"How Broad or Narrow Should I Make the Scope of My Search with Multiple Skillsets?"

"I'm about to graduate with a skillset that points to a bunch of different jobs (applied math, finance, business.) How broad or narrow should I make the scope of my search? Learn as much as possible about one job title, or get different resumes and try various options?"


This is a good problem to have - you sound smart.

Since you have options, one idea is to focus on which individual company you want to work for. Do some research on companies in your area that have jobs that relate to your expertise. Then, do more research on which of these companies seem to be the best to work for and receive recognition for doing so. Great benefits, work culture, leadership, growth opportunity, etc.

Finding a job in a company that will allow you to thrive and support your growth will give you a strong foundation for your entire career.

Long-Term Employee Exit Strategy

"I am 49 and have worked for my current employer since 1989. We lost two big clients this year and the owner has encouraged me to look for another job since the outlook for this small company (7 employees) is not good. Do you have any tips for someone my age who has only worked for one marketing/advertising company for so long? I am a jack of all trades - I do a little selling, magazine production and design, and I am the default IT guy."

Sorry to hear about your situation. It is tough, especially after committing yourself to a company for that long.

I have several pieces of advice - I'll let you pick and choose what works best for you.

1. I don't know what your relationship or level of trust is with the owner, but I am going to be honest. The owner encouraging you to seek another job might be a kind gesture, but could also be in his/her best interest. No matter what the intention, the writing's on the walls and I agree that it is time to move on. Even if new clients come in, move on.

2. You will want to be proactive in re-entering the job market - move quickly. You will be more attractive to employers while you are currently employed - job hunting while unemployed, especially at your point in your career, is tough. Your boss might have to let you go soon, but would prefer you leave on your own terms.

The first thing to do is "re-brand" yourself. As a marketing expert, you will be good at this. I highly recommend finding a professional photographer (not just a friend with a camera) and get the best, VP looking headshots you can. Before that, make sure to get a great haircut, bleach your teeth, get a new suit that fits well if you don't have one. Add your new headshot to your Linkedin, but also your facebook and other social media. This will get your friends and peers to see you as a professional. This will freshen up and modernize your image.

3. Because you have been at one company for so long, other agencies that have had interest in you, and recruiters, likely view you as a "lifer". Other agencies might avoid approaching you for a job because of your tenure at your current agency. This isn't a bad thing, just mutual respect between agencies. Keep this in mind.

4. Update all aspects of your Linkedin. Don't add that you are "seeking employment" anywhere. If your linkedin is barren, add text to your experience to make it appear more like a resume. Rewrite your "About Me" and focus on your expertise. If you have a Strengthsfinder, feel free to add that information (if you don’t, I highly recommend the book and the test). Present yourself in the best light possible and "sell" yourself without looking like you are trying.

5. Make a list of the Agencies and in-house Marketing in your area. If your city is big enough, find a business directory that should have a list of all of them. Look at the career pages on these sites for anything that appeals to you. Or call someone in leadership directly and express your interest. If you want to work with a Headhunter/Executive Recruiter, contact them before applying to any agencies.

6. Next is the hard part. When the question is asked about why you are seeking new employment, you will want to vent a little, or explain your situation to save face. Don't.

When talking to recruiters, let them know that you are ready to try something new and intriguing. If you trust them, you can let them know about the clients leaving, but I would be careful about sharing this.

When interviewing for any job, focus your motivation on the company you are interviewing with, NOT the fact that you need to find new employment. Think about a date with someone: you wouldn't tell someone on a first date that you are seeing them because your ex-girlfriend is intolerable, or that you're seeing them because you're desperate. You would tell your date you are out with them because THEY are amazing.

7. This is a situation that a local Executive Recruiter can help with. Go into Linkedin click the “Advanced” link. Under “Location”, enter your postal code. Under “Title” enter recruiter or headhunter. Look through the options and save the names of the people you like the look of. Reach out to them and tell them you are looking. You will need to be proactive, but they should be able to help.

8. This is an opportunity to re-invent yourself. You said you are a jack of all trades. Be honest with yourself and decide 1 or 2 things you are best at, and focus on that. You need to be more specific about your skills. If you want to stay a "jack of all trades", focus on small agencies.

Good luck!

Transitioning from Academic to Business Setting

"I would love to get your input! I've been working in data collection and analysis in academic research for nearly a decade and am now trying to transition into a business analyst role. Not surprisingly, I'm having a bit of trouble getting interviews due to my lack of direct experience in a business setting. Do you have any suggestions for convincing industry hiring managers that I'm capable of using my existing skill set in a new domain?"


You have valuable skills that are typically in demand.

My advice isn't always to go straight to a recruiter, but in your case, I would recommend it. Find the most reputable IT Recruiting firm in your area. If you want, even call in and ask who their most senior recruiter is, and ask to speak with him/her.

Explain your situation - my guess is that they have positions that you are well qualified for.

Does that help?

"That's very helpful! I think a large part of my problem is that I'm located relatively close to the SF Bay area and there is a ton of highly-qualified competition for local positions. Would you recommend looking into recruiters specifically for remote positions where I might be a more competitive applicant?"

That's a good idea. Explore both options at once.

Resume Re-Writing Services

"What do people actually do when they offer a professional resume rewrite and linkedin overhaul and what have you? I have never seen a before/after, so what makes them worth 60, or 80 or 100 dollarydoos?"

I've never used one or looked into any of the services. My guess would be 1. Pretty up your resume with a design template 2. Replace your verbiage with action/trendy words 3. Correct typos and bad sentence structure

If you find a company that gets good reviews, and your resume needs a lot of help, I don't think it would be a bad investment.

Why is it worth that much? Maybe it isn't, but when you look at how much people spend on a degree, $80 isn't much to help summarize your experience.


Revealing Salary

"How do you respond when the recruiter may ask how much are you making currently? They make it seem like they need the answer NOW. I usually try to hold off, but sometimes my answers don't get them to stop asking. Ideally, I don't want the recruiter to know my pay until I am receiving a job offer.... What is the best response?"

I have two answers for this:

1. If the recruiter is new to recruiting - say less than 18 months, you can hold off. However, it's in your best interest to share that info - they want you to make as much as possible (that benefits them as well) but need accurate information to do so. The recruiter can't likely submit you as a candidate without having your current salary, and your requirements to make a move.

2. If you are early on in your career, say below 5 years, don't be coy. Share what you're making.

"Typically it's like a game of cat and mouse when I'm in this situation. I feel if I share what I'm making, I won't get what I'm targeting. Could this be the case? How would I know if a recruiter is new to recruiting? If I decline to share, what is the worst scenario for the recruiter?"

Your salary history is important to the process. A recruiter will want to work off of accurate information. Just because you say you make $40k/year doesn't mean the recruiter will try and find you a job that offers $39k.

It could mean he/she won't waste your time with anything below $42-45k/year.

Worst case scenario? You demonstrate you are difficult to work with and they move on to someone else.

"I've always been in that mindset that they're fishing for my salary and read on many articles to not disclose salary which ends up you being on the losing end of the negotiation. I always thought that was how it worked since everytime I got off the phone with a recruiter, they almost always ask for my salary and I took that as something I should keep quiet about. I'll keep that in mind then, not sure why many articles put salary fishing as a negative and something to keep to yourself until the end of a job seeking process."


I should clarify something about sharing salary. I think you may be confusing some positions.

Search Firm/Agency/3rd Party Recruiter: Share your salary

Company HR/Internal Recruiter/Hiring Manager: Don't share your salary right away. This is where it is a valuable negotiating tool.

Do the differences above make sense? So, Wells Fargo has its own internal recruiters, and you don't need to tell them your salary. But say, Robert Half Recruiters might be recruiting FOR Wells Fargo because Wells Fargo is their client. It is in your best interest to share salary with that person.

I know it is confusing. The 3rd Party Recruiter (say Robert Half) wants you to make as much as possible (they then make more), so it's to your benefit. The Recruiter/HR at Wells Fargo doesn't have that same motivation.

Work Life Balance

"I'm starting to look for a new job. My main reason is that I'm burning out in my current position. I work 8-5 and am on-call nights and weekends for after hours work. I can work from home at those times but I can't make plans or go anywhere because it's so involved.

When I get asked why I'm looking for a new position is it okay to say that I'm looking for better work-life balance? Is there a better or more appealing way to state that?"

When interviewing for any job, focus your motivation on the company you are interview with, NOT the fact that you need to find new employment. Think about a date with someone: you wouldn't tell someone on a first date that you are seeing them because your ex-girlfriend is intolerable, or that you're seeing them because you're desperate. You would tell your date you are out with them because THEY are amazing.

Try to get a clear idea of work-life balance early on - and avoid those positions. Ask about work requirements carefully - you don't want to seem like you are trying to work as little as possible. Explore what types of work utilize your skills that don't require An-call work. It might take a slight career shift, but might be necessary to avoid that amount of time commitment.

Answering "Tell Me About Yourself" Question

I have always struggled a bit with job interviews, and I feel its the first question ''tell me about your self'' that is putting me off. I usually begin with where I live, what I study, what I like to do in my spare time. I feel like the recruiter wants to hear something more.

Do you have any advice on how to answer that question the best?

M22, student


I'd recommend scripting out what to say. It will come in handy throughout your life.

"I am from ____ and have made it my home. In my spare time I enjoy (something active) because ___. I also spend time (volunteering) with __ _____ which has taught me about __. I enjoy (your line of work) because it combines my ability to __ and my passion for _____. I'm really happy to be here today and to have the chance to learn about your company, and how that intersects with my occupation"

PS, if you aren't doing volunteer work, start. Give back.

"Best answer to: 'Why are you wanting to leave your current position/job?'"

"I apply for the same position I have now at different companys, because I know they pay more. What I make now, is entry level since this is my first job using my degree.

Currently I say, because work is slow and want to grow. But what I really mean is, because I want more money."


Your answer needs a little work. Most of us are motivated by money, and we all know that. But you have to believe in the mission of the company you are working for - even if you have to try a little to believe that.

When asked that question, you want to focus on the opportunity and the company you are talking to. When I hear "work is slow and want to grow", what I think is "you don't work hard enough, or find things to make yourself productive, and want to get paid to keep doing that."

It's not your potential employers problem whether or not you are happy at your current job. However, they do want to hire people that care about the work they do. Try and find something you care about, and bring that enthusiasm into your interview.

Q "why are you wanting to leave your current position/job?"

A "I am intrigued by the work you do, and the direction the leadership is taking this company. My skills and experience will help Your Company continue to move forward - and I know I will do great work in the environment you have created here."


How long should one stay at their current job before seeking a recruiter to move on to better opportunities?

Typically, the best time to move to a better opportunity will be when you are doing your best work at your current job. It gives you more leverage than when you are unemployed. Think of it as career momentum.

If you are happy with a job you have and it pays well, there is nothing wrong with staying as long as you like. Long stints in a position always stand out on a resume - it shows stability and reliability.

If things are "alright" or unhealthy, keep your ears to the ground, and stay open to conversations with trustworthy recruiters. Feel free to ask a recruiter any questions you have about the position or your career. Their answers might be self-interested, but often, they have a good pulse on the position and industry.

Finally, long answer short: I encourage anyone to spend at least 12 months in any position. Even if it is not for you, you will grow and mature in a tough position.

Pursue Higher Pay or More Experience?

"I have an issue I'm currently faced with and could use your insight. I recently received an offer from a German MNC in my industry(engineering) for a job I've always wanted. The offer is very very poor and If I accept I would be making the same as I currently am in my current job (Pays just below market rate and I'm reaching 11 months of employment). This is the first job right out of university.

How can I negotiate for a better pay?How can I tell the HR to offer competitive or at least market rate pay for an engineer with 1 year of experience in the related field. My current company has no career progression and the politics are rubbish.

Thank you for taking the time to read this."

What are the opportunities for growth at this new company? If this is a first "real-world" job for you, with plenty of opportunity to grow, it's ok to take low pay.

Keep your costs as low as possible. Rent cheap or live at home. Cook your meals at home. Don't drink much, etc.

If there is room to be promoted and grow, I'd take the job and kick ass. If you would hard, accomplish your tasks and go above & beyond, the money will follow.

Answering Questions You Don't Know the Answer To

"How do you address technical questions that you simply don't know the answer to?"

You want to be straight-forward in an interview, and not attempt to talk your way out of a difficult question (a la many politicians today).

The best way to prepare for this is to understand the position and study the job description. From there, anticipate questions that cover areas that you are not as strong in. When they come up, answer truthfully that the question deserves a response that you can not fully produce, but that it is an area of interest to you, and you plan to pursue and learn more about.

Quantifying Results and Formatting on Resume

"For a sales resume, I have read to include as much quantifiable results as possible. Do you concur?

And for formatting... My hr lady said she prefers resume's with a skills and summary at the top followed by jobs with a brief description of the position and then the results driven. Do you have any experience with that?"


Quantifiables are great. Don't forget to balance them out with what makes you effective and unique.

Also, be ready to back them up with your W2 when asked. I've found that the only salespeople that are offended when asked to see their W2 are the ones that exaggerate their earnings.

As for formatting, go for meat over fluffy, trendy "it" words. If you want, still use them if submitting online.

Also, keep the summary concise, but make a statement about who you are. Skills can come before jobs - whichever you feel is more impressive.

Military Spouse - Solid Experience but Gaps in Resume

"I'm a military spouse with a resume that has more holes than Swiss cheese, but solid experience. I interview very well, but can't seem to even get to that stage lately - I'm guessing due to the gaps in my resume."


I am glad to help. Thank you and your spouse for your service!

Even if the gaps in your experience aren't brought up, feel free to clarify it yourself - even if you aren't asked. Be honest and from my side of the table, I would see this as an advantage for you.

Communicate that your spouse made sacrifices and served our country. And with that, you happily made yourself flexible to change and adjustment to stay by his/her side. You can conclude that this loyalty and flexibility also plays a part of who you are as an employee.

Is there a chance that you will continue to move around the country in this situation? Or are you permanently settled in your current location? That is the next thought that will go through HR's mind.

"What are skills that you find lacking in recent graduates?"

This is a great question. If you are a recent grad, introspection like this already places you ahead of the curve. Obviously, recent grads will lack "real world experience", but to dig a little deeper, here are a couple thoughts:

1. Social maturity - working with other people well, taking criticism as a good thing, selflessness as an employee

2. Understanding of the industry and economics - younger people don't seem to understand dollars and cents, profit and profit margins, business plans, and generally what motivates people in the big picture.

3. Altruism and willingness to give back without receiving anything in return. Investing time and energy into something bigger than themselves.

4. Interpersonal communication. This is a hard one. Young people tend to let their maturity level show. Learning to reign in comments, funny remarks, opinions, etc is the start. As you mature, re-learning how to express yourself intelligently and in a kind manner is a skill that will take you far.