5 Gutsy Things You Should Flesh Out When Interviewing (Guest Post)

5 Gutsy things to check when interviewing
Photo: Petri Damstén

Everyone has jitters when they go for a job interview, whether it’s the first interview or several into the process. It’s really hard to tell much about the culture of a company in the first interview, especially since their #1 job is to sell the company to you as a great place to work.

Luckily, you—the applicant—are in control and have chosen the company that you’re interviewing with; so do a little extra research. If there are major glaring issues present immediately, run for the hills! Here are 5 great ways or places to take the pulse of day to day life at the company:

  • Visit the bathroom the employees (and you) would use if you took the job. This will tell you about the environment around you and the type people who you’ll work with. If the bathroom is disgusting, out of paper products, or non-functional, this is a bad sign.
  • Check out the place where everyone eats lunch or takes a break. Notice I didn’t specifically say visit the break room because some people might not ever make it in there for lunch because they only have time to eat a snack at their desk as they keep plugging away. If you are looking for a hard grinding investment firm where the only time people stop working the phones is to swill coffee, then that might not a problem. However, if you’re looking for something more relaxed, you might move on.
  • Learn about why the position is open. Did the previous person quit, and if so, why? Or better yet, is it a new role that was recently created?
  • If the person who interviewed you is not who you would directly report to, ask to speak with them as well. Many people state that they do not leave a job, they leave a boss. If the person that you’d work directly for is the reason the position is open, then consider that as well!
  • Speak with as many people who are in your prospective role—or have been in that role—that you can. Ask about the upward mobility of the position. This will be a good indicator of what your future at the company would be like.

There are always going to be bad days, but not all days will be bad. Learning about how the culture of the company really is and more about the role you’re considering can help you make the decision between 2 similar job offers. And the people that you’d work with can make the job miserable or truly exceptional. These are some gutsy moves, but make the effort, and you’ll most likely end up making better decisions and land a role at a company where you’ll be satisfied enough to stay for a while.

More info along these lines: Ten Unmistakable Signs of a Bad Workplace

About the Author: Michael McCoy is the Community Engagement Specialist for Operation Stand Down Tennessee (OSDTN).  He has served in the Tennessee Army National Guard for 6 years; currently holding the rank of First Lieutenant and Executive Officer of Bravo Troop 1/278th ACR. At OSDTN Michael works with community groups, companies and individuals to provide opportunities to serve Veterans. Michael’s other leadership experience includes time working in small businesses and professional development, and serving on the board for the Nashville Area Junior Chamber of Commerce.

What other gutsy things should someone research when interviewing? Comment in the “Start the Discussion” blank below.


Looking for a new job? Want to get what you want fast? Check out my book, Here Today, Hired Tomorrow (kurtkirton.com/hthtbook), and subscribe to my blog (kurtkirton.com) for free advice on your job search.

7 Priorities You Should Address Immediately After a Layoff

7 Priorities You Should Address Immediately After a Layoff
photo by Ellen November

Chair throwing, keying someone’s car, blowing something up. If you’re laid off, these and many other emotions may run through your head in the first few days. And as satisfying as these may be, it’s always more practical to process through your feelings and get your priorities identified and covered. This can give you peace of mind and a place to start the journey into your next opportunity. Let’s look into some of the top things you can do to start cutting through the cloud of thoughts swirling through your head and begin taking your first steps.

  1. Unemployment Benefits – Finances should be a hot priority. Severance pay or not, if you were separated for a qualifying reason (no misconduct, you didn’t quit, etc.) file immediately for your unemployment benefits.
  2. Budget – Make a temporary budget based off your new income, factoring in income from any investments, rental properties, or side business in addition to your unemployment pay.
  3. Insurance – There’s no “off-the-hook since you’re in transition” with an emergency room visit or expensive diagnosis. So I never recommend just winging it without insurance until your next job. You can try to get on your spouse’s policy, choose a policy on your own (a local broker like Dudley Carter 615-415-4328 or perusing a site like Health Insure can help you with this at no extra cost), or if you’re not married, check healthcare.gov for many options (with the government paying part of your monthly premium in most cases based on your estimated income for the next 12 months). Another option is companies like Cowan Benefits that you can find through the COBRA coverage from your current employer. They can help you find a similar plan usually at a lower cost.
  4. Mental Health – Right out of the gate, you probably feel shocked, unappreciated, angry, etc. It’s a good idea to talk to someone besides your spouse, partner, or best friend about these emotions and work through them in order to “get the chip off your shoulder.” Ask for time with your pastor or a Stephen Minister (Google “Stephen Ministers” + your city to find churches who can get you in touch with one.), and feel free to meet as regularly as you need. Further, you can Google for job search support groups in your area.
  5. Physical Health – Staying fit is not only good for your body but your mind, mood, and attitude as well. Take this opportunity to start exercising regularly (even if it’s just walking for 30 minutes daily). And keep up the good work if you already have a fitness routine.
  6. Career Coach – Establish a relationship with a Career Coach at your local Department of Labor or a recommended life coach. This person can give you valuable advice on your Action Plan, Résumé’, and current insight into all things job search as you begin to have questions.
  7. Elevator Speech – Very soon at a party, family function, mixer, etc., you’ll have to answer the question, “What do you do?” Craft this 30 second schpiel that will cover your background, key things at which you’re successful, and a few top job titles to represent what you’re seeking and help people begin to keep you in mind as they hear of job openings.

Also, check out these 2 helpful videos:

3 Important Things to do to Get Your Unemployment Benefits Started After a Layoff

Job Loss & Staying Obamacare Compliant

Looking for a new job? Want to get what you want fast? Check out my book, Here Today, Hired Tomorrow, and subscribe to my blog (kurtkirton.com) for free advice on your job search.

8 Ways to Perfect People Skills That Will Help You Keep Your Job

people skills at work
photo by Stephen Caissie

You worked so hard to get your new job. Now, in addition to the many details you’re learning in order to be proficient in your position, you should also be mindful of things you can do to help you keep it. Paying attention to the corporate culture and making an effort to fit in is crucial as a new employee. Let’s look at eight things in the realm of people skills you should be mindful of to help you integrate into the new company.

1) Flowcharting – Fitting in and building respect and a good reputation are important early on. One of my former supervisors used to flowchart out the positions and divisions in each company he worked for soon after he began. This initiative can aid your understanding of the company and who you could approach if you have an issue or need beyond the scope of your department. If you’re just not sure how to track this information down, your supervisor may have done this flowcharting already or be able to help you with the process.

2) Internal Networking – Have a brief “elevator speech” for what you do in your position. You can use this as you meet your fellow employees. Starting in your area, meet as many people as you can, even if they’re outside your department or not on your floor (the aforementioned flowchart will help.) This will help you develop good relationships with coworkers and build goodwill. Cultivate a network of relationships with coworkers at many levels. Higher-ups can help give you perspective from a management point of view; those at your level can answer questions and help you become more effective in your work. Avoid spending much time with those you find to be complainers and negative Nellie’s.

3) Excellence and Communication – Communicate clearly with vendors and coworkers alike, and really listen during your training. Show energy, enthusiasm, and excellence in your work, and strive to be visible.

4) Tooting Your Horn – Especially as you near performance appraisal time, find little ways to subtly point out your value and what you’ve accomplished since the last appraisal. Most supervisors are pretty overwhelmed, and it doesn’t hurt to work what you’ve recently accomplished into a conversation. Think about things like great customer feedback, compliments on your work from coworkers and higher-ups, meeting deadlines ahead of schedule, and positive facts or figures like sales achievements or how much you just saved the company.

5) Effective Collaboration – Making valuable contributions to projects can showcase you as a standout collaborator. Big projects need collaborative teams to carry them out. Perfect your persuasion skills, and if you’re not really a detail person, cultivate an eye for detail. Identify the positives and benefits of the thing in question; solicit feedback from friends, colleagues, and coworkers; then match the communication style of those you need to persuade when presenting. For example, if the members of the project team are big picture people, don’t get too deep into details. Use hot button words, lingo, and language they’re familiar with.

Further, think beyond just planning to implementation. While planning is important, employees who can create, revise, administrate, and execute ideas are setting themselves up for recognition and advancement.

6) Teaching Others – Obviously as you move up the ladder at your company, you’ll have picked up a lot of things. Or perhaps you bring to the table quite a bit of valuable knowledge from a long, rich career. Teach, and share what you know. There’s definitely opportunity for this with new employees. Help others gain wisdom, experience, and insight.

7) Avoiding Burnout – Years of service in the same position can sometimes make one stagnant in thinking or lead to frayed attitudes with coworkers or customers. When the phone rings or that next customer approaches you, stay positive and think “opportunity” not “obligation.” Don’t let your attitude get worn down, and be mindful of burnout. If you feel you’re getting burned out (or overloaded) but want to stay in your current position, work with your supervisor to come up with some changes that will make your work more pleasant and manageable. Or you could seek a position in a different department.

8) Being Persistent Not Pesky – The Marketing Director at one record label for which I worked liked my go-get-’em style and called me The Bulldog. In nearly every position, your work and your success rate in meeting deadlines will (unfortunately) depend on input from other people. When you follow up, don’t be such a bulldog that you tick people off or get branded as a nag.

After waiting for a reasonable time, and based on the urgency of the project, you’re your move to remind those who are holding you up. A good sequence of touch points is: request, log, remind by email, then finally—if need be—call or drop by the lagger’s office.

My Stephen Minister gave me some wise advice once, “Attitude and mood trump ability every time.” In other words, keeping your interactions and responses pleasant and professional is more important than mowing people down to meet deadlines to avoid anyone thinking you’re incompetent. And I’ve found that to be true most of the time.

What tips would you give others as far as people skills to develop that will help them fit in and keep their jobs?


Looking for a new job? Want to get what you want fast? Check out my book, Here Today, Hired Tomorrow, and subscribe to my blog (kurtkirton.com) for free advice on your job search.