Category Archives: Expert Advice


It seems that everyone I know is out on the job hunt these days. And with the increasingly impersonal process of interviewing for work, the phone interview is often the first hurdle. I have a foolproof (and very thorough) process to prep for a phone interview that will leave a you well positioned to advance to the next step. Note that some of the points are fairly specific to the world of advertising and marketing, but can broadly be applied to pretty much any job search.


The OCDelight Foolproof Phone Interview Prep

There are three categories on which to focus: your work, your personality, them.

Details on each are in the paragraphs below.

Be sure to:

  • Create a Word doc of each of the following topics and have them printed/pulled up and ready to go.
  • Have your cover and resume printed out and ready to go.
  • Have notepad and paper at the ready.
  • Place glass of water by you to avoid smoker’s cough. No gum, dumbass.
  • Don’t ramble, stick with short answers and follow up with your questions when you can. Stay focused and concise.

The key to getting to the next step of a real-life in-person interview is preparation, although the average phone interview is usually only 30 minutes.

Your Work Background (have answers or bullet points prepped for each):


Tell me about yourself

In three sentences, how did you get here.

Short list of your accomplishments

List 3-5 with measurable (preferably financial) impact.

Job history and responsibilities

Have a chronological list ready that focuses on the points of your work history that directly correspond to the job description.

Major challenges and how did you handle?

Have 1-2 examples prepped. Problem —> your thought process —> solution.

Why are you leaving your current job?

Memorize your prepped response – stay positive, focus on the fact that this does not align with your strengths/future goals.

Salary range

I would avoid this over the phone if possible. Maybe keep it vague like “I’m negotiable and would like to discuss it in person.” If they force it, have one in mind and be able to back it up. If you can get any intel on this, even better – hit up


Your Personality and Attitude (some standard questions):

Strength and weakness?

Yeah it’s stupid, but have one of each handy just in case: i.e. “I brought piss to a shit fight.”

How do you handle stress and pressure?

What motivates you? 

How do you motivate others/manage a team?

How do you evaluate success?

What are your career goals?

What are your hobbies/personal stuff/etc?


Them: Company research – DO YOUR HOMEWORK

Find out as much as you can – in advance of the interview – about the following and do a write-up:


-Team of managers

-Client list

-Philosophy (they have a lot of this on their site)

-Current campaigns (also have a list of 3-5 clients/campaigns that they have done that you like/that resonate with you and why)

-Recent achievements and news

Check out their website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Also connect w/ her on LinkedIn and read up on her history – it’s good to have that information.

Make your list of questions (in order of what is most relevant to the person interviewing you – tailored to his/her level and background) based on:

  1. Job listing – duties, requirements, next steps, start date, client?
  2. Company research findings (some examples below)

If you’re on with upper management, I would steer more towards big picture, company culture questions.

How would you describe your culture?

What type of people succeed at Awesomesauce Agency?

Who would you consider to be your biggest competition?

What differentiates Awesomesauce from other shops?

What’s in store for the future? What are the big initiatives on the horizon?

What’s your client service philosophy?

How does Awesomesauce handle new business – do you have an established process?


In the case of a founder/principal/president, you don’t want to hit her rapid-fire with a laundry list of crap over the phone, especially about the day-to-day nonsense, which she might not be as familiar with. So boil it down a top 5 list of topline/strategic questions to show her what a badass you truly are.


ALWAYS end the call by telling your interviewer that you want the job

“I’m interested, this sounds like a fantastic opportunity and I would be an ideal match. What are the next steps? I can go ahead and get a list of references over,” etc…

And don’t forget send a thank you within 24 hours restating your interest – handwritten notes are kick-ass, but also follow up with an email in case their office is the type that takes forever to deliver the mail.


You’ll kill it.

They’ll call you back to come in.


I’ll cover in-person interviews on a future post.





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WordPress – WordCamp Austin 2012!

Blogging live from WordCamp today and getting totally re-energized to write away!

Getting some fantastic ideas and meeting some great folks…


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The Cash Budgeting System


We’re on a budget that we continually seem to blow – so drastic measures must be taken.

Use cash envelopes to control monthly spending:

Budget each paycheck – down to the last penny

Divide and conquer – create categories like food, gas, clothing, grooming, entertainment

Fill each envelope with cash according to the amount allocated in your budget.

When it’s gone, it’s gone – once you’ve used the cash in your envelope, you’re done in that category. No ATM visits!

Don’t be tempted – don’t touch your debit cards.

Give it time – this system takes a few months to perfect, don’t give up and you’ll see results.

If you don’t want to feel totally deadened by your new system, consider setting up a “splurge” envelope for your impulse buys.

For more info on cash budgeting/envelopes:

“Per Diem” daily cash budgeting system:

“Splurge” budget and how to stop impulse buying:

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The Travel Checklist


I know you’re most likely travelling to a city where they have, you know, stores and stuff. But I hate the feeling that I’ve left something behind at home and now have to purchase a double. I keep a basic travel checklist in “Notes” on my iPhone that I consult as I’m packing for a trip. By biggest problem, however, is overpacking. I don’t need three outfit choices for every event on our itinerary. An overstuffed bag is a painful for my back and – thanks to the fees – my wallet. Take control of your suitcase!

If you’re an app lover, check out Packwhiz packing list generator:

Lifehacker’s “Geek Travel Checklist”

Lifehacker’s Time-Saving Travel Checklist:

Universal Packing List (hideous interface, but effective)

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Friday Bites #14 – Eat Whole Foods on a Budget


Here’s the lowdown: uy pesticide-free produce and natural meats, eat as close as possible to how these foods were created. Eat only real, unprocessed food, switch from boxed foods to whole. Start gradually. Cook from scratch, it will take more time…and cost more.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally behind this concept but I have to admit I find it hard to exercise in real life. It’s not a money thing – although we certainly have to be conscious of how much we spend at HEB – but it’s a time thing. It’s hard to cook from scratch every night – even though I know it’s the best thing. Even worse, our 4 year old has no taste for home cooked food, he primarily eats boxed crap. I know, I know, awful….right? I swear I’m just trying to get calories into my little flac-ito. He’s like 5% in weight – it’s a constant struggle. Anyway,

Here is how Simple Bites instructs us to eat whole foods on a budget:

  • Eat less meat
  • Emphasize grains and legumes
  • Buy in bulk
  • Avoid the “dirty dozen” – produce with highest conentrations of pesticides – and buy those organic (peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes, spinach, lettuce, potatoes)
  • Clean non-organic well with pesticide washes (equal parts vinegar and water or use a veggie wash)
  • Buy locally and invest in a CSA coop. For Austinites, here is a great site with a listing of local community supported agriculture programs:
  • Eat seasonally. Here is an excellent site listing all seasonal charts by state: ForTexans:
  • Grow your own – this isn’t happening for us, we can’t even make the grass grow at Casa Lopez
  • Preserve it when it’s cheap – canning, drying and freezing fresh produce. This seems like a rather large undertaking, and might be tackled last after the preceeding items on this list have been achieved.
  • Forgo processed food – duplicate your favorites in the kitchen from whole ingredients so you can control what goes into your meals.

Baby steps. We’re trying.

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Getting Things Done: Processing – Getting “In” to Empty

You’ve gone through last week’s exercise of collecting everything that has your attention, now it’s time to actually wade through all of it. By the time you’re done with this step, you will have trashed the unnecessary stuff, delegated as much as possible, sorted through your own organizing system and identified any larger projects that are looming.

Check out the chart. Scary.

Basic rules: process the top item first, process one item at a time, never put anything back into your “in” basket. By “process,” Allen means “decide what the thing is, what action is required and then dispatch accordingly.” Your in basket is a processing station, not a storage bin, and the key question to keep in mind is “what’s the next action?” The action step needs to be the absolute next physical thing to do – such as “call accountant and set meeting.” If there is no real and immediate action that can be taken, you can trash it, incubate it or keep it as reference material in your filing system.

Once you determine the next action step:

Do it – delegate it – defer it.

Do it if the action takes less than two minutes.

Delegate it if you’re not the most appropriate person to do the action.

Defer it into your organization system as an option for work to do later.

Finally, shift your attention to outlining your projects – those outcomes that will take more than one action step to complete. Make a list of projects to ensure you have placeholders for all of those open loops. This project list must be completed, and maintained as the key driver for appraising your status and progress.


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20 MInutes to Asskicking Glory

I know in your world of multitasking, with browser windows open simultaneously, juggling your many iTems, etc, that setting aside twenty minutes to just THINK, uninterrupted, sounds like crazytalk. However, hear me out…

I came across this revolutionary concept in the Why People Fail book (previously reviewed) and it made total sense.

Put aside 20 minutes a day to just think. Plan things out before beginning them.

I’m not the type of person who can meditate. Yeah…yeah…I know, but I HAVE tried it. Doesn’t work for me. My brain cannot let go. However, I can totally get behind spending twenty minutes, alone, either eyes closed or with a pad and paper to harness the power of my bubbling thoughts.

The book suggests using the following structured brainstorming methods during your thinking time:

“Ridiculous Idea” – write everything down, no matter how “dumb” you think it is. These crazy concepts might lead you down a different path, where even more creative ideas can be conceived.

“Different Industry” – think of a successful business, service or product in a different industry from your own and brainstorm how you could emulate that idea in your business.

“Star Emulation” – emulate experts, celebrities and professionals who have great success. Put yourself in their shoes, examine what they have done. Are you facing a problem that someone else has already solved? Use the past as a tool.

“Dictionary/Word Association” – brainstorming lists of words and finding links between key words on each list. See this link for more details:

If you aren’t into formal methods of brainstorming – and I’m really not – just sit with a pencil and paper and think through a particular project or problem you may be having and free-form jot all of your thoughts down. You may be surprised at what you emerge with.

The other “20 minute rule” comes via Clifford Nass, professor at Stanford University.

Heavy media multitaskers perform poorly at actually multitasking. Juggling causes your brain to constantly “switch” tasks, leaving us less effective at performing the task at hand. Nass’ solution to combat this is that every time you start a new task, to focus entirely on that task for at least 20 minutes. Force yourself to do this, avoid checking emails or talking to co-workers and just perform that focuses activity. If you do this for two weeks, in theory, you will learn where your time is best spent, which activies eat your time and you will become more productive. Go so far as to applying this rule to other aspects of your life: relationships, hobbies. This Braincanvas entry is a fantastic place to start if you’re looking to apply this rule to your world:


Friday Bites – (#11) Clean as you go (#12) Clean kitchen as you cook

This week’s selection of Bites from Tsh Oxenreider covers two topics near and dear to my heart. Keeping an organized house – whether you live alone or have more crotchfruit than the Duggars requires constant vigilance.


#11: Clean as you go

Best cleaning hack there is – if something spills, or gets dirty, clean it up right away. A few minutes of time can really add up when it comes to keeping your home under control. I know either F or I make the bed every morning as soon as we get up. It takes two minutes and it makes the room look that much less like ass. The other thing I do – and this is a constant struggle, I won’t lie – is to hang up clothes and put away shoes after I take them off. A tough thing to do when you drag home from a long day and just want to throw everything in a pile and curl up on your (unmade) bed…

Here are a few more things we currently do to keep things a little less chaotic in Casa Lopez:

• put away primping items when I’m done (I hate having a bunch of crap on my bathroom counter)

• wiping down kitchen after cooking


Things we need to work on:

• loading and unloading dishwasher (HATE the damn dishes)

• clearing the tub of dinos and Polly Pocket dolls after Oliver is done with his bath


The book suggest that you set a timer for 15 minutes and see how much you can get done in your immediate environment. Do this until it becomes a habit – clean your house in small sprees throughout the day.


#12 – Clean your kitchen as you cook

Professional chefs learn this – and they look like they’re pretty damn busy (at least on Food Network), so I’m pretty sure we can do this in real life. Easier said than done.

Clean up after every task, no matter how miniscule, before moving on to the next. What seems like a drag will eventually become a habit.



Start with a clean kitchen

Assign a proper home for each type of kitchen waste – compost, recycling, garbage

Arrange your workspace for a mini cleaning “mise en place” – place a garbage container nearby for food scraps, for a double sink: run one side half full of hot soapy water for hands and dishes and leave the other side free, keep a dust broom and bin right there, have several clean towels on hand.

PRO Restaurant tip: place a jar of warm water on the counter and stash several soup spoons inside. Use them for stirring sauces and other foods while cooking, eliminating sticky crap on the counter where a spoon has been rested. Also cuts down on dirty dishes since the spoons can be reused.


I know we always TRY to clean as we cook – but when we’re up against a deadline, like a looming gathering or trying to get the kids fed, etc – it’s a struggle.

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Productivity: The Job Purpose Statement

I’ve explored the idea of a purpose statement before – specifically the “family” statement, which I think is a fantastic idea. Mission statements are such a great exercise because you can clarify your actions and discard the nonsense.

I lifted this particular “job purpose statement” concept from the “Why People Fail” book and performed further research on the trusty internets. A job purpose statement is a good way to think through and illuminate your objectives – both in your current position and long-term career.

It’s important to have a statement of purpose for every major aspect of your life – career, family, education. Subsequently, you can constantly review your activities and decisions against your purposes to make sure you’re moving in the right direction and not wasting time on extraneous crap.

The Job Purpose – from Why People Fail

Write down three most important tasks at work and put in order of priority.

I did this for my current contracting job, just to get some clarity and cut out some of the bullsh!t that comes along with a new position in a start-up. It’s not for my “ideal” position, it’s for what I’m dealing with right now:

(1) Produce compelling projects on time, in brief and within budget

(2) Make the client successful and satisfied; simplify her life as much as possible.

(3) Make improvements to process/workflow that allow us to get additional/new business and grow the company

The other method to draft a job purpose statement is a more involved three-step method outlined below and in the following links. This is particularly helpful if you are looking for a new position or looking to pinpoint and resolve possible dissatisfaction with your current position. I gave this a whirl as well….

This is tough in a down economy, I think, where employees just don’t seem to have the bargaining power that we did, say, 6 years ago. It’s hard to demand a bunch of stuff from an employer who flat-out tells you that you should be “happy to have a job.” But, it’s a worthwhile exercise, just to remind yourself that you still have values! And prep yourself for the possibility of better things to come….

Step 1: List your expectations: wants, needs, fears

I want to be able to take my 16+ years of ad agency project management experience and leverage that into a career change that allows me to focus on people rather than projects.

I want to work in a company that allows for flexibility – I can work in the office, work remotely, work from home, and handle my business as needed; secure in the fact that the company acknowledges that I’m a responsible adult.

I need to make at least $X per year in salary.

I need a job with a generous benefits package.

I fear starting something that is very different from my past experience, but – at the same time – I’m thrilled by the possibility

I fear getting stuck in another PM job where I’m doing the same thing forever – I’ve proven over and over that a fantastic PM, but I’m ready to move on and grow.

Step 2: Write a long, “from the gut” job purpose statement using the list from Step 1

Purpose statement: The purpose of my new job is to make a career change that leverages my advertising experience and soft skills with a company who values flexibility and work-life integration making at least $X per year salary with a generous benefits package.

Step 3: Write “I will” statements for your job purpose.

Return to the expectations (wants, needs and fears) and to the right of them, write down an “I will” statement. Try to make each “I will” statement specific, actionable and measurable. See below:

I want to work in a company that allows for flexibility – I will make sure to focus on employers who treat their employees like adults and will who value work-life balance. I will research Working Mother’s “Best Companies” list to get an idea of what types of organizations operate with this attitude. I will state this requirement to every prospective employer I meet with.

I need to make at least $X per year in salary – I will mention my salary requirement to potential employers and I will not consider any less, as I am more than worth that amount.

I need a job with a generous benefits package – I will get a full and complete picture of all benefits offered – from health and dental to educational expenses and the little perks and will weigh packages carefully against our family’s needs before deciding.

I fear starting something that is very different from my past experience – I will focus on the wealth soft skills that I gained from over 16 years as an advertising PM, and leverage those in a new position.

I fear getting stuck in another PM job where I’m doing the same thing forever – I will commit to looking only at non-PM jobs and will not settle for another such position. I will network with people from the other industry(ies) that I am interested in, to get a better picture of possible career choices.

I feel like the last couple of “I wills” aren’t super actionable – so I’m going to keep plugging on them. But you get the idea…. Go forth and create the opportunity you deserve!


Book Review – Brand You by David Royston-Lee

I went into this book thinking it would be the usual bullshit rah-rah cheerleading self-talk nonsense, but it was actually a great exercise in uncovering your “brand” the way you would in a planning session in the “real” advertising world.

The author uses leading, open-ended questions to coax the information out of you – a fresher way of looking at where your talents and values lie and how to translate that into a cohesive “brand” to present to the world.

The first exercise is to list seven peak experiences in your life and under each, complete the following information: talents used during this experience, how these talents were used, where were you, who were you with.

Pretty flat on the surface perhaps, but as I was completing the exercise, I began to notice a couple of trends throughout my experiences that were not previously top of mind. First, my best experiences took place with other people who had tested or auditioned or otherwise qualified into the program/situation. In other words, I don’t like working with stupid, unmotivated people. Big Shocker.

From your peak experiences, go back in and mine a list of talents. Then, go back and reorder the talents used in order of how much joyous energy you received from using them at the time – from most to least.

List 20 people you admire – living or dead, real or fictional followed by a list of traits that you most admire about them. Go back in and mine this list for all of the talents and categorize into 3-5 different categories from most to least important to you. After going through both parts of this exercise, I learned that the trait categories I most admire/aspire to are: (1) intelligence (2) humor/wit (3) high style/aesthetics (4) feminine strength/working mother (5) hardworking + genuine.

The next exercise was something out of Office Space.

How would you spend $5MM on yourself?

How would you spend $5MM on others?

If you had unlimited funds and everlasting life, what would you do? (Other than drink – a lot….)

Uncover your “archetypes” – both primary and secondary – and how to work those into how you present your brand.

  • Caregiver
  • Creator
  • Explorer
  • Hero
  • Innocent
  • Jester
  • Lover
  • Magician
  • Ordinary Guy
  • Ruler
  • Outlaw
  • Sage

I most identify with sage and explorer, with a touch of caregiver and ordinary guy for good measure. From there, the book instructs you to come up with a list of three things about you that are a “unique combo” and can be easily spit out at parties and online.  I’m going with…

I prescribe and implement custom workflow processes for creative agencies and design firms.

I create beautiful finished executions from art directors’ musings and clients’ deepest desires.

I’m a mother of two boys, a productivity + organization blogger and a crafty baker.

Overall, it was a good way to spend a few hours really thinking about what’s important to me, how it can translate into my working life, and how to distill that into a personal “brand.”

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