Blog Career hiring interviewing job interviewing job search Job Search Advice Roanoke Job Search Roanoke Resume Writer

This Throwback Tool will help you ace the Job Interview



Years ago when I was interviewing for a broadcast news management position I brought along a Franklin Planner, which I took with me everywhere. Back then, it was an effective way to keep track of notes, appointments, and contact information, prioritize tasks, and get more done. Today we use apps for that.

At the start of that job interview, I asked if I could take notes. After getting the nod, I pulled out my planner and wrote down those things I wanted to remember. I also added questions I wanted to ask when the time for questions came up. The hiring manager was deeply interested in the planner itself and started asking me questions about it. I gave a brief description of how it kept my notes neatly organized and in one place. That interview started on the right note and turned into a job offer.

As technology progressed I gave up the Franklin Planner, but I often look back at how well it worked, especially when it involved a job search. There are attorneys who use black binders for keeping track of their case loads. That way they can walk right into the meeting, with pertinent information at their fingertips, along with a place to put additional notes about the case. The black binder is a great tool that will also work well in your job search.

Before you start grumbling that an app is easier solution, I can assure you that old school pen and paper is more effective when you’re face-to-face in an interview. The tabs make information faster and easier to access. Plus, you’ll be expected to turn off your phone for a couple of reasons. One, you don’t want any disruptions during such an important meeting. Two, it respects the privacy of the meeting. In other words, “please turn off all recording devices.”

To get started, obtain a one-inch black loose-leaf binder to organize all notes regarding the company and the job you applied for. Not only will it help you prepare for the meeting, it will keep you focused and organized during the interview, reduce stress, and increase your confidence. Moreover, it will show the interviewer you’ve done your homework and are prepared for your next role.

Remember, this binder is for your use. Think of it like a patient’s medical history that a doctor refers to in the exam room. Or a CRM file for notes account representatives refer to when they call on a client. It’s not a “leave behind” although you should bring along some “one sheets” about how you’re perfectly matched to the job. The sell sheet or “leave behind” can be a bio, a thumb drive, a list of references, a calling card, or anything else you may be asked to bring with you. These should not have holes punched in them. Use a pocket or add a plastic sleeve to the binder.

Within the binder, put together TABBED sections so you can easily reference the material during your job interview. Your pages will need to be 3-hole punched, with certain restrictions below. Here is a suggested list of tabbed section headers and what to include:


Include a map print out with step-by-step instructions and estimated time for your arrival. If you have an email confirming a place and time of the interview, print it out and include it, just in case there is any confusion. It also provides proof if there’s a scheduling snafu. You can present it to the receptionist. Jot down who the interview is with as well as contact information. Should technology fail, you have instant backup.

Application Materials

Print out the vacancy announcement for position you applied for. You’ll be able to refer to it during the job interview. Include the cover letter that accompanied the resume, and if you filled out an online application, print that out as well.

Company Website

Peruse the company website and social media accounts. Print out and highlight pertinent information such as:

  • The company’s profile or overview
  • The company’s core values or mission statement
  • Profiles and photos of the key officers and the people interviewing you. Note: If this information isn’t on the company website, you can usually find it on a Linkedin profile. The photos will help you remember names on panel interviews.
  • The company’s customer base
  • Current and future projects
  • Any past acquisitions or mergers
  • Annual sales projections
  • Recent media articles about expansion, new projects, or anything else of value


Include a few blank pages so you can take notes. Don’t forget to bring two pens. Just in case one loses ink.

S.T.A.R. Stories

The S.T.A.R. acronym stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. Type up a list of situations, tasks (or challenges) you were faced with to include in this section of your notebook. What action did you take and what were the results of those actions. You can put one on each page or use a dividing line so you can easily find the information.

Refer to this section when asked the dreaded question, “tell me about a time when you had to appease an angry customer,” – or – “Tell me about a time when things didn’t go as planned. How did you handle it?”  

You’ll gain a lot of confidence having these reminder notes at your fingertips.


Hiring managers expect you to ask questions. While you’re putting together your notebook, you’ll start forming your own questions. Bring a list along, and check them off as the interviewer answers them during your conversation.


Have several clean copies on nice paper without hole punches or staples. This is where a plastic sleeve will come in handy. You never know how many extra people will be called in to talk to you. Or if the online copy doesn’t look as nice as you intended due to compatibility issues or boring white paper.


Make sure your letterhead and contact information match your resume and cover letter as well as the paper. No holes punched.

Sell Sheet/Leave Behind

This can include a bio, or a list of what you bring to the table that tells why your qualifications closely match the company requirements. This would be the only document I would recommend having a photo on, so they can quickly remember you against all those other people they interviewed.

Pockets or Sleeves

Chances are you’ll get a copy of the job description (you should ask for it). You should also get business cards from everyone who interviewed you so you can follow up with thank you notes. This keeps it all neatly in one place for faster response.

How to use it

When you arrive at the interview, pull out a pen and your black binder and ask if you can take notes. Start jotting down information. When the interviewer begins asking questions about what you know about the company, or what you think of their website, you can quickly refer to the tabbed sections and answer with confidence. Also, when they ask if you have any questions, you can flip to that section and start asking away.

Why it Works

The interviewer will notice that you are highly organized, care about their time, and are eager to represent yourself and their company well. This alone will help you stand out among all the other candidates.

In some instances, the interviewer may try to take a peek into the black binder. As I stated before, the binder is for your use to refer to during the interview. It is not intended or required to be given to the person interviewing you.

Finally, keep this documentation secure. It contains a lot of private information that can aid in identity theft. On a positive note, it’s not hack-able or prone to viruses.

Blog Career digital dirt employee surveillance Facebook Job Search Advice Privacy Uncategorized

Don’t air Your Dirty Laundry on Social Media

Tonight I watched in disbelief as a social media page in my hometown blew up with accusations against a corporate restaurant that specializes in “all you can eat” buffet style cuisine. Apparently a woman took her daughter out for her birthday along with her mother and got bad service. She posted photos, and videos online because her mother was accused by the waitress of putting food in her purse. At buffet restaurants, you can’t take home the leftovers. The manager also approached the table and the woman started recording the encounter on her phone.

She posted the video on a Community Facebook page with 35,000 followers, where she called out the waitress and manager by name. Also included was a very long-winded story with all the sordid details. She was pissed off that her mother was accused of theft and called 911. I’m sure any of us would be angry to be falsely accused of theft, although calling 911 is a bit over the top since 911 is supposed to be used for life and death emergencies. But that’s not the issue here. I’m cringing over the fact she immediately went public on Facebook and it went viral, forcing the company to issue a statement. According to the thread, there may even be a lawsuit.

Our local TV station picked up the story, and now the incident will live for a very long time on page one of Google, easily searchable to a future employer. Many of the followers on the Facebook page are demanding that the manager and waitress be fired. Maybe they should. I don’t know, I wasn’t there and I don’t work with them or eat at their restaurant.

What I do know is the manager, the named waitress, AND the woman who decided to go public over this slight will probably be looking for a job in the future. It may not be right away, but at one time or another, we’re in the job market. And any astute HR manager will find this story online during the background check and move on to the next candidate. No one wants drama in the workplace regardless of who was at fault during the incident. It’s a HUGE distraction.

Stop Complaining online
Photo by Omar Prestwich on Unsplash

Don’t Stoop to Conquer.

Mistakes happen. If someone accused me of wrongdoing, the last thing I would do is publicize it for the world to know. Even if I was right. Airing dirty laundry can get very stinky. Now the credibility of the waitress, the manager, and the accuser are all in question. When you get in a pissing match with a skunk, you all smell bad.

Social media has become the judge and jury of these arguments, and frankly, no one wins. Not the accuser. Not the company. Not the employees. The problem should have been handled better, that’s for sure. But making these situations public can negatively impact one’s career. The accuser will learn that the hard way.

Before you post your drama online, look far into the future. Would you want this to affect your ability to find a good job?

A scorned woman wants revenge. A strong woman moves on. How one handles them-self in these situations speaks volumes.

Blog Career Job Search Advice Networking

Has Your Network Deserted You?

Logo-rIf you were gainfully employed in the 1990s through 2 years ago, chances are you built up a fine network for yourself while achieving great success.

But now that the recession is here, would you be able to call upon your network for help? Do you feel deserted?  If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to take a closer look at why.

1.  Were you nice to your co-workers or did you bully them?
2.  Were you willing to share your knowledge or did you keep your cards close to your vest?
3.  Did you complain about people behind their back, or the company you worked for?
4.  Did you give credit where credit was due?
5.  Did you cause problems at the office?

Whatever the case, if your phone isn’t ringing off the hook for job interviews, you need a network and you need one fast if you’re going to survive in this economy.

First I would examine what you did in your past that might cause your network to flee. If you honestly don’t know, maybe it’s time you asked. Approach a former co-worker or supervisor and ask them to be candid about what you were like to work with. Acknowledge and thank them in writing for their point of view.

Forgive yourself. We all do stupid things. From there you can either reapproach former co-workers  and ask forgiveness, or start fresh with a new network. With this group you can try out what you learned from your past “teachable moments” and do all you can to help others be successful.

Career Freelancing gaps in resume hiring job jumping niche jobs Update Your Resume Month

What “Scrappers” bring to the workplace

Yesterday I saw a Ted Talk that was eye-opening. Regina Hartley, works in HR Management at UPS, and said she prefers to consider the “scrapper” over the “silver spoon” because these people have faced adversity and are more likely to address problems and solve them. She asserts that the scrapper’s secret weapon is passion and purpose.

After watching this Ted Talk, I tallied up the number of jobs I’ve held. I stopped at 80, and this did not include the number of temp jobs I held for staffing agencies  where I went on a lot of assignments over a few years. I would consider myself a “super scrapper.”

Blog Career Job Search Advice resume writing Update Your Resume Month

Scan the Headlines

It’s what we do.

Every day.

Whether it’s a Facebook news-feed or a newspaper, headlines help decide what we want to spend our time reading, or whether we should move on to another topic of interest.

With resumes, it’s no different. Recruiters need to know within mere seconds who you are and what you have to offer. In the news business it’s important that you don’t bury the lead. And it’s no different in the job search.

Think about it. If newspaper or magazine articles didn’t have a snappy, interesting headline, would you read that publication cover-to-cover in search of topics that interest you? Probably not.

So don’t leave your headline area blank. That’s the very first thing an employer will notice. Hint, it’s where the “objective” used to go. But don’t make it boring and vague either.

Here’s an example of a resume headline:

Multi-certified Job Search Consultant and Professional Resume Writer

Now the hiring director quickly knows what you’re all about, and whether they want to read further. It also has all the necessary keywords to get beyond applicant tracking systems.

With resumes, less is more. Remember that the next time you’re scanning a news headline or looking for a new job.


Blog Career Job Search Advice Resume Service

Experience Matters

1st Rate Resumes LogoIn any career, it takes time to get up to speed to learn your craft. Years ago, when I first moved to a new town in Arizona, my mom took me to a new dentist. He was right out of dental school and reasonably priced. But even at 13 years old, I noticed he took a long time scouting out my mouth, and it kind of made me nervous. Through the years he became more skilled as he gained experience. Just as I did as a professional resume writer.

Most people don’t think twice about what might be missing, and can end up derailing the job search on such a critical document when they write it themselves. The average career professional changes jobs about once every 3 to 5 years. If your dentist only took in one patient every 3 to 5 years, would you want it to be you? How about your surgeon? Or plumber? Professionals do the job, day in and day out, and it takes years of practice to be considered an expert. Professionals are better, faster, and achieve results for far less than you can do it your self. To put it in perspective, the DIY resume vs. the Professional Resume is like a junior varsity football player going up against someone in the NFL.

If your DIY resume isn’t producing results, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve been writing resumes for 14 years. We’ve earned the certifications, been recognized with awards, and have become leaders in our industry. Call us for a free consultation. 540-339-9461, or contact us through our online web form. Experience matters. In your career, and ours.

Blog Career Job Search Advice resume resume writing Roanoke Resume Writer Update Your Resume Month

Is Your Resume 1st Rate, or Out of Date?

It’s Update Your Resume Month again, and a reminder to anyone who writes their own: There have been changes over the past several years that can now bring your job search to a screeching halt; even if that resume worked wonders in the past. Here are five simple tips to get noticed, by recruiters and keyword scanners.

1. Dates of Employment: The object of your resume is to get the reader to quickly understand what you have to offer. They will also look at how long you’ve spent with your previous employers. Don’t make it a math assignment. First tell them in the summary you have 5+ or 10+ years of experience. The vacancy announcement will always stipulate the number of years of experience, so don’t make them go through every job with a calculator. They’ll burn through that 15 second scan in no time. Also, consider what’s easier for the brain to quickly comprehend. Is it Sep 2001 – Nov 2005 or 09/2001 – 11/2005? Numbers all mashed together take more time to translate to the reader than alphabet letters. Don’t spell out the whole month either. The first 3 letters save space and are still easily understood by humans and applicant tracking software.

2. Too wordy: The reality is we are nation of scanners rather than readers. When there’s too much text to wade through, the reader will give up and slide past all of it. Is it any wonder we see advertisements for pharmaceutical products in major publications with few words and a photo, followed by the small print on the following page listing all of the contraindications? Few people read that. Keep it simple. The rule of thumb is paragraphs should be kept to no more than 5 lines. Bullet pointed lists should not exceed 9 in a row if you want people to read it.

3. Logos, fancy fonts and graphs: Pictures can and do tell a lot, but with resumes keep in mind that automated scanners can’t see them. Also choose fonts wisely. Script, underlines, or any style that allows the letters to touch one another can turn your work or art into garbage characters.

4. SMALL CAP FONT: This particular font is usually used for names and sub headers, and mostly by professional resume writers. We used it heavily about 10 years ago. The only problem is it can’t be read by applicant tracking software. That means you may be submitting a really nice looking resume with no name at the top.

5. Use Numerals: Unless you’re applying for  job as the Editor of a magazine, most recruiters don’t care if you spell out the number seven (considered the most correct) or use the numeral 7. But which one just jumped out at you? Numbers matter and they save space. So feel free to break this rule depending on your occupation.

Blog Career hiring Job job search Relocation retirement Work

Work Camping from an RV

Creative Writing Type A PrintAccording to NBC News more and more people are buying RVs. Their “On the Road Again” story points out that RV purchases are a sign that the economy is rebounding because RVs typically been a discretionary purchase. In other words, retirees and those with deep pockets could afford to buy them and drive them. With gas at $4 a gallon, and those rigs getting 12 MPG average, many find it’s cheaper to drive a car and stay in hotels rather than maintain an RV, when you consider how much use they get, insurance, registration, upkeep, and of course rent at campgrounds if you’re not boon docking.

But over at NPR, the rise of RV Sales and their use paints a more dismal picture. The mid-day program “Here and Now” highlighted the plight of those who can’t afford to retire. These people are  living in RVs and chasing jobs all over the nation. Did you know there is an underground workforce that travels from place to place following hiring booms? Amazon loves RV Workampers and hires a lot of them every winter in Nevada at their distribution site during the busy holiday shopping season. The fact that workers show up with their own housing, and leave when the surge is over is a benefit to companies. As for the workers, maybe not so much. These are not full-time jobs with benefits. And because workers cross state lines, there’s the health insurance issue they have to deal with.

There are many people who dream of a life on the road. A way to see the country, pick up some work along the way, and live on their own terms. The website “Cheap RV Living” offers a glimpse on what it’s like to live in an RV and find work across the country. And over at they chastise NPR’s Here and Now for only presenting one side of the story in their blog: “Not all Workampers are Old, Broke, and Destitute.”

Of course, you don’t have to pick up minimum wage jobs if you’re working out of an RV. If you’re an expert, consultant, writer, or do outside sales, you can also make a decent living from the road. It all depends on how good you are with networking, and finding temporary work in your field. Thankfully there is a network of like-minded people to offer up advice.


Blog Career Job Search Advice LinkedIn Profile

Why you need a Custom URL for your Linkedin Profile

Logo-rIf you’re actively seeking work, and you’re confident that your Linkedin profile is up to par, great! That’s a first step. Your second step is to include a link to your Linkedin profile on your resume so that recruiters can easily find it. Yes, they will search Linkedin in they’re are interested in finding out more about you. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to find someone on Linkedin, especially when they have a common name, so make it EASY to be found. That’s the whole point of Linkedin.

Case in point, if you’re ever looking for me on Linkedin, you’re going to have to wade through a lot people named Susan Geary before you’re sure I’m the person you are seeking. I tend to move around a lot, so location won’t help you. That’s why you should help people locate your profile. In my case, SusanGeary was already taken when I went to sign up for my custom url. So I chose Not only do I list it on my email signature, but also on my business cards. Few people will  transcribe all those awful numbers and dashes that Linkedin assigns to you when you first set up your account. I’ve seen job seekers list the standard URL on a business card and not only does it look awful and unprofessional, it’s unnecessary. Linkedin allows you to change your URL to something shorter and easier to read, like your name! Plus it’s FREE!

Changing your Linkedin custom url is easy, just follow these steps:

1. Sign into your account and position your cursor over “Profile” at the top of your home page. Select “Edit Profile.”

2. Under your profile picture, click “Edit” next to the URL.

3. In the “Your Public Profile” URL box in the bottom right, select “customize your public profile URL.”

4. Type in the last part of your new custom URL in the text box. I recommend it be your name, or first initial with a last name. If you have a very common name, like Mark Kelly, then you’ll need to be creative. Perhaps something like “MarkKellyMBA” or “MKellySalesDirector”

Note that Linkedin will make all the letters in lower case, but they are not case sensitive. Therefore, on your marketing materials, such as your resume and business cards, I recommend you use CamelCase so that it’s easier for everyone else to read. You will not be allowed to use spaces, symbols, or special characters, but as I’ve demonstrated with my business name, you can use numerals.

And when it comes to listing it on your resume and business cards, keep it simple. You don’t need the http or even the www. To save space, just write

Your custom Linkedin URL listed in CamelCase format, will not only show you know your way around social media applications, you’ll also demonstrate you know a few marketing tips that even the most experienced graphic designers fail to use.



Blog Career digital dirt employee surveillance Facebook hiring Job Search Advice Privacy Uncategorized

Don’t Let Facebook Ruin Your Career

Last week I was at a trade show in Las Vegas chatting with some fellow vendors about Facebook. The guy I was talking to at our booth “doesn’t do Facebook” and I understand why. I mentioned that someone in my list of Facebook Friends had been going through a public meltdown, describing intimate details of her broken marriage and fighting with her husband on her page. I had told this person the last time she did it to knock it off. Facebook is not your diary, and it could jeopardize your career. My co-worker at the trade show, a magazine publisher was listening in but had no comment.

A few hours later, the publisher I was working with asked me if I would like to sell advertising for her online magazine, which I had to decline because as a journalist, I tend to keep those things separate. Plus, it was a kids’ magazine, a target demo I know little about. That being said, I started to tell her about someone I knew who would be perfect. “This woman could sell sand at the beach,” I said, and I mentioned she had experience in broadcast advertising and had several kids of her own. She was looking for a work from home job. The magazine publisher was interested, but then I had to tell her the God’s honest truth. The person I was speaking about was the same person I spoke of earlier who was trashing her estranged husband all over Facebook. “No thanks,” said the publisher. “It sounds as if she has no boundaries. But thanks anyway.”

So there you have it. Just because you have a lot of friends on Facebook, and you think your page is private, it really isn’t. And if there’s one particular thing I learned at this convention is that “we all have a brand, whether we want one or not.” Don’t let your brand be tarnished by a foolish rant on Facebook. Every day is your job interview, and you have no idea how many opportunities are wasted because or your own self-published comments.