Friday, July 26, 2013

Successful Interviewing Tips - Part One

You need a job?  Three ways to get one

1. Have an insider connection

2. Work for your daddy

3. Have a successful interview.  Let's elaborate on this!

My first few interviews out of college were total disasters.
I did appear like an idiot hopeless for an accounting job.  After each interview, I resolved to do better than the last one.  

I'm not an HR expert.  But I've learned quite a bit of what works and what doesn't work, from my interviewing experiences.  I've come a long way from not being invited for second rounds to always being asked to come back again and sometimes with offers.  Here are my tips, and I know they work.

After completing the job application, email a copy of the job description to yourself.   Once the job closes for applicants, chances are you will not be able to view the job description online and you need the job description to prepare for the interview.  

Job descriptions are a great way to determine what questions could be asked at your interview.  Take a look at a portion of this job description.

...this individual should have an ability to lead and motivate groups and individuals; to overcome obstacles to cooperation and to foster harmonious relations; to balance competing priorities, complex situations, and tight deadlines...this individual must be able to work in harmony with others.

Reading this description, you should expect to get behavior-related questions related to that job description, and get ready to answer them.

To get ready for those behavior related questions, I do a little exercise:
I turn around the job description into questions and ask myself:

How do I motive groups and individuals?

What do I do to overcome obstacles to cooperation and foster good relations with external and internal customers?

How do I balance my workload, difficult situations, and deadlines?  What has been successful?

How do I work well with others?

Going through this exercise, you are most likely to answer 99% of the behavior related questions in the interview.

I love this database of interview questions HERE.  Save and/or print for your future reference!  

If you don't know a good answer to an interview question that could be asked, seek input from someone older and wiser with job experience, management, and interviewing.  The internet has a great resource but it's best to seek the opinion of others who have been on the other end of interviewing.  My father and my father-in-law were extremely helpful with that.


Do not ask questions about the company that anyone can answer by reading the website. 

Do not ask about salary, or time off.  Leave those questions out until you receive an offer! 

Let me explain a true story.

After being hired at my last job, there was another position to fill.  My former supervisor said that one applicant who applied internally asked about time off because she was getting married.  The fact that I was taking time off for my wedding around the time she was became a factor in getting hired because in his words, he "didn't want to run the risk of both of us getting pregnant around the same time and having us both out on maternity leave" and went off on how hard it would be for month-end, and finding coverage and blah blah blah.  

So he hired another female applicant that was older and done with having kids.

Looking back at this...I'm now thinking "WTH, nobody informed you of their family plans and I was told by my boss that he didn't hire someone just because she could get pregnant?!"  I should have reported that incident to HR but alas, I was naive and inexperienced at the time.

When I was interviewing for that job, I made no mention about me getting married until I had my offer and negotiated the time off there.

Lesson learned: Don't bring up anything that will promote a bias in hiring!

If the salary question comes up during the interview...
What are your salary expectations?
For me this is a tough question.  I am not sure if I am the best in maximizing the most out of salary.

When I was asked that, I decided to respond by asking innocently, "Well what is the typical range for a position like this in your company?"  This job was through a recruiter/head hunter so I knew that they were open to salary, but it was a new position, so I really had no idea.  Then the interviewer gave me a range and then I replied "Yes, this is where I'd be okay with"  Especially since the range was significantly higher than what I made at my last job.

I wasn't comfortable with answering something like "I expect to be paid fairly for my experience" or "My salary requirements are flexible" because that would lead to them pushing you for a number, or low-balling you.

Lesson learned: From my haggling experiences, make them say a number first, not you  Check out shows like Hardcore Pawn and American Pickers to see how it works.

Take notes during the interview.  This isn't strange to do, because interviewers take notes too.  If there is any clarification or elaboration you need, ask:  
I noticed you mentioned X.  Can you explain about how X turns to Y and Z?

Why is this position open?
Reasonable answers from interviewers are that the employee retired, moved out of state, this is a new position, or the employee accepted another job outside the company.  If they left, ask them how long have they been working there, and how often has this position been filled before that person left.  Depending on the job and industry, if there is high turnover, that is an indicator that bullying and/or harassment is taking place.  

If they said the "employee got a promotion, or moved to another department" take note.  
If you get an offer, ask for a reference from that employee or former employees so that they can corroborate the account.
It may be they transferred because that boss was a jerk, and the company just promoted him/her so that they wouldn't leave the team and not work for that boss!

Hiring managers shouldn't have a problem with providing you references if they are checking YOUR references.  They want to know from your references if you are a good employee.  You want to know if you will work for a good boss based on references from employees that worked under that boss.  

If the hiring manager has a problem with that, then you know that the hiring manager has something to hide.  

How many employees work here, how many I would be working with as a team?
Just an idea in general of the environment and how many people you will need to work with. 

How are your employees evaluated and given feedback?
You can learn a lot from a manager's management style this way.

Questions about training and development
Do you want to be at a job where you are bored and never learn anything?  Does the manager even care about your professional development?

Is there anything else that you would like me to clarify concerning my work experience or resume?
This is a great question to ask your interviewers.  That way you know what they're thinking and hopefully answer any questions that may enable you for second-round and/or hire.


What's the next step in the interview process?
If the hiring manager says something vague like:
"We'll call you in a couple of days"
Chances are you are not considered for second-round or for hire.

If they are more specific: "We are still interviewing and we should have a decision by the end of this week"  OR "Next Tuesday, Thursday etc"
Then there's a chance.  

TIP:  When scheduling for an interview, take note of the days that are available for interview.  This is a good way to measure the timing of the first round interview.  

May I contact you if I have questions? 
That way you remember their names, and send them a thank-you note via email.  

I participated in an interview where the applicant did everything that one must NOT DO during an interview. Seriously.  Everything from phone ringing to asking about salary.  Very unprofessional.  Very goofball.  He had a bachelors degree, but not the degree required for the job!  His resume was ridiculous and vague.  

But he got the job because the hiring manager was one of his friends that worked together in a previous job.  The hiring manager knew he was trainable and could do the job but not good at interviewing.
Lesson learned: If you don't have a connection, you need to do well in your interview!

Yes, there may be a chance you won't get hired, but at every interview, you will get better with time.
Keep interviewing if you want a job!  

What do you think about these tips?  Comment or share any insights you may have on interviewing below.  Your suggestions may help somebody!  

I'm working on a special post on pregnancy and interviewing.  Keep checking back for it! 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Epidural Decision

After deciding that I would deliver a baby WITHOUT an epidural and not electing induction until 41 weeks (the longest my OB will let me cook the baby for)...

Some women and men would look at me strange, and would ask: 

"Why would you not get this?" or say 

"Having an epidural was great"  or 

"You're going to change your mind and get one" or 

"Have fun screaming" 

I realized there was no reason to get offended by their comments.  I'd just smile, because I knew it wouldn't make sense to them at this point.

I realized that for them the pain was the paramount problem of labor, thus the epidural was wonderful.  

For me, though, that was not, nor is it still the case.  In fact, bring unable to move during labor doesn't suit me.  I also don't like the idea of having a long labor, or the recovery from the side effects of an epidural.

I had ACL surgery a couple of years ago.  I had a nerve block on my bikini line to numb the post-op pain of bone being drilled through my right leg. The nerve block was needed for me to recover enough to be back at work after a week, and I didn't take much pain relievers because of it.  

If I had ACL surgery again I would get the block in a heartbeat BUT I remember how hard and frustrating it was not being able to move and do basic things, like using the bathroom until the block wore off.  

Before ACL surgery
After ACL surgery.  

Thus, labor pain for me is not the paramount factor, the ability to move during childbirth is.  Having known what is it like recovering with one leg numb and having it feel dead as rock, I don't like the idea of having my butt and both of my legs numb.  Especially since no bones are being cut pushing out a baby.  

The ability to recover, shower and move quickly after childbirth to care for the baby and attend to other responsibilities are important to me.  For me, that is more important than the pain.  

I am not putting down those who choose an epidural, I'm just explaining what is more important to me.  It comes down to which plays a more important factor in how we view birth, and really, neither view should be deemed better or worse than the other.  It comes down to our own preferences.  And preferences can change.  

I think about how my grandma gave birth at a midwife's home in the countryside, showered after delivery and went about her way home, walking with baby in tow.  With some exceptions, I view that women's bodies are designed to handle the intensity of labor and delivery and get on with their lives after dealing with the birth pain.  I view epidurals as a nice option, but not necessary because so many women have gone through birth without them.

What is your view and/or experience with labor and delivery?  Epidurals?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Wedding Invitations

Every bride has a thing they obsess over during wedding planning.  For me it was wedding invitations!

I had spent years writing in my journal of the proper wording for invitations and announcements.
I had collected wedding invitations over the years to get ideas of what I wanted and what I didn't like.
I would spend hours online at Oh So Beautiful Paper for endless ideas on wedding invitations.

I still obsess about them.

How to curb your costs with your invitations

Keep a spreadsheet of your guest list!  You can also pinpoint how much food and other stuff you need to order, and use it again for addressing your thank-you notes.

You don't want to get printing quotes until you have an idea of how many invitations and/or inserts you really need, thus the need for a spreadsheet. Plus you don't want to run out of invitations and spend extra on a rush order.  If you have a strict budget on your invitations, you can also factor in the cost of stamps.

Look into Xpedex for invitation supplies in bulk.  We ordered our envelopes there.  Inner and outer envelopes (they do help with keeping the invitation looking nice, they get so beat up at the post office).  They have all kinds of paper and envelopes in virtually every color.  

Try not to put too many things in the envelope.  Make sure it is heavy enough for one postal stamp

You don't need RSVP cards with a stamp.  If you haven't heard back about guests coming, then call them!  If that doesn't shame them, then nothing will.

I loved the square envelopes but they cost more to mail due to their shape and size.  :-(

I went to Jaffa Printing to print our invitations.  

Some things to consider if you go to Jaffa or another printer.

You need to have a deposit to view the proofs.

Black and white prints are generally less expensive.

They let you bring your own proofs for printing, and will help with adjusting the colors so that the final printout looks great.

Photo invites are expensive if you do it through Jaffa; if you need to change the photo, you need to pay for the change. So make your own proof and print it through Costco.  Very inexpensive that way.  If you don't do a photo invite, you can change the proof as many times as you want without extra cost.

Jaffa can print return addresses on the envelope on virtually any size of envelope.  It looks nice, saves time with writing the return addresses, and if you have extra envelopes left over, you can use them for your Christmas Cards and/or letters.

Other things with invitations.

Your preference.  I personally never liked them, it looks too business-like and impersonal.  I hand wrote virtually almost all of our invitations.  It took a long time but people loved them and it stood out from the other invitations that was slapped with a label that looked like it was sent from a mass mail-out.  Plus I didn't want the hassle of figuring out how to print labels.


You don't need to postulate your invitation with "Love" or Wedding bands

Hiring a calligrapher isn't necessary although it's impressive.
By a real professional, Ron Tate in Sandy, Utah

You can neatly hand write your invitations and save there.  The trick is to slide a lined-grid so that your writing is level while addressing.  If you can neatly address without a grid, then you are impressive.

See the grid on the lower right-hand corner?  Just slide it inside your envelope, write, and repeat.  

If you want ME to write your invitations, email me for a rate and writing samples.  At this time, I am only taking local inquires within SLC and Provo.

Any mention of a gift or wanting money on a wedding invitation, or insert, no matter how discreetly you word it is impolite, tacky, and rude.  It's saying "I'm inviting you to my party, but by the way, gimme a present."
I find it ironic when people make a big stink about the couple not wearing Sunday best in their photos, but yet the couples that look like they dress posh yet have the nerve to ask for money and presents in an invitation.
Read my old post on wedding registries; you can survive without one!

Double check your wording.  I once arrived to a reception very late because there was a typo on the address.
There are virtually billions of ways to word your invitations and announcements but I just tried keeping the traditional format.
If you try to make your invitation wording "original" it may sound silly and guests will wonder what kind of wedding they're in for.
Check out what I'm talking about HERE and HERE



Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pregnancy Book List

For obvious reasons I started reading books on the topic.

I have many good friends and family that lent me their pregnancy/baby books for me to read so it was nice not having to buy a pregnancy book. 

My book list

Healthy Eating During Pregnancy: This is fun and has recipes in the back.  Great for anyone that needs ideas to improve their diet during pregnancy.  

Your Pregnancy and Childbirth: Month to Month: I haven't read this one yet.  It is more of a textbook format.  But I will read some of it. 

Natural Hospital Birth: Probably the only book I read cover to cover.  Loved it!   For anyone that wants to deliver without an epidural but deliver in a hospital and not by a river.  I liked the part about the stages of labor, how our American culture doesn't value birth pain like in other countries, and that you can do it.  

The Baby Book: It's a huge book and has interesting tidbits even for those not into attachment parenting, (I read "A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting before reading this book)

What to Expect When You're Expecting.  Fun book but I skimmed through it and reading the sections about labor and delivery

What to Expect the First Year  Reading more about the first month after baby.  I am nervous! 

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child:  Written by a doctor who's a world expert on sleep disorders, he was even sought out by a Saudi Arabian princess to train her nannies about how to make sure her babies sleep enough. Hah!  Like she doesn't have to wake up at night for her baby...

The best part was going on and reading all the 1 star reviews as well as the 5 star reviews on these books.  It shows that there is no 100% foolproof method for pregnancy, delivery, sleep habits, breastfeeding, and child-rearing.

By the way, has anyone ever told you not to scratch your belly so that you don't get stretch marks?

I'm wondering if it's a Latina thing.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Pregnancy musings

Just some musings but will try not to post too much on pregnancy since there's a plethora of blogs and boards on the topic.  

Plus pregnancy is nothing new, billions of women have gone through this since the beginning of time!!!     I'm sure what I'm posting is nothing new.  


I have the most intense and vivid dreams ever during pregnancy! Especially when I fall asleep again after waking up to use the restroom (I had heard about frequent potty breaks being a sign that you're pregnant, but never thinking that it would go on THROUGHOUT pregnancy).  I enjoy those dreams though most of them are bizarre and don't make any sense at all.  It makes for good conversation in the morning with Dave.

But my biggest surprise was that I like being pregnant!  And I'm determined to love it and think positive about it no matter what.  Who knows whether I'll experience this again?  

I think a lot of it has to do with my own mom.  She only had one pregnancy but had three babies!  And she was very good following her doctor's orders to a T, and had us 10 days before her due date, which is a pretty big deal for multiples and for mom!  So I want to have as healthy and happy of a pregnancy as she did.  

When I look at my belly, I think about how would it look times three lol. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How to get your male packrat get rid of his stuff.

My husband has male packrat syndrome.

So if you live with one and need him to sort out and throw away his stuff from the closets/garage.....

take his boxes and place them in front of the TV, blocking any viewing pleasure...

It worked for me.  He actually went through his stuff!  Some stuff to donate, some to keep, and a few boxes to be sent to his BILs for storage.    

Plus he had to hurry because we were going to feed the missionaries...                             

Dave's side of his closet...


When living in a small space, you constantly have to de clutter all the time because we lose track of how much new stuff we're bringing in. 

My suggestions for maximizing your small space:

1. You have to let stuff go!
2. If it doesn't work with the space, it has to go!
3. You need to be vigilant with what you're bringing in.  Is it just going to add more clutter or value?

This time around we're making room for a baby!

So happy!  Dave likes it too.

Cube storage was purchased at Home Depot for around 40, which was the lowest for comparable storage systems.  Cubes were a bit pricey at about 7 dollars each (minus that blue one, I had it for a while).  So it was about $73 total.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Book Review: Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown

I am not a book reader, I'm more of a magazine/newspaper reader.  But when I quit my job, I decided to read some books.  I could not put this book down.  

It is one of the best books about recovery (drug addiction and other hard stuff in life).  It has a lot of strong themes but it has a happy ending!! 

Loved it!  

It is a quick and great story.  

It has passages that are disturbing and emotionally provoking, just a warning for more sensitive readers...  

Part of what this book does is expose the failures of the child welfare system in this country and the ignorance of our society; it shows very well how and why a fractured and abusive childhood can lead to a life of crime and substance abuse. This probably won't be in the list on the mommy book clubs in this area.  

Sheltered people would come across this book as "offensive" or say that what happened to her can't possibly be true!  

The best part was that Cupcake gives hope for those who've been there that they are worthy and can be better, even when feeling defeated.  With the support of loving and patient network of people, you can overcome the biggest obstacles and realize your dreams, and put what you experienced badly in the past to rest.  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Read this and get .25 off your gallon of milk

Since quitting my job and staying home, I wanted to become more vigilant in using coupons for our groceries.

I'm not big on having a closet full of food storage up the ceiling.  It doesn't work for us now with the space we have and our family situation.  Plus I don't eat a lot of canned foods/soups, or packaged/frozen meals that much. They aren't that healthy and I don't like how they taste; too salty or fake to me.

I also avoid case sales and don't think having a Costco membership would be worth it for us for now.  I usually like to buy things and wait until we run out of an item to purchase again. But I wanted to at least start using coupons for things we would buy:

Paper Towels
Toilet paper
Cleaning items
Laundry items
Personal Care (lotion, deodorant, etc)

Things I'm learning with couponing:

It does take up time. But any commitment to control finances and make your savings grow takes time too.  On the day of, or on the day before I do grocery shopping, I spend about an hour at the minimum online downloading and printing coupons.

If you live by a Smith's or other major grocer, you can load coupons on to your rewards card.  I felt dumb not knowing this for YEARS.  After setting up my account online, I make a habit checking out coupons I'd use before going on a shopping trip to load to the card attached on my keychain...

There is a legit site called  I absolutely LOVE IT and highly recommend it.   No gimmicks or surveys to fill out.  You do need to download their coupon program.

It took me about an hour to figure out how to print the coupons from CoolSavings but I was determined to get my 25 cent coupon of any brand of gallon milk (only in UT and ID).  I've never seen a coupon for milk until now!  Download it HERE.

Sometimes the coupons don't register on the grocery rewards card, so I print out the exact same coupon from CoolSavings.  Sometimes you can double on the same item with the coupon loaded to your rewards card and the coupon printouts.  Not all the time though.

Even if you don't coupon, you should at least look in the back of the coupon circular to see if you recognize a missing child.

I don't have a newspaper subscription but I asked my mother-in-law if she would give me the coupons from her Sunday paper after she goes through the coupons she wants and she said yes!  She is so nice!!

My goal is to aim for 10% savings on groceries each shopping trip.  My first time using coupons I clipped online, and paper.  I got to redeem $6 of coupons and was able to save about 15%.

Not big but it's something!  This week I didn't hit my 10% savings on coupons but at least I'm using them!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Alina in a Movie!

A short movie that is.

I'm a Latter-day Saint (Mormon).  The Church has a movie department that produces items such as  public service announcements about families, movies about the Church in its early years, and Bible segments.  

Below some of my favorites

"Lasting Marriage: An older couple explains to a younger couple how they use their hobbies to keep their patience"

"Having Children in Faith"  I love how they have the biracial couple (black and white) and the Asian baby ^_^

With the break in YouTube, the Church has done numerous media clips to post online.  They are worth checking out HERE

I got into doing Church movies about two summers ago, the Church had a huge New Testament project and needed extras for their scenes.  They needed people that "looked like they stepped out of the pages of the New Testament"

I decided to sign up since a lot of people over the years have asked me if I was of Middle or South Eastern descent.  Nobody can guess that I speak Spanish!  My ancestry is from Spain but I remember my mother mentioning that our line even went back to Morocco, so I could have Arab in me. 

I signed up on the Church's talent database and made the final cut for the New Testament project! So I can brag I walked where Jesus walked, on set that is ;-)

I'm in first row, second to right

Eating breakfast before being on set, I asked the actor who played John "which one of these guys is Jesus?" And he replied "oh you'll definitely recognize him once you see him." Yup.  The actor who portrayed Jesus really looked like someone who would be Jesus :-D

I got to be in two New Testament clips as an extra.  You'll see me in the first 1 minute of this clip.  I'm wearing a blue headband.  

Yesterday, one of the producers called me to see if I'd be interested in a paid role. 

Um, yeah! 

The Church is producing a religious freedom announcement and the director himself wanted me to audition for the role of a "contemporary Muslim female college student."  Must be those eyebrows of mine :-)

When the producer called me, I told him I am 21 weeks pregnant and starting to show, so I understood if I couldn't get the role because c'mon it doesn't look right to be single and pregnant, especially since the role is portraying a conservative and modest woman.  

The producer asked me to send pictures of myself with the bump and a couple hours later said that the director still wanted me to come and audition TODAY. 

Maybe they'll edit out the bump in filming?

Back in high school, we had a huge Cultural Fair that pretty much rocked. They had the Islamic booth and I was able to see how I looked like wearing a hijab. Remembering that from ten years ago, I know I'd definitely look the part!

Wish me luck with auditioning!