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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Think Twice

Dear Sue: I read with interest the letter from the corporate executive who was struggling with his job search. I can tell you with confidence that he is simply over selling himself.

As a corporate recruiter, I work with executive level positions on a daily basis. A senior level job interview should be viewed as a discovery opportunity. I've seen too many candidates tell you what they think you want to hear without ever identifying the pains or needs of the organization. The person who wrote to you has probably been on so many interviews that he assumes he has heard it all and thinks that he has a perfect answer for every question. In reality, he may be shooting himself in the foot by coming off as too slick and a "know it all."

What he needs to do is bite his tongue even when he thinks he has the perfect response and quietly listen and learn. Once everyone is finished with the interview dialog, then he can eloquently present his qualifications based on the companies needs. It reminds me of the saying, "think twice, talk once."

-- Recruiter

Sue Says: I receive more questions surrounding the issue of interviews and job-hunting than any other topic. Your comments make sense and you've provided valuable advice for anyone interviewing at any level. Another saying comes to mind -- "You've got two ears and one mouth, use them proportionately."

Dear Sue: I am responding to the question from the reader who wondered how to explain her unsatisfactory work history due to the abusive marriage she was in at the time. You said she should avoid providing too much detail and cite some "personal issues."

I think you are way off the mark. It is likely the interviewer will jump to his or her own conclusions about the problems, and assume that she was addicted to drugs, alcohol or that she is mentally unstable.

I think she should say "I feel embarrassed even though I know I shouldn't, but I was in abusive marriage that affected my work performance. But it is behind me now and I am anxious to enjoy work again without those negative distractions. I think I could do this job very well."

-- Second opinion

Sue Says: The woman who wrote to me said that she didn't want to address the abuse issue, which is why I made the suggestion she cite "personal issues." However, you are right -- the assumptions made by her vagueness could affect her negatively.

I like your suggestion, and will add to it -- rather than saying, "I (italic) think I could do this job very well,," she should say "I (italic) know I can do this job very well." Thanks for taking the time to write.

Dear Sue: I was interested in the comments from the CEO who complained about "cookie-cutter resumes." It sounds as though he wants to be entertained more than informed. How are the applicants supposed to know what he wants? For all they know, the hiring official may hate creative, cutesy resumes and prefer standardized formats. I would think that someone who looks at a large number of resumes would want them in some sort of standard format to make it easier to quickly scan for essential and critical qualities.

Many people resort to arbitrary, irrational criteria in order to eliminate the majority of resumes quickly from consideration (e.g., a format they don't like, too short, too long, etc.). Consequently, applicants are forced to play a deadly guessing game when it comes to the type of resume they submit.

If this CEO wants creative resumes then he should say so in the ad. I think he was just too lazy to read through all the resumes that were submitted. Just think of all the potentially good employees he passed up by looking for entertainment rather than information. I'm glad I'm not working for that CEO.

-- Grateful

Sue Says: Thanks for writing!

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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