I'm going to document my experience using the interviewing series.

I recently picked up the interviewing series, and I've been listening to the podcasts. I've done a lot of user research over the years, and I've often spent a lot of effort chasing down people to get a little glimpse into how they use a product. I am grateful for all the work Mark and Mike have put out there for me to consume, so I'm going to give a little back.

I plan on putting some info up each week as I go through the product. If this interests you, stay tuned!


Edit: And I'm grateful to Wendii, too! I haven't listened to many of your casts in the past, but now you're one of the voices I associate with actionable advice, Wendii!

scott.a.russell's picture

Before I picked up the interviewing series, I was already thinking about pursuing another job.  Based on my previous experience in job searches coupled with a strong recommendation from my brother-in-law about the Manager-Tools interviewing series, I wrote a plan for how I would be in a new position by the end of August.


Goal: Be in a new position by the end of August


Complete by Monday, May 30

[  ] Outline the new position I am looking for

                [  ] Write 1-sentence description of my "product"

                [  ] Identify companies in the area that I would like to work for

                [  ] Find at least one position open for each company to use as a target


Complete by Monday, June 13

[  ] Revise resume

                [  ] Listen to Manager-Tools interview series 1-5 about pre-interview preparations


                [  ] Complete Manager-Tools resume workbook


                [  ] Create Word and PDF forms of basic resume for use with "business" positions

                [  ] Create "creative" version of resume for use with "design" positions

                [  ] Update files in Dropbox portfolio folder

                [  ] Update LinkedIn profile to sync with resume


Complete by Monday, June 27

[  ] Prepare for interviews in general

                [  ] Listen to Manager-Tools interview series 6-11 about interviewing

                [  ] Create talking-topics cheat sheet

                [  ] Identify recruiting agencies in the area that align with the work I'm looking for

                [  ] Apply for at least 1 job with each recruiting agency

                [  ] Listen to Manager-Tools interview series 12-15 about post-interview tasks


Start by Monday, June 27 - continue through end

                [  ] Identify jobs to apply for on Saturday afternoons

                [  ] Research companies on Sunday afternoons

                [  ] Apply for jobs on Monday nights

                [  ] Interview with employers

                [  ] Schedule interview follow-ups on calendar


Complete by Wednesday, August 17

[  ] Accept new position offer

                [  ] Inform new employer about acceptance

                [  ] Make notes about current contacts, including names, emails, and phone numbers

                [  ] Identify any portfolio material and convert for portfolio

                [  ] Earmark funds to cover potential unpaid time between positions

                [  ] Inform current position about transition

                [  ] Perform hand-off of current assignments


Wednesday, August 31

[  ] Start new job!


scott.a.russell's picture

I sell a product: I translate strategy into execution.

I'm not able to be fully effective in my current role due to a lack of goals.

I do process improvement facilitation in my current role, and I cannot get my leadership to agree to the goal of projects.  It's not that I work for stupid people.  Rather, I work for people who are stuck in what the Four Disciplines of Execution calls "the whirlwind."  I believe my leadership wants to improve, especially since they are spending an enormous amount of money for both internal and external resources to help understand and streamline the business.  This should be the perfect job for someone like me, because I work well inside the chaos, bring people together around a common goal, and then help those people execute.

That's where it all falls down, of course.  I need an objective goal to huddle around and to use in ensuring that our efforts are a good return for the business.  I can be perfectly happy creating my own goals, and I have done so in my role.  Later, my leadership comes in and negates the goals I set without agreeing to new goals.

This leads me to believe that my paying customers (the leadership I serve) are not interested right now in the product I have to offer.  They are too busy fighting fires, and the corporate culture means 90%+ of their calendars are occupied by meetings that have no agenda.  Leadership has no time for planning and goal setting, but they still feel the need to be involved and un-do goal setting that happens at lower levels.  For my product to work best, I need goals.

And so, instead of fighting with my leadership and trying to force them to want my product, I'm looking for a new customer who is a better match for what I have to sell.  I am not bitter or angry, because I really do see this as a sales mismatch.  I don't need to talk Coke fans into buying my Pepsi; I need to find Pepsi fans.

mmcconkie's picture

I'm excited to see your progress as you go through the interview series! Something I highly recommend is the series in Career Tools: Choosing a Company to Work For. You can find it in the Map of the Universe under Transitions>Search>Choosing a Company. The Interview Series will help you get offers, and the Choosing a Company to Work For series will help you as you look at which companies you should apply to, as well as help weigh options as offers are extended. Good luck! I loved the Interview Series. It was a HUGE help to me. 



tlhausmann's picture
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What I do not see in your plan is your work in reaching out to a professional network.

This is most certain a "Hall of Fame" podcast. If I recall, Wendii declares it the single most important Career Tools cast.

timrutter's picture

Just to underline Mt Hausmanns' comments, if you don't have the network, the rest of the process doesn't even make the starting line.

This is advice learnt painfully from not achieving that step I'm paying the price daily


scott.a.russell's picture

(I promise future posts will be shorter.  This is just to bring things up to the current date.)

Starting with delays

As is the normal case for any schedule, something got in the way.  My children were sick (and now somehow they're sick again), and all my non-work time ended up being devoted there.

I missed the May 30 deadline as I struggled to distill my product down to something concise, and without a good product defined, I was struggling to identify the companies I want to work for.  (Interesting that you pointed out the Choosing a Company to Work For series, mmcconkie.  I've just downloaded that series and will be listening to it immediately.  Thanks!)

Listening to the casts

And so my goal-oriented internal wiring started pushing me to simply grab the next known task that could be completed while I worked on revising the plan.  I chose to go ahead and order the Interviewing series.  I started listening to the podcasts while we drove out of state for a kids' birthday shindig with extended family.  I was very interested in cast #1 about how to prepare for interviewing.  The 3x5 card idea may be a little more copying than I'm comfortable with, but who cares?  The exercise sounds extremely useful.

Then there was a part about practicing answers to questions with a voice recorder, and somewhere along the line, I got lost.  Mark talks about the questions but I missed where the questions were listed.  I've listened to that cast twice, and I'm still unclear on exactly what is being practiced.  I'll figure that out later.  At the time, I continued listening to the rest of the casts.  I felt like I needed more of the casts to understand how to convert the advice into a plan.  I was a little surprised that there wasn't some sort of plan overview listed out, since the Trinity casts had introduced an implementation plan so clearly.

I felt like I already had a good understanding of what to wear in an interview, but I listened carefully to the entire cast anyway.  I was happy to find that I agree with most of the recommendations.  I do feel that the red "power tie" has developed a negative connotation, and I purposefully don't wear one for that reason.  The only outright disagreement I have is for design-oriented interviews.  I have roots in two fields: process improvement and user experience design.  There is a certain amount of sneer that designers have when you wear something that doesn't demonstrate color and design sense, and I think it could be a strike against me if I'm too conservative.  For the process improvement jobs, I am in 100% agreement about being conservative.  My navy suit is a staple.

And then I reached the most important learning of the casts for me: I (really, really) need to work on putting the answer before the explanation.  I am certain this has cost me offers in the past.  Also, I need to be more purposeful about doing this in general, and not just in interviews.  Walking a team through how their customers will be impacted by a decision is a great time for narrative.  Answering a question my boss asks me is a time to put the answer first.  Wow, do I need to work on this!

Next steps

1. Start working on the 3x5 card accomplishments task.
2. Start listening to the Choosing a Company to Work For series.
3. Revise my plan.

In the hopper is also the Building a Network cast (Thanks for pointing that out, tlhausmann!).

What I think I need

I think I've come to realize that the series I really need is an "Identifying the Next Opportunity" curriculum that includes how to define my product and how to identify which job to target before I start interviewing.  I think there are many professionals like myself who have developed a mix of skills that are difficult to distill down to a concise answer when someone asks, "So what do you do?"  You can probably tell from my product definition line earlier ("I translate strategy into execution") that I still don't have things figured out.  I'm just not sure how to communicate process improvement consultant, user experience designer, and data scientist in a single, clear statement.  In my mind, everything fits together in one piece: I make sure your business processes and product teams execute your strategy.  When I say that to myself, it sounds vague and arrogant, so I don't say it to anyone else.  I could really use some help on this.

Feedback on pricing

I have had two completely opposing experiences when telling my colleagues about the Interview series.  One colleague, when I showed her my plan, immediately said, "So I need to buy that."  The other, when I mentioned the price, felt like finances were too tight for her to plunk down 150 USD.  Depending on how things go, I may decide that I need to sponsor the second colleague.  Both of these colleagues are top notch and are being underutilized in their current roles.  That's the sort of waste that keeps me up at night!

scott.a.russell's picture

Started listening to the Choosing a Company to Work For series last night.  Mark and Wendii were saying "all things being equal, stay in the same company," and that caught my attention.  I've always hated leaving an organization, because I feel the loss of progress in relationships.  I forced myself to stop and seriously consider my current company and my current position.

My current company is growing in a field that is growing and has solid (for the industry anyway) financial performance.  It's a company that I really would pick out of the crowd as someone to work for.  My current position is at a competitive salary, is in line with my background, and I'm surrounded by really good colleagues.  I started trying to consider if wanting a different position is really good sense, or if I'm just not sticking through something that will be good for me.

Unfortunately, I'm still in the same place without goals, where I don't feel I can provide good value to the company.  Based on the Career Tools advice and my reflections, I think I need to be taking a good hard look first at the company I'm in before I look elsewhere.  That means I need to do some investigation to find areas of the company that demonstrate the use of goals.  Suggestions on how to do this would be appreciated.

scott.a.russell's picture

I listened to the Choosing a Company to Work For series, and that was quite an interesting ride.  I always find looking at new opportunities to be fun, and this has been a nice way to energize me.  I've started talking a bit to colleagues and acquaintances about looking for the next opportunity, and the results have been interesting.  If nothing else, I do at least have some leads that I wouldn't have otherwise considered.  There was a moment when Mark said something like "If you're not willing to tell other people you're looking for something new..." struck a spark with me.

I've continued listening to the interviewing series, and I'm working my way through the bonus casts.  Today, I was listening to the cast about how to answer the question about a weakness.  There is a continuing message for me here in the advice to use B.L.U.F. that is also my answer to the question about my weakness: I need to get better at answering questions by leading with the point!  I've started practicing by asking myself to describe things that I find complex and trying to come up with the sentence that should lead off the answer without any qualifications.  This is going to be quite a journey for me.  It's interesting how this is coming from the Interviewing series.

I've been finding it difficult to jumpstart the 3x5 accomplishments activity due to silly things like not finding enough 3x5 cards or getting hung up on the format.  Today, I'm getting myself off the ground by throwing the format to the wind and just scribbling down accomplishments on my notpad.  I'll carry it with me and work on it between other things, because home stuff keeps getting in the way.

I'm spending a decent amount of my commute trying to frame who it is that would most want what I have to offer.  It's an interesting challenge.  I hope to be able to better target a good opportunity by understanding what my customer is looking for.

On a related note, the Career Tools casts spend time talking about looking backwards to see what I'm good at, and looking backwards has highlighted something odd to me.  I've noticed in the last two years that others have recognized me for things I didn't know I was good at.  For instance, I've never been one to think of myself as good at managing relationships, and recently my colleagues have been openly recognizing me for diffusing sensitive situations and getting potentially uncooperative stakeholders to work together.  In another case, I did a small presentation by just sketching my ideas as I talked, and my designer colleagues in the room went out of their way to make sure I knew they were impressed by my ability to communicate through drawing.  I've always considered myself to be weak in these areas, and this leads me to wonder if I really understand much of what I am capable of.  Do I hold assumptions about my weaknesses that are keeping me from trying new things?  Am I settling for doing things that I'm not great at simply because I think they *should* be my strengths?  I'm not immediately sure how to explore this, but I think these are important questions to ask myself.

tlhausmann's picture
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] I've been finding it difficult to jumpstart the 3x5 accomplishments activity due to silly things

] like not finding enough 3x5 cards or getting hung up on the format. 

PM me your email address. I have a Word document I can send you that makes it easy to type out your accomplishments AND on the flip side you can enter the significance or category for the accomplishment. I simply print out the accomplishments and use a glue stick to paste onto the 3x5 cards.

Heck, I can even send you a photo of my *stack* of 3x5 accomplishment cards. This stuff works.

scott.a.russell's picture

Got started on the accomplishments.  I haven't worked my way through, yet, and I definitely haven't made it to the second side.  Based on the above post from tlhousmann (thanks!), I will shortly be changing formats.  I'm sharing my incomplete list so far, so my progress can be seen as I go through.  I don't feel like I have mastered the process, yet, and I expect to end up rewriting a lot.

In the cast, I believe Mark said something like "you may be surprised about what your accomplishments say about you."  I'm finding that to be true, because so far, I see a lot of teaching in there.


[Jan 05 - Jan 06] Self-employed: process improvement consultant

  • Taught Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and Champion training to healthcare leadership and frontline teams at Methodist Hospital.
  • Decreased lab STAT order turnaround time at Alverno Labs by redeploying staff and making a small investment in equipment.
  • Improved relationships between Pathology and Phlebotomy staff at Alverno Labs by teaching systems focus.
  • Decreased wait time between MRIs and CTs at Saint Vincent Hospital by reassigning preparation steps.

[Jan 06 - Jan 07] Indiana University: process improvement consultant

  • Enabled leadership purchasing decisions by modeling private practice call work at IU Medical Group.
  • Confirmed isolation procedure compliance at Sisters of Saint Francis Hospital by performing observation sampling.
  • Performed time studies of registration processes at Sisters of Saint Francis Hospital.
  • Taught project management tools to undergraduate students at Indiana University.

[Jan 07 - Jul 07] Shorewood Packaging: process improvement engineering intern

  • Passed ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt certification.
  • Developed Lean Six Sigma training materials.
  • Taught Lean Six Sigma Green Belt training to department and manufacturing staff.
  • Taught database management to department staff.
  • Taught statistical process control methods in Minitab to internal Six Sigma Black Belt candidates.

[Aug 07 - Aug 09] Department of Veterans Affairs: student trainee

  • Developed productivity software training materials.
  • Taught qualitative analysis and productivity software to research staff.
  • Taught Lean Six Sigma Green Belt training to clinical staff.
  • Decreased dysphagia screening false positives by performing user interviews and usability testing on screening items (published).
  • Enabled developer design decisions by performing user interviews and usability testing on MyHealtheVet health portal (published).
  • Reduced analysis time of qualitative usability data by 50% time by designing and deploying an analysis product (published).

[Aug 09 - Oct 12] Department of Veterans Affairs: program analyst

  • Enabled developer design decisions by performing usability testing on a stroke self-management tool (published).

[Oct 12 - Feb 14] Department of Veterans Affairs: research health scientist


[Apr 14 - Oct 14] Cengage Learning: sr. user researcher


[Jan 15 - Apr 15] Tweddle Group: ux designer


[Feb 15 - …] Henry Ford Health System: principal performance improvement consultant

scott.a.russell's picture

And here we are half a year later. I have moved into a new position, and I am very happy with the result!

I am very satisfied with my purchase of the interviewing series. The content there was interesting and has helped me reframe a lot of my understanding about the hiring process and especially resumes. Thank you!

Getting my new job was not significantly facilitated by the interviewing series. Instead, the various networking podcasts made the biggest difference. I got in touch with people in my network I trusted and who had more experience than I do. I followed advice. I asked for help. I did everything possible to make sure I was building bridges and demonstrating professional behavior.

The job I now hold is a direct product of networking. I now work for one of my previous internal clients. This would not be possible if I had burned bridges. I would not have known the job was posted if I hadn't been informed by my client. I assume I won't always be able to rely so purely on networking to land a position, but it strikes me that networking appears to be a much more powerful tool than searching job boards.

I may not credit the interviewing series with my new position, but I do give a lot of credit to the Manager/Career Tools content and community for my success! Thank you!


P.S. Yes, Mark, I use conjunctions.