Interview Like A Politician: Dominate the Conversation

President Bill ClintonIf you’ve ever listened or watched to an interview of a politician, you’ll probably recognize the “talking points” when they come up. Talking points are ideas, also known as takeaways, that an interviewee wants the audience and the interviewer to learn during the course of the interview. Politicians are great at this because they recognize that while it appears the interviewer is in control, the reality is the interviewee is the one that has the ability to shape the discussion based on his or her answers.

J.K. left a great comment on my post about the most common interview questions that I’ll repeat verbatim:

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How To Write an Interview Followup Thank You Letter

Thank You in the SandThe courting process doesn’t end with the conclusion of an interview, first round or on-site. After an interview, it’s a good idea to write a follow up or thank you letter so that you can thank the interviewer and maintain an open channel of communication. Not every interviewee will do this, so by writing a letter you stand out.

In most cases, the purpose of a thank you letter isn’t to help you land the job. The point is to make you stand out since many people won’t write thank you letters. In many organizations, a hiring decision is made very soon after the conclusion of an interview. At one of my former employers, the interviewers of a candidate met minutes after the last interview to discuss whether or not to make a hiring decision. It’s quick by design because you want people to make decisions before their memories have had a chance to fade. So when you write the thank you letter, chances are the decision has already been made.

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How to Answer the 10 Most Common Interview Questions

In the course of my career, I’ve been involved in over forty interviews. More than half have been in the capacity of the interviewee and the rest were as the interviewer, with an even mix of on-site and on-campus interviews. I’m by no means an expert but having navigated so many, several common themes emerged and hopefully I can pass along that information to you, prospective interviewee or interviewer, to make the whole process easier for you.

When it comes to interviews, there are two types – the soft qualitative interview and the hard quantitative interview. The soft qualitative interview is one where the interviewer is trying to get a feel for how you’d fit in the team and the organization. It’s designed to learn more about you, your goals, and learning whether those goals are in line with the goals of the organization. The hard quantitative interview is designed to figure out if you are able to do the job by testing you on your domain knowledge and expertise. This post will try to help you with the qualitative questions, the ones designed to find out more about your personality and see if you fit with the company, because the quantitative questions will change from field to field.

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How to Dress for an Interview

Remember to dress the part!First impressions count. No matter what people say or want to believe, people will judge you based on the way you look, what you’re wearing, and how you present yourself. That’s why it’s critically important to dress properly for an interview. Interviews are hard enough to get as it is, you don’t want your chances to be hurt simply because you’re wearing the wrong clothes!

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 Personal Finance 

PFBlogger Spotlight: Paid Twice

I’m not sure when it was that I first met Paid Twice, blogger behind I’ve Paid For This Twice Already…, but I’m really glad I did. I’ve Paid For This Twice Already is her personal finance blog and it follows her life experiences with money. The “paid twice” refers to how with debt, you buy something once and then pay for it over and over and over again in interest. I wanted to find out a little more about her (did you know she has a Ph.D. in Genetics?) so I thought I’d put her under the bright PFBlogger Spotlight!

jim: Hi Paid Twice, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Paid Twice: Sure! I am a 34 year old woman who loves to endlessly analyze and dither about this and that. I’m a mom to a preschooler and a toddler, I’m married, a taekwondo instructor, a chemistry tutor, and I’m in a lot less debt than I was a year ago.

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Interview with Jim O’Donnell, The Shortest Investment Book Ever

The Shortest Investment Book Ever: Wall Street Secrets for Making Every Dollar Count by James O'DonnellLast weekend, I reviewed The Shortest Investment Book Ever by Jim O’Donnell and today I have the opportunity to interview him. I thought that Jim’s extensive financial experience and his love to educate was something I should take advantage of and he willing subjected himself to my hard hitting investigative journalism. 🙂

Good morning Professor O’Donnell, I thought The Shortest Investment Book Ever lived up to its billing, being both short and informative in a way that is not intimidating in the least. Often times investing related books assault the reader with a mountain of data, but not so with your book. What led you to write The Shortest Investment Book Ever?

There is no shortage of investment and budgeting books out there already. But they don’t address the 401(k) and the 403(b), which is the chief retirement savings tool for about 62 million Americans. My book targets those many, many “savers” who are often overwhelmed by investment choices at work and may, therefore, do nothing or do the wrong thing.

I also don’t want people paying additional money (they may not have) to get “help” which often times is, even from honest brokers, a sales pitch. But my book is also intended for those who don’t have a 401(k) or a 403(b). It will help lots of people better understand Medicare, Social Security, and IRAs, which are also important aspects of retirement savings.

Were there any chapters that were cut from the book that you would have liked included?

Actually, no. In putting the I book together, my editors and I had some tussles over content. But I wanted LESS, while they wanted MORE, and kept suggesting more chapters that I might develop as briefly as I did the ones we have. Some of the chapters in the book, on, for instance, socially-responsible investing, were not my idea. I think they are good topics. But I didn’t think they belonged in the SHORTEST investment book ever.

What led you to leave Wall Street and begin teaching? In your book, I get the feeling that it’s a mentor speaking to a mentee; it works quite well in welcoming the novice to the world of retirement and investing.

I was a school teacher for seven years after college. In many ways, I loved it. All my life, I have wanted to have a life-long, and I hope positive, impact on others. I left teaching junior and senior high school, discouraged after our upstate New York community voted down the budget a couple of years in a row. I also seemed to think that my students were more capable of excellence than my administrators thought. I was then – and still am today – a demanding teacher. I’m not in the classroom to serve time and accrue retirement credit. That led to tension and some soul searching with my administrators.

So I went off to Columbia U. in New York City and got an MBA in finance and accounting with the hope of helping people in a new way. I continued to try to do that with clients and staff as I rose in the mutual fund world for a couple of decades. Then, a powerful, reorienting, religious experience in the mid-80s caused me, in time, to leave the business world and invest in the education of the next generation. In a sense, I went back to the classroom, sort of like “back to the future.”

With all the talk of a recession, what do you think most people should do to prepare for it and, should we be so lucky, what should we do to benefit from when we exit the recession?

To prepare for the recession that is upon us: We need to examine our own houses. We need to spend less, save more – sometimes LOTS LESS. We need to discipline our sometimes crazy natures to understand the difference between WANTS and NEEDS. I’m convinced that contented people – which should be our goal – don’t necessarily get what they want but they learn to live with and maybe like what they get.

For those near retirement, the recent market drubbing is, of course, more challenging. We may need to defer some dreams, keep working a bit longer, and rework our budgets and plans. We may need to learn to live on less and reinvigorate such easily overlooked joys as time with family and friends, being or becoming involved in community or church work, even enjoying simple, cheap pleasures, like a movie at home with friends or family.

We’ve got to challenge the cockamamy notion that, if I don’t spend a lot of money, we can’t enjoy life or that we’re not a “success”. Nonsense! For those of us – even if we’re near retirement – and still saving for retirement, check your asset allocations. Get them back in line. Don’t let the numbness of the disaster knock us silly or punchy.

Don’t chase the “hot” asset of today – cash or Treasuries – as if that will save you. (It won’t.) What you can save in your retirement plan today is being accumulated at bargain basement prices. This is especially helpful the farther we may be from retirement, but it can help “oldsters”, too. Young people are going to be great beneficiaries of this meltdown, if only they have the courage and discipline to save and accumulate quality, low-priced funds at these once-in-a-lifetime prices.

To benefit when we exit this recession: (And we will!) Read the above comments on preparing fro the recession.

I read a brief biography about you and saw that you had an extensive history of working with wealthy investors during your time at investment powerhouses such as Fidelity. What sorts of things have the wealthy done “right” with their investments that everyone can incorporate into their strategy?

The wealthy also can spend foolishly. But the smart ones are not extravagant. They know that capital is hard to make and still harder to accumulate. Many live very modestly, dressing and driving, for instance, NOT to stand out. Many have strong families and good marriages. A family breakup is a powerful stimulus to poverty, whatever we had before the blowup.

So, stability is something that the wealthy seem oftentimes to have. Many wealthy people I worked with are far less risk-oriented than one might expect. They almost sense that they have been lucky and don’t want to test fate. Much of their risk taking may be confined to a business, say, not to their investments. They – the smart ones – don’t put too many eggs in one basket, even if the baskets can be very large.

What do they do wrong that we should try to avoid?

Hard to generalize there. But it wasn’t investment stuff that marked “what they did wrong.” After all, they were paying me for advice. What the most foolish of the wealthy I met or worked with did was to let their pride or arrogance or the certainty that money can fix or buy anything go to their heads. Some feel that money is the standard by which all – including everyone around them – is to be measured. While most wealthy people I worked with were good folks, some were certifiable jerks – just like some of us who have no money. I worked with lottery winners, sports, movie, and TV stars that were princes and princesses and with others in the same fields who seemed to think everyone was a bellhop or a porter, fortunate to be in their presence and to take their abuse.

One question I’ve often asked myself is, knowing what I know about life in general, what advice would I give to myself ten years ago. Given your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you have liked to give yourself many years ago? (financial, or otherwise!)

What an interesting question, Jim.

First, I’d say that the important stuff is the relational stuff, not the money stuff. The money stuff is just a “funding vehicle” to enhance the relational. In the end, PEOPLE matter, not stuff or things. On the other hand, we have to be good stewards of much of the stuff and things we have been given. I’m a person of faith, so I put my trust in unseen things. I know others of great faith who seem to despise “stuff and things” and seem to value only what is eternal and invisible.

Here, I beg to differ with them. While we are in this world, we must not treasure our “stuff,” but neither should we neglect or misuse important, helpful things -even money – we have. They can helpfully serve us and others and, when cared for, can last, making us able to spend more on others or other NEEDED things. I’m uncomfortable with both those who think money is the measure of all things AND, too, with those who think it is the measure of nothing, that it is meaningless. The latter folks practice irresponsibility and think it is faithfulness or praiseworthy selflessness.

Lastly, I would say we all need to do the best we can with the gifts and talents we have been given. I think I used to believe that life would get easier as I grew older. It has not. It’s hard. There’s trial. There’s suffering. There’s reversal. There’s loss. (See my first book at But there’s lots of joy and lots of beauty. too. We have to manage through it all, not just through the good or the easy. We have to avoid fantasizing, too — a real, real problem in a world of endless pop culture and celebrities.

We need – all of us, young and old – to finally grow up into mature people who can make this broken world a better place for us and others.

 Personal Finance 

PFBlogger Spotlight: Pinyo of Moolanomy

This edition of PFBlogger Spotlight takes a look at one of the most enterprising personal finance bloggers out there, Pinyo of Moolanomy. In addition to running a popular personal finance blog, Pinyo works hard at putting together a social media site focused on personal finance, PFBuzz, as well as a bustling forum, carnival, network, and other blogs! I have no idea where he finds the time but he does and does it well.

I had a chance, earlier this year, to interview Pinyo and for the series.

jim: Hi Pinyo, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Pinyo: First, thank you for the opportunity for this interview. I am a 34 years old Asian American. I have been in the U.S. since I was 11 years old — so I have seen and lived in two completely different cultures. As far as family goes, I have been married for about 3 years now and my wife just gave birth this past December to an awesome little baby boy.

I lived in New York City ever since I moved to the U.S. and I own a small house in Jackson Heights. Currently, I work full-time for a big corporation (which shall remain nameless) as an IT project team manager in Brooklyn, NY.

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 Personal Finance 

PFBlogger Spotlight: Lazy Man and Money

I’ve been reading Lazy Man and Money for quite some time now and prior to my wedding and honeymoon, I asked Lazy Man for an interview. For those of you keeping score at home, I was married in February, it’s August September now, so I’m a little behind in publishing this. 🙂

That, however, is not an indication of what I think of Lazy Man’s blog (or his health blog, Lazy Man and Health). I had the pleasure of meeting Lazy Man at an event out in San Francisco and now you guys get to learn more about him.

jim: Hi Lazy Man, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Lazy Man: I’m a software engineer who is currently taking a hiatus from a typical 9-5 job (and income, ouch).

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