Author Archives: aps

How to Avoid Being a Conversational Narcissist

You might be a conversational narcissist and not even know it.

The term “conversational narcissist” comes from sociologist Charles Derber’s 1979 book The Pursuit of AttentionIn his book, Derber shared the results of a study done on face-to-face interactions. He observed over 1500 conversations and recorded how people interacted.

His conclusion: Most people – despite their good intentions and typically without being aware of it – struggled with what he called “conversational narcissism”. That is, they repeatedly attempted to steer conversations towards themselves.

Despite how common it is, conversational narcissism will hinder your ability to build relationships, gain knowledge, offer support, pick up on subtle messages, and make a good impression.

Once you become aware of it, you’ll begin to notice when you do it, and that’s the first step to changing it. Read on to discover why conversational narcissism is so common and how to avoid it for better conversations and better relationships.

Why is Conversational Narcissism So Common?

Steering a conversation towards yourself happens for three reasons:

  • You are comfortable talking about yourself and your own experiences.
  • Relating another person’s experience to your own is perceived as a way to connect, understand, and relate to them.
  • You are using the conversation to gratify your own needs.

Here’s an example:

You: Hi Jim. How are you?

Jim: I’m good. Starting a new job next week.

You: Congrats! Where are you working?

Jim: Amazon. I’m really excited but also a little nervous.

You: Yeah, I know what you mean. I remember when I started my last job. I was really nervous about meeting my boss. She’s well-known in my industry for being really tough to work for, but she’s really fair. It took me some time to warm up but once I got used to her style, it was great. I’m sure you’ll be fine just give yourself a few weeks to get used to it.

In the example, you might think you’re relating to Jim’s story, but you’re really missing an opportunity to find out more and give Jim’s confession about being nervous the attention it warrants.

This is likely for one of the three reasons above. It’s easy to steer the conversation towards yourself without even thinking about it, and it’s so common, the other person might not even notice. However, when you don’t do it, you’re opening the door for a better conversation and better relationship.

How Can You Have Better Conversations?

  1. Converse, Don’t Compete. A good conversation requires cooperation from the parties involved. It should be about seeking to learn from and understand each other. Unfortunately, as Gerber pointed out, people often use conversations as an opportunity to get attention. They’re competing with others, rather than conversing with them.
  2. Stop Thinking About What You’re Going to Say Next. It’s easy to start thinking about what you want to say next before the other person is done talking. When you do this, it’s impossible to actively listen to them. If you’re on a phone or video call, write down a quick note and turn your attention back to the speaker, so you can continue to listen. You don’t have the luxury of jotting notes during an in-person conversation, so try not to think of how you want to respond at all until the end. What you wanted to say before they were done speaking may not be as relevant or important at the end if you listen the whole time.
  3. Don’t Give Advice Unless You’re Asked. As advice columnist Amy Dickinson said, “Unsolicited advice is always self serving.” Professor of Psychology and Marketing Dr. Art Markman conducted 4 separate studies and summarized his findings in Psychology Todaypeople give advice because it gives them a sense of power. When you give unsolicited advice, you’re not really listening to the other person, and you’re sending them a message that they can’t figure it out on their own.  Unless they specifically ask for it, people don’t want your advice, they want you to listen.
  4. Ask Supportive Questions. Shift your brain from thinking, “how does this story relate to me” to “I’d like to know more about this.” Instead of thinking of ways to compare, relate or give advice, think about how you can learn more. Passive conversational narcissism occurs when someone repeatedly withholds support responses – verbal and nonverbal confirmation they’re listening – or doesn’t ask follow-up questions. Instead of injecting and steering the conversation, they are trying to more passively shut down the person talking so the conversation returns to them.
  5. Wait for Them to Ask You Questions Before You Talk About Yourself. Assume if the other parties aren’t asking you questions, they don’t want to know about you. Take the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about them or the topic. However, if the conversation remains one-sided, it’s likely you’re conversing with conversational narcissists. If that’s the case, feel free to exit the conversation whenever you get bored without the least bit of guilt.

Conversational narcissism occurs often, and we’re likely all guilty of doing it from time to time. Being aware of it allows you to recognize it in yourself and others and change course if the conversation is heading that way. Knowing how to engage others in cooperative conversations will enable you to build better relationships with more people. While you might give up some power and attention, you’ll gain so much more.


Source:  Kortivity

The Importance of Honesty in the Job Search Process

When it comes to finding a job, it can be tempting to stretch the truth about your qualifications, experience, or skills to make yourself seem more appealing to potential employers. However, lying about your background can have serious consequences and can harm your reputation and future job prospects.

Examples of people who have lied about their background or experience and were later caught include:

  • A marketing executive who claimed to have a degree from an Ivy League university, but was later found to have lied about his education. He was fired from his job and faced difficulty finding future employment.
  • A job candidate who inflated their previous job title and responsibilities, but was caught when their former employer was contacted for a reference. They were not offered the job and their reputation was tarnished among potential employers.

These examples highlight the importance of being honest in the job search process. Lying about your background can lead to immediate consequences such as being fired or not being offered the job, as well as long-term consequences such as a tarnished reputation and difficulty finding future employment.

So, what can you do to present your background in an honest way even if there may be shortcomings in your work experience or skills?

  1. Emphasize your strengths: Focus on the skills and experiences you have that are relevant to the job you’re applying for and highlight your accomplishments in those areas.
  2. Be transparent: If there are gaps in your work history or if you have limited experience in a certain area, be upfront about it and explain why.
  3. Highlight your potential: If you’re looking to transition into a new career or industry, emphasize your transferable skills and your desire to learn and grow in your new role.
  4. Get references: Having a solid network of professional references can help potential employers feel more confident in your abilities and experiences.
  5. Practice honesty: Always be truthful about your qualifications, experience, and skills, even if it means not getting the job. In the long run, honesty will serve you better than dishonesty.

Being honest about your background and experiences is crucial in the job search process. Not only does it demonstrate integrity, but it also protects your reputation and future job prospects. Emphasize your strengths, be transparent about any shortcomings, and practice honesty to present your background in the best light possible.


Struggling with your resume?  Allied can help!  Apply today and our experienced recruiters can help you put your best self forward with the Lehigh Valley’s leading companies!

What’s an Employer to Do During a Tripledemic?

COVID-19 hasn’t gone away, but remember when other things made us sick? They’re still around, lingering and ready for mingling. ‘Tis the season… for a tripledemic.

Medical experts and health officials are worried about this winter’s rising flu, COVID-19, and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) cases colliding into a so-called “tripledemic.”

The Situation

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Unfortunately, children are among the hardest hit this season for a variety of reasons, including lack of exposure during COVID contributing to more severe illness once kids do get sick, and viruses surging earlier. The current surge in illnesses is even contributing to shortages of over the counter children’s cold medications used for symptom relief, as well as certain prescription drugs. All of this contributes to the stress of caring for a sick child, even when moderately ill and recovering at home.

Even normal cold and flu season sets off a certain chain reaction of scrambling: kids are out of childcare or school, parents have to figure out work, and employers have to fill in the gaps. COVID took this scenario to a whole new level. But here we are in the final stretch of 2022, and according to recent US Department of Labor data, absences from work due to childcare issues hit a record high just this past October.

You might think that the past two plus years taught us something about how to plan for illness, absence, and “plan B” a bit better. But the fact of the matter is: employers are still figuring it out (some better than others). COVID’s hard lessons, when everyone seemed to be sick, and no one could go to work or school, at times seem easily forgotten now.

While entire school and childcare facilities aren’t closing these days, employees caring for kids sick with the flu, COVID, RSV, or something else are feeling the squeeze during this latest surge of sickness. But employers need to keep things going, too.

Obligations and Opportunities

So, what’s an employer to do during a tripledemic? Much depends on the details, of course, but these steps are a good place to start.

  1. Comply with leave laws. An employer, and more specifically those handling absence and leave requests for an employer, should know and understand the state and local leave laws that apply to the organization. When an employee needs time away from work to care for a sick child, employer reps must be able to recognize what’s covered under the law to ensure that an employee receives all the time off to which they are entitled. This may include leave under temporary leave laws that sprang up during COVID, as well as permanent paid sick leave laws, family and medical leave laws, and public health emergency leave laws covering vaccination, quarantine, or other specified events. But employers should also not forget about the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which may provide eligible employees with job-protected leave if a child’s respiratory illness meets the definition of a serious health condition.
  2. Follow (or implement) time off policies. An employer may have paid or unpaid sick leave, family and medical leave, or other time off policies that may apply to eligible employees with qualifying child care needs. Employer reps need to know and understand when these policies apply to childcare-related situations, too. Also, if your organization is in a jurisdiction with mandatory leave laws, ensure that the organization’s own policies do not conflict with the law’s requirements. An employer without such a policy may wish to consider implementing one to address childcare-related needs.
  3. Consider flexible work. An employer may wish to consider temporary flexible work arrangements (remote work, flexible schedules, shift swapping, etc.), either in conjunction with a leave of absence or after an employee has exhausted their available leave time. Be mindful, however, of how you handle these requests and avoid discriminatory treatment (e.g., denying an older employee unpaid leave or the opportunity to work remotely while allowing younger parents to do so; or treating a childcare-related accommodation or leave request differently based on an employee’s gender). Administered appropriately, flexible work can bridge gaps for an employee with temporary childcare challenges while allowing an employer to retain talented and valued employees.


  • Start with a conversation. Employers should involve employees in discussions about childcare challenges and possible solutions (and document them).
  • Communicate expectations. If flexible work will be part of a childcare challenge solution, an employer should clearly communicate its expectations of the employee during this period. For example, you can use a remote work agreement to memorialize what you expect from the employee in terms of performance, work hours, responsibilities, and timekeeping.
  • Accept that separation may occur. Understand that in some situations, employee separation (whether voluntary or based on an employer’s business needs) may be unavoidable. For example, an employee may resign if no leave options or remote work options are available.

Final Thoughts

‘Tis the season for empathy and understanding, too. A little grace can go a long way towards helping everyone get through this sanity-stealing season.

This tripledemic may not be the holiday gift anyone wants, but it may provide employers with a lesson worth revisiting: planning for illness and absence, and having a “plan B” is critical, no matter the season.

Source:  XpertHR

These common, well-meaning phrases have a negative impact

Whether they realize it or not, leaders have a disproportionate impact on others. It’s not just what they do, but also what they say, that influences how people feel, think, and act.

Unsurprisingly, a range of recent scientific studies show that CEOs’ language (e.g., more positive words, more realistic claims, more trustworthy remarks) predicts the future stock price of their companies, as well as the success of their business strategy. Likewise, AI-mining of a leader’s words, which can be translated into a valid profile of their personality, predicts their ESG policies.

Importantly, it is not just machines, but also humans who are sensitive to leaders’ language; so, if you are a leader, paying attention to what you say and how you say it is critical to effectively influencing others, not to mention closing the gap between what you say and what you do.

In particular, understanding potential mismatches between your desired intention and others’ actual interpretation of your language is crucial.

Consider a few common leadership phrases that may cause unintended problems, especially when we judge their potential effects on followers.


On the one hand, this is a statement of impeccable logic. On the other hand, it’s a sure way to kill any debate or discussion. In fact, this line is a call to inaction. It’s a self-defeating acceptance that nothing can be done to improve on a poor state of affairs—to be used if you are interested in instilling a sense of helplessness in your team, smashing the doors of hope in their face.


Problems come in different sizes, and there’s no question that one person’s problems may be another person’s dreams. For example, microaggressions are preferable to overt violence and discrimination, and a slow Wi-Fi connection is surely better than lacking water, electricity, or heat.

However, people don’t measure their happiness relative to other people’s suffering, and the fact that second or third world problems may have been extinguished in certain places is testimony to people’s hard work, and their dissatisfaction with their status quo. For example, if you think that gender inequality or racial injustice is a trivial matter today, relative to what it was 50 or a hundred years ago, then you are clearly not contributing to making things better.

Things don’t improve by osmosis, but through nonconformity, defiance of the status quo, and a relentless desire to make things better. The things you enjoy today are the result of actions that were triggered by a strong opposition to yesterday’s norms. Hard work is required to create tomorrow’s first world problems, and ensure that they are an actual upgrade.


At the end of one of his plays, Oscar Wilde wrote, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us look at the stars,” which is a rather appropriate illustration of optimism. Yet, while we tend to assume optimism is a strength, there is also a downside to positivity.

People generally suffer from an optimism bias, which should make realistic, skeptical, and brutally honest leaders an asset. The ability to provide your team and organization—even your nation—with a reality check can trigger the necessary changes in their behavior to drive progress. If you don’t understand what’s wrong, your chances of getting better are limited.

Looking on the bright side is okay, as long as you also contemplate the dark side. A realistic assessment of risks and rewards should be the norm in all leaders, but leaders are often rewarded for telling people what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear. Imagine you have a doctor that only tells you the good things about your health. That’s surely more rewarding than someone who tells you the truth—good and/or bad. But what’s better for you in the long term?


This is an appealing notion, but rarely true. As a matter of fact, there is always something to worry about. Of course, nobody wants to be paralyzed by worries, and there’s usually no reason to turn your concerns into clinical anxiety or pathological fear.

However, part of being a responsible human is to have the emotional and intellectual maturity to process events as what they are: opportunities that tend to come with certain risks. There is always an upside and a downside. If your approach to interpreting reality is to distort it in your favor—as if a positive outlook would somehow translate into magical events—you better never wake up from your dreams.

Many of these phrases are attempts to give people what they want, or tell people what they want to hear. However, the essence of leadership is not to please others. It’s not a popularity or likability contest. Leadership is the ability to coordinate human activity, to enable people to collaborate effectively, and to turn a group of people into a high-performing team.

This requires a certain maturity in your followers and employees, but part of your job is to create it. You do this by building an honest relationship with people, and convincing them that your expertise, experience, and judgment can help them make better decisions. Populist shortcuts designed to boost leaders’ popularity or power in the short term tend to harm the team’s performance in the long term.

Source:  Fast Company

11 Creative Conversation Starters for Your Next Event

“Work the room.” If that expression makes you cringe, you’re not alone. Going from person to person and asking the same boring questions feels like an icky waste of time. But with the right questions, you can spend your time building relationships, instead of “working the room”.

Below are 11 creative alternatives to common networking questions that you can use at your next event to have better conversations and develop better relationships:

1. Instead of: What do you do?

Ask: What’s been keeping you busy lately?

The second question is more specific and allows your conversation partner to take it in any direction they wish. They could be busy with non-work related tasks and provide an answer that gives you insight into who they are personally. If they tell you what’s been keeping them busy professionally, they’ll likely share what they do in the process, and you’ll get more insight into their day-to-day activities. This question also leads to a more relaxing conversation since the responder doesn’t have to “elevator pitch” their job. Lastly, they’ve probably been asked what they do numerous times already. Your question will be a welcome change and help your conversation stand out.

2. Instead of: Tell me about yourself.

Ask: What’s your favorite thing about your job? What’s your favorite thing outside of your job?

“Tell me about yourself” is broad and can produce canned answers that don’t give you much insight into who your conversation partner is personally or professionally. Asking them about their favorite things at and outside of work allows them to talk about what they enjoy, which most people like doing. These questions also give you useful insight into what subjects interest them, which you can later use to connect with them and build the relationship.

3. Instead of: What are your hobbies?

Ask: What’s your ideal Saturday?

You’ll get so much more than a list of hobbies out of this question. Understanding how they like to experience life outside of work (or doing work if that’s ideal for them) allows you to get to know them on a deeper level. You also avoid the possible dead end answer of “I don’t have any hobbies”.  Between work and family commitments, busy professionals might not have time for what they would consider a hobby, but they do know how they like to spend their time.

4. Instead of: Have you been here before?

Ask: What do you think of this venue?

Use this question if there is something interesting or unique about the event space. You can be more specific and ask about the food, drink, artwork, or view if applicable. It works because you and your conversation partner have the venue in common and can easily talk about it. Starting with that helps get the conversation flowing naturally, allowing it to move to other topics.

5. Instead of: Where are you from?

Ask: What’s the coolest place in your hometown/city?

Asking someone where they’re from isn’t a bad question, but it produces a one-word answer. Have another question like the one above at the ready to gain more insight and keep them talking. If they’ve lived in multiple cities or don’t appear to want to talk about their hometown, you can change the question to be about their current city or a city in which they’ve lived. The goal is to get them to think about and share a place of interest because it helps you get to know them.

6. Instead of: Where did you go to college?

Ask: What’s your best memory from college?

Like the number five, if your question has a one-word answer, either change the question or have a quick follow-up question ready. Recalling a good memory evokes positive feelings and can help relieve stress. While people don’t always remember what you say or do, they do tend to remember how you make them feel. If they’re sharing a good memory with you, they will likely remember feeling relaxed and happy when they talked to you. Note: this question doesn’t have to be about college. Tailor this question to best fit the situation.

7. Instead of: Why did you become a?

Ask: How has being a changed since you started?

The alternative question here is helping you avoid a canned response that the responder has probably given numerous times over their career. The second question is less common and more intriguing. If your conversation partner is new to their career, you can change the question to “how is being a different than you expected?”

8. Instead of: Do you like the drink/food here?

Ask: What drink/food do you recommend?

Like question four, this is an easy way to get a conversation started and a jumping off point for other topics. Most people feel very comfortable talking about food and drink. Note: Make sure the person you ask is or was eating or drinking at the event, (but doesn’t currently have their mouth full).

9. Instead of: What’s your favorite food?

Ask: What would you request for your last meal?

Food is a popular conversation starter. The second question is more unique than the first, but still gives you the same information. With such an important meal, the responder will probably offer a little more explanation on their choice, which will help you get to know them better.

10. Instead of: It’s really cold/hot/rainy outside!

Ask: What’s your favorite thing to do on hot/rainy/cold days?

Commenting on the weather is a common way to strike up a conversation because there’s nothing more universal. If a weather remark feels like a good opener, follow up with an interesting question, such as the one above. This quickly steers the conversation away from the weather and to getting to know your conversation partner.

11. Instead of: How are you?

Ask: What’s been the best and worst thing about your today?

The answer to the first question is typically one word and automatic. The second question, however, requires more thought, gives you more insight, and creates more opportunities for follow-up questions.

Key takeaway: Better questions lead to better conversations. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to build relationships with people just from asking them interesting questions. When you give people the unexpected opportunity to share their story, the result is memorable conversations, which lead to more authentic relationships. Authentic relationships lead to more relationships, more opportunities, and greater success.


Source:  Kortivity

Anxiety and Sleep

Anxiety is more common than ever – especially with everything going on in our lives and around the world.  Anxious, racing thoughts not only interfere with our comfort and focus during the day, they often also keep us from getting the kind of quality sleep that we desperately need.

The number of antianxiety prescriptions dispensed have increased by over 35% during this pandemic including those for Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan. Medications for sleep disorders increased by 15%.  Though these drugs act fast and do work, they are usually used short-term and at the lowest effective dose closely monitored by a health care provider.

Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, and Valium are all benzodiazepines (a class of sedating drugs), which can cause a host of issues including memory problems, drowsiness, confusion, and addiction.  They can be very difficult to discontinue and should not be stopped abruptly as severe withdrawal syndrome can develop that can include anxiety, irritability, and seizures in some cases. When combined with alcohol or other sedating drugs, overdose can occur.

Drugs such as Ambien and Lunesta are used by many, but they also have many downsides. They can limit REM sleep causing a hangover effect, brain fog, and memory problems.  Most people have also heard the stories of episodes of sleep walking, sleep driving, and other odd behaviors that can occur.  This can happen at any time during use. People have no recollection that they did these things the following day.  Both benzodiazepines and the above sleep drugs carry the FDA’s black box warning for serious side effects.

Is there a better way?  After all, sleep is important for our body, mind, and spirit!

First and foremost, don’t wait.  If you are having sleep problems, take action now!

Here are some tips to improve sleep quality.

  • Because sleep is so important, MAKE IT A PRIORITY.
  • Address any biological issues that affect your sleep such as chronic pain, sleep apnea, acid reflux, untreated thyroid issues, heart conditions, etc.
  • Treat mental health conditions and substance use disorders that you’re aware of.
  • Go to sleep when you are truly tired.
  • Go to bed and wake up on a regular schedule.
  • Develop good sleep hygiene.
  • Create a restful sleeping environment
  • Your bedroom should be a peaceful place for rest.
  • Control comfortable temperature, lighting and noise
  • If you have a pet that disturbs you, consider having him/her sleep elsewhere.
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable – not too soft or too hard, not too small.
  • Exercise regularly, but not too late in the day as it will keep you alert.
  • Eat light at night.  Too much food or drink at night can keep you up.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals that interfere with sleep.
  • If you’re going to nap, do it early in the day.
  • Try to relax before bed.
  • Warm bath or shower, quiet music, a good book (not exciting), meditation, gentle yoga, etc. to relax mind/body/spirit.
  • Are you a worrier?  Write down every concern that comes to mind before going to bed.  If you wake up in the middle of the night ruminating on worries, write them down at that time, too!
  • Try sound therapy (soothing sounds to lull you to sleep)
  • Keep technology out of your bedroom.
  • Keep your clock out of your sight.
  • If you simply cannot sleep, get out of bed and occupy yourself with something relaxing.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) uses techniques that specifically address the root cause of insomnia.
  • Consider natural supplements such as melatonin, magnesium, l-theanine, GABA, and 5-HTP to help calm the brain and promote healthy sleep.  Talk to your healthcare provider about them.  Be aware, however, that some physicians may not be familiar with these supplements and their effect on sleep. 

Seek professional help if these tips are not working for you.  Sleep disorders, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and other mental health issues are not things to put off. Your mental well-being is extremely important, especially with all the stresses going on right now. Waiting to get treatment until the pandemic is over could make you feel worse over time.

Resume Must-Have: Soft Skills

Source:  CNBC


Employers are looking for soft skills. In fact, more and more are listing them as part of the job requirements for open roles. More than 6 million job listings included “communication skills,” 5.5 million included “customer service” and 5 million included “scheduling” as a requirement on jobsite ZipRecruiter in May.

soft skills “Even without looking at a specific job listing, we can probably imagine that every job is going to require the same set of soft skills: teamwork skills, communication skills, problem solving skills, time management skills,” says Gorick Ng, Harvard career adviser and author of “The Unspoken Rules.”

If you’re on the market for a job, “your resume is a really, really, really important platform for you to use to embody” these skills, says Octavia Goredema, career coach and author of “Prep Push, Pivot.”

Here’s how to illustrate soft skills on your resume, according to career experts.

Use descriptive titles

The anatomy of a resume features multiple facets. One of them is the various job titles under your “experience” section. These present an opportunity to convey some of your soft skills.

“The key here is to be truthful but also be descriptive,” says Ng.

“There’s a big difference between calling myself an intern and a social media intern,” he says as an example. “There’s a big difference between calling myself an analyst and a project manager, if I was, in fact, doing that. There’s a difference between me calling myself a manager and a communications manager.”

Each of these titles illustrates another facet of the job that proves you have certain experience. “Even just one word like ‘communications’ or ‘social media’ or ‘project’ or ‘product’ or ‘department’ can go a long way in giving people a mental image of what it is that you’re actually accountable for,” he says.

Think back on your work experience for each role you’re outlining and consider one or two additional and accurate words that describe what you did and what you can do.

Bullet points can give examples of your skills

Another piece of resume real estate that could be used to illustrate your soft skills are the bullets under each job title giving concrete examples of what you achieved. Each bullet could speak to a soft skill an employer specifically mentioned in the job description or one you think is relevant for the role.

Consider some of your accomplishments in previous roles, then, when writing these, “think about it being really a Mad Lib exercise consisting of impactful verbs, impactful nouns and impactful numbers,” says Ng.

Say you want to highlight your communication skills, for example, and you work in search engine optimization. One bullet could say something like, “I led a presentation to 30 of our clients outlining effective ways to use keywords, resulting in an average 30% increase in traffic for each of their websites.” “Led,” “increase” and “30%” are a verb, noun and number that give a visceral sense of the kind of impact you had on your company.

The bullet serves to highlight an impressive achievement. Inherently, because it takes strong communication skills to give a good presentation, and because your presentation was clearly successful in helping your clients grow their traffic, you’re proving you’re a good communicator.

“It’s almost implied that I would have had to have the skills to make this impact,” says Ng.

‘What language are you using to talk about work?’

When it comes to communication, specifically, the way your resume is written as a whole can go a long way to proving you’re a good communicator. “You want to be as concise and impactful as possible,” says Goredema.

“What language are you using to talk about work?” she says. “Is it repetitive? Is it flat? Is it really long convoluted sentences? Really take a look at how you are bringing your career to life on paper and how you’re communicating what you do best.”

A resume with strong work examples free of excessive language can show potential employers that, at the very least, you’ve honed your written skills, which are critical for multiple forms of day-to-day communication.


Still struggling with your resume?  Apply with Allied and our experienced recruiters will review your resume and help you improve it! 

5 Everyday Actions That Will Expand and Strengthen Your Network

Need to strengthen your network but not sure how to start? The task can sound overwhelming, particularly when you’re at a crossroads with your job or struggling to find that next opportunity. But working on your network is actually more straightforward than it seems – it is simply strengthening existing relationships and creating new ones. You can do this through easy, everyday actions which can have a huge impact on your career and future goals. Here are 5 to help get you started!

1. Send a personal message to 5 people. Start with the network you already have before trying to create new relationships, even if the connections you want seem different than what you think your existing network can offer. Reach out to contacts from past job experiences or your personal life, since they know your strengths and can endorse you when a relevant opportunity arises. This networking exercise is a good way to organize your contacts and determine the types of contacts you should message. In your message, update your contacts about what’s new in your career and life, and ask them for an update as well.  Don’t ask them for an introduction or recommendation if they’re not someone you’ve been in touch with regularly, but do tell them you’re looking to strengthen your network and connect with other professionals. If you’re contacting someone you have kept in touch with, you can take this opportunity to let them know about your career goals or who would you like to meet. You may be surprised by who they know or the opportunities they come across.

2. Have coffee with a diverse colleague or contact. Meet with someone from a different department or function, since they may be exposed to different contacts and opportunities than you. The same goes for contacts who are in a different age group, race, or industry. Strengthening the more diverse areas of your network can lead to finding “linchpins” or connectors to other groups, in which you have no connections. Also, diverse colleagues and contacts think differently than you, so they are the best to contacts to help spur new ideas and expand your perception.

3. Contact 1 person you admire per week. Find people who inspire you or have the career path you desire, even if they are outside your existing network. Mention why you admire them and share your goals. You’d be surprised how many successful professionals want to help others succeed and are just waiting for them to ask. Add value when you can, be specific about why you admire them and make it clear that you’re interested in a relationship, not a favor. Even if you already have a mentor, experts suggest you should have many people in your network  providing you with mentorship and advice, not just one person.

4. Update your social media profile. Based on your industry and position, you can choose which social media platforms provide you with the best opportunities to connect and build your presence on them. Regardless of what industry you’re in, be sure to keep your LinkedIn profile updated. An estimated 95% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find candidates, and are attracted to the following aspects of a profile that you can easily update:

  • A high-resolution, professional profile picture (increases your views by 14 times)
  • Your current position (increases your connection requests by 5 times)
  • 5 relevant skills (increases your messages by 31 times)

Another easy way to boost your visibility and make positive connections on LinkedIn is by endorsing others for skills. The gesture is likely to get you some endorsements in return!

5. Add value to another person’s life. As important as networking is to our personal careers and goals, successful networking requires adopting an “others-first” mindset. If you want others to connect you with opportunities and contacts, you need to exhibit that same behavior. Adding value requires understanding your contacts’ needs and challenges (personal or professional). Do they need a connection that you can provide? Can you contribute your time to something they are working on? Increase the likelihood of someone in your network wanting to help you by helping them first.

Contrary to what you may think, strengthening your network doesn’t need to be a massive endeavor. Start by leveraging your existing relationships first then expand to new contacts through simple actions like sending a message. You will be surprised how these everyday actions can make a big difference in your network online and offline and can lead to unexpected opportunities!


Let Allied help you improve your networking skills!  Referring someone for a job is a great way to help your network!  Who do you know that is looking for work?  Contact Allied today!

The ultimate guide to nailing the ‘tell me about yourself’ interview question

Source:  Fast Company


We’ve all been there.

You’ve just sat down for an interview and you’re feeling a little nervous. After a few quick exchanges of small talk, it’s time to get down to business. You’re trying to recall all those notes you prepared, hoping your background noise stays quiet for the duration of your Zoom, and going over the buzzwords you want to avoid. You know what’s coming, yet it always catches you by surprise: the dreaded first question.

“So,” your interviewer says, “tell me about yourself.”

Where do you begin? Do you jump right into the details of your résumé? Do you talk about what you do in your free time? Or how much you want this job?

The “tell me about yourself” question is an almost universal way to kick off an interview. In fact, nearly 60% of job recruiters report that this is their go-to first question for a candidate. Although planning ahead and embracing the open-ended nature of this query can feel overwhelming, acing it could just be the key to ensuring your interviewers remember you as the standout candidate you are.


You might come across some career “experts” who suggest sticking to answers as short as 30 seconds because hiring managers will lose interest. While unorganized rambling will do you no good, hiring managers are likely looking for more information than you can express in under a minute. Managers ask questions like “tell me about yourself” because they are looking to see whether your professional skills align with the role you’re interviewing for.

“It may be difficult to understand the depth of a candidate’s experience related to the role if his response is shorter than three minutes,” Brenda Kurz, chief administrative officer at Toptal, previously told Fast Company. In the same piece, Pete Sosnowski, head of HR and cofounder of the tech startup Zety, agreed:

You want to give an impression that you really thought this through. If your answer is too short, the recruiter might think you simply don’t care or have much to say.

It’s not just what you’ve done in your career, but why you made those decisions. The average hiring manager spends just seven seconds looking at your résumé, so this is your chance to show them who you are. When you answer this question, you want to share a clear narrative of the experiences, roles, and achievements. Use this time as an opportunity to road-map your interviewer’s takeaways so that you will stand out against other candidates.


If you answer this first interview question hesitantly, chances are it’ll be harder to impress upon your interviewers that you’re a strong leader. Kicking off your interview with the intention of motivating and inspiring your potential employers can help you land the job. Try taking a less “informational” approach and more of an “inspirational” one. Show that you’ve done your research on the company and don’t be afraid to move the conversation toward your own visionary thinking.

You can also adopt what Judith Humphrey, author and founder of The Humphrey Group, calls “the Leader Script.” Open your answer with a line such as, “I’ve heard so much about you from my previous interviews, so it’s great to meet you in person.” You’ll come across as being open-minded and self-assured: two qualities that will remind interviewers of your leader’s presence.

But it’s not just what you say that will make your interviewers see you as a leader. Humphrey also pointed out that leadership begins with your physical presence in a room. Be vocal and animated. Speak energetically. Act enthusiastically and eager to be there. A smile and good posture could just be the extra note of confidence to show recruiters your commitment to the job.


When hiring managers inevitably look at you and say, “tell me about yourself,” think how your answer can be the start of a deeper conversation, leading to a stronger relationship with your interviewer. According to public speaking coach and founder of Spokesmith Eileen Smith, you should keep three themes in mind when crafting your response: Engage your audience, establish credibility, and tell your interviewers why they should care.

In tailoring your answer to your specific audience, you will find ways to connect your experience with the expertise and interests of those listening to you. Smith recommends using some version of, “This is important because . . . ” to link what you have told your interviewer with what you hope they remember about your potential in this new role.


As much as your previous leadership experience matters, employers are also looking for a well-rounded candidate. Don’t discount the last thing you read or watched as material for the “tell me about yourself” question. This can be a way to demonstrate your interests beyond the workplace and to show hiring managers that you have opinions that you’re not afraid to express.

“I look for curiosity. I legitimately don’t care if the answer is Game of Thrones, as long as they have an interesting take and an ability to communicate it clearly,” said Jess Greenwood, North America’s head of strategy at R/GA, in another Fast Company report. “We work hard, and maintaining a life outside of it is important. I want to hear how they stay grounded and what makes them happy.”


The only thing you’ll accomplish by admitting how you’ve been unable to get a job or that you’re unsure why this position is a good fit for you, is leaving hiring managers absolutely cringing. “Tell me about yourself” is a great opportunity to share what you’re like beyond your one-page résumé, but be careful about spilling your emotions and dishing out your entire life trajectory.

Michelle Mavi, director of content development, internal recruiting, and training for the hiring agency Atrium Staffing previously warned candidates in an article for Fast Company that the nature of this question can feel daunting. “As it’s a very broad and open question, candidates are prone to ramble, talking about their professional selves in very generic and general terms, and basically rehashing their résumé,” she said.


Sometimes, this question can be disguised as another. Anne Marie Squeo, CEO and founder of Proof Point Communications, always starts job interviews with “tell me your story.” She reminds interviewees that she and other hiring managers have already read a candidate’s résumé, so there’s no need to rehash it. Yet, 85% of candidates seem caught off guard by the question and fall back on reciting their résumés anyway. Or fall prey to the urge to tell the interviewers everything they’ve done since high school.

For Squeo, the question is meant to be an opportunity for a potential hire to offer an illuminating deep-dive into what drives and encourages them as a person. “One candidate not long ago responded to this question by telling me she’d been a concert pianist who had an injury and had to quit during college,” Squeo wrote recently in Fast Company. “She then took a deliberate approach to identify what also fueled her passion and embarked on a career in corporate communications. Here’s what I learned: She’s resilient, knows who she is, and is purposeful in her pursuit of a challenge.”


Maybe you’ve just graduated or maybe you’re switching industries. Either way, your athletic experience could be a factor in showing hiring managers that you’re right for the job. A lot of the skills employers are looking for align with the characteristics you develop on the athletic field–you just have to convince an interviewer that this is the case.

Think about the challenges you encountered in a game and apply it to the workplace. Did you attend daily, grueling sport practices? In the workplace, former athletes will know how to work through tough times, handle a busy schedule, and always keep a goal in mind.

Remember all the sacrifices you made for your team, too. You gave up personal time to perfect that pass or that trick shot. You understand that if one team member is struggling, success will be impossible. These are all critical characteristics to bring to a workplace.


Remember that employers interview many candidates, and if your answers sound the same as theirs, you don’t have a chance of sticking out. Using generic buzzwords will only increase the chance you’ll sound like a corporate drone, so try not to use too much jargon. To avoid this, practice describing your skills and your experience with anecdotes that demonstrate the value you will bring to a company. In other words, show your potential employers why your experiences have shaped you rather than tell them.

The same idea applies to generic accolades about yourself. Avoid inauthentic statements that interviewers can see right through like, “I’m a perfectionist,” “I get along with everyone,” and “this is a dream job for me.” According to a TopInterview survey, the two worst traits for a job candidate are arrogance and dishonesty. Don’t take the risk of coming across as disingenuous by using these vague lines. Instead, focus on moments of individual experience and growth–your interviewer will notice this.


If you’re reading this now, you’re probably expecting that your interviewer will look at you and say, “Tell me about yourself.” You might think very few candidates actually write out what they’re going to say but, without a script, you could be caught flailing in an interview. And with a question as common as this one, you should be prepared.

Humphrey offered advice for prepping your interview script in another Fast Company report:

As a former speechwriter, I can tell you, good scripts don’t come “in the moment.” There’s a slight chance you’ll get it right. But more likely, you’ll deliver mixed messages that don’t add up to a clear and compelling picture of yourself. You have to think a lot about how you’re going to tell your story. After all, it must inspire that particular interviewer, and that company.

Humphrey underscored that every job seeker needs a message. What is the big idea you want your interviewer to hear? And how should that show them you’re the right candidate? In getting this message across when you’re asked to tell interviewers who you are, you’ll have a better chance of securing your interview narrative right from the start.


If you’re stuck while you’re trying to write out possible responses, Humphrey suggests framing it as a story. In a recent Fast Company story, she wrote,

The simplest way of thinking about flow is to build your story chronologically—with a past, present, and future. If you are in a job interview for an HR position and are asked why you want the job, you might develop this flow:

Past: “I’ve always loved people, and that’s why I’m passionate about this job in HR. I was outgoing and extrovertish, even when young.”

Present: “In my last two HR positions, I have developed programs that make employees feel safe and engaged. One program I am particularly proud of is our Mental Health offering.”

Future: “This job is my dream job, and as an HR professional, I know I would be a great fit for this role.”


Even the best narrative won’t work if you sound like a robot. Whether you practice in front of a mirror or with a handful of trusted friends, you should go into an interview having already rehearsed what you plan to say. In an interview, you’re expected to balance sounding confident without coming across as a know-it-all. Striking this balance ahead of time will not only calm your nerves in the moment, but it will ensure that interviewers can relate to your personality.

According to a study conducted by TopInterview and Resume-Library, 70% of employers think a candidate’s personality is among the top three factors they consider when making a hiring decision. Personality consistently ranks higher than education (18%) and appearance (7%). So, stay calm, take a deep breath, and fire away at the script you’ve prepared.


When the interview time finally rolls around, take the moment seriously without wigging yourself out. Test the waters and follow the lead of your interviewer. Do they want to make small talk? Go with it. Are they probing for how much you know about the company? Go for it. The broadness of “tell me about yourself” should serve as an asset. You can talk about yourself while emphasizing the skills you will bring to the job. Skills are now the most important factor employers use when hiring, so don’t waste this opportunity to share your strengths.

Show hiring managers how you’re professional and experienced beyond your career accomplishments. In doing so, you’ll both tell interviewers who you are and why you’re the qualified choice.

How Success Is Like Chinese Bamboo

In the age of social media, YouTube sensations, and “viral” posts, it seems like we witness the  “overnight success” story over and over. But is there such a thing? Most entrepreneurs will tell you “no”.  While a business or product may appear to be an overnight success, it’s actually just consumers suddenly realizing its value.  What they don’t see are the years of hard work, failures, dedication, and relationship-building it took for the creators to get the market’s attention.

A popular Chinese parable demonstrates this concept through the story of a farmer who put in years of hard work before successfully growing the plant of his dreams:

Like any other crop or plant, Chinese Bamboo needs to be nurtured in order to grow; fertile soil, water, and sunlight are crucial for its survival. As the story goes, a Chinese farmer once planted a bamboo tree as he heard that it can create miracles, and he needed one to care for his struggling family.

The farmer faithfully watered, fed, and cared for the soil, in which he planted the bamboo seeds, for an entire year but saw no sign of life. No growth, no sprouts, no hope. The second year was the same as were the third and fourth years. His patience and faith in this “miracle” bamboo plant started to fade. How could something he had so diligently cared for reap absolutely no reward? During the fifth year, just as he was about to give up on his dream of growing the plant, he noticed it started to sprout. The bamboo sprung up 60 feet over the next six weeks!

How did this happen? Did the bamboo lie dormant and then suddenly shoot up 60 feet in six weeks? Of course not. What the farmer couldn’t see during the first four years was the root system the plant was developing to support its rapid ascent above ground. Had the bamboo plant not developed a strong root system, it wouldn’t have been able to support such massive and quick growth. What’s more, if you’ve ever tried to control or get rid of bamboo, you know it’s nearly impossible. The root system is so strong, it’s prolific under almost any circumstances.

This story demonstrates that patience, faith, and perseverance pay off over time, and what appears to be “overnight success” is usually the product of years of hard work.

Like the farmer, we may not immediately see the fruits of our labor in our journey toward success, but here are three things we can learn from him:

  1. Authentic Relationships are Key to Success – relationships are your root system. Like the farmer’s bamboo, genuine relationships take years to build and often do not provide an immediate, visible payoff. However, strong relationships give you a strong foundation for success. If you develop and nurture them with care, relationships enable your business to thrive. Developing authentic relationships isn’t complicated, but it does require you to shift your focus, especially in a business setting. Your focus should be not on what you want from this person, but what you can give to them to strengthen your relationship. Look for ways to add value, make connections, demonstrate your support, and build trust
  2. Patience is a (Very Necessary) Virtue – the culture of impatience and instant gratification, in which we currently live, has us very accustomed to getting immediate results. Our culture, especially in the United States, highly values speed and convenience. However, in your career and in life, this is not always the best philosophy. When rapid success does occur, it’s very difficult to maintain. Lottery winners, who are most notorious for achieving quick success, typically declare bankruptcy within 3-5 years. Looking at success as a journey rather than a destination will help you practice patience. Rather than trying to hurry up and get to the next step, enjoy the step you’re in. If the farmer had impatiently dug up the bamboo seeds and replanted them over and over to see if he could get quicker results, he would never have seen the fruits of his labor. Remember, the best things in life are worth the wait
  3. You Gotta Have Faith – have faith in yourself and your business. Had the farmer become discouraged and given  up after two or three years, he wouldn’t have experienced his dream become a reality. JK Rowling, Jeff Bezos and Henry Ford are just a few examples of entrepreneurs who did not find mega-success until their 40s. Without their hard work and perseverance, we would live in a world without Harry Potter, Amazon or Ford vehicles. In his best-selling book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, Jim C. Collins writes, “The only truly reliable source of stability is a strong inner core and the willingness to change and adapt everything except that core.” Have faith in your dream. You might make mistakes, get frustrated, feel discouraged and want to quit along the way, but remember what’s driving you. Believing in yourself helps others believe in you too.

The farmer and the bamboo teach us that though success may appear to happen overnight, it’s really the result of hard work, perseverance, and faith, building what most people can’t see. The farmer was laughed at and called crazy when he watched for growth from the tree for five long years. Time placed doubt in his mind, but all along he was building the foundation he didn’t even know he needed for the amount of growth that was to come.

Let everyone laugh at you while you continue to build the relationships that will form the root system of your future success!