A Lesson on Likeability

March 22, 2021 Season 2 Episode 41
A Lesson on Likeability
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Getting Over Being Liked in An Interview

In this episode, herdacious host Lorelei chats with Tyann Osborn about prioritizing organizational fit in the job interview. Many women tend to approach interviews with an emphasis on charisma, but TyAnn explains why focusing on likeability above self-advocacy and intuition can be detrimental to finding an ideal fit. From dodging the good girl phenomenon to redirecting bad behavior, TyAnn reminds us we interview to speak on our strengths, skills, and expertise not to show off our charm. Let us go forth and abandon the “like me, like me not” daisy from the school days, and instead crack down on our homework to get the dream job!

Host: Lorelei Gonzalez
Co-host: TyAnn Osborn

TyAnn Osborn has spent her career enabling business leaders, managers and employees to improve their performance and effectiveness through innovative professional development and strategic talent solutions. Prior to launching her consulting practice, Ty was the Global Director of Human Resources for the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, an organization with a $2B+ endowment dedicated to improving the lives of children in urban poverty. She has also held executive and global leadership positions for Dell, PepsiCo Food Services, and CSC Consulting. Ty currently lives in Dripping Springs with her husband, 2 daughters and furry, farm family members. 

Things you will learn in this episode (chapter markers available):  

  • Organizational fit 1:55
  • Likeability and its setbacks 2:55
  • "Good Girl" phenomenon 6:36 
  • From interviewee to interviewer 9:50
  • Calling out misinterpretation (respectfully) 13:34
  • Onions have layers 19:26
  • Responding to red flags 23:00
  • Homework: How to Nail the Interview 24:34
  • Femme fact: Women’s History Month 28:20

Resources mentioned in this episode:  

Episode sponsors: 

Looking for additional resources on this topic? Check out our blog “How to Show Off Your Strengths During the Job Search” by Dawn Shaw.

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Sponsor: Today's episode is brought to you by HERdacity. HERdacity is a non-profit inspiring confidence in women to achieve their professional goals. For resources, networking opportunities, and a strong community of women, visit herdacity.org to learn more. 


Lorelei: Welcome to HERdacious, a podcast for audacious women. Welcome back to season two of HERdacious, the podcast for audacious women looking for a little career support on your journey forward, and we are the ones helping you do that. My name's Lorelei, the host of HERdacious, and I am so happy you decided to join me for this new ride in a 2021 year, creeping up on a post-covid timeline. We're all very, very excited. And I'm excited to kick off this episode by talking about how we can get over being liked in an interview. And to help us in that epic struggle and possible challenge, I have a strengths expert, a professional speaker who specializes in leadership, a wrangler of kittens, and the founder and principal consultant for Osborn Consulting Group, TyAnn Osborn. 


TyAnn: Hello.


Lorelei: Hello.


TyAnn: How are you? 


Lorelei: I'm fantastic, I'm super glad to see your face safely across the table at an appropriate distance... 


TyAnn: Me too, it’s the first time I get to see you in person


Lorelei: It’s very exciting and this conversation is gonna be a weird one, 'cause I feel like one of the things we want to do in an interview is be liked so that we can get that job...


TyAnn: I know that seems like what we wanna do, right, and yet it's not...


Lorelei: So give us a more background on this issue then.


TyAnn: Yeah, absolutely. Lorelei, women tend to focus on being liked in the interview, but the problem is, when we focus on being liked, we really overlook then if the company and the organization and the leader and the job is a good fit for us. And then this can set us up for a wasted series of interviews and then we might not understand why we don't get the job, and then that sets up a doom loop of detection, or even worse, we actually get the job that's in a poor fit, and then we struggle, which can set up a whole other series of things like anxiety and depression and other issues that come up down the line. So I would say, don't focus on being liked. Focus on organizational fit.


Lorelei: Alright, so if we're not trying to be liked in an interview, are we trying to start some fights... What's going on here? 


TyAnn: That's a good point. We don't wanna go in with a chip on our shoulder and starting fights, and we also aren't going in there trying to get the good girl pats on the head, so... 


Lorelei: Good girl?


TyAnn: Yeah, we're gonna come back to that in just a sec. 


Lorelei: That sounds kind of creepy. 


TyAnn: 'Cause here's the deal with likeability that doesn't necessarily translate to our ability to do the job. I mean, it would be great if we found that perfect combination of personality and competence, but when we focus on likeability, it really subtly reinforces that our skills aren't as important, and it really sets us back generations.


Lorelei: Oof. Wicked call out. Alright, we've heard about the disproportionate impact of Covid on women in the workforce, and so many of us can empathize with the struggle and uncertainty that that would bring to any given person or their family. 


TyAnn: Absolutely. 


Lorelei: It seems like a really fine line to walk to wanna be liked in our effort to get that job, you so desperately need...


TyAnn: Yeah, absolutely, I mean, just this week, I was watching that Today Show interview with Jenna Bush and she was interviewing Michelle Obama, and she pointed out a statistic that over two million women have fallen out due to Covid in the workforce, and we've seen other statistics that really Covid has disproportionately impacted women due to all kinds of factors, including the kinds of sectors that Covid has impacted, and also this is really negatively impacted childcare and school. So guess what? When schools are closed, who has to stay home and take care of the kids?


Lorelei: The ladies do the heavy lift. 


TyAnn: There you go, once again. And so, yeah, that's where we are, that's just the reality, and we're in this desperate situation, and so of course, when you're desperate, when you're juggling 50 balls and they all feel like glass, and if you drop one of them your whole world's gonna collapse. Yeah, of course. There's a level of desperation. And so you're thinking, “Please Jesus, I've gotta get this job.” And guess what, that's written all over your face, so I get it. The level of empathy I have for that is dramatic. The good news is Covid puts everyone on an equal playing field, and so rather than feel bad about this situation and walk in with all of this dejection on your shoulders, the good news is everyone's in the same boat, and so you don't have to walk in dragging this big shame suitcase. You can walk in feeling like, “You know what, this isn't personal, this is just a situation that has happened due to no fault of my own,” and so you don't really have to apologize for all of this stuff that's happened, it's just a crap situation. It's happened. It's just one of those things. So just a really simple, you know what? My company, my job was negatively affected by Covid and I needed to stay home and manage virtual school for my two children, or my restaurant closed down, or my retail business was negatively affected or whatever the situation is, but you don't have to go into this long, drawn out back story. Just a real simple one-sentence way of explaining what happened, and then you move on with the rest of your resume.


Lorelei: With the millions of other Americans in the same boat.


TyAnn: Exactly, right. And so don't feel bad, don't feel like you have to give a huge back story, you're fine. So I would say have some grace with yourself and you can just move on down the road.


Lorelei: Tell me about the good girl phenomenon. I'm sorry, I just, I keep thinking about it, and the phrase is weird out a little... 


TyAnn: This is such a big deal. As you know, as women, we tend to be socialized from birth to be good girls. 


Lorelei: I might know something about that. 


TyAnn: What do you know about this?


Lorelei: Makes me wanna rage. 


TyAnn: As little girls, we tend to get this praise, these pats on the head, just like dogs, you're a good girl, the perfect smile, be quiet. Because what are good girls? They're quiet. They're socially acceptable. Good girls don't get mad. Good Girls are polite. 


Lorelei: They’re not bossy.


TyAnn: Good girls are not bossy. Good Girls are pleasing to others. 


Lorelei: Others before self... 


TyAnn: Yeah, others before self. Good girls don't talk back, good girls don't have an opinion that's different from anyone else's. Good girls don't excel. Good girls don't set themselves apart really in any way, good girls are not threatening, so we get these messages all along the way, not surprising, when you get into an interview, if your focus is on being liked because you haven't thought through any kind of point for the interview, you haven't really thought about what your goal is, you might default to just your societal expectation, which is being a good girl. And so here's how that looks. Unconsciously when the interviewer asks you a question that maybe you don't agree with, rather than stating, “You know what... I don't really agree with that.” You might not say that at all, you might just go along with what the interviewer says. You might suddenly tamp down your opinion about that particular issue, you might not mention that you have an opinion, you might not mention that you've done research on that issue.


Lorelei: That you have expertise back around, certifications


TyAnn: Exactly.


Lorelei: All the skills we come armed with.


TyAnn: You might not mention that you actually did your thesis on that topic, you might just let that snide comment go, you might not point out that subtle micro-aggression that just happened, you might just not say much at all.


Lorelei: Smile, you'll smile a lot though.


TyAnn: We just sit there and smile. And so what happens is at the end of the interview, you haven't actually said much at all, you've just sat there with a pretty smile on your face because you wanted to be the good girl.


Lorelei: If we start concerning ourselves less with being liked and focus in on how we are qualified in a good fit for the role and passionate about the job that we are interviewing for, I imagine that the conversational dynamics will shift a bit, what types of differences in those conversations as interview conversations might we see?


TyAnn: Absolutely the dynamic shifts a bit because suddenly you go from the interview or has all of the power and you are just a receiver, to now you are an equal participant in the process, because here's the deal, you are an equal participant in the process. You should be interviewing them just as much as they're interviewing you. You should be trying to figure out, do I wanna work with this person? Is this the right company for me, is this the right environment for me, is this the right job for me. Because this is what people forget all the time, we get so wrapped up in, are they liking me? Are they going to pick me? Like I'm trying to be picked for the fourth grade dodge ball team, we totally lose ourselves in the process, but all of a sudden when I take that power back, yeah, it shifts the dynamic because I should be asking questions as the interviewee, I should be asking just as many questions as the interviewer, and not just those obligatory questions at the very end of the interview, when the person says, “Well, look, we have three minutes left. What questions do you have for me?” And then you toss off some sort of non-question just to fill up the last 30 seconds of time. When you start equally engaging, you get into a much more rich conversation, you're able then to actually have a conversation as opposed to a one person asks the questions and the other person just sits there and tries desperately to answer. You actually have a conversation where you're able to ask real questions and get real answers, both directions. That's what a conversation is, as opposed to, again, just an interview, which tends to be just uni-directional.


Lorelei: Well to change directions of this conversation, I want to be like by my sponsor, so I'm gonna take a quick sponsor break. 


Sponsor: Hi, Barbie here from Moonray, husband and wife indie-pop duo, if you enjoy the intro music, we invite you to listen to our debut EP Honeymoon. Streaming now on all platforms. Visit www.moonray-music.com for more.


Lorelei: And we're back with TyAnn Osborn talking about being liked in an interview... Well, talking about getting over being liked in an interview. TyAnn, before the break, you had mentioned the good girl phenomenon, and the tendency for good girls to not want to step in and correct potential errors, potential misinterpretations, potential misrepresentations of the things we're saying things that are on paper or whatever the interviewer might perceive.


TyAnn: Right.


Lorelei: What do we do if our interviewer does misinterpret or misrepresent our experience or a prior statement during the interview? How can we correct that in a way that does not give a negative impression of us as professionals, and a particular call out for women of color as they can disproportionately experience a backlash for being more assertive in professional arenas.


Tyann: Absolutely, so I think the big thing to do is not sit there and smile as someone steps over our opinion or potentially rephrase something we said in an incorrect way, or somehow mis-characterizes something we said. So absolutely there is a way to redirect that information without being disrespectful. First, I never believe in being disrespectful in any situation or being belligerent. I just don't think that gets you very far, but I do believe that bad behavior doesn't get a pass in my book, I don't believe in being a doormat, but I do believe there are a couple of key phrases I think are worthwhile to have in your back pocket. 


Lorelei: Such as? 


TyAnn: One of the phrases I really like is to first take a deep breath and then say, “I see things differently,” that's a really easy phrase to have when something is said or someone does something that catches you off guard because you're not calling them out, necessarily, saying “you're wrong,” you're not poking a big hole in them, it tends not to be super defense causing, it's just saying I see things differently. So that can be a way of stopping the snowball without causing a huge fireball response, but also allowing you a little bit of time to regroup and say, “Wait a minute, there's something here we need to explore.”


Lorelei: Interesting. That's a good one. 


TyAnn: Yeah.


Lorelei: I see things differently. 


TyAnn: I see things differently. 


Lorelei: Nice. 


TyAnn: Or, you know, I've heard you talk about X, Y, Z, but have you considered this angle... 


Lorelei: Good one. 


TyAnn: Again, it's not inflammatory, I'll just have you considered this angle or another one that can be very, very easy, it's just, “you know, another possibility could be” that person cut you off in traffic. Yes, they could be a jerk, but another possibility could be they have explosive diarrhea and need to get home faster than I do. Could be?


Lorelei: Could be.


TyAnn: That can allow a little bit of compassion and grace for a situation. 


Lorelei: It's very kind of you.


TyAnn: It could be, yes, they might be a jerk, however it could be, or... And this is where you can bring back some of your expertise, especially if someone's trying to mansplain, gas light, whatever you can bring back and say, well, what I have found in my research, in my expertise, what I have found in my additional work is... Insert whatever it is here. Well, you know, when I was doing my thesis in blah, blah, blah, I found that blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.


And so all of those things are a little bit better way to interject, again, just a little bit of space, a little bit of ability to add in a difference of opinion rather than saying, I hate you, I completely disagree with you, you are a big gas bag you're totally wrong, all of those things just tend to elicit a defensive response, and again, our topic for today is being in an interview where we're assuming that you still want the job.


Lorelei: So the sound like really productive conversation techniques.


TyAnn: They are... And by the way, they work outside of an interview too.


Lorelei: Take notes, ladies.


TyAnn: They work with partners as well.


So when we engage in an interesting back and forth conversation where each person displays genuine curiosity and a desire to learn more, that is a hallmark of a learning environment, and that is a huge positive in my book, so those are things I really look for. But here's the deal, if you say those things and you get a different response…


Lorelei: Like a not good response.


TyAnn: Right, such as the person…


Lorelei:…Gets defensive.


TyAnn: Turns red. Gets super angry, calls you a name or gives you any kind of other super bad response, that is also a really interesting point of data for you because that is so informative, that tells you it is not a fit for you. And remember, we've just talked about how it's not a one-way situation, you are there evaluating if this is a fit for you, not do they like me? I hope they pick me. Watch out, that would be not a fit for you, I mean... That is so informative. That just told me this is not a fit. This tells me that any time I'm gonna have a disagreement or I'm going to even suggest a different way of thinking, this is the kind of response I'm gonna get. 


Lorelei: Big red flag. 


TyAnn: That's a huge red flag. And here's the deal, in an interview, it's a little bit like dating, people tend to be on their best behavior, but it tends to get worse over time. And so in an interview, I always tend to think this is this person's most polite behavior. 


Lorelei: So I know that your consulting group, you do recruiting. So give us some examples of what you just talked about with our best behavior now, but kind of like dating, you get to see different layers of the onion as you go deeper into the experience.


TyAnn: Right. If I just subtly push back on someone in an interview, and again, the techniques we just talked about, that's a very subtle push back, and so they're not even a push back, that's just a minor... Have we thought about a different way of thinking? And if the person has a colossal melt down... Oh my gosh, can you imagine working with that person. Hard no. The moment you have a thought that's even a millimeter different than theirs, that’s how they're gonna react and is that the person you wanna work with? Absolutely not. So I've worked with people like that. So much of what we learn in life is in the school of hard no’s and the what-not to do, but I've had these experiences too, where I overlooked red flags in an interview situation. I had one where, honestly, I was kind of swayed by the amount of money that was on the table. And this is real life, right? This happens. It was a big fat stack of cash how could I not be swayed by that.


Lorelei: Right. 


TyAnn: Right. Just saying, money talks. And so that frankly caused me to overlook a lot of things in an interview, which we're really concerning.


Lorelei: Like what?


TyAnn: Such as there was a really high turnover rate. I mean, really high. 


Lorelei: Is that an appropriate question to ask when you're in an interview?


TyAnn: Absolutely. What's the turnover rate? Or look on Glassdoor, that's a place you can go and you can see where people are posting reviews on a company, and it's really interesting to see what people say and people were saying about this particular company, “Oh, well, all of those people were losers,” like, Okay, well, that's an interesting comment.


Lorelei: That is an interesting comment. 


TyAnn: All of them? You know, okay. Well, maybe there's one or two, but all of them? Well, and if they're all losers who hired them... You did. Okay, so anyway, that was a little bit of a strange comment, but I overlooked it. People were throwing each other under the bus in the interviews. Again, should have paid more attention to that. There was a weird vibe feeling in the interview, our bodies pick up on energy that oftentimes, our brain tries to intellectualize away. 


Lorelei: Intuition. 


TyAnn: There you go, Gavin de Becker has all kinds of great writing on intuition, which I just love. And we try to oftentimes, we just try to push that away. Well, we should listen to that. And so there were all of these little steps along the way that I should have paid attention to, and I got inside the company and you know what, all of those things were accurate, and I could see those things, and I just came home in tears actually on my first day and I thought, “What have I done?”


Lorelei: Oh no.


TyAnn: What have I done? 


Lorelei: Big fat sack of cash.


TyAnn: How far does that go? And I just got to the point where I handed that big fat sack of cash back.


Lorelei: So what do we do if we're in the interview and we are over-hearing some of those red flags? We’re seeing people get thrown under the bus in a group interview or seeing people get wicked defensive, if you push back on something, we're seeing a micro-aggression here and there. What can you do as a professional who you still have your integrity, that's the only thing you always walk in and out the door with a 100% of the time.


TyAnn: Absolutely. So once again, I never believe in stopping to anybody's level, I always believe in maintaining dignity and respect because that's you. So maintain dignity and respect. But if things truly are going south and you have attempted to redirect and get clarity, so you really have tried to say... “Let me rephrase that,” and “what I think I hear you say is,” “Am I understanding what you're saying?” And you've tried a couple of times to just make sure that you are clear on what someone is saying, and then no, it is clear that what that person is saying is exactly what you thought you heard. I would just stop the right there and say, “You know what, I've heard enough and I am not a fit for you, and you're not a fit for me.” 


Lorelei: What if you are paying attention to your intuition and your intuition is saying, “No, not for me.” 


TyAnn: I would just wrap it up and say thank you. 


Lorelei: Okay.


TyAnn: Yeah, I really would. I would just wrap it up and if you're there for an hour interview and you’re 45 minutes into it, I would finish it out and keep it professional. I would keep it professional. Wrap up, and then move on down the road. 


Lorelei: Got it. Alright, so we're leaving behind the trap of likeability and we are moving into a more, I don't know, would you say neutral space of confidence in ourselves.


TyAnn: Yes.


Lorelei: What's next?


TyAnn: So you need to do your homework in advance. And this is where I have found that a number of women don't prepare well enough in advance or haven't thought through this particular phase, again, this is where we tend to show up, and especially if we're desperate for a job, we just kind of go there and I'm like, Oh my God, I hope I get it. But here's the deal, do your homework, what do you want, what's important to you. And this is a really simple exercise, but it's important that you do it, and you can just take out a sheet of paper and a pen and start listing characteristics of your ideal fit. And here's what I do, I really take out a sheet of paper and I list three columns. In the first column, I think about, what's my ideal company? 


Lorelei: Column one ideal company. 


TyAnn: Ideal company. And you can think, you know, What would my ideal company look like, and you can even think, is size important? Do I want a small company, or am I looking for a medium company, a large company... It doesn't matter. Do they need to be in a certain industry? Am I looking for a company that, for example, is socially responsible, that's something when I'm working with candidates right now that's coming up a lot, or is being in a non-profit with a particular industries. Whatever it is. So the second column, who is your ideal supervisor. Ideal leader, who is that person? What specific skills are you looking for that person to have, what kind of characteristics are you looking for that person to have... Think about your ideal leader. Column three. Your dream job.


Lorelei: Like the actual job itself? Or the things that you do? 


TyAnn: Yes. 


Lorelei: Okay, got it. All of the above. 


TyAnn: All of the above. What's important? Just what would you like to be doing? What kind of things would you like to be learning, what kind of environment are you in, if things like... Are you working remotely? Are you working with people? Is their travel involved? Are there specific skills involved, whatever it is that's important to you, capture that stuff, because every person is different, and I want you to write that stuff down when you're not being influenced by anyone else, and I want you to just write that stuff down when you're in a good creative mind space. And then here's the deal, you have that then as your objective set of metrics and kind of your rubric, that then when you get a job description later, you can have something to evaluate that job description against rather than like, Oh, I saw this job description online, I don't know. It seems okay. If you wanna dig in more about your personal strengths, I really encourage you to explore the body of strengths research from Gallup, including the Clifton strengths assessment. This is something that I personally spend a lot of time in and can really help you get grounded in your strength and motivation for what spurs you to action... And by the way, this is a question that is bound to come up in the interview, as you and I've talked quite a bit about before, right. So that's a great thing to explore more about as well.


Lorelei: Well, you have just naturally led me to sort of the wrap-up of our conversation, share some resources for additional learning on the topic of, I guess getting over being liked in an interview. 


TyAnn: Absolutely. So if you wanna know more about that good girl, a huge resource that I really love is called “The Curse of the Good Girl” by Rachel Simmons. And then things about strengths, “StrengthsFinder 2.0” by Tom Rath, “Go Put Your Strengths to Work” by Marcus Buckingham, those are two really great resources. And then a new book by my friend Carson Tate is “Own it. Love it. Make it work.”


Lorelei: Right. I love it. Well, we're gonna make this work as we transition to our femme fact for this episode, and I wanna kick off season two's inaugural femme fact with my favorite commemorative holiday month, holo-month. I don't know. March, March is not exclusively the month of all things green and four leaved, it is also the month for Women's History, and includes International Women's Day. Which is March 8th, by the way. While many of us spent March learning about and celebrating the remarkable women of history and of today, only a few of us might know why this month-long celebration even became a thing in the first place.


Back in the decade of disco, Atari and bell bottom jeans. It may come as no surprise that Women's History Month was non-existent, as was in general educational settings, this obviously omitted a hefty gap of female contributions to United States and world history. To remedy this glaring issue, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women, that was long. Created and advocated for a women's history week in 1978 to be held on the week of March 8th, which was already recognized as International Women's Day, this week consisted of dozens of Californian schools planning educational activities centered around the education of important women in history.


As well as their achievements, it created a huge local excitement, hundreds of local women rallied together to create speeches and educational curricula to present in public schools during this week, and the week's finale consisted of a parade in downtown Santa Rosa, California. This week-long effort of Women's History week garnered so much support and attention that neighboring communities in California also adopted a similar week of female-centric Celebrations, which quickly caught the attention of the nation. The enthusiasm surrounding the education and acknowledgement of women led several women's organizations to establish women's history week as a national anniversary that was recognized by both President Carter and Congress in 1980. President Jimmy Carter was the first of many to issue a presidential proclamation declaring this once local now national tradition of women's history week. President Carter's declaration led to a trickle-down effect through which individual states began observing the week of March 8th as National Women's week. This widespread awareness work wonders on the predominantly male-focused history curriculum at the time. Women started correcting the published records, filling themselves into gaps in history books and into the minds of school-aged children, particularly girls who were finally able to see something of themselves in our nation's history. The momentum for Women's History week was such a success that by 1986, the week had turned into a month-long festivity, which was celebrated by most states, and in 1987, Congress declared the entirety of March as National Women's History Month every year moving forward.


And the rest... Well, its history. While it is important to note the success that Women's History Month has played in acknowledging the contributions of American women throughout history, as always we still have a way to go. A 2017 study by the National Women's History Museum on K through 12 education standards for social studies found that of the 737 specific historical figures mentioned in general school curriculum 559 of them are men, and 178 are women, or roughly one woman for every three men cited in history. A quick note about this gender depth, we must remember that girls won't be what they can't see, and representation matters in history, in all things.


Now, I'll be sure to link that before mentioned study in the show notes, and while you enjoy the coming of Spring, please take advantage of the rest of March with highlighted content by women and for women on a variety of platforms like your streaming services, curated femme podcasts, and book lists, educational resources provided by the Library of Congress and Women'sHistory Month.gov, and so much more.


TyAnn, you have an absolute pleasure and an inspiration for us today, I really appreciate you sharing ways that we can stay strong in the interview while not giving into societal pressure to be that good girl. Thank you so much. 


TyAnn: Let's go out and get those jobs. 


Lorelei: That's right, ladies, we're gonna go up to get those jobs. I’m Lorelei, and this is HERdacious. If you haven't subscribed to this podcast, please subscribe, download all the episodes from Season 1, I have some bad ass speakers from season one, please listen to them, they have so much insight to share with you. And we will be bringing you massive content in this season, so stay tuned and share this podcast with a lady friend of yours who might want a little career support in her journey. Till next time. Be the bad girl. 

Organizational fit
Likeability and its setbacks
Good girl phenomenon
From interviewee to interviewer
Calling out misinterpretation (respectfully)
Onions have layers
Responding to red flags
Homework: How to Nail the Interview
Femme fact: Women's History Month