Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Five Things To Help Get A Job When You Are Not What The Company Is Looking For

What do you do when you have an interview for a job you are able to do, but do not have specific experience?  Maybe a friend got you an interview or it is with someone you know.  I have written numerous times about the bugaboo of category experience.  It is the bane of every advertising and marketing person.  Too many companies demand that new hires have exactly similar experience, which is why so many really good people get stuck in one category.

I have recruited for all categories of advertising and marketing people.  Some of the smartest, most strategic people come out of single categories – tobacco, pharma, automotive, alcoholic beverages, tech, to name a few – and they have a devil of a time transferring their excellent skills into other categories.  The irony is that many of these people are not only qualified by their previous experience, but may be far better marketing and advertising people than others who already have the category experience.

So what do you do if you have an opportunity to get an interview in another category where you have no experience?

Here are several ideas.

You must make connections  
It is imperative that you do your homework.  Telling an interviewer that you would like the job and that you can do it is not enough. It is essential to understand the similarities and differences between what you have done and what you might do. You must communicate and show that understanding. 

You must demonstrate that you can do the job
Once you have explained your understanding of the company’s needs, you must be able to show them that you can do the job.  Giving case histories and explaining how you solved problems and issues which are similar will go a long way.  A good example is a recent new business candidate who made a PowerPoint presentation about himself that demonstrated his ability to sell in a category he had never sold in before. It got him the job against competition who came out of the category.

You must show enthusiasm for the job and the category
Your attitude should be infectious.  You cannot sell yourself by droning on and on.  You have to show genuine interest – even in a preliminary interview with human resources.  HR people generally look for the people they are told to find.  You have to give them the ammunition and strength to go to the hiring manager and tell them to see you.  I can think of one pharma person who was up for a job handling a major brand of liquor.  He spent a weekend doing store checks and made cogent observations about the brand and the category. He presented his findings to the HR manager and did well enough that she tot him a second interview with the hiring manager.  It was clear he wanted and could do the job.

You must communicate your uniqueness and your ability to differentiate yourself
If you can show how what you have done in the past is relevant to this potential new job and you can give examples of what creativity you can bring to the party, you will go a long way towards getting the job.

You must provide the hiring manager with the comfort to tell his client about you
Unfortunately, FOC (Fear Of Client) drives many people.  You must give the people you are talking to enough ammunition to have the confidence to tell their client (or manager) about you.  One thing which works successfully is to ask what you can do that would demonstrate your ability to do the job.  Perhaps it is a continuation and expansion of the initial research you did (store check, perhaps).

Before being passed on to others in the interviewing chain, you should ask if you should adjust your resume.
I can’t promise that if you do these things it will actually get you a job, but if you do them and do them well, it will definitely put you into their consideration set.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

In Defense Of Companies That Don’t Respond To On-Line Résumé Submissions

I have a confession.  Occasionally, I post jobs on one of the job boards, almost always anonymously and always very specifically describing the background we are looking for.  I am shocked at the responses we get.  Most are totally irrelevant.  

When we do a listing and say people must have recent advertising agency experience, 90% of the résumés received have zero agency background; another 9% might have worked at an ad agency back in the early 1990’s.  Our listings always post the salary, yet when the résumés we receive have some  relevancy, most will be too senior or too junior.

I have written before about people who are too senior stepping back to take a more junior job.  Generally, these people are desperately out of work.  Stepping back rarely happens because most of the time the person applying for the job is more senior than the person they will be reporting to.
A few weeks ago, someone came to see me who had a great advertising background. In the course of her conversation with me, she complained that she applied for several jobs listed on the job boards and received absolutely no responses.  She was very angry about the rudeness of companies.  I went back and looked in my files.  She had actually applied for one of my few listings about five months prior, but there was nothing in her background that had anything to do with what I was looking for at the time, so I had not responded.

And why should anyone respond to an irrelevant submission?  We all know that the candidate simply presses "submit" on their computer and hopes for the best.  When a company gets hundreds of responses, a polite auto-response, "we have received your submission and if your background is appropriate, we will get back to you" might be in order, but failing that, responding individually takes valuable time.  In addition, it is disruptive to work flow and takes time to answer each person who sends a resume; especially if the resume is irrelevant.  

Unfortunately, screening résumés is a job given to the most junior person in the human resources department.  It is difficult for them to make connections to determine the relevancy of the responses, so they are only able to put exact square pegs into exact square holes.  If someone is looking for a summer intern and the job listing asks for specific experience, it is difficult for the résumé-screener to determine the relevancy of experience at companies they may not know.  (I always advise people I meet who are working at a company that may not be familiar to put a descriptor after the company name on their résumé.)

Now, in fairness, some companies do job board listings that are so generic that they invite a huge response.  I can only assume that in those cases the screener knows what he or she is looking for. On the other hand, job descriptions on the job boards are perfunctory at best;  and just because the listing asks for specific background doesn't mean the candidate actually has what the company is looking for.  I remember once looking for someone who worked in advertising who had soft drink experience.  I received a response from a sales person who had worked for one of the major beverage companies, but had no ad agency experience.  He must have sent me three or four follow-ups and was very angry at my lack of response.

However, when applying on line, I understand that the people who submit resumes are playing the odds and hoping that there is always a chance that it might result in an interview. It is easy to press “send” whether one’s background is appropriate or not.  But when one does that, they have to know that the chances are slim that there will be a response. 

That said, there is absolutely no reason to be angry at the lack of response.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Six Traits That I look For in Successful Executives

When I am interviewing, I like to play a game with myself.  Long before I ask the candidate, but generally within five to ten minutes after starting the interview, I try to guess the candidate’s salary. 

Funny thing is that I am rarely wrong.
So this started me thinking.  What distinguishes the juniors from the seniors, the high achievers from the ordinary?  And what is it about the juniors who I know will be highly successful that distinguishes them from the merely good?

Here is my analysis:

1.    Attitude
Successful executives exude confidence – in themselves, in their jobs, in their business. They are positive.  They are excited about what they do and show it.  Often, their enthusiasm is infectious.

People who interview them know that they are good, simply from the way they carry themselves and from how they phrase their answers.

They speak with authority, even the young, recently graduated students.  They just have that “it” factor.

2.    Record of success
Senior executives, when asked what they are proud of accomplishing, can tick off any number of successful things that they have done.  They are accomplishment-oriented and do things (as opposed the vast number of people who tell you they are proud of their people skills with no specifics).

They are very capable of solving problems and can articulate the role they played in the solutions they have developed.  Even successful young executives can do this.

3.    Self-Awareness
People who are successful understand what has made them successful and what they do well and, in most cases, what they don’t do so well (strengths and weaknesses).  They are able to easily tell you “what makes them good”.  (That is the question I ask).

4.    Awareness of others
Successful people know that they are not effective in a vacuum.  They understand the role that others play in their accomplishments – both subordinates and senior people.  They know how to manage both up and down for maximum effectiveness.

5.    Future vision
Successful executives know where they are going and what they need to get there.  I love candidates who can articulate their needs for the future.  Many people come in and tell me they want to run a business someday. But only a few have thought enough about their goals to tell you what they plan to do to accomplish them.  Each person’s formula for success is individual and different; I knew I wanted to run an advertising agency (which I did), and I had determined by the time I was thirty those elements and experiences which I thought I needed in order to accomplish my goal.

6.    Sense of purpose/Job vision
Successful people have a sixth sense about the job they currently have.  They know what needs to be done and how to accomplish it.  It is amazing when I talk to successful executives – even juniors – that they have both short term and long term goals for their existing assignments. (And when they know that they can no longer accomplish those objectives, they can look for new jobs easily.)  Their sense of purpose is very clear.

Unfortunately, most of these traits are innate and part of the DNA of successful people.  People who have them and don't know that they have them can learn to focus and bring them out.
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