Leverage Your Power: Stop Giving Away Your Advantage

(as originally posted on LinkedIn May 19, 2017)

powerAre you giving away your power? Ever wonder why you are having a hard time landing a position or promotion. What could the one or two things you are doing that is giving away your advantage? Below are three scenarios and solutions that can help you leverage your power and turn things around.

Scenario #1: You are not getting to second base with the interview process. You are getting callbacks for your job posting response; however, it stops at the phone screen. During each of the interview, things seem to go well. The hiring manager or recruiter notice some negative descriptions in your statements or have a red flag. His/she does not give any indication to you that this is what they perceive. After your call, you realize that no one is calling you for an interview, and no one is returning your calls or emails.


Often times, people do not realize that they have spoke negatively about the prior company. It is not how they say it. It what they say; certain phrases and terms. Below are two example questions and answers:

Q. Tell me about your duties at your last position. How you contributed to the organization?

A. When I worked for ABC Company, I was responsible for managing the office and some staff. I assisted the Director and others with projects. This included answering the phones, filing, and creating confidential documents. My contribution to the organization was limited due to the scope of the project or lack of opportunities to be more involved. I worked with the company the best way I could with what I had. If I work with your organization. I am sure I will be able to do more.

Q. Why did you leave the organization?

A. I left the organization because the company’s mission has changed and I feel that I needed to move into a different direction. There were many problems with management or co-workers, which made it a difficult work environment.Therefore, I made the decision to leave the organization.

For either question, you gave away that you had problems at the prior employer. This can be interpreted as you and the manager or co-workers having problems, you had problems with the organization in general; or if the organization changes direction for any reason you will leave that organization.

No matter how nice or tactful you make it, no hiring organization wants to learn there were problems – whether you were personally involved or not. Always talk positively about your involvement, contributions, achievement, and accomplishments since they are interviewing you, not the company. No matter how small the contribution, it is a contribution to the organization. So, be sure to blow your horn!

Best Practices

Remember, you are responsible for ensuring you make the best of your job regardless of you level of involvement. If there is not enough work, look for ways to reinvent your position through learning a new skill and seeing how you can implement it in your daily tasks. Find ways to add to your contribution by increasing your presence among your co-workers and do not be afraid to offer your services, or talk to your manager about potential opportunities. In the end, you will grow and you can use those skills anywhere.

Scenario #2: You had multiple phone screens with a 3rd party recruiter who is not really affiliated with the actual hiring company. During the phone screen, interview things are going well. They tell you just a fraction about the job, nothing about the company, but in turn ask you tons of questions about you, your goals, and maybe ask how much you are currently making in salary. Some will go as far as asking for detailed information about the organization for which you worked. At the end of the interview, they thank you for your time and in order to be considered for the job please submit three professional references. Then you do the unthinkable. You actually give them your references. Now, it has been several weeks and you heard nothing back.


This happens a lot to people who receives a call from a 3rd party recruiter looking to hire for their client. The problem with this scenario are several things: 1) You have no knowledge of the company that is hiring; 2) You gave away all of your personal goal information; 3) You also gave them your references; 4) There is no sure fire way of following up with the recruiter; and 5) There is no guarantee that your resume or references will be seen by the recruiter’s company client. End result, you gave away your advantage.

Professional references is the most precious commodity you can own when it comes to job hunting. Your references vet your expertise and help present you as a well-qualified candidate to the hiring manager. Think about it. You have not even spoken to or met the hiring manager at all. You gave away contact information to people whom you do not know. What is worse, they now can market to your contacts. Always protect your professional reference contact information.

Best practices for your References: Never give your references unless:

1. You are sitting in-person with the highest hiring manager and you have good chance of getting the job.

2. The organization offered you the job via email from the HR manager from the direct company and they need it before issuing an official Letter of Offer.

Scenario#3: You have passed the entire phone screen, in-person interview process and things look promising. The hiring manager asks for your references and you submit them. Weeks go by and no final decisions were made. However, the HR manager is encouraged that you are still in the running based on her reply to your follow emails. With anticipation, you stop looking and applying for jobs. After a month, you receive a letter that you were not chosen for the position.


The problem could be your references. Most people do not get the job because they did not secure adequate references. Do you have people on your reference list who are managers, co-workers or personal who can unequivocally speak on your behalf?

Best Practices

While your professional reference will vet your expertise, take the time to vet your references. I suggest that they give you a professional letter of recommendation on letterhead (if possible), which includes their name, address, phone number and email address. Try to get people who are ‘decision makers’. Then, see if these same references will also add it to your LinkedIn profile. It is always a good idea to get other co-workers, vendors, and people from other organization to add a statement or two onto your LinkedIn profile.

When you have them, create a Reference Summary Page, and place that on top of your letters of recommendations. Now you in a position to walk into your interview as a highly qualified candidate.

These three things you can do to improve the chances of landing the career of your choice. Take the time to practice your interview skills, obtain quality references and vet your references so they can speak highly about you.

About the Author:

Anne Alston is the CEO/founder of ALSTNTEC. She is a professional Career Coach specializing in Career Transition and Career Readiness for youth and adults. She is the author of the “Career Transition Information Guide – Be Prepared, Bounce Back” and “Empower Thyself – A Guide to Improving Personal and Professional Health for Women”. Anne is also the creator of the Business Men and Women of Color Podcast Series. Learn more about Anne Alston by visiting www.alstntec.com.