Like anything beautiful, great and unique, I have learned anything worth having comes with a hefty price. In this case having a great team means the selection process is comprehensive and thorough.
For the positions I am filling, I receive many resumes and frankly I think I spend more time reviewing than most others. The average hiring manager spends 20 seconds or less “scanning” a resume instead of “reading” a resume. While I spend more time reviewing resumes, my thoughts are I am not just filling the open position but also creating a pool of folks for consideration for other upcoming positions. In my most recent rounds, I have found some really good candidates so keeping up with the top contenders is critical to shortening the hiring process prospectively. Remember when interviewing, you are interviewing to make the callback list whether for this position or another.
With a stack of 80 plus resumes, creativity, precision and individualism are key factors to a successful introduction. That means knowing yourself and your message. Preparing a SWOT Analysis is a great tool to help you stand out from the crowd.
Complete a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.) Successful resume writers complete a personal SWOT Analysis before they start their resume. If you have not done one and you are out there job searching, complete a SWOT Analysis and consider providing a marketable version of your SWOT as part of your resume portfolio. Recently, a candidate I interviewed provided a personal SWOT Analysis. What I liked about it was that it was an original and fresh view of the whole discussion of strengths and weaknesses. Here is a site that has some good feedback on a personal SWOT. To help with the SWOT, a great tool I use to help identify strengths and possible blind spots is The Keirsey Temperament Sorter®-II (KTS®-II). It is a widely used personality instrument with 70-questions to help the candidates discover their personality type. While you are at it, include your personality type in your resume. For example, I am an ENFP.
Develop a Resume Cloud. Once you have done your SWOT Analysis, compile a list of your core competencies, accomplishments and areas of expertise. These key phrases will help you develop a Resume Cloud. This is a skinnied down version of your resume and it helps keep the conversation pointed to critical areas. The Cloud is visually stimulating and if done well provides key descriptors of who you are and what you have accomplished. Simply put a resume cloud is a series of words randomly patterned to give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently. Wordle has a free site you can us to create your resume cloud. A Resume Cloud can display the character and actions that best describe the candidate.
As a reader of a resume cloud, I am looking for a holistic view. Tell me all sides of you. It makes your story more interesting and memorable. Include personal characteristics that are not commonly used in the work place. Most resumes are not personal or holistic so it leaves the reader wondering if it is a complete proxy for the candidate seeking the position. In order to break the mold, you have to go personal and make a connection. Think of your cloud as your private letter to the reader with the modern day touch. Here is my resume cloud as an example:
Create a Masterpiece Resume. Now that you have a resume cloud, let’s make sure you have a killer resume with a personal story. Make sure your resume includes the requisites of: Areas of Expertise, Career Accomplishments and Core Competencies. Also, make sure you include a personal aspect to breathe life into your words. I recently read an article where a Venture Capitalist said he reads a candidate’s resumes backwards. Acknowledging that a candidate’s volunteer efforts, interests and then accomplishments made for an interesting person and only then would he be interested in talking to them. Ah…be interesting so that others will be interested. Novel concept but it is so true.
When discussing your accomplishments, make them things you truly were the catalyst for, made major AND impactful contributions to or things you started and finished. When interviewing candidates, I try to get past the “actions” and get to the “accomplishments”. Running reports, preparing analysis, developing a policy are more tactical actions and do not describe the end results. In other words, what positive results happened because of your actions? Tell us your career accomplishments and you will have told us who you are and what you are about. When talking about accomplishments, make sure they are your own….we are all creators. Tell the hiring manager what you have created and what difference you have made on the business, the world and/or others. That is definitely more interesting and speaks to who you are as a complete person.
Start a Blog. Blogging about your technical, business acumen, professional career and content will set you apart from the competition. A blog will demonstrate your ability to write and tell a compelling story. These are qualities of a good leader, a good negotiator and a good communicator. A few free sites for creating a blog are WordPress.com and Blogger to name a few.
Provide Original Works. I would recommend providing examples of your work that are original even if it means you have to create new work such as financial models, technical tools, process documentation, websites, etc. Folks will understand that your work is proprietary to your employers so you are creating new work to emulate what you have done for your previous assignments. Think of your work as a display similar to what artists provide when they are selling their paintings. To get your work commissioned, you have to display your ability and your personality. To be a hit, include on your blog site your original work. This will make your site unique and a testament to who you are as a whole person.
Create a 30 second Video. Tell the hiring manager who you are and why they should hire you in 30 seconds. Advertising agencies have 15 to 30 second spots on TV or Radio to sell their products. You will have the same opportunity in your 30-second video. If the hiring manager takes the time to go to your site, they are going to be pleasantly surprised and eager to see your 30-second “wow” pitch. This saves the hiring manager time and energy and it will definitely impress them.
Join LinkedIn. If you are not on LinkedIn, I would recommend you join this 100M+ person community. A recent presentation of their demographics shows only 42M US citizens are part of LinkedIn, with ~40% being female and with only 21% under 25 years old. This community is the largest professional social network site in the world and it is used for those offering and seeking jobs, connecting with professionals and sharing ideas, and keeping your portfolio of professional contacts. If your demographic is not well represented, then join the community. You will stand out from the crowd.
Join Twitter and Get Followers. Along with your Blog and LinkedIn account, I would recommend including a Twitter account that is used for professional purposes only. Twitter is helpful for promoting your ideas, your work and for routing folks to visit your website. Have a unique point of view, write about it, live it and share it with others. Having a unique voice and viewpoint will make you very attractive to others and you will be surprised by the following. I just started my own Twitter account in May 2011 and I have a little over 170 followers so far. You have to write good content and you have to be consistent to get a good following. I am still working on the two approaches. It is definitely a learning process and it takes time.
As we discussed recently in the posts: Be a Connector and The Day You Get Promoted by Election, relationships are so critical and now with Twitter followers and LinkedIn connections, we now have a means to measure the breadth of the connections. Before too long, your portfolio of connections and relationships will be a determining factor in your selection for a position. One early pioneer in this area is Best Buy. I recently read a 2009 article describing how Best Buy had a pre-requisite for its Senior Manager – Emerging Media Marketing to have 250 Twitter followers. Needless to say it got a lot of noise. Today, future non-profit leaders and company advocates are screened to determine their circle of influence. How many people do they influence? How influential are the candidate’s connections? Twitter and LinkedIn are not the sole answers to these questions, but these sites definitely help you to start thinking in these terms.
If you have a professional Twitter and a LinkedIn account, be sure to reference them on your website and resume.
Sounds like a lot of work to get a job. Yes, it is a lot of work but it is not for a job, it is for you and your brand. You are the CEO of You. To say yes to you means you have to be willing to put in the time and effort to define yourself in ways that are meaningful and impactful. You are taking this herculean effort not for the position you are vying for, but for yourself and your identity in this newly connected world.
As the CEO of You, you are on a sales tour to promote, tell your story and sell why you should be part of the team. So, for any position you apply for, think of it as a campaign.
Do Your Research; Determine Your Audience. Who will be reading your resume? Investigate the position and the leader. You want to make sure it is a fit for you too, so if their values and leadership style don’t match up, know that is ok for you to be selective as well. Recently, I was interviewing candidates for a position we posted internally. I was fascinated by how many folks researched us on our internal social media site before coming into the interview. As a candidate researching the hiring manager, look to see if they have a LinkedIn account; look them up and see what they have written about themselves. And of course search them on the Internet and see what that yields you. You could find some good information for your cover letter to personalize it when addressing the hiring manager.
Do More Research. Research the company’s website if you are external and the department’s portal/site if you are internal to the organization. I recently interviewed someone who researched our internal site, took one of our system courses and read through one of our corporate policies. She was able to quote from it, speak in the language we use and ask more relevant questions on our subject because she did her homework on the department. If you want to leave an impression, do your homework before submitting in your resume.
Enlist your Circle of Influentials. If you know of folks that are influential, well respected and revered, ask them to put in a good word for you via a phone call. I did that four years ago when I got the internal position I am in today. The hiring manager said she wanted to at least meet me since she had received three separate calls from key leaders on my behalf. Obviously you can only ask for this type of support when it really matters. Asking a vice president of a company to support you with five to ten calls is a stretch. Use your connections wisely. If you are new to the job market and have some good connections, through your volunteer efforts, ask for their assistance and support as you secure a new position. References do not have to be from “paid only” positions. Leadership in a volunteer role is just as telling of who you are and what you stand for.
Provide a 360-Degree Reference List. Make sure to include a 360-degree reference list of folks for the hiring manager to call when asked. Have it ready now for when you get the request. You want the hiring manager to make those calls quickly and close the loop with you. The hiring manager will call the references to see how you interact with people above you, at your level and below you. Do you treat people differently depending on the status? Have your list and be ready.
Write a Compelling and Personalized Cover Letter. And finally after completing the above, write a compelling cover letter addressed specifically to the hiring manager. I typically read cover letters since many folks no longer provide them. I feel if someone took the extra time to create a cover letter it is worth my time to read what he or she had to say. Writing a truly personalized cover letter that is addressed to the person reading it and mentions that you researched them, who they are, what is important to them, will turn your letter from a vanilla cover letter to a personalized note. Also, include in your note why you are interested in the position and why you believe you are the best fit. Talk about your resume cloud, website, circle of connections and followers. Let them know that you would like to complete a 100-day plan if you are one of the finalists for the position and you recognize ramping up is one of the hardest parts of transitioning. By preparing and implementing a 100-day plan, it not only helps you but the hiring manager as well. This can certainly be a game changer when coming onboard.
Create a 100-Day plan. It is the kicker, the one that will set you miles apart from everyone else. I recently started requiring this for all our final candidates in managerial and supervisory positions. Some folks drop out, maybe because they thought it was too much work. Frankly, I think it is a great tool for candidates and it is a good proxy for the caliber of team members the hiring managers are looking for. If folks see this as a great tool that will help them and are not bothered by the request, they are one step closer to finding the right team. A 100-day plan will help you understand the position, what opportunities exist for improvements and you will hit the ground running on day one.
For leaders of organizations transitioning into a new role, this is especially important as the goals, expectations and risks are greater. Here is an excerpt I recently read from The New Leader’s 100 Day Action Plan. George Bradt’s website also has a great leadership journal he just started on a new leader transitioning the first 100 days.
For those new to the job market fresh out of college, a 100-Day Plan is a great tool to help demonstrate your commitment to learning the culture, the department, the business, your role, your team and what improvements can be made to the position.
The Interview…Hope for Multiples. Once you are in for an interview, you will need to knock it out of the park with your interview. Make it personal, answer the questions, expect behavioral questions where they are asking for real examples from your life. Make sure to give real examples and not theories of what you would do. If all goes well, expect peer interviews, interviews with the prospective clients, leaders above the hiring manager and possibly entry-level folks to ensure you are a good fit. I ask my team to do this so that when we make a selection based on the multitude of data points, we feel we are making the best decision for the team. Keep in mind when you are talking to the peers, the clients and even the hiring manager, be yourself and bring your best to the conversations.
So, it is a lot. I hear you and it is for the hiring manager as well. But with a ~10% reported unemployment rate and the common knowledge of a higher rate, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. As a hiring manager having to make the tough choices, with many good candidates to choose from, I will say that those that deploy a portfolio of options from their war chest will give themselves an advantage. This will prove why it is good to be the CEO of You and why others should want to snag you first and fast.
Can you see a time when these tools will be common place? I would love to hear your thoughts, stories of interviews, selection, tips and traps to avoid.