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!!