Archive for the ‘Informational Interviews’ category

7 Questions Employers Have That They Won’t Ask You (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

January 21, 2011

When I had to hire my first employee for one of my businesses, 7 concerns swirled around my mind.  The person who eventually got the job was the one who addressed all of my concerns with how he presented himself to me.

If you want to get your dream job, you need to understand what is going on in the minds of the people in a position to hire you.  No matter what organization you want to work for, and no matter what type of work you want to do, every employer and hiring person is secretly asking themselves 7 questions about EVERY job candidate and potential new hire. 

Many hiring persons probably don’t even recognize that they are subconsciously asking themselves these questions, and none of them will blatantly ask you these 7 questions.  However, you still need to address them in every interaction you have with potential employers:

1. How much can we trust you?  If an employer doesn’t think they can trust you, you aren’t going to get hired, no matter how talented you are.  Position yourself as someone who can be trusted.

2. How hard are you willing to work? If employers think you are lazy or unmotivated, you aren’t going to get hired, no matter how talented you are.  Position yourself as someone willing to work hard.

3. Are you going to be a pain in the “neck?” If employers think you are going to be tough to manage or get along with, you aren’t going to get hired, no matter how talented you are.  Position yourself as someone who gets along well with others.

4. Are you going to have one foot out the door from day 1?  If employers think you aren’t committed to their organization for the long-term, you aren’t going to get hired, no matter how talented you are.  Position yourself as someone who really wants to work for the selected employer.

5. How much are we going to need to hold your hand?  If employers think it will take a lot of time and effort to get you up to speed, you aren’t going to get hired, no matter how talented you are.  Position yourself as someone who can contribute from the start.

6. Are you going to embarrass us?  If employers think you won’t represent them well in-person and online, you aren’t going to get hired, no matter how talented you are.  As social media and the Internet continue to evolve, this is becoming more and more important.  Position yourself as someone who is professional and responsible.

7. Are you more than capable of delivering the results we need in this position?  If employers don’t think you can get the job done better than anyone else, you aren’t going to get hired, no matter how talented you are.  Note: if you satisfy the first 6 concerns, this concern is often eliminated, even if you don’t have a lot of relevant work experience. 

The hiring process is like dating in many ways.  When you first meet someone, you size them up (subconsciously or consciously), and you make judgments about their personality, character, value, and how much you fit with each other. It’s the same with getting your dream job.  Overcome the 7 concerns every employer has about job candidates and new hires, and you will significantly increase your chances of getting your dream job!

-Pete Leibman

-President of Idealize Enterprises

-Creator of The Dream Job College Tour

Creator of The Washington Wizards’ Sports Careers Day


Twitter: @peteleibman

P.S. To learn more about my programs and availability for The 2011 Dream Job College Tour (or for individual career coaching), please send an email to


6 Major Mistakes People Make When Sending Thank You Notes and Cards (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

January 14, 2011

If you simply do what you say you will do, you will rise to the top of any company, organization, or industry.  If you go above and beyond what you say you will do, you will be absolutely unstoppable.

One way to go above and beyond is by sending a personalized thank you note/card any time another person does something to help you.  Yes, this sounds basic, and I realize I’m not the first person to tell you this.  However, I guarantee you aren’t sending thank you notes as often as you should, and if you are sending thank you notes, they aren’t having the impact you hope they will. 

Here are 6 major mistakes people make when sending thank you notes and cards:

  1. You don’t have your supplies handy.  At all times, make sure you have thank you notes, envelopes, and stamps in your office and/or home.  If they aren’t easily accessible, you’ll be much less likely to send them.
  2. You aren’t a speedy sender.  If someone gives you career advice over the phone, send your thank you note right after your call.  If someone meets with you for an informational interview or a job interview, send your note right after your meeting.  The longer you wait, the less likely you will send your note.
  3.  You don’t type AND write. Type a short email (or message) AND send a handwritten letter.  In today’s electronic world, people expect a thank you note to be sent rapidly via email, so send your electronic message within a few hours.   (I remember once being peeved that a friend had not emailed me to thank me for donating to a charity event she was participating in.  Luckily, I didn’t say anything about it.  She never emailed me to thank me, but her letter arrived in the mail a few days later.)  By sending the email, you acknowledge the person immediately.  The letter then arrives a few days later as an added appreciation of the other person.  By sending both, you also make sure you reach the other person, in case they miss one of your efforts somehow.
  4. You don’t look professional.  Make sure you use decent stationery, write legibly and in black or dark blue ink, and proofread before you send your letter.
  5. You don’t use a personalized P.S.  Use discretion here, but you want to make people smile and/or laugh in your letter somehow.  Here are a few examples:

“P.S. Can’t wait to hear about your trip to the Caribbean!  You have to send me your pictures when you get back.” 

Or…  “P.S. It will be no small feat, but I think my Jets are going to destroy your Patriots this weekend.”  (In case you missed it, that was a reference to the Rex Ryan “foot fetish scandal.”)

6. You rely too heavily on automatic card-sending services.  Many of my friends use a card service like or  Personally, I think their cards look cheap and/or impersonal.  (Sorry if any of you are reading this!)  The purpose of a card (genuine, personalized appreciation and acknowledgement) is defeated when someone sends a card that they clearly mass-produced online and mailed to everyone they know without any personalization other than changing the name of the person the card was addressed to.  Letters sent by mail should be handwritten (even if it’s just 1 sentence).  Or, if they are typed, they should include a message unique to each person (even if it’s just 1 sentence).

2 Bonus tips for thank you notes after informational interviews or job interviews:

  1. Sell yourself: Include 1-2 sentences (no more than that) to reiterate why you want a certain job and why a certain employer should hire you. 
  2. Use 1-2 sentences (max) to address any mistake, confusion, or omission from your informational interview or job interview. 


In summary, thank you notes are absolutely imperative.  When done right, they can build deeper relationships and help you advance your career.  Want proof? People often thank me for sending them a thank you note!  The greatest gift you can give someone is your genuine appreciation.  Start giving the gift of a great thank you note today.

 P.S. Please share your comments or thoughts as well!

-Pete Leibman

-President of Idealize Enterprises

-Creator of The Dream Job College Tour

Creator of The Washington Wizards’ Sports Careers Day


Twitter: @peteleibman

P.S. To learn more about my programs and availability for The 2011 Dream Job College Tour (or for individual career coaching), please send an email to

9 Keys on How to Email a New Networking Contact During a Job Search (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

January 6, 2011

Students and young professionals ALWAYS ask me what they should say when first reaching out to someone for career advice, so here is your blueprint. 

The bottom line is this: People have to trust you and like you BEFORE they will help you, refer you, hire you, or buy from you.  Therefore, the goal of any initial communication with a new networking contact is to build trust and rapport. 

Here are 9 keys on how to do that via email:

  1. Use a Compelling Subject Line For Your Email. (This makes a great first impression and increases your chances of getting a quick, favorable response.)
  2. Establish something in common.  (It could be a mutual acquaintance, a shared affiliation, you saw them speak at an event, you read their book, a recent blog entry or article, you attended the same college, etc.).
  3. Compliment their work and acknowledge how busy they are, without being a kiss-up.
  4. Describe yourself and your dream with passion and confidence.  (Remember The Lemonade Stand Principle: older people LOVE to help ambitious, younger people.)
  5. Include 2 calls-to-action.  (Don’t go overboard, but include a bigger request and a smaller request.  They might agree to the bigger request.  Even if they don’t, the smaller request will look even smaller in comparison to the bigger request, making it more likely to be accepted than if you had just sent the smaller request.) 
  6. Ask for “ADVICE.”  (Do NOT ask for a job or for help finding a job.)
  7. Write the email in a professional, reader-friendly format.  (Do NOT send a lengthy, poorly written email.  Students and recent grads are notorious for that.  Make your email is well-written and easy to read, and remove any word, phrase, or sentence that is not 100% necessary.)
  8. Use an excellent email signature. 
  9. Include a personal, high-value P.S. (This could be a thoughtful question or a link to an interesting, relevant article).

Here is an example.  Use this as a template and tweak it based on your background and who you are reaching out to, etc.

Hi Mr. Smith, 

Given your success and experience in the sports marketing industry, Dave Jackson at ABC Company thought you might be willing to give me some advice.

In May 2011, I will be graduating with Honors from Johns Hopkins University.  I’ve worked extremely hard in and out of the classroom during my time at JHU and am very motivated to achieve my dream of working in sports marketing after college.

Would it be possible for me to take you out for a cup of coffee, or for us to schedule a 15-minute phone call?  It would be great to meet you, ask you a few quick questions, and learn more about how you got started in the field.

I know you are very busy, so thank you for your time and consideration.

P.S. Here is a link to an interesting article about the future of sports marketing that I thought you would enjoy:


Your Name

President of XYZ Business Fraternity

Johns Hopkins University

Try this out, and let me know how it goes!

-Pete Leibman

-Career Expert, Author, Speaker, and Coach

-Creator of The Dream Job College Tour


Twitter: @peteleibman

P.S. I speak nationwide to groups of students and young professionals.  To learn more about my programs and speaking availability for The 2011 Dream Job College Tour, please send an email to

The Lemonade Stand Principle: 4 Lessons For Your Career (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

November 29, 2010

With over 70% of all jobs being filled through personal contacts and networking, networking is clearly the #1 job search strategy.  However, you may be thinking, “Why would someone want to help me, especially if I am not able to do anything for them?”

Consider this… Did you ever have a lemonade stand as a child?

As a boy, my younger brother and I would have lemonade stands every summer as a way to make extra cash.  We would set up a table and chairs on the corner of the street we lived on in the suburbs of Long Island, NY, and people would always stop and buy our lemonade.

Now, did people buy our product because they were so thirsty that they could not wait to get to their final destination to grab something to drink?  Nope. 

Did they purchase our lemonade because it was so delicious that they could not resist it? Nope.  It really wasn’t that good! 

Instead, people bought our lemonade because of something I have coined “The Lemonade Stand Principle,” which contains 4 lessons for your career:

1. Enthusiasm is magnetic.  Because we were so excited about our lemonade stand, my brother and I inspired people to help us (by buying our product).  As a job-seeker (or as a salesperson or entrepreneur), you must have that same passion about your current or future career goals.  If you do, people will be motivated to help you. If not, networking will not work!

2. Youth is an advantage in business.  How do you think I would do now if I set up a lemonade stand on the corner of the street I grew up on?  I doubt that many people would stop and support me now (at the age of 29), even if they had supported my lemonade stand when I was a boy.  The message is that youth is a huge advantage when you are trying to achieve anything.  As you get older, people will feel less and less inclined to help you without getting anything in return.  Use your youth to your advantage, and do not feel guilty about it.  You can return the favor in the future.

3. We love to help people who remind us of ourselves.  Successful older executives LOVE ambitious students and young professionals.  When looking at you, older execs see who they were 10, 20, 30, or 40 years ago.  They remember the challenges they went through at the start of their careers, and they remember how other people helped them get started.  If you approach people the right way, you will be amazed at who will support you.  This happened to me when I looked for a job as a 21 year-old student.  It also happened when I started my business 2 years ago at the age of 27.

4. It feels good to help others.  Older professionals often tell me that the joy they receive in knowing they helped a student or young professional is the only “payment” they need.  You should still always try to return a favor.  However, understand that by thanking someone for their support and by taking action on their advice, you give the greatest gift of all: appreciation.

You don’t have to go through any journey alone!  You will be amazed at who will help you when you approach people the right way.

Do you have a story of how someone helped you in your career without expecting anything in return?  If so, please comment below.

-Pete Leibman

-Career Expert and Professional Speaker

-President of Idealize Enterprises


Twitter: @peteleibman

P.S. I speak about career success to students and young professionals nationwide.  To learn more about my programs and speaking availability for The 2011 Dream Job College Tour, please send an email to

The Only 10 Questions to Ask in an Informational Interview (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

November 10, 2010

One of the best ways to learn about a field (and to get advice on how you can break into it) is by conducting informational interviews with people who already work in your target industry.  This is not a new strategy.  However, when I look at college/university career center web sites or other resources offered by career experts, many of them provide lists of 25-50 questions (or more!) to ask in an informational interview.  One online resource even provided a list of 200 questions! 

While thorough, that is completely unrealistic.  An informational interview will probably only last 15-20 minutes, so there is no way you will be able to ask more than 5-10 questions.  Here are the 10 best questions you can ask:

  1. How did you get started in this field, and what do you think has made you successful throughout your career? (This gets the other person talking about himself/herself and can provide you insights about how you can get started and achieve success of your own.)
  2. What are some ways that other people you know have gotten started in this field? (This will help you learn how most people get their start in the industry.)
  3. What are the pros and cons of working in this field?  (This cuts right to the chase about the good, the bad, and the ugly about an industry.)
  4. What traits, skills, or experiences do employers in your field look for in candidates?  (This will help you understand how you can enhance your candidacy and how you should position yourself to employers.)
  5. If you were me, what would you do to try to break into this field now?  (This will get the other person to tell you what you should be doing to find a job in the field at this time.)
  6. What publications, professional associations, or events should I check out for additional information on this field?  (This will direct you to other valuable resources about breaking into a field.)
  7. Do you know anyone else I can speak to for advice about breaking into this field?  (This builds your network even further and may lead to additional insights.)
  8. Can you take a quick glance at my resume and give me your feedback?  (This is a subtle way of reminding the other person that you want to find a job in the field, and this may also give you some ideas on how to improve your resume.)
  9. If I have additional questions in the future, can I reach out to you again?  (This keeps the door open for future advice.)
  10. Is there anything I can do to help you?  (Always look for ways to return the favor when someone helps you by offering their time and advice.)


In summary, these 10 questions will give you insights on how people get started in a certain field, what the pros and cons are for working in the industry, what employers in the field look for, how you can connect with other people in the field, and what you can do to get your foot in the door.  Good luck! 

-Pete Leibman

-Career Expert and Professional Speaker

-President of Idealize Enterprises



P.S. I speak about career success to students and young professionals nationwide.  To learn more about my programs and speaking availability, please send an email to 

7 Tips on How to Use Informational Interviews to Get Your Dream Job (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

October 13, 2010

Informational interviews helped me get my dream job to work in the front-office for an NBA team after I graduated from college in 2003.  If you are not familiar with the term, an informational interview is a discussion you have in-person or over the phone with someone working in an industry or occupation that interests you.  The goal of an informational interview is to learn more about an industry and/or position and to get advice on breaking into a field.  Here are 7 tips on how to use informational interviews to get your dream job:

  1.  Treat informational interviews like real interviews.  Show up or call on time, and dress professionally if you are meeting in-person. 
  2. Bring your resume with you.  At the end of a face-to-face informational interview, ask the person you are meeting with for feedback and suggestions on your resume.  You may get some good ideas on how to improve your resume, and this is a subtle, effective way to remind the person that you are looking for a job. Do NOT ask the other person to send out your resume for you.
  3. Be prepared to lead.  Unlike a traditional job interview where the interviewer takes the lead, you have to run the meeting in an informational interview.  You MUST prepare 5-10 questions that you want to ask in the informational interview.  We’ll discuss the best questions to ask in an upcoming post.
  4. Be respectful of the other person’s time.  Stick to the amount of time you agreed to when setting up the informational interview.  15 minutes is the standard duration for a phone conversation, and 20-30 minutes is typical for a face-to-face appointment.
  5. Start the right way.  Begin the informational interview by making sure the time still works for the other person and by thanking him/her for meeting/speaking with you.  Then, ask if you could share a quick 30-second background of yourself.  It is important to share a well-constructed bio at the start of the interview because you want the other person to understand why you requested the meeting and because it gives you a chance to highlight some of your strengths.  Be concise and prepare this 30-second bio in advance; do NOT improvise.
  6. Thank the other person.   Send a short thank you note via email immediately after your conversation, while referencing any follow-up items or key takeaways from your discussion.  You should also write a handwritten thank you note and mail it to the person immediately after your conversation.  (You may need to ask for a mailing address during the call/meeting.)  Thank you notes are imperative!
  7. Stay in touch.  The person meeting with you wants to see you succeed.  Keep him/her posted on your progress after the meeting, and make sure to let him/her know how you followed the advice given to you.

Informational interviews helped me get my dream job, and they can work for you, too!  Want to learn what to ask in an informational interview?  Make sure you are subscribed to this blog for tips to be covered in an upcoming post.

-Pete Leibman

-Career Expert and Professional Speaker

-President of Idealize Enterprises


P.S. I speak about career success to students and young professionals nationwide.  To learn more about my programs and speaking availability, please email me at