Ana Cordova’s Storytelling Success

Witnessing my son’s college application process has illustrated the value of research, good writing and storytelling. I empathize with Admissions Officers who read hundreds of essays a day and for the 17-year old students who desperately want their applications to stand out. It is an Arms race. As a Recruiter, I can’t help but see the parallels to the job application process. With our U.S. unemployment rate at 8.4%, job postings are generating more applicants than ever.


Schechter Reed’s recent job posting generated 289 applicants through LinkedIn. One of them was Ana Cordova, a Gates Millennium Scholar with a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and two master’s degrees (in Genetics and Law). Within four days, Ana received a polite rejection email. She was a bit overqualified for an Executive Assistant job. Two months later, Ana tried again but with a personalized email this time to me.


I must admit that I wasn’t entirely sold on Ana’s fit for the Executive Assistant role. But her email was so well-written and demonstrated such a solid understanding of the job, that I wanted to learn more. Isn’t that what they say about college Admissions Officers? They should read your essay and want to meet you for coffee. Ana and I scheduled a phone call and spent almost an hour chatting. She said things like “I always loved paper jams because they help me understand how the copier works”.  By that time, the Executive Assistant search was on hold, but I knew that Ana was something special and I needed to tell her story in the right way to the right company.


The first client company I thought of was Digital Infuzion, a biomedical informatics company that aims to improve the quality of healthcare. I knew from past experience that their Founder and President, Hemant Virkar, likes to hire people who are agile, dynamic and can roll up their sleeves. There weren’t any open job positions that matched Ana’s background, but Hemant made time to talk to her anyway. Once again, Ana’s storytelling skills were put to the test.


Hemant is admired and feared for his intense interviewing style. Yet, Ana’s ability to “talk about herself as a story as opposed to a mix of skills and experience” resonated with Hemant and led to three additional interviews with hiring managers. Digital Infuzion hired Anna as a ‘temp’ to tackle a project that was on the back burner. After two weeks, Ana presented her findings to Hemant in a PowerPoint. Would you believe that she even read the book Radical Candor and incorporated the book’s teachings, a communication style to which Hemant subscribes? Ana received a job offer later that day.


Ana’s strengths in research, writing and storytelling made all the difference in her job search. A well-told story that demonstrates an understanding of the company, job and hiring manager, can be quite effective, especially if you are undergoing a career change. With so many kids applying to college and so many adults job searching, I thought Ana’s approach was worth sharing.
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Current Opportunities in the Washington DC Area

Executive Assistant, Reston, VA | $80-$90K

Award-winning tech company seeks a business-savvy Executive Assistant for one of its beloved leaders. This highly-visible role in the corporate office of a publicly-traded firm is vacant due to a promotion and a unique opportunity to work in a fast-paced environment where curiosity, initiative, and efficiency are rewarded. Complex calendar management, meeting/logistics coordination, confidential information dissemination, expense reporting and a varied day of meaty projects and tactical to-dos are typical. Proficiency in MS Office, 5+ years of executive-level administration and favorable professional references required.

Recruiting Coordinator (Contract to Hire), Northern Virginia | $24/hour

Unique opportunity to learn recruiting from one of the area’s largest employers in the “apprenticeship” role. Candidates must have natural strengths in organization, communication, follow-through, and detail-orientation. Initial job centers around the candidate experience, scheduling interviews, initiating background checks and drug screens, generating offer letters, onboarding support and ad hoc projects as needed. Requirements include MS Office proficiency (Word, Outlook, Excel, and PowerPoint), solid professional references, and ability to multi-task in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment. Successful Recruiting Coordinators will be trained/mentored in best practices for sourcing, screening and interviewing candidates with the goal of moving into a full lifecycle recruiting role within 6-12 months.

Executive Assistant/Chief of Staff, Bethesda, MD |$100K+

Newly-created role to support one of the most exciting investment professionals in the world. High-performing startup environment in need of day-to-day tactical and substantive support for its Founder and CEO. Shift seamlessly between personal and professional life coordination, scheduling dinners, events, and travel. Heavy calendar coordination, process improvement and acting as an ambassador for the company and the CEO. Interface externally with high-profile clients; anticipate problems and opportunities to remain “one step ahead”; troubleshoot computer issues, video conferencing and other last-minute hiccups with a cool head. Work collaboratively with two other administrative professionals, delegating and mentoring where necessary. Show genuine curiosity in the business to maximize involvement and understand the “big picture” and the supporting details.

Please reach out to Lori to learn more.

Lori’s Podcast Picks for the Holidays (and beyond)

As we approach the season of road trips (traffic) and flights (delays), consider picking up a podcast. They are quick, easy and free to download and they will surely arm you with interesting conversation nuggets at the holiday table. Here are my top 5 right now:

1.      Hidden Brain—NPR’s thought-provoking episodes center around human behavior and will change the way you see yourself and the world around you. Host Shaker Vedantam’s smooth storytelling arms you with interesting topics that encourage conversation and debate.

My husband and I spent half of our Valentine’s Day lunch discussing “You 2.0: When Did Marriage Become So Hard”.

2.      Serial (Season One) – This American Life’s award-winning podcast was my first love and changed the way I felt about rush hour in D.C. It chronicles the gruesome murder of a high-achieving high schooler and the ex-boyfriend who was convicted on questionable evidence. If I could invite one person to dinner this holiday season, it would be Sarah Koenig, the brilliant investigative journalist who narrates each episode.

3.      The Happiness Lab – My latest obsession is from Yale Psychology professor, Dr. Laurie Santos. She explores the human mind, our emotions and how an understanding of both can help us in the age-old pursuit of happiness. I have forwarded Episode 10. Making the Grade to several mom friends and hope it lands in the hands of FCPS or even better, U.S. Department of Education.

4.      Up First My car radio rarely leaves NPR so it’s no surprise that their daily digest is my preference for unbiased news from around the world. Most podcasts are under 15 minutes, perfect for that doughnut run or the guilt-ridden trip to the gym that follows.  When you return to work in January, you might even keep it around for your daily commute.

5.      The GaryVee Audio Experience – Best-selling author of business bibles Crush It, and Jab, Jab, Jab, Right HookGary Vaynerchuk shares valuable advice for entrepreneurs who want to build their brand on social media platforms. Enthusiasts find so much more than business advice in Gary’s podcasts. They find philosophy, comedy, inspiration and trend spotting. His clairvoyance with the Adidas brand and his candor turned my 16-year old son into a fan.

Like recipes, podcasts are easy and fun to share. Please reply with your own favorites and let me know if you love or hate any of mine.  Happy holidays!

Photo by israel palacio on Unsplash

Best 5 Places to See the DC Cherry Blossoms in 2018

After an enduring winter, it finally seems like spring-time warmth is coming to us. The iconic DC Cherry blossoms are expected to be in peak bloom this weekend and we wanted to give a quick guide to catch the best views of these marvelous beauties. With the Cherry Blossoms being a major draw for tourists around the world, getting the best spot can be a real challenge, especially if you’re coming off of work. Rest assured knowing with these five spots you’re guaranteed to get a view that’ll be worth the wait.

1. The Tidal Basin

Tidal Basin

Yes this one is the most obvious, but often is the most populated spot for people to congregate for the Cherry Blossoms. Due to the high volume of traffic usually in this area, sometimes it’s tempting to avoid the tidal basin. However, with the reflection of the Potomac and the Jefferson Memorial in the background, this location is bound to give you the best pictures of all the colors of the scene. Because this is primarily where the Cherry Blossoms are, it’s hard to go wrong!

2. The Jefferson Memorial


If you’re not much a fan of navigating mobs of people, another great spot is across the tidal basin at the Jefferson Memorial. Watching them from here gives you a great angle as the sun sets to see all the blossoms in the horizon. With less people here in general, it’s a peaceful place to bring you and your loved one or a relaxing stretch of quiet.

3. The MLK Memorial

picture credited to the Smithsonian Magazine
picture credited to the Smithsonian Magazine

Kept away from the traffic of the tidal basin, the Martin Luther King memorial is another awesome place to enjoy the cherry blossoms. With the perimeter of the monument being surrounded in cherry blossoms, you can’t help but feel like you’re part of nature.

4. The Japanese Lantern

picture credited to
picture credited to

Every year the Japanese Stone Lantern is lit to mark the start of the National Cherry Blossom Festival as a representation for the embassy of Japan. Positioned along the tidal basin of the Potomac, catching the cherry blossoms from here can’t disappoint. You’ve got access to the waterscape, a foreground of beautiful blossoms and a ceremony only celebrated once a year.

5. The National Arboretum

photo credit by
photo credit by

If you’re looking to really get away from the madness of tourist season, check out the National Arboretum. This time of year the sights are absolutely stunning. Not only are the cherry blossoms in bloom, but you also get to see everything the arboretum has to offer.

Regardless, this time of year it’s hard to go wrong. Spring is gorgeous; give yourself the chance to appreciate what it has to offer. It’s a time of new beginnings, new awakenings and maybe even new opportunities! Maybe you’ll be inspired to go on that run you’ve been meaning to take, or apply to the new opening at that job you always wanted. All of nature is soft resetting so why can’t you?

Love your Self-awareness


It is no secret that I enjoy discussions of self-awareness, relationships and psychological type. I became a student of the Myers-Briggs and a certified practitioner of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in 2013 and while I don’t use it directly in my recruiting work, I apply the principals to my professional and personal life every day.

Whether or not you understand the meaning behind the alphabet soup of the 16 MBTI types, it is likely that you have heard of the instrument or one of its many personality assessment cousins. There are thousands of articles referencing the MBTI and its application in the workplace and home.  A recent one sparked my curiosity about self-awareness.

Self-awareness is a lifelong process, and in my opinion, one of the most under-rated virtues. Self-aware people understand the way they are hard-wired and the impact those personality traits have on the world and people around them. They may or may not be willing to change to keep the peace in those relationships but they are, at least, aware of why conflict or harmony exists and are better equipped to manage it.

Last week, my husband and I celebrated our 16th anniversary and as I do every year, I planned to run through a litany of questions to reveal the state of our union. The first question I asked provoked such an immediate and powerful answer that we never got to a second question. I’ll keep his response between us but will share the question because I believe that so much can come from it. The question was:

“What’s it like to be married to me?”

Think about that question for a moment. It sounds simple but it has the power to access feelings that may surprise you.  Wouldn’t you like to be asked that question of your spouse? How about changing it up for your boss, your assistant or your business partner?

“What’s it like to be my {insert relationship}” may feel vulnerable to you but I encourage you to ask it within your inner circle. Learn what it’s like for people to relate to you in the unique way they do. Be appreciative of anyone who takes the time to provide a thoughtful answer. Most importantly, learn from the answer and consider it against the landscape of your own self-awareness.

As a Recruiter who interviews candidates regularly, I am often charged with answering the question that is never asked: “What’s it like to interview me?” or “what impression am I making on you?”. Most of my candidates appreciate the unsolicited feedback and adjust accordingly in follow-up interviews with my clients.

Providing unsolicited feedback to my clients, many of whom are executives, can be tricky. A self-aware hiring manager who understands what it’s like to work for that company and what it’s like to be his/her subordinate will improve the likelihood of a successful placement.  

Chris Harvey, a Los Angeles-based Psychotherapist adds “self-awareness is just as important in the workplace as it is in one’s personal life.” Among other things, Chris treats individuals for work-related stress and shares “chief among the complaints are of managers who fail to offer validation and constructive feedback to their employees.”

The onus is on all of us to ask questions, listen to feedback and consider ourselves a work in progress. So tell me, what’s it like to read this article? I genuinely welcome your honest feedback.