How to Bring Positivity to the Interview Process

Businessman smiling with arms outstretched

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS, CELDC

Positivity is contagious. It can uplift the people and the energy surrounding you.

Bringing positivity to an interview demonstrates your can-do and problem-solving attitude. This is an attractive quality in a leader, as they are often responsible for motivating their team to overcome challenges. Everyone has challenges, but an individual that can see the positive in every situation is easy to trust and appears more reliable.

Here’s how you can be proactive about bringing positivity to the interview process.

Prepare For the Interview

Preparation will boost your confidence. Confidence naturally breeds optimism.

When interviewing for an executive position, you may be asked questions that are outside the scope of your education, experience, and qualifications. Recruiters are looking to gain an understanding of your capacity as a leader, as well as how you have managed difficult situations in the past.

There are several things you can do to prepare yourself for the interview:

  1. Research possible interview questions. You will be better prepared to answer if you have been anticipating certain questions and you have had time to determine your response ahead of time.
  2. Learn about the company. Do your research and go in-depth. The more you know, the better.
  3. Search your memory. Consider real-life stories and examples you could share to demonstrate your competence and leadership ability. I ask my clients to prepare 12 to 18 validation stories so they are “at the ready” during an interview to prove you do what you say you do.
  4. Utilize the Job Description section on the responsibilities the job will cover. Turn these into questions and practice answering them.
  5. Prepare questions. Be ready to ask questions of your own. Asking questions exhibits definite interest in the position and also shows that you are also searching for the right fit.
  6. Practice your body language. Remember to smile, look the interviewer in the eye, be attentive, and speak clearly. Work on your body language regularly to project confidence and poise in the interview.
  7. Dress for success. Ensure your professional wear is in top shape for the interview.

Remain Present

It is easy to get distracted during an interview. Staying in the moment allows you to bring your awareness to the conversation. This will enable you to give more on-point, relevant answers to the questions being asked. You will think of better examples to bring up and demonstrate a clear understanding of the questions with your responses. You will feel sharper.

When you are fully aware, you will feel it become easier to be positive during the interview. Instead of dreading the things you must do later in the day or thinking about what went wrong in the past focus on the positive aspects of the interview process. You can give your attention to what matters most in the moment.

Concentrate on what you are looking to accomplish and you will find that your anxieties and fears will vanish.

Build Your Self-Confidence

If you are looking to add necessary experience or qualifications to your resume be proactive about educating yourself. Take courses, attend seminars, read books, or even listen to podcasts.

If your energy levels are low try exercising, eating well, and meditating more regularly to boost your self-image and feel better in your own body. Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night to help you feel rejuvenated each day.

If you have been feeling down or negative change your self-talk. Learn to see the upside in every situation. Tell yourself that you are worthy and capable. Repeat and reinforce positive phrases to yourself.

There are many ways to improve your self-image, but it can take time and persistence. When you feel good about yourself, it will be easy to be positive in interviews.

A positive individual is a rare individual, which is why they always stand out.


Be prepared to ask for the job. Many people leave an interview without finishing their thoughts. You can easily avoid this situation by making it clear that you feel the position would be a good fit for you.

Positivity may take some practice, but it is worth every bit of effort you put into it.

Let’s get to work.


If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or


5 Body Language Tips that will Boost Your Effectiveness

Man hand turning a knob in the highest position, Concept image for illustration of high impact communication and advertising campaign.

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS, CELDC

You are an executive. You want to present yourself with confidence and poise.

With effective language, you can send the right message and communicate with authority every time. But communication is not just what you say verbally – it is also what you say with your body.

Practicing effective body language can help you achieve better results with interviews, meetings, and even with casual conversations.

Here are five tips that can help you improve your body language.

  1. Practice Active Listening

Actively conversing and paying attention to small details during conversations can instantly separate you from others. People are more apt to converse freely when they know their audience is paying attention. You can show your appreciation through your body language.

To demonstrate your active listening, hold eye contact for a comfortable length of time. Nod occasionally. Lean forward. Face the speaker. Repeat a few facts back to make sure you heard them correctly. As these behaviors become habitual, they will also become more natural. Actively listening will demonstrate that you are engaged, and you will find you remember more about the conversation.

Your overall communication will improve when you are able to remember these small details and bring them up again in future conversations.

  1. Work on Your Feet

When it comes to body language, people often focus on practicing their facial expressions, posture, and gestures, but forget to rehearse their feet. A person’s feet can reveal very much about how they are feeling.

When your own feet are still and comfortable they communicate confidence. This posture shows you are collected, grounded, and engaged in the moment.

You can observe other people’s feet to read the room. Increased movement, shuffling, and fidgeting can be a sign of anxiety or discomfort. Reading this body language is a good indicator to change the direction of the conversation.

  1. Uncross Arms & Legs

Crossed arms and legs can indicate introversion or lack of receptiveness. Keep a more open posture by unfolding your arms and legs. This posture can help you absorb and retain more information in conversation. This body language will communicate approachability and openness.

Whether you are in an interview, at an important meeting, or at a conference, it is always best to remain attentive and appear receptive to conversation. Keeping open posture will help you stay engaged and on-point with your communication, both verbal and non-verbal.

Closed posture, or crossed arms or legs is something you can watch for in others. This may indicate defensiveness or a good time to take a break and shake things up.

  1. Master the Handshake

Your handshake seals your interactions with a confident, poised, friendly gesture that others can remember you by.

A good handshake should not be too limp, squeeze too hard, shake for too long, or grab the wrong part of the hand entirely. Practice your handshake with willing friends or family members to perfect your technique. Ask for feedback as you try different things.

Mastering the handshake can take time. A little practice can go a long way when trying to create a lasting impression.

  1. Use Hand Gestures (but not too much!)

Hand gestures can help emphasize, clarify and improve points that are being verbally communicated. The key is to keep them clear and controlled. Your words should be more emphatic and memorable than your hand gestures.

You can use your fingers to emphasize numerical values or enumerate conclusions in your presentation. Bringing both of your hands together can mean “coming together.” An open hand with palm facing up can be used to demonstrate trends.

And one I think is especially important: during interviews, use one arm / hand gestures vs. both arms / hands.  One arm / hand gestures demonstrate an executive stance and presence.

These and other techniques are often used by the world’s most effective presenters and speakers. Use your hand gestures to enhance your words, but not distract from them.

Final Thoughts

To create a great impression with everyone you meet, make sure your body language is as confident and poised as your words are. Pay attention to the body language of those around you. Their body language will tell you how you can approach them to be most effective.

Let’s get to work!

– Linda

If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or

17 Ways to Kick Start Your Career Search in January 2017


By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS, CELDC


  1. Send Your Thank You Notes

Be sure to send thank you notes within 24 hours of any job interviews you have. You can also send thank you notes to new contacts you made in 2016, which will set the precedent for future communication.

  1. Review Your LinkedIn Home Page

Spend 5 to 10 minutes each morning on LinkedIn so you can keep up with what is happening in your network. Address any comments or messages you may have waiting for you. Remember, your profile should be updated regularly.  This includes being an active and contributing community member.

  1. Get Your Interview Clothes Dry-Cleaned

First impressions are important. Get your interview clothes cleaned and pressed so you are prepared for future interviews.

  1. Read about the Applicant Tracking System to Stay Competitive

More companies are using ATS software to handle recruiting. Learn how it works so you can get through the software and land more interviews.

  1. Get Your Resume Ready

Review your last year and eliminate irrelevant, outdated or lesser credentials. Modify your keywords based on jobs you are applying to. Be sure to include relevant data and metrics. Verify that everything is up to date and correct.

  1. Update Your Target List

Utilize your network connections to get closer to companies that are on your target list.  Add to your list strategically and prioritize prospective opportunities.

  1. Find & Attend Local Events

An empty calendar will not help you land a job. Start filling it with relevant networking events and seminars you can attend to meet influencers and decision makers.

  1. Reconnect

Get in touch with old contacts – you never know what they might be up to, or who they could connect you with. You can also uncover hard-to-find job openings this way.

  1. Prepare For Interviews

Research common interview questions or role play with someone you trust. Be prepared with great answers. Expect the interview process to factor more heavily into whether you get a job in 2017. Do not underestimate the power of using your validation stories to demonstrate your capabilities and expertise.

  1. Volunteer

Volunteering can create great opportunities for networking.  Consider volunteering for an organization within your Subject Matter Expertise (SME).  (ex: treasurer for your church/synagogue if you are in accounting or a CFO; IT support for a local business if you are a tech guru; etc.)

  1. Uncover Hidden Opportunities

Some companies are too busy to make a job posting. Others have openings they do not regularly mention. Network and get in touch with your contacts to see if they are aware of any opportunities that meet your skills and requirements.

  1. Get on Social Media

Employers, recruiters, hiring managers will find you on social media platforms. Create profiles that are clean, neat, professional, and interesting.

  1. Follow Up Relentlessly

Some employers will not hire you unless you demonstrate a degree of tenacity. Follow up after interviews – it demonstrates your willingness to persist. Also remember to follow up with anyone you meet at networking events and seminars.

  1. Read about Recruiting Trends In 2017

Get acquainted with the stats and data. Become aware of in-demand skills. Find out what recruiters and HR teams will be looking for.

  1. Be Honest

Be open and transparent about your skills and experience on your resume and interviews. You need to be able to deliver on your promises.

  1. Track Your Efforts

The most successful people in the world are fervent trackers. Log everything you do in your career search so you can stay honest with yourself and the effort you are putting into your job search. Make note of what works, and stop doing what is not helping you find your ideal role.

  1. Don’t Give Up

Keep a positive attitude and stay the course. Be patient, and stick to your plan. It can be hard to maintain enthusiasm, but your positive attitude will not go unnoticed.

Final Thoughts

Do not try to do everything at once. Focus on one or two items at a time, and then move on to work on others. Avoid becoming overwhelmed. Set goals that stretch you a bit, but are not beyond your reach. Make the most of 2017.


Let’s get to work!

– Linda

If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or

5 Questions To Ask If You Think Consulting Is The Right Path For You

Compass symbol


By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS, CELDC

Consulting sometimes gets a bad rap. But the reality is that there are a lot of upsides to the profession too.

You can earn good money. You can contribute valuable ideas to various organizations, and see them grow as result of your input. And to some extent, you can set your own hours.

But this isn’t to suggest that it’s all glitz and glamor. You’ll need to do your homework. You’ll need to travel. You’ll need to be able to sell yourself and charge a fee that’s in keeping with the value you can provide.

Here are five things to consider if you’re thinking about becoming a consultant.

1. Are You Willing & Able To Travel Often?

Consulting often requires a lot of travel, and many consultants give up a good part of their week to their work because of this.

So you need to ask yourself if you’re willing to live the plane-and-hotel lifestyle. And if you have a family, you have to think about whether or not two to three days of your time on the weekend is really enough to sustain your relationship with them. Additionally, this is the only time you will have for yourself, your errands, doctor’s appointments, and so on.

2. Can You Adapt Quickly?

Many consultants find their work anything but predictable. One moment they’re talking about business strategy. The next, they’re addressing regulatory and legal concerns.

For better or for worse, you can’t just make a to-do list and tackle items one by one. You’ll have to be flexible with your work and be prepared to adapt quickly.

You will gain experience in many different fields as a consultant, but in reality this is out of necessity – it’s really part of the job description.

3. Are You A People Person?

Consulting requires you to network and meet new people constantly. You will also need to be able to demonstrate and convince people of your worth.

But there’s more. You have to be able to present at a moment’s notice, communicate well, and be able to keep a finger on the pulse of the value you’re offering. If you can’t summarize how your work is going to benefit the company, your client or one of their colleagues might question your validity and ability to deliver on the promised results.

4. Can You Sell Yourself?

If you get into consulting, you’ll be selling yourself to new organizations and clients all of the time. It’s like a job search that has no end, because you’ll be going in to do job interviews frequently.

One opportunity can certainly lead to another, but you can’t assume that this will happen. As a consultant, you will need to be very proactive about finding your next job. This can be challenging, because you can’t be selling while you’re working, and you can’t be working while you’re selling.

If you’re not the aggressive selling type, you will likely require a system to attract and convert prospects into paying clients.

5. Are You Reliant On A Steady Paycheck?

There is an opportunity to earn a considerable amount of money as a consultant. But this doesn’t mean that you will automatically make droves of money, or that your income level will be consistent from one month to the next. In most cases, you won’t even be paid for your work until after 45 to 90 days have passed (and that’s the best case scenario).

And even if you put your best foot forward, there’s always the chance that you won’t have any clients for several months at a time. If you don’t believe in yourself and your ability to provide great service, you might give up before the going gets good.

In consulting, you’re in for an up-and-down ride. Can you handle it?

Final Thoughts

If you love challenges, and you pride yourself in your ability to help businesses, then there is tremendous upside to being a consultant. Carefully consider the above, and think about whether or not you can handle the workload and tension involved.

Let’s get to work!

– Linda

If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or

5 Ways To Positively Work With “The Gatekeepers”


By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS, CELDC

Here’s the thing about “the gatekeepers”. They’re busy. They have a lot on their plate. And whether it’s pitches or résumés, they’re getting a high volume of submissions on a daily basis.

So how do you get through to CEOs or other executive level people? How do you grab their attention amidst their sea of emails and phone calls? Or, if you’re already communicating with them, what do you do to keep them engaged?

Here are five ways to work positively with the gatekeepers.

1. Recognize The Flow Of Influence & Use It To Your Advantage

In corporate environments, influence flows downward. As result, talking directly to the gatekeeper could actually be to your detriment. Gatekeepers are there to keep you out. Letting someone through could mean putting their reputation or even job at risk. More often than not, they will reject you, and they might give you more than just a polite brushoff.

When all is said and done, the gatekeeper is still the person you will be pitching to. But starting at the top gives you an advantage. Talking directly with the decision maker could give you the information you need to make a better pitch to the gatekeeper.

Instead of trying to get through to the gatekeeper, try getting through to the decision maker first.

2. Treat The Intermediary Well & Be Personable

Although you may be rejected by gatekeepers more than once, if you don’t maintain your composure, you could get blacklisted. Keep in mind that it’s their job to decline the vast majority of inquiries.

It might sound like “play nice” is canned advice, but there’s more to this than you might think. Gatekeepers, more often than not, turn out to be incredible resources. And when you make an effort treat them well, you might end up being the first person to do that all day. That causes you to stand out.

Make notes on who the intermediary is. Take interest in them. Send them handwritten notes. Dare to ask, “what can I do for you?” When you do that, it shows initiative, and also demonstrates that you aren’t all about yourself. It shows that you’re willing to reciprocate.

3. Use Email To Demonstrate Your Expertise

Instead of using email to sell, try using it to establish the work you’re doing to move the deal forward. Your first email should not be about selling or pitching, but rather a brief introduction into who you are, and a reference to a challenge your recipient is experiencing. Follow this up with a phone call.

Ask permission to include the gatekeeper in the conversation, and copy them in your ongoing communication. Then, include the decision maker in the emails. As they continue to see the work that’s happening behind the scenes, they will have a hard time not being impressed with you.

Naturally, this does mean actually doing the work – finding out what the company does, what challenges they’re experiencing, what solutions you can provide them with, and the like.

4. Be Honest & Transparent

You might be able to coax and manipulate a company into making a deal with you. But if the deal was cut on pretence, and the foundation of your relationship is shaky, the agreement will fall apart, and you will miss out on business with them over the long-term. Aggressive selling or pitching tactics may yield upfront results, but will also earn you a bad reputation. Repeat business is more to your benefit.

Truth is refreshing. When you’re a truth-teller, it demonstrates that you would make for a solid partner over the long haul. Build your credibility by being honest and transparent about what you’re looking to achieve.

5. Learn To Listen & Read Between The Lines

In today’s fast-paced, attention-deprived world, people tend not to listen. But listening could provide some valuable clues as to how to move forward with your communication, and what problems you could solve for them.

As you continue to communicate with intermediaries, you’re going to be asked more and more questions. You need to learn to answer questions while flipping it around on them, and in turn, following up with your own question. This will keep the conversation moving.

Don’t forget – the person asking the questions is in control of the conversation.


Be genuine and treat others with respect. It sounds simple enough, but it can be difficult when you’re looking to get that handshake on a deal. Learn to steer the conversation, and how to get a “yes” when gatekeepers are most likely to respond with a “no”.

Let’s get to work!

– Linda

If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or

Line Your Library! Summer’s Here And It’s Time To Get Reading For Your Career Search, Planning, And Of Course, Enjoyment With These 4 Literary Works


By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS, CELDC

Summer is here! For some, it’s a time for rest and relaxation. For others, it’s time for thoughtful reflection.

Either way, it is the ideal time to unload baggage from the past and get recalibrated and ready for another season.

Reading is a great way to stimulate your thinking and gain new insights into your career path. Here are four great books to help you get your career search and planning underway!

The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success by Nicholas Lore

Looking for change in your career? Considering a new path? Interested in moving in a new direction?

Nicholas Lore’s The Pathfinder features over 100 tests and diagnostic tools that will offer the insights you need to make that change, or simply alter your perspective around the opportunities you’re already pursuing.

Is career satisfaction and fulfillment a priority for you? Have you ever wished that you had more direction in choosing a career growing up?

Then The Pathfinder can help you discover a side of yourself you never even know existed. Reconnect with your dormant talents and skills and unlock your full potential.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

Dive into classic Covey wisdom with 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Be reminded of why you need to take the initiative in your life. Define or refine your personal goals. Learn the ins and outs of priority management. Develop the habit of growing yourself and finding the win-win in every situation.

Covey offers a definitive, in-depth guide into the habits that will transform your life and make you more effective in every aspect of your career. Apply his wisdom and watch as the world unfolds before your very eyes.

101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions: 25th Anniversary Edition by Ron Fry

If you’re searching for a new career and applying to positions, then job interviews are part and parcel of the process.

After reading the 101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions, you’ll be ready for any situation. When you’re looking to land that job you really want, the ideas contained in this book are going to prove invaluable.

If you’ve never done well in interviews, then one of your weaknesses is about to become one of your strengths! Just remember to gather all the specifics for the position you’re applying to.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

These days, the attention span of a human being is often being compared to that of a goldfish. Not to worry – human beings definitely aren’t goldfish, because we’re capable of deep, focused work.

Cal Newport’s Deep Work reveals one essential skill every executive should master – the ability to focus on difficult and demanding tasks without giving in to unnecessary distractions.

If we want to get high-value tasks done, we can’t get caught up in a flurry of emails, texts, and instant messages. We need to cultivate the ability to enter flow states and give our all to tasks we need to complete. This book will teach you how.

Final Thoughts

What will you do next? What do you see for yourself, your future, and your career?

Will you remain in the role you’re currently in, or do you see change ahead?

Whatever the case, let these four books guide you onto new horizons, excel in your career, and live a more impactful life. Make this summer the most productive one you’ve ever had.

Let’s get to work!

– Linda

If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or

Interview Success

art of interviewing

By Linda Van Valkenburgh, MS, CCMC, CJSS, CSMCS, CELDC

Interview success is important not only for your job prospects but for your self-confidence during the job hunt.

Ensuring you have a positive, successful interview process is important as you continue your job search.

Do Your Homework

A successful interview comes with a lot of preparation. Who will you be speaking with in the interview?  What are your common denominators?  Look up this person (or panel) on LinkedIn. Were you in the same field, university, former companies, or community groups?  Also, conduct your research on the company.  What do you know about them? Have you also read their social media feeds? What do they post / tweet about?  Read the articles they have written – be prepared to sprinkle in some of that info during your meeting.

Prepare Your Questions to Pose to Your Interviewer

There will be moments in the interview when clearly the next question belongs to you. Think about this like a date! You wouldn’t want your date to start asking you “hardball” questions right out of the gate.  Consider some nice “softball” questions during the first ten-minutes such as: “Ms. Smith, tell me how this position came about?”; or “I recently saw a press release that your company is about to ___. What is this department doing to help that transition?”; etc.  These opening questions show interest, research, and some high level thought processes.  As the interview progresses, consider “hardball” questions like: “What are your challenges”; “How do you define success for this role?”; etc.  I consider these “hardball” questions because your interviewer needs to trust you, or certainly be considering you before laying out their current challenges.

Prepare your Answers for the Interviewers Questions

Use the job posting like an open book test. Review the responsibilities for the position.  If you could turn that responsibility into a question (and a follow up question), what would they be? How would you answer?  I find that if candidates can do this – they are probably ready for 80% of the interview!

Have Validation Stories Ready

Validation Stories are KEY for your interview success.  You want to be able to share what you have done at past companies, why it was important, how you did it, what the outcomes were, and (the best part) how it relates back to this company’s needs.  If you could have 5 validation stories at your fingertips for each interview, even if you are only able to use three of them, you will be in excellent shape!

Prepare your Value Proposition

(It’s not an ELEVATOR SPEECH! You’re not an elevator!) This is about showing WHY you are the candidate of choice!  You have 2 to 3 minutes to present your Value Proposition in the early moments of the interview.  Use it to set the tone of the entire hour that is about to unfold!  This shows them why YOU are the person that was invited in!  If the interviewer doesn’t say: “Tell me about yourself” – Please volunteer it, jump in and say: Ms. Smith, before we begin, let me tell you about myself!”  They will appreciate your executive confidence and realize that this is a great way to start the conversation.  I often wonder as a career coach, if this is the one question that we know will be asked 90% of the time – why aren’t candidates ready for it? Promote it during the opening moments of the interview.

The Thank You Note of Their Dreams

Follow up with 24 – 36 hours with a GREAT Thank You note.  In the note, DO mention several challenges you heard them speak about and then note how you have handled each area in the past with success.  Back it up using action verbs, metrics, outcomes, etc.   A thank you note like this goes beyond the obligatory thank you for seeing me, but rises to an executive piece that clearly shows you distinguishing yourself from other candidates.

Let’s get to work!

– Linda

If you have questions about your executive career search, please contact me at 203-323-9977 or