Category Archives: Career

Standout Words in Letters of Recommendations

Source: Fast Company, Feb 2020

We’ve examined 2,206 letters written on behalf of applicants for academic positions on various standard linguistic dimensions. Those include words that signal positive or negative tone; notable, standout terms such as “outstanding;” grindstone terms that denote commitment like “hard-working”; and phrases that raise doubt, such as “I will leave to others to comment on X’s research.”

there is a surefire way to identify applicants for whom writers have the greatest enthusiasm.


It turns out that only 20-25% of letters describe applicants as outstanding.

They do this by invoking the linguistic terms mentioned above: standout terms or phrases, such as “unparalleled,” “one of the best I have worked with,” “incredible,” “fantastic,” “prodigy,” “unrivaled,” “outstanding,” “rising star,” “as good or better than” (a well-known person), “amazing,” and others.

Despite the general inflation of recommendation letters, many studies have shown that only the top quarter (at most) of letters contain standout terms/phrases. The rest are laden with grindstone terms such as hard-working, careful, good, knowledgeable and more.

Granted some employers may want to hire grindstone employees. However, when there is a need to identify the very best applicant, then I offer the following suggestion: Look for standout terms. When the goal is to choose an applicant who is well above average, those depicted only as good are frequently only average.

If writers were provided with adjective checklists, it would be evident whom they viewed as the strongest candidates because they’d check more of the standout than grindstone words. So they could check any of the following CAPITALIZED adjectives that they believe apply to the candidate:

OUTSTANDING, good, AMAZING, very knowledgeable, UNRIVALED, solid, super careful, FABULOUS, diligent, PRODIGY, hard-working, FANTASTIC.

In my humble opinion, I believe the development of this checklist represents the most outstanding, amazing and unrivaled method to identify the best candidates.

4 Musts for Cover Letters

Source: Fast Company, Jan 2020

A great cover letter does this <get your resume read> by connecting the positive achievements of your past and future to the present needs of future employers.

Your cover letter does this by touching on four points about your career: your yesterday, your today, your tomorrow, and your enthusiasm. One great sentence for each of these points is all you’ll need. And it should invite response by making it very clear what you’re looking to do next and why.


In your first sentence, share the most relevant details about what you’ve done, and inform your audience of your successes and achievements in your field.


  • “I’m a top producing sales professional in pharmaceutical sales.”
  • “I’m a DevOps expert with deep experience in AWS and security.”
  • “I come from a creative background where I’ve done award-winning TV ad creative for the automotive industry for the past 15 years.”

In this first sentence, provide the specifics about the type of work you do, who or how you do it, and an adjective or two to describe your success.


In your second sentence, explain to your audience your current role and how it demonstrates the connection between your past success and your future achievements.

  • I’ve been rapidly promoted in the Aerospace industry.”
  • “I enjoy my work as a client services manager in media companies.”
  • “The challenges of semiconductor design captivate me and inform my present work.”

Share the energy, interest, or passion for what you’re doing today. It never makes sense to denigrate your current employer or position; instead focus on the positives that you want to carry forward with you.


Employers respond to enthusiasm. It’s a great signal of your positive, achievement-oriented outlook, and speaks most effectively to your motivations. By providing a positive spin on your search in your third sentence, you are inviting HR professionals and recruiters to welcome you into an interview process.

  • I enjoy handling the accounting issues for growing companies and am particularly interested in venture-backed opportunities.”
  • “I’m passionate about hardware manufacturing and am looking for positions of increasing responsibility in tech manufacturing here in the Bay Area.”
  • “I love the challenges of data-driven marketing and applying statistical analysis to ad spend—not just for online, but for radio and TV as well.”


Your fourth sentence should follow, logically, persuasively, from the professional you’ve described in the first three. It should also be focused on the benefits you’ll bring to your future employer, not your fears, setbacks, or unhappiness.

  • “I’m looking for bigger challenges in logistics, either inside or outside of retail.”
  • “I’d like to do project management at the same scale as a defense contractor after my 13 years in government.”
  • “As I’ve been adding more benefits, compensation, and succession planning work to my portfolio, I’m ready to step up the senior HR business partner role at my next employer.”
  • “I’m looking to move to a smaller hospital group where I can take a step up the scope of administrative responsibility.”

In 2020, a cover email with the above four sentences and perhaps a brief introduction and wrap-up is at most two paragraphs in length. It’s even better to write one or one-and-a-half paragraphs.

Teenagers’ Career Aspirations

Source: Quartz, Feb 2020

“The future that students see for themselves does not square with the future of work,” said Andreas Schliecher, head of the education directorate at the OECD.

He said that schools and teachers should do more to make sure kids know about the diverse range of careers that exist, noting that kids who are exposed to more kinds of work, either through internships or job fairs, tended to like school more. “The more time they invest in career activities, the more they see the value of school,” he said.

Strategy Consulting Pay

Source: eFinancialcareers, Feb 2019

Firm Salary Bonus Signing Bonus Total comp
BCG $167k $45k $25k $237k
Bain $165k $41k $25k $231k
McKinsey $165k $35k $30k $230k
KPMG $150k $25k $35k $210k
Deloitte $145k $45k $20k $210k
PwC $145k $29k $30k $204k
EY $150k $10k $25k $185k


Soft Skills for Work

Source: Fast Company, Nov 2019

According to a 2015 LinkedIn report, people with high EQ make on average $29,000 more than their non-emotionally intelligent counterparts. The bottom line is that you’ll thrive in the job market if you have strong interpersonal skills.


It’s easy to get absorbed in our work (or ourselves) and forget about common courtesy, but demonstrating respect for others is key to developing personal relationships.

When you’re in a meeting—or anywhere else, really—wait for people to finish what they’re saying before you chime in. Thank others when they’ve shared an idea, acknowledge their contribution, and build upon it. If you’re leading the meeting, acknowledge everyone’s presence by inviting comments from each person and thanking them for participating.

Another way to convey respect is by showing up on time for appointments and meetings. (And if you come into a meeting late, don’t try to justify it by saying, “I had a meeting with our chairman,” or “I got stuck in traffic.” Just show up on time.)


A just-released study reveals that 48% of employees have felt embarrassed because they didn’t know a coworker’s name. This should go without saying, but make it a point to learn the names of your colleagues (even if they work in other departments or offices) and use them.

Once you get to know someone, remember what they’ve told you. If someone has given a big presentation or has a family event, don’t let that slip from your mind. Ask about it, and make sure you talk more about them than about yourself.


One of the best ways to make sure you sustain your focus on the person you’re talking with is to put your phone away, and use body language to keep yourself centered on the other person.

Look others directly in the eye and align your body with theirs. Facial expressions, too, can help show you’re focused. These sorts of body language cues will show that you are paying attention, which will also help you stay connected.


Listening is a delicate art, but there are three simple ways to listen: physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Physical listening means watching the body language of others, and responding accordingly. If someone has a frown or closed arms, realize you’re not getting through, and revamp the conversation.

Mental listening involves connecting with what others are thinking, and probing to get to the heart of what they are saying. So ask, “Do you think we should launch this program? Tell me more.”

Emotional listening means listening for what others are feeling, and showing that you understand and care. You might say to a team member, “Do you feel comfortable with this assignment?” Or, “Did you enjoy the conference?” Avoid the more generic, “How’s it going?” (That cliché is bound to prompt others to respond with a cliché of their own: “Not bad.”)


While it’s rare for us to think of love in the workplace, there are absolutely grounds for doing so. Sigal Barsade, professor of management at the Wharton School, writes about the importance of “companionate love” in the office. By this she means “feelings of affection, compassion, caring, and tenderness for others.”

Saying Thank-You (Professionally)

Source: Fast Company, Sep 2019

the thank you-note writers “significantly underestimated” how happy their letters would make recipients feel—and overestimated how awkward the letters would make recipients feel. “People know there will be a good reaction,” Kumar says. “But they underestimate just how good of a feeling it can incite to reach out kindly.”

There’s an underlying psychology at play. “We call it competence versus warmth,” Kumar says. When we evaluate others, we focus more on their warmth—their sincerity and positive intent. When we evaluate ourselves, however, we focus on competence: on whether or not we have crafted the perfect, most articulate words. “We underestimate the power of warmth on recipients because we are so busy evaluating ourselves on an entirely different basis,” Kumar explains.

What does that mean for thank-you note writers? Stop second-guessing your words and simply focus on penning something heartfelt. It will make the recipient feel better than you imagine.

Where Paul Allen Was Inspired to Start Microsoft

Source: Boston Magazine, Sep 2019

In January 1975, a 21-year-old man named Paul Allen was browsing the kiosk when he came across that month’s Popular Electronics, whose cover featured a photo of the “World’s First Minicomputer Kit.” He bought the magazine so he could show it to a friend—Bill Gates.

“I can still remember grabbing the Popular Electronics as if it was yesterday,” Allen said in 2008.