The job interview: Not saying thank you can cost you the job offer


The in-person interview starts well before the scheduled time of the interview. How will you fair?

By Alicia Sakal

Especially in a pro-employer job market, when all skillsets are equal between the job candidate finalists, the politest and most personable professional will likely get the coveted job offer.

The reason is simple:

Personality and good manners are often times more valuable than the actual job skills a candidate brings to the table. As unfair as this may seem, humans make the hiring decisions and usually hire who they like and who will fit into their corporate culture.

Naturally, some job candidates get nervous about interviewing for a position. As a result, they can forget to say “thank you” during and after interviewing.

By being appreciative, thoughtful and aware of others throughout the interviewing process, this conveys that you can be a team player. Doing so also demonstrates that you have good business etiquette skills, which is important for retaining and growing the company’s client base.

Helpful tip:

Before the interview, write the words “remember to say thank you” on a yellow sticky or piece of paper.  Then, review it one last time before getting on the phone interview or walking through the company door.

The “thank you” touch points for each person you meet…

The phone interview:

Thank the person for her time and for the initial phone interview.

Follow up with a thank you note via email or snail mail the same day or next morning.

Note: If Human Resources (HR) or the interviewer shares with you that the hiring team will make a decision in a few weeks, and time is on your side, then nothing says “thank you for the interview” better than a handwritten note on professional-looking card stock.

Rebecca Black, Business Etiquette Coach and Author, says that “if a job candidate is serious about getting a job, then she will thank the recruiter and interviewing team personally and in writing.  The handwritten thank you note in the mail works best.”

Either thank you method also demonstrates responsiveness and great follow-up skills.

The in-person interview:             

When applicable, thank the person in conversation for any information you found particularly interesting or useful throughout the interview. Be care not to overdo it. Also thank the interviewer for his time at the end of the job interview.

Then, follow up the same day or next morning with the thank you note.

Helpful tip:

Write on the same check list a note to “ask for business cards” from anyone you meet at the interview. Having to ask the receptionist or HR person to find out the person’s contact information, like email address or job title, later on can look forgetful on your part if you cannot find out the information on your own via LinkedIn or the company’s website.

After being on the interviewer side, more often times than not, the job offer truly will go to the politest job candidate when all skills are equal.

So, don’t forget to say “thank you for your time and the interview” to every person you meet or speak with. Then, follow up with a thank you note that also reiterates why you are the best person for the job.

Originally Published on job interview: Not saying thank you can cost you the job offer

Why I Bought Real Estate in Small Town, USA

Real Estate Lake View

12 reasons why I will never go back to an urban lifestyle.

By Alicia Sakal

Simply put, “Big City Life” can be very stressful. For this reason, my husband and I made the decision several years ago to buy real estate in Small Town, USA for a much better quality of life.

If we had to work our lives away, we decided to at least live in a place that felt like we retired early and were on vacation in the evenings and weekends. So this is how we ended up living in a scenic small town community in Connecticut, Population – 3,500. Our Connecticut / New York border town is just 90 minutes away from New York City, yet it feels like a different planet.

12 Reasons I Will Never Go Back to Urban Living…

1. Oxygen, Glorious Oxygen. There’s nothing like fresh air, and plenty of it.

2. Well Water. Naturally pure, thirst quenching H2O that happens to be free.

3. Farm Fresh Produce. Organic, local farmers market options. Farmland is plentiful. Strawberry, blackberry, and blueberry picking… a favorite of mine. We have a winery; too, that’s part of the Connecticut Wine Trail.

4. Spectacular Country Views. We enjoy breathtaking sunsets, sparkling lake water, mountains full of trees, and crystal clear night skies perfect for stargazing with our child.

5. Outdoor Recreation Activities. Choices are endless like boating and swimming on a lake, biking and hiking on trails, and horseback riding at farms.

6. Family-Friendly Neighborhoods. We, “The Locals”, know each other. All of us have names. We smile and wave” hi” to each other. It’s extremely civilized in a small town, and we try to help each other out.

7. No Rush Hour Traffic. There’s only one traffic light in my small town. “Rush hour” is 5 cars in a row, a duck crossing, or a tractor slowdown.

8. No Strip Malls or Overdeveloped Land. A typical New England small town may consist of the necessities like a bank, small grocery store, post office, library, and a small church. “Maybe” even a block or two of unique retail shops, along with a few restaurants. If the town is “lucky”, there might be a gas station.

9. Slower Paced Lifestyle. Ahhh, peace and tranquility. There’s very little stress out in the middle of “the country”.

10. No Crowds. Lines are never long at the post office or bank.

11. Low Crime Rate. No place is ever crime-free, but it’s nice to live in an area with low criminal activity.

12. Lower Taxes. We only have a Pre-K through Eighth Grade school. Since there is no high school, this is one main reason why taxes are low. High school teens have their choice of 4 reputable high schools in neighboring towns.

I definitely don’t miss some of the major “Big City” negatives like expensive real estate prices, crowds of people, air and noise pollution, and high crime rates. I’ll take my pure, clean air any day with a much lower cost of living.

Originally Published on Yahoo! Voices.

How I Save 72 Percent on My Auto Insurance


For Getting the Better Rate on Auto Insurance, carefully examine your current policy’s “Summary of Discounts” and know what they are inside-and-out. If you don’t see this section on your statement, then you are overpaying!

By Alicia Sakal

How did I save several thousand dollars on auto insurance over the course of just the most recent decade? By being an aware comparison shopper that knows what kinds of “Summary of Discounts” options are available. By doing so, the opportunity to qualify and negotiate for “discounts” to get a better auto insurance rate improves significantly.

Whenever I “stop-by” or call my insurance company, the #1 question I ask: Are you offering any new discounts? This gets the dialogue going on what’s new and what has changed.

For 2 Cars: I pay $858 per Year ($429 for 6 Months) on Auto Insurance.

My 72% Off “Discounts”…

1. Go 100% Paperless. I auto-pay online by credit card, and receive a 10% discount. Recently, I found out that if I go completely paperless then I can save 10% more on my auto insurance. Save those tree branches! – 20 Percent Combined Discount, $172 per year

2. Have a Flawless Driving Record. Being part of my insurance company’s “Safe Driving Club” is certainly worth its weight in platinum. – 16 Percent Discount, $136 per year

3. Get a “Multiple Policy”. Add auto insurance (boat and life, too, if applicable) to your Home Owner’s or Renter’s Insurance Policy. Bundling different insurance needs with one “umbrella company” is usually the best way to go because they want ALL of your business. – 16 Percent Discount, $136 per year

4. Always Pay On-Time and In-Full. Being a habitual “Responsible Payer” makes a lot of difference and, literally, pays off. – 10 Percent Discount, $86 per year

5. Own a Car with Safety Features. Antilock brakes and electronic stability control, for instance, make perfect sense for obvious safety reasons. – 10 Percent Discount, $86 per year

What I also find: Discount “types” vary by auto insurance company. For example: My provider no longer offers a “reduced mileage” discount or a major discount for having a higher deductible, but others still do.

Seventy-two percent off in discounts adds up: $616 savings per year ($308 savings for 6 months)

But, don’t get too comfortable with any insurance company…

Routinely Comparison Shop.

For peace-of-mind, it’s always good to find out what a competitor offers. If the quote is better, in most instances I find that it’s not, then first use it to negotiate for a better rate with your current insurance company.

In the end, the “total discount” is relative and arbitrary.

When I comparison shop next, I could find out from a competitor that my 72 percent discount is more like a 10 percent discount. Worse yet, I can find out that there is no discount because the competitor’s rate is better.

For these reasons, it’s a good idea to “shop-around” a few months before your current policy expires. Then, you won’t feel pressured if you need to negotiate or change providers.

Originally Published on Yahoo! Voices


Laid-off from a Job? 3 Proactive Ways to NOT Have a Big Gap on Your Resume


There is No Need to Feel the Stigma of Being Unemployed If Action is Taken Right After a Job Loss

These resume filler options are attainable and realistic. They should not become all-consuming to both your job search and your personal life.

Alicia Sakal

In this Great Recession, ahem… now called the “New American Economy”, being laid-off at some point over the past 6 years is not unusual. Especially if you are recently laid-off, find meaningful ways to not have a glaring, deep black hole of unemployment time on your resume.

Believe it or not, employers and recruiters are well aware that the economy is still bad. They are more sympathetic to job seekers “if” they can demonstrate they use their time well to improve their professional qualifications.

So… what can you do from home, on your own time, at your own pace, and can ramp up or down quickly while seeking full-time work AND balancing a personal or family life? The answer: Start filling your resume now with new job skills that matter.

1. Get an Accredited Professional Certificate Online

Depending on your education level, you may need to take more courses to finally get a BA or BS Degree. Or, perhaps you always wanted to get a Master’s or Doctoral Degree. This is a super idea “if” you have years of time and money. What’s less of a time commitment and costs significantly less would be a professional certificate online that relates to the career you want to stay in or transition into. In the U.S. News & World Report – 2014 Best Colleges Rankings, you can use a simple search tool to find online accredited certificate programs.

To illustrate the point as to why accredited certificate programs can help your job search: If 200 people are applying for a project manager position, and a project management certification from the PMI Institute is a preferred company criterion, then chances are only those who have this certificate will be selected for interviews, especially in a sluggish economy.

2. Find Freelance / Contract / Consulting Work

The reality check, you could be out of fulltime work for a few months or a few years. Freelance, contract, or consulting projects are perfect for filling gaps in employment history. Plus, these short-term assignments keep you highly marketable and attractive to an employer. Sometimes, there may even be a job offer at the end of the project.

To find freelance / contract work: Word-of-mouth goes a long way with family, friends, and professional connections. You only need that first short-term assignment to get started. From there, word naturally gets out tenfold. I did freelance and consulting work when I was part of a mass layoff during the Early 2000s recession. Learning about new businesses, and contributing to them at an accelerated pace, can be exciting.

Another great way to find freelance / contract assignments: Use niche websites with freelance job listings like Elance or Working Mother. As for finding consulting work in many top industries, Gerson Lehrman Group offers a super way to make money for your expertise.

3. Start Your Own Business

Chances are, if you are doing freelance / contract / consulting work, then this can be a natural transition for becoming a business services provider and owner. Who knows, if you interview for a fulltime corporate job 6 months from now, you may find that you’d rather keep working for yourself instead.

Another way to find a new career: Turn a hobby, interest, or passion into a side business that can evolve to fulltime self-employment. For example, if you love photography and are talented, then become a freelance photographer. Love antiquing? Become an Appraiser. Are you Mr. Fix-it? Get a contractor’s license, and put an ad out in your local newspaper to see what happens.

Search from within, and take the next steps to open up job opportunities for yourself. Then, you don’t have to worry about ever having a big employment gap on your resume.

Originally Published on Yahoo! Voices.

College-Bound High School Grads: 8 Academic Survival Tips



Here’s What I Wish I Knew Before I Began Freshman Year in College…

Freshman Year can be an intense experience on so many different levels, to say the least. “Figuring it all out” in the first year is a major life adjustment.

By Alicia Sakal

“Live and learn the hard way” is an appropriate cliché that pretty much sums up my Freshman Year college experience. It was smooth sailing in the years to follow, but my first year was rather rocky.

I wish someone shared these 8 Academic Survival Tips Before My Freshman Year Began:

1. Go to the Freshman Orientation. If the university you chose is nearby, go to the orientation and get the lowdown from upperclassmen. Find out which classes are fun and inspiring, and which you should avoid. If you choose a tough yet challenging class, at least you’ll know what to expect from an intense professor.

2. Attend Registration for Classes In-Person. Getting stuck with the “leftovers” happened to me because I was out-of-state and couldn’t make registration. This was a clear disadvantage first semester Freshman Year. The 8 AM classes were way too early. The nutty professor really should have retired. I forced myself to stay awake with a boring, monotone professor. Even though I earned an “A” in one class, another professor didn’t believe in “giving” A Grades despite tons of student complaints.

3. Try Taking Only 12 Credit Hours First Semester. College is a big life adjustment. It was beyond stressful balancing academics with all the other new life experiences Freshman Year.

4. Not Declaring a Major is OK. Eventually you’ll have to choose a major, but not your first year. You can always change and end up with a minor, too. If you really don’t know what you want to do in life then eventually pick a general, broad major that spans several industries when you get out like Business Administration, Marketing, or Computer Science.

5. Quit While You Are Ahead. If a class is not going well, don’t be afraid to quit early without financial penalty. So what if you have a “Withdrawal” on your record. In the real world, it doesn’t matter if you “stuck it out” and it isn’t worth the stress. I was petrified to withdraw from one class, and should have taken an “Incomplete” after the open window for withdrawals closed.

6. Your GPA Doesn’t Have to Be a 4.0. Unless you are going to graduate school, GPA matters, but not as much as you think it does. Relax just a little. Throughout my professional career, nobody ever asked me on an interview what my GPA was. Many employers simply want to know if you successfully completed college and graduated with a degree.

7. Your Major Might Not Be Relevant to Your Career. With entry-level jobs, you are just starting out, and can go in many directions professionally, especially with a broad major. Some graduates don’t even end up working in a field related to what they majored in. It’s also good to be aware of the growth industries Freshman Year, so if you pick one, then you have the potential for steady, future employment throughout your career.

8. “Not Really Meant For College” Warning. It’s good to be a college graduate even if you really want to pursue a trade. If you are a Business Administration Major, for instance, your degree is still valuable as a business owner or manager of employees in any industry or trade.

However, if the thought of completing 4 years of college is tortuous, you were pressured into going, and your soul is absolutely miserable, get out before you and / or your parents waste tons of money. “Plan B” should include enrolling in a trade school or professional certification / licensing program BEFORE quitting college so you can make a career for yourself. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck in a depressing, minimum wage job indefinitely.

Originally Published on Yahoo! Voices.

New College Grads: Career Tips in Tough Economic Times

Graduation Day

Finding Fulltime, Post-College Employment Certainly Has Its Challenges in a “Recovering” Economy.

Here are 4 “Pearls of Wisdom” I wish someone shared with me when I graduated college in a recession, and needed to find a job.

By Alicia Sakal

If you do not have a professional job lined up by graduation day, then it can be easy to feel disheartened. However, try not to get easily discouraged in this “New American Economy”. After all, you just earned a degree that nobody can take away, and have a clear employment advantage.

I know firsthand what it’s like to not have a post-college job right after graduating. When I graduated in a recession, a mid-western television station that I interned with almost hired me but there was a sudden hiring freeze. I moved back home to the East Coast.

To help ease fear and anxiety, I wish someone shared these 4 Post-College Career Tips:

1. Know What Industries are Red-Hot & Fast-Growing.

For instance, Technology, Business / Finance, and Health Care are red-hot and hiring now. Tapping into high-demand, industry-related businesses can also expand your employment options. Big Caveat: Only pursue “if” you can see yourself minimally liking, if not loving, a “hot” industry job.

2. Find Temporary Work.

While looking for a permanent position, take almost anything to get a paycheck, but still pursue your professional aspirations so you don’t get stuck. For me, this meant freelance writing, and registering with a few temporary placement agencies. I found steady temporary work. 6 months later, a temp job became permanent, and I helped to create my new job position.

Today, there are also many resources to find temporary / contract work online just by using sites like Indeed, LinkedIn, and both general and specialty job boards.

3. Stay Passionate.

Several years ago, I watched a particularly inspiring episode of The Suze Orman Show. The gist of what she said resonates with me today. Basically, you will eventually be successful if you are passionate and pursue your dream job. Stick with it and never give up. The money will follow.

In other words, if there are only 50 rocket scientist job openings in the United States, then keep pursuing your dream of being a rocket scientist anyway, even if the odds are statistically not in your favor.

To get your foot in the door, apply to other open positions at a dream company even if the perfect department or job title is unavailable. Follow up every 3-to-6 months with connections and the companies you interviewed with. Stay current with industry trends and issues. Attend networking events. Keep in touch with alumni, college friends, and professors. Check in often with your Alma Mater’s career center that posts jobs.

4. Volunteer Sparingly.

Chances are you have some college debt, like student loans. Volunteerism can be personally rewarding, a good professional networking opportunity, and a way to show “work experience” on a resume. However, it doesn’t pay. Only volunteer if you have spare time AFTER pursuing paid positions, whether temporary or permanent. Even if you majored in social services, don’t let volunteer hours interfere with looking for paid job opportunities.

When I graduated during a recession, the sky did appear to be falling. My temporary job became permanent. Then, I got into the exciting technology world as the economy continued to recover. With passion and determination, you can also find your niche, and create a unique employment opportunity, even in a bad economy.

Originally Published on Yahoo! Voices

What is the “Real” Unemployment Rate in America?

United States Department of Labor Seal

The United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics: Revise What You Report

This Month’s National Unemployment Rate, “Employment Situation” – Economic News Release is Clearly Inaccurate.

Alicia Sakal

On the first Friday of each month, especially since this Great Recession “officially” began in December of 2007, I shake my head in doubt whenever the United States Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its latest unemployment news in their monthly national unemployment rate, “Employment Situation” – Economic News Release.

I will not mention what the latest unemployment percentage rate is because it will validate what gets “officially” reported to Americans.

Once-and-for-all, why is the Federal Government not releasing, in one simple and cohesive report, a summary that includes ALL the numbers with one, final percentage statistic of the true unemployment rate? Doing so, would paint a much more accurate picture of what the unemployment situation is really like.

What are “they” afraid of? Chaos in the streets or a government overthrow if “we” Americans find out that for over 6 years we are really in another Great Depression all this time, and are not really recovering from a Great Recession that we are told ended almost 5 years ago?

I think government “conspiracy theories” and anxieties, especially during economic hardships, would ease if the US Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics’ full monthly “Employment Situation” news release report was complete, transparent, and easy for everyday people to understand. We have the right to know if unemployment is really bad, very stagnant, or actually improving; and if so, by exactly how much.

Recently, I did some research to try to find one legitimate source for reporting the true unemployment number in our country. My findings, to the very best of my knowledge, this one report doesn’t exist. To say the least, I am not surprised.

I was also compellingly curious about what the economist’s definition of a “depression” versus a “recession” is, so I looked this up, too. This is also a very gray area. One commonality that I found from many different sources is that in the Great Depression of 1929 – 1933, the unemployment rate was 25 percent, most others were very fortunate if they even had part-time work, and our country’s output was reduced by 30 percent.

Aside from reporting the “presently collecting” unemployment numbers, here’s what the US Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics needs to include in their monthly“Employment Situation” Economic News Release:

1. The recent “drop-off ” monthly, quarterly, year-to-year numbers, along with the cumulative grand total “drop-off” rate since this Great Recession began.

2. Monthly numbers of how many Americans gave up looking, took a part-time job, took on temporary / contract work, opened a business, and / or forced into early retirement.

3. Monthly numbers of how many high school graduates, college graduates, and veterans can’t find gainful fulltime / part-time employment. Recently, a 2014 update to the “2013 Featured Report on Veteran’s” came out. This is a step in the right direction.

What is the true, grand total of unemployment in the United States right now at this exact moment in time? I would certainly like to know, what about you?

As Americans, we have the absolute right to know what the real unemployment number is. Last time I checked, we the people, employ the US Department of Labor, and all government employees, for that matter. Enough said.

Originally Published on Yahoo! Voices.