6 Pitfalls to Avoid With Job References

Your references can make or break if you get the job! Have you ever felt that you landed all the interviews, were asked for references and then…. No job offer. It may have come down to your references. Here are 6 pitfalls that may be getting in the way of your dream job.

1. Forgetting to ask permission

Years ago I received a reference check call from a company about a past colleague I had worked with. Sadly, the colleague had not asked me to be his reference and so I was totally caught off guard. I also wasn’t a big fan of his—to put it politely—so I gave a very lukewarm, though professional reference. I definitely wasn’t the best person to supply a reference for this fellow.

Recently I received a call from a company doing a reference check on a coaching client of mine, Ted*. Ted hadn’t informed me he would like me to be one of his references. Fortunately for Ted, I was on his team and gave him a glowing reference and he landed a great job after struggling with unemployment for several years.

It’s important to always ask permission for people to be your reference! And do so right now- no matter where you are in the job search process. Reconnect!

2. Neglecting to prepare your referees

After asking your referees for permission to use them as a reference, you should provide them with more details. It is important to let the people on your reference list know:

  • You are looking for work
  • What companies you are interviewing with
  • What the job description and/or posting is
  • When the company might contact them
  • What strengths/abilities/accomplishments you want them to emphasize

3. Not making it easy for companies to contact your references

On the flip side, you also have to make sure it’s easy for the hiring manager/interviewer to get in touch with your references.

Ensure on your reference list you supply the following information:

  • Referee’s name
  • Referee’s position
  • Referee’s past company and position – if they no longer work at the company you worked at
  • Referee’s email and phone number (including cell)
  • Referee’s time zone – if in a different state, province or country  (including the best time to reach them and how)

If companies have difficulty contacting people, they may move onto the next candidate.

4. Not knowing what your references will say about you

When in doubt – ASK! Ask your references what they will say about:

  • Your strengths
  • Your weaknesses
  • Would they rehire you?

If you didn’t have the best relationship with a former boss, then it’s safe to say you probably shouldn’t use them as a reference. You could instead ask a former colleague that you worked closely with to be your reference, a manager from a different department that knew you well or even one of your former subordinates. There is no rule that says your references have to be your direct managers/supervisors and you shouldn’t feel obligated to include them if it won’t increase your chance of getting hired.

5. Not providing an updated resume

It is important to send them your resume. Why? Again you want to prepare your referees with all the information you can, so they are the best reference for you. As well, it is an opportune time to reconnect and network with these people. In the past my client Barb* reconnected with her references and found out there were job openings in her old company. Barb landed a job this way!

Stress what you want your references to emphasize during the reference check.

6. Overlooking follow-up

Whether you get the job or not, it’s important to let your references know what happened. Why? Well, your references care about you – or maybe they are just curious about the results – but in any case it is important to let them know how you made out. Remember they are part of your network.

And if you get the job, THANK your references. You can do so with a lovely card in the mail, a brief note or even a bouquet of flowers if they are a big part of you getting the job.

Never underestimate the power of your references. They are extremely important to the job search process.

*Client names changed to protect confidentiality

(Originaly posted on Noomii Career Blog)


Interview Questions that Make You Squirm – Questions Against the Human Rights Act

Have you ever gone to an interview and been asked an interview question that you thought was inappropriate, offensive or possibly even illegal? Sometimes employers in the  job market may ask questions that can make you very uncomfortable.

3 reasons employers ask inappropriate interview questions

  1. Employers don’t know better. It may be that the company is small and the interviewer is the owner with no background in HR or specifically recruitment. They may ask questions totally out of ignorance – not malice –  for the Human Rights guidelines.
  2. Employers may have had bad experiences in the past and want to ensure it doesn’t happen again. So for example if they recently had four women take maternity leave they might be wary of female candidates of child-bearing age.
  3. Employers ask these questions as they are a factor in employment.

For example, a religious organization that follows a particular system of faith and worship, such as a church or religious order would want to hire someone of the same faith. Or a denominational school is hiring a teacher. They are allowed to inquire about the religion of the interviewee if the job involves teaching religion or religious values to students.

Illegal interview questions

Except where there is a genuine occupational requirement, it is discriminatory and contrary to the Canadian Human Rights Act (Canada) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and State Laws (US), for an interviewer or employer to refuse to employ someone because of the following:

Examples of Categories of Unlawful Questions:

Canada USA
    • national or ethnic origin
    • colour
    • religion
    • age
    • sex
    • sexual orientation
    • marital status
    • family status
    • disability
    • a conviction for which you have been granted a pardon
  • national origin
  • race
  • religion
  • age (40 and older)
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
  • marital status
  • disability
  • conviction of a misdemeanor
  • Pregnancy

Do I have to answer these questions?

The short answer is no.

I asked Jennifer Main, team staffing manager for Destination One Consulting–a Canadian recruitment firm–for her advice to job-seekers who are asked these questions. She advises people to ask the interviewer, “How is that relevant to the job?” and goes on further to say, “If uncomfortable asking this, you don’t have to answer the question.”

Another approach would be to ask the interviewer, “Could you tell me how that will affect me on this job?”

Mark Lauterbach, former owner of an international executive recruiting and search firm, and now career coach/owner of Jump UP the Ladder says, “The issue is typically that hiring team members aren’t properly trained. Illegal questions aren’t typically asked with malice; rather from ignorance of the law. In employment law a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFPOQ) (US) or Bona Fide Occupational Requirement (BFOR) (Canada) is a quality or attribute that employers are allowed to consider when making a decision on hiring and retention of employees–a quality that when considered in other contexts would constitute discrimination and thus be in violation of civil rights employment law. Such qualifications must be listed in the employment offering.”


“US companies such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, along with government organizations may have a EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) Quota for minority hiring and so may ask questions around disability, for instance. In the US companies and government organizations may also be exercising Affirmative Action (the process of a business or governmental agency in which it gives special rights of hiring or advancement to ethnic minorities to make up for past discrimination against that minority). This makes the situation even more confusing.”

Canada has a similar Employment Equity Act with four designated groups: women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities, which affects government and federally regulated private sectors hiring practices.

What to do when asked a discriminatory question?

There are three options:

1. Tell the interviewer this is an illegal question and you aren’t going to answer it.

2. Respond with a counter question:

“Could you tell me how my (age, religion etc.) might have a bearing on the job I am applying for?” or “That’s an interesting question. I would be happy to answer it if you could tell me the reason for asking it.”

3. Choose to answer the question

Option #1 is probably going to be said with attitude and not taken well by the interviewer. Option #2 could work well. Remember to be polite, respectful and assertive.

Let’s look into Option #3 further

Option # 3 – Choosing to answer difficult interview questions

I would recommend this option to my clients if they are not concerned about answering the questions–and this is a personal decision. If you do decide to answer employer questions around one of these Human Rights topics consider why the employer might be asking the question. Again it could be out of ignorance or an unstated concern. Here’s some sample answers that might be appropriate:

Are you married?

  • If yes, state you are happily married and are settled in _________ (your location.)
  • If yes, and you have children, assure the interviewer that you have reliable child care and back up emergency child care.
  • If no, assure the employer you are reliable and free to travel for work and able to do overtime (if this is true for you).

How old are you?

A past colleague I worked with, who was in her 60’s at the time, used to say, “Age is only a number!” I always admired her attitude to growing older. She would happily tell people how old she was. You may choose to give your age and explain that, at this point in your career you are looking for job satisfaction and reward, rather than than a big title or higher pay and this is what you want to be doing. Again, this approach only works if it is true.

If you are young, stress the advantages of youth–energy, eagerness to learn, flexibility and highlight achievements in school or sports.

How long have you been in Canada? Where are you from? (country of origin)

Interviewers may simply be curious when asking this question. Here’s some tips:

  • Relate your answer to the current US/Canadian labour market, trends and knowledge and the employer’s immediate needs
  • If you are a Canadian or US citizen, or have been in the country for a while, tell the interviewer.
  • If your credentials are from another country get them accessed and look at upgrading if necessary
  • Mention your knowledge of current occupational and market knowledge, including related by-laws, codes, acts and government regulations as well as specific product and service knowledge that pertains to your occupation.

Know your rights

If you feel you are being discriminated against in a job interview or at work, you can file a complaint. In Canada, you can file a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Their role includes dealing with discrimination complaints, promoting workplace equity and an understanding of human rights. They administer the law that protects people from discrimination.

The US has the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that administers and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination. Like the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the EEOC investigates discrimination complaints based on an individual’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, gender identity, genetic information and retaliation for reporting, participating in, and/or opposing a discriminatory practice.

(Originaly posted on Noomii Career Blog)


How True Colors Can Help Your Career

True Colors is a personality assessment based on the theory of David Keirsey, Katherine C. Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs-Myers.

Katherine and Isabel developed the well-known Myers-Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI). They characterized 16 different types of people in MBTI.

Over 35 years, Keirsey worked with classifying four different temperament types which he wrote about in his book, “Please Understand Me.” He recognized that people analyze, conceptualize, understand and learn differently, making communication and relationships challenging at times.

In 1979, Don Lowry created True Colors, which applies the “type” information from both the Myers-Briggs and Keirsey’s work, to help people recognize their personality and temperament types. It evolves around four colors: Green, Orange, Blue and Gold. Each of us are a blend or rainbow, usually with one predominant color. That color is what can help us in many avenues of our life, career and job search.

Those of you that are familiar with other theories, such as the Personal Style Inventory, Learning Style Inventory, and the Strong Interest Inventory, will notice strong similarities to True Colors. There are also subtle differences as well.

As a certified True Color Trainer there is a proper assessment process I deliver to help discover your predominant color(s). For the purpose of this article I want to paint an overview of True Colors and its uses, in particular illustrating how useful this tool can be in your career. Keep in mind I will be generalizing to illustrate some of my points.

Summary of the colors


Greens comprise about 12% of the population. Green’s motto is “Knowledge is key” or “I’ll think about it.” For a Green work is play and play is work.

As people of reason, Greens are often very curious, analytical, need challenge, like numbers, facts and theory. They look at the world from a practical place. In True Colors Greens love the question: Why?

Their values include: competency, knowledge, curiosity, brevity, objectivity, information, privacy, problem solving, composure, autonomy, logic, challenge and technology.


Approximately 38% of the population is Orange. Orange’s motto is “Seize the day!” or “Where’s the action?”

Oranges love the saying, “Just do it!” As natural performers, Oranges live for adventure and travel, get easily bored and love change. You will hear an Orange say, “Where’s the party?”

Oranges value freedom, adventure, fun and play, spontaneity, variety, experiences (especially hands-on) and risk-taking.


Blue’s make up about 12% of the population. A true Blue’s motto is “I care!” or “To Thine Own Self Be True.”

Often seen as the caretakers and peacemakers, Blues love people and family. They are sensitive to the needs of others and seek harmony and peace above all. They run from conflict and care deeply about others. They are seen as the helpers and teachers in the group and seek purpose more than any of the other colors.

Some of Blues values are caring, optimistic, tolerance, harmony, romance, spirituality, enthusiasm, connection and empathy.


Golds make up about 38% of the population. Gold’s Motto, “Be prepared” or “Proud to serve.”

Golds’ thoughts often go to, “What are the rules?” Gold loves to plan, is organized and works best with rules. They love structure, are detail-oriented and are often homebodies.

Gold values include: responsibility, stability, honesty, loyalty, commitment, organization, dependability, traditions, accountability, service and a sense of belonging.

How True Colors can help

The True Colors Assessment can offer great insight to individuals in different stages of their professional lives—from those who are still deciding on a career path to those who have worked in their dream job for over 20 years. Let’s look at how True Colors can be used at these various stages:

1. If you’re unclear about what type of work you would like to do

By doing a True Colors Assessment you will gain knowledge of your predominant color type, which can guide you to possible careers you may be suited to.

Here are some possible careers according to color:

Green: Computer programmer, analyst, scientist, researcher, legal or medical assistant, stockbroker, lawyer, tradesperson, mathematician, inventor, criminologist, technical/scientific writer, editor, architect

Gold: Banker, accountant, professional organizer, teacher, administrative or executive assistant, nurse, doctor, lawyer, librarian, air traffic controller, law enforcement officer, financial manager

Orange: Artist, actor, creative director, musician, paramedic, tradesperson, pilot, disc jockey, mediator, public speaker, athlete, athletic coach, trades/dance/physical education teacher, interior designer

Blue: Teacher, psychologist, nurse, doctor, counselor, coach, host/hostess, tour guides, editors, human resources consultant, minister, recreation leader, creative writer, playwright, flight attendant

2. If you have a career already, but want to perform better

True Colors can really help you perform better within teams or groups by providing better awareness of your and others communication styles. By acknowledging we are all part of a rainbow and being aware of different people’s color strengths you can work more effectively as a group.

Here’s an example: think of the last time you were in a workshop and were broken into small groups. You were given a task to do or a problem to solve. What happened? People tend to take on different roles and responsibilities – it’s part of group dynamics.  Let’s look at an imaginary group.

Participant #1: Takes on the leadership role – that’s often a Gold shining.

Participant #2: Asks how they can help the others or offers to go get paper, water, flip chart, markers, etc – that’s usually a Blue individual.

Participant #3: Tosses out all kinds of ideas and maybe starts drawing on a flip chart. They have high energy, are flexible and open-minded and have no shortage of ideas – that’s our Orange.

Participant #4: The quiet one, often the observer or the one being very curious and asking a lot of “why” questions – that’s Green.

So how does this knowledge help you in a team? When you understand other people’s differences and colors – you tend to work better as a team and are open to their perspectives.

3. If you want more effective communication at work

By being aware of colors, communication becomes more effective. How do the four colors like to communicate?

Green – be brief and be gone. Green individuals are direct and don’t waste their words! They avoid small talk, preferring to get to the matter at hand quickly.

Blue – they care deeply and are the nurturers. Blue’s will ensure that you are okay and they run from conflict.

Gold – communication is often structured and very clear; after a conversation you might expect Gold’s to follow up with an email – often containing bullets or an extensive report.

Orange – can be all over the place in their communication. They are generally animated and love to perform – it’s the natural actor in them.

Knowing others color communication style can help in all avenues of life: career, love relationships, and life.

4. If you have an upcoming job interview

How can knowing the colors help you?

It is difficult to know for sure what the predominant color of your interviewer is, but once you have taken the full assessment you are likely to have some ideas and a greater awareness of the plaid in all of us. When attending an interview notice the subtle clues…

  1. Did the interviewer offer you coffee or water or ask if you need anything? This might be a sign of a Blue person.
  2. Did the interview seem unstructured? Oranges may have a free form interview. They may choose a more conversational approach.
  3. Greens will not mince words, may ask a lot of why questions, and will be direct and brief.
  4. Golds will often take a lot of notes, have a very structured interview and have preplanned all the interview questions. When asked how long they have been with the company it is often many years as Golds are loyal to their employers and have a strong sense of duty.

How can we recognize someone’s predominant color?

Another helpful tip to recognize the predominant color of your interviewer is if you happen to be in their office for the interview. In this case, look around at the décor. Lots of family pictures may indicate a Blue. Pictures of someone kite sailing or skydiving might mean they are Orange. Gold’s desks will be super tidy – no clutter. And Greens – well, they might have a lot of high tech devices close by.

Celebrate our differences

So whether trying to identify a new career for your self, attending a job interview or working as part of a team, True Colors can improve your communication and awareness of the similarities and differences we all possess. As humans, we can learn to gain understanding and appreciation for the differences in all of us. Each of us have all four color energies within us. The combination of these energies is what creates our individuality and uniqueness. Let’s celebrate them!

(Originaly posted on Noomii Career Blog)


5 Simple Communication Tips to Get Ahead at Work

Poor communication is the number one factor that causes havoc in relationships whether at work, home or with love. Let’s look at some tips to better communication at work.

1. Avoid being passive aggressive – it gets you nowhere!

When you have a conflict at work with a team member, no matter what the reason, the worst thing you can do is to complain to your other teammates about the issue. It’s always better to address whatever the issue is directly with the person you are having a conflict with. By going directly to the person you are disgruntled with, you avoid resentment and bad ill will in the office. This gives you the opportunity to work things out without interference or influence from other team members.

What if you can’t resolve the issue?

If direct communication doesn’t resolve the issue, then it’s time to involve your immediate supervisor. Try to avoid being defensive and use “I” statements to state your position. Being assertive, not aggressive, will serve you best.

2. Active listening

One of my tricks when teaching communication skills is to write the word “Listen” on the whiteboard and then ask people what you need to do to be a good listener. The answer? Be silent! Being quiet or silent is the best way to listen to someone, I mean really listen to them.

To be a good listener one must also focus on what is being said. And notice what isn’t being said. How often have you been listening to someone and your mind is going a mile a minute thinking about what to make for dinner, when you have to pick up your son from school, whether the presentation went well at work – you get the point! Distractions are all around us. In order to truly listen openly, focus totally on the other person, their tone, pace and feelings expressed – what they say and how they say it.

Be aware when your mind wanders off and gently bring it back to being present. Coaches are trained to listen actively – it is a skill – and one that you can learn, once you bring some awareness to how and when you lose focus. Try active listening at both work and home. Notice what gets in the way of active listening and you may be surprised at the results you will get as you hone this skill. Relationships will deepen and you will see positive results in all your communications.

3. Positivity

Eighty percent attitude over 20% aptitude. Employers have said to me that they would be willing to train a new employee as long as they have the right attitude. And that right attitude is a positive can-do attitude. In 2005, the National Science Foundation published an article regarding research about daily human thoughts. The average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are negative.

As human beings we are wired for negativity. But that doesn’t mean we have to succumb to the negativity. With awareness can come change. Here’s one simple perspective change that can affect you in a positive way. When faced with something you don’t want to do at work try on the perspective of “I get to”, versus “I have to” and observe what happens. This slight change can have amazing results. Remember, positivity and a sunny disposition are contagious and what manager doesn’t want that catching on within their team?

4. Solution-oriented

Offer solutions and avoid complaining. When you focus on solutions, rather than complaining, you will see better results—more creativity and cohesiveness on your team and less defensiveness and negativity. Be creative and open to new ideas and positive results and relationships will follow.

5. Professional, proactive

By being professional in all modes of communication at work you send a signal that professionalism and respect are important values of yours. What does professionalism look like? In emails, it is taking the time to ensure there are no spelling mistakes and that proper punctuation is being used. Direct and clear communication is always best.

In meetings, it means participating, listening to others and respecting their opinions—even if they differ from yours.

Professionalism means not blaming someone else when you make a mistake, but instead accepting responsibility and learning from your mistakes.

Business communication like all other communication takes work. Try out these tips to model better communication at work. They will reflect positively on you, which in turn could provide you with new opportunities and advancement in your job.

(Originally posted on Noomii Career Blog)


The Secret Sauce in Job Search Success

Every day people looking for work send out resumes and every day many of these people wait and wait and don’t hear back from employers.

Then there are others who are job searching that are getting interviews, but don’t get the job. And finally, there are those that get their dream jobs! So what’s the factor that could make a difference? What’s the secret sauce?

The secret sauce

Follow up! I like to call it the secret sauce because it is the difference between a mediocre burger and a yummy one – or in job search between a so-so job searcher and one that is proactive, positive and eager to work. Following up is the key to getting noticed in many aspects of the job search process. And it is taking control of your job search.

So, why don’t people follow up?

Here are four reasons:

  1. They don’t know how to follow up, what to say or do.
  2. They think by following up they are being pushy, a pest or bothering the employer.
  3. They are scared! Scared if they get the job – then what?! Remember fear of success?
  4. Rejection – scared that if they call and they didn’t get the job, they are personally being rejected – they are not good enough – smart enough, young enough… That’s the inner voice/critic that can sabotage success.

As a career coach I encourage people to look at following up differently. Jenny* one of my clients recently interviewed with a company and knew that they were going to make a decision shortly. When asked why she didn’t follow up she said she didn’t want to face possible rejection and admitted she was stuck. It was easier to not know or let it slide, then to face the possible truth. After some probing it turned out she didn’t really even want the job.

I encouraged Jenny to look at following up from some other perspectives.

Follow up from a different perspective

Follow up re-framed in the positive way can demonstrate your interest in an organization. It shows you are willing to be assertive and proactive–qualities many employers are looking for in their employees. It puts you above the competition and gets you noticed from that big pile of resumes. And isn’t that what you want?

Opportunities to follow up

1. After sending a resume

When you have applied for a job, follow up.


Contact the decision maker (whose name you hopefully have since you would have addressed the cover letter to them).


If you replied to an ad – take your lead from when the closing date was. Often a few days after the closing is a good time to follow up. If there is no closing date, then follow up after a week’s time.

If there was no ad, again take your lead from when you first talked to the decision maker as to when to call them.


By telephone, if possible. Email them if you cannot find a phone number – again phone is preferred as you can have a conversation.


State the following to the decision maker:

  • I am following up on the application I sent
  • Did you receive it okay?
  • Can I provide any further information to help you in your decision?
  • I am very interested in learning more about the role and how I can fit in.
  • Can I meet with you to discuss your needs and my qualifications further?

2. After networking

You know those networking events you go to? What do you do with all of those business cards? Honestly, most people have a pile in their drawer collecting dust! Apply the secret sauce to networking too and follow up!

Whether networking was in a group, at an event, on LinkedIn or with an individual, following up can bring success. Follow up after a week or two (or if the person indicated a time, follow that).

Here’s what you can say:

  • I really enjoyed meeting you (if you met in person).
  • Since our conversation, have you thought of any people I might talk with or companies that might employ people in my field of _____________? (If you receive a contact, ensure you also ask the person you are networking with if you can use their name when reaching out to their contact.)
  • Thank you for your help and consideration
  • How might I help you in your job/life? Is there someone in my network that I can connect you with?

Note: If you do connect with someone your network suggests, ensure you come full circle and let your contact know – another chance to network and show your appreciation.

You can even follow up with a thank you card to your helpful network contact.

3. After an interview

After an interview one of the best ways to stand out from the other interviewees is with a follow up.

How? Here are two ways:

1. Send a thank you card

In my experience clients have much better results by sending a thank you card – NOT a thank you email. Why? Because think of your last job – how many emails did you get a day? Probably somewhere around 50 or more, maybe even hundreds. My niece, who previously worked for Microsoft, received over 300 emails a day! She had filters set on her email just to handle everything. These filters can filter your thank you email right out. Do you want your thank you email to end up in the junk/spam folder? Do you want your thank you email to be just another email someone has to open? Sigh.

How many cards did you receive in your last job? I suspect zero. By sending a thank you card you will get noticed and that’s important when it comes to follow up. A past client Reg* is an electrical engineer technologist. He balked at the idea of sending a thank you card, but after a little encouragement from me he did. Results? The employer contacted him after receiving the card and was really grateful—and he got a job offer partly because of his follow up and demonstrated interest.

What does a thank you card indicate? It says you are interested and you took the time to say so.

Thank you card tips

  • Spend a little time in selecting the card

When interviewing in person, observe the interviewer’s interests and, if possible, send a card that reflects that. Maybe you see a sailing picture on their desk, so you csend them a card with a sailboat on it. If you are good with designing—design your own card. Though this isn’t necessary, if you are a graphic designer or someone in a creative field, it is a good idea.

Send Out Cards is another great option where you can send actual mailed cards all through a few clicks on the web. Visit to talk to my colleague Caroline about how to start sending these very reasonably priced cards.

When I was hired at MEC I selected a card with an outdoor landscape for the interviewer. The first thing the interviewer said to me when I was offered the job was how much he liked the card and how he had never received a thank you card before. These are the little things that can help you get the job you want – and get noticed as a candidate.

  • Get a card that is blank inside

This will allow you to write neatly (or print if your handwriting is atrocious!) a custom message.

What to include in your message?

  • Thank you  – Thank the interviewer for their time and the opportunity to speak with them
  • Interest – Stress your interest in the role and in the company

Mention something from the interview, which demonstrates that you were listening and interested. For example, is the company expanding internationally or this is a new role that has been created especially for a new project?

2. Phone the interviewer

Hopefully at the end of the interview you asked the interviewer when they would be making a decision to hire. Use this as a guideline as to when you can follow up by phone with the interviewer.

What to say?

Your reason for calling – “I’m following up on the interview I had with you last week.”

Interest – “I’m really interested in this new role and your company is on the top of my list to work for. Not only was it one of Canada’s top 100 employers to work for, but the position and the company really meet with my values and interests as well.”

Decision – “Have you made a decision on a candidate yet?” If the answer is No, then you can follow up by saying, “Can I provide any further information to help make that decision?”

If the answer is Yes (and it’s not you) – Ask if they will give you some feedback and stress you would like to keep in touch in case anything changes.

This happened to my client Jon*. He was not the successful client but followed up after a month in case there were changes. In fact the company had just let the first person they hired go and he was the next in line. He got the job – because he followed up!

Try out the secret sauce in your job search. Take the lead, don’t wait for the employer to contact you, follow up with them and watch the results come in! You might be surprised at the results!

*Names have been changed to protect client privacy

(Originally posted on Noomii Career Blog)


When is it Okay to Talk Money?

Taylor Byrnes’ social media post went viral when her second interview with a Canadian food delivery company was cancelled after she inquired about compensation and benefits. (The company has since rescinded their interview cancellation). SkipTheDishes said that the questions weren’t in line with their company culture.

This incident brings forth the question, When should you bring up salary in the job search process?

Before you are interviewed? During the interview process? Or when they make you a job offer?

Knowing when and how to bring up the salary talk has been widely debated among career experts, but in my opinion, the best time to ask about compensation is when you are offered the position.

Why isn’t it a good idea to ask what the company pays prior to a job offer

When you bring up the question of salary prior to a job offer a company may interpret it as you being more interested in what money you can get, versus interested in the company and role you are applying too. Now, we all have to eat and money is important (or we would all lounge around on South Pacific Islands), but from a company’s perspective employers want to know that you really want to work for them.

Demonstrating your interest in the organization, their culture and the role itself should take priority over the money conversation. Employers hire people that want to work for them – people who are truly interested in the company and people themselves, who align with the company values and culture and what the company does.

When to talk money?

You are in a much stronger position to negotiate your salary or hourly wage once the company offers you the position. Here is a graph that illustrates why:

salary negotiation chart

I recommend the “money talk” happen once a job offer is made, but it doesn’t have to happen right that minute. In fact, negotiating your salary on the spot isn’t recommended, as you may end up feeling pressured into taking whatever is offered. Instead, take a couple days to think over their offer (if they have given you one), decide on a reasonable counter-offer and then have the conversation. (Stay tuned for my follow-up article on negotiating salary).

Of course, if you feel confident that the time is right, you can bring up the salary talk before you are offered the job, but I would recommend offering a range. The same goes if you are asked during the interview what your salary expectations are. Which brings me to my next point: Before you talk about your salary expectations with a potential employer, do your research!

Do your research!

What if you want an idea of what the company pays?

Going into your first interview, you want to have done your research so you know what this type of work and company may pay.

  1. Research what this type of position pays
  2. Research how much this company might pay
  3. Develop a range you are comfortable with based on your research. I generally recommend a 15-20% range

Based on your research you want to confidently answer the interview question, “What are your salary expectations?

Here’s an example of what you might say:

“I’ve done some research and based on my 10 years experience in marketing, my bachelor’s degree and my social media expertise, I am looking for a salary between $55,000 – 65,000. I am negotiable within that range.”

Where can you research salaries?

There are a few great websites out there to find salary and benefit information including:,,, Payscale and Glassdoor among others.

Government websites like WorkBC and the National Occupational Classification (NOC) provide salary guides in Canada. In the US, you can find helpful salary information on O*Net and the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The ERI (Economic Research Institute), which requires a paid subscription, provides up-to-date salary and cost of living  information for the US, Canada, the UK and some European countries.

Robert Half and Associates has free salary and benefit compensation guides along with labour market trends for accounting/financial positions and IT positions. Whatever sites you look at, ensure you check the currency type, as some sites quote in USD and some in CAD.

One of the best ways to get a sense of what companies pay is through informational interviews. In these interviews you ask the questions. You can ask what the salary range is for the position you are interested in.

Note: Informational interviews are about gathering info and researching, they are NOT employment interviews.

Salary Preparation ChecklistKnow ahead of time:

  • Your budget
  • Your bottom line
  • What other benefits/perks (both tangible and intangible) you are looking for:
    • vacation,
    • flex time,
    • health and dental benefits,
    • RRSP or US ___,
    • maternity/paternity benefits and top up programs etc.)
    • working from home
    • growth opportunities

What if they ask me what I made in my last role?

This is a question employers may ask. And it can be a difficult one to answer especially if you:

  • Were underpaid in your previous role (compared to industry standards)
  • Are transitioning to a different career
  • Are looking for a significant pay increase from your prior position
  • Benefits tangible and intangible made up for a lesser income

If possible, try to sidestep this by saying that your previous role was a different level/ had a different set of responsibilities, etc. or maybe the company size was much different.

No matter where you are in the interview process keep in mind that you do not want to negotiate your salary until a job offer is on the table. Remember, at the offer stage you can ask for time to consider the offer and get back to the employer. And again, always be prepared with a salary range that fits in with industry standards, as well as your own expectations.

(Originally posted on Noomii Career Blog)


Feeling Frazzled by Your Job Search? Here’s Why You Need to Get Organized

The snow is finally gone, the flowers are poking out and aside from cleaning out your closet, it may be time to do some spring cleaning in our day-to-day work as well. In honor of the new spring season, we decided to look at how to maximize your job search success by using simple organization systems.

I remember standing in front of one of my job search groups discussing the importance of keeping organized in your job search. In my hand was a restaurant napkin with a note written: Follow-up with Bob Craser about my job interview.

Recently I asked a career coaching client how she keeps organized in her job search – a question I always ask my clients when I work with them. Barbara* replied rather sheepishly that she wrote notes on napkins, post-its and scraps of paper. Sound familiar?

I’ve been known to write on multiple pieces of paper (and even paper napkins!) just like my example above. Yet, I try hard (and recommend to my clients) that this is NOT the way to go.

Why do I need a system?

An organized system that tracks all your job search activity and dates also helps you with your goal of getting your dream job faster and more efficiently.

My cell phone has taken the place of my post-it notes and napkins. Now I enter contact info as soon as I meet someone, along with any meeting information and follow-up dates. And when I’m home I can link my phone to my computer and upload the info into my files.

A tracking system allows you to record when you have sent a resume to ABC Company. You can make a note of when to follow up to ensure they’ve received your resume and to ask for an interview. After that interview? You will know when to send a thank you card out. Phone notifications/alerts can be your guide here. My Secret Sauce article goes into further detail on how to use follow-up as a tool for career success.

What about after that interview? If you don’t follow up – keeping control of your job search – you may miss a great opportunity. Scott* a past client, heard back about a job opportunity TWO MONTHS after he had interviewed with the company. Why so long? Well, the company had hired someone else who didn’t work out and Scott was next on the list. Fortunately Scott had kept records of the previous interview and his follow-up, as well as the company and decision-maker’s contact information, so he was prepared when the company called him. And he got the job!

Keep all your job-search activity in one place

The key to being organized is having all the information in one place. I always tell my clients that the system that is best for them is the one that they are most comfortable using – be it electronic or good old paper. Either is fine, as long as you keep all the information together. That’s the key. Some people prefer a file folder to keep copies of all their applications and job postings. That’s fine too, as long as, in addition to that, you have a way to track your actions.

Other clients use a notebook and record all their job search activities there. And some use an excel spreadsheet. Customize the process to fit your needs.

You will also need a way to track your meetings, interviews and networking. Again, you can go digital/electronic or use a diary/agenda/daytimer. My daughter Leah, who juggles a full-time job, with contract work and her own website business, swears by the Harvard Business Planner to keep her on track. Others like me love their phone calendars and some folks like the old-fashioned big desk calendars. Use what works for you.

Here’s a checklist of the important information to document:

  • Date of contact
  • How you contacted the company (phone call, referral, email, LinkedIn, recruiter, dropped in)
  • Company name
  • Decision-maker name(s)
  • Company contact information (email address, address and phone number)
  • Action taken (sent a resume; attended an interview etc.)
  • Job posting (if applicable)
  • Resume and cover letter version sent (both resumes and cover letters should be customized for every application)
  • Follow-up actions (phone calls, thank you cards)

Dust off your system!

No matter what method you use to keep organized in your job search, now is the time to dust it off and improve it.

1. If you are like Barbara, first gather all your job search notes and materials together into one place

2. Select a system that will work for you (paper or electronic)

3. Go through your files, lists, notebooks, spreadsheets – whatever you use – and archive old applications that are from more than six months ago.

(HINT: Before archiving you might want to reach out to these contacts again – one never knows where opportunities lie.)

4. Look at what needs your attention now – whether it is a follow up call to an employer, or a thank you to a network contact – make it happen.

5. Take action needed based on your information

So now that you have the tools for an organized system, set aside time each day to review your information and take action. Here’s to spring cleaning your job search and becoming more efficient and effective. Your dream job awaits!

*Name changed to protect client confidentiality

(Originally posted on Noomii Career Blog)


5 Essential Steps for Successful Salary Negotiation

Congratulations, you got the job! Now that you’ve secured the position, it’s time to have the salary talk with your new boss. Not sure how to go about negotiating a fair salary? You’re not alone.

Salary negotiation requires planning your approach, researching the compensation and communicating it clearly. When it comes to salary negotiation, it is important to consider the whole compensation package. This includes both tangible and non-tangible benefits.

Everything is negotiable.

Your best raise comes from when you sign the employment agreement. Spending time assessing your total compensation goal and your worth – what you bring to the company – could bring you an additional $5,000 – $10,000. And you can negotiate pretty much anything.

“The worst thing that can happen when you push for more [salary] is that they say no. But if you do it with grace, they will respect your courage and persistence – and if you don’t ask, you will never know what could have been.” – Anne Devereux, Chief Strategy Officer, Lantern  & Founder of Parlay House.

When negotiating there is a small risk that the employer will renege on their offer – but the risk is very small.

Here are the steps to a successful negotiation:

Step 1 – Preparation

1. Do your research

Research industry trends, the current labor market and what the role might pay. Informational interviews and websites like, Payscale, Glassdoor and Indeed can be a great help.

2. Determine the wage you want

Determine your bottom line first. Prepare a range that starts at your bottom line up. The range should be approximately 15-20%.

For example, if your bottom line is $50,000 then your range might be $50,000-$65,000.

3. Determine what tangible and non-tangible benefits you want

Tangible benefits

These are benefits that contribute to your bottom line and may include:

  • Basic compensation
    • Commissions
    • Performance or company-wide bonuses
    • Profit-sharing
  • Equity participation
    • Employee shares
    • Stock options
    • Stock bonuses
  • Standard benefits

Consider what percentage you pay and what portion the employer contributes to:

    • Disability or long-term illness insurance
    • Medical, dental, optical, massage therapy, chiropractor, acupuncture
    • Maternity and paternity benefits – does the company have a top-up program?
    • Vacation time – know your state/provincial employment standards
    • Life insurance
  • Relocation

Companies will often pay for you to relocate and may cover the following:

    • Moving expenses
    • Living expenses while you find a new home
    • Trips to find a new home
    • Temporary dual residency and meals until you move into your new home
    • Loss of money selling present home
    • Mortgage fees and closing costs
    • Immigration fees- visa’s etc (if relocation is to another country)
    • Outplacement services for partner/spouse
  • Professional development
    • Tuition reimbursement (may be a $ amount per year – average $1,000)
    • Paid courses that would benefit your role (could include travel expenses to these courses, if out of province/state)
  • Other benefits
    • Subsidized medical clinic on site (IDEXX provides this)
    • Paid parking spot
    • Vehicle allowance (can include: vehicle, gas, maintenance, insurance)
    • Cell phone
    • Frequent flier mileage – you get to keep the miles when traveling
    • Professional memberships
    • Gym memberships
    • Financial and legal advice access
    • Free food or subsidized cafeterias
    • Free coffee/tea
    • Expense accounts

Non-tangible benefits

These are the other benefits you want that are not necessarily tied to money – but impact your lifestyle:

  • Flexible hours – For example: The ability to go to your child’s concert in the middle of the workday or flex time (work an extra hour per day and get every other Friday off)
  • Working from home
  • Office environment (consider noise, natural light, open concept)
  • Short commute
  • Job satisfaction – is there room for growth and change; is it the level you want (and are qualified for)
  • Job responsibilities – know what the job entails and ask for clarity if needed
  • Job title – important to some people, and not to others
  • Company name – important to some– they want “Apple” on their resume
  • Job security (not a lot of that now – but is it a permanent, temporary or contract role)

Step 2 – Know your worth

This can be impacted by what author Maryanne L. Wegerbauer describes as relative power in her book, “Job Offer! A How-to Negotiation Guide.

Relative power considers the following:

Business climate factors:

  • Overall economy and labour market in your industry
  • Overall unemployment rate
  • Demand for your skills and specific knowledge in your role

Company factors:

  • How profitable the company is
  • Where the company is in the business cycle. For instance, a start-up doesn’t have the same capital available as a seasoned business. Consider if it’s a startup, in a growth or expansion phase, turnaround or well-established and stable

Hiring manager factors:

  • How long there has been an opening
  • If the position is urgent to fill (one company I know had a position open for more than a year)
  • Payroll budget
  • Decision-making authority

Other factors:

  • Technical expertise
  • Level of competition
  • Availability of other candidates

Step 3 – Negotiation

Now that you know your worth and what benefits you want (or know the company can offer) – it’s time to negotiate!

  • Have your salary rage ready and the reasons why you deserve the compensation you request
  • Be specific with what money you want. Avoid vague statements like, “I am looking for a little more money.” Or “Can you move on this salary?” Instead say something like, “I would be more comfortable with an initial salary of $55,000.”
  • Express your interest and enthusiasm for the role and company before you talk money – even in the negotiation stage
  • Speak confidently – practice ahead of time with a friend or family member
  • Be clear about what you want – don’t be deceptive – employers appreciate assertiveness, honesty and clarity
  • Focus on the positive – rather than, “No, that won’t work for me,” try “I would be comfortable with…”
  • Avoid the word “Sorry” – apologizing by saying “Sorry” could signal that you are willing to accept the company’s initial offer or back down
  • State what you bring to the company – speak in terms of results in the past, if possible. It’s what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you!
  • Focus on the company’s needs
  • Remember to create a win-win situation. Negotiating is a two-way process, meaning you and the employer may both need to make compromises. The employer should not feel like they are leaving everything on the table, nor should you
  • Be flexible. Counteroffers are often made. Depending on the company, some areas may be negotiable and others may not. For example, unionized companies may not have a lot of room for negotiating and small companies may not have a lot of extra cash – consider these factors when negotiating
  • What are the alternatives? If a company cannot meet your wage requirements, you can ask for a wage review at probation – when the wage would then raise to what you originally wanted (provided you meet your probation requirements)
  • Remember the tangible and non-tangible benefits when negotiating. For example, there may be room to negotiating working from home (a benefit to you, but not a cost to the employer. In fact, the employer can save on not needing to provide you a work space). Non-tangibles might help make up for salary gaps.

Step 4: The offer is made

  • Thank the employer for the offer
  • Stress your interest in the company and role again
  • Request time to think about the offer and discuss with your partner/family etc. Asking for 24 to 48 hours is not unreasonable
  • Decide if you want to counteroffer again

Step 5: Wrapping it up

Once an offer has been accepted…

  • Ask for everything in writing

Whether your offer is for a contract, temporary work or a permanent position – get it in writing. Ask for all the terms to be sent in a letter of intent, employment contract or offer letter. This includes: length of contract (if applicable), wages, benefits and any other compensation (bonuses).

With preparation, knowing your worth and communicating clearly, salary negotiating could bring you more than you ever hoped for. Give it a try!

Still waiting for that dream job offer to come along? A career coach can help you get there. 

(Originaly posted on Noomii Career Blog)


Opening the Door with Informational Interviews

An informational interview is a totally different breed than an employment interview. How? Well, when asking for an informational interview you are doing so from a place of research. Conducting an informational interview isn’t about getting a job; it is about gathering information.

Informational interviews provide valuable information about potential industries, companies and their culture, the type of work they do, potential positions where your skill set might fit and the education and qualifications that various positions require. It is your opportunity to ask the questions!

Conducting informational interviews is a great way to transition into another career. When I decided I wanted to make a change from employment counseling to learning and development I did all kinds of informational interviews. How was this helpful? I learned what qualifications companies were looking for, how they did their hiring and what the company structure was like, among other things.

Even more useful, I was able to meet face-to-face with people in my desired field. Making these connections and adding to my network was incredibly valuable and I also got a feel for the company environment. By conducting in-person informational interviews at the company location, I had the opportunity to see employees at work. By going in, I was able to check out their faces and the environment and see if people are generally happy at their jobs, bored out of their minds or couldn’t wait until the end of the day. This is insight that can’t be found on a company website, from a job boards or job websites.

Why would someone be open to doing an info interview with you? Check out for more on why most people will give you their time and how to get started.

How to land informational interviews

Use your network

One of the keys to obtaining an informational interview is to contact someone who does the type of work you might want to do. Having their name so you can address them directly will help. LinkedIn is also a great way to get an introduction and so is cold calling. Use your personal network as well to get to the contacts you need.

Develop a phone or email script

The script should contain:

  1. A short sentence or two about your background and experience
  2. A request for a meeting
  3. The amount of time you require. Fifteen minutes is a good amount of time to ask for. The time is key because when people get requests for meetings they may say they don’t have the time, thinking it is going to take an hour. By clearly stating you want 15 minutes – the same amount as a coffee break, folks are more open to meeting with you.

Here’s an example of a cold calling script my client Debbie* used. “Hi, my name is Debbie Clover. I am a recent graduate from UBC and am doing some research into where my skills and qualifications might fit. Would you have 15 minutes to meet with me and discuss your company and role? When might be better this week or next”

Each time Debbie used this script she was granted an informational interview.

Persistence pays

Persistence pays off and so does timing. If you meet with resistance when asking for an informational interview ask if you can call again at a better time. Then ensure you record the time and date to follow up and do so!

Meeting in person is preferred, but in the event your contact cannot do this, be ready to conduct the interview over the phone.

Make sure to ask this question

Develop a list of questions to ask at the interview. One of the best questions to ask at the end of the interview is, “Can you recommend someone else I might talk to.” And when they do, “Can I use your name when I contact them.” This expands your network and provides another person to do an informational interview with. Plus you now have a warm call to make that will open the doors to more informational interviews!

So I got the informational interview…. Now what?

Although this isn’t an employment interview you want to treat it as an interview and take the meeting seriously. Here’s a checklist to follow:

  • Dress appropriately – that means professionally. When in doubt, dress one step above what people in this type of industry/work wear. Avoid too much cologne/perfume or make-up. Don’t chew gum!
  • Develop a list of questions to ask; Check the company website prior to developing your questions to avoid asking anything that is on the company website.
  • Bring a folder or briefcase, containing your questions, a notepad and pen and your resume (only bring out the resume if it is requested, as this is an information interview)
  • Check out where you are going ahead of time so you know how to get there and how long it will take to travel.
  • Arrive a few minutes early (not more than 10 minutes)
  • Avoid chewing gum and turn off your cell phone before the meeting
  • If you have business cards bring them as well and leave one with your contact
  • Remember to smile and be positive!
  • Thank the person for their time at the end of the interview
  • Beware of the time so at the 15 minute mark you mention you will wrap up; schedule yourself for extra time in case the person wants to have more discussion–which is often the case–or offers you a tour

Follow Up

Part of making a great impression is by doing a follow-up. Send a written thank you card after the interview and then check in on a regular basis with your new contact. That way if an opening becomes available down the road you will be one of the first people they will contact.

*Names have been changed to protect client confidentiality

(Originally posted to Noomii Career Blog)


Welcome to My Blog! Introducing My Family…


Hello everyone, my name is Mary Kruger and my company is called MLK Coaching. This is my first effort at writing a blog, so don’t judge too harshly! Who am I? Well, first and foremost I’m a mother, a mom to the core. In the picture is one of my babies, Leah. Ok, Leah is a grown and married women now, but I will always think of her and her sister, Jessica as my babies. Leah lives in Maine, US with her husband, Jon, on a sailboat named Brio. You can check out Leah’s blog at to see what she is up to. Leah bought her sailboat in Mexico and she and Jon sailed Brio through the Panama Canal, up the Inter Coastal Waterway to Maine. Sailing is in Leah’s blood as she has been on a sailboat in one way or another since she was 18 months old.

Leah and Dave

Next to Leah is my husband of 33-1/2 years Dave. Would you believe Dave and I met “cruising”. For those of you who have seen American Grafitti – I know I’m dating myself, cruising is where people go up and down the main drag (road) of a town Fri/Sat nights, looking to connect with guys/gals. Yup that’s how I met Dave at the tender age of 16. We started dating soon after meeting in Vernon, and the rest well is history. Together we have shared a lot of ups and downs including sailing around the world in our 41′ sailboat Synchronicity, the death of our second child at birth, Julie, and the injury of our third child Jessica. Together we are stronger from life’s challenges and have learned to lean on each other when things get rough. I am very grateful for this man and his strength and commitment to our family and I.

Jess Playing Rugby AKA Murderball

Jessica is the baby of the family, though at 23 she is definitely her own woman. If you read my website you will know that Jess became a quadriplegic after a tragic accident two weeks after her 15th birthday. Jess has rose from this into an independent woman, an amazing athlete, and a baker. Jess is on the BC Wheelchair Rugby team and trains daily. She is one of only a handful of woman that play rugby in this mix-gender sport. Check out her cakes at Jess now lives on her own and speaks for both WorkSafe BC and the Rick Hansen Foundation inspiring others. More on that transition for me later.

So on this Valentine’s Day I want to reach out to my family and say I love you, each and everyone one of you, and am proud and in awe of each of you and what you have accomplished in your lives so far. Family is everything to me and I wouldn’t have the life I do if it wasn’t for each of you.

Wishing everyone a very Happy Valentine’s Day!