TIME Careers & Workplace

4 Resume ‘Tricks’ That Are Sure to Backfire Spectacularly

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Avoid these at all costs

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Bad job search advice. It’s everywhere.

Don’t shoot the messenger (even though she’s also a purveyor of job search advice).

It’s everywhere for a number of reasons, including:

  1. Those delivering it often have a bias that affects the nature of the counsel (e.g., husbands, parents, BFFs).
  2. There are no licenses or certifications that career coaches are required to carry (which results in a mixed bag of talent in the world of “experts”).
  3. Textbook advice—the kind that many of us have the most ready access to during our formative years—can be severely old school (or worse).

Unfortunately, if you don’t use care in choosing trusted sources for job search advice, you may run into resume advice that teaches you how to “trick” the applicant tracking system (ATS) or hiring managers. I’m not here to say that there are no effective “resume tricks,” but there are a few that could very well backfire on you.

Here are four of them.

1. “Borrowing” Entire Phrases Right out of the Job Description

Yes, yes, yes: You absolutely should study the job description for each job you plan to pursue, and you should mirror some of the keywords that describe the skills and qualifications on your resume. You should not, however, lift entire sentences or text blocks from that job description. This will put you on the express train from solid on-paper match to shyster who’s trying too hard.

2. Thinking a Functional Resume Will Serve as the Perfect Disguise

It’s so common for job seekers with career gaps to use the old “hide the gaps with a functional resume” trick that, every time I see one, I just assume there’s going to be a gap. And then I set out to find it. Functional resumes are almost never the right solution. Not only can it be difficult for an ATS to read and parse a functional resume into the electronic database, it also screams “I am hiding something!” Better to use a hybrid resume with a strong summary at the top of the page followed by career history (with details) in reverse chronological order.

3. Listing Completed College Coursework as a Degree

Oh, have I seen heartbreaks with this one. Among them, a job seeker who was about to be hired by one of my recruiting clients—a global manufacturing firm—for a field engineering role. He actually didn’t need the degree as a requirement for this job, but he still felt it necessary to list a bachelor’s degree on his resume. Unfortunately (for him, me, and the hiring manager, who loved the guy), he was a few credits short of having that degree. This little nugget of information came out when the firm’s HR department did a standard degree verification. He did not get the job.

It doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or two credits away from earning the degree. If you didn’t finish it, you need to state “Coursework completed toward…,” not “Have degree.”

4. Fudging Dates (and Then Having Different Dates on Your Application)

Let’s face it. Sometimes it’s just easier to say that the job you stormed out on last July actually ended in November. Smooth over that gap, right?

Wrong. Fudging dates is not only called lying, it’s an easy way to land yourself in hot water with decision makers, especially if you accidentally list out different dates on the official job application. You can certainly strategize if you need to de-emphasize time gaps (for instance, use years instead of months and years), but fudging dates can be a true recipe for disaster.

Without a doubt, it can be confusing, overwhelming, and downright mind-numbing trying to figure out how to set up a resume that snags attention and positions you to sail through the hiring process. As you consider the “tricks,” always keep in mind that some are clearly better than others.

(Avoid these.)

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31 Job Search Ideas That Won’t Make You Miserable

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These tips will help you find a job without stressing you out

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

We know: It’s December. And even though you’re dying for a new gig, going to holiday parties, shopping for gifts, and drinking gallons of hot cocoa just seems like much more of a priority than writing cover letters and going to networking events.

Well, truth be told, tons of companies are hiring like crazy, so if you are on the hunt for your dream job, it doesn’t hurt to get started on a serious search now. But if you want to wait until January, we get it—so we’ve come up with 31 easy (and fun) little things you can do now so that you can hit the ground running in the new year.

Do one or do them all (one for each day of the month!), and you’ll be far more prepared than the rest of the bunch who are just getting started come 2015.

1. Mix and Mingle

Take advantage of all the mingling opportunities that December offers to freshen up your interviewing and networking skills. For example, your relatives who haven’t seen you in a year are probably going to ask, “What kind of job are you looking for?” But instead of brushing Grandma’s questions off, use this time to get comfortable talking about your goals, skills, and ideal jobs. Those same answers will come in handy when an interviewer asks you why you’re interested in a particular role or what your strengths are.

2. Boost Your Persuasion Skills

Got two minutes between meetings or while waiting for a train? Watch this two-minute video on how to be more persuasive—you’ll be totally prepared when you’re selling your skills to a hiring manager come January.

3. Create a List of Dream Companies

Browsing job openings (and thinking about all of those cover letters you’ll have to write) is bound to make your eyes glaze over. Instead, focus on putting together a list of dream companies. Look up one of your favorite companies on LinkedIn, then check out the “people also viewed” section to find more great workplaces. Then, get an inside view into 250 awesome companies in the profiles section of The Muse and save your favorites. When you do start job hunting, this will help keep you laser focused and actually get you excited (yes, it’s possible!) about landing a gig at one of your dream companies.

4. Set Career Resolutions

Making resolutions seems natural at the turn of the year, but let’s face it: Writing down “get a new job” isn’t the most helpful goal. So before January rolls around, write down a few more actionable (and less intimidating) benchmark goals, like “apply for three jobs per week” and “attend five networking events during the month and meet five new people at each.” By fulfilling these smaller goals, you’ll have a lot easier time accomplishing that overarching “new job” resolution, too.

5. Take Long Lunches

No one wants to be in the office this month (including, most likely, your boss), so taking a few coffee meetings or a long lunch here and there probably won’t hurt. Use this month to set up a couple of informational interviews with people who work in jobs or for companies you’re interested in. (And here’s how to turn those meetings into potential job opportunities.)

6. Join a Club

If you haven’t joined a professional organization or gotten involved with your alumni association yet, there’s no time like the present: Most groups have holiday parties in December, which is a great time to show up and get to know people.

7. Send Holiday Greetings

December is pretty much the only time of year you can reach out to people you haven’t talked to in forever and not have it feel random. So take advantage of that and reach out to your network. Send a holiday card to your email list on Paperless Post, create a brief “here’s what I’ve been up to this year” newsletter, or reach out directly with a personalized note to people you definitely want to reconnect with in the new year. It’s merry, it’s festive, and it gives you a head start on your 2015 networking!

8. Say Thanks

Another great way to reach out to your network? Send a thank you note to someone who has impacted your career, given you an opportunity, or introduced you to someone interesting this year. (Here’s how to write one that will really make an impact.)

9. Prep Your References

It’s not the most effective strategy to call up your references in the middle of the interview process to explain, “By the way, I listed you as a reference. They may be calling you, well, today.” To give your references enough notice—and to make sure they know what to say about you to tip the chances of getting the job in your favor—start reaching out to them now. A quick email with an updated copy of your resume and a few sentences about the type of role you’re looking for is perfect!

10. Update Your Resume (on the Couch, While Watching TV)

I know—updating your resume doesn’t sound very fun or easy. But while you’re cozy on the couch watching Home Alone, consider pulling out your laptop and making a change or two. This article has tons of ideas for tiny changes that’ll freshen up your resume in 15 minutes or less.

11. See What Message You’re Sending

Want a quick, fun way to see what hiring managers see when they read your cover letter or resume? Drop those documents into a word cloud generator and see which keywords are popping out. If the most prominent ones aren’t what you want to be remembered by, or if there are important words that aren’t present, think about how you can tweak your materials to make that more clear.

12. Do a Photo Shoot

Is your LinkedIn photo working for you? Find out at PhotoFeeler, which analyzes your photo based on how likeable, competent, and influential you seem. Not happy with the results? Have a friend or family member take a shot of you when you’re wearing your holiday best and pop your new photo up there ASAP. (Then make sure to update it on Twitter or any other sites you use professionally.)

13. Craft a New LinkedIn Headline

A super-simple—but super-effective—change you can make to your LinkedIn profile? Updating your headline. (No, the default of your current position at your current company isn’t always the way to go.) Watch this quick video to see what distinguishes an awesome headline from a mediocre one, then spend a few minutes crafting something compelling and new.

14. Get Started on Your Cover Letters

Writing a cover letter always seems like a simple task. It’s just a couple paragraphs, so shouldn’t take long, right? Four hours and a blank Word doc later, we all know how that story ends. To avoid the inevitable writer’s block, create some sample cover letter templates for yourself. Write a couple killer intros (here are a few examples), then create a list of standout projects and accomplishments that you could elaborate on. Next month, when you find a job that you want to apply for ASAP, all you’ll have to do is string together a pre-written intro, a few accomplishments, and a little research about the specific company and position, and you’ll be set—much easier than starting from scratch each time.

15. Read

Busy as they are, the holidays often come with lots of down time while you’re traveling (or trying to avoid helping your mom cook). Pick one or two books to read in December—here’s a great list of reads that will help point you in the direction of your dream job.

16. Order New Business Cards

To prepare for all of that networking you’ll be doing in the new year! Request a new set from your boss or company, or order some that fit your personal brand from a site like moo.com.

17. Shop for a New Suit

Yep, here’s your permission to online-shop the day away. A job search means interviewing, and interviewing means you’ll need a great new outfit, right? Head on over to the J.Crew sale (or your clothier of choice) and pick yourself out some new duds.

18. Tweet it Up

Every day, recruiters are tweeting jobs they need to interview candidates for—making Twitter a seriously untapped resource for job seekers. To make sure you’re in the know about these leads, create a Twitter job search list that includes recruiters, hiring managers, company hiring handles, and job search websites. Then, review their tweets daily for potential opportunities.

19. Play on Pinterest

Puppies and mason jar projects aside, Pinterest can actually be an invaluable tool for your career. Whether you’re looking for a new job, dreaming about your future company, or just looking for something to wear, try putting together one of these actually helpful Pinterest boards.

20. Plan a Party

We bet you’re not the only one who wants a new job come January. So start planning a “January Job Search” event now—like a networking party, resume workshop, or career-related book club—with some friends or professional contacts.

21. Get Started on a Personal Website

A personal website can be a great tool to show hiring managers who you are and what you’ve done. But putting one together isn’t a quick-and-easy process. So, get started now by browsing around and making a list of ones that inspire you. (Here are 35 amazing ones to get you started.) And when you’re ready to start building it? Here’s a seven-day plan for creating one from scratch.

22. Make a “To-Write” List

Being published in any capacity can be a great way to show off your writing in a job application and get your name out there to people who might be interested in hiring you. To get your creative juices flowing in January, brainstorm now and make a list of article or blog topics you could write.

23. Share Something

An even easier way to share great content with your network and show people what you’re passionate about? Share great things you’ve read on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Start making a running list of awesome articles, quotes, and blogs that you could get out there over the next few weeks and months.

24. Volunteer

’Tis the season for giving back, and volunteer opportunities in your community abound! So take a day (or even a couple of hours) and lend a hand to a cause you care about. You’ll have something new for your resume, meet some new contacts, and feel merry in the meantime!

25. Brush Up on Body Language

Whether you’re meeting with potential clients for the first time or negotiating an important business deal, small changes in body language can completely change the dynamic of the conversation. Watch this quick video to see how this plays out in conversations, and learn the other undercover nonverbal cues that can take your communication skills to a hiring manager or networking connection to the next level.

26. Sign Up for a Free Class

Browse our free, email-based classes at Muse University, like Management 101 or The Leadership Skills Every Professional Needs. Pop in your email address, and you’ll be signed up and good to go in less than five seconds.

27. Swipe Right

Looking for a super easy (almost mindless) way to browse open positions while you’re on the go and traveling for the holidays? Try the new app Switch, which is being described as “the Tinder for jobs” because it allows you to quickly sift through jobs listings—and allows hiring managers to quickly sift through candidate profiles—and then will connect you if there’s a match. It’ll make your job search feel almost like a game.

28. See How Your Family or Friends Can Help Your Job Search

Just because you’re not connected on LinkedIn doesn’t mean your close friends or family aren’t part of a network that can help you find opportunities. So while you’re catching up with family and old friends, tap into that! Let people know what you’re looking for and what you’ve done, and then ask if they have any connections who may be able to help you out. Remember, opportunities can be found in the unlikeliest of places—think your dad’s old college buddy who’s now pretty high up at a company you’d love to work for.

29. Try Out Some New Conversation Starters

Having to suffer through awkward conversations with your second cousin who you haven’t seen may seem like the worst, but think of it as stellar practice for your next kind of awkward networking event. Come up with a list of stellar conversation starters to try out when the dinner conversation starts to lull.

30. Look Through Your Old Facebook Posts

No, not to reminisce (though you can do that along the way): You want to sift through your social media to make sure there’s nothing that might be incriminating to a hiring manager. SimpleWash can help you catch any text that you wouldn’t want public any longer, but you’ll have to manually go through your old photos to remove anything embarrassing.

31. Dream Big

Here’s the easiest, most fun one of all: Treat yourself to a couple hours in a cozy cafe (or, hey, your couch). Get comfortable, relax, and then allow yourself to just daydream about where your career might take you—two, five, even 10 years from now. Don’t focus on what’s possible or what you might have to do to get there—just allow your mind to wander and dream about the stuff that you probably don’t get to in your day-to-day life. Do you want to be in a more creative role? Head up a new product or your department? Have a job that lets you travel? Start your own business? If you’d rather, you can jot down your thoughts in a notebook or share them with a friend.

Have something awesome in mind? Great. Now, think of just one thing you can do that’ll help you get there.

More from The Muse:

TIME Careers & Workplace

4 Super Simple Ways to Save Huge Amounts of Time

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You don’t need additional hours in a day to get more done

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This story was originally published on StartupCollective.

How do some entrepreneurial leaders get more done in a day than the rest of us?

Here are four simple strategies, used by the world’s most successful people, that will increase your productivity and save you an hour — or more — each day:

1. Reduce Decision Fatigue

Decisions are costly.

Making an unnecessary decision not only wastes time while you’re doing it, it also saps mental energy for later, which means the next decision you have to make will take even longer.

Save your decision-making power for things that actually matter by reducing the need to make decisions on mundane tasks you repeat everyday. The more things you can put on autopilot, the more efficient you will be throughout the day.

President Obama wears the same color suit all the time because he doesn’t want to waste a decision on thinking about what he should put on each day. Steve Jobs was another famous example of a leader who wore the same thing everyday, as is Mark Zuckerberg.

But wearing a uniform is not the only way to reduce decision fatigue.

For those who prefer a bit of wardrobe variety, try finding other parts of your daily routine that could benefit from some decision-trimming, like what you eat for breakfast and lunch.

Find a routine that works for you, and save your mental energy for the stuff that counts.

2. Go on an Internet Diet

Focus, focus, focus. You probably know you should be focusing on just one thing at a time because you’re unlikely to be one of the lucky 2 percent who can actually multitask effectively. But odds are that you’re multitasking more often than you should be, and that it’s killing your productivity.

There is one very simple way to get yourself to focus on the task at hand: unplug.

You may be wondering how that’s even possible in this day and age, but the truth is that many of the world’s most successful people are able to achieve so much precisely because they’re better at unplugging than the rest of us.

Some people go to great lengths to avoid wasting time browsing the Internet. George R. R. Martin, for example, writes on a DOS computer that has no Internet access at all.

Unplugging entirely may not be practical if your work requires you to use the Internet, like it does for many of us. But that doesn’t mean you have to be constantly checking email, Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, all at the same time, and all while trying to get some real work done.

Try scheduling designated times during which you allow yourself to read email or social media, and be disciplined about keeping your browser tabs closed otherwise.

3. Just Say No

Most of us are bombarded with requests for our time. It can be tempting to say ‘yes’ to every interesting opportunity that comes your way, and tell yourself you’ll just buckle down and work harder to fit it all in. But overcommitment is the enemy of productivity.

You can’t do it all.

Instead of letting yourself be pressured into overcommitting, have the courage to say no more often than you say yes.

Sheryl Sandberg ruthlessly prioritizes in her own life by being proactive about deciding what matters most to her, at the beginning of every month, and saying no to anything that does not fit within that.

4. Get a Hammock

When was the last time you let yourself swing aimlessly in a hammock, and just do nothing for a while?

Most of us only allow ourselves that sort of luxury when we’re on vacation, because swinging in a hammock seems like an utter waste of time. But giving your mind time to wander aimlessly can actually be great for productivity.

We often think that high-powered CEOs are going nonstop from morning to night, but many of them are careful to fit ‘lazy time’ into their crazy schedules.

Arianna Huffington is a big believer in the power of breaks to improve productivity, so much so that she’s had nap rooms built at the Huffington Post office.

So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break — go for a walk, swing in a hammock, listen to music, take a nap, have a beer. Do something that will allow you to truly relax.

You might be surprised by how much more you’re able to accomplish with a fresh mind.

MONEY Careers

These Are Glassdoor’s Best Companies To Work For

Glassdoor serves as something of a Yelp-for-employers, allowing employees to rate their companies anonymously and the online service has released its annual list of the top 10 places to work.

TIME Business

How to Answer This Difficult Job Interview Question

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This question is almost always asked towards the end of an interview

Answer by Jason Ewing on Quora.

The best answer to this relies on you having done your setup work over the course of the interview. You need to have probed the interviewer for their needs. You need to have had a conversation about what the job and mission is so that you can tell them what singular quality about you makes you the best for what they need.

If you’ve nodded through the interview like a bobblehead, answering only what is asked, this question will doom you because you won’t know what to say.

If, however, you’ve done your part over the course of the interview to understand the company, the position, and their needs, then this becomes an easy question to answer.

“That thing you said you really need someone to do? I do that, I’ve done that before, I have proven success doing exactly that, and I can exceed your expectations doing that.”

I know that sounds generic, and it’s meant to because it’s more about the formula than about the specifics. When I ask this question, I want a candidate to give me something that makes them jump off the page… that will set them apart from the rest of the stack of resumes in the pile. The best answers leave me saying “If I don’t hire this person, I’m going to regret it.” Those answers always come in the context of how their skills and experience can be of direct benefit to my needs. Even if you’ve never done that, telling me how your skills will allow you to be successful doing that will help. But it needs to relate to how you best fit what I need!

This question is almost always asked towards the end of an interview, it’s an opportunity to recap just a little, to demonstrate you’ve been paying attention and to leverage the insight you’ve been able to gain about the company’s needs.

If you’ve done that, the question is easy. If you haven’t, then you’re doomed.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What is the best answer to the question, “Why you?” asked in an interview?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

30 Things You Should Never, Ever Say in an Interview

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Start by banning: “I just wanted to follow up—again”

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

In an interview, your primary goal is to get across to the hiring manager why you—above all the other candidates—are the right person for the job. That you have the right set of skills, a great personality, and the drive to really make things happen in your new role.

But as you’re preparing answers to interview questions that’ll let you do all of those things, it’s equally important to know what the hiring manager will consider a red flag. After all, a wrong move or two, and it won’t matter how great your sales numbers at your last job were.

To help you out, steer clear of these 30 messages. You’ll make sure that your awesome abilities and accomplishments—not a totally avoidable faux pas—will be what your interviewer remembers.

1. “So, tell me what you do around here.”

Rule #1 of interviewing: Do your research. You never want to walk into an interview knowing next to nothing about the position or company—you want to show that you’re excited enough that you’ve done some homework and thought about how you’d fit in. To get started, do some online research (here’s your game plan), and try to find a current or past employee you can talk to before the big day.

2. “Ugh, my last company…”

No matter how bad a job was, you never, ever want to badmouth a former employer in an interview. Keep your tone somewhere between neutral and positive, focusing on what you’ve learned from each experience and what you’re hoping to do in the future. This especially applies when you’re talking about why you’re leaving—here are a few tips on how to do it right.

3. “I didn’t get along with my boss.”

Similarly, you don’t want to speak negatively about anyone you’ve worked with in the past. Even if a previous manager could put the characters in Horrible Bossesto shame, your interviewer doesn’t know that—and could wonder whether you’re the difficult one to work with.

4. “I’m really nervous.”

Even if you’re more nervous than you’ve ever been, no company wants to hire someone who lacks confidence. “So, in this case, honesty is not the best policy,” says Amy Hoover, president of the job board TalentZoo. “Fake it ’til you make it!”(Via Business Insider)

5. “I’ll do whatever.”

Most hiring managers are looking for people who are incredibly passionate about the role they’re taking on. So when you say something to the effect of, “I don’t care what jobs you have available—I’ll do anything!” that’s a big red flag. Instead, target your search to a specific role at each company, and be ready to explain why it’s exactly what you’re looking for.

6. “I know I don’t have much experience, but…”

This mistake is easy to make, especially if you’re a recent grad or career changer. Problem is, when you apologize for experience you don’t have, you’re essentially saying that you’re not a great hire, that you’re not quite the right fit for the role, or even that you would be starting from square one. And that’s just not the case! Instead of drawing attention to your weaknesses, stay positive, focus on your strengths, and immediately launch into your transferable skills and infectious enthusiasm for the position. Here are a few better phrases to try instead.

7. “It’s on my resume.”

“Here’s the thing; I know it’s on your resume, but if I’m asking you about a particular job or experience, I want you to tell me more beyond a written word. I’m actually evaluating your communication and social skills. Are you articulate? Should you be client-facing, or are you someone we need to keep hidden in the basement next to the IT lending library?” says Nando Rodriguez, Head of Employment Branding at Ogilvy & Mather. “If a recruiter is asking you about a certain skill, don’t reference your resume, and instead use it as your moment to shine.”

8. “Yes! I have a great answer for that!”

Practiced your answers to some interview questions? Great. But don’t memorize them word for word. When you’re hyper-prepared and hanging on the edge of your seat waiting for certain questions for which you’ve prepared to be asked, you will likely have a very hard time engaging in genuine conversation with the interviewer. And interviewers don’t tend to hire detached people who can’t seem to have a genuine conversation. Certainly, walk in prepared, but force yourself to not memorize or over-rehearse the practice questions.

9. “Perfectionism is my greatest weakness.”

Here’s the thing: Chances are, telling a hiring manager that perfectionism is your greatest weakness won’t surprise him or her—and it might come off as sounding like an overly rehearsed cliché. It also doesn’t offer much of a true insight into your work style or personality (especially if half the other candidates are giving the same response). Try a more genuine response (here are some ideas)—and if perfectionism really is your greatest weakness? Use these tips to spin it right.

10. “I’m the top salesperson at the company—and I have two semesters worth of Spanish.”

In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Heidi Grant Halvorson gives an excellent example of a case in which less is more: Instead of stopping after describing your degrees from Harvard, your relevant internships, and your technical expertise—you tack on your two semesters of college-level Spanish. Maybe Spanish is relevant to the job, but even so, according to the “Presenter’s Paradox,” rather than seeing that as a bonus, our minds tend to average out the impressiveness of the listed achievements. Try to keep any string of accomplishments you mention within the same range of impressiveness as others, and either leave out the outliers or wait for a better opportunity to talk about them (when they won’t be stacked against your highest achievements).

11. “I think outside the box.”

Resume buzzwords make hiring managers’ eyes glaze over, and similarly, using clichés in an interview won’t get you very far. Skip these overused business phrases, and describe your skills and abilities using stories about things you’ve actually done.

12. “I, like, increased our social following, like, 25%…”

Filler words like “like” and “um” can make you look like you lack confidence—or worse, the ability to communicate clearly on the job. Try these tips to erase “like” from your vocabulary for good.

13. “On my third goose-hunting trip to Canada…”

Stories are a great way to connect with the interviewer—they’re more memorable than facts, help you build rapport, and can help you to quite literally share an experience with your interviewer. But, as highlighted in this SlideShare (see Mistake #4), you need to tie that story back into what the company’s needs are, your interviewer’s experience, or, more specifically, to the position he or she is trying to fill, or you risk being forgotten (or looking a bit strange).

14. “I built a synergistic network of strategic alliances…”

If your interview answers sound a little too much like Weird Al’s song, “Mission Statement,” you’re probably not going to be the most memorable candidate. Turns out, listening to abstract words (think “strategic alliances” and “cutting-edge technology”) only activates areas of the brain related to language processing. Alternatively, concrete words like “carrot juice,” “smoking car engine,” and “stood in front of 150 people” are easier to picture, activate more areas of the brain, and are therefore more memorable. Pull in the five senses and describe actions taken. You’ll be remembered positively rather than for being a jargon bot.

15. “I pulled together the STF reports.”

Unless they’re absolutely industry-standard terms, don’t use acronyms or jargon when you’re describing your responsibilities. You’ll be much more compelling (not to mention interesting) using language that everyone gets right off the bat.

16. “Um, I don’t know.”

Even if you practice, and practice, and practice, you could still get a question that stumps you. But saying “I don’t know” is rarely the right approach. Two strategies that work well are repeating the question thoughtfully before answering or saying (slowly), “Now, that is a great question. I think I would have to say…” Still stumped? Ask for what you need—whether that’s a pen and paper, a glass of water, or a quick minute to think.

17. “How much vacation time do I get?”

When you bust out with an immediate litany of WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) questions, you look both arrogant and, frankly, unappealing. Guess what interviewers want to know when they meet with you? First and foremost, they want to know what you can do for them. What can you do to make that company money, improve businesses processes, grow the organization and, importantly, make their lives easier? Making you happy will be important if they want you, but you’re not even going to get to that stage if you make your list of demands clear too early.

18. “How soon do you promote employees?”

“An individual asking this question may come off as arrogant and entitled,” says recruiter Josh Tolan of SparkHire.com. A better way to ask this? “I’m really interested in staying at a place for a while. What do career paths within the company typically look like?”

19. “Nope—no questions.”

Not having any questions for the interviewer basically says that you’re not interested enough to learn any more. Have some thoughtful questions prepared (here are more than 50), and your interview will feel more like a conversation than a firing squad.

20. “Then, while I was at happy hour…”

Is your underwear riding up your rear end as you sit in that interview? Did you totally run a red light (and nearly sideswipe a school bus) so that you could be on time? Did your husband lose $15,000 at a craps table in Vegas last weekend? How interesting—yet all completely off-limits conversation topics while you’re in the interview. Even if you’re interviewing for a role within the most free-wheeling, fun-loving organization, the fact remains that you are in an interview. Never, ever get wooed into believing that the casual nature of the environment frees you to enter the TMI zone.

21. “I’ll have the steak and a glass of Cabernet.”

If your meeting takes place over a meal, take the lead from your interviewers. Casually ask if they’ve been to the restaurant before and what they think are good options—hopefully their recommendations will give you a sense of an appropriate price range. If not, try to have your interviewer order first and choose something at that price point (or less). And put down the drink menu—even if your interviewer imbibes, you should stay on your best behavior.

22. “I’d like to start my own business as soon as possible.”

Entrepreneurial ambitions are great—but if you’re applying for a job to work for someone else, you probably want to downplay the fact that you’re trying to get funding for your burgeoning startup. Most employers want to hire people who are going to be around for a while, and if there’s any suspicion that you’re just collecting a paycheck until you can do your own thing, you probably won’t get the job.

23. “What the hell!”

You’d think not swearing is Interviewing 101, but you’d be surprised how often people still do it. Even if your interviewer drops a few S- or F-bombs, you’re better off keeping your language PG.

24. “So, yeah…”

“Even with the most prepared interview candidates, I’ve found that a lot of people still make one critical mistake,” says career counselor Lily Zhang. “They’ll deliver absolutely fantastic and relevant stories, and I’ll be completely hooked—all the way up until they end with, ‘and… yeah’ or just an awkward pause.” Instead, try one of these three approaches to perfectly wrap up your answers.

25. “Do you know when we’ll be finished here?”

You should never give the impression that you’re in a hurry or have somewhere else to be. “What could be a 30-minute interview might turn into a 90-minute interview if all goes well, and if you seem like you have somewhere more important to be, the interviewer will definitely be turned off,” Hoover explains. (ViaBusiness Insider)

26. “I’m going through a tough time right now.”

Yes, most people would be incredibly sympathetic to someone who has been laid off, is going through a divorce, or is dealing with family drama. And even if your interviewer is, he or she may also wonder how your personal life will affect your performance on the job. So, keep your problems under wraps and keep the conversations focused on your professional life.

27. “Sorry I’m so late.”

Just be on time. Enough said.

28. “Sorry I’m so early.”

But don’t be too punctual. When you arrive more than five or 10 minutes before your meeting, you’re putting immediate pressure on the interviewer to drop whatever she may be wrapping up and deal with you. Or, she’s going to start the interview feeling guilty because she knows she just left you sitting in the lobby for 20 minutes.

29. “Would you like to see my references?”

“Interviewing is a lot like dating,” says Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter of CareerTrend.net. “It’s important to entice with your value and attract them to call you for the next ‘date.’” Offering up your references too soon may hint at desperation. Plus, you don’t want to run the risk of overusing your references.(Via LearnVest)

30. “I just wanted to follow up—again.”

As with most relationships, looking interested is good, but looking too interested makes you less desirable. You may think you’re showing your future company that you’re ready to hit the ground running, but if you come on too strong post-interview (think “checking in” to restate your interest less than a week after the interview or double communicating—emailing and then emailing again without a response from the other party), you look less like a candidate they’d be lucky to hire and more like someone who’s anxious to leave your current role.

More from The Muse:

TIME Careers & Workplace

Yes There’s a Secret to Success, And It’s This

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Don’t let past successes lull you into putting tradition before innovation

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This story was originally published on StartupCollective.

Tradition is safe, easy and has brought your business success at some point. So why change it now?

All too often, the urge to uphold existing methods can be detrimental to a company’s growth. Times change, and if you want your business to stay current it has to change with them or risk being left behind.

Just look at Google. In the late ’90s, Microsoft dominated the PC space to the point that there was an antitrust suit leveled against it for bundling Internet Explorer with Windows. A few years later, Google exploded onto the scene when it revolutionized the search engine. It wasn’t long before the technology giant created Chrome, one of the most popular web browsers out there, busting the myth that a browser coupled with an operating system restricts competition.

If Google hadn’t broken this tradition, it probably wouldn’t be the massive, influential company it is today. But this isn’t just for giants. Your company can successfully break tradition and achieve tremendous growth, too.

Identifying Outdated Practices

When you’re analyzing where to abandon tradition to pursue growth and innovation, there are three main things you should do:

  1. Examine your industry. Identify traditions and ways of doing things that are begging for re-examination.
  2. Look internally. Find practices that once made perfect sense but have become unnecessary or detrimental due to company and industry maturation.
  3. Get help. Involve your employees, customers and stakeholders in uncovering traditions that are no longer serving you well. As a leader within the organization, sometimes you’re too close to the traditions to spot the outdated ones. When you involve employees and customers in the discussion, they might recognize opportunities for growth that you would not have seen.

Moving Forward

Once you’ve identified the traditions that must evolve or be left behind, there are a few things you need to do before moving forward:

  • Determine whether a tradition is still valuable. Sometimes, long-standing traditions still offer a great deal of value and don’t need to be done away with entirely — just revamped. In other cases, traditions have to be gently moved to the museum. Be intentional about deciding whether or not traditional practices are still useful.
  • Remember that change is not an attack on the past. Just about every process and method can be refined, leading to waste elimination, reduced cycle time, improved customer satisfaction and a number of other benefits. The initial difficulty is sometimes simply recognizing that there might be a better way of doing things. But just because there’s a better way of doing things doesn’t mean that people were doing it incorrectly up until that point. Be careful to honor the past, but also learn from it.
  • Rely on an expert. Once they recognize the need for change, many business leaders struggle because they don’t have the in-house expertise and resources needed to implement that change. You may need to call in someone from the outside who can guide and train your staff to carry the torch and continue changing for the better.

Change is scary, difficult and there’s no guarantee that it will bring success. So why do it now?

When you let go of unnecessary traditions, you’re seizing the opportunity to push your business into the future. If you involve your staff, customers and stakeholders in the initial evaluation of what needs to be improved, it will be much easier to identify weak areas and develop innovative ways to revamp them. It’s risky, but it’s worth it. The proof will be in your bottom line.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Reasons CEOs Should Offer Unlimited Vacation in 2015

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The results could build a better company

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

As a CEO, do the words “unlimited vacation” cause cold sweats and an overwhelming urge to hide all your employees’ passports? If so, you aren’t alone–most CEOs have some discomfort around the concept of unlimited vacation, which explains why only 1 percent of U.S. companies offer this program.

Among these 1-percenters is Netflix, an unlimited-vacation pioneer and the company that inspired Richard Branson to recently announce a similar policy for Virgin. As Reed Hastings explains in the 2009 Netflix “Freedom and Responsibility” practices, his company exercises a “trust policy” when it comes to scheduling their vacation days. It’s a policy that puts control in employees’ hands.

Unbridled PTO power is what makes some CEOs worry that their staff will shirk work responsibilities and opt for a four-day work week every week. As it turns out, employees do just the opposite. This vacation policy is not about giving employees the go-ahead to be lazy or unreliable. It’s about trust. It empowers them to best meet organizational and individual goals in the hours that make sense for both parties–and it works. Let’s face it, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. hours are not the hours of the digital age.

At SmartRecruiters, we’ve seen fantastic results from offering unlimited vacation and flex hours. It has driven employees to take greater ownership of their roles, collaborate better with their teams and work smarter while in the office. Success is measured not by how much time everyone spends in the office, but rather by “have I achieved my goals?”

Growing an organization-wide sense of trust has been the biggest benefit of an unlimited vacation culture at our company. Here are five more benefits you could see at yours:

1. It creates better connected teams and an agile workforce.

According to a 2014 Glassdoor survey, three out of five employees admit to doing work while on vacation. According to the survey, the main reason is that they are afraid of getting behind. This speaks volumes about the existence of unsupported team members. An open vacation culture encourages your employees to pitch in and cover one another’s work load, which then builds stronger, more versatile teams.

2. It shows you think of employees as adults which, in turn, makes them more responsible and valuable.

Empowering employees to define their schedule shows that they are valued and trusted peers. Say an impassioned employee works 40 hours in a week, yet they want to keep plugging away on a project. Without the ability to “get back the hours” at a later date, that employee will either have to push their work to the following week or forever lose their personal time to meet goals. This can lead to resentment and reduced eagerness to go the extra mile in future projects.

3. It boosts employee morale, happiness and productivity.

Studies have shown that employees perform better when they take time off to rejuvenate and have less stress in their daily lives. Unlimited vacation gives them the flex hours they need to harmonize work with other aspects of their lives. Besides, committed employees are always “on,” even during their time-off. They might come up with the next great idea for your company while relaxing on the beach or driving to their kid’s Little League game.

4. It can save your company money.

An unlimited vacation policy saves the cost of tracking and managing your organization’s PTO schedule. It also eliminates the liability and unexpected expense of paying out accrued and unused vacation days when employees leave (if you’re among the companies that follow this practice).

5. It will help recruit and retain the best candidates.

An open vacation culture can be a strong competitive differentiator for recruitment. Candidates, especially millennial job seekers, look favorably on unlimited days vs. the 16 days most U.S. companies provide. The impact can last long after recruitment. Netflix, for instance, saw an increase in employee engagement and retention after introducing its unlimited vacation policy.

Let me be clear, I don’t think there is a magic number of vacation days that businesses should all adopt. What I am advocating for is more freedom for employees to integrate their careers with the other pillars of their lives, such as getting to know their kids, discovering new perspectives through travel, and fueling creative thinking through passion projects –all things that lead to happier, more innovative and more committed employees.

In 2015, I hope unlimited vacation policies catch fire and more CEOs think of it not as merely a benefit or perk, but as part of crafting a high performance company culture built on trust and respect. The question to ask yourself isn’t “how many days off do my employees deserve?” but “how do I empower smarter, more responsible employees in 2015?”

Go ahead, take some time off to think about it.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Thoughts That Will Totally Crush Any Chance of Success

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Using a lack of contacts or connections as an excuse for failure is a self-limiting thought

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

You’ll hear that successful people think differently — that they are somehow hard-wired for high performance. There’s the notion that some entrepreneurs perfectly combine analytical and reasoning skills with optimism, creativity, problem solving and people skills.

But successful people entertain the same kind of negative and self-limiting thoughts that everyone else has. What differs is their identification and reaction to them.

Here’s a roundup of thoughts that absolutely limit, kill, crush and smash success. Catch these thoughts as they arise and flip them on their head.

Related: 4 Ways You Are Your Own Worst Enemy

1. “I’m not an expert.”

Do you tell yourself over and over again, “I’m not an expert”? No one starts off doing anything as an expert. Expertise is built up over time. You have to make yourself an expert. When considering a project or business, don’t ask if you’re an expert. Rather, ask if you love the subject matter.

If you’re passionate about the subject, you’ll do everything you can to soak in as much information as possible.

For most fields of business, two years of intense learning can make you a top expert. The process starts with your accepting that learning experience as a journey. Make sure it’s one that you enjoy and that you want to spend a lot of time on every day. Change this thought into a question, “Where do I find what I need to know?”

Related: Act Like the Leader You Want to Be

2. “It’s already been done.”

Have you ever told yourself the self-defeating thought “It’s already been done.” Yes, it’s true that some ideas are actually new. The futuristic proton beam that destroys cancer cells without touching other cells comes to mind. But if you’re coming up with an idea for an app, probably similar products already exist.

If you’re already entrenched and working inside a particular industry, you may see your ideas unfold elsewhere in the marketplace and be developed by other people. But that doesn’t matter one bit.

If you know that a lot of people need your product or service, the fact that competitors exist validates your plans. In business, it’s good to be first, but as PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has said, it’s better to be last.

Bringing an idea to life and then executing your plan better than others matters a whole lot more than the uniqueness of your concept. Challenge this thinking by asking, “How can I do this better?”

3. “I don’t know the right people.”

You’ve probably had “it’s all whom you know” beaten into your head since birth. It’s true to a certain extent that knowing key people matters. But the problem is that many people accept their current circle of contacts (their colleagues, clients, friends and social media networks) as the limited resource they have to work with.

Using a lack of contacts or connections as an excuse for failure is a self-limiting thought. Tap the contacts you have. But if you don’t know the right people, make it a point to get to the right people. Contrary to what you may have heard, reaching out to the right people can work if you try hard, even if you don’t have a special connection. Turn this thought into “Whom do I have to get to know — and how?”

Related: 3 Practical Ways to Connect With Millionaires

4. “You need money to make money.”

It’s easy to think that there’s some reason that other people are successful — that it’s because they went to better schools or have superior personal skills. Indeed many people point to others’ success by noting that they had the money and resources.

It’s easy to use lack of money as an excuse for lack of progress but in many business areas, limited resources can be a blessing.

Lack of resources might prompt you to keep your operations lean and mind fresh and sharpen your focus. You can be extremely successful by being smart about expenses and business planning.

You don’t need money to make money. You just need to come up with the exact cost of your first product, which might be completely free. Think instead, “How can I do things better because my operation is small?”

5. “I always …”

When you run your own business, the lines between your personal and professional life blur. Your personal attributes often dictate the success of your business. When you think about yourself, you often think of what you are now.

But when you think of your business, think of what it could be. The trick is to think of yourself much the way you consider your business — as a growth vehicle.

When you catch yourself saying, “I always . . .” (such as “I always mess up when I talk in front of people”), know that you’re chiseling that negativity into stone.

It’s your job to expand your definition of yourself. To grow a business, grow yourself first. Bet on your becoming capable of positive change. Remember to consider this: “I’m not who I once was.”

Mastering the way you think is the first step toward success in any business. It’s a target that’s always moving and a goal that you may never fully reach. But trying to catch and turn these thoughts around is what drives entrepreneurs forward in their journey.

Related: How to Train Your Brain to Stay Positive

TIME Careers & Workplace

9 Ways to Take Your Networking to the Next Level

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With a few pointers, anyone can leverage the power of networking to improve their business

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This story was originally published on StartupCollective.

Question: Share one great tip and/or tool for networking.

Give a Handshake and Repeat the Person’s Name

“Give a firm handshake as an initial impression. Say the person’s name three times in your first conversation, and it is likely that you will always remember his or her name.” — Eddie Lou, Shiftgig

Use Bizzabo

Bizzabo is an excellent app to use at networking events. Often at those events, it’s hard to know which people would be the most beneficial for you to meet. Bizzabo solves exactly that problem and lets you easily connect with other people.” — Ben Lang, Mapme

Find the Most Interesting Person

“Networking is sometimes a drag, but I always approach it like an investigator: I try to figure out what makes someone tick, what they are passionate about or what they have to offer the world. Pick an individual and try to figure out why he or she is the most interesting person in the room. Approached from this angle, it almost becomes a game, and you win when you have put the pieces together.” — Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, AirPR

Follow up Consistently

“The most important part of networking happens after an initial meeting when you have an opportunity to follow up and start to really build a relationship. If you have a great conversation with someone at an event or over coffee, be sure to pave the way for future communication. A simple thank-you message is great; offering an intro or resource related to your conversation is even better.” — Martina Welke, Zealyst

Utilize Rapportive

Rapportive is a Gmail plugin that quickly allows you to connect with everyone you email on social networks. Enter an email address, and it allows you to connect on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, AngelList and more with one click. When doing sales, it allows you to reach the prospect via different channels, which is far more effective.” — Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com

Use Business Card Readers

“We collect tons of business cards at nearly every networking event we attend. To help us manage this, we use a new app from Infusionsoft (our CRM system) that allows us to scan the business cards on our iPhones and import them directly into our CRM database while also keeping notes about our interactions. It eliminates the paper clutter and helps us keep great records.” — Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

Leverage ‘Friends’ Into Relationships

“With so much buzz about social media these days, it’s easy to lose track of one tried-and-true networking tactic: real-world interaction. By making physical, face-to-face connections with your online “friends,” you become more than just a “like” on a page. Leverage your online network into true relationships by arranging for lunch dates, social events and other opportunities for meaningful contact.” — Jay Wu, A Forever Recovery

Share Personal Interests

“Talk about your real interests that don’t include work. If you’re a less-experienced entrepreneur hoping to impress a legend in the startup space like Jason Calacanis or Steve Blank, or if you’re courting a tech writer for a story, don’t start with shop talk. You won’t get anywhere unless you’re THAT amazing. Talk to their personal interests so the connection is authentic and less transactional.” — Danny Wong, Blank Label

Offer Something in Return First

“Reverse the traditional process of networking where you ask for help and then offer something in return. Instead, show the person you want to establish a connection by demonstrating what you can do for them before inquiring about what they can do for you.” — Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

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