s products and services. Prepare to talk about how you’ve used them or similar ones in the past. Read up on their values and check to see if you have any contacts at the company via LinkedIn. If you want to go above and beyond, schedule an informational interview with an employee at the organization to learn more about what it’s like working there.

    8. You Haven’t Prepped Interview Answers to Common Interview Questions

    Job searches tend to occupy a lot of head space—even more so after you get an interview invite. But be careful you’re not spending all your time just thinking about the interview (or worrying about it!). You need to really prepare.

    You should be looking at common interview questions and practicing how to answer them out loud. The aloud part kind of trips people up, but saying the actual words before the interview is essential and will improve your performance quickly and significantly. If you can find someone to do a mock interview with you and give you some feedback on where you could’ve been stronger or when they started losing interest in what you were saying, even better.

    Don’t try to memorize your answers—you don’t want to sound robotic. Plus, your answers could change depending on the company and what they’re looking for. So practice answering the questions out loud each time you’re invited to interview with a new company. You need to prepare for each interview, not just interviews in general.

    9. You’ve Focused Too Much on Prepping Interview Answers and Neglected Other Interview Skills

    You don’t want to be the person who doesn’t greet the receptionist and only responds in single words to small talk with the recruiter. That person rarely gets hired. You need to think about interview skills like storytelling, active listening, eye contact and other body language, empathy, and small talk. Most of these abilities can be improved by just being aware that you need to be mindful about them and practicing. So by reading this, you could already be halfway there.

    10. You’re Not Passing the Technical Screen

    I’m using the term “technical screen” kind of loosely here. A technical screen could be a more formal technical interview, a copywriting test, or a coding question thrown in during a first-round interview—among other evaluations. In other words, anything that assesses your technical ability to do the job.

    Failing the technical screen usually means an automatic rejection, so it’s absolutely critical that you do well enough to move forward. Luckily a skills test typically doesn’t require flawless execution, but if you’re struggling with technical assessments every time you interview with a new company, then you probably need to spend some time buckling down. There’s no shortcut here. Find a relevant book or course and get to studying. And be sure you’re not making common mistakes you can easily fix—like not following directions.

    If you’re still falling short, then you may need to evaluate whether you’re applying for the wrong jobs. Maybe you need to get more practical experience with these skills in a lower-level position first, for example.

    If You’re Getting Multiple Interviews But Not Getting Offers

    11. You Have the Skills, But Not the Story

    You have all the right skills, you’re applying for the right jobs, you’re passing the screens and early interviews—and yet, no offers. What’s going on? You might not have the right story. The “right story” is kind of a fuzzy concept, but basically, you don’t want the hiring manager to walk out of the interview thinking, “Yes, they can do the job, but why do they even want it?”

    In interviews, you need to make the case for why a job makes sense as the next step in your career. Are you looking for a managerial role or are you hoping to be more in the weeds dealing with technical problems rather than people problems? In other words, how does this job fit into the story of your professional development? You can cover this straight on in your response to “Tell me about yourself” or “Why this role?” and weave it in throughout the interview.

    12. You’re Coming Off a Little… Strong

    It’s good to be excited about a job opportunity, but it’s another thing to come off as overly excited. The latter can sometimes (unfairly) trigger red flags for interviewers.

    So do show off your interest by having a lot of knowledge about the company and sharing it. Don’t show up an hour early to the interview, wait awkwardly in the lobby, and make everyone feel bad that they’re not ready for you yet. Do write a thank you note to your interviewers and include details from the conversation. Don’t call every day to see if there is an update on the role. Do check out your interviewers on LinkedIn to prepare for the interview. Don’t friend them on Facebook or other social media. You get the idea.

    13. You Don’t Stand Out Enough

    You don’t want to be memorable for the wrong reasons, but you do want to be memorable. When the hiring committee meets to discuss candidates, it’s not a good sign if no one really remembers much about you.

    To stand out in the right way, be ready to show that you’re passionate about something related to the job. You can also showcase an unrelated—but just kind of interesting—passion, like bread making or biking. Find things you can talk about with gusto and then do! For example, when you get a more open-ended question like, “What is the accomplishment you’re most proud of?” answer with a work-appropriate response and then briefly add in your latest sourdough triumph at the end!

    14. You Were Too Negative

    In general, hiring managers favor candidates who are positive and don’t always see the worst in everything—it’s human nature to not want to work with someone who’s overly negative.

    So, for example, when you get to later interview rounds, you may get asked what kind of suggestions you have for the company to improve a product or make a team more efficient. In these instances, be careful how you word things. It’s easy to accidentally get a little too negative and point out all the problems you see. You want to answer the question, but also be mindful that you’re not offending anyone. Be solution-oriented instead of only focusing on the issues.

    The no-negativity rule also applies to questions you may get about previous employers. No badmouthing former workplaces, managers, or colleagues. Even if their behavior was egregious, you won’t look good if you speak poorly of them.

    15. You Didn’t Prep Your References

    If your references are saying completely different things than what you said in the interview, that can be a huge red flag for hiring managers. To avoid having a reference accidentally contradict you, make sure you’re giving them adequate heads up that a call may be coming. Ideally, you should also let them know what role you’ve applied for and why you think you’re a good fit. Sending over your tailored resume and cover letter can be really helpful, too. In short, you want to make sure that their story and your story align.

    All this being said, sometimes you really can be doing everything right in your job search and the reasons you haven’t landed a position yet are entirely outside your control. Maybe you were competing with an internal candidate the hiring manager had in mind from the get-go or maybe they just defaulted to interviewing people with more years of experience to narrow down the applicants.

    Focus on the aspects of your applications that you can control and keep moving forward. Job searches take time, and it will be worth the effort once you land the right job.

    Lily Zhang is a career counselor at the MIT Media Lab, where she works with a range of students from AI experts to interaction designers on crafting their own unique career paths. When she’s not indulging in a new book or video game, she’s thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. You can find her on LinkedInTwitter, and her website.

    Why Can’t I Get a Job? 15 Possible Reasons | The Muse

  • 04 Oct 2021 5:47 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    How to Write a Perfect Resume

    by Bruce Hurwitz

    A friend sent me an email he received from a resume writing company that boasted, in the subject line, that they create "perfect" resumes. More power to them. There are just a few problems with their claim:

    First, there's no such thing as a perfect resume. And perfection, in any event, is overrated. There is a debate over who said it first but, whoever it was, was correct, "Perfect is the enemy of good." If you are shooting for perfection, you will never finish writing your resume. Sometimes "good" is "good enough."

    Second, a resume is a tool. That's all it is. It's purpose is to get the recipient to invite you for an interview.

    Third, I disagree with those people who say that most recipients of resumes spend 10 seconds reading them. That's wrong. As I have written previously, they spend five seconds scanning them. Scores of resumes can arrive every day. Who has time to actually read them all? No one. And this is a good thing because...

    Four, since the recipient does not have time to actually read a resume when it arrives on their desk, their first impression is going to be visual. So the document needs to be clean, neat and well-organized. Unless you are applying for a job as a graphic designer, there is no need for graphics (which, by the way, can play havoc with some Applicant Tracking Systems). Infographics look great on a report but are a waste of space on a resume. They are just clutter.

    Fifth, since many initially scan the resume, not actually reading it, don't kill yourself when you discover, after you send it, that there is a typo. In a recent unscientific poll on LinkedIn, 75% of respondents, including yours truly, responded that they would consider a candidate whose resume had typos. (Of course, this is within reason. There is a limit! And when the company does a keyword search, the typo may become problematic if, and only if, it's in a keyword.)

    Sixth, the important thing is to grab the recipient's attention. You do that by simply starting the resume with half a dozen bullet points highlighting relevant professional accomplishments. For veterans, I always suggest, if it's true (and it usually is) that they write, "Highly decorated veteran of the US..." and then state the branch where they served. (I once had a veteran client who could not get a job interview to save his life. After two hours he finally told me that he was a Silver Star recipient! Once that became the first bullet point at the top of his resume, his phone started ringing! A resume is no place for modesty.)

    As for the rest of the resume, you want to show the recipient that you know how to prioritize. Don't list every responsibility you ever had, just the main ones. Think of the resume as a "tease," the trailer to a movie to get the recipient to buy the ticket and go and actually see the movie, meaning that they invite you for an interview.

    And forget about being perfect. Excpet for my humbal self, I no of know won who is perfekt. If the resume gets you the interview, it's perfect enough.


    While writing this article I came upon a survey/poll on LinkedIn asking the question if LinkedIn profiles will replace resumes. My response was to the effect that, while resumes are legally binding documents, LinkedIn profiles are not. Of course, people disagreed with me, which is their right. One person said resumes are not legally binding because they are not signed. In fact, they are. When you note on your cover letter that your resume is attached, since you "sign" the letter (even if it's an email) you are also signing the resume. And if you are attaching it to an online application, most have a warning that by submitting the application you are confirming that, to the best of your knowledge, the information is accurate - including the resume. As all resumes are part of a job application, I believe they are legally binding. (Not everyone agrees.) After all, you can be fired for lying on your resume.

    My view is that a LinkedIn profile is more like an ad. Not everyone on LinkedIn is looking for a job. I'm not. So if someone comes to me for my services, because they saw my profile, why should that be any different from my advertising my services, making the same claims as I make on my profile, in a newspaper or on a billboard? What's the difference? Why shouldn't "true in advertising" still apply? And an organization called "LinkedIn" even wants lies in profiles on their site reported! (One person who disagreed with me suggested that I do research before I express an opinion. I had to laugh!)

    Of course all of these questions will remain questions until someone sues their employer for firing them for lying on their resume or LinkedIn profile, or until someone is sued for "false advertising" on their profile. But here's a crazy idea: Don't lie!

  • 29 Jul 2021 10:30 PM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    The One Thing That May Get You the Job Offer

    By Bruce Hurwitz

    Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it might get you the job offer.

    Years ago I attended a lecture at New York University by a former college president. She was having a really bad day. The first thing she said was that women were more philanthropic then men because of biology. (The consensus among the men was that the buffet was impressive so, even though there was probably more nonsense to come, it would be worth the wait. It was!)

    The third thing she said (and that’s not a mistake on my part; the second thing will come next), was that human beings are the only animals that show empathy, sympathy for others, and care about family. Every hand went up. There were stories about pets – dogs, cats, even birds. Instead of admitting she was wrong and had to rethink her hypothesis, she dug herself in deeper. (Rule Number One: When you find yourself in a whole, stop digging!) She said that individual stories reflected the prejudices of the pet owners. They saw what they wanted to see. (That did not go over well…) Then someone mentioned elephants and noted he did not have a pet elephant at home. Neither did the woman who spoke about horses. But it was to no avail. Then I remembered I had a copy of National Geographic with me and had read an article on birds sacrificing for the family unit. I raised my hand, stood up and, without being called upon, I said I thought that two short paragraphs from the article would end the discussion. The speaker let me read and then said she wanted to move on. (We, the men, now joined by the women, wanted to move on to the buffet!)

    But it was the second thing she said which stayed with me. The speaker informed us that what separates humans from other animals was that we human beings are the only creatures on the planet who are curious. I found that an ironic statement because she obviously was not curious enough to check her facts. (No one responded because of what came next!)

    This was the first, and only, time I can remember no one having a question for a speaker at the end of their presentation and everyone standing up and heading for the food as the moderator thanked the speaker. So why did her “curiosity” statement stick with me?

    Back then, when I was at NYU, I was a fundraiser. The topic of the presentation was supposed to be “Women and Philanthropy,” an extremely important topic at the time as it was estimated that trillions of dollars were going to be bequeathed to women in the coming years. I, if you will, was curious and wanted some insight into how to approach elderly women, widows, to ask for donations without sounding like a fool, or worse. Needless to say, from that perspective, it was a wasted evening.

    But the issue of curiosity always interested me. Why is it that we humans have always looked to the heavens and asked questions about those flickering lights in the sky? Why do we want to know why the sky is blue? Why do we want to know why men have nipples? Why… You get the idea. (And for the record, why do dogs literally stick their noses where they do not belong?) The answer is curiosity.

    Perhaps the best question an interviewer can ask a job candidate is, What are you curious about? And if they don’t ask the question, perhaps the best thing a candidate can do, when given the opportunity to tell the interviewer(s) about themselves, is to say, This is what makes me curious.

    It does not have to have anything to do with the actual job. In fact, it might be better if it were totally divorced from the job as that will show that the candidate is a “complete” person. I, for example, am curious about how one molecule can be in two places at the same time in the realm of quantum mechanics. I am also curious about why otherwise intelligent people would become engaged without signing a prenuptial agreement.

    Of course saying that you are curious about something is not enough. You also have to prove that you have tried to find the answer. For example, the two explanations for my molecular problem that I kind of, sort of, understand, is that it has something to do with gravity or it is a question of timing, when the molecule is observed. But I readily admit I am not intelligent enough to be able to explain either explanation or to know which, if either, is correct. But that’s perfectly alright. Admitting ignorance is a strength, not a weakness, and should help, not harm, a candidate in a job interview. The important thing is the search for the answer.

    So my advice, for what it is worth, is to tell potential employers what makes you think. What grabs your attention. What makes you curious. And they may make you a job offer!

    Oh, and as for the pre-nup question, it seems the reason is simply the person declining the pre-nup is focused on having a successful divorce, not marriage. (That one I could not Google; I had to ask!)

    The One Thing That May Get You the Job Offer | Employment Edification (

  • 08 Jul 2021 8:22 AM | Mariana Fradman (Administrator)

    The 3 Skills That Will Keep You Employed

    by Bruce Hurwitz

    In his book, Present Future: Business, Science, and the Deep Tech Revolution, Guy Perelmuter writes (p.55), "The use of subjective judgment, emotional intelligence, and adaptability to unexpected situations are emerging as important characteristics for the employees of the future since these are features that are quite uniquely human and will very likely not be replaced by a machine in the foreseeable future."

    This quote is important for two reasons: First, Mr. Perelmuter is correct. Second, this is a great example of why job seekers can better spend their time reading books by legitimate authorities on the future, especially scientists and engineers, than reading "how to" books about getting a job, with the obvious exception of mine!

    I have two rules about competitors. First, I never acknowledge anyone as my competitor. The minute I would do so, I would be telling potential clients that they, the competitors, are as good or better than I am. Why would I do that? Why would anyone do that? Second, I never try to build myself up by knocking someone else down. When I am asked about a competitor I always reply, "I don't know enough about them to comment. All I can do is tell you about myself."

    No one can possibly be offended by that response. And it will work nicely in a job interview. This is especially so given that employers are not going to tell candidates against whom you are competing. That being the case, candidates have to assume that their competitors may have more direct experience than they do or may be younger. The first is faced by some veterans (although many have far more relevant experience than civilians); the second by older workers.

    In either case, you never want to say, "I have experiences that no one outside of the military could bring to the table." Or, just as bad, "I have more experiences than some twenty-something." After all, you may be insulting the person who is interviewing you.

    So ignore the competition. Don't forget them; just ignore them. The inference will be that you have what the others don't.

    Which brings us back to Mr. Perelmuter. What are "subjective judgement," "emotional intelligence," and "adaptability to unexpected situations?"

    First, they are all connected, in one way or another, to something I wrote about some time ago namely, on what older workers/candidates should focus in a job interview. My answer was then, and is now, dealing with adversity. In my career I have had to deal with death, criminality, and technological breakdowns, to name but a few. I guarantee I can "beat" you on your example of your worse day on the job. Someone with, let's say, five years' experience just can't do that. They may have one example, but not enough to show that they can handle Perelmuter's third point, which I will deal with first.

    A good interviewee (candidate) politely takes control of the interview. They refocus the conversation to their benefit. Think about what talented politicians do in an interview. They answer questions by refocusing. (I think it was Churchill who said something on the line of, If I don't like your question, I'll respond to it; if I like your question, I'll answer it!) You, the candidate, should do the same. Answer the question you are asked but immediately add a caveat. Say something like, "But what is also important is to prepare for the unknown. We do that all the time. That's why we have insurance. That's why we have virus protection on our computers. But, of course, we can always be surprised. No plan is perfect and no protection is fool-proof. Let me give you an example."

    I promise you, a veteran and an older worker will have a much better example than someone who has never served in the military or who has an employment record that can fit nicely on half a sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper.

    Which brings me to "emotional intelligence." I have read a great deal on the subject and, with all due respect to the experts, I still like my one-word definition the best: maturity. People with emotional intelligence do not panic. If you will, they do not get emotional. So, when giving your above example add, "As always, when the unexpected happens, I take a deep breath, and then begin to calmly respond. If I panic, everyone else will panic, and a bad situation will only get worse."

    And that brings us to "subjective judgement." It's "subjective" because it is yours. You are judging the situation. If everything works out, you are a hero, if not... Of course, in the example you will give, you will be right. So the emphasis is on "judgement."

    Now that you have explained that you do not panic, that you are mature, you have to tell the interviewer how you reached that decision which proved to be correct. In this case it is important to emphasize two things: First, experience. Briefly recall similar situations you had and what you learned from them. You can even include a failure. Recognizing your failures is a sign of strength, not weakness and, as everyone should know, you can often learn more from failures than from successes. Second, and just as important, make sure to say that you consulted with your team prior to making the decision. Team members want to have their leader agree with them but, more importantly, they want to be heard. Explain to the interviewer that you always explain to your team members why you agree or disagree with their recommendations. By doing so, you gain their support and everyone should implement your decision without bitterness.

    Such a strategy in an interview should impress the interviewers and help you to secure the job offer.

    The 3 Skills That Will Keep You Employed | Employment Edification (

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