Monday, August 31, 2009

Are you stuffed in a bus or driving a Porsche?

Saving the planet aside, how many of us would prefer to drive a Porsche to work rather than riding in an overcrowded bus?

And yet that is what most job seekers are doing metaphorically when their strategy for finding work is to apply online with a resume. Think about how many riders are on that bus? Two years ago maybe a hundred per opening but now perhaps a thousand.

Riding this bus suggests one of two things. You can’t figure out any other way to get where you need to go or you just don’t believe in yourself enough to take a more assertive approach. I am willing to bet that most of us fall into the former category. “Well, here is the bus for that gig at Pfizer, better go ahead and just get on it.” Meanwhile there a bunch of stinkers on the bus with you that are pissing off the recruiter on the other end because they have not bothered to “clean” their resume in the appropriate way to show how good of a “fit” they are. Or maybe Pfizer advertised for a role and you are headed to the gig-stop only to find that it is no longer there.
Problem is to drive a Porsche you need to be able to know a little more than where the buses stop. Or maybe the better statement is: you need to work harder up front to be able to drive a fine automobile.

Applying on line, taking the bus, is a little bit like “making the donuts”. You just follow a set path. Driving a finally tuned machine will take research and more work on your part. However once you are OK with the work, you will never get on the bus again.

So how do you put your career behind the wheel of a Porsche? Well the first thing you need to do is to think of yourself in the same way that Steve Job’s thought of the IPOD when he brought it to market. Or the way Southwest Airlines launched, or any other company you can think of that launched a product that made the competition irrelevant. They certainly did not rely on what everyone else was doing to get their message heard.

Simply put, you need to think of yourself as the solution that the company you want to work for HAS to have. When you start there, all of the work in learning how to drive this fine automobile will be easy.

What is this work?

Check out my upcoming post: “What recruiters prefer you don’t know”

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Big Black Hole

Paul Sanderson

CMO YourElevatorPitch

“Scotty I need more power to the email server, we have 100 more job postings to apply for online.” “I’m givin it all she’s got Captain” but no one seems to be responding. We’ve sent out 300 emails, re written 50 resumes and 25 cover letters and I’m gettin’ nothing.”

The Applyonlineship “Enterprise” is heading for a huge black hole and there is nothing you can do to stop it.

I was looking at a post the other day on a career services users group. The author went into excruciating detail on how to make sure that you were an EXACT fit for the “apply online” position you were applying for. The information he provided filled four web pages and there were not a lot of pictures, so,,, you can imagine how much fun it was to read. I thought to myself, “All this work for a chance at getting an interview that was a little more likely bet than winning the lottery”.

Applying online is LOSING proposition. You will not hear that from the corporate recruiters or policy makers that have put this system in place however. This is their moat, their gatekeeper, their “process de jour” at keeping out all candidates that don’t fit exactly what they are looking for. The problem is, it does not work for them either. Candidates that understand how to stuff their resumes with the key words that the applicant tracking system has been set for are mucking up the soup. And don’t forget the companies that have job postings that they don’t intend to fill anyway. “What? You mean to say that a company could post a position that it does not intend to fill?”

A black hole is a region of space in which the gravitational field is so powerful that nothing can escape its pull. It has a one-way surface, called an event horizon, into which objects can fall, but out of which nothing can come.

Nothing can come from the big Black “apply online” Hole that candidates are wasting their time submitting their resumes to

But why are you applying to a posting anyway? Why not decide who you want to work for and make a case to the right person for why they should hire you?

We will talk about that in my next blog, “Are you stuffed in a bus or driving a Porsche?”

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pardon me while I fall asleep

It is the moment that we all dread. It is a nightmare, unfortunately it is real, and you won’t wake up and smell the coffee.

It is interview time, and you are rambling. You can tell you are rambling because every word you say echoes inside your head with the phrase; “why did I just say that?” The interviewer is feigning interest but you can tell that she is sleeping or worse yet thinking of something else, something like, “How in the world did this guy get an interview with us?” You manage to pull it together at the end, shake her hand, mumble a “thanks”, and head to the nearest restroom to puke.

You are not alone.

Well, you are alone in the restroom, but not alone when it comes to blowing the interview.
Whether it is an interview, or a chance meeting at a conference with someone you need to impress, it can blow up if you are not prepared.

Think about it. Not being prepared to elegantly and efficiently tell your story is like building a great race car and forgetting to install the steering wheel.

You have a great education, perhaps a PHD from MIT, some pertinent work experience; all this you have worked hard to obtain, but have you worked on your delivery? And if you have, how often and when was the last time you executed on that delivery?

Why do the best professional athletes and entertainers maintain such a spartan-like approach to practice and rehearsal? Other than the pursuit of perfection, I would submit that it has to do with nerves. When you are on any stage, what you thought you had in the bag can suddenly be out of the bag. Simply put, your chops have to be so strong that if you get nervous, you will still execute very well.

So the next time you are headed to a conference or if you have an interview lined up, prepare, prepare, and then prepare again. But don’t just prepare the facts, prepare and practice your delivery. And remember; make it informative, interesting, and SHORT.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Forget the resume, build a video pitch.

I was writing a blog the other day while glancing up at the Tour De France on Versus. I had the TV on mute and happened to watch a commercial for the new Honda hybrid and was immediately struck with something. The best commercials deliver the majority of what they want to say with the clever use of pictures.
This seems obvious as it is television. But I am not saying that a good commercial uses pictures, I am saying the best commercials cleverly combine pictures and sound to deliver a lot of information in a short time frame. An advertiser has at the most sixty seconds to deliver a buying message to the viewer and the more creative they are with images, the more buyers they will have.
Advertisers spend billions in TV marketing and a good part of that budget is the research that goes into how people process information. With all of this research into how people make buying decisions, why are we sending resumes in to companies that we want to work for especially if it is the first “touch”, the first time we have communicated with them?
Is it any wonder why when you send a resume in for a job, you don’t get a call back? There is research that shows you have about 30- 45 seconds to get someone’s attention. If you don’t make it happen in that time frame you are fighting a losing battle. How unique can a resume be? You can change the font, formatting, and perhaps the color, but it is still a resume. It is a document with lots of words. And there are still many people spending over $500.00 for someone to re-write their resume.
What has made TV such a great medium for advertising other than the fact that it can reach so many people? Simple, the advertiser can overlay their message with moving pictures. The advertiser can instantly create an impression with much more content in 60 seconds then they could in a half hour lecture on the product.
So let’s think about how we can create the best first impression with pictures. We don’t necessarily want to send a vacation photo next to a large marlin along with our resume however we can send a well executed video pitch. Well executed is not sitting in front of a webcam rambling on about your career. A great video pitch needs to be no longer than 60 seconds, preferably 30-45, and 99% of the time needs to be coached both in writing the script and executing the video.
I am pretty amazed when I see people sending in webcam videos to employers that they have created on their own. First of all, the quality of the video is not great, and secondly it is not likely the best representation of the person. Let’s face it, unless you have been working in video or film for a long time, you don’t have the right skill set to understand how to bring out the best in your subject matter, in this case YOU.
So look into how to build a great video pitch and forget about rewriting the resume for now. Chances are, your resume is pretty good. What you need to get in the door is something that stands out!!

Monday, July 27, 2009

“Can a recruiter help you find work in a tough economy?”

Sure they can but it’s the same in any economy- if you happen to be a perfect fit for the opening they have. The problem in a tough economy (like now) is there are far less openings, and this isn’t just because there is less hiring going on, it’s also because many companies stop using recruiters. They think they can do it on their own and they want to save money.

Candidates would benefit from a better understanding of the picture from a recruiters perspective, starting with a definition of what makes a recruiter successful, and then in turn, what gives them as the candidate the best chance for success.

A recruiter’s success is far more contingent on having lots of good job orders than having lots of good candidates. This is rarely understood by candidates and leads to frustration for both parties. Job orders are power for recruiters, and once again that power only transfers to candidates in a job search if they are a fit for a particular opening.

So candidates will benefit from taking a more proactive or aggressive approach to helping themselves stand out. This applies for when they are working with a recruiter as well. But the best course for a candidate is to be proactive and build their own marketing campaign. This should include creative ways not only to get in front of the highest level hiring authority they can, but being just as creative in ways to make a huge first impression.

A picture can discriminate while a video pitch can illuminate.

In the bestselling novel, “Sway”, the authors detail how illogical our decisions often are. More often than not, our decisions are made through the filter of our preconceived positions on fairness, commitment to the issue at hand, value attribution, and first impressions to name a few.

One of the most enlightening parts of the book is when the authors speak of a controlled study performed with fifty-one women that had signed up for a study on communication. The women were instructed that they would each receive a phone call from a randomly selected man. When they did get the calls, they spoke about the typical things two strangers would engage in - the weather and their college majors, etc.

What they did not know was that the men on the other line had all been given a bio on them and a picture. While the bios were accurate, the pictures were not. The pictures were not pictures of the women in the study but instead other pictures, half of them being very pretty women and the other half more ordinary in appearance.

Before making the calls, the men would be given the bios and the pictures with an “Impression Formation Questionnaire.” The results of the survey were not hard to predict. Each man that held a picture of a very attractive woman expected to interact with sociable, poised, and humorous women while the ones that held the other pictures expected to interact with unsociable, awkward, and socially inept women. Once the men had formed such biases, it was hard for them to see the women otherwise and brought that judgment into the phone conversations.

The women on the other line meanwhile were just simply engaged in chitchat, having no idea the men had these pictures or pre conceived attributions.

The fun began when the researchers played the recordings of the women’s side of the conversations to another independent group that had no pictures to look at. Hands down, this group placed the same traits to the women that the men had. They did this because of what the authors call the “chameleon effect”. The men’s conversational tone based on their pre-conceived bias actually set the stage for the women’s responses. In other words, because the men that had the “pretty” pictures felt that the women on the other line were engaging and humorous to begin with, their tone and conversational style elicited that response from those women. In the same way the women who were thought to be less engaging upfront, responded in a less engaging way.

Now let’s talk about how this relates to career development and more specifically how a picture on a resume, on LinkedIn, or Facebook, can discriminate while a while executed video pitch can illuminate.

First off, since a picture is a static image, a “freeze frame” if you will, it only captures a moment. So even if you are photogenic, it is not truly capturing your personality. We are all familiar with the instance of seeing a picture of a very attractive person, and falling into the same trap that the men in the study did. We assume that they are very engaging and sociable and then we meet them we can be surprised to discover they are not.
A video however, when executed with a professional videographer, someone that has experience in bringing a person’s personality to life on camera, can truly be a game changer when used in career advancement.

When an executive from a company receives a resume from a job seeker and then checks out the LinkedIn profile or Facebook, they could make a judgment that is inaccurate. With a well executed video pitch, the hiring authority sees the person come to life. The “plain looking” person all of a sudden is very attractive because their personality truly shines through.
Many corporate recruiters advise students on campuses to NOT include a picture on a resume.

That is actually good advice as most of us do not look like runway models. Unless we take our pictures off Facebook or LinkedIn however, we are still likely to be judged by that picture as corporate recruiters can check our FB and LI pages.

The best solution to this conundrum is to build a compelling video pitch. Not a do-it-yourself model, but one where you have coaching on the script, the delivery, and one that is professionally filmed. These can be overlaid on your LinkedIn page or sent in an email to the person you want to engage with along with your resume. Now you are making the best first impression. Now you have a tool that will illuminate.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Will you work to find the right career move?

There numerous life coaches out there in today’s economy who are building their own vernacular around the phrase: “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” It is true that when the economy is suffering most of us have to work harder to make anywhere near the compensation we were making in better times.

But this is pretty intuitive to all of us, especially those of that are used to working hard to begin with. What is not as intuitive is how to bring that same attitude of mental toughness to career advancement and finding work.

As a headhunter for fifteen years the best candidates were always being sought after. The best candidates never needed to look for work, in fact many of them had not written a resume in years. My job was to try to convince them to leave their current employer and take the position I was retained to fill. I would have candidates call me that were looking, and some were the best in the field, but more often they were not.
Things have changed.

In today’s economy, even top performers are finding that they might have to look for work. They can no longer rely on the headhunters to call.

While it might be come naturally to roll up your sleeves and work harder while you are employed, rolling up your sleeves and taking control of your career when you are looking for work is not natural for most of us.

Welcome to the future of career advancement. It is not moving up within one organization. It is not through the openings that a headhunter calls you on. It is through your own efforts, period. It is taking the same creative, thoughtful, and hardworking approach to your career that you have been using doing your job. And furthermore, the momentum created by this tough economy for people to market themselves will most likely carry over into a better economy. Net Net- everyone that is serious about their career will be building their own marketing department from now on.

Whew!!!!!!!!! This is a new frontier that most of us have never had to encounter UNLESS we have started our own company. How in the world do we do this? Well, fortunately a couple of very smart entrepreneurs in silicon valley started two companies a few years ago that have provided networking tools that can get us started; Spoke, and LinkedIn. These tools have been responsible for many more that are out there now and new ones that are coming down the pike.
Online networks like LinkedIn, Spoke, and Facebook, have given us the template on how to build our own little marketing department. The right creative and active participation in these networks combined with blogging, can help an individual get connected to people and companies that they would not have been able to before.

It is important however that we understand a few things now that we might not have needed to worry about a few years ago. First off, there are a LOT of people participating in these networks and more and more people creating blogs. So while you might be able to get connected to more people, it is not enough to just mindlessly update information on our Facebook and Linked in Pages. We are going to need to be more creative now with content on these sites and in our blogging. Also, connecting the dots between work, recreation, and philanthropy will be even more important than before. What were once disconnected networks will now be important to connect. And finally how we contact and what we communicate to people directly that we want to work with or for, will have a bigger influence in how we stay upwardly mobile.

This whole idea makes sense to most marketing and sales people. It does not make as much sense; sound believable, or even necessary to some that are in more technical fields, especially those that fortunately have not seen their career affected by this recent downturn. The problem with this perspective is that it assumes the future can be gauged on what has happened in the past. It ignores what Nassim Taleb refers to as the Impact of the highly improbable, in his bestseller, “The Black Swan.”

Marketing yourself is hard enough to figure out how to do when you are out of work and almost impossible if you are working a full time job, knowing that you need to find something else. But it can be done and there are new tools available that can help with this process, some of which I will speak about in my next piece entitled, “Forget the resume, build a video pitch.”