Learning from the Best HR Bloggers

Posted on October 30th, by Judith Lindenberger in Personal & Professional Development. 1 Comment

Editor’s Note: Several of our Women of HR contributors also host their own blogs.  Today our writer Judy Lindenberger talks about her own quest to continue to improve her blog and blogging skills.

If you search the internet for the best HR blogs, two that make the top of every list are Evil HR Lady and HR Bartender.

In her blog, Suzanne Lucas, otherwise known as the Evil HR Lady, answers questions, posts tips, and has garnered a large following.

Sharlyn Lauby, creator of HR Bartender, cleverly compares herself to a bartender – “that friendly face who’s there when you need them” – and blogs about human resources and social media, as well as food and drink.

Because I want to attract more readers to my blog, Open Door HR, I contacted Suzanne and Sharlyn to ask them a few questions about how to be a more successful blogger.

1.  When did you start your blog?

Suzanne – I started my blog way back in August 2006. It was completely anonymous back then because I was employed at a very large pharmaceutical company and I didn’t think the people there would take kindly to my blogging.

Sharlyn – I began blogging in 2008 after my husband, who is a marketing professional, starting nagging me about writing an electronic newsletter. As a busy professional, I know what often happens with newsletters – we have every intention of reading it but time gets away from us and the newsletter is deleted. So over dinner one night, I suggested starting a blog.

That being said, I should clarify. We do have an electronic newsletter but now with the blog we’ve really defined what each accomplishes. Every communication medium does not have to do the same thing.

Me – I started my blog in 2010 when my website designer told me that it was one of the newest, best ways to market my business. I love writing so it was a fun task to take on.

In 2012, I was listed as one of the Top 25 Women HR Blogs and my blog was described “taking a “more professional, serious approach to Human Resources (where) visitors can scroll through … a broad range of topics.” That description is accurate and complimentary and I’d also like my readers to think, “Ahhhh …. I’m finally here and I can get my questions answered and she’s going to understand!”

2.  What is your goal for the blog and how have your goals changed over the years?

Suzanne – My goal, at the beginning, was to have fun. I always wanted to be an advice columnist, and then suddenly, I was one! Cool. My goals have changed over the years. For a long time it’s been financial. You’ll notice I’ve done a shift from full articles on the blog to links to articles posted elsewhere. Why? Because other people pay me. To be honest, I’m kind of unhappy with that situation right now, so my goals are evolving. I still want to make money, but I may move back to my own platform and see what I can accomplish alone. But, my overall goal has always been to help other people. That’s why I went into HR in the first place–I like people. I want them to succeed. I want bad managers to go away. I want bad policies to go away. I want more brownies in meetings. :)

Sharlyn – Great question. I originally started HR Bartender to be a marketing tool for my consulting firm, ITM Group. And while I write about our business (being leadership and management training), it’s not exclusively focused in that area.

Over time, HR Bartender has become a place for me to talk about human resources and share information. I get a lot of reader questions and really enjoy answering them in the “Ask HR Bartender” series.

Me – My goals have always been to drive more readers to my company website, www.lindenbergergroup.com, to share best practices, to start interesting dialogues, and to have a creative outlet. Human Resources lets you view first-hand the some of the craziness of the human race so I also want to have fun with my readers!

3.  What do you attribute to the success of your blog?

Suzanne – Consistency, humor, and the ability to explain things to non-experts. This is a problem in all fields–we all get so wrapped up in our own lingo and with our own knowledge that we forget that not everyone knows everything we know. Sometimes I think, “How on earth can you not know that FMLA is only 12 weeks!” but then I remember that this person has probably never dealt with FMLA before, so why on earth should they know?

Sharlyn – I try to include a takeaway in every post. I’m asking people to take a few moments of their day to read HR Bartender. The least I can do is provide a takeaway.

Me – I am not sure I would say that my blog is a success right now. I define success as having a large number of loyal readers, and lots of new readers, who “Like” and share my posts, relay their experiences, ask me questions, and laugh together.

4.  As a relatively new blogger in the HR space, what do you recommend that I do to increase my readership?

Suzanne – Lots of links to evilhrlady.org, of course! But seriously, write things of interest, and keep your own voice. Don’t try to copy other bloggers, do what works for you. Post often and on a schedule, and make the most of social media.

Sharlyn – IMHO, here are 3 things every blogger should do:

-Market your blog. I wish I could say that writing is enough, but it’s not. If you’re serious about blogging, you have to put together a plan to market your blog.

-Write regularly. When I first started blogging, I wrote one day a week. Then when I knew I could handle two days, I added another post to the schedule. I believe part of success is publishing regularly. Readers want to feel like they are getting to know a blogger. You can’t do that if you publish once every four months.

-Read other blogs. Adding to my last point, if you’re having trouble finding topics to write about, start reading other blogs. There are tons of lists available about HR and business blogs to read. Find the ones you like and use them as creative inspiration.

Me – I’ve gotten some great advice from these two smart, funny women who are masters at blogging in the HR space. Thank you Suzanne and Sharlyn! My takeaways? I’ll keep working on posts that let my readers know more about meThe Lindenberger Group, and what’s new in HR. And I’ll try really hard to do it on a regular schedule!

Photo Credit

About the author: Judy Lindenberger is the President of The Lindenberger Group, an award-winning human resources consulting firm, located near Princeton, NJ. They are experts in career coaching, customized training workshops, online training programs, mentoring, 360-degree assessment and feedback, HR audits, employee handbooks, and more. Learn more about them at www.lindenbergergroup.com.

Business Success Depends on Line Managers

Posted on June 10th, by Judith Lindenberger in Business and Workplace. No Comments

According to research on what’s new in HR for 2014, “business success depends on line managers” (Mercer). Corporate executives agree. A paper published in 2006 by The Economist Intelligence Unit reports: “Thirty-five percent of executives in companies with revenues of over $1 billion spend 30 – 30% of their time on people management and another 35% spend 20% of their time on people management. In his autobiography, Jack!, former General Electric CEO, Jack Welch, wrote that he spent half of his time developing his people.

In my experience, here is a short list of strategies that I have used to develop line managers:

  • Identify training needs
  • Create targeted training workshops that are interactive, include real-life case studies and role plays, and last just an hour or two
  • Conclude training workshops by asking participants what they learned
  • Start subsequent workshops by asking participants how they applied their learning
  • Facilitate weekly or bi-monthly peer coaching sessions
  • Create job rotations, apprenticeships, internships and mentoring programs
  • Provide 360 degree assessment and feedback
  • Offer executive coaching
  • Develop job aids such as checklists, tip sheets, wallet cards and flow charts
  • Provide a library of podcasts, books, educational videos and online training
  • Give leaders down time to think, plan and be creative
  • Encourage leaders to do volunteer work

I’m curious. What strategies do you use to develop line managers that are the most effective?


Photo Credit

About the author: Judy Lindenberger is the President of The Lindenberger Group, an award-winning human resources consulting firm, located near Princeton, NJ. They are experts in career coaching, customized training workshops, online training programs, mentoring, 360-degree assessment and feedback, HR audits, employee handbooks, and more. Learn more about them at www.lindenbergergroup.com.

Three Things Employees Need

Posted on March 6th, by Judith Lindenberger in Business and Workplace. 9 comments

Three things needed for a long term relationship are commitment, caring and communication. Just as partners in a successful marriage, who are committed to one another, understand the benefits they receive from one another, employees and employers require the same. Employees need to achieve results and employers to provide stability.

Caring is not a word used often in employment agreements but love has a place in the corporate world. The best employers treat their employees well by providing competitive salaries and benefits, training supervisors to manage effectively, giving employees the tools that they need to do their jobs, and, most important, letting employees know how they are doing. Employees show that love back by being passionate about quality and loyal to the companies for whom they work.

And then there is communication. In order to sustain a long term and healthy relationship with employees, smart companies provide job descriptions, mission statements, vision, goals, and frequent performance feedback. And smart employees, who understand where the company is headed and what they need to do, offer innovation.

Just like a successful marriage takes work, the relationship between employers and employees requires the same commitment, caring and communication, not just offered once, but provided continuously over the long term.


Photo credit

About the author: Judy Lindenberger is the President of The Lindenberger Group, an award-winning human resources consulting firm, located near Princeton, NJ. They are experts in career coaching, customized training workshops, online training programs, mentoring, 360-degree assessment and feedback, HR audits, employee handbooks, and more. Learn more about them at www.lindenbergergroup.com.

Desperate Times Call for Not-So-Desperate Measures

Posted on August 29th, by Judith Lindenberger in Career Advice. 2 comments

During a recent career coaching session with a client, I realized that much of the advice that he had been given was, in my humble opinion, not so very good. In fact, the advice was desperately bad.


For instance, my client said that a friend told him that he should not wear a suit to an interview because it would make him look desperate. The word desperate came up a few more times. The same friend told my client that you should never admit that you have been laid off from your job, even if is true, because that would make you seem desperate. And last, my client asked if reaching out to prospective employers, without seeing a job posting, would make him look desperate.


My advice about the suit. If you own a good suit, wear it to an interview. Dress up. Polish your shoes. Trim your facial hair. Be clean and neat. You want to make a good impression. Dressing well helps make desperately good first impressions.


My advice about admitting that you were laid off from your job. Tell the truth. There is no shame in having been laid off. The vast majority of Americans know at least one person (a friend, relative, neighbor) whose job has been eliminated. Explain that your job was eliminated, stay positive about your former employer, and move on to explaining why you are interested in their job opening. Doing so will make you seem desperately honest and focused.


And last, my advice about reaching out to prospective employers. Do it! It shows initiative and drive not desperation, in my book.


I am curious. Do you agree or disagree with my advice? And what crazy career advice have you heard and disagreed with?


About the author: Judy Lindenberger is the President of The Lindenberger Group, an award-winning human resources consulting firm, located near Princeton, NJ. They are experts in career coaching, customized training workshops, online training programs, mentoring, 360-degree assessment and feedback, HR audits, employee handbooks, and more. Learn more about them at www.lindenbergergroup.com.


Photo credit: iStockphoto

Workplace Bullying: A New Trend or an Old Problem Gaining New Attention?

Posted on April 18th, by Judith Lindenberger in Business and Workplace. Comments Off

“”My relationship with the office bully is strained and unproductive. Whenever we interact I get a knot in my stomach.”

If you have experienced something similar, you’re not alone. In 2013, The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) reported that “35% of the US workforce has experienced workplace bullying” (http://www.workplacebullying.org/individuals/problem/being-bullied/).

Bullies yell, spread rumors, roll their eyes or “forget” to invite you to meetings. According to WBI, workplace bullying is “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons, by one or more perpetrators in the form of verbal abuse, offensive conduct/behavior and work interference.”

Rakesh Malhotra, founder of Five Global Values, writes “most bullies portray themselves … as polite and respectful, as they are charming in public …” Gretchen, from the movie, Mean Girls, says: “I’m sorry that people are so jealous of me … but I can’t help it that I’m popular.” Bullies often see themselves as the victim and don’t get or care how they make others feel. Says one bully, “The biggest problem I have at work is that I don’t get respect from others.”

When bullies run amok in the workplace, they can cause emotional and psychological turmoil. Dr. Gary Namie, who is leading a campaign to enact the Healthy Workplace Bill, which requires employers to implement policies and procedures to prevent workplace bullying, says victims can have “hypertension, auto-immune disorders, depression, anxiety and … have their work and career disrupted.” One victim reports, “I did not go to the satellite office for months because I did not want to see the bully.”

To learn more about workplace bullying, The Lindenberger Group, a New Jersey-based, award-winning human resources firm, conducted written surveys and interviews in 2012. 121 people participated, from age 20 – 65, from companies with 50 – 5,000 + employees, and from a variety of industries.

Over 80% of respondents believe that bullying is a serious problem but fewer than 25% of companies do anything about it.

Bullying includes swearing, shouting, humiliation, and unwarranted criticism and blame. One victim reports, “I had to make a bank deposit so I left the office and locked the door. When the bully could not get in, she called me, screamed, and threatened to have me fired. The next day another employee showed her the office key on her key chain. She never apologized. Her response was just ‘Oh, silly me.’”

In o

ur study, over 50% witnessed or were victims of bullying in their current workplace (60% at a previous company).

Over 95% of victims report increased stress and 90% report lower job satisfaction. Other effects include health complaints (65.4%) and lower productivity (57.9%).

Men are bullies more often (55%) and women are victims most of the time (77.1%). Most victims (59.3%) and bullies (68.6%) are ages 41 – 60 which leads to an interesting question … will Millennials (born 1977 – 1992), reputed to “play well with others”, be less prone to bully?

Another finding is that most bullies (77.6%) are at a level above the victim. In the movie, The Devil Wears Prada, Andy says about her boss, “She’s not happy unless everyone around her is panicked, nauseous or suicidal.”

The majority (78.2%) state that no actions were taken to correct bullying. However, when action is taken, coaching is the preferred strategy (50%) followed by termination (38.9%).

Most believe that bullies have psychological issues (88.1%) while others see bullying as career-driven: to weed out competition (60.3%) or get ahead (52.4%). One victim states, “Our office bully needs to listen and manage her temper. She needs to stop throwing people under the bus.”

80% favor laws to prevent workplace bullying but believe that laws have not been passed because employers worry about lawsuits (63%) or don’t understand differences between bullying and harassment (59.7%). Bullying can be directed at anyone regardless of race, religion, nationality, gender, age, disability or skin color. Harassment is treating someone differently because of those differences.

Over 90% think that discipline is the best course of action, 88.8% favor policies, 86.4% want to know how to report bullying, and 84.8% favor training. Says one executive, “It’s important to take complaints seriously and handle things quickly.”

The course of action for human resource professionals is clear: develop policies, provide training, let employees know how to report bullying, offer coaching, and create exit strategies. The course of action for managers is also clear – take complaints seriously and follow through with disciplinary action. Leaders must create a culture to prevent workplace bullying. And if that doesn’t happen, remember Ralphie from A Christmas Story? His best line in the movie?  “Say Uncle. Say it!”

About the authors: By Judy Lindenberger and Travis Johnson. The Lindenberger Group is an award-winning human resources consulting firm located near Princeton, New Jersey with experience in developing policies, conducting training and providing coaching on all types of workplace issues, including bullying. You can learn more about The Lindenberger Group at www.lindenbergergroup.com.


{Random Encounters} Fate, Preparation or Luck?

Posted on April 11th, by Judith Lindenberger in Women of HR Series: Random Encounters. 2 comments

I read through the posts on random encounters and was reminded of two random encounters I have had in my life – one which I had prepared for and one which I had not – but both of which changed my life for the better.

When I was in my twenties, and broke up with my college boyfriend, I wrote a list of the things I wanted in a man. Tall, funny, family minded and a great kisser were among my top ten. Shortly after writing my list, I met my future husband randomly. In meeting and talking with him, I quickly realized that he had many of the things on my list (tall and funny for two) and looking back, I think I used my HR skills to “interview” him on some of my other “must haves” like being family minded and political views. My preparation helped me realize the potential in a random encounter and we recently celebrated thirty years of marriage.

The second random encounter I did not prepare for but it was a situation that I took full advantage of. I had been working in HR for a Fortune 500 company in Kentucky and my husband was transferred to New Jersey. I decided to take some time off and do some volunteer work while I tried to figure out what I would do next. I found a nonprofit organization that I wanted to learn more about, sent them a letter along with my resume, and offered to do volunteer work in whatever capacity they needed.

I received a call from the Founder who asked me to come in and talk with her. I went to the meeting and after many questions about my background, skills, and how I would handle certain situations at the organization, she asked me about salary. Only then, did I realize that this was a job interview.

I explained that I had sent a letter offering to volunteer, she pulled out my letter and reread it in amazement, and then handed me a job description for an Interim Director. Long story short, I quickly changed gears and got the job. This was a life-changing experience at which I become good friends with three incredible women and which was the exact right stopping place for me to be in before starting my own business.

Random encounter or fate? Opportunity meets preparation or luck? What do you think?

About the author: Judy Lindenberger is the President of The Lindenberger Group, an award-winning human resources consulting firm, located near Princeton, NJ. They are experts in career coaching, customized training workshops, online training programs, mentoring, 360-degree assessment and feedback, HR audits, employee handbooks, and more. Learn more about them at www.lindenbergergroup.com.

Photo credit iStockphoto.com

Leadership Agility and the Presidential Candidates

Posted on November 6th, by Judith Lindenberger in Leadership. Comments Off

This month I attended a presentation conducted by Bill Joiner, co-author of Leadership Agility. Joiner conducted a five-year research project in which he interviewed over 500 leaders about leadership.

According to Joiner, leaders define agile leadership as “flexibility with purpose” and report what agile leaders do differently when confronted with a challenge – they focus, step back, gain a deeper, broader view, reengage and take action.

Using data from his study, Joiner broke leadership agility into several categories including;

  • Expert – at which 45% of leaders operate
  • Achiever -  at which 35% of leaders operate
  • Catalyst – at which just 5 –10% of leaders operate

Experts are respected because of their authority, take a tactical focus, micro manage and have a low tolerance for conflict.  Achievers motivate others by making work challenging and satisfying, have an outcome-based focus, seek stakeholder buy-in, and have a moderate tolerance for conflict. Catalysts articulate an inspiring vision and empower others to make it a re

ality, develop organizational capacity to meet strategic challenges, create highly participative, empowered teams that lead change together, and have a greater tolerance for conflict.

As I listened to the presentation, I kept thinking about the current presidential candidates and how I would characterize their leadership styles according to this model. I went up to Joiner after the presentation and asked him my question. His analysis was what I had come up with.

What about you? How would you characterize the current presidential candidates based on this leadership model? Is one or the other an Expert? What about Achiever? Does either presidential candidate operate as a Catalyst? And how does understanding their leadership style affect your vote?

Photo credit: iStockphoto

About the author: Judy Lindenberger is the President of The Lindenberger Group, an award-winning human resources consulting firm, located near Princeton, NJ. They are experts in career coaching, customized training workshops, online training programs, mentoring, 360-degree assessment and feedback, HR audits, employee handbooks, and more. Learn more about them at www.lindenbergergroup.com.


Don’t Put Up With Workplace Bullying

Posted on July 19th, by Judith Lindenberger in Business and Workplace. 5 comments

Workplace bullying, just like childhood bullying, is when individuals or groups intentionally humiliate another person. At school, the victim is another student. At work, it is another employee.

A 2006 study of workplace bullying* identified the following behaviors as bullying:

  • Threat to professional status: an unwarranted or invalid criticism and blame without factual justification.
  • Threat to personal standing: being sworn at, shouted out, or humiliated.
  • Isolation: preventing access to opportunities, withholding necessary information, or using silent treatment to “ice out” and separate the victim from others.
  • Overwork: being given unrealistic work deadlines.
  • Destabilization: failure to acknowledge good work, allocation of meaningless tasks, setting the target up to fail.

In 2012, the Workplace Bullying Institute conducted a survey about the prevalence of bullying in the workplace. Fifty-eight percent of respondents reported being bullied currently, 39% reported having been bullied in the past, and 3% reported having witnessed workplace bullying. Most perpetrators (63%) and victims (79%) were women. Women bullies torment women in 89% of cases; men bully women in 63% of cases. Most of the bullies (75%) are bosses; 18% are coworkers or peers, and 7% are subordinates.

Women bullies tend to use subtle tactics like giving the victim the silent treatment or encouraging colleagues to turn against the victim. Men bullies tend to use more obvious tactics like ridiculing or yelling at a victim publicly.

The effect of bullying can range from lower job satisfaction and health complaints to suicide. Stress is the most predominant health effect associated with bullying in the workplace and can result in an increase in the use of sick days or time off from work. Workplace bullying is expensive. Author Robert Sutton reports that one company estimated annual losses of $160,000 from handling problems caused by one salesman’s bullying behaviors.

In addition to health, morale and productivity expenses, workplace bullying can cost a company in legal fees and settlements. Here are a few examples.

  • Former Asheville Citizen-Times editor, Susan Ihne, settled a $15 million dollar wrongful termination lawsuit against newspaper publisher, Randy Hammer, and the newspaper’s parent company, Ganette Co. Ihne claimed that Hammer yelled and raised his voice at her, belittled and degraded her on the job, and “misused his power in a calculated effort to destroy her self-confidence and get her to resign from her job.”
  • Two employees in Texas were awarded $250,000 in damages after a supervisor continually yelled at them, put his head down and “charged at them like a bull,” and made one employee wear a sign that said “I quit.”
  • Dr. Daniel Raess, an Indiana heart surgeon, yelled at perfusionist, Joseph Doescher (a perfusionist operates a heart/lung machine during surgery) following an operation, saying he was “history” and charged at him with a clenched fist. Doescher brought suit against Raess for assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress and intentional interference with his employment relationship. The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff for $325,000.

The most awful effect of bullying is suicide or death. An article on bullying published in the Journal of Vascular Surgery cited an example of a surgeon bullying a new anesthesiologist. “After the tumor had been removed, the surgeon slipped into his disruptive pattern and verbally abused the anesthesiologist so aggressively that, in her distraction, she neglected to turn off the nitroprusside drip. The patient died.”

What can you do if you are being bullied at work? Assert your right to be treated respectfully, keep a diary (dates, times, places, what was said or done), have a witness with you during meetings with the bully, report the behavior to your supervisor and Human Resources and don’t retaliate.

Employers can create a zero tolerance anti-bullying policy, provide training, encourage prompt reporting, and respond immediately to complaints.

The benefits of addressing workplace bullying include improved staff satisfaction and retention, enhanced reputation for the organization, increased productivity and reduced liability exposure and risk management. Why put up with workplace bullying?

I’m curious … what experiences have you had regarding workplace bullying and what have you done about it?

Photo credit: Bullybusters

* Reference: F. A. Moayed, N. Daraiseh, R. Shell, and S. Salem, “Workplace bullying: a systematic review of risk factors and outcomes,” Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science, vol. 7, pp. 311–327, 2006

About the author: Judy Lindenberger is the President of The Lindenberger Group, an award-winning human resources consulting firm, located near Princeton, NJ. They are experts in career coaching, customized training workshops, online training programs, mentoring, 360-degree assessment and feedback, HR audits, employee handbooks, and more. Learn more about them at www.lindenbergergroup.com.


Stop and Breathe

Posted on April 3rd, by Judith Lindenberger in Wellness and Balance. 4 comments

When my younger daughter went away to school this year, and my husband and I were “empty nesters” for the first time in over 20 years, I decided that I wanted to take up quilting.

Two of my good friends are quilters and they often talked about how much they enjoyed it.

I took my first quilting class in November and made a quilt for my youngest. Then in December, I made a quilt for my eldest. In January I made a quilt for my niece and in February I made a quilt for my sister-in-law. I have two more quilts planned to do next. You could say that I am addicted!

What I love about quilting is that it gives me a chance to sit at the sewing machine and just concentrate on sewing a straight line. Doing this work clears my mind.

I also love the creative part of quilting when I am in the fabric store choosing fabrics.  Then, although my mind is whirring with what will go with what, I don’t think about anything else.

When I was younger I was a runner and I loved the times when all thoughts would disappear from my mind and the only things I concentrated on were my breathing and my feet hitting the ground.

I have been swamped with work lately and quilting in my spare time has been a joy and a needed distraction. I am curious, what do you do to stop thinking and just be?

Photo credit iStockphoto

Common Sense Interviewing

Posted on November 25th, by Judith Lindenberger in Business and Workplace. 1 Comment

As the former Manager of Staffing for a Fortune 500 company and a career coach, I have counseled thousands of people about how to ace a job interview. Here’s some advice for preparing for the interview and for responding to typical  interview questions.

Do your homework. Learn about the job, the company and the person interviewing you. Be prepared to intelligently answer the question, “What do you know about our company?” Study what the company does, the number of people it employs, how long it has been in business, its mission statement, and where the company is headed. The Internet and LinkedIn are great places to do research. Determine, ahead of time, the highest salary you believe you should make and back it up with what you bring to the table and market data from websites like Salary.com. Also, determine the lowest salary you are willing to take.

Bring your best self. I have given many training workshops to hiring managers about how to interview job candidates. The complaints I hear most are that job candidates arrive late, answer their cell phones during interviews, chew gum, and, the number one complaint, that job candidates look sloppy. Make sure that you look professional and put together.

Identify job skills. Decide what job skills are most important for the job. Then, come up with S.O.A.R. stories to show that you what it takes for each key job skill. S.O.A.R. stands for Situation, Obstacles, Actions and Results. For example, if time management is an important skill for the job, be prepared to tell about a Situation you had in which you had to manage your time well, the Obstacles you needed to overcome, the Actions you took, and the Results you obtained. In my experience, people often forget to tell about the results … remember to do that.

Have answers ready for typical interview questions.

  • “Tell me about yourself.” This is not an invitation to talk about your childhood, your family or your hobbies. Instead, it’s a chance for you to describe what you can offer the company. Focus on your key accomplishments at previous jobs, the strengths demonstrated by those accomplishments, how these relate to the job for which you’re applying and why you are the perfect candidate.
  • “Why did you leave your last job?” Here are some pointers for answering this question, depending on your circumstances:

If you were fired, be honest, but quick about explaining it. Don’t say anything derogatory; rather, explain what you learned from the experience and how it makes you an even stronger employee today. Never lie. When the interviewer calls your references, he or she may learn that you were fired.

If you were laid off, don’t apologize or act defeated. Simply say something like: “Because of the economy, the company decided to eliminate several departments, including mine.”

If you quit, be honest and positive. You might explain that your previous job wasn’t challenging, that you are seeking higher levels of responsibility or that you are ready to make the next step on your career ladder – and that the job for which you are interviewing is the ideal next step.

  • “What’s your biggest weakness?” The “weakness” question is popular because interviewers want to know how you tackle challenges. Pick a weakness that is real and work-related and discuss what you have done to overcome it. For example, “I used to have a hard time staying organized. Now, I carry a schedule book everywhere and use my Blackberry to keep me on track.” Don’t pick a weakness that will torpedo your chances such as “I have a hard time getting to work on time.” (No kidding, when I worked as a Staffing Manager, I heard that one way too many times.)
  • “You seem overqualified.” Point out that your traits and skills match the job requirements. If you plan to be with the company for a while, you could offer to sign a contract to stay for a certain period of time.

End Strong. Be prepared for the final question, “Do you have any questions for me?”  You could ask a few questions like, “What do you like best about this company?” or “What is the next step in the interview process?” Don’t ask about salary, vacation days or benefits until you have an offer. Send a thank you letter or email, within 24 hours. Thank each person you interviewed with for the time they spent with you, restate your interest in the job, and restate what you can do for them.

If you accept an offer, find out how much notice you need to give your current employer before letting your future employer know when you can start.

To recap, common sense interviewing means thinking ahead and being yourself. What common sense tips do you have to share?